For years, we’ve relied on the Facebook Pixel to understand how our ads are performing and build powerful retargeting audiences. But the power of the Facebook Pixel is dwindling due to iOS 14 privacy features and the certain death of cookies next year.
The Facebook Pixel
To help remedy this, Facebook has introduced the new and improved Facebook Conversions API. This tool has always been helpful for advertisers who want to accurately track their conversions, but now it’s essential for Facebook advertisers who want to future-proof their strategy in a privacy-first world.
Which is why I’ve written this post. We’re going to cover:
- What the Facebook Conversions API is and how it works.
- Its similarities and differences to the Facebook Pixel.
- Seven reasons to use Facebook CAPI (along with the pixel!)
- How to set up Facebook CAPI for your account.
So if you want to future-proof your Facebook advertising strategy, I invite you to read on.
What is the Facebook Conversions API?
According to Facebook:
“Conversions API is a Facebook Business Tool that lets you share key web and offline events, or customer actions, directly from your server to Facebook’s.”
But what does that even mean?
Here’s what each term in the above definition means.
- API: This stands for application programming interface. It’s a connection between two applications that lets them talk to one another. In this case, it’s your website and Facebook.
- Web and offline events: These are actions taken on your website (viewed a page, filled out a form, etc.) or offline (such as called you) by people who have interacted with your Facebook Ads.
- Your server: For the sake of this article, “your server” refers to the machine that houses your website and all the data connected with it. Large businesses sometimes have their own servers, while small businesses usually pay to have their website hosted on someone else’s server (like GoDaddy’s or Bluehost’s).
- Facebook’s server: Facebook has thousands of its own servers, and Ads Manager is hosted on one of them. For the sake of this article, “Facebook’s server” is the machine that houses Ads Manager data.
So basically, the Conversions API connects your website data (housed on your server) to Facebook Ads Manager (housed on Facebook’s server) so you can see how Facebook users interacting with your ads are behaving.
But isn’t that what the Facebook Pixel does? Read on, my friend.
Facebook Conversions API vs Facebook Pixel
Yes, the Facebook Pixel serves the same purpose, but in a different way and with different results.
- The Facebook Pixel is a piece of code that goes on your website, which then sends a cookie to Facebook’s server (Ads Manager) whenever someone who interacted with your Facebook Ads takes an action on your site. Since cookies are stored in the user’s browser, it is a browser-dependent conversion tracking method (hence the term browser-side conversion tracking (aka client-side).
- The Conversions API, on the other hand, is a form of server-side conversion tracking. So the same user behavior data is collected but stored on your server (rather than in the browser), and the API connects the server to Facebook’s.
So in short and as illustrated above,
- With the conversions API, your website collects the data, the data gets stored on your server, and the data gets sent to Facebook via API.
- With the pixel, Facebook collects the data (using cookies), the data gets stored on the user’s browser, and the data gets sent to Facebook via pixel.
What events can Facebook CAPI track?
Conversions API can track all the same standard events the Facebook Pixel tracks, such as:
- Add payment info
- Add to cart
- Add to wishlist
- Customize product
- Complete registration
- Contact (phone, SMS, email, chat)
- Find location searches for your store in a website or app
- Initiate checkout
- Page view
- Schedule: books appointment
- Search: sight search
- Start Trial
- Submit Application
- View Content
But again, with the API, these are server-side events while with the pixel, they are client-side (or browser-side) events.
Speaking of events, you may be interested in these three tips to deal with Facebook Aggregated Event Measurement.
Why use Facebook CAPI?
Now that you understand how Facebook CAPI works, you can better understand the advantages of the tool.
1. CAPI solves for VPNs & ad blockers
Originally, the Facebook Pixel provided us with all the information we needed to build powerful audiences for our ads. Then, VPNs, ad blockers, and other privacy software began causing some discrepancies in the data. This is where the Facebook Conversions API came in.
2. CAPI is iOS14-friendly
But with iOS 14, we’re not just dealing with discrepancies in the data, but gaps. Gaps that negatively impact Facebook ad targeting. This is because iOS 14 limits what data advertisers can collect through client-side (pixel) tracking, and allows users to turn tracking off entirely (through ATT).
CAPI sends user data directly from your server (not the user’s device) to Facebook, instead of relying on the cookie and browser data the Facebook Pixel collects.
In other words, you’re collecting and sending the data, not Facebook.
3. CAPI captures important lower-funnel activity
The Facebook Conversions API allows you to send more than just website behavior to Facebook. Not all server-side events happen and/or are recorded directly on your site. They may happen on your app, free tool, third-party payment tool, support hub, or offline (like through phone calls). If you record this data in your CRM, you can send additional data to Facebook through CAPI.
And events in payment and shopping cart tools are often lower-funnel, making them particularly important to track.
4. CAPI will be necessary when cookies are gone
But most importantly, when third-party cookies are gone, Conversions API will be our only source for conversion tracking and ad performance data.
Why not only use the Facebook Conversions API?
Given all of the above, that’s the question! It has its drawbacks.
The Facebook Pixel still has advantages
Even though you can track all standard events, the Pixel has the advantage in that it matches your website visitors to individual users on the platform. This enables you to see more information about people who have interacted with your ads, including demographic and psychographic information, and other data that other third-party cookies are collecting on their browser.
Server-side events may have Low Event Match Quality
Revealbot helps us to understand that Conversions API uses data keys to send the information. But it can only collect reliable data keys (name, email, phone number, location) if the user fills out a form on your site or is logged in. Without that action, it is left to use less reliable data keys (browser type and IP address).
You may notice this for particular events in the Event Matching tool in Ads Manager. Because it won’t be able to collect that information on website visitors who aren’t signed in to your website or who don’t fill out a form
Why you need to use Facebook Conversions API and Facebook Pixel
You should be using these two conversion tracking methods together, and here’s why.
5. Get a complete picture of your conversion data
- Facebook Conversions API helps you to see information that the Facebook Pixel can’t, as a result of ad blockers, iOS 14, ATT, and cookies. This includes website events, offline events, ad CRM data.
- But the Facebook Pixel helps you to see information that the CAPI can’t, such as demographic, psychographic, and other behavioral data from around the web.
6. Plus, cookies aren’t gone yet
- The CAPI will be essential when third-party cookies go away entirely.
- But for now, cookies aren’t gone yet, there are still non iOS users, and not everyone has opted out of app tracking.
7. Get more out of your budget
So for now, with Facebook Pixel and Conversions API together giving you the most accurate data possible, you can:
- Understand exactly who is interacting with your ads.
- Better understand the customer journey.
- Build strong audiences and generate leads on Facebook, even with iOS 14.
- Make data-driven optimizations and allocate budget accordingly.
Speaking of budget, are you wasting any spend with your Facebook ads? Find out in minutes with our Free Facebook Ads Performance Grader.
What about duplicates?
So basically, when a user takes an action on your site, there are two different players collecting that information. Your server and the user’s browser. If you’re using both the Pixel and CAPI, won’t this result in duplicate events?
Not as long as you take one of these two strategies that Facebook talks about here.
- Track different events via browser than events you track via server. So you may track content view events via browser but purchase events via server.
- Enable deduplication. You’ll need to add two event parameters to the server—event name and event ID.
How to implement the Facebook Conversions API
When it comes to implementing Conversions API, you have two options. Both of which may require the help of a web developer.
Manual setup using code
If you wish to manually install the code yourself or have a web developer install the code for you, Facebook provides developer documentation to build a direct Conversions API integration with your server.
You also have the ability to create personalized setup instructions within Events Manager that can be sent to your developer. Some of the advantages of this option include full control in how you set up Conversions API as well as some potential savings in regards to upkeep.
If your website uses one of Facebook’s partner platforms you will be able to set up the Conversions API that way as well. Here is a glimpse into the partner platforms included:
I’m not aware of the costs associated with each of these partners individually, however, I have one client who is going to implement Conversions API via Google Tag Manager (server-side). The approximate cost of doing so (according to Google) would be as such:
Setup and test Facebook CAPI now
Hopefully you now understand what the Facebook Conversions API is, how it compares to the Facebook Pixel, and why it’s essential for future-proofing your Facebook advertising strategy, See what additional data you might collect now, and what only data you’ll be collecting once third-party cookies go away for good.