What Is the Facebook Conversions API

What Is the Facebook Conversions API?

Recently Facebook has been sending its ad platform users alerts about the changes iOS 14.5 has made and how they’ll impact your ads.

With iOS 14, Apple is making it much harder for apps and websites on Apple devices to track user behavior. Apple is doing a few things to make this happen, including giving iOS 14 users the ability to turn off tracking at the device level and putting limitations on event tracking, regardless of a user’s settings.

The changes have already been made live, so if you’re seeing a large reduction in your conversion rate or impressions and landing page views this may the cause of it.

Considering how much Facebook ads traffic comes from mobile devices and how much of that mobile traffic comes specifically from Apple devices, this tracking change could severely limit your ability to measure the results of your Facebook ads.

It’s not just the iOS 14 update, though. Increased user controls from privacy laws like the EU’s GDPR and California’s Privacy Rights Act, as well as rising usage of ad-blocking software, have already been limiting Facebook’s ability to track events.

The solution is called Conversions API.

Conversions API (or CAPI as it’s sometimes called) is a new name but not a new way of tracking, even for Facebook. Previously called, the Conversions API, uses a website’s server (as opposed to the browser) to track users as they visit your website. The server notes what actions the user takes (add to cart, purchase, lead) and then the server sends the information back to Facebook.

The reason you use the Conversions API is that you increasingly don’t trust browser-side tracking. If you are on your iPhone and Safari, because of the way Apple implements privacy, a whole lot less data is occuring, never reaching your Facebook Ads. If you are using Chrome and have an AdBlocking extensionmost likely your Facebook pixel is not going to fire at all. You might have conversions, but Facebook won’t know about it. Having a second way of tracking conversions is becoming more and more important.

Facebook’s Conversions API can help build your audience and optimize your conversions

How Does the Conversions API Change Things?

Currently, most people have the Facebook pixel installed directly on their website or indirectly through Google Tag Manager. When a user loads your website, the pixel fires at the browser level. With each page the user visits and action the user completes (add to cart, purchase, lead, etc.), the browser sends an update back to Facebook. Facebook then tells you in Ads Manager how many purchases, leads, add to carts, and so on your ad generated.

With the Conversions API, when a user clicks on a Facebook ad and lands on your website, Facebook will send a unique ID for that user to the server. The server will track the user via this ID as they visit different pages on your website and note if they complete a purchase, opt for a lead magnet, add a product to their shopping cart, and other actions. The server will then send a message back to Facebook saying what action this user ID completed.

At least for the time being, both browser and server events will continue to fire. When Facebook receives the server event, it checks to see if it also has a corresponding browser event. If the browser event is blocked—say because Apple blocked the browser-level tracking—Facebook will use the server event instead. If Facebook has both events, it will “deduplicate” the events and use just the browser event. (Deduplicate is a fancy way of saying it doesn’t count the redundant event.)

Several changes also affect how conversion events work. Facebook has stopped using the 28-day attribution window and is now only using the 7-day click or 1-day view attribution windows. That means you may see a reduction in the number of conversions from what you had before, if you often had conversions happening more than 7 days after someone clicked on your ad.

Facebook is also switching over to aggregated events. The Aggregated Event Measurement is a protocol that will allow you to measure conversion events even with the iOS 14 restrictions. However, you’ll be limited to eight events, the events will be prioritized, and Facebook will only record the highest-priority event per transaction. So if you have initiate checkout, add to cart, and purchase set up, only the action you identified as the highest priority will be recorded.

Advantages of Using the Conversions API

There are advantages to using the Conversions API. As explained above, it allows you to track the effectiveness of your ads even if someone is using an Apple device or has ad-blocking software on their browser.

Kevin Grinberg of Active Frequency points out the other advantage: “There are potentially things that happen that only your server will know about. The page doesn’t know because it happens in the background—you order a product, but we only record it as a sale when it ships, or a customer returns their purchase—it’s an event that happens on the server, not on the page. It gives a way for your server to tell Facebook about things that happen on the server, so you can track events further down, after the initial event.”