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The Cookie-less Future Series: Facebook

January 12, 2021

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In December you may have heard that Facebook ran a full-page ad in multiple news publications criticizing Apple’s iOS 14 and the impact it will have on small businesses 

A public callout of this proportion shows us that this update is going to have a significant impact on Facebook advertisingFacebook has also released a statement and has scheduled a slew of webinars for the month.  

We are going to take a crack at summarizing all of this for you.

What is Apple’s iOS 14 update and what does it mean for Facebook

1. Retargeting and attribution woes 

Apple’s iOS 14 updates are going to allow visitors to opt-out of tracking across apps and websites. They have also created a new protocol for web attribution called Private Click Measurement (PCM) which significantly restricts data that can be shared across businesses and platforms. This means when someone opts out of tracking, the conventional methods of targeting, retargeting, and associating events or conversions with web activity is no longer transparent.  

To counter this, Facebook created a protocol called Aggregated Event Measurement (AEM). While AEM does help, it will not be able to retrieve all the data lost from PCM.  

Thus, regardless of whether someone opts in or out of the prompt, Facebook will receive less data due to AEM which impacts the Facebook ad system. One of the impacts is that each domain will be restricted to a maximum of 8 events. 

This means when someone opts out of tracking, the conventional methods of targeting, retargeting, and associating events or conversions with web activity is no longer transparent.

 

Overall, the iOS update causes disruptions to tactics such as targeting users who once visited your site or understanding what your campaign’s users are doing on your site if precautions aren’t taken. Understanding that mobile iOS users are a heavy distribution of our user base, we see how this can be concerning.  

2. Gaps in Reporting 

As mentioned before, the measurement for both app install and your run of the mill website campaigns will receive limited data from users with Apple’s most recent update. From this, Facebook anticipates the following limitations:

  1. Delayed reporting: data can be delayed up to 3 days
  2. Estimated resultswith lapses in data, Facebook will need to rely on statistical modelling and aggregates for reporting
  3. No breakdowns: demographic, age, geography and gender reporting will no longer be supported
  4. Changes to attribution window: moved from 28-day click through and 7-day view through to 7-day click through and 1-day view through  

How to prepare for Apple’s iOS 14 release on Facebook 

1. Facebook’s Conversion API (CAPI) 

If you are advertising on Facebook, you’re probably familiar with the Facebook Pixel. With the upcoming changes, this pixel will struggle to fill in many of the gaps from the upcoming iOS update.  

The solution? CAPI.  

Facebook stated in their webinar that CAPI should be a priority for all advertisers. Rather than relying on cookies from a browser (which are being phased out), events are pushed directly through the website server, which can help piece things together much better than the previous mechanism.  

So, as browsers phase-out cookies, CAPI can help preserve some of this data – and as an added plus, it also can help track people using an ad blocker! 

Depending on your site, there are several ways for implementation: 

  1. Shopify 
  2. WordPress, WooCommerce, or Other CMS
  3. Custom sites
    If you’re dealing with a custom site, the set-up is going to be a little more tedious and you’ll likely need the help of a developer.  

2. Prioritize your 8 conversion events 

As mentioned earlier, these changes are going to limit you to 8 conversion events per domain. Because these restrictions are tied to the domaincreating new ad accounts or pixels cannot circumvent this.  

Once iOS 14 rolls out, people will have the option to opt-in or out to tracking. If a person opts-in, then we'll only be able to track 8 events per domain. If a person opts-out, only one event will be reported on and this is based on a total of 8 events. Out of the completed events, only the one with the highest priority will be reported back to Facebook.

Example:  

Event priority:

  1. Purchase
  2. Add to carts
  3. Page views 

OPT-OUT VISITORIf a user clicks on your ad and then adds an item to their cart on your website, Facebook will only receive an add to cart event, as it has a higher priority than page view and the user did not make a purchase.  

OPT-IN VISITOR: If a user clicks on your ad and then adds an item to their cart on your website, Facebook will report on the add to cart event and page view event. Once Apple starts enforcing the prompt, Facebook will automatically pause ads that are optimized towards any event below the top 8.   

This change is going to have an impact on your audience list sizes, but don’t worry, we have a workaround (#5). 

3. Verify your domain 

Keeping the above in mind, Facebook needs a know which domain is yours for conversion prioritization. It also gives your pixel and conversion events authority. If you are a larger organization, you’ll need to ensure all parties running ads for your company are on the same page and working together cohesively as they will now have to share the 8 events.  

Here’s Facebook’s advice on how to verify your domain.  

4. Prepare for adjusted attribution windows 

Facebook will no longer provide 28-day click and 7-day view through data. Thus, 7-day click and 1-day view through will make reporting look much different. Not being prepared for this will make for some awkward quarterly updates.  

Here’s Facebook’s advice on how to prepare: 

  1. Facebook’s comparing window feature can help you better understand your ad performance through different attribution windows
  2. As a precaution, you should export your historical data for preservation. Facebook then says the information will still be available in its API but it’s unclear whether or not it will be adjusted with the new attribution windows
  3. Your automated rules will change to a 7-day attribution window. It’s best to get on top of this now to avoid panic when its implemented 

5. Leverage in-app data 

While users may be able to opt-out from having their app information shared from app to browsers, we are still capable of capturing everything users are doing within the app. Finding ways to create audiences of users that have engaged with your content can help make up for any shortcomings that iOS 14 may produce.  

Summary 

Apple’s iOS 14 update will change our day-to-day and how we advertise on Facebook. These are the following areas of impact:

  1. Size of custom audiences
  2. Reporting to be restricted
  3. 8 conversion event limit
  4. Smaller conversion window 

But it’s not all bad news. Facebook is continuing to release updates and find new ways to work in online advertising’s changing landscape. Implement the items below to stay on top of these changes:  

  1. Setting up CAPI
  2. Prioritize 8 conversion events
  3. Verify your domain
  4. Leverage in-app data

Thanks for reading! 

I'd like to extend a huge thank you to Faustina Banh and Sara Kerr for all of their help and making this blog possible. 

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