Changes to Facebook Advertising after Apple's iOS 14 release have marketers asking, "What's going on with my Facebook Ads?" Get timely answers to conversion tracking and targeting questions.

If you’re wondering how the Apple iOS 14 release is affecting your Ads and Reporting on Facebook, you’re not alone. Get the scoop here, and discover how Search Discovery might be able to help with your particular Facebook pain points.

What’s going on with Facebook advertising?

As marketers observe declining conversion rates, tracking discrepancies between analytics platforms and Facebook tracking, and diminished audience pools, this is the question that many are asking: “What is going on with Facebook advertising?”

When Apple’s iOS 14 update dropped in June 2021, advertisers started seeing decreased effectiveness of their ads. This is because iOS 14 app users were explicitly asked which apps they would let track their online activity (see image below). By mid-July, only 25% of iOS 14 users had opted to allow tracking, and a giant behavioral-data river for the advertising industry was dammed/damned. (Read more about Apple’s App Tracking Transparency framework rollout, here.)

Apple's prompt for iOS 14 and later asks users specifically if they will allow Facebook to track their activity, and most people select

What does loss of behavioral data mean for Facebook?

The types of data Facebook tracks on users includes voluntary data (your name, your age, your interests if you provide those) and behavioral data—that is, the data that they accumulate based on the actions you take. Before privacy updates from Apple et al., even if you didn’t tell Facebook you were interested in wakeboards, Facebook knew you were interested in wakeboards because you frequently viewed wakeboarding content and they tracked those views.

Facebook needed behavioral data to be the really smart data-driven, machine learning powered, audience targeting, tracking, and optimization advertising goliath that advertisers relied on. Now, Facebook isn’t getting that behavioral data from users and its business has been affected.

Facebook acknowledges in their September 22 blog post that both business outcomes and campaign measurement have suffered in the wake of privacy updates, but they also estimate that, “in aggregate, we are underreporting iOS web conversions by approximately 15%” with a “broad range for individual advertisers” and higher-than reported real world conversions (like sales and app installs) for many advertisers. Facebook has terminated several analytics offerings since the iOS 14 release, including Facebook Analytics and Facebook Attribution.

What do changes in conversion tracking mean for advertisers?

Loss of tracking isn’t where challenges end for advertisers, but we’ll start by outlining just a few of the challenges caused by lack of tracking on mobile devices.

  • Limited cross-app tracking- Because a user has to give consent for tracking on both a desktop and a phone app for cross-app tracking to work, this is likely to be limited and the devices are likely to be unlinked.
  • Loss of sales data- Facebook can no longer see mobile conversions, or the number of completed sales. Ken may still have bought shoes after he saw an ad, but Facebook couldn’t see him buy the shoes, so Facebook’s shoe-advertising-client can’t tell whether or not the ad worked. When advertisers can’t gauge the performance of ads, it’s difficult to justify ad investment.
  • Loss of optimization ability- Everyone in marketing now relies on machine learning and AI bidding, which looks at someone who converted (clicked “buy”), Megan, say, and if another person ‘s behavioral data looks like Megan’s, the machine knows to bid up on that other person. Now, there’s no data going into the machine learning algorithms, so the AI doesn’t know whether Megan bought, it doesn’t know what Megan looks like, and it doesn’t know when to optimally bid up. Consequently, Facebook has lost the super-human ability to get better at advertising to an audience that looks like Megan over time.

What’s more challenging than loss of conversion tracking is the loss of targeting.

While many companies are focused on the loss of conversion data and subsequent tracking issues, another perhaps more troubling issue for advertisers is Facebook’s inability to target customers. Here’s what’s happening:

  • Retargeting pools shrink-The people who visited your site before who opt out of Facebook tracking don’t show up in your retargeting campaign pools. When there’s nobody in the pool, a campaign can’t run, so the product that a customer may have viewed on your site won’t be shown to the customer again on Facebook.
  • Lookalike targeting doesn’t work- For Facebook Audiences, the lookalike list is composed of people with similar behavioral data. Since people aren’t volunteering their behavioral data to Facebook any more, Facebook Audiences can’t group converters with similar behavior and targeting doesn’t work.

Lack of attribution means that data is directionally less accurate, plus the targeting advertisers have come to rely on is no longer reliable.

Are changes to Facebook advertising really that big of a deal?

Yes. Targeted advertising is irrevocably changed. Nothing short of Apple retracting that challenge to tracking is going to make Facebook what it was.

What’s the solution? How do I keep my Facebook ads working?

There are bandaids for this solution that will not fix the largest problems for marketers on Facebook. But the awareness of the problem is the main thing, especially since every company’s use case for Facebook is different.

However, Search Discovery is busy providing answers for our clients, specifically in the form of alternative measurement and attribution solutions (including randomized control trial (RCT) studies), server-side tagging, and CAPI.

What is Facebook’s Conversion API (CAPI)?

Facebook’s conversion API (CAPI) is a code-heavy non-pixel solution for transmitting conversion information (e.g., purchases) from an advertiser’s server to Facebook. It’s a secure channel that ensures the necessary rights and provisions are in place so that consumer’s data can be transmitted and tracking data can flow.

Implementing the conversion API is technically challenging. This is because a developer has to manually generate the code to implement conversions API and send events and parameters. The conversion API must also be implemented in an advertiser’s server. Search Discovery can help companies implement CAPI solutions that are unique to their use case, whether they use Google Tag Manager (GTM), Adobe Launch, Tealium, or Segment.

How are Facebook solutions different for Google users and Adobe users?

For Google Analytics users, we have been helping clients implement CAPI. It’s fairly easy and cheap to set up a server side solution, but it must be hosted on a Google Cloud platform that you own. However, there are challenges to doing this on your own, especially if you’re a marketing department, because marketing departments don’t typically own a Google Cloud platform. We can assist with the processes that help set this up.

For Adobe Analytics users, server-side solutions are a bit more challenging, but we’re also helping in this arena. The benefits of establishing a server-side solution include helping things run faster (this is especially pertinent now that Google has updated their Core Web Vitals), and another huge benefit of server-side solutions is the ability to keep cookies around longer than seven days, thereby bypassing tracking and targeting issues.

Can hiring a digital marketing consulting agency like Search Discovery help?

Yes. First, we can do an assessment of the impact of browser privacy changes on your website that can help you identify what you can improve and then provide solutions that help you continue to market to your full potential on Facebook and anywhere. Search Discovery can make your cookies last longer, improve your marketing investments, and help you deliver better customer experiences.

Second, we are on the cutting edge of the tracking, analytics, measurement side, and we’ve got our ear to the ground on the targeting side.

We’re ahead of the game in developing repeatable solutions for these challenges (for both Google users and Adobe users) that will make a world of difference for our clients when it comes to targeting audience marketing. Reach out below to learn more about our exciting solutions.

Talk to our experts about your case with Facebook advertising. We can help. Start the conversation here.

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