Facebook referral links in Google Analytics

For some time I’ve been seeing an interesting type of referral from Facebook in Analytics – l.facebook.com and lm.facebook.com. You may know the other versions of traffic links, facebook.com and m.facebook.com and you could see that the first is from website traffic and the second is from mobile traffic. But what about the first two referral links?

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Referral links

Here is one way of seeing things:

The web world is full of spam sites and like most other platforms Facebook works hard to combat it and keep the ordinary, honest surfer safe. One of the tools it uses is called the link shim. When you click on a link in Facebook, the link shim checks the URL against a regularly updated list of malicious sites. If one is detected, the shim will display an interim page that is designed to protect or warn people visiting the site, whether they are accessing it from their browser or email. The link shim address is also used to protect any personal identifying information from 3rd party sites.

So, basically Facebook uses tools to protect you from any harm while browsing the News Feed and clicking links. But what about the mysterious links?

The link shim is there to provide a high level of security to users so they don’t get redirected to spam sites or are exploited by malicious actors and it has been doing this since it was introduced back in 2008. The only difference now is that, with the introduction of the new URLs, more traffic that was originally from an unknown source will show up as Facebook traffic and give a more accurate picture of referrals on platforms such as Google Analytics.

Now you can sit back and enjoy the hard work put in by Facebook to reveal more of that “unknown traffic source” and just give you a better sense of how much traffic came from the social site. And is very important to understand that the traffic reported through those referral links does not come from ads and has nothing to do with the News Feed algorithms.

If you want more details of how this works, check out the full article on The Last Hurdle.

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