SEOs may not run into as much trouble with dark search in the future, as Apple's iOS 7 update supports the "meta referrer" tag.

The SEO dark ages might finally be over, according to Barry Schwartz. In a post for Search Engine Land, Schwartz reports that SEOs are starting to see the actual referring sources for web traffic from Safari users on iOS devices due to an update that supports the “meta referrer” tag. Brafton previously reported that content analytics showed traffic from these users as direct visits, following the releases of the iPhone 5 and iOS 6.

As the veil lifts on these site visitors, SEOs will have even more valuable information about bounce rates, clickthrough rates, exit pages and dwell time. They can use these insights to fuel content marketing strategies. This resolves a problem that left most companies wondering, “Where did all the search data go?”

Over the past few months, marketers realized referral information was missing from their analytics reports.

A Safari fix might put an end to Dark Search, giving SEOs the access they need to referrer data in content analytics.

“Apple stopped supporting meta-referrer data. So if any iOS device is used, whether it be to instant message, text message, to use an app that’s sending you to a website, it won’t pass that meta-referrer information. So the analytics program thinks it’s direct traffic,” said Rosetta SEO Director Stephen Pitts about the source issue.

The solution is linked to the iOS 7 update expected this fall, Schwartz points out. After running an initial test, he found that referrer data is passed from a beta version of iOS 7, but it’s not provided for queries performed with iOS 6. This is a step in the right direction for SEOs who found themselves following intuition rather than data-driven insights.

It’s also important to note that this fix doesn’t provide marketers with insights about queries where referrer data is “not provided.” It may be the case that there’s always an air of mystery surrounding some search traffic, but marketers with sophisticated content analytics strategies can overcome these challenges to make informed decisions that fuel website conversions.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.