What is Dark Social? The channel Dark Social contains users who arrive to a website via a messaging...
Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong - The Atlantic
What is Dark Social?Putting aside the intimidating name (coined by Alexis Madrigal in 2012 for this piece from The Atlantic), dark social is a channel you use every single day, and have for decades. You’ve likely used dark social longer than traditional social media. Remember AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, IRC, eMail, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, even SMS? All of these are dark social. It includes of your messengers, messaging apps, mobile apps, and similar sources. Every time you share a URL via copy and paste (outside of traditional social channels) you are using dark social. So what makes them different than traditional media, and why can’t we track them?
Parallel Path Internal Data Analysis
Why doesn’t Google track it?Typically when you’re on Facebook and click on a Top 10 Cats of All Time article from Buzzfeed your browser attaches a little extra data with your click. It tells Buzzfeed that you saw the article on Facebook and clicked on it. Marketers and Google can easily track most channels like Google Search, Social Media, Advertising, and Direct. Direct means someone either bookmarked your site, or typed the URL directly into their browser. But there are two problems: First: Messengers and similar apps don’t (and often can’t) send that little extra data to websites, so Google Analytics won’t know where the user came from. Second: Google Analytics always displays New Users who are Direct Traffic to Long/Complicated URLS. This means that Google thinks someone who has never been to your site magically bookmarked http://www.example.com/product/shoe1/ex?pid=4&zid=4q or that they typed that directly into their address bar. Neither of those options are plausible at all, so why does so much traffic follow that pattern? For example, according to Google, 309 new users typed this 75 character URL directly into their address bar, or created a bookmark without even going to the website!
The cause of this error is dark social. These users followed a link someone had messaged to them, in a way Google couldn’t track. There is no way to tell where the users came from, and it appears as though they were direct users. Google groups them into the direct channel, even though we know this is incorrect.