Online Marketing in GA – What is it?

Starting in April 2014, you may have noticed social referrals from Facebook coming into Google Analytics( GA) as source/ medium and These referral visits from Facebook were being reported as visits from an unknown source until Facebook implemented the link shim. The link shim is designed to protect the personally identifiable info( PII) of users, and to advise consumers with an interim page when they are at risk of being redirected to a spammy or malicious website.

Here is a screen shot of and referral sessions reported in the GA interface. is mobile, and and are referrals from Facebook via the link shim system.




The link shim actually offer marketers with more data
The link shim lets marketers more visibility in terms of where consumers came from. When a customer is on the internet using a secure server network, their activity and identity are highly protected. You many have determined or heard about HTTP versus HTTPS server headers. Throw simply, the difference between an HTTP and an HTTPS server header is that HTTPS is secure from wire-tapping and” man in the middle” attacks. You can see Facebook with the secure server header HTTPS in the example screenshot below. Before the link shim, visits from consumers operating on a secure server network came in as unidentifiable. This is because when a customer is on a secure network, the referer header is not passed along. Basically what this means is that when a customer clicks on a hyperlink and lands on a webpage, that destination webpage has no information about where the user came from.

Protecting user identity
In terms of privacy protection, Facebook _empty_ a real term example of the link shim in action. It makes a lot of sense and it is fairly simple to understand. Let’s say hypothetically, the URL of a page in your timeline is, and someone clicks on a link from that page in your timeline to I can then see that the user had clicked from to get to my site. I would then be able to identify exactly who you are because you shared a link to my site on a page in your Facebook timeline that someone clicked on. Some marketers may see this as a draw back because of course we want to know the the identity cards of people we can target! Having said that, there are better ways to get to know your audience without violating their rights.

Warning consumers about malicious websites
Facebook has a listing of websites that they deem dangerous in some manner. The listing is freshened on a regular basis. When a customer is on Facebook or accessing Facebook through their email and they click on a link, Facebook cross checks relationships with their database and advise the user if the site they are going to be redirected to is flagged as malicious.

In short, the link shim is a great system for both digital marketers and users. Digital marketers can report the ROI of Facebook more accurately. Customers can rest assured that their identity is secure, and that they will not end up on malicious websites if they click on a link from Facebook.

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