Important FB Attribution Changes – Three Strategies to Try

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By Published On: March 1, 20210 Comments

In November last year, Facebook announced huge adjustments were due to hit advertisers. Alita Harvey-Rodriguez takes us through her three strategies to focus on for the future.

So what’s happened?

In November 2020 Facebook announced huge adjustments were due to hit advertisers. Attribution window settings would no longer allow 28-day attribution windows due to some changes from apple who will be enforcing their AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) prompt soon. These changes will come into effect in early 2021 according to Facebook

From Facebook: Digital privacy initiatives affecting multiple browsers will soon limit the ability of businesses to measure people’s interactions across domains and devices. In support of these initiatives, Facebook is planning updates to attribution windows across our ads reporting surfaces.

Apple prides themselves on privacy (what else have they got… 🤭) so this is a natural healthy step towards a more transparent and private future for customers – but there are some people in the ad world who are freaking the f*** out!

Is this going to be bad for ad buyers or not? This is the question on people’s lips right now when it comes to Facebook ad performance optimisation.

Changes to the attribution window

Gasp! Facebook is being forced to kill the 28-day attribution window or one-day viewing (no click) to a seven-day click window. 

Facebook hasn’t made these changes without throwing a tantrum, taking out several full-page ads in the Wall St Journal in a desperate plea to convince apple it’s a terrible idea and “will change the internet for the worst”

Folks, There is no need to panic… This won’t change the internet for the worst. Keep reading as I tell you why and how to tackle the changes to beat Facebook.

New to attribution? Read this 👇🏽  Experienced in ads? Skip to the next headline

So, for those of you who are like what the “Attribution window wha? I can’t understand you when you speak Spanish!” Ad attribution is the process of inferring the cause of an event like a sale to a specific ad or channel like Facebook.  Normally Facebook’s Attribution window default is 28 days, most people don’t know that this is an important feature to adjust to get better reporting.

If you’ve ever looked at your FB ad reports and they are showing some serious dinero (money) from your ads, but your analytics program is showing less and thought WTF is going on here, then you probably haven’t adjusted your Facebook attribution setting from the default to suit your buyer behaviour and channel strategy. Especially for e-commerce, who have shorter purchase consideration times.

Personally, I like these changes – it’s going to make Facebook marketers deliver better reporting and reduce fluff metric reporting.

Here is an example for our newbs:

On Tuesday, a user clicks on the ad and leaves the site without completing a conversion. The next day, the user visits this page through your email because you’re a subscriber, and then completes a conversion.

Although Facebook has a last-touch attribution model, the conversion is not attributed to your email, but to the ad clicked the previous day. This is because Facebook does not recognise the other visitor channels and therefore cannot be taken into account in the allocation process.

Google Analytics, on the other hand, acknowledges your email as the conversion channel on the day the conversion took place.

More sophisticated advertisers may be freaking out –  “But my reporting for optimisation… noooooo!”  – but they shouldn’t. Below I’ll talk about three key and very important strategies you should focus on as these changes come into effect OR now. These are good healthy advertising practises that regardless of the changes.

How advertisers can embrace these changes  – three powerful things to focus on making the changes work for you long term. 

1. Come Back to Basics – Focus on 1st Party Data

I’m a huge fan of 1st party data, I’ve been banging on about its relevance to audiences in various ways for years. So often when asking about marketers and businesses needs we hear “I need/want more data, I’m turning to 3rd party data to gather research” for ad targeting, to which I ask ‘Have you even been using your owned customer data properly?’. The answer 99 percent of the time is ‘No’ – So let’s start here. 

Even if you think you’ve got a grip on this, I can almost guarantee there will be some gold nugget in your 1st party data that you haven’t over turned; some of those nuggets will certainly be in the next strategy to focus on.

The information you collect about your customer’s actions or lack thereof is the first place to turn to improve ROAS. Segment your peeps; get granular.

Here are six types of 1st party data for targeting:

  • Your CRM Data
  • Customer Feedback
  • Website, App or Product interactions
  • NPS Survey
  • Email Subscribers
  • Social Interactions

Folks, most of the time you don’t need more data! You need to know how to use what you’ve got! Personalisation is becoming the Jeffery Epstein of the digital marketing world. A total creep.

To give you an idea of how powerful 1st party data is, we recently completed a campaign optimisation project with one of our retailers. We focused on 1st party data to drive campaign performance.

Advertising spend had been cut back so they weren’t relying on more dollars to grow *cue gasp* “Oh no budgets cut how will I hit targets!?” – Whatever, fine by us!

We set a goal with the client to juice more $$ out of the traffic by increasing the AOV (Average Order Value), we had the client focus their traffic to the wish list and, this led to a 26 percent increase in AOV (their highest in history) and a 31.2 percent increase in CVR. 

2.  A Homing Pigeon Named Bert. Focus on Creative

One of the biggest missed opportunities we see in marketing teams is a surprising lack of focus on creative for enhancing performance. I’m talking creative and copy here, people.

All too often we hear targeting being blamed for poor ad performance and creative often gets overlooked. A/B testing your creative methodically and constantly is one of the most powerful ways to improve your ad performance. 

Two totally essential things every marketer must do before they start a project, sounds so basic but more often than not is overlooked:

  1. Understand the buyer persona, deeply, do you know how they speak? What images attract them? Test to learn!
  2. Map your customer journey. Understand where you are today, where you want to be tomorrow and your gaps.

Just by focusing on creative optimisation, we were able to increase ROAS by a further 57 percent. Spend stayed the same we just optimised creative performance.

If you’re reading this and had your budgets cut, don’t cry, get your creative shoes on and tweak the hell out of your ads! 

3. Your Source of Truth Is…?

Okay, so we know attribution is the biggest pain in the arse for marketers today. Everyone wants to get it right so that they can optimise accordingly. 

I think you’ve gathered from this article that I’m not fussed about the change to a seven-day click window. In most cases, I recommend shortening the window to seven days anyway, especially from e-commerce.

There are a few things we turn to Facebook reporting for to optimise performance; revenue performance is not one of them. 

Remember our example for the newbs above? 

“On Tuesday, a user clicks on the ad and leaves the site without completing a conversion. The next day, the user visits this page through your email because you’re a subscriber, and then completes a conversion. Although Facebook has a last-touch attribution model, the conversion is not attributed to your email, but to the ad clicked the previous day. Facebook does not recognise the other visitor channels and therefore cannot be taken into account in the allocation process.”

By this logic, it’s clear you can’t rely on Facebooks revenue reporting as your ultimate truth to optimising campaigns and channel mix. I should also add in addition to this, tools like Google Analytics are last-click attribution at a basic level which can prevent you from spending on Facebook, especially for acquisition campaigns.

Relying on FB reporting alone is a mistake, you should be looking at the wholistically and taking FB’s revenue reporting as a grain of salt especially if you have other channels in the mix. 

I highly suggest a few things to look at to improve your holistic reporting to help your investments be more fruitful

  1. Using UTM’s better to help strengthen your revenue reporting data from channels
  2. Also look at assisted conversions. Assisted conversions give credit to every single touchpoint in a user’s path—even direct.

It’s difficult/impossible and dangerous to rely on Facebook reporting alone to get your budgeting right. Assisted conversion reporting in Google Analytics may help optimise budget allocation.

This report shows every unique conversion path as well as the number of conversions from each path, and the value of those conversions (if using e-commerce tracking).


via MI Academy

The image below is taken from the top conversion paths report of Google Analytics, and in this example, you can see that the most common path to conversion was not one, but two paid search referral visits.

The data here is a perfect example of knowing your source of truth and not relying on Facebook alone. The insight here could prove invaluable to ad managers who could use remarketing lists to increase bids for users who have visited their site once via PPC, but not yet converted.

In Facebook’s world, relying on their revenue reporting alone, you could be missing out on the bigger channel picture.

Okay, so it’s time I wrap this up…

Recent changes to Facebook – forced by Apple’s ATT changes and upon themselves – with the game of chicken they played with the Australian government, it’s clear brands that rely on social media alone are being put on notice to diversify their strategy and start focusing on what they can control… Their owned data and their creative power.

I think Tim Cook put it best in a recent speech he gave in Brussels.

“Technology does not need vast troves of personal data stitched together across dozens of websites and apps in order to succeed. Advertising existed and thrived for decades without it, and we’re here today because the path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom. If a business is built on misleading users on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.”

So, lets come back to basics here. Advertisers, it’s time to use the skills that are inherent to our human nature. Be inquisitive, be creative and focus on your customer’s 1st party data. 

Alita Harvey-Rodriguez is the Managing Director of MI Academy. 

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