There was an excellent piece in the Atlantic last month about the power of “dark social.” Dark social is, essentially, the links to your site that you can’t account for. That is, you don’t know where your visitors are coming from. When looking at your analytics, you have to keep in mind just how limited you are. In many instances, a majority of your sites views won’t come from a specific referrer. There is no referrer data if someone comes from a dark social source, such as instant messenger or email.
This reinforces the truism that “content is king.” Shareability, whether you can tell if your links are coming from Facebook or not, is what will improve your visibility. When you provide quality, useful content on your site, you increase your chances of someone coming along and saying, “Hey, this is cool. Let me IM this to a few people around the office.” Sure, in this day and age they would probably link to you on Facebook, too. But there are no guarantees. Just speaking personally, I share much more through dark social than I do on my Facebook because I know when only a select few people might find what I’m reading to be of interest.
We have a tendency to pore over data and trends, and we should, but don’t lose sight of the fact that it is impossible to track everything. Analytics are limited. It’s hooking readers’ interest that should always be the primary goal.