Since Apple's iOS 14 upddate at the end of 2020 (meanwhile version iOS 14.5), advertisers have been heavily restricted in what they're allowed to do. Once you dig deeper into the issue, however, it's not as bad as it first appears. Nevertheless, Apple has of course taken a huge step towards privacy protection with their update. In today's post, I'd like to take a closer look at the topic as a whole.
Even though we're only talking about the restriction for Facebook in this article, Apple's iOS 14 update also affects other social media portals such as Pinterest, LinkedIn or TikTok. In the future, advertisers will have to put up with severe restrictions when it comes to targeting, reports and tracking.
I will try to explain all the important changes in this article so you know what needs to be done since the iOS 14 update and what the limitations have been up to now.
iOS 14 privacy vs. Facebook Ads campaigns
As Apple already announced last year, iOS 14 brings in some changes that significantly increase the privacy of users and limit ad tracking. This is the so-called "App Tracking Transparency framework" (ATT for short). With the update to iOS 14, Apple users will be asked via a tracking opt-in whether or not they consent to tracking. The introduction of the tracking opt-in affects all apps listed in the App Store.
Basically, you can imagine this tracking opt-in from Apple as a kind of cookie banner, which you can now find on all websites. Before using the app, users can decide whether and how many cookies they want to accept and, of course, which data can be tracked and forwarded to Facebook via e.g. the Facebook Pixel.
For advertisers, this means that without active consent to the tracking opt-in, only the highest priority event will be tracked. If a user agrees to tracking, the advertiser still has to cope with severe restrictions that affect, among others, targeting and delivery, tracking and optimization and attribution and reporting.
How are you restricted as an advertiser?
Just to clear up one point in advance: all Custom Audiences measured on Facebook's own tools, such as interactions, can still be fully collected and reported on by Facebook.
Tracking & optimization
In tracking and optimization, the conversion events are now limited to eight. This means that with an opt-in, i.e. give consent for tracking, up to eight events per domain can be tracked.
If you opt out, i.e. refuse tracking, only the highest priority event is tracked. You can determine which event this is yourself in the event settings of Facebook or the ad manager - but only after you've verified your domain. Important for conversion events in e-commerce: "Value Optimization" already occupies four of the possible eight events.
Most important points:
- Maximum 8 conversion events per domain
- With opt-out only the highest priority event is tracked
- Events can only be set with domain verification
- Value Optimization takes 4 out of 8 events
Reporting & attribution
The attribution window in Facebook could previously be set to 1, 7, or 28 days. This meant that if a user clicked on the ad one, seven or 28 days ago and bought something, for example, this conversion would still be tracked and could be traced in reporting at any time.
With the iOS 14 update from Apple, Facebook has also made important changes in this area. The attribution window, for example, can now only be set to a maximum of seven days after the click and the conversions are now reported exactly on the day. In addition, advertisers are no longer able to "break down conversions" by gender, age, region or placement in reporting.
Most important points:
- Attribution window only 7 days after click
- Conversions are reported accurately on a daily basis
- Breakdown by gender, age, placement, etc. no longer possible
Targeting & delivery
Apple's tracking opt-in brings some losses for advertisers, which also affect the targeting and the delivery of ads. Targeting (remarketing/retargeting) will be significantly worse as Facebook will have less data about the users at its disposal.
The previously measured values for events will also decrease significantly, as only the highest prioritized event feeds data back to Facebook. And last but not least, the Custom Audiences will shrink due to the lack of data, making the delivery of the ads to the right target group less accurate.
The Dymanic Ads remain largely unaffected. However, domains of a catalog should be verified and you should make sure only one pixel is used per catalog to make the best use of the conversion events.
Most important points:
- Specific groups (Custom Audience) for targeting become smaller
- Deliveries to target groups are less accurate
- Not all events provide data
- Dynamic Ads remain unaffected
What should you do now?
In the wake of Apple's iOS 14 update, there are a few things you should do as an advertiser in Facebook Business Manager and the Ad Manager. These include making sure your domain is verified, selecting or prioritizing your events, calculating the variance through the new attribution window, exporting your historical data and checking your automatic rules.
To ensure you can easily adjust the conversion events in the future and optimize them for the eight available events, as an advertiser you really need to verify your domain in the Business Manager. By verifying the domain, Facebook ensures that you're the actual owner.
Only a few steps are required to verify your domain:
Open the Business Manager.
Click in the Business Settings section.
Click on "Domains" in the "Brand Safety" menu and click on the "Add" button.
After clicking on "Add", now enter the domain you want to verify.
Next, click on the button "Add domain".
You have three options for verifying your domain:
Meta tag verification: Copy the tag and paste it into an HTML section of your website (header).
HTML file upload: Download the file provided, upload it to your server (FTP/root directory) and then go to the URL specified by Facebook.
DNS verification: For this option you need access to the DNS settings of your domain. You can usually find the settings for this at the registrar where you registered your domain.
The fastest and easiest verification method in my view is option 1: Meta tag verification.
To do this, log into WordPress and install, for example, the plugin "Insert Header and Footer Code". When it's installed and activated, go to the plugin settings and insert the meta tag there.
Once you've saved the plugin settings, go back to the Business Manager and click on the "Verify" button. If the verification of your domain was successful, you'll see the following message:
Selecting conversion events & prioritization
As mentioned already above, from iOS 14 you have a total of eight conversion events to choose from in the Event Manager. You should define and prioritize these.
It only take a few steps to configure the events:
Open the Events Manager.
Click here on "Aggregated Event Measurement" and then on "Configure web events":
Now select the domain you verified and click on "Manage Events".
Now create your event set, i.e. define 8 conversion events for your domain/pixel and prioritize them. To apply the settings, click on the "Send" button.
You can, of course, change these settings at any time.
Calculate the deviation from the attribution window
To better evaluate the variance as well as the ad performance of your campaigns after the iOS 14 update, you should calculate the variance with the removal of the 28-day attribution window and the new 7-day attribution window.
Needless to say, the prerequisite for this is that you've already run campaigns in the past. For the calculation, you need access to historical data, i.e. data from past campaigns.
A very helpful sheet for calculating and entering your data can be found here. You can simply copy the Google Sheet and then fill it with your data.
By the way, you can export your historical data directly via the Reporting view. To do this, create a report beforehand and select the maximum available time period to save as much data as possible.
To avoid issues in the future when using already created automatic rules and to ensure you don't receive incorrect data, you should also switch to the 7-day attribution window within your automatic rules in the ad manager.
With the iOS 14 update, Apple has sent a clear signal in the direction of data protection. It's clear that advertisers now have to work with significantly less data and think about new strategies to achieve the best possible results.
Although the limitations are significant, we should see the changes as an opportunity. Because despite this fact, Facebook still offers enough tools to be able to run successful advertising campaigns. To get the most out of these opportunities, you should definitely implement the measures mentioned above.
We can expect more and more attention to be paid to data protection in the future and should be prepared for many more changes in this area in the coming years.