What is the Facebook Conversions API and how to use it

What is the Facebook Conversions API and how to use it

There are a lot of changes to Facebook ads in preparation of Apple’s app tracking transparency prompt being introduced at some point with iOS 14.

We’ve talked a lot about the changes iOS 14 is bringing to Facebook ads and that has left us advertisers scrambling to figure out solutions to keep as much conversion data as possible and as accurate as possible. One of those solutions is Facebook Conversions API (CAPI).

What is the Facebook Conversions API?

The Facebook Conversions API, formerly known as Facebook Server-Side API, allows advertisers to send web events from their servers to Facebook. Facebook Conversions API will help you push event and conversion data to Facebook Ads Manager while maintaining user privacy. That’s why there’s a lot of talk about Facebook Conversions API with Facebook ad changes due to iOS 14.

If the word API scares you (like it does me), let me break down how all this works. API is an acronym for application programming interface and it’s the most common way different apps and systems communicate with each other.

With Facebook Conversions API, you can send data you capture from your system (like Shopify for example) to Facebook Ads Manager. This might sound similar to the Facebook Pixel: you place the pixel on your site and Facebook collects that event and conversion data for Ads Manager. The difference is that Facebook is the one doing the capturing and data collection. With Facebook Conversions API, you’re using your data (customer id, order id, purchase events, etc) and then giving that to Facebook.

In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about Facebook Conversions API.

Key takeaways
  • Using the Facebook Conversions API, you can gain back reported conversions for your Facebook ads your Facebook Pixel couldn’t capture
  • It is not a replacement for your Facebook pixel, they should be ran in parallel
  • More conversion data using both Facebook Conversions API and the pixel will help Facebook’s ad optimization algorithm be more effective
  • Using the Facebook Conversions API is not difficult, especially if you’re using a platform with a direct integration, like Shopify

How the Facebook Conversions API works with your Facebook Pixel

So Facebook Conversions API is not a replacement for your Facebook Pixel nor is it the ultimate solution to keep everything as it once was before iOS 14. It’s here for you to use in parallel with your Facebook Pixel.

The Facebook Pixel allows Facebook to do two main things:

  1. track and collect user activity and match it to a Facebook profile
  2. measure events and conversions to track ad performance

Before all the changes with iOS 14, this is all we had needed for the most part. The only major cause for reporting discrepancies from our data (again like Shopify or a CRM) and with Facebook’s data was due to ad blockers. Now with tracking limits imposed by Apple and the necessary changes Facebook has to make to comply (like aggregated event management), there will be an even bigger gap in conversion data.

This is where Facebook Conversions API comes in. With data from the Facebook pixel and your “server” (your ecom/CRM data), Facebook can improve reporting and measuring conversion events.

Then you might wonder if this will create duplicate conversion events, one you sent through the API and one from the pixel. But don’t worry, Facebook has a solution for this already.

Built in to Facebook Conversions API is an auto deduping process to ensure the same events captured by the pixel aren’t counted twice as long as you’re sending Facebook’s required parameters, which are the Facebook Pixel’s eventID and event_name.

After you’ve set up sending events through Facebook Conversions API, you’ll see a tool called Event Match Quality in your Events Manager which you can use for each individual event. It will score how well Facebook is matching your provided data to a Facebook account.

Facebook Conversions API relies on user data keys such as first name, last name, email, phone number, city, state, type of browser, and IP address.

These user data keys are unknown for website visitors unless they choose to sign in or sign up for something. So most of the time, Facebook Conversions API will use less reliable data keys such as browser ID and IP address.

Therefore, expect to see a lower Event Match Quality score on events such as Page View or View Content, since anonymous visitors can trigger these events and there’s not enough data to match them with. The highest scores will come from logged-in customers.

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What kind of events can you track with the Facebook Conversions API?

The good news is you can choose to track any of the events you're already familiar with, not just purchases, with the Facebook Conversions API. So for example, you can track content views, pageviews, newsletter signups, subscription changes, and of course, purchases.

You’re probably already familiar with your most important events, but here’s what I recommend for ecommerce brands:

  • purchase
  • initiate checkout
  • add to cart
  • product view
  • email sign up

With these core events at the minimum, you’ll be able to get the most out of Facebook Conversions API in regards to better ad reporting and management. You’ll be able to more accurately measure ROAS and other cost-per-metrics associated with your funnel.

Getting started with the Facebook Conversions API

Before getting started with the Facebook Conversions API, there are some things you need to do first like installing the Facebook Pixel and using Business Manager. If you don’t have the Facebook Pixel set up yet, or are completely new to all this, then start with our Facebook ads for ecommerce guide first.

Before showing you how to implement the Facebook Conversions API, let’s first look at direction integrations, which is by far the easiest way to implement it.

How to set up the Facebook Conversion API in Shopify

Last October, Shopify released a new feature in their dashboard: the Maximum option found in the Data Sharing tab. This option allows you to set up the Facebook Conversions API for purchase events.

The native Facebook Conversions API with Shopify has limitations around tracking more events than just purchases and add-to-carts. However, for most online stores, the native integration option is enough to continue getting good results.

1. Install Facebook Sales Channel Application

If you don’t have it installed already, head to “Apps” in the sidebar from your Shopify dashboard, find the Facebook app, and install it. Follow the prompts to complete the installation and set up. When the Shopify settings pop up appears, not only will you need to select the right business manager, catalog, profile, page, and pixel, but you also need to turn on “Automatic Advanced Matching.”

In the following prompt, you’ll be asked what Shopify is allowed to do with your Facebook account. Make sure all functionality is set to “yes.”

2. Enable maximum data sharing settings

Now that the Facebook Sales Channel app is installed, you’ll see “Facebook” under sales channels in the sidebar of your Shopify dashboard. Click it and go to the settings tab, then scroll down and click the “Data sharing settings” link.

Go to “enable tracking” and toggle it on, set “tracking level” to maximum, and ensure the right Facebook pixel is selected under “behavior will be tracked with this pixel”.

Click confirm to save your configuration.

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3. Verify everything is working

It’s important you don’t have your Facebook Pixel duplicated on your website and firing more than once for individual events. So if you have your Facebook pixel hardcoded on your site, you’ll want to remove it.

If you set your Facebook Pixel in your general Online Stores preferences, you’ll want to remove it there as well and instead click the new “set up Pxxel” button underneath it that appears after setting up the Facebook Sales Channel app.

Now there’s two things to test. First, download the Facebook pixel helper browser extension for Chrome. Go to your site, click the Facebook pixel helper extension, and it will diagnose whether there are any issues with your Facebook Pixel implementation.

Second, test whether the data you’re sending through the Facebook Conversions API is correct by using Facebook’s Payload Helper tool. Just enter your Pixel ID in the “test this payload” box and click the “send to test events” button.

If you’re using a 3rd party check out system with Shopify, such as ReCharge or Carthook, they have their own checkout process and will require different setups with Conversions API to work properly.

How to set up the Facebook Conversion API on other platforms

If you’re not using Shopify, Facebook has a number of partner integrations with various platforms you can use. In Ads Manager, go to your Events Manager and click settings. When you scroll down, you’ll see information about Facebook Conversions API.

Facebook has partner integrations with:

  • Zapier
  • WordPress
  • WooCommerce
  • Tealium
  • Segment
  • Makeshop
  • Magento
  • Cafe24

If you want to set up Conversions API through one of these platforms, Facebook has an automatic set up process for each one. Just click the platform you want and follow the prompts.

Can you set up the Facebook Conversions API manually?

If you want complete control of your Facebook Conversions API implementation or are using a platform without a native integration, you’ll have to resort to setting it up manually, which will require a degree of coding knowledge.

If you don’t have coding knowledge or access to a developer, first you should try what’s possible with Zapier’s Facebook Conversion integration, which you can “custom” integrate various other platforms without any coding. They also have a blog post with ideas for integrating the Conversions API with other platforms.

If you do go for a custom implementation, you’ll be able to own and have full control over the data you collect, which has the following benefits:

  • centralized place for all your tracking and data with less user privacy issues
  • protection with other platforms who in the future may suffer from the same tracking issues impacting Facebook
  • 1st party tracking on your own subdomain to mitigate data loss from ad blockers
  • ability to setup automated error and data monitoring for all tracking

A custom implementation of the Facebook Conversions API will look something like this:

Credit: Elevar
Credit: Elevar

You can learn how to set this up with Elevar’s guide.

What to do next

For most folks, implementing the Facebook Conversions API will be a first step toward server-side tracking. As mentioned above, there are a lot of benefits to server-side tracking and based on current privacy and data trends, we expect to see server-side tracking relied on a lot more.

Here’s what I recommend considering next:

  • remember to test whether your Facebook Pixel is functioning correctly with Facebook’s Pixel Helper browser extension for Google Chrome
  • test your Conversions API implementation with Facebook’s Payload Helper
  • after a week with your Conversions API implemented, monitor all your events’ deduplication and matching performance in Events Manager
  • whether you want to invest in a complete server-side tracking set up

Remember, the more accurate your data is, the better Facebook will be able to optimize your ad campaigns for your desired result and the more accurate any Facebook ad automations you have set up will perform.

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