It’s official, as of early June 2021 the latest Apple iOS 14 update has arrived and early data suggests that most people are choosing to opt out of being tracked on their iPhone. In fact, so far only 25% of users are giving apps permission to track their behavior, which theoretically has big implications to anyone that advertises on Facebook.
On the surface this sounds terrifying, but in reality we’re facing a barrage of mainstream media headlines proclaiming the end of mobile advertising as we know it.
Have we experienced dramatic changes in our ability to track results from within Facebook Ads Manager? Yes, we’re seeing a decline in Facebook ROAS across many accounts, especially ones that primarily target iOS users…but this doesn’t mean the data is accurate!
Have we lost the ability to get great results from our Facebook ads? Nope.
Bottom line, your business needs to adapt and take immediate action in response to the iOS 14.5 update that was released in June 2021. Failure to do so could have a negative impact on your Facebook ROAS (return-on-ad-spend) as well as your ability to track campaign performance, ultimately leading to wasted budgets, or worse a big drop in sales.
Ready to fix your Facebook ROAS? Read on!
The information in this article is based on a few things: our first-hand experience and research, what Facebook has publicly said, what our Facebook support team has told us, and our own deductions based on decades of collective experience. Be wary of anyone that says, “they know.” Because many specifics are unknown, and cannot be determined unless you’re an executive at Facebook. We can however stitch together accurate conclusions by conducting a thorough evaluation derived from hands-on experience, paired with a tremendous amount of campaign data in order to determine what we expect the implications will be, and how to address them.
Actions You Should Take Right Now
Let’s get right to the point, here’s a list of actions you can take right now to maintain stability for your business, resolve iOS tracking issues, and increase your Facebook ROAS.
Diversify Your Advertising, Expand Into New Channels
Facebook retargeting is not what it used to be, and it’ll probably get worse before it gets better. There are workarounds which I’ll discuss below, but regardless you should still be diversifying your marketing and not be so Facebook dependent.
Look for ways to retarget your site visitors, and cart abandoners. For each business this will be different but start with making sure Google is being maximized: YouTube, Gmail, Display, and Shopping are all important channels, but when deciding what channels to use, look at user behavior, what’s worked in the past, and test with small budgets.
Speaking of display, depending on what your budget is, also look into: Programmatic, Criteo, AdRoll, etc.
Native advertising is another option which works well for certain products, and platforms like Taboola and Outbrain make it easy to set up and manage.
Improve Your Retargeting Methods To Get a Higher Facebook ROAS
Be sure to integrate your CRM software with your custom audiences. A standard practice at our agency is to integrate Klaviyo with Facebook audiences. This enables your email-based audiences to be updated in real time with no manual upload required. If this isn’t an option, then you can still export and import your email lists to use as custom audiences. But if you do this make sure you’re doing so regularly to keep the data up to date.
Also, keep an eye on budget and frequency. These email audiences will typically be smaller, and more static than other audiences, so you don’t want to overspend. But if these audiences are large enough you should be able to also create solid LAL (lookalike) audiences from these email lists to use as well.
Another way to utilize your existing data is to build an audience from your site’s API. This typically allows you to segment audiences for different actions the same way you would using the Facebook pixel, but it’s YOUR data—and not reliant on Facebook’s information. Fair warning that this can get a bit technical, so be sure to have a developer on hand if needed. I’m doing this in Facebook retargeting campaigns containing results that have been on par with what they were prior to the iOS update.
Although we’re losing a significant amount of data related to what happens after visitors arrive at your website, any action taken on Facebook is still available for us to use. As a result, I recommend utilizing your Facebook and Instagram engagers. Create custom audiences for each, the number of days will depend on how much activity you have to target, and what the sales window looks like. If it’s a short sales window, for example, going back 365 days might not be ideal. I typically like to start with a smaller window and expand from there. If you reach a point where results start to dip then lock that audience in, and you can always create another one for the broader range of time, 61-180 days, for example. But make sure to cap the spend and make sure the shorter, more effective audience is getting most of the budget.
Also, when creating this audience be sure to select “Everyone who engaged with your Page.” As you can see this will also include anyone who clicked on an ad. So any traffic generated on Facebook should still get included in this audience. Be sure to still do the proper exclusions to prevent overlap.
Expand Retargeting Audience Sizes or Reduce Budget
Because most of these retargeting audiences are now smaller (site visitors, add to cart, etc.) consider expanding the time frame to maintain a large enough audience size. The other alternative is to just reduce the budget. In some cases, one is preferable over the other, or in some cases do both. I would say that if your sales windows are tighter, and your retargeting past a certain point has a strong drop-off, then extending the time frame won’t help. Just reduce your budget unless you’re able to find a suitable workaround.
But be sure to keep a closer eye on your retargeting campaigns in the middle and bottom of the funnel. These audiences are not going to be as large as in the past if you’re relying on the Facebook pixel, so make adjustments accordingly.
Implement Facebook Conversions API (CAPI)
This is something that everyone should do. By utilizing CAPI, instead of the Facebook pixel, you are getting data straight from the server, thus circumventing the loss of data on account of the pixel not being able to track.
Aggregated Event Measurement
In your Facebook Events Manager you’ll definitely want to set up the aggregated event measurement. If you go to Events Manager and then find the appropriate Data Source you’ll then see the aggregated event measurement under the Overview tab.
Here you’ll be able to choose your eight conversion events and rank them in order or importance. However, we’ve gotten word that the number is going to be increased beyond eight events very soon, which is great.
Start Tracking Additional KPIs
Stop relying on Facebook ROAS as your primary KPI because this data is no longer as accurate. Obviously, most of this is because of the iOS update, but the attribution windows seem to keep getting tighter as well. Remember 28-day attribution? Good times. For products with longer buying cycles these 7-day windows are extremely limiting.
Spend more time familiarizing yourself with Google Analytics, and other external analytics tools if possible. They all have some limitations but by being able to analyze data from different sources a more accurate picture can be constructed.
And of course, the only real KPI is overall revenue divided by overall ad spend. Looking at a blended ROAS is essential. Take a look at your metrics over several months and if all other variables remain the same with Facebook being the only change, then you can rest assured that things are likely going just fine.
Diversify Your KPIs
This is a continuation of the last point but try to start using all the different objectives and metrics Facebook Ads Manager provides. Look at your sales and customer data, do not exclusively rely on Facebook ROAS as a measure of success. These will differ by campaign, but several to keep in mind: the objective, CPC, CPM, number of purchases, CTR, reach, and frequency. I recommend keeping tabs on all the different metrics to see how they’re matching up with historical trends.
Facebook Attribution Window: 1-Day or 7-Day?
Until recently we would have been using Facebook’s 7-day attribution window in almost all cases. But with the 1-day attribution window providing modeled behavior for opted-out iOS users the 1-day window became more appealing, especially for accounts that have high rates of iOS traffic.
We are currently testing this on a few accounts with heavy iOS use. We split an ad set to see if we did an iOS specific ad set with a 1-day window, and then android and desktop as 7-day, whether it would combine to result in more accurate data.
But now we are hearing that this modeled behavior will soon be included in the 7-day window as well, so this may be — hopefully will be– a moot point.
What We Aren’t Worried About
Facebook Lookalike Audiences
The audience size being used to create the lookalike is up to you. But typically, these audiences go back 60 -180 days. So, those audiences and the lookalikes being created from them should still be solid. And if you’re creating new lookalikes make the time frame of the source audiences larger than you typically would have in the past to account for the loss of some recent iOS users.
Even once the impacts of the new iOS update are more severe these lookalikes will still have good data to work off from: the iOS users who didn’t upgrade and/or opt-out plus android and desktop data. And there are many workarounds such as using your email lists to create lookalikes.
Your past purchasers lookalike shouldn’t be reliant on the pixel and there are numerous ways to import this data into Facebook and build lookalikes from it.
Social engagers will not be affected at all and will also still be a reliable lookalike audience. Perhaps website visitors need a close eye, and reconsider, but follow the data and results and make those decisions only when they’re justified.
Facebook might not know as much about people as it used to. But it still knows a lot, and interest-based targeting, and prospecting in general should not be diminished, much. Facebook is, and will remain, one of the best ways to prospect and find new customers and increase your brand’s awareness. The retargeting will require some additional attention but keep that top of funnel going full speed.
Things Looking Bad
If your campaigns were stable prior to Apple’s iOS 14 update, and you haven’t made drastic changes since, then it’s likely that your campaigns are doing fine. You might simply see a drop in Facebook ROAS that is being reported within Facebook Ads Manager. Chances are, results haven’t plummeted (without reason). It’s because data has become less reliable. But make sure you’re doing all you can to mitigate these effects. Review the points listed above and be proactive. There’s no reason to overreact and completely restructure your accounts, as I’ve seen some people advocate for. However, if you’re not making any changes or adjustments, well, good luck to you.
The effects of the iOS update will be an ever-changing, dynamic affair. More people will opt out of being tracked over time, but new solutions and workarounds will also be created in response, and how Facebook responds will change as well and as we’ve already seen things may change a lot, and often. So be sure to just stay informed, follow the data, and don’t do anything drastic unless it’s justified. And as I mention in points 7 and 8 above, double check to make sure it really is justified.
What You Can Expect To Happen Next
I want to reiterate this point again, Facebook will continue to make changes, so stay on top of things and be flexible. If you have a Facebook support rep, be sure to have questions ready for your weekly call and press them for as much information as possible. Some reps are better than others, and some can read between the lines and provide more substance. But do your best to get all you can from them.
If you don’t have a rep then stay on top of new press releases, do a weekly search for news. You’ll need to read between the lines though, and we recommend sticking to marketing industry resources, not mainstream media. And join some Facebook Ad buyers groups and forums to see what everyone else is seeing, and hearing.
Some of the most recent news we’ve heard:
- Facebook will be relaxing the 72-hour reset period for ad campaigns when an advertiser makes changes to their event configuration, and no longer will the ad sets be paused. However, advertisers will still be limited in how often they can make changes.
- Expanding the use of conversion modeling to include it in the 7-day click attribution setting.
- Providing additional flexibility for website conversion campaigns, allowing optimization beyond the top 8 prioritized events in Events Manager.
Key Takeaways (For Fixing Your Facebook ROAS)
I’ll start with a cliche’ and say that nothing about marketing is going to fundamentally change. Good creative, and good copy, for the right audience is still going to get good results. So go back to the basics a little bit. A lot of Facebook advertising has gotten extremely technical and overly complicated in recent years. Having thirty different exclusions, and twenty lookalikes is great and all. But how much attention did you give to the copy? The headline? The CTA? The thumbnail?
At some point in time, I’m sure there were plenty of people out selling billboards as the new “channel” everyone needed to use. But just being on a billboard doesn’t mean anything. Having the right content on the billboard, and in the right location is what really matters. Same thing still applies with digital marketing. It’s less about the channel and more about the execution.
Facebook is pushing us to target broader audiences, so don’t fight it. That doesn’t mean abandoning lookalike audiences, or interest-based targeting. Always go with whatever is working. Here at Fetch we’re testing broad audiences, with almost no targeting at all, across most of our accounts. Note that the broad ad set will learn from other ad sets that are more focused, within the same campaign. And over time, Facebook’s algorithm will use engagement to optimize. These ad sets may take some time to optimize, but set a low budget and be patient. Broad audiences are also great places to test new creatives!
Make sure you’re addressing the retargeting issue. You cannot rely on the pixel for this. Integrate CAPI. Integrate your CRM. Find workarounds to make sure your audiences are up-to-date and as accurate as possible. And explore different channels and use this as an opportunity to diversify.
Lastly, make sure you’re taking a holistic look at your business. Do not exclusively rely on Facebook ROAS as your measure of success, and do not become overly reliant on Facebook Ads Manager, or any single source of data. The steps outlined above will certainly help you to fix your Facebook ROAS, but at the end of the day you might find that Facebook just reports a lower ROI despite sales and advertising performance remaining stable. Try to take a broader view and remain patient and flexible. And remember that if in general, your ad spend and revenue are both holding steady then there’s really nothing to worry about. The way in which we view and interpret data is constantly changing, oftentimes the only real problem is the failure to recognize when a shift takes place. When this happens, the fundamentals often remain the same, and all we need to do is reconstruct the story.