Tracking Issues: Is the Facebook Browser stealing conversions?

We noticed an issue with traffic coming from social where we were seeing referrals looking similar to the below

www.facebook.com/?gclid=312hg312gghuiotersdcvb3mnkgh23h675bvn

This has to be incorrect as gclid is the identifier for a click used by AdWords. This cant be traffic from Facebook. In CUBED this referer was directing visits and therefore sales against the Social Organic channel but then was accruing costs as we matched on gclid (when we link the gclid to the Adwords API data we match on costs). Facebook Organic shouldn’t have cost data and therefore this is an issue.

After some investigation, we found out that this was in fact the Facebook browser (in beta since Jan 2016). If a user clicks on a link away from Facebook the referral information is captured saying the source of that visit is from Facebook (at this stage it could be paid or organic). However, if someone then uses that browser to navigate the web we run into some issues.

The Facebook browser allows for further pages to be visited and we have seen a number of users use google, engage with display advertising, click on affiliate links all from within the browser. The way the browser works is that it looks like the traffic to the site is sometimes (doesn’t seem to be 100% of the time) comes from facebook.com – however with the parameters passed into the referer string.

This means that any marketing parameters (utm / glid etc.) are passed through alongside the referral URL of facebook.com. Any visits that come to a brands site will look like they have come from Facebook organically and therefore sales attributed to that visit will also pass through those details unless specified.

We patched a fix into CUBED and backdated where possible – but we thought it was worth highlighting to the industry to be aware. Obviously, this is quite niche but it could be an issue in some dashboards and this explanation could save some hair pulling!

P.S. To fix this in GA please find a handy guide in the OKO blog