If social traffic is important to your ecommerce store, you should be checking referral traffic stats in Google Analytics to see how many visits are coming from social media sites. When it comes to breaking down Facebook, there’s a referral source that some marketers have found confusing. They are called ‘link shims’ and they show up like this:
The ‘l.facebook’ and ‘lm.facebook’ represent referrals that were directed through a link shim. The link shim was first introduced by Facebook in 2012 (you can read the Facebook post explaining the link shim here). However, it wasn’t until the spring of 2014 that it started showing up in referral reports. Facebook implemented the link shim for two primary reasons:
If Facebook knows or suspects a link is spam or malicious, the link URL is rewritten to go through the link shim first. Facebook uses its own internal list of malicious links along with advanced machine learning classifiers to check website authenticity.
Some URLs on Facebook contain private information, including vanity URLs that contain the name of the user. Without a link shim, the browser would send the URL to a third party site, revealing private information. Instead, Facebook uses the link shim’s address as the referrer.
The only official post about the link shim is from Facebook that we referred to earlier. To help online businesses better understand how to interpret link shims, we did our own research and have come up with the following key takeaways:
Ultimately, the link shim traffic should help ecommerce businesses make better marketing decisions based on a more accurate picture of social media referral traffic. If you’re looking for other inside tips to get the most out of Google Analytics and marketing efforts, check out our posts on Link Tagging your Marketing Campaigns and the benefits of View Through Conversion Data.
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