The Ultimate Guide to Tracking, Targeting, and Driving Conversions on Facebook

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What matters most to the vast majority of digital marketers is the ability to see direct results and tie advertising costs back to those efforts. Simple enough right? Well, within the past year, Facebook as a marketing platform has become arguably the most complex and sophisticated way to track specific actions and target individuals based on them. 

The Ultimate Guide to Tracking, Targeting, and Driving Conversions on Facebook

In this post, I’ll show you not only how to properly track results in Facebook, but to leverage Facebook’s complex interface to cater to your entire marketing funnel. 

The Facebook Pixel

If you're thinking about driving direct results using paid media, your first thought should be on setting yourself up for the best possible success. This may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people cast their line out miles into the ocean, ignoring all of the fish right next to their boat.

Facebook conversion tracking fish slapped gif

That’s where Facebook’s universal tracking pixel comes in – officially known as the Facebook Pixel. It’s a snippet of HTML code that can be generated from every advertiser’s Business Manager. The reason it’s called “universal” is the same reason why your television remote that operates several different things carries the same name. The intention is to place the pixel throughout every page of your website and use it “universally” for conversion tracking and audience building.

How Does the Facebook Pixel Work?

Let’s pretend for a second that your website is a bar in the middle of a busy city. At the front entrance, people flow in and out periodically throughout the night. If your website is the bar and the potential customers entering and exiting are the site traffic, the Facebook pixel would be a wristband or hand stamp that they are instantly required to wear upon entering. When they leave your bar at any point, they will more than likely continue wearing that stamp or wrist band (unless they actively remove it). Once they are back wandering the street (let’s assume it’s a strip of bars and restaurants), you can target those people back to your bar throughout the night with specific offers or promotions (free shots!). 

Facebook conversion tracking instruct me how to douglas meme

What I just described through that analogy was not only the concept of remarketing, but also the basic usage of the Facebook pixel for that purpose (tracking cookies). 

There are several methods, however, to fully utilize this pixel, so now we’ll outline the most effective ways to fully incorporate them into your strategy. 

Step 1: Remarketing Audiences

Remarketing is the first step for setting up a proper Facebook Ads foundation.  

Let’s assume that you have your Facebook pixel placed throughout your website at this point, you can now start building audiences in a variety of different ways.

To create a remarketing audience of users who visited your website, go to the “Audiences” section of Business Manager:  

Facebook conversion tracking Business Manager Audiences

Once there, go to “Create Audience” and select “Custom Audience”:

Facebook conversion tracking create custom audience 

Then select “Website Traffic”: 

Facebook conversion tracking website audiences

You should then be given the ability to build a number of remarketing audiences to cater to your desired strategy. 

Timeframe

One of my favored strategies is based on how recently the user visited your website. It’s very basic, but can be extremely effective because it can easily correlate to their level of intent and engagement towards your brand, and can also be tailored around your sales cycle

Facebook conversion tracking create timeframe audience

You’ll want to have a healthy volume of traffic to do this in an effective manner. Luckily for us, we are able to segment for 30-, 60-, and 90-day remarketing segments based on the high volume of overall website traffic we receive. 

If your daily volume of traffic is currently very low or you only set the pixel up recently, make the date range as long as needed to build a large enough audience. 

Pages Visited

In addition to the timeframe in which the users visited your website, you can also segment specific pages or groups of specific pages based on their URLs:  

Facebook conversion tracking pages visited audience 

You can also specify that the URL be either equal to or contain a variation of what you submit:

Facebook conversion tracking URL Contains audience 

An effective way to leverage this strategy is if you have a number of blog posts or products related to one specific topic or customer segment that fits into a different category than others.  

For example, let’s say you sell pet products. You can create a custom audience of people who visited your web pages related to dog products and repeat the process for cat-related product pages. You will then be able to serve specifically tailored ads to those potentially very different audiences. 

Number of Visits/ Duration

Another great way to segment your web traffic is using frequency and duration as indicators of intent and brand recognition

When thinking about the people you’re reaching with your ads it’s important to take both of these factors into consideration. If someone has visited your website once for less than a second, they’re probably less familiar with you than someone who reads your blog every day for several minutes at a time.   

You can create an audience based on frequency by selecting “Custom Combination”:

Facebook conversion tracking Custom Combination audience 

Then by specifying the page (or number of pages) and then including the “at least” or “at most” number of times they have visited the page(s):

Facebook conversion tracking Pages Visited At Least audience 

To create an audience based on time spent on web pages, select the “Based on time spent on your website” option:

Facebook conversion tracking Time Spent on Site audience

Once there, you have the option to choose your most active site users, whether they’re within the top 5%, 10%, or 25%. 

Creating and testing these options against each other could potentially unveil some hidden insights into the level of engagement and their capacity to convert. Unfortunately, this option isn’t currently available for specific URLs, but if you really wanted to, you could make audiences of the web pages you DON’T want to include and choose to exclude those from your ad set. I’ll explain further…

Step 2: Excluding Web Audiences

Any audience that you create using the universal tracking pixel can be used as an exclusionary audience

For example, if you’re creating an ad set and want to target a 90-day remarketing audience but also want to exclude the 60-day segment, you would do the following within the ad set creation. 

Choose the 90-day audience:

Facebook conversion tracking 90-day remarketing audience 

Now choose “Exclude”:

Facebook conversion tracking exclude 90-day remarketing audience  

Find the audience you want to exclude:

Facebook conversion tracking exclude audience 

Be wary of the audience definition meter, because if you don’t have a large enough base audience or the one that you are excluding is a majority of that audience, you could run into the problem of creating an audience that is too specific. Luckily, that wasn’t the case for this example:

Facebook conversion tracking audience definition meter
 

‘Custom’ Conversion Tracking 

An essential part in all of this pixel work, and the reason you’re marketing on Facebook, is to drive results or conversions.  The fastest and most efficient way to track conversions is – you guessed it – the Facebook pixel. 

Going back to the assumption that you have the Facebook pixel placed on ALL of your web pages, you can easily create conversion events using URLs.

In your Business Manager menu, select “Custom Conversions”:

Facebook conversion tracking Business Manager Custom Conversions 

Once there, select “Create Custom Conversion”:

Facebook conversion tracking create custom conversion

Here you are brought to a very similar menu as before:

Facebook conversion tracking custom conversion URL contains
 

The concept behind using URLs to track conversions works only if individuals are taken to a “confirmation” page after completing the desired action. An example of this would be if someone filled out a form on your website and submitted it. Upon submitting the form, they’d be taken to a page saying “Thank You!” For that specific conversion, you would place that “Thank you” page as the custom conversion URL. This tells Facebook that once people reach that page, they’ve converted.

URL Contains: You would use this is you had multiple promotions with the same conversion value. Say you have content downloads and they all use the same form information – the URL can “contain” the necessary parameters that all of those pages share, and they can all have a unified conversion event for the sake of simplicity. 

URL Equals: If your conversion event is unique and specific – use this.

Event: Events are related to the coded pixel that is actually placed on your site, as opposed to URL parameters. For the sake of not diving too far down the rabbit hole, you can learn more about these here.

Once your custom conversions are created, you can view their performance through the conversions dashboard or directly in your campaigns.

Dashboard:

Facebook conversion tracking custom conversion dashboard 

Campaign level:

Facebook conversion tracking custom conversions campaign level 

You can also create conversion events for other actions on your website. The idea behind this would be to see the impact that your paid advertising efforts have on what happens on your site. Essentially, this is creating would I refer to as a “view-through” conversion event. This could be as simple as a site visit, but it will give you increased visibility. People may see your ads and not act on them, but search for you later and visit your site. Setting this up would allow you to see that. 

How to Optimize for the Conversions You Want

When you’re building campaigns intended to drive conversions, it’s extremely important to do it correctly. Make sure that when you get started, you choose the “Website Conversions” objective: 

Facebook conversion tracking create brand awareness objective

When you get to the ad set creation, you can choose which conversion you want to optimize for:

Facebook conversion tracking optimize for a conversion 

This will allow the Facebook algorithm to properly serve in favor of your desired conversion.

How to Build a Lead Nurture Funnel

Conversion Audiences: Once you start receiving conversions you can build usable audiences out of them using either their URLs or their standard events: 

Facebook conversion tracking nurture funnel custom audience

This feature is used best in two different ways:

1. Nurture – You can nurture the current conversion audiences with further promotions or move them down the sales funnel. You can create extremely tailored messaging for these individuals that could increase the probability of another action in the future. 

2. Exclusionary – Just like any other custom audiences, you can exclude these conversion events from your ad sets. A great example of this would be to exclude people who have already converted from seeing your ad again (and thus wasting your spend):

Facebook conversion tracking exclude content download audience

In this example, I’m targeting a remarketing audience and the goal of the campaign is to drive content downloads. I’ve excluded “Downloaded Content” so that when users convert, they’re removed from the audience. 

Using the Right Tools

Keep in mind that Facebook and Google AdWords are essentially marketing tool boxes. Inside each are the individual tools necessary to create and build a strong business, brand, and customer base. If you know how to use these tools, the entire process becomes a lot easier.  

Setting up proper tracking is an essential tool to ensure that you’re being smart about who you’re reaching with your ads. The easiest way to waste money in Facebook is to advertise to those who aren’t going to convert. 

 
 

Comments

John
Oct 12, 2016

Great post Brett McHale, i love reading your articles.keep posting great articles like this

Brett McHale
Oct 17, 2016

Hey Jon,

Thanks so much! I'm happy to know that these articles have been helpful for you. I'll continue to work on more!

Scott McDonough
Oct 15, 2016

Hi Brett,
This is a great post for people like me who want to use FB ads to grow their business.It's not too technical for new advertisers to implement even on a low budget,but is very effective at demonstrating the power of the pixel in a variety of ways.
Thank you Scott

Brett McHale
Oct 17, 2016

Thanks Scott!

max
Oct 15, 2016

Good article. thnx )

Brett McHale
Oct 17, 2016

Thanks!

Anne
Nov 03, 2016

Thank you for this article! The only thing I don't understand is about e-commerce shops. E.g., if it has only one "thank you" page for all the products.
In this case, will Facebook consider that all purchases made in the period of advertising are coming from ads? Even if they are organic/not related to ads?

Brett McHale
Dec 07, 2016

Hi Anne,

Thanks for the comment! For e-commerce conversions the thank-page URL parameters wouldn't be an issue because it is only going to fire in response to a specific ad.
Let's say for example that you have multiple offers within one ad set - you will only see conversions for each ad associated with the viewership of that specific ad. (people simply converting on that page independently, without being served the ad, will not be counted as conversions)

Also, if you wanted to get more granular about what types of conversions are made (different products/ order quantities) you can take a hard coded conversion event and place it within the HTML of the "submit" button on the original landing page.

Hopefully that answers your question!

thanks,
Brett

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