What is dark search

What is Dark Search?

This data was originally featured in the January 20, 2021 newsletter found here: https://www.trustinsights.ai/blog/2021/01/in-the-headlights-january-2-2021-seo-strategy-dark-search-crisis-marketing/

In this week’s Rear View Mirror, let’s take a look at a problem vexing many marketers: dark search. What is dark search? It’s search traffic that’s miscategorized as direct traffic, usually the result of someone using a browser with strict privacy settings, like Safari on Apple’s mobile operating systems. One of the things we’d like to know is what keywords might we be missing because of dark search traffic?

To find this out, first set up a segment in Google Analytics 3 that matches a source/medium of (direct) / (none), then examine how much traffic to landing pages that encompasses. For Trust Insights, that’s about 12% of our traffic this month so far.

Segment of dark traffic

Once we know what landing pages attract the most dark traffic, and we’ve confirmed that our dark traffic matches our known search traffic (meaning it’s not dark social), then we match those landing pages to keywords from any reputable SEO tool:

Matched dark traffic

When we compare this list to our normal keyword list, we find some of the usual suspects, but also a few that weren’t on our radar. This gives us additional ideas and topics, especially since an audience coming in as dark search could very well be a slightly different audience than our regular crowd.

We don’t have a summary dataset of dark traffic by site or industry this week because by it’s very nature, it’s dark and not visible. However, take this technique and apply it to your own analytics data to see what kind of dark search secrets you can uncover.


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