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Consider This: Facebook’s Upcoming Offsite Conversion Tracking with Optimized Bidding

Published: November 28, 2012

Author: Jon Fendrich

offsite conversion trackingFacebook recently announced a new self-service tool to both track and optimize downstream conversions outside of the Facebook platform. Advertisers will need to place a small chunk of unique code on the webpage a user will hit after taking a desired action and define the conversion on Facebook as an “add to cart,” “checkout,” “registration,” or other conversion type. These conversions will then be tied back to specific ads on Facebook, much the way onsite conversions such as “likes,” “app installs,” and “credit spends” are currently tracked. Conversions will be attributed back to the appropriate ads for 28 days following the click.
It isn’t clear whether the categorization of conversions will allow for Facebook to track multiple conversion types in a single campaign. It will at least provide better data for the second piece of this release: optimized CPM (oCPM) bidding.  oCPM bidding, released earlier this year, allows advertisers to allocate impressions of their ads toward users most likely to take an action like installing an app or liking a page on Facebook. In this case, advertisers using oCPM bids would leverage Facebook to distribute impressions toward users most likely to take their defined offsite action.
This is an exciting development for advertisers driving users from Facebook toward offsite, ROI-driven actions, but it begs questions and raises issues, specifically:
1)     How accurate will the conversion tracking be?
Tracking online conversions is an inexact science and a difficult one to master. Numerous businesses exist simply to tackle this ever-present problem, and they have strengths and weaknesses. If Facebook’s offsite tracking setup is accurate over a 28-day window, this will add value for a large number of advertisers both in eliminating the additional cost of 3rd-party tracking and potentially increasing accuracy of attribution. The ability to track multiple conversion types in a single account is a critical variable here as well.
2)     How effective will oCPM bidding be outside of Facebook?
Auto-optimizing toward offsite conversions will be a much greater challenge for Facebook than it was for “likes” and app installs. Facebook doesn’t have the breadth of data on user habits outside of the platform that they have for users’ onsite actions. While beta tester Fab.com reportedly reduced costs per action by nearly 40%, not every product will be analogous to an existing product Facebook can use as a proxy to identify segments of interested users.
While the conversion tracking is unlikely to be robust enough to replace more comprehensive solutions at launch, and oCPM bidding toward offsite actions will likely be a work in progress, this release has great long-term potential for advertisers looking to source Facebook traffic to generate leads elsewhere. Be sure to try it out when it’s released!
– Jon Oberlander

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