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Facebook Pixel – The Full Picture

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The Facebook Pixel is undoubtedly the most important asset for us Facebook advertisers. Unfortunately, most of us don’t really understand what the pixel is — or how does it works. The main reason for this ‘phenomenon’ is that Facebook would just rather us not to – you will soon find out why.

In the next article I would try to give a deep and full overview of the Facebook pixel. But in order to understand the Pixel, we would first need to understand a key concept of the internet — the session.

The Session

So what is the internet? The internet is a protocol (or an invented language) between computers. What most of us don’t realize, its that the internet protocol is also an stateless protocol — which implies that the computers who speak to each other, cannot recall if they have ever spoken to each other before. This makes it hard for computers to have a more complicated conversation via the internet, since it implies they need to introduce themselves (for example log-in) to each other every time they speak!

In order to resolve this, the internet world came up with a concept that is called session.
How does it work? When ever your computer meets a new computer for the first time , the other computer would ask your computer to identify itself (for example — in the Facebook Login screen). After you identify yourself successfully, Facebook’s computer would assign your computer a unique ID. Facebook will also instruct your browser to save this unique ID and send it along with another requests your PC will have to Facebook. Now, instead of your computer introducing itself directly to Facebook for every request (by typing your user name and password), Facebook would just attach this unique ID that was given to the computer during the request — making the introduction phase to happen seamlessly.

This unique ID that is saved in your browser is called a cookie, the seamless introduction phase is called a session.

BTW This unique ID that is saved in your browser is called a cookie , the seamless introduction phase is called a session.

How Facebook (ab)Uses sessions

The session mechanism lets you enter a website without logging into it each time , but it also offers more advanced functionality. For example — the Facebook chat. Whenever someone installs the Facebook Chat component in his website , it automatically recognizes the user he is interacting with — without the user having to log in to Facebook or identify himself in the website.
How does this happen?
When you integrate the Facebook Chat in your website , you are asked to attach some external code in your website. When a user enters your website , this external code is executed at his browser , which sends Facebook’s server a request . Like all other requests to Facebook from the user , this request also includes the user’s unique ID (or the cookie) — this gives the chat component the ability to identify the user even though he had never introduced himself in your website.

How The Pixel Got its Name

The Facebook Pixel uses exactly the same mechanism that the Facebook chat uses. But unlike the Facebook Chat which is proudly viewed on your website , Facebook would rather hide the fact that they are sending user’s activity data. This is why they chose this component to be as small as it can be —in the size of a pixel (this is why its called a pixel).

So what the pixel really is , is just a small image component in your website. The image has no real use on your website — but since the user has to request for the image (which is hosted at Facebook), it also sends Facebook his unique ID —enabling Facebook identify this user.
But not only the unique ID is sent — the request for the image also includes more data- like the type of action that the user committed (ViewContent for example) ,the value of the action and much more. This data combined with the user unique ID is than used by Facebook to attribute users actions, and show it to you in their nice pixel panel.

Advanced Matching

As we have learned , Facebook can recognize user’s activity on your website by recognizing his Facebook session . But since the session is saved in the browser , whenever a user will commit an action in a browser that does not have his Facebook session — his activity would not be tracked.

In order to solve this , Facebook came up with a concept that is called Advanced Matching. The advanced matching works by adding extra data about the user in the request for the pixel image. So now , instead of counting solely on the unique ID in the session , the pixel will also send additional data like a users phone number , email , city and a long list of parameters that would help identify a user , even if he does not have his Facebook session on the browser.

This could mean 41% more ROAS for your client.

Even though the new concept is called “Advanced” — Implementing advanced matching is a matter of a few clicks if you use one of the standard platforms for e-commerce.

Conclusion –

Hopefully after reading this article you now have a better understanding of the pixel and how it works. If you have any more questions about the pixel , or Facebook advertising in general — you are more than welcome to send me an email at — idanbeker@madgicx.com

Happy scaling !

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Idan Beker

Idan Beker

Co-Founder & CTO at madgicx.com

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