“Dark social” is a term for traffic to your website coming from social media, but being displayed as “direct” in your analytics tool.
Facebook and Twitter are trying to address the matter of misattributed traffic from social media with “link shims”. Before introducing “link shims”, it was estimated that 60% or more of Twitter referrals were attributed to direct traffic.
We show you 3 ways to optimize the traffic attribution from social media.
As a website owner you can tag your links with UTM parameters. Your analytics tool will then be able to attribute the source based on these tags. For exact tracking, correct and consistent tagging of links over all channels is required. Google’s URL Builder is a practical tool for tagging.
Some social media apps will remove the parameters from tagged links. By using URL shorteners like bitly.com, you can solve this problem. The shortened URL will direct visitors to your URL with parameters and your analytics tool will be able to attribute the traffic to the correct source.
Encourage users to share your content. If they have to copy the URL manually, there are fewer possibilities for tracking. You should add share buttons clearly visible at the top of your content.
The analytics tool Chartbeat has addressed “dark social” by disambiguating app traffic through user agents – a clear step in the right direction.
The “dark social” problem is partially solved by Facebook, Twitter and Co. Additionally you can improve the quality of your analytics data through the tips given in this post.