In June 2020, Apple began warning Facebook advertisers to be on the lookout for changes to Facebook Ads after iOS 14 updated.
By December 2020, Facebook was taking notice of the iOS14 update and speaking loudly to its community. Facebook iOS14 impact December 2020 Press Release.
The iOS 14 update included how advertisers were able to track Apple device user behavior.
Facebook advertisers and businesses didn’t really know what to expect for facebook ads after iOS 14, but given how reliant Facebook advertisers are on tracking and retargeting, it was of no surprise that panic started to set in around how the iOS update may affect marketing results.
The official release of the iOS 14 update came in April 2021 and with it significant changes in how users’ online activity could be tracked.
To fully understand the impact, let’s look at what we, as Facebook advertisers, were once able to do in terms of tracking and Facebook retargeting
The Facebook Pixel Explained
“The Facebook pixel is an analytics tool that allows you to measure the effectiveness of your advertising by understanding the actions people take on your website.
You can use the pixel to:
- Make sure your ads are shown to the right people. Find new customers, or retarget people who have visited a specific page or taken a desired action on your website.
- Drive more sales. Set up automatic bidding to reach people who are more likely to take an action you care about, like making a purchase.
- Measure the results of your ads. Better understand the impact of your ads by measuring what happens when people see them”
Facebook Pixel Events Before iOS 14
Prior to April 2021, website actions called “pixel events” could be tracked to interpret user browser and website behavior. This data was captured and used to create custom Facebook audiences who would see specific ads that would retarget users at whatever stage of the buying cycle they might be in. However, one of the biggest changes that came with the Apple iOS 14 update was a new limit to the amount of Facebook pixel events a business could track.
As an example, an advertiser may have previously tracked the following website activities (events) and created retargeting audiences based on those events:
- Added to cart
- Viewed certain products on a website
- Spent xx time on a website
- Purchased a product
- Subscribed to an email list
- Clicked a button
- Watched a video
- Read a blog
- Added to a wishlist
- Added payment information at checkout
- Scheduled a booking
- Submitted an application
- Contacted customer service
- Started a trial
- Selected variations of a product
- Initiated Checkout
- Added Payment Information
- Became a Lead
I’m sure you would agree that any or all of the above events would be highly useful for retargeting.
So what changed to pixel events and why the panic?
The iOS update resulted in Facebook limiting event tracking to 8 pixel events only.
I’ve listed 18 events above, and believe me, I’ve only listed basic events that don’t come close to the advanced retargeting technique marketers use.
Advanced Facebook Marketing Consultants are known to track 30 events for one client, and to use these events to create complex Facebook ad campaigns and funnels that retarget customers at all stages of a buying cycle. This type of advanced audience targeting makes serious money for ecommerce clients.
Limiting events to 8 suddenly meant limiting retargeting audiences significantly. What made it even worse is that advertisers now had to prioritize those 8 events from most important to least important to their business. And if they wanted to add values to an event so they could optimize their ads for value? Well that took up 4 events, reducing their total events to just 5. But it didn’t end there.
Next, with the software update, Apple automatically opted its users out of tracking on apps. Users had to manually agree to being tracked. And guess what? Roughly 95% of Apple users in the US opted out of tracking. And when they opt out of tracking, Facebook isn’t able to properly report on any of the 8 events selected by advertisers (for the most part, however there are some workarounds). The further the event is from the top priority event, the less likely it is to be reported back to Facebook.
As of August 2021, this result has impacted advertising results, not just for Facebook Ads, but also Google Ads, Snapchat Ads, Adroll and any other platform relying heavily on retargeting.
The Facebook Attribution Window and iOS 14 Update
Another aspect to touch on (a whole other video, watch this space) was the effect on Attribution windows.
Facebook used to allow advertisers to extend an Attribution window to 28 days, so if somebody clicked on or viewed an ad within that time frame, conversions would be “attributed” to the ad, making Facebook ad reporting look more favorable with higher ROAS being reported.
The iOS 14 update changed this to a default 7-day click window, significantly affecting reporting and tracking of purchases outside of a 7-day click window. Most brands don’t need a 28-day attribution window and we don’t use it with any of our clients, however if a brand has a longer buying cycle, sales funnel, or a more expensive product or service, they wouldn’t be able to see sales come through after 7 days of clicking on an ad. Pair that with 95% of Apple users opting out of tracking in the US, and the ability to only really track the “highest priority event”, and there isn’t much data left to work with.
Jon Loomer has a fantastic article all about attribution I highly recommend you read.
Facebook Ads After iOS 14 – Try These Retargeting Hacks
So, are you wondering just how we retarget on Facebook in 2021 and do our best to work with the iOS privacy updates that have affected social media marketing? Then this article (and video below) is made for you!
10 Advanced Facebook Ads Retargeting Strategies to Survive the iOS 14 Update
As a Facebook Marketing Partner managing eCommerce brands in the $10m+ revenue category, my agency, Karizma Marketing, has spent 2021 analysing data until our brains hurt! However, the result is that most of our clients have been minimally impacted by the iOS update, and in fact we have been able to maximise revenue across a range of platforms, seeing unexpected growth.
Here are my top 10 advanced Facebook retargeting strategies for 2021.
1. Make sure to verify your domain on Facebook
This is a Brand Safety measure by Facebook and, if you are familiar with verifying a domain in Google Search Console, the process is similar and easy to follow.
2. Prioritize the 8 events you wish to track in Facebook Events Manager
Make sure to prioritize the 8 events you want to optimize for in Facebook’s event manager. Note those who have opted out of tracking will only show measurable results if they click on the ad and convert for the top event within one day of clicking, so lots of data is lost here, especially for lower-priority events, such as “add to cart”. You’ll also need to set your attribution window to “1-day click or 1-day view” on the ad set level to see those results, which means anyone who converts after one day of seeing the ad will not be reported. So you’re sacrificing one data point for another.
6 HOT FACEBOOK PIXEL HACKS – FREE!
Want to know how the pro’s do it? Check out my article “6 Hot Facebook Pixel Hacks (You Never Knew About”).
3. Set Up Facebook’s Conversion API Correctly
Make sure to properly set up Facebook’s conversion API:
This is the one that is causing a lot of confusion out there in the Facebook Advertising world. You may “think” you have it properly set, but in 9/10 cases we see – the Facebook Conversion API is set up incorrectly and not tracking conversions.
It involves working between your eCommerce platform, ie. Shopify, and ensure you thoroughly go through the advanced settings.
4. Create Email List Building Strategies
Focus on email list building strategies so you can market off Facebook via email marketing, Those email lists can then be imported into Facebook as ‘Customer Lists’ and used for retargeting.
For example, Klaviyo allows for dynamic audiences that are updated daily and synced with Facebook audiences. These can be synced as Custom Facebook Audiences directly from the Klaviyo interface.
5. Start Building SMS Lists
Focus on SMS list building strategies so you can market off Facebook via SMS marketing, as well as import those phone numbers back into Facebook and other apps like TikTok for better retargeting.
Unlike email marketing where email addresses are often changed (or not frequently checked, especially if your original Facebook account uses an email from 2009 like mine!), phone numbers are almost guaranteed to be current and are a better matching tool.
Klaviyo offers an extremely affordable SMS Marketing solution, and we are seeing an average revenue lift of 12% from email marketing by incorporating SMS marketing; making it the perfect support tool for our email marketing campaigns.
6. Create Video Campaigns at Top Of Funnel
The great news? Any activity that happens on the Facebook or Instagram platform itself is not affected by the iOS 14 update. Remember, the iOS update only affects pixelated events off of apps. Any activity that happens on the Facebook or Instagram apps does not require a pixel and is not affected by the iOS updates.
Creating video campaigns at TOF (Top of Funnel) is a highly effective Facebook retargeting strategy because video views are not affected by the iOS 14 update and you can retarget anyone who has viewed or engaged with your video. For our clients, we are talking about hundreds of thousands, and in some cases millions, of video views that we can retarget to help generate sales. Video ads have never been as important as they are now, so I highly encourage you to use more videos in your organic and paid social strategies.
7. Create a Strong Social Following
Focus on growing a strong social following. Remember, any in-app activities are not affected by the iOS update, so you can retarget your followers just as easily as you could before the iOS update.
A word of warning – DO NOT USE BOTS!
Fake followers, likes, or engagements are a waste of time and money, and simply what we refer to as “vanity metrics”. They mean nothing and will soon have you looking like a fraud (and risk your account being banned). Beyond that, if you want to profitably market to your social followers, they have to be organic and real. Otherwise, they won’t convert into customers and you will have wasted a lot of money marketing to fake followers who don’t have a genuine interest in your brand.
8. Expand Your Audiences
Because many of your retargeting audiences will be much smaller and harder for Facebook to now target, you’ll want to increase the size of your remarketing audiences so Facebook has a larger pool to pull from.
At TOF (top of funnel/cold audiences), select a broader range of audiences instead of narrowing the audience demographics and interests.
At MOF (Middle of Funnel) and BOF (Bottom of Funnel), prior to the update, you may have been retargeting to 7-day ATC (Add To Cart Audiences) and 7-Day VC (View Content Audiences). I recommend you test retargeting to 14 day website visitors. This will make it easier for Facebook to distribute your ads as it will have a larger audience pool to pull from.
And remember how I said earlier that lower priority events are not being tracked properly? If we are targeting Add to Cart Audiences, for example, we are missing about 95% of our website visitors who took that action. So expanding to “All Website Visitors” helps give us a broader audience for Facebook to find and retarget. It should also help lower CPMs, the cost for 1,000 impressions of your ad, thereby lowering your overall advertising costs.
9. Don’t Forget UTM’s
What is a UTM?
UTM stands for “Urchin Tracking Module” and are shortcodes of text, added to the end of a URL, that help identify campaigns, ads, and ad sets. UTM’s are not affected by the iOS update and enable you to clearly see the performance of your Facebook campaigns in Google Analytics (for now).
Facebook provides an area on the ad level for you to add your UTMs so that each ad can be matched back in Google Analytics. The jury is still out on how accurately UTMs from Facebook ads are being tracked in Google Analytics, however, I still recommend that you use them on every single ad. Our agency has always used UTMs on our ads for proper tracking, so for us, this isn’t anything that has changed. But if you haven’t been using UTMs on your ads, you will now need to start using them.
10. Create an Omni-Channel Digital Marketing Strategy
“Don’t build your castle on someone else’s platform”.
In other words, if you’ve been relying solely on Facebook to drive revenue, then it’s time to spread your wings and develop an omni-channel approach. This means you need to start marketing across other platforms.
An omni-channel approach to scaling a brand online is a belief system we have always had at Karizma Marketing, which is why we are a full-service digital marketing agency. The iOS updates only further our belief that every brand needs to have a presence on various platforms and channels. Taking an omni-channel marketing approach limits your risk, allows you to carry on with business as usual should a platform disappear tomorrow, helps with distribution and reach, and allows your brand to grow in various ways to a range of audiences outside of a single channel.
I highly recommend you start developing additional marketing strategies outside of marketing on apps and implement other marketing strategies like SEO, Google Ads, Email Marketing, and more, so you can attract and retarget website visitors elsewhere and become less reliant on apps that are heavily affected by iOS updates (and that you have zero control over).
The saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” couldn’t be more on point here.
BONUS FACEBOOK AD RETARGETING TIPS
Bonus Tip #1 – Use Landing Pages
Use unique landing pages for different marketing campaigns. For example, let Facebook ads run to a different link than Google Ads, but have the same content on the landing pages, so the only difference in the test is where customers are coming from. Then compare data points like clicks, landing page views, conversions, and similar to measure the success and tracking of each marketing channel.
You can do something similar by giving different ad sets (in Facebook) or ad groups (in Google) the same ads, but different landing page links. Again, that is another way to continue to measure results from Facebook.
Bonus Tip #2 – Use Unique Phone Numbers
Use unique phone numbers (CallRail) on different landing pages and measure how many phone calls and sales you are getting for each number. This is similar to the method above. If you are running certain phone numbers on the landing pages Facebook ads are driving traffic to, that will help you measure the success of the campaigns, even with the iOS limitations.
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