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62. iOS14 for Facebook Ads and What You Need to Know About It

Understanding iOS14 and Facebook Ads for eCommerce

iOS14 got you down? If you’ve been running facebook ads for your eCommerce store or have been thinking about getting started, the latest iOS Apple update has probably got you stressed! The industry has been buzzing for awhile, worrying that this was going to be the death of Facebook Ads.

Yes, there are going to be some changes… and we are going to have to make some adjustments to our strategy and analysis, but it’s not going to be a digital marketing apocalypse. Tune into this week’s episode where I break down everything you need to know, including how to make sure you’re able to properly track the success of your ads.

What You’ll Learn

  • What the iOS14 change REALLY means for you.
  • How to get better data about your ads than Facebook can give you.
  • How you can STILL retarget your customers even if they’ve opted out of tracking by Facebook.

Links Mentioned

How iOS14 Will Affect Facebook Ads

Must-Do Steps for Facebook Ads and iOS14 – Your Ads Won’t Run if Don’t Update This

Facebook Conversion API

Facebook Conversion API for Shopify

Shopify / Facebook Sales Channel & Conversion API

WooCommerce / Facebook Plugin & Conversion API

Use URL Parameters for Facebook Ads

Episodes Mentioned

Episode 37: 37. Data Privacy, GDPR, CCPA, oh my!

Episode 50. An Advanced Strategy to Track Your Marketing Campaigns


Read the Full Episode Transcript

Today we’re talking about the latest iOS updates that have Facebook advertisers shaking in their boots. iOS14.5 released about a month ago and advertisers are definitely starting to feel the effects. 

What does this iOS14 system update really mean?

Essentially, instead of manually opting out of being tracked, users now have to manually opt in to be tracked. 

Think of it like the checkbox at the Shopify checkout where the user says whether or not they want to receive email marketing. If you’re in the U.S. there’s a pretty good chance you have that checked by default, so the user has to uncheck it if they don’t want to subscribe to your emails. 

In the EU, because of GDPR, this checkbox actually has to be unchecked by default, which means the user has to check the box to opt in to be tracked. 

The goal of this is to make it a more active opt-in and make sure the user really knows and understands that they’re signing up for your email list. 

The same goes for this new iOS14 update. 

If you’re an iPhone user and you’ve updated your operating system, you’ve likely already seen the pop-up that comes up when you go to use the Facebook app asking you whether you want to opt-in or not. 

When someone is opting in or out of tracking on Facebook, what exactly are they opting in or out of?

To make sure you can really wrap your head around this, let’s talk about the difference between first party and third party data. 

What is First party data?

This is data and behaviors that happen on your own site. 

In terms of Facebook & Instagram this is things like liking, commenting and sharing posts, watching videos, stories, reels, IGTV, visiting or liking pages, RSVPing to events, etc… that is all first party data that belongs to Facebook.

What is Third party data? 

This is data and behaviors that happen on someone else’s site who then shares that data with you. 

When you take actions on your phone, like visiting websites and using other apps, this data used to get shared with other apps like Facebook through browser cookies. This is what will be limited when users opt-out of being tracked by specific apps. 

Facebook has access to less data than before

In addition to users having to explicitly opt in to being tracked by Facebook, there have also been some changes to the Facebook Pixel and how it tracks data. Even if a user has agreed to be tracked, you’re still going to get LESS data than you were previously. 

Specifically, you can now only track a maximum of 8 events at any given time, and it will only show ad conversions that happen within a 7 day window. Also, of those 8 events, it’s only going to show the highest value event based on how you organize them. 

For instance, let’s say you’re tracking a page view, an add to cart, an initiate checkout and a purchase, if your customer clicks on your ad, views a page, adds a product to cart and initiates checkout, it will only report on the initiated checkout event.

And that has to happen within 7 days of that initial click. 

Let’s say a user clicks on an ad, views a page and adds a product to cart. Then 8 days later that user makes a purchase. Facebook will only report the add to cart conversion not the actual sale because it happened outside of the 7 day conversion window. 

What is The Facebook Conversion API 

Before we go into what this actually means, let’s talk about something called the Conversion API. 

The Conversion API is a tool that allows you to pass information directly from your website to Facebook through your web servers vs. relying on the Facebook Pixel collecting data through the browser. 

The Facebook Pixel

Just in case you don’t know how the Pixel works, let’s talk about that real quick so you can understand the difference.

As you likely already know, the Facebook Pixel is a little snippet of code that you put on your website that lets Facebook pull data from third party cookies, like browser cookies. If someone was using an ad blocker, or browsing in incognito mode, the Pixel would not have been able to collect data about that shopper. If you think about those who don’t opt in to be tracked by Facebook after the new changes, it’s essentially like they’re always browsing the internet in incognito mode. 

But the Pixel relies on that third party data and those third party cookies to collect that information. 

With the Conversions API, instead of Facebook collecting the data from a third party, YOU as the website owner are sending your first party data, the data that you OWN over to Facebook. 

Now I know this sounds really technical, and honestly it is but the good news is that if you’re on a platform like Shopify and you’re using the Facebook channel, you are already using this. The same goes for WooCommerce and the Facebook Plugin. I’ll put links in the show notes about those too. 

Click here to read more about conversions API for Shopify 

Click here to read more about conversions API for Woo Commerce

If you are using it and sending data about your website users to Facebook, you have to make sure your privacy policy tells the website visitors that. 

Check out Episode 37 to learn the importance of your privacy policy

How will iOS14 affect your Facebook ads? 

You are going to see the biggest hit in your remarketing and lookalike audiences. Not that Facebook can’t still create them, it’s just that those audiences are going to be smaller because Facebook won’t be able to identify as many people that would have fallen into them. 

This is a big hit to small businesses. For those of you who are already running ads, I’m sure those retargeting ads are the ones that are really killin’ it and at great ROAS too. 

And that, of course, will also apply to your lookalike audiences. One strategy my marketing friend Nicole from Diedrich Marketing Strategies is trying right now at the time of this recording, instead of doing 1% lookalike audiences, she’s trying 10%. Ultimately, she’s trying to get more people into that lookalike audience. As we know, eCommerce is really a numbers game, you need a lot of eyeballs on your shit. It’s too soon to tell how effective that is, but once we know more, I will share it with you. 

As for cold audiences, it’s likely we’re going to have to get a little old school and start really dialing back into specific audiences vs. relying solely on the Facebook Ads algorithm, which has always really been Nicole’s strategy because it lets her manage the budget more effectively. 

You’ll often hear a lot of ads people—those who spend like hundreds of thousands of dollars a month on ads—say they just let Facebook do everything vs. picking their own audiences and that may very well work when you’ve got a good amount of spend to work with. 

I haven’t run enough ads myself to say whether one is better than the other, but I have to assume that if Facebook is getting less data from third parties, it’s going to be a bit more difficult for their AI to figure out who the best targets are—but I could be wrong. 

What happens when people opt-out of tracking by Facebook? 

People who opt-out of allowing Facebook to track them will still see ads. They’re just not necessarily going to be personalized ads because they don’t know their browsing behavior off of Facebook.

What should I focus on now if my ads will be less successful? 

Okay.. so if we can’t rely on this third party data and we just have less data overall, what we should focus on to help improve our ad performance and continue to grow our business?

Organic social media 

Remember how I mentioned earlier the difference between first party and third party data? Well, all the interaction your customers have on Facebook and Instagram is their first party data, which means they can use it for ad targeting. The social engagement you get is going to be so important. If you don’t already have a strong social presence now is a great time to get on that. Create engaging content that inspires your audience to engage with it so that you can target them with your ads!

Build an email list 

Your email list is also going to be super duper important. As if it wasn’t already, it’s going to be even more important now. Remember, your email list is the CHEAPEST and EASIEST way to re-target your customers, so make sure you always build that list. 

Not to mention, those email addresses are your first party data, which means you can upload them to Facebook or push them over to through an integration like that of Klaviyo and build your re-marketing audiences that way. Now, of course, this only works if the email address you upload matches the email address they have on Facebook, so you won’t necessarily get every single person on the list, but it’s still a great place to start. 

Google Analytics

Because the data inside of the Facebook Ads Manager is going to be so limited, you’re going to have to use Google Analytics to get the full picture of how your ads are performing. 

In order to easily utilize Google Analytics to track your ads performance you’re going to want to start using custom UTM parameters. 

If the idea of UTMs are completely foreign to you, go check out episode 50 to learn more 

The context of that episode was really about your general marketing campaigns and working with influencers. For this we’re going to talk specifically about using them with Facebook ads because it’s going to be a little bit different.  

How can I track Facebook Ads in Google Analytics?

If you want to get better data about your ads that you can’t access in Facebook itself, you’ll want to start using custom URM parameters. This will make sure that Google Analytics tracks your ad performance so you can get a better picture of how they are performing.

UTMs are just little bits of information you add onto links so that Google Analytics can better read your data. There is default data that gets pushed over by Facebook but it gets jumbled up with other social media data and it can be hard to read and understand. 

By using custom UTM parameters you get to choose how the data is sent, which makes it much easier to see inside the platform. 

The reason setting up UTMs in Facebook Ads differs from when you’re creating links from scratch for other marketing purposes is that you’re going to be using dynamic placeholders that Facebook will automatically fill in based on the ad they’re attached to. 

Think about an ad that you have running across both Facebook and Instagram with multiple placements like the Facebook or Instagram feed vs. stories, etc. If you were manually creating these UTMs, you would need each of those to be separate ads if you wanted to track which one was working better. With these dynamic placeholders, Facebook will automatically insert the proper information when the user clicks on the ad, so you don’t necessarily have to change how you set things up in the back end. 

Pay attention to your campaign and ad names. If you are sending over the same of your campaign, which you should, you’ll want to make sure it’s something you’ll understand when you look at it in Google Analytics. 

How do you actually use custom UTMs for Facebook Ads? 

At the ad level, right under where you paste in the URL you want to send the user to you’ll see a little blue link that says “Build a URL parameter”. 

The default fields are going to be campaign source, campaign medium, campaign name and campaign content. When you click into each box, a drop-down will appear with all the available dynamic placeholders. You add the placeholder and then Facebook updates the information based on the ad that was clicked and sends that over to Google Analytics.

Now technically you can put whatever you want in these fields and that’s how Google will show it. How exactly you set this up is going to depend a bit on personal preference. I really wanted to give you a solid “this is how you should do it” answer, but I’m not really sure there is one. So much of it depends on how YOU want to look at the data. So, I’m going to talk a little bit about what Google Analytics does by default and how you can alter that. Ultimately, you’ll have to make the best decision for you. 

how to build URL parameters for FB ads

Source 

This is the platform the traffic came from. So Google, Facebook, Instagram, Instagram Story, Instagram Shopping, Klaviyo, etc. You can use site source name or placement. 

There are two different placeholders that you can potentially use here. One of them is called {{site source name}}. This will populate values like Facebook or Instagram. But it won’t break out where on these sources the traffic came from. 

The placeholder for that is called placement. This tells you where the click happened, like whether it was from the Feed or Stories. Now of course you can put that in another one of the fields if you want, but considering placement on Instagram is already broken out in Google Analytics, it would make sense to use placement as the source.

Medium

Medium is the type of traffic you’re receiving. You’ll see values like organic, CPC, referral, or email here. In most cases all of your organic social traffic is grouped under referral. Which makes sense considering it’s another site referring traffic to yours. The same would be true if you have a blogger feature you on their site. That would be classified as referral traffic. 

When you look at the traffic you get from Google, you’ll see organic traffic, but you’ll also see CPC if you’re running ads. CPC just stands for cost per click and that’s how paid traffic is represented in Google Analytics. So if you want to see your organic social traffic as referral and paid social traffic as CPC then you can use a static value here of CPC. Just make sure it’s written in all lowercase letters. Google Analytics is case sensitive so if you were to write it out in caps it would create a separate line item in Google Analytics. 

Another way to set these two up would be to have your source as site source name and then use placement in your medium. 

Like I mentioned, ultimately it’s up to you and how you prefer to read the data. I personally would probably use placement as the source and a static value of CPC as the medium. As a strategist I like to make sure I can see big picture numbers and I like the idea of grouping things together as much as possible in Google Analytics. If I need to break it down further I will, but I don’t want a bunch of disjointed data in there. 

Campaign

For campaign, I would just use the actual Campaign name, there’s a placeholder for that. Make sure you’re choosing the one that says name vs. ID. Campaign ID is just a string of numbers that will be completely meaningless when you’re looking at it in Google Analytics. 

Campaign content 

For this, you can use the ad name. This will let you see how the different ads you’re creating like a video vs. a static image are performing. You can differentiate the actual ad itself and see the different versions of your ad that you’re testing. 

The trick here is that you have to be really intentional when you name your campaigns and ads. Make sure you create a structure to follow so that it’s obvious what it’s referring to when you’re looking at the data in Google Analytics. 

The biggest change: Your Facebook Ads are going to seem less successful 

This is probably the MOST IMPORTANT part of this blog post, so stick with me. 

One of the biggest issues with these changes is the lack of data and reporting inside of Facebook Ads Manager. Not only do you have a shorter conversion window, but the reporting is delayed about 24 to 48 hours AND because the reports will only attribute ONE event to an ad, it’s going to look like your ads are less successful than they were before. 

Truth be told, I’m actually happy that the attribution inside of Facebook Ads is changing. It used to be that if a user engaged with an ad at any step in the funnel Facebook would attribute that sale to an ad, even if they ultimately converted from an email or something else. It did feel like the results were a smidge inflated in Facebook Ads native reporting. 

Google Analytics and Shopify however report on last click attribution, which means the last action a customer took before converting is what will get the credit for the sale.

For instance, if someone clicks on a Facebook ad and goes to your website, signs up for your email list and then converts from the email, Google Analytics will give the credit to your email marketing while Facebook will give the credit to the ad. 

This will still be the case unless that conversion happens more than 7 days after they clicked on the ad. As I mentioned earlier, it used to be a 28 day window, so only tracking for 7 days now is really going to affect what gets reported inside of Facebook Ads which is ultimately going to make it seem as if your ads are not as effective as they once were. 

What is the Assisted Conversion report and why is it important? 

Just because the customer didn’t convert directly from the ad within that 7-day period, doesn’t mean it wasn’t an instrumental part of the sale. 

This is why your Assisted Conversion Report inside of Google Analytics is going to be SOOOO important. 

The Assisted Conversion Report will show you how much revenue a particular source assisted in creating for you. So even if they don’t get credit for the final conversion, Google Analytics will still give it some credit for making the sale happen. 

This report is important not just for analyzing your Facebook Ads but all of your marketing. The opposite can happen too, right? Maybe someone clicks on an email you send, but then ultimately converts off of a retargeting ad. Google analytics will give that credit to the ad, but the email you sent was still an important part of that transaction and it may not have taken place if you didn’t send it. 

The moral of the iOS14 for Facebook Ads story

Yes, your retargeting audiences are going to be smaller. Yes, less sales are going to get attributed to your Facebook Ads. Yes, all of your other marketing methods are going to be more important. But, with some smart marketing and an understanding of your numbers this will not be the digital marketing apocalypse. Keep building your list. Keep showing up organically. Keep serving your audience.

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Hey, I’m Jessica!

eCommerce + email Marketing Strategist

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. Learning from the top experts in the digital marketing & eCommerce industry she loves working with female entrepreneurs and teaching the secrets of 7-figure eCommerce businesses.

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