Are the Days of Dark Google Coming to an End?

Joel Swaney
August 12, 2013
For the past year, digital marketers have struggled with traffic media being misclassified in our reports. Many have referred to this as "Dark Google".


Google

Keep an eye on your iOS traffic over the next few weeks. For the past year, digital marketers have struggled with traffic media being misclassified in our reports. Google changed its method for attributing referral data at the same time that many browsers altered their methods to handle search. These changes resulted in misclassifications that many refer to as “Dark Google”.

For most sites, the biggest driver of misclassified traffic was from iOS6 devices. Many of our clients saw significant changes in the way in which iOS6 traffic was being reported starting in September 2012, when most users were upgrading to the latest version of the Apple operating system.

Below is a consolidated graph of the changes that a group of our clients saw around the launch of iOS6. As can be seen from this chart, these clients saw a significant increase in direct traffic and a corresponding decrease in organic traffic from iOS devices.

8-12-2013 5-11-26 PM

The good thing is that we might be approaching the end of this “Dark Google” era. Early indications from users of the iOS7 beta release is that the mobile Safari browser will now support the referral meta tag that allows the traffic to be classified properly. While we will still be facing the “not provided” keyword issue, we will be able to correctly report on organic and direct traffic.

Keep an eye on your iOS traffic over the next few weeks as iOS7 is released on September 10, 2013. If these reports are true, expect to see an increase in the percentage of organic traffic from Apple devices as traffic media are classified correctly.

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