Facebook Ads has gone through major changes and updates since Apple announced that it was going to require users to actively opt into being tracked by cookies from apps starting with the Apple iOS 14.5 Update on April 26, 2021. As expected, most users are not opting into cookies, although the change was slow to be adopted by most users in May and June of 2021.
How does this impact Facebook and Instagram ads?
For our clients at Perfect Search, about 40-60% of our clients’ target audience consists of Apple phone users. These users can no longer be tracked once they click on an ad on Facebook or Instagram and go to the clients’ website. Conversions reported through the Facebook platform have decreased by at least 50% for many clients since April.
We are also seeing that Facebook is underreporting conversions that our clients’ CRMs are able to identify as from Facebook by their UTMs on the ad links.
Since the Facebook Ads algorithm is getting less data about who is converting on the website, it is less able to understand who to target with ads in our audience and performance for the entire audience can decrease. So how can you adapt to this? More on this later—we have some tips on how to give the algorithm better information and help Facebook improve its targeting.
Plus, since Apple users are no longer tagged with cookies, they can also no longer be added to remarketing or retargeting audiences. Remarketing/retargeting has been one of the most successful ad targeting options in the past for many clients and is now not available for about half of Facebook users.
Facebook is not the only platform affected. Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and other social platforms are seeing their conversions also decrease by at least 20% based on the numbers we are seeing with our clients since early May.
These are major shifts taking place in the digital marketing world that’s affecting every advertiser. While we can’t change these updates, there are things you can do to your campaign structure, goals, data, measurement, and more to help improve your performance even amidst these new restrictions. Read on for recommendations on getting your best return from the experts here at Perfect Search.
Is it going to go back to how it was? No, not likely.
Starting July 6, Facebook announced that it is going to require that all users in European countries to actively accept cookies on the platform. This is likely going to take most of those users out of conversion tracking, similar to the Apple Update.
The Google Chrome browser is no longer going to support cookies starting in late 2022/early 2023, which will affect most android and desktop users on Facebook and Instagram. Once this happens, the wide majority of users will no longer be able to be tracked with cookies.
What is Facebook recommending to adapt to these tracking changes?
Facebook announced that starting June 30, it is going to model or estimate conversions from Apple Users in the platform reporting using historical data and other cues. This will help Facebook reported conversions look better—but may not be accurate because they are not actually tracking these people. They are relying on data to make an educated guess--if there is less historical conversion data or user behavior changes over time, this may become less accurate.
Facebook is also encouraging all advertisers to implement the server-side Conversion API, which is a link between Facebook and your website’s CRM so that your CRM can communicate lead information gathered using UTMs on ads (source, medium, campaign) or other entered user information on the website back to the Facebook algorithm. This will allow Facebook to better model conversions moving forward and better understand who in your audience is converting for their algorithm targeting.
What else can we do to get the best performance possible?
- Claim your domain on Facebook. Facebook started requiring this for better security at the Apple Update in April 2021. If you have not claimed your domain, this is the first step to take to prove that you are a real company.
- Aggregated Events Management Choose up to 8 events to track on Facebook and rank them in order of importance or priority to your company.
- Conversions API. Implement the Facebook Conversions API by linking it with your CRM through one of the many integrations available.
- Compare reporting from before January 2021 (when the attribution period was 28 day click, 1 day view) and after January 2021 (when the attribution period was changed to 7 day click, 1 day view) to see how much your conversion reporting on the Facebook platform was affected by this change.
- Compare Facebook-reported conversion numbers to actual leads in your CRM or in Google Analytics that are able to be attributed to Facebook ads by using UTMs. See fluctuations in Facebook reporting to understand how these updates are impacting reporting over time.
- If possible, change your goal conversion for your campaigns to happen on the Facebook platform instead of on your website. If you are generating leads, try lead form campaigns on Facebook. If you are an e-commerce company, try selling directly through Facebook. These types of conversions can still be tracked correctly.
- If you must send users to your website, consider separating your campaigns between Apple users and other users. Your Apple users campaign should have a goal of Link Clicks to get people to your website and then you can follow their behavior on Google Analytics and your CRM using UTMs on their link. Your campaigns for all other users can stay the same as before the Apple update—other users are not affected by the cookie tracking issues. As Facebook’s modeled conversions and the Conversions API get more information on conversion data from Apple Users, you may test website conversion campaigns with Apple Users again against the website traffic goal campaigns.
- Expect your remarketing audiences to decrease by at least 50%. Some detailed remarketing audiences may become too small to target on the platform. Watch your frequency for your remarketing ads—budgets for those campaigns may need to be decreased so that you don’t over-saturate a smaller audience.
What does this all mean for the future of your digital marketing strategy?
The Facebook ad platform is still an essential part of a diversified marketing strategy. Facebook still has many ways to collect behavioral data on their users, even without cookies, by seeing what they post, like, comment on, groups they join, updates to their profiles, etc. Facebook targeting is still expected to continue to be robust moving forward.
However, Facebook conversion tracking will never be the same. As much as they try to model conversions, it will not be as accurate as when they tracked each user all over the Internet and recorded every pageview. Advertisers will need to rely more on Analytics systems (Google Analytics or other similar programs) and their own first party data (lead data in their CRM, etc.) to understand the true impact of their Facebook ads.
Advertisers also need to rethink how their campaigns are structured and what goals they choose for campaigns now that Apple users are unable to be tracked. You may not want to use a website conversion goal for Apple users, even though that was previously best practice, because it will just confuse the algorithm, unless you have the Conversions API set up or significant historical conversion data for modeling.
Advertisers should also focus on obtaining first party data for targeting instead of relying on Facebook’s data alone. For instance, if you have an email list of possible prospects that you want to see your ads, you can upload that list to Facebook and show them ads. Or, if you have an email list of your current clients, we can upload that list to Facebook and create a lookalike audience to target with ads.
Cookie remarketing is likely to go away over time, especially after Google Chrome does not support cookies. You may want to collect first party data on your website to target previous purchasers or contacts in the future instead of being able to use remarketing cookies.
Facebook is constantly updating its strategy around targeting and reporting after these cookie updates. There will likely be future changes, especially as the Google Chrome update approaches at the end of 2022. We are excited to see what new innovations they come up with.
The best way that your company can adapt to these changes is to partner with an expert in digital marketing, especially Facebook advertising, who is up-to-date with the latest changes and can adapt your campaign strategy immediately to continue to target the right audience and get the best results and insights possible. Any questions? Reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.