What Is Dark Traffic And How You Can Measure It Easily (Actually Works)

You worked hard for driving maximum traffic and achieved a good result although.

But, when you sit to track your overall website’s traffic, a significant portion of your website’s traffic goes nowhere to be found for.

This unnoticed traffic makes it approximately difficult to track your marketing endeavors, which ultimately alters your strategic decisions on the basis of how a campaign would be or would not be performing.

What Is Dark TrafficThis unaccounted traffic is termed as “Dark Traffic”.  This is uninviting and threatening.

In this article, you’ll discover Dark Traffic in extensive detail. Dark traffic is a critical topic to understand, the detailed digital marketing courses can help you learn to make you the master.

What is ‘Dark Traffic’?

Website analytics tools, better say Google Analytics segments total site traffic into three categories, search, direct, and other websites, it depends on the origin of the traffic.

If you’re getting 10-20% of your website’s traffic from direct visitors i.e. who personally know and type your website’s URL, the condition is referred “Normal”.

Now, if the number goes below this value, start enhancing your brand awareness. If it’s too high, your traffic would be “Dark Traffic”.

Dark traffic comes to your site from a URL which is not easy to track, and basically comprised under direct traffic in Google Analytics.

It is might be a problem for you. It gives you wrong information that you are using to make big and wise choices.  It is prohibiting your individual success, which means you will not get the credit you deserve.

This is because its original source can’t be found.

Where Dark Traffic is commonly occurring?

  • A person using Image Searches
  • Traffic from secure HTTPs supported sites to non-secure sites
  • Links shared via emails
  • Links shared via social applications (such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messanger, SnapChat)
  • Linked shared via SMSs
  • Non-web related files such as Documents, PDFs, PPTs, Excel, etc.

How Do You Measure Dark Traffic?

Measuring overall Dark Traffic is critically impossible as you can’t track 100% of it. Although, there are few methods to track the dark traffic affecting your website. You’ll also know how to prevent your website from such discrepancy.

1) Use Google UTM Parameters

One of the effective methods to control the dark traffic is to correctly tag all links on content or ads that you manage through Google UTM parameters.

Google UTM parameters or codes when added to the end of a URL deliver extra information about a particular link. Here are the top categories you can utilize-

  • Campaign Source (utm_source) – Track a specific search engine, email campaign, social network or (e.g. Google, Facebook, Instagram)
  • Campaign Medium (utm_medium) – Track the particular medium as either CPC, social, and email, etc.
  • Campaign Term (utm_term) – Typically used for paid search or ad campaigns.
  • Campaign Content (utm_content) – Typically used for content like distinguishing between two different types of ad creative, or content-variations, like A/B conversion testing.
  • Campaign Name (utm_campaign) – Tracks results on the basis of your personal internal promotion or name of the campaign.  

You can remember and write these codes manually, but this can go clunky. But, the good news is that there are numbers of tools and builders available for this purpose.

The first and prompt one is Google’s official URL builder that helps you to add the details for each section and will produce new tagged URL for you.

You can also find some time-saving third-party tools, for instance, Chrome Extension. This tool you immediately create a tagged URL while viewing at a web page.

If you’re accomplishing this task in bulk amount, a worksheet will help you manage and coordinate the task.

What is Dark Traffic-URL Builder FormImage Source

2) Use Google Analytics to Create a Direct Traffic Segment Report

The next technique in the row to identify dark traffic is to create a new segment in Google Analytics.

This technique involves filtering the traffic to the most “popular” website pages which actually get a huge amount of traffic through organic sources.

Let’s understand by an example, the web pages like the homepage or imperative service or product page, and other main section pages located in your most important navigation.

This is how you can immediately identify all of the direct traffic to the “longer’ pages which generally don’t get a lot of direct traffic organically.

Another method that helps out to categorize any URLs from subdirectories, arranging in the queue with the similar logic that complex URL series probably isn’t remembered by users and then types directly using hands.

If you don’t want to manually create these in the Analytics, then you have the option of some pre-built methodologies, like examples from Gravity Search Marketing.

Using Google Analytics- What Is Dark TrafficImage Source

3) Search ‘Dark Social’ Connections with Current Campaigns

The third methodology involves the ideas of the above two. This will help you to see and correlate what you’re seeing with current marketing ads, once you’ve truncated direct traffic from your analytics view.

Of course, you can’t amend the older campaigns to get you insight, but what next can be done is to see when and where the campaigns have leveraged direct visits.

Adding extra segmentation for “returning or new” visitors will help you here. But, it all will need how much effort you’ve made on your promotion like outreach of new blogger or remarketing through an email newsletter to your current customers.

Concluding your company’s tagging constancy with email and paid search.

Now you can go to the first method and start cross-referencing the amount of direct traffic to long URLs which might have been produced as a result of untagged social campaigns.

Using Google Analytics- What Is Dark TrafficImage Source

Why to Consider ‘Dark Traffic’ Important for Marketing?

Why Dark Traffic is important can be understood through this beautiful example-

Suppose, a friend sent you a Buzzfeed article like this “23 People Who Had Absolutely No Idea What They Were Doing in 2015” via an email.

The next morning you saw with enthusiasm that your favorite desktop email client sees the catchy and engaging title and click-through. It was considered supple traffic.

That traffic might get misinterpreted as direct traffic on the analytics of Buzzfeed.

The chances of someone manually typing in that URL- http://www.buzzfeed.com/crystalro/people-who-had-no-idea-what-they-were-doing-in-2015 – is probably very low.

The traffic will go without noticing other users. This is why dark traffic is important and you should measure it immediately.  

List of 4 Dark Traffic Tracking Tools In 2020

The simplest way to track dark traffic constantly is to use tools. So here are four tools to check out:

1) Po.st by RadiumOne

Po.st is owned by RadiumOne and lets users share content and also offers publishers with new revenue opportunities and complete analytics tools. It is aimed to optimize your content, lower user acquisition costs, and drive higher engagement.

It lets user share content through Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, email, and other social platforms to increase the organic traffic.

Po.st also uses to shorten the link but it not only shortens the link but it tracks it. It is mainly useful for Twitter because of limited tweet characters.

3 Simple Steps to use this tool:

  • Customize your tool
  • Copy & paste the code
  • Analyze your traffic

2) GetSocial.io

GetSocial is a social analytics & publishing platform that tracks your dark traffic and automate your social distribution of most viral content.

It uses Dark Social traffic to improve your reach & clicks by 42% on Social Media channels.  It also helps marketers & editors measure, promote and increase their best content.

To use this tool, you can either sign up on their website or download their Shopify App or WordPress plugin. This is a free app; no cost is required to use this app.

Easy steps to use this tool:

  • Copy and paste the code they run into the header section of your website.
  • Go to the “Address bar tracking” app and activate it.
  • After activating it will measure your content via dark sharing.

3) AddThis

AddThis free social bookmarking website tools include share buttons, targeting tools and content references help you get more likes, shares and followers and keep them tracked. This plugin creates it easier than ever for your audience to spread your content around the web.

It makes social share buttons for your website and copy & paste code that will track dark social media shares.

This plugin offers engagement, monetization, and traffic boosting. Addthis also offers clean, customizable and simple share buttons that are beautiful, quick to load and famous all over the web.

Types of share buttons:

  • Floating share buttons
  • Expanding share buttons
  • Inline share buttons
  • Image sharing buttons


  • Designed for desktop, tablet, and mobile
  • Choose from over 200 social media networks to show
  • Fine-tune coloring to match your brand

4) ShareThis

ShareThis provides a sharing tool that allows people to share any content on the web with your networks through e-mail, SMS or direct message and social channels.

It offers publishers, advertisers, and entrepreneur with a set of free online tools to improve their website, drive engagement, optimize their content, and improve visitor traffic.

You can download, install and customize simple-to-use share buttons and other distributing tools for your website or blog.

3 Simple steps to use ShareThis:

  • Sign Up
  • Get Button
  • Add Your Code

Some features of ShareThis tool:

  • Follow Buttons
  • Share Buttons for Multiple Networks
  • Share Counter
  • Dashboard and Analytics
  • A/B Testing
  • Social Media and Image Share Buttons
  • Language Support
  • Mobile Optimized
  • Viral Notifications
  • WordPress Plugin

You can customize where you want the share buttons on your website: inline or sticky.

Quick Links:

Conclusion: What Is Dark Traffic | How To Measure It ?

Marketing is done to bring traffic on the site. This site traffic is then categorized in more, less and “Dark Traffic”.

People always find their way to share the content privately. Sometimes, a simple copy & paste from website browser to text message is the easiest choice.

So, it is quite important to know what kind of traffic is this and also how to control such traffic?

You can use Google URL builder, Chrome extension and other tools to ensure that before going live all your marketing campaigns are being tagged correctly.

Don’t undervalue dark traffic’s power. Instead, know it and take benefit of it.

In this article, you’ll find three steps to measure dark traffic using Google analytics and some tools will help advertisers, marketers to measure and optimize the dark traffic and drive high engagement on their website.

Hope you find these tactics helpful for making marketing strategies and you will apply and share these to avoid dark traffic.


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About Poonam Sharma

Poonam Sharma is a Sr. Content Writer at Delhi School of Internet Marketing (DSIM), offers the best digital marketing course in India. She is currently focused on creating great content for DSIM blog. She is also an expert in content marketing, social media marketing, and SEO.

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