Worried because your ability to create targeted Facebook ads has been compromised by the iOS 14 update? This guide will show you how to use the Facebook Conversions API to send conversion data from your server to Facebook’s systems, which compensates for this loss of data.
On April 26, 2021, Apple released its iOS 14.5 privacy update, which meant major changes for all Facebook advertisers.
Apple users who upgraded to iOS 14.5 now had access to the AppTrackingTransparency framework. This framework made it mandatory for apps to ask their users for permission before tracking them across apps and websites owned by other companies.
This meant that if a user opted out of tracking, then the app wouldn’t be able to track that user’s activity outside of the app—a restriction that extends to the Facebook app.
These privacy updates raised some serious concerns for Facebook advertisers, as it meant losing access to valuable data. This significantly hurt their ability to show targeted ads to potential customers, monitor conversions, and build targeted audiences.
Fortunately, there is a way to regain some of this lost data—and that is through the Facebook Conversions API (also known as CAPI).
In this guide, I’ll explain what the Facebook Conversion API is and show you how to use it to establish a secure connection between your website’s server and Facebook. This setup will allow you to send conversion data from your server to Facebook, helping you improve the performance of your Facebook ads.
What is the Facebook Conversions API?
According to Facebook, CAPI is “designed to create a direct connection between your marketing data and the Facebook systems”. When used correctly, it can help optimize ad targeting, measure results, improve conversion attribution, and decrease cost per action.
CAPI allows advertisers to send web events and share consumer data from their servers to Facebook Ads Manager. They’re allowed to do this as long as they have “all the necessary rights and permissions and a lawful basis to do so,” according to Facebook.
When a user clicks on a Facebook ad and navigates to your website, Facebook will assign a unique ID for that user to your server. The server will then track the user as they perform specific actions (like downloading lead magnets and adding items to shopping carts). The server then reports the actions completed by the user to Facebook.
While CAPI might appear to work similarly to the Meta pixel and is designed to meet similar objectives, the key difference is how the collected data is transmitted. The pixel transmits web events and conversion data to Ads Manager through a web browser, while CAPI does server-to-server data transfers without the use of third-party cookies.
Conversions API is considered to be more reliable with data sharing than the pixel since it does not rely on cookies or browser performance. Neither is it hampered by ad blockers. This makes it less susceptible to browser crashes and connectivity issues and ensures more accurate Facebook tracking.
How the Facebook Conversions API works with the Meta pixel
In case you need a quick refresher, the Meta pixel is a piece of code that you place in your website. The Meta pixel code performs a number of tasks, including optimizing your ads, monitoring conversions from your ads, and retargeting previous site visitors.
While the Meta pixel is incredibly useful for providing advertisers with the info they need to create better ads and target audiences more accurately, recent tech developments have reduced its effectiveness.
Ad blockers, cookie blockers, and other masking tools have significantly reduced the amount of data that the pixel receives. Moreover, the world’s most popular browsers, including Google Chrome, are expected to abandon support of third-party cookies by 2022. The iOS 14 update has only added to these woes, drastically reducing the amount of data that the pixel can report back to Facebook.
Does that mean you should abandon the Meta pixel in favor of Conversions API? Absolutely not! In fact, having the pixel correctly implemented on your website is one of Facebook’s three requirements for CAPI integration (the other two being a Business Manager account and an access token). Facebook also explicitly recommends using CAPI along with the pixel to help maximize the effectiveness of your website events.
As you’ve probably realized by now, both the pixel and Facebook CAPI use the same type of conversion events, which could lead to duplications. To avoid this, whenever Facebook receives a server event, it checks to see if there is a corresponding browser event. If the browser event is blocked (e.g. because ad blockers have disabled web browser tracking), Facebook will use the server event instead.
On the other hand, if Facebook receives both events, it will “deduplicate” the events and use just the browser event (in other words, the redundant event will not be counted).
What data can you track with the Facebook Conversions API?
Let’s dive deeper into CAPI and learn more about the types of data that can be tracked with this Facebook Business tool.
The Facebook Conversions API can track three types of data:
- Website conversions
- Post-conversion events
- Page visits
As for events, any kind of event that can be targeted with the Meta pixel can also be targeted with CAPI. For the complete list of Facebook standard events that can be tracked with both the pixel and CAPI, check out this helpful guide.
Note that you can also track custom and offline events using the Facebook Conversions API.
CAPI also allows you to extract data for the following:
- Dynamic ad creation
- Conversion optimization for Facebook ads
- Audience creation (e.g. lookalike audiences and custom audiences)
- Ad reporting
- Audience Insights
Combining the Meta pixel with CAPI gives advertisers access to optimal full-funnel tracking—including lower-funnel events (like qualified leads) and multi-site conversion paths. They’ll also get a more accurate picture of the customer journey.
How to set up the Facebook Conversions API for website events
This section will specifically discuss setting up the Conversions API for website events.
Note that there are specific Facebook APIs that are designed for apps and offline sales. These enable you to track app events as well as sales and visits at brick-and-mortar locations, respectively. To learn more, check out Facebook’s resources on app events API and Facebook offline conversions API.
There are two ways to set up the Facebook Conversions API for website events—and that is through partner integrations for web and manual implementation via Events Manager.
Partner integrations for web
If your website runs on one of Facebook’s partner platforms, you can use Events Manager to set up the pixel and CAPI. This can be done without any editing to your website’s code, and potentially, without the involvement of a developer.
You’re allowed to work with customer data platforms (CDPs), commerce platforms (including Shopify, WordPress, and WooCommerce), system integrators, adtech, call intelligence, and Google Tag Manager. Some partner integrations can be set up in Events Manager, while others will require you to contact the partner directly or set it up on the partner’s website.
For the complete list of Facebook’s Conversions API partners, check out this resource.
Here are the steps for setting up Conversions API via partner integration:
1. In Events Manager, go to the “Data Sources” subsection, choose your pixel, and click “Settings” in the top menu.
2. Scroll down to “Conversions API” and click “Choose a Partner” under “Set up through a partner integration”.
3. Select your partner from the pop-up gallery and follow the setup instructions.
Manual implementation via Events Manager
If you want to set up CAPI manually or don’t have access to a partner integration, you can use Events Manager to create your own personalized instructions for your developer. A manual implementation will give you slightly more control over the setup process, as you can track events and parameters that the pixel alone can’t track.
You’ll need access to your server codebase and help from your developer to complete the manual setup.
Here are the steps to manually setting up CAPI via Events Manager (with help from a developer):
- Go to Events Manager and select the pixel ID you want to use to set up CAPI.
- Click “Add Events” below the activity graph and choose “Using the Conversions API”.
- Click “Install code manually”. Make sure to read the overview and click “Continue”.
- Choose the events you wish to track (you can use the event recommendations in the dropdown menu as a guide). Click ‘Continue”.
- Select the parameters for each event. Note that you need to select at least one customer information parameter. Click “Continue”.
- Review your events and parameters, then click “Confirm Setup”. Click “Send Instructions”.
- Input your developer’s email address and click “Send”. Consider checking the box that says “Send me a copy of this email” so that you’ll have your own backup.
Your developer will then work to complete the setup process based on the events and parameters you’ve selected.
How to set up the Facebook Conversions API in Shopify
Shopify has released a new feature for their Facebook sales channel users: the “Maximum” option found in the “Data Sharing” tab. This option allows users to set up the Facebook Conversions API for purchases and other server-side events.
Of course, you’ll need to enable customer data sharing to activate Facebook API conversion tracking.
Activate Facebook customer data sharing
- Go to your Shopify admin and navigate to “Sales channel” > “Facebook”.
- Click “Settings,” then click “Data sharing settings”.
- Navigate to the “Customer data sharing” section and enable customer data sharing.
- In the “Choose level” section, select the level of customer data sharing that you wish to enable.
- Click “Connect” on the Meta pixel that you want to use for customer data sharing.
Enable Conversions API in the Shopify dashboard
- Login to your Shopify dashboard. On the left-hand bar, click “Online Store” and select “Preferences”.
- Under Preferences, scroll down until you see “Meta Pixel”. Look for the “Set up Facebook” button. This will bring you to the “Set up Facebook Marketing” tab. In this tab, verify that you’re connecting the correct Facebook account, Facebook page, and ad account.
- Once these have been verified, select “Data Sharing” in the “Set up Facebook Marketing” tab. Select the “Maximum” sharing option. This will allow CAPI to share full server-side events and customer information between the Shopify and Facebook servers.
- Verify that the correct pixel is attached (tip: check the last four digits of the pixel ID).
- Select the target country, then click “Accept” and “Finish setup”.
To confirm your CAPI setup in Facebook, do the following steps:
1. Login to your Facebook Business Manager > Events Manager.
2. Under “Data Sources,” select the same pixel that you’re tracking on Shopify, then scroll over to “Settings”.
3. In Settings, scroll all the way down until you see “Automatic Advanced Matching”. Make sure that “Automatic Advanced Matching” is switched on. Activating this feature will allow the pixel to track people more accurately and collect more info.
4. Under “Automatic Advanced Matching,” click “Show customer information parameters” and select the parameters that you want the pixel to track. The more parameters you select, the more useful data you can collect.
5. Next, go to “Overview” and scroll down to your different pixel events. Your events should now have both the browser and server status, indicating that CAPI is tracking server-side events.
Seeking an easier solution?
After deep-diving into the intricacies of the Facebook Conversions API, you might be wondering if there's an easier way to set up and utilize this powerful tool efficiently. And there is!
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Even though the iOS 14 privacy update threatened to reduce the amount of data advertisers could gather about their users, as well as impair their ability to measure the performance of their ad campaigns, business tools like Facebook’s Conversions API are allowing advertisers to regain some of their lost data. This, in turn, will help them maintain their ad attribution tracking and build targeted audiences.
To prepare for disruptions, it’s important not to place all of your eggs in one basket and instead focus on diversifying your sources of data. To continue to deliver those targeted (and profitable!) Facebook ads, combining the pixel with CAPI to add more depth and insight to your campaigns is your best bet.
Ditch the costly trial and error. Get the only tracking system that sends accurate data back into your Ads Manager.
Michael is a Content Writer at Madgicx. He is passionate about crafting compelling content that educates Facebook advertisers, agency owners, and eCommerce entrepreneurs.