If you’ve ever created an ad on Facebook, you know that the platform requires an attribution window. Often, we see marketers choose an option without knowing the implications. Let’s take a detailed look into this setting and how it impacts your overall ad campaign.
An attribution window is the period of time between someone seeing (or even clicking on) your ad, and that person taking an action. Let’s say you choose an attribution window of seven days; this means that an action is credited to your ad even if it happens up to seven days after the initial interaction.
If you don’t touch the setting while creating your ad, Facebook normally sets it to 1-day view and 28-day click. What does this mean? Attributed actions count 28 days after the person clicked on your ad but only one day after viewing your ad.
If we break this down even further, we know that people can take a number of different actions after viewing an ad on Instagram or Facebook. While some will visit your website, others may view a video, view product pages or even purchase a product. Within an ad campaign, each action is recorded so you know which ad sets are performing and which are not. As soon as somebody goes from being a stranger to a customer (i.e. spend money on your brand), the ad is credited for the success. In other words, the platform will attribute the conversion to your ad.
The confusion for marketers comes with the fact that you can adjust this setting; the options for view and click windows are 1, 7, and 28 days. With this in mind, we want to break down the tracking process and offer some advice for those who don’t have experience in this area.
At the very mention of coding, some people get spooked, while knowing it’s an important aspect of attribution windows. We urge you not to panic because Facebook Pixel is fairly simple. Across the internet, you’ll find plenty of guides explaining how it works and how to install it easily.
At the same time, for Facebook to know when users take actions, you will need code on your website in the form of ‘event tracking.’ One common way to implement this is to leverage your ‘thank you page’ after checkout. With an event pixel on this page, Facebook will assess whether or not this customer viewed an ad and whether this ad was responsible for generating the sale. Although the pixel base code includes page views, it’s also possible to add the following events for tracking:
There’s no need to write the code yourself; all you need to do is set the parameters and the code will generate automatically. If you want to focus on Purchase events, you’ll be asked to set a currency, conversion value and content ID (which is only important for dynamic ads). From here, just copy and paste the generated code into your web pages.
You’re almost ready—the only thing you need to do from here is check the number of Facebook pixel fires. To do this follow this flow: Business Manager > Business Settings > Data Sources > Pixels > Open in Events Manager. For the current day, the pixel fires should match the number found in conversion tracking. Again, ensure that the actual purchase numbers line up with those displayed in the pixel manager.
Fortunately, problems at this stage aren’t too common, which means that everything should match as expected. If the numbers don’t match, there is likely a problem with the pixel tracking. We recommend consulting the Pixel Helper tool.
It is important to note that the time taken to make a decision after seeing an ad is typically longer with high-ticket items than with low ones. When someone views an ad for an expensive product or service, they take their time and consider carefully.
At this point, we want to debunk a common myth. If an action is taken outside of an attribution window, Facebook WILL NOT take credit for it just to boost the statistics. Therefore, this need not be a factor when choosing an attribution window.
Considering this is Facebook’s setting, it’s interesting to look at the company’s take on the matter. Previously, it has stated that two factors should take precedence. Firstly, as we’ve mentioned, we need to take into account the purchase cycle and how long people typically take to make their minds up. Additionally, it suggests choosing based on what will allow an ad set to reach 50 conversions in a single week. Why? Because this helps the delivery system to learn how to deliver your ads during the Learning Phase.
It has also recommended a split test and a great deal of analysis. If you can’t reach 50 conversions in a week, go for a more common result or even a longer conversion window. As you experiment with optimization events, conversion windows, budgets and bids, you’ll soon learn the winning combination that helps your business the most.
Making Changes - Often, people ask us whether there’s a punishment for making changes. Although Facebook says that conversion data isn’t lost after a change, we only recommend making one when absolutely necessary. After changing the window conversion, you then need to allow it to run for some time so that the delivery system can learn your ads and deliver them in the right way. If you are constantly making changes, your campaign will never leave the Learning Phase.
When researching this debate, you’re likely to find lots of different studies and tests. For example, one found a significant difference between the CPM of 7-day click 1-day view compared to 1-day click campaigns. Unfortunately, it’s not possible just to accept this as the truth and only use one or the other because we don’t know all the details behind the scenes. We don’t know their audience, type of business, what they’re optimizing for, etc. Therefore, the best advice we can provide is to make decisions based on your own business, products, audience and testing.
As all good marketers know, our work isn’t done just because the ad is live and we’ve chosen an attribution window. Next comes the analysis, and to help you along, it’s a good idea to add attribute window comparisons to your campaign reports. Visit the Ads Manager, head into the Ads, Ad Sets or Campaigns tab. Once here, choose the Customize Columns option under the Columns drop-down menu. Down the bottom left, you should see a Comparing Windows option. Just choose the attribution windows you wish to compare and then hit the big Apply button.
Now, head back to the Ads Manager and you should see all the results from the various windows selected in the settings.
At this stage, we urge you to understand attribution report data. The analysis of data is something that will separate you from other marketers. Firstly, the action statistics will count on the day of the ad click or view rather than the day of the action. If you notice that historical data keeps changing, it’s because the metrics associated with that click can change between the time someone adds to cart and returns to complete the purchase. There is a window of time that conversions can happen, which can retroactively change the data.
Remember, attributions are only received by Facebook when the action occurs within the timeframe you choose as the attribution window. What’s more, you might be wondering what happens if somebody has both viewed and clicked an ad. In this event, the click gets the credit. Even if the view is more recent than the click, the latter will still get credit. The only way for a view to get credit for an action is if there’s no click involved whatsoever.
Also, it’s important to know that all engagement actions are considered clicks, whether it’s a comment, like or a share on an ad. The conversion that follows goes back to the click date rather than the date of conversion.
With this, you should be in a good position to choose the right Facebook attribution window for your campaigns.
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