Hits, impressions, visits and uniques are for many marketers the holy grail of content marketing ROI. Sure, SEO is not an end in itself. A well written, well thought-out article designed to appeal to real people will always outperform something intended to please only a search engine.
But it’s good to know how well an item has been shared and read. At the same time, it is worth being aware that consumers are not playing ball with the analytics cookies residing in their browser caches.
According to a report by online advertising platform Radiumone, a growing proportion of online content is being shared through non-trackable methods. Lumped together as ‘Dark Traffic’, this principally consists of mobile messaging, instant messaging and even that age-old delivery system known as email.
The analysis took advantage of the company’s sharing software, which is claimed to have around 900m monthly users. It found that as much as 84 per cent of sharing occurs via these channels. Furthermore, it is a trend that is on the up – rising 22 per cent on the previous year.
The report makes clear that the shift to mobile is at the heart of this: 62 per cent of untrackable shares come from phones or tablets, with the remainder on desktop.
One can understand how publications might be frustrated by the phenomenon, because tracking performance and where traffic is coming from is crucial to improvement. But how will it affect content marketing?
The answer is, maybe not as much as you think.
Yes, companies should be aware of the effects of ‘Dark Traffic’. Although organisations using content marketing should emulate publishers, there is one crucial difference. ROI should be fundamentally based on sales, leads and interaction.
Instead, the headline figure reveals that content marketers should look to target non-trackable methods. Or at least take advantage of them.
Make it easy to share content via these methods. Try not to be focused on raising LinkedIn shares in the widget above a story. The boss might be impressed but vanity metrics do nothing for the bottom line.