All your social media referrer stats are wrong

Bored already with all the stats and hype about how big social media is? Well, I’ve got bad news for you. Not only is it still growing fast, but many of the key stats also understate its importance.

That’s the finding from The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal, who has been diving into the evidence about where traffic to websites really comes from.

His point is at heart a simple one. Look at the statistics thrown up by web analytics packages and they show lots of web site visitors going direct to a page buried deep within site with a long URL yet – according to the web stats – they went “direct” to the page. Are large numbers of people really typing in a long URL direct to dive into a deep page? That’s highly implausible.

What’s happening is that they are being referred to the page, but via a way that the web analytics packages don’t pick up. For example, if I email you a link to Madrigal’s piece and you click on it, that will be recorded as a “direct” visit from you. Yet really it’s me being social and sharing content with you.

His full piece gives more details on this, including the estimates as to how big this ‘hidden’ social media traffic really is. As big again as all the identified and declared social media sharing traffic. That’s big.

In other words, all those statistics about how much traffic is referred to websites by sharing and social media? They underplay the true picture.

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