Is Website Traffic from Social Media Underreported?

October 15, 2012By

“The only real way to optimize for social spread is in the nature of the content itself.” – Alexis Madrigal in Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong

Dark Moon

What is Dark Social?

I love this quote.

The article is blowing up in the marketing world right now. Over the weekend everybody was looking into the details and wondering how much Dark Social was impacting their own sites.

Here is the basic concept – you have referral traffic to your website. You track this traffic in your analytics program. Most people these days are using Google Analytics. Those referral traffic reports include things like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. You cut those down into some basic traffic categories that include Search, Social, Direct and Email. Those are the four big ones.

What Alexis Madrigal is proposing is that there is another segment that should be called Dark Social and that the overall importance of social media referral attribution is underreported.

It’s interesting to even consider that too much credit might be given to email, search and direct traffic while not enough is given to social media. The idea is that people are sharing links when they email their friends and those show up as direct traffic. Or when someone uses good old fashion word of mouth and tells someone about an article or about a business and that person goes to Google and searches for the brand name. Is it social or is it search?

This is why I love the quote listed at the top of this article.

Yes, it matters where you traffic comes from, but going even deeper the focus should be on the content first and worrying about the source of the traffic should come after.

Creating Content and Tracking Referrals

There are two common questions business owners have when it comes to Internet marketing:

  • How do we get better with SEO?
  • How do we get better with social?

The answer to those questions is the same, but it’s not simple.

You need to create interesting content.

There are no tricks to get around this as Alexis states in the article about Dark Social. You need to create content if you want to get traffic from search engines (SEO) and social medial (including Dark Social).

You can live for a while on how well your brand performs for your customers. There will be word of mouth like there always is if you do great things and people talk, but if you want to get that SEO traffic and that social traffic you need something for people to share, read, and interact with when they’re online.

Content is how it all works. Check out this information graphic (How Business Blogging Works). This entire online marketing things is driven by content. If you want traffic for the long-term from a variety of different referral sources you need to create content.

Content strategy is the first focus for a business online. The design is a huge part of it. Paid advertising can be part of it, but if you’re looking for referral traffic you need an ongoing content strategy.

Content is what people can refer to. Referral sources like Google and people that use social media and Dark Social need content.

Image Credit: visualpanic