To say the least, 2020 has been an unpredictable year, especially for the digital ad buying space. This year we saw one of the biggest booms in Facebook advertising history followed by platform instability coupled with consumer uncertainty, and most recently news that Apple’s iOS14 will give users more security control (we believe this is a good thing) mainly through preventing advertisers from being able to track off-platform actions across the web via third-party browser cookies. Firefox has also begun increasing its security and has begun allowing users to block similar cookies, and Google intends to completely remove the ability to use them by 2022.
This is a devastating blow for social advertising platforms as they depend heavily on first- and third-party cookies to be able to attribute purchases made on advertisers’ sites to the ads served on their platforms. Let’s dive in shall we?
What is it?
Conversions API (CAPI) is a revamping of what Facebook previously called Server Side API (SSAPI). Server Side API has been around for a while and was a code-heavy option that allowed brands to create custom actions/events that could then be passed from a site’s server to Facebook for attribution.
What does it do?
Conversions API builds on the benefits of SSAPI while adding new integrations and partner apps to simplify the installation process. It is intended to improve the overall data that is being sent from your site to Facebook to provide better insights and learnings of your campaigns.
Why does it matter?
For example: we already know that there are ad blockers that block Facebook ads from being able to attribute sales to the ads being served to a user. We know that over the next two years the ability to effectively attribute these actions is going to diminish as browsers begin to phase out first- and third-party cookies. However, while ad blockers (and browsers) block cookie data from being passed on the browser side, they do not have a way of blocking the data that is passed on the server side. So it will only become more valuable in time to be passing this data from your server.
What makes it useful?
The most useful cases for implementing CAPI will be the opportunity to improve the quality of your data and ad performance overall. Facebook now states that the ROI of implementing CAPI is a 150% improvement in comparison to campaigns that only convert for traffic (clicks), which will eventually be an ad buyer’s only option without the implementation of CAPI. That said, we are currently seeing about a 25-35% increase in attribution performance based on accounts that only had the browser pixel placed and have now moved over to implementing CAPI.
Another thing that will make it more useful is the ability to customize specific events on your site along with being able to better incorporate offline conversions into your data mix. So for example, if you are running lead generation ads, but want to make sure a sales person has verified that they lead is of quality, you can customize CAPI to delay that lead event from being passed to FB until a sales person has noted or checked the lead in your CRM. This, in turn, would allow you to optimize ads on only the leads of quality and not based on all leads generated. (To be fair, this example is also one that needs a custom Dev solution and is not yet available with most app or the Shopify integration).
Does Conversions API rely on the Pixel or is it independent of the pixel?
CAPI is independent of the FB pixel but for right now it is best advised to use CAPI in tandem with the browser based pixel to send the same conversion events (e.g., ‘purchase’ or ‘subscribe’) as well as any additional post-conversion events that are not able to be sent via the FB pixel (Like the ‘qualified leads’ example we mention above). Keep in mind that a redundant setup requires event deduplication. This is automatic with the Shopify implementation but will need to be custom coded in all other implementations.