Facebook advertisers have been vocal about the negative impact of iOS 14+ during the past year. Even when it’s never clear what’s led to a drop in performance, iOS 14+ often gets blamed.
Truthfully, the primary culprit may not be the direct impact of iOS 14+ to drops in performance. It may actually be an indirect cause that impacts all advertisers, not just those with a high volume of iOS users.
In this post, we’ll discuss the direct impact of iOS 14+ on performance, the (likely bigger) indirect cause, and what you can do about it.
Aggregated Event Measurement and Performance
When iOS 14+ changes went into effect, the primary focus was on Aggregated Event Measurement. This is the protocol that Facebook uses for handling attributionAn attribution window is the number of days between when a person viewed or clicked your Facebook ad and subsequently took an action. More related to users who have opted out of the ATT prompt.
That prompt, you’ll recall, gave users the ability to prevent an app from tracking them across apps and websites. Facebook and advertisers wouldn’t lose all data at that point, but access would certainly suffer.
When a user opts out of tracking and clicks on an ad that goes to your website, Facebook will then receive very limited information. Only that user’s highest-ranking event (as determined by the advertiser, among eight eligible events) will be sent for attribution, and it will be delayed for up to 72 hours.
The direct result to reporting is simple: Not all conversion events will be received. They’ll be incomplete. They’ll be delayed. And because of this, performance may be underreported.
Facebook does attempt to fill in the gaps with modeling. But it’s not entirely clear how much data Facebook is actually losing here. And this impact, of course, is more pronounced for advertisers targeting users more likely to be on an iOS device.
Facebook isn’t exactly forthcoming on what is lost here, and it’s entirely possible they don’t truly know. But, it’s reasonable to think that attribution for your highest-ranking event (typically a purchase) should see little, if any, impact. In theory, Facebook should still receive those. It’s the lower-ranked (and unranked) events that should be subject to underreporting.
I contend that the biggest change coming from iOS 14+ had nothing to do with iOS devices at all. In fact, your audienceThis is the group of people who can potentially see your ads. You help influence this by adjusting age, gender, location, detailed targeting (interests and behaviors), custom audiences, and more. More could be entirely on a different device and you may have seen a drop in performance.
Because of the drop in confidence in attribution that resulted from iOS 14+ opt-outs, Facebook cut default attribution from 28-day click and 1-day view to 7-day click and (eventually) 1-day view.
In other words, advertisers previously saw conversion results in Ads Manager for users who clicked an ad and converted 8-28 days later. After the change, these conversionsA conversion is counted whenever a website visitor performs an action that fires a standard event, custom event, or custom conversion. Examples of conversions include purchases, leads, content views, add to cart, and registrations. More would never appear.
If your focus is on free opt-ins or sales of cheap products, this may not have impacted you. But, consider products that take more thought prior to commitment after that initial click. Consider memberships and more expensive products that may require discussion or approval before payment.
I strongly believe that this is the biggest impact of these changes. The performance of your ads may not have changed at all. Instead, Facebook is simply unable to provide attribution to conversions because those conversions fall outside of the 7-day click window.
What Should You Do?
Unfortunately, the tools Facebook previously provided to view conversions that occur beyond a 7-day click — even for historical data — are long gone. You’ll need to get creative.
First, evaluate the customer journey. What do you see — on your websites, in your CRM — that can help you understand how long it takes for a potential customer to become a paying customer? Are you likely to get conversions beyond the 7-day click window?
Second, compare your overall traffic and budgetA budget is an amount you're willing to spend on your Facebook campaigns or ad sets on a daily or lifetime basis. More from Facebook year-over-year. If it’s unchanged, are the total sales down? You shouldn’t look at your Ads Manager numbers here but from the merchant side.
I use a couple of strategies for uncovering conversions that Ads Manager is no longer reporting, for one reason or another.
One is using URL parameters and Google Analytics. I’ve never been a big user of URL parameters in the past, but Ads Manager reporting had always been more complete in the past. Now that I’m using it, I see more conversions than Ads Manager reports. This completely changes my evaluation of campaignsThe campaign is the foundation of your Facebook ad. This is where you'll set an advertising objective, which defines what you want your ad to achieve. More.
Another strategy I’ve used (and I’ll write a separate blog post about this) is creating a separate landing page and form specifically for Facebook ads. This way, any conversions that come through that page and form are likely to originate from a Facebook ad. I then compare results to Ads Manager, often finding that Facebook reports fewer than I see on the back-end.
I talk about the impact of Facebook’s attribution change in the video below…
How much of an impact have you seen due to the change in attribution? What have you done about it?
Let me know in the comments below!