Here’s What iOS 14 Means For Your Business’s Facebook Ads

An iPhone with the Facebook app displayed on the screen.

It’s not often that Facebook aims a clear shot across the bow at another tech company. When they do, we take notice.

That’s why, when the blue ‘Book sent out a pointed critique of Apple’s new iOS 14 updates at the end of 2020, it ignited something of a firestorm. Then, their follow-up campaign to stop the updates just poured more fuel on the fire.

With all this hubbub, a lot of small businesses are starting to ask important questions about how iOS 14 will impact their ad efforts. Let’s break down some of the biggest changes for advertisers, and what you can do to keep your ads running strong.

Is iOS 14 Really That Bad For Advertisers?

Despite what Facebook has to say on the matter, the real answer here is “no.” But a few of these changes will definitely take a bit of thinking to adjust your strategy.

The main sore spot for Facebook is iOS 14’s new privacy controls that allow users to disallow data-tracking by third-party networks.

Apple users will be prompted with a pop-up that will ask them to either “Allow” or “Don’t Allow” websites, apps, and other third-party data-trackers share personal data-like location data, email addresses, website engagement, etc.

For ad networks like Facebook (and their advertisers) who often rely on this user data for things like retargeting, conversion tracking, and other audience targeting optimizations.

If you’re a business running retargeting ads or campaigns focused on driving conversions, this privacy update — combined with Google’s larger move away from cookies on Chrome — could throw a wrench in your strategy.

Here Are The Big Changes for Facebook Advertisers on iOS 14

While losing out on data-tracking might seem scary for Facebook advertisers, in reality the changes being made here are not quite as apocalyptic as Facebook is making it sound.

Here’s a look at some of the major updates, straight from an update Facebook sent to its developer community in December:

If you — like us at Altos — use your pixel to build retargeting audiences or audiences based on event completion on your website… this is a tough change.

When Apple users opt-out of data tracking, they’ll be basically impossible to accurately track and add to retargeting audiences. That means your retargeting audiences and results will almost certainly start to shrink.

That, unfortunately, is going to seriously eat into just how effective you can be with remarketing and retargeting on Facebook and Instagram. If you currently run dynamic ads to push product ads to relevant users, well… enjoy it while it lasts, because this might be the end of that.

This is kind of a big one. Advertisers will be limited to just 8 conversion events per domain.

You won’t need to make major changes to your Facebook Pixel, but you will need to specify 8 events for each domain. Any campaigns optimized for events outside this 8 will basically be paused until you make adjustments.

Oh, and your events will be ranked by priority: events like “Purchase” will override something like “Add To Cart” in reporting.

If you’re the kind of advertiser who likes to optimize for dozens of in-app or on-website events (like distinct “Add To Cart” events for specific products, or fancy events like “Page Scroll” or “Time On Page”), you’ll be up against a pretty well-reduced limit here. This limit includes both standard pixel events and custom conversions, and will not allow for events like page view or custom events.

Fortunately, you’ll be able to swap around these 8 events after initial setup. That could be a big lifesaver here (more on that later)

Not a huge deal, but never really required before: you’ll have to “verify” each domain you plan on driving ads to through your Facebook Business Settings.

“Verifying” a domain basically lets Facebook know you (or, for agencies, your client) actually has control over your website or domain. By installing a few lines of code in your site’s backend, you let Facebook know you’re actually the one holding the keys to your site.

This shouldn’t impact your ads at all really, unless you’ve been running ads for a site you don’t own or have access to. Then, you’ll need to follow the verification steps.

Obviously, not being able to track individuals through their web data is going to have a big impact on mapping the full user journey.

Several attribution windows will no longer be supported (including 28-day click-through, 28-day view-through, and 7-day view-through), and the new default will be a simple 7-day click-through attribution.

This change, combined with Facebook’s end of their native Attribution Tool, might make getting a full picture of your user journey much more difficult. A lot of the data Facebook will use for reporting will be based on statistical models and will include far fewer event breakdowns.

If, like so much of the industry, you’ve focused a lot recently on where in the journey your ads are making the biggest impact, this is pretty bad news. There’s still a lot of ongoing discussion as to how advertisers can bridge this gap moving forward.

There are a few minor technical changes en route with iOS 14, the most important being changes to Value Optimization.

If you’re one of the (relatively few) advertisers using Facebook’s “Value Optimization” tool to target your highest-value users on your app with specific ads, you’ll find reporting has shifted over to Events Manager. It’s a neat tool but probably this won’t impact most advertisers at all.

Other reporting changes will probably roll out in time, but you can almost certainly bet you’ll see some significant changes to your event tracking, audience tracking, and accuracy of your conversion rates.

4 Steps To Adjust Your Facebook Ads For iOS 14

Still wrapping your head around how iOS 14 will impact your ads? Good — this shift away from data-tracking is the way of the future.

Advertisers need to accept that individualized tracking is, for the most part, a thing of the past — and the sooner you can adjust to broader, more cohort-focused marketing, the better.

When it comes to Facebook ads, there are a few easy strategies you can implement today to make sure your strategies stay strong through the iOS 14 rollout:

If you’ve been relying on your Facebook pixel to build retargeting audiences for your ad campaigns, now is the time to reconsider your strategy.

Consider a few alternatives, like Custom Audiences (uploaded from your existing customer lists), Lookalike Audiences (based on your Custom Audiences or your engaged fans on Facebook), or — the real way of the future — interest-based audiences.

With only 8 pixel events to choose from, you’ll have to be pretty picky when it comes to which events you’ll be tracking and optimizing your ad campaigns for. It’s time to ask which are most important, and which will provide the biggest benefit.

Try building out your Event priority based on overall value. For most advertisers, events like “Purchase” or “Lead” would be most valuable, while less-valuable events like “Add To Cart” or “Subscribe” will be generally less important. At the bottom of the list would be baseline events like “View Content.”

Remember: you’ll have way less flexibility to specify your events, so you’ll have to spend quite a bit more time analyzing your results to understand specific events, For instance, you may see “Purchase” events coming through your pixel, but you’ll have to dive deeper in your reporting to understand where on your site those are actually occurring.

It’s important to understand that all advertisers are going to see drops in metrics like conversions and event completions as a result of the iOS 14 privacy changes. But that doesn’t mean your ads aren’t working; you just need to rethink the way you interpret your results.

For instance: now might be a great time to familiarize yourself with those so-called “vanity metrics” like Link Clicks, Website Visits, and other on-Facebook metrics. By connecting the dots from your Facebook performance and your behind-the-scenes sales data, you might be able to bridge the gap and understand some of the metrics we’ll no longer have such easy access to.

Now (like, right now) is the time to make sure your domains are verified and properly connected to your Facebook Ad accounts. If you haven’t set this up already, you’ll need to do it eventually.

iOS 14 is a Big Change… But Not A Bad One

Let’s face it: the era of individual user data-tracking is over (or, at the least, coming to a close).

The clear overtures from Google and Apple are proof enough-regardless of how much Facebook complains, or how much they try and convince small businesses that everyone will feel the burden (newsflash: Facebook is going to feel most of the pinch from this).

But what’s even more clear is that users are more concerned about their privacy than ever before. Advertisers simply can’t fight the tide turning against data-tracking… so best to get ahead of it, adapt, and push forward.

Of course, nobody’s saying it’s going to be easy. Adjusting to privacy updates like those included in iOS 14 is going to take strategy, clear thinking, and an eye for the future. That’s where an agency partner can be a big benefit for small businesses.

No matter how you move forward, one thing is clear: we’re all in this thing together. So let’s get started, shall we?

Written by Conor Snell, Social Media & Content Strategist at Altos

We are a digital marketing agency specializing in web design and development, eCommerce, search, and social media marketing.

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