April 6, 2016 by Alyssa / In Web Analytics

Did you know? A significant amount of your website’s traffic doesn’t get accounted for in your web analytics, and because it’s unaccounted for, it can’t be factored into your marketing assessments. The common term for this mystery traffic is “dark traffic,” but what exactly is it and what can it do?

Types of Traffic

Most web analytics tools divide your website traffic into direct traffic, search traffic, and referral traffic that comes from a link on another site (such as Facebook). These are categorized based on where they originated. For example: If you typed “Philadelphia bakery” into a search engine and clicked on the first bakery website you found, you would be categorized as “search traffic.”  If you typed a website address directly into the URL box, you would be categorized as “direct traffic.”

The Effects of Dark Traffic

While it’s common to have 10–20% of your site’s traffic come from direct URL inquiries, any more than that could mean you’re dealing with dark traffic. Dark traffic is traffic that comes from a source that’s difficult to track down. For some reason, many analytics programs can’t decipher between a direct URL and traffic from another source, so they both get lumped together under “direct traffic.”

An increase in your direct traffic may seem harmless, but when it accounts for a large chunk of your total traffic, it means your other traffic statistics will be lower than they should be. This means you can’t honestly tell where your visitors are coming from, and therefore, can’t tailor your efforts toward the right group.

A Groupon  Experiment

To find out just how much dark traffic can affect your data, Groupon conducted a (rather risky) experiment, where they de-indexed their website for about six hours and tracked their traffic. Overall, the company found that their direct traffic fell by 60% and also found that some browsers reported organic search referrals better than others. (For example, Internet Explorer misrepresented about 75% of Groupon’s direct traffic.)

To read the details via Search Engine Land, click here.

What You Can Do

Dark traffic is more than likely affecting your website and your analytics, so let the digital marketing specialists at Prager help you identify it and get your data back on track. Give us a call today at 610-409-1605 for more information.