facebookIcon tracking


Facebook Conversion Tracking: The Good, The Bad, The Cloudy

Published: March 11, 2013

Author: Sean Quadlin

Today’s post is by Hanapin Marketing‘s Sean Quadlin.
It’s been about six weeks since Facebook introduced conversion tracking to their interface. As this is Facebook, they do things that are similar enough to AdWords to seem familiar to PPC marketers while still having enough differences to make everything a tiny bit uncanny. It’s like pay-per-click via David Lynch.
And in the same way that even reading synopses of David Lynch movies make me feel weird in my tummy, Facebook conversion tracking causes a bit of uncertainty for those of us who spend a majority of our time in AdWords. As such, I wanted to review some of the aspects of the conversion/action tracking to help put all of your minds at ease.

Conversions vs. Actions

Conversion tracking is only conversion tracking – i.e. it’s all about the pixels that you place on your site. Likes and other Facebook-centric actions don’t count as conversions. They do, however, count as actions, which is the main metric that Facebook reports back on. If you’re on the Campaigns and Ads view, you’ll see actions.  Here’s how Facebook defines an action:

Includes all actions taken by people within 24 hours after viewing your ad or sponsored story, or within 28 days after clicking on it. You’ll only see data here if you’re promoting a Page, event or app.

Includes all actions taken by people within 24 hours after viewing your ad or sponsored story, or within 28 days after clicking on it. You’ll only see data here if you’re promoting a Page, event or app.
Here’s what that translates to if you look in detail at your ad’s performance:
facebook ad performance
If your advertising account is an admin on your main Facebook page (which I assume is the standard way to operate a Facebook ads account), likes, link clicks and even page photo views are going to count as actions.
If you need to report back about direct-response metrics, this means that you’ll have to run an Actions by Impression Time report to filter out the Facebook stuff from the stuff that occurs on your website. Which is a bit of a bummer.
I happen to manage an account on Facebook that isn’t an admin on the main page, as we’re concerned only with direct response with the specific budget I’m working with. It means we lose out of some of the really cool social stuff on Facebook, but it also means that I know straightaway how my ads are doing. I really enjoy working on this client, as it doesn’t take into account the full picture, and this is an instance where not having the full picture is a good thing (at least in my opinion).
Breaking down the reports
facebook ad performance detail
Both of the screengrabs above reference the full actions report, which is just another name for the Actions by Impression Time report. If you click on that link, you can see how your ads are doing with some specificity. Here are the headers that you might be able to expect on that report:
facebook conversion report
Now, I say that you might be able to see them because if you don’t have any conversions within a certain time range, then you’re not going to see that column.  Facebook’s help page for conversions says that they track any conversions that happen within 1, 7, or 28 days of a click along with 1, 7, or 28 days of viewing an ad.
As you can see above, we don’t have any Post-Imp conversions from 1-7 days or 7-28 days. If there’s no column, you don’t have them. (This has led to some confusion on other posts of mine, so I wanted to clarify.)
(Also {sorry for the avalanche of parentheses}, the muddy headers bother me as a lifelong quibbler.  If someone converts on Day 7, are they filed under 1 to 7 or 7 to 28?  Just make the third column 8 to 28 days.  This bothers me a surprising amount.)
The time frame for post-impression conversions is also different from what Facebook tracks for actions. Actions are only tracked for one day after viewing an ad (as opposed to 28 days). I’ve yet to see a post-impression conversion for anything over one day, which means one of two things: 1. The Facebook help center has this detail wrong about conversion tracking, or 2. User interest following an impression fades away very quickly in the land of Facebook.

Cross-device attribution – where’s the data?

What I was really excited about (and what this post was initially intended to be written about) was cross-device attribution. Since Facebook users are logged in, FB can tell who clicked an ad on a mobile device and later converted on their desktop.
While this is exciting in theory, I can’t actually find a way to access any type of device data in Facebook.  I may be a dummy, so there’s a (strong) chance this I’m just missing it. If that’s the case, please let me know in the comments! But if that information in fact isn’t available, why would Facebook brag about having it? If they can’t give us any data about cross-device conversions, why are they telling us about that feature at all? Don’t get us all excited and then hold out on us like that.

Data quality: Facebook vs. GA

Finally, since conversion tracking is a new feature, I wanted to somehow vet it. Luckily enough, FBPPC has a previous post (whose author is a bit of a shameful self-promoter) that allowed me to track Facebook conversions via Google Analytics. Here’s how performance measures up between the two sources:
conversion data fb
Google Analytics
conversion data ga
GA says I have 82 leads, while Facebook is reporting 91 post-click lead submissions.  This is close enough for me to give a positive review to the new service. Analytics is tracking all of the other sources, so that difference of nine leads is well within tolerance for people that converted via other sources but still had Facebook as a part of their process. GA also gives me the ability to see that five of my 82 conversions were from mobile devices, which is something that (at least to my knowledge) Facebook lacks at the moment.
It seems like Facebook is trying a bit harder to make things better for advertisers, so I’m hopeful that in the near future we’ll have some visibility into cross-device performance. That’s what I was most excited about when conversion tracking was announced, and it’s the most disappointing thing I’ve experienced since implementing.  Otherwise, things are looking up. More data is, in the immortal words of Martha Stewart, a good thing.
How do these changes strike you guys?  Are there any annoyances or triumphs that you’ve experienced with conversion tracking?
sean quadlin hanapin– Sean Quadlin is an Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing and a writer for PPCHero.com.  When he’s not at the office, you can find him in the company of his beloved TiVo.

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