Demystifying Facebook Conversions

One aspect of Facebook advertising that can be confusing is called Conversion Attribution. Knowing how it works and how you can control the parameters can help you measure your advertising success from opt-ins to purchases. This topic is important even if you use re-sellers so hopefully you can hang in there with me as I go through the details.

Facebook can track your behavior across devices because most of us have the Facebook app on our phones and tablets and the cookie stored on our computer. By installing the Facebook pixel code on your site and setting up your conversion tracking, Facebook can detect when your ad shows in someone’s newsfeed on their phone and also if they convert on their computer, even if they come to your website from a source other than Facebook.

Example: I see an ad on my phone while scrolling my Facebook newsfeed but don’t do anything. That night, I remember seeing the ad, use Google Search, find your site and make a purchase. Facebook says, “we contributed to that purchase.”

A common question is, why would Facebook take credit for a conversion if someone didn’t interact with the ad? Because someone may remember your ad and take action later on the same device or on another device.

Facebook wants to take credit for facilitating that conversion. Your understanding of this and how you can adjust the parameters is very important for your performance analysis. Bear with me and you’ll have another tool in your marketing toolbox to improve your ad performance.

In your Facebook advertising account under Ads Manager>All Tools>Settings>Ad Accounts you will see a box labeled “Attribution.” The default is “28 days click and 1 day view”. This is called the attribution window. It provides adjustable amounts of time for views and interactions with your ads called “actions.” An action can be a wide variety of things people do to interact with your ad from from a link click to a post Like to un-muting a video to a share – basically a click of any kind.You can view all the actions here.

Let’s look at the default setting in your ad account of “28 days click” for an example. “28 days click” means that is the window of time Facebook will take credit for facilitating a conversion after someone takes an action with your ad. Twenty eight days may seem like a long time but that depends on the buying cycle of your intended audience and it does make sense for many businesses.

Facebook is saying that ad contributed to the purchase. Maybe the consumer read an email after they saw your ad or went to a forum to do some research. And remember the “28 day click” doesn’t always mean a website click. It means a click “action” with your ad described above. You can of course see website clicks in your control panel and measure that statistic directly against your conversions.

So someone performed an “action” with your ad that shows some kind of interest with the content. And then within twenty eight days that person purchased. An example would be I see an ad in my newsfeed for something interesting. I know someone that could use this product so I click the Share button and send the ad to my friend’s message in box or post on a their timeline.

But two weeks later I say, “You know I could use one of those. I’m going to get one too.”I go to the company site and purchase the product. Facebook will give credit to that ad for my purchase even though I didn’t go directly to your site after interacting with the ad.

For views, the default attribution window is much shorter at one day since someone is not taking action on your ad, it just shows up in someone’s newsfeed. Someone scrolls their newsfeed on their phone, stops and looks at the ad, then comes to your site with Google Search that night on their computer and purchases. Facebook says “we contributed to that purchase.”

This is a very important point to remember: Facebook will only tally a “view” or impression if that ad actually did show up in someone’s newsfeed when they were logged in. If you targeted 1,000 people with an ad for seven days and none of those people logged in to Facebook during that time, you will have zero impressions for your ad (and spend no money of course). So it does make this attribution useful. (Facebook is not blindly shoving ads into the internet space saying “your impressions are running now.”)

What if someone saw one ad, then saw another ad without interacting with it, then used Google Search to purchase? Do both ads get credit? No. The last ad viewed would get the credit.

What if someone clicked an ad (took an action) then viewed a second ad without interacting with it? The ad with the click would get the conversion. This rule somewhat appeases those who don’t like the fact that views can be counted towards conversions because that “view only” ad is thrown out if someone interacts with another ad.

If you think 28 days is too long to credit an action or one day is too short to credit a view, you can change these settings. Go to the Ads Manager>All Tools>Settings and find the box that says “Attribution.” You can choose one, seven or twenty eight days for clicks (actions) and views independently.

Here is a screenshot and explanations of the parameters.


Before you change these parameters though it might be good to see how different settings effect your attributions in actual ad performance.

Go to the Ads Manager and click on “Performance” and choose “Customize Columns.” In the bottom right hand side of this screen you will see “Attribution Window.” Here you can compare the various windows of time and how they affect Facebook taking credit for a conversion without changing your default settings.

Typically impulsive conversions like buying a funny T-shirt or opting in to an email list has a short attribution window. More expensive purchases or deeper commitments often take longer so analyze and figure out what works for you. Unfortunately Google Analytics can’t track impressions on Facebook so Analytics won’t be much help for verifying your Facebook data. Multi-channel conversions is helpful but Google Analytics relies on clicks so it won’t tell the entire story.

Not surprisingly, the more active you are on your Facebook page and the more you use other forms of marketing such as a newsletter and blog, the better the dynamic ads work. Increased exposure through various platforms equals better sales. This strategy hasn’t changed since people first started thinking about how to advertise.

If you hung in there with me so far, good for you. This is probably the most complicated part of Facebook advertising so pat yourself on the back for working through this.

If you missed my blog about Facebook Dynamic Ads please click here. I’ve seen excellent revenue using this ad type.

Now go generate some ads that rock your business!

No guesswork here. We are about data-driven marketing that works.

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