The new Facebook iOS 14 update… Is this the death of tracking? In simple terms, no.

I know a lot of scaremongering has been going around in recent weeks and it is clear that big changes are happening and it is worrying a lot of people. 

HOWEVER, you really don’t have that much to be worried about… 

We have been doing a lot of researching, number crunching, and testing over the past few weeks to understand these updates on a much more intricate level and bring the simple information to you.

The truth is, there are no experts or anyone who can tell you exactly what is going to happen or how it is going to affect your online campaigns. There are many reasons why this may be happening and why Apple, Google, and Facebook are going to war over this, which we will not delve into in this article for the pure reason that it is all speculation and conjecture. You can find enough of that in any Facebook group.

What we will do, however, is outline what is actually happening and what you can do in order to prepare your company and your team for the upcoming transitions.

So first let’s look at what is actually happening.

In simple terms, as the latest iOS update rolls out, Apple will be requiring users to OPT-IN and give their permission to be tracked individually on apps when using their iOS devices. 

In a nutshell, this means that whilst Facebook will still be able to track what happens within their app and in-app browser, they will only be able to track and report aggregated and grouped data, they won’t be able to track and report individual and personal actions.

And whilst Facebook will be utilizing aggregated event measurement and statistical modeling for iOS devices (we will delve into this a bit more further in this article) these will not necessarily be accurate and you WILL likely see a further fall in tracked conversions and performance in your campaigns. 

Facebooks aggregated event measurement will also be restricting you to tracking just 8 events per domain and only be able to report on ONE event (of the highest priority). It is important to ensure that when you set up your aggregated events that you carefully analyze which events you want to track, that they are set up correctly (replacing any custom events or events that you do not consider the most important) and that they are ranked correctly. (we will cover this further down this article)

They have also completely eliminated 28-day-click, 28-day-view, and 7-day-view attribution windows, meaning that we are now limited to a maximum conversion window of 7 days after the click and 1 day after a view (keep in mind that this is still only applicable for non-iOS users or iOS users who have opted-in and allowed themselves to be tracked). This is going to heavily affect those companies with higher average order values or who rely on a longer customer sales cycle.

We already know that a lot of reporting data is already lost due to adblockers and similar tools, this will only serve to amplify this even further and move us (as business owners and marketers) away from the holy grail of 100% attribution. 

Ok, ok, so we know that if you use Facebook, or really any tracking cookies in your marketing, you’re going to be affected, so the big question…

When Is It Happening

The answer is that no-one knows for certain, but it is already in public beta, meaning it will not be very long before it is released.

And whilst we are not expecting a huge difference in attributed conversions or unreliability with conversion metrics yet (except for the switching from a 28-day attribution window to a 7-day attribution window in ads manager), there will be a steady decline in attribution reliability over the next few months as more and more people update their devices to the new operating system or replace their devices with an upgrade that will come with the new operating system already installed. Apple has already shared that iOS 14 is already installed on more than 80% of active iPhones.

The biggest impact is expected to be felt towards the end of Q2 and throughout Q3 of 2021.


How Is It Going To Affect You In Simple Terms and What Will You Likely See?

For typical advertisers (we will not cover app advertising in this article) you will likely be affected in 3 main ways.

Tracking:

The biggest and most immediate impact will be felt in your ability to track the results of your marketing campaigns. We are already seeing this in numerous ways such as Facebook’s removal of the longer attribution windows which is certainly affecting your ability to see delayed conversions already. 

Facebook is also now requiring that you verify your domain (instructions later in this article) if you want to track events on your site. Whilst this is not a problem for most businesses, if you have a checkout page or thank you page hosted through a 3rd party software such as Clickfunnels, Kajabi, Thrivecart, or many others AND you do not have a custom domain set up through that software (i.e if your page shows up as customname.kajabi.com currently instead of customname.com) you will NOT be able to verify this domain and therefore you will NOT be able to set up conversion events or tracking on this domain.

The reason for this is that you need to verify the root domain, the root domain on our example customname.kajabi.com is kajabi.com, which you do not own and therefore can not verify. The way around this will be setting up a thankyou page redirect to a custom URL (which most 3rd party software support) and set this page up on a domain that you do own where you can place your tracking. 

You will also only be able to set up a MAXIMUM of 8 conversion events per account. This shouldn’t cause many issues for you if you are primarily an eCommerce business as you will typically be mainly tracking the typical purchase flow:

  • View Content
  • Add To Cart
  • Initiate Checkout
  • Purchase

However, if you are using custom events to track a variety of different sign-up events (such as separate lead generation pieces), page actions (such as scroll depth or scroll time), contact actions (such as clicking on a phone number or email link) or any other custom event, you will be forced to pick the 8 that matter to you most.

Not only that, but you will also be forced to rank them in order of importance AND only be able to track the highest priority event for those that have opted-out of being tracked on their iOS device AFTER it has been aggregated by Facebook. I know this is probably all starting to become a bit confusing so let me break down how we believe it is going to work for users who have opted out of being tracked.

If a user has opted out of being tracked, their conversion window drops to 24 hours, and any action they take must happen within that 24-hour window. The highest priority event in that 24hr window will be all that is tracked… Let me put it in simple terms, if a user gets to the checkout page 10minutes after clicking your ad and then purchases 30 hours later, ONLY the checkout event will be tracked. On top of that, all of this data will be aggregated by Facebook and then delayed in getting to you, meaning the reliability and accuracy of that data will be greatly diminished. 

Retargeting

If you are losing some of your ability to track users, you will definitely be losing the ability to build out your retargeting audiences as well as you would do previously. This will be especially prevalent for event-based retargeting audiences. As more and more users upgrade their devices to the latest iOS device, you will likely see a greater reduction in the size of your retargeting audiences. This shows how important it is to develop your own assets that you can control, primarily email addresses.

Cold Traffic Optimization

Although this will not happen overnight, Facebook’s loss of data will definitely mean that their biggest attribute, their targeting, will take a hit in accuracy as more and more people upgrade their iOS device and the interests they have previously signaled slowly expire or change. This means that your interest-based audiences and lookalike audiences will likely suffer a drop in performance and Facebook’s ability to display your ads to highly interested customers will degrade. This means that it is now more important than ever that you are utilizing broader audiences and constantly testing a variety of different audiences.


So What Steps Can You Take To Get Ahead Of This?

1.Verify your domain

The very first step you will want to take is to verify your domain within your business manager. Here are the steps to do that, head to your business manager settings and under “Brand Safety” choose “Domains”

Click “Add” and type in your domain name then click “Add Domain

You are then faced with 3 options for domain verification

Our preferred option for any client with WordPress is meta-tag verification, it is super simple for anyone to do who has access to your home page and can insert a very simple meta-tag in the script. 

The other 2 options are also pretty simple however for anyone with back-end server access and a basic knowledge of DNS configuration or server-side files. If you are at all unsure on how to implement any of these, you can either email me neil@sv-marketing.co.uk and I will walk you through on your particular platform or host, or you can liaise with your web developer who should be able to perform this very quickly.

Once you have verified your domain successfully it should show like this in your business manager:

2.Check all of your checkout and sales processes

The next thing you should do before you dive into setting up your events is check all of your checkout and sales processes. If any of your checkout or thankyou pages are hosted on a domain that you do not own, for example, are on Thrivecart, Kajabi, or another 3rd party platform (i.e the URL looks something like this checkout.mykajabi.com) then you will need to rethink how you go about tracking your conversions.

The easiest option is to set up a URL redirect on the thankyou page (most 3rd party softwares make this incredibly easy to do) This link gives you directions on how you can do this on Thrivecart as an example: https://support.thrivecart.com/help/your-thank-you-success-page/

You can then place your conversion tracking on the thankyou page, you still will not be able to track your event on the checkout page (if it is still hosted on the 3rd party platform) however you will be able to track your main event for when someone completes a purchase or converts as a lead.

If you have any questions about completing this on your current set-up or are struggling, you can simply email me at neil@sv-marketing.co.uk and one of our team will be happy to help. 

3.Set Up Aggregated Event Measurement

Now it is time to tell Facebook the 8 events that you want to track and in which priority order you rank them. Head to your Events Manager in your Facebook Business Manager

Choose “Aggregated Event Measurement” and then click the big blue “Configure Web Events” button.

You then will have the ability to choose which events you want Facebook to track (as long as they have been triggered recently) and slide them up or down in order of priority:

It is important to remember that you will ONLY track 1 event through aggregated measurement from those who have opted-out of being tracked on iOS devices so it is important that you rank these events properly in accordance with their value to you.

4.Set Up Facebooks Conversion API (if you can)

Facebook does have a server-side tracking solution which is reported to increase tracking accuracy by 30% and whilst it is important to know that this is not necessarily a solution for continuing to track iOS users, it is something that will be worthwhile setting up IF you have an easy solution. Shopify is already ahead of the game on this and has started introducing features to their platform that allow easy set up of Facebook CAPI.

But it is important to note, CAPI is still in its very early days, if you do not have access to a 3rd party solution on your platform, you will likely need a server-side developer to set this up for you and you should be prepared to spend a not-insignificant amount to get it set up correctly. It is likely better if you are a small/medium-sized business to wait for more 3rd party developers to develop their own solutions and work out all the bugs. Facebook is seeing this whole situation as a problem and you can guarantee they will be working on making it as easy as possible to utilize in the very near future.

5.Be Prepared To Receive Less Accurate Data On Facebook

As we have mentioned numerous times throughout this article, prepare yourself, your company, and your clients for less accurate data being tracked through the Facebook conversion pixel. 

We would recommend, if you are not already, charting out your overall income daily, your total ad spend, your ad spend for each different channel and any major marketing activity so you can monitor trends, peaks, and troughs closely to add another level of confidence to your knowledge of what is actually moving the needle.

6.Start Diversifying Your Marketing Channels

There has never been a better time to start diversifying your marketing. Other platforms are getting more mature and growing in results, new marketing platforms are bursting onto the scene at an almost weekly basis and too many companies have found themselves completely reliant on paid social ads to build their business.

Let me be clear, I still believe Facebook will be the strongest ad platform for most industries and products and I still believe their targeting and tracking capabilities, however, inhibited they have been over the last few years are still leaps and bounds ahead. However, it is important not to be reliant on social ads, your biggest growth will come in periods of struggle because that is when you are forced to change, use this period to motivate you to develop a much greater brand presence and put a lot more effort into content creation, use this to strengthen your email generation and autoresponder flows to increase your income per lead, use this to experiment with other marketing channels, both online and offline, and use this to build a better business overall.

I truly believe paid campaigns are just an amplifier, if you have lots of holes in your business right now, paid ads will just amplify those holes, if you have a great, solid and strong business foundation then that is where you will win big with paid ads. Irrelevant of platform or tracking capabilities.