The Facebook pixel is a highly valuable tool for tracking business data on Facebook. Unfortunately, its effectiveness has been declining in recent years. But all is not lost, thanks to the Facebook conversions API.
The Facebook conversions API another tool in your Facebook data toolkit that works with the Facebook pixel to ensure you get all the data you need. Combined, they help you properly track, attribute and improve your Facebook marketing performance.
What’s the problem with the pixel? Essentially, ad blockers, cookie blockers, and other masking tools have begun to cut down on the amount of data the pixel receives. And now, Apple’s iOS 14 update is creating even bigger hurdles to tracking data through the pixel.
Not concerned about losing data from iOS users? Consider that Facebook expects all major browsers to block or significantly limit third-party cookies by 2022.
Your ad targeting will also be affected, and the size of your custom audiences and retargeting audiences will likely decrease.
But don’t panic. Read on to learn how to save your data, attribution and targeting with the Facebook conversions API.
Bonus: Download a free guide that teaches you how to turn Facebook traffic into sales in four simple steps using Hootsuite.
What is the Facebook conversions API?
To understand the Facebook conversions API, you first have to understand a little bit about the Facebook pixel.
(If you want to understand everything about the Facebook pixel, check out our blog post on that very topic.)
In short: The Facebook pixel is a browser-side tool. That just means it tracks data through the user’s browser.
But the browser is also where the user can install cookie blockers and ad blockers, or disallow tracking cookies altogether. Browsers crash sometimes, losing data pathways. They can also lose data when connections are poor.
The Facebook conversions API, by contrast, is a server-side tool. In fact, it was formerly known as the server-side API. It allows you to track conversions through your website’s server, rather than through your customer’s browser. Instead of tracking “browser pixel events,” it tracks “server events.”
The conversions API does not rely on cookies. That means your website visitors’ browser settings and performance don’t affect its tracking capabilities.
Like we said, it’s an extra business tool that works together with the Facebook pixel. It improves the accuracy of your Facebook tracking by capturing data that would be lost if relying on browser events alone.
It also helps to improve the performance of your Facebook ads by providing more complete data for ad optimization.
What does the Facebook conversions API track?
The Facebook conversions API allows you to track three kinds of data:
- Web conversions (like sales or signups)
- Post-conversion events (approvals for a loan)
- Page visits
It gives you greater insight into your full sales funnel than using the pixel alone. That’s because it allows you to incorporate information like CRM data and qualified leads.
It also provides data required for:
- Ad targeting (like custom audiences and retargeting)
- Ad reporting
- Audience Insights
- Dynamic ads
- Conversion optimization for Facebook ads
The conversions API also gives you greater control over the data you track within Facebook. For example, you can add business information like profit margins and customer value.
There are also specific versions of the conversions API designed for apps and offline sales. These allow you to track app events and bricks-and-mortar store sales and visits, respectively. But since these are separate business tools, we won’t dig into them in this post. If you want to know more, check out Facebook’s detailed information on the app events API and offline conversions API.
Facebook pixel vs. the conversions API
Here’s how Facebook itself lays out the difference between Facebook pixel and the conversions API:
“The pixel lets you share web events from a web browser, while the conversions API lets you share web events directly from your server.”
Or, perhaps a little more obtusely:
“If sending browser pixel events is like sending mail via airmail, then sending server events is like sending mail via freight. They are both mechanisms to transport the package (data about an event) to a destination address (a Pixel ID).”
In terms of using these tools, it isn’t really a case of either/or. Instead, it’s a matter of both/and.
We’ve already talked about how changes in the iOS 14 update impact the Facebook pixel. And how the increasing use of ad and cookie blockers also affects the pixel’s ability to collect consistent browser-based data.
But, that doesn’t mean the pixel is no longer useful. It’s just useful in a different way. In fact, you should have your Facebook pixel set up and running before you try to set up the conversions API.
If you haven’t set up your pixel yet, check out our blog post with detailed instructions on how to use Facebook pixel on your website.
When you connect the conversions API and your Facebook pixel, you maximize your chances of registering a conversion. If you choose to track the same events using both tools, you might even register some conversions twice. Fortunately, Facebook can correct the double-tracking through a process called “deduplication.”
Deduplication sounds complicated. But really it just means keeping one conversion event and discarding its duplicate.
If one of the business tools (pixel or the conversions API) records the event, no problem. If both record the event, Facebook will deduplicate the tracking. It compares the pixel event parameter to the conversion API’s event_name parameter, and the pixel’s eventID parameter to the conversion API’s event_ID parameter.
The tl;dr version is that these tools work together to provide you the most accurate Facebook tracking data and insights.
Facebook conversions API examples
You’ve gathered by now that the conversions API will provide more reliable Facebook data. Let’s take a look at a couple of real-world examples that show just why that is so important for marketers.
This is the main issue we’ve talked about throughout this post. The pixel’s ability to track data is diminishing. The conversions API helps fill those gaps, providing better conversion attribution.
For example, the clothing brand tentree tested two data tracking setups against each other. One used the pixel alone. The other used the pixel plus the conversions API. They found that the combination of the pixel and the conversions API provided a 12 percent increase in attribution.
This meant the tentree marketing team had better data to analyze. This, in turn, allowed them to make better decisions about how to allocate their ad budget.
They also found that the additional data from the conversions API helped the Facebook algorithm serve the ads more effectively to better-qualified users reducing the cost per action by 5 percent.
Improving Facebook ads targeting
Marketing strategies like retargeting (advertising to people who have already interacted with your business) only work when your tracking works effectively. Without the conversions API, you might miss the opportunity to convert some of your most likely prospects.
For example, the Norwegian beauty company Lava Art Cosmetic (LAC) found that when they added the conversions API to their Facebook pixel tracking, they were better able to track the customer’s journey on their website.
This in turn allowed them to create better custom audiences. They then used Facebook ads to target people who had visited their website but not made a purchase.
Compared to using the Facebook pixel alone, they saw a 16.5 percent increase in subscriptions to their service.
Lower Facebook ads cost per action
Both of the examples above already showed this benefit, but let’s look at a case where this was the specific goal.
The conversions API can help reduce the cost per action of your Facebook ads by sending better data to the Facebook algorithm. This ensures your ads are served to the most targeted potential customers.
For example, the Mexican digital payments company Clip saw 46 percent more conversions when they added the conversions API to the Facebook pixel. At the same time, they saw a 32 percent reduction in the cost per conversion.
How to set up the Facebook conversions API
There are two ways to set up the Facebook conversions API. Which you choose will depend on the platforms you use and the level of technical help you can access within your business.
Remember that you should already have a functional Facebook pixel before you dive in. You also need to set up Facebook Business Manager. If you haven’t done so yet, follow our step-by-step instructions.
Partner integration setup
The simplest way is to use a partner integration. Using this method, you don’t have to know any code, and you may be able to complete implementation yourself, without a developer.
This option is available if your website is hosted on one of Facebook’s partner platforms, like WordPress. You can also use it with a partner customer data platform, commerce platform, adtech, tag manager, or system integrator.
Not sure if you use a partner platform? You can find a full, up-to-date list on the Facebook for Business site.
Here’s how to implement the conversions API through partner integration.
1. In Events Manager, choose your pixel from the Data Sources tab and click Settings in the top menu.
Source: Events Manager
2. Scroll down to the Conversions API section and click Choose a Partner under Set up through a partner integration.
Source: Events Manager
3. Choose your provider from the pop-up gallery. This will take you into the specific setup instructions for your partner integration.
Manual implementation through Events Manager
If you don’t have access to partner integration, or you just prefer to set up the conversions API manually, you can use Events Manager to create personalized instructions for your developers.
This method gives you a little more control over the conversions API setup. This includes the ability to track events and parameters that pixel alone can’t track.
However, you will need access to your server codebase and assistance from a developer to complete this method.
You can get the process started yourself in Events Manager, to specify what you want to track using the conversions API. You’ll then pass the torch to your developer to implement the setup on your server.
- In Events Manager, select the pixel you want to use to set up the conversions API.
- Click Add Events and select Using the Conversions API.
- Click Install code manually, read the overview, and click Continue.
- Choose the events you want to track. If you’re not sure, check out Facebook’s event recommendations in the dropdown menu. When you’re done, click Continue.
- Select the parameters for each event and click Continue.
- Click Confirm Setup, then Send Instructions.
- Enter your developer’s email address and click Send. It’s a good idea to check the box that says Send me a copy of this email so you have a copy for your files.
From here, the ball is in your developer’s court. They will complete the setup based on the events and parameters you specified using the instructions you created in the last step.
If your developer needs more information, they can use Facebook’s detailed conversions API resources on the Facebook for Developers site.
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