Dark traffic rising? No need to panic

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Moon rising

This is not news. The fact that people think it is is news:

The Guardian’s website is being swamped by unidentifiable “dark traffic”, and executives at the company cannot figure out where it is coming from.

“Dark traffic” reflects views on a website being driven from unknown sources, that can’t be picked up clearly from analytics packages or referrer logs. It’s pretty much a direct result of the shift to mobile consumption of news – and the dominance of apps in social sharing on mobile.

The Atlantic first identified “dark social” traffic back in 2012 to describe traffic coming messaging apps that had been stripped of referrer data because messaging and email use a less visible system than the that used by web pages.

Essentially, if you knew about the dual shift to mobile and apps, you knew this was coming. If you didn’t…

The core things to bear in mind:

  • It’s only going to get harder to tell where people are coming from
  • None of this stops you understanding where people go, and where they go after that

Image by ramson, and used under a Creative Commons licence

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.