4 Uses of the Facebook Pixel

Prologue

One of the most common pitches in the Facebook Advertising space to a prospect, is using the “Facebook Pixel Helper” chrome plugin, to detect if there is a Facebook Pixel installed on the prospects website.

“Hey Mr. Prospect, did you know that your website does not have a Facebook Pixel installed?”

99% of agencies then proceed to educate the prospect that the Facebook Pixel is essential to running retargeting ads, citing examples of visiting certain eCommerce stores that show you reminders of the products you added to cart until the prospect converts into a sale.

(Did I mention that most agencies do NOT run retargeting ads? Let alone them going beyond setting up a single broad retargeting ad that is aimed at every single visitor on the website regardless of which page, stage of the buyers funnel, or traffic source?)

That being said, there is more than just one use to the Facebook pixel and while these are great additional benefits to mention to your prospect to help close the deal, they are also great strategies for beginners to employ on their Facebook Advertising campaigns.

In this article, I will cover the 4 main uses of the Facebook Pixel that most people do not take advantage of, and how you can use this to help improve your campaigns.

What is a Facebook Pixel?

In Facebook’s own words, “ The Facebook pixel is an analytics tool that allows you to measure the effectiveness of your advertising by understanding the actions that people take on your website. “

“Once you’ve set up the Facebook pixel, the pixel will fire when someone takes an action on your website. Examples of actions include adding an item to their shopping basket or making a purchase. The pixel receives these actions, or “events”, which you can view on your Facebook pixel page in Events Manager. From there, you’ll be able to see the actions that your customers take and have options to reach those customers again through future Facebook ads.”

In simple terms, the Facebook Pixel essentially gives Facebook access to the information of the actions taken on your website and lets you make use of that information to create ads for specific action-takers on your site. The most common example of this is, running ads to retarget website visitors who did not purchase or submit the form on your site.

It also allows you to retarget website visitors who visited a specific page on your website, with a relevant ad that will GREATLY improve your chances of converting them into a sale.

Without the Facebook Pixel, there is no (direct) way for Facebook to have access to this data.

This brings us to our first use-case of the Facebook pixel…

Retargeting Ads

Trying to sell to a cold audience directly with just one ad is the equivalent of you going out on the streets and trying to get a stranger to pay you money on your first encounter when they’ve never met you before.

The main concept of a retargeting ad is similar to how you require multiple touchpoints for a sale. Most people recommend 7-8 touch points on average before you can close a deal, and marketing via Facebook ads is no different.

As mentioned, retargeting ads are the most common reason for installing a Facebook Pixel. But how exactly would you implement a retargeting ad? There are 2 (broad) main strategies for retargeting ads, conversion ads (the most common) and brand establishment (advanced), which we will cover below.

Here is an example of an ad shown to the cold audience, on the top end of the funnel:

Once you’ve run the above ad, you can create a custom audience of people who had clicked on the ad, and viewed the above blog post. This allows to you segment people who were interested in the topic into a separate audience, from the mass cold audience.

This strategy is similar to when you have a massive cold email list that you’ve scraped or bought, send out an initial email then segment the audience of people who had opened the email / clicked on the email as a more likely audience that will purchase via future promos. You can break that down further into people who added to cart, booked a call, purchased, etc. but you get the idea.

Direct Cold Funnel

Retargeting Funnel

Strategy One: Conversion Retargeting Ads

Ad 2 (Retargeting an Audience who had Viewed the Blogpost in Ad 1, with a Product Ad.)

Here, we have the most common way of using retargeting ads. After showing the initial ad, we retarget people who visited the previous blog post URL with an offer that is relevant to what they had read (an indication of interest). So if our cold prospects had clicked on the earlier blog post, we would segment them into a custom audience, and show them the ad below:

Most people stop at this point, so having one cold ad and one retargeting ad. However as mentioned, you require multiple touchpoints before you can convert someone into a sale. 

That being said, most people do get to the recommended number of touchpoints (7-8) with only 2 ads (one cold and one retargeting), which is why they tend to have higher frequencies on their individual ads. (the same person would see the same 2 ads a total of 8 times). This method can still work and be profitable but is difficult to sustain as your entire audience get “ad fatigue” really quickly if they keep seeing the same ads over and over.

I personally prefer to have fresh content for each touchpoint, so typically before I start a campaign I would plan out the full funnel and have all of the assets (content, ad copy, angles, etc) prepared. This allows me to have a higher engagement and click-through rate as a whole, and a lower saturation rate so our ads get to run for a longer period of time before we have to refresh them.

In this scenario, that could be 6 different ads (albeit all of them being related to try and sell the product directly to the consumer). I typically recommend a combination of giving free content that provides value to the audience and sales ads so you get a good balance and usually a higher conversion rate and profitability as a whole.

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Strategy Two: Content Retargeting Ads

Ad 3 (Retargeting an Audience who had Viewed the Blogpost in Ad 1, with another Blog Post)

Personally, I am a huge fan of building rapport with your potential buyers compared to selling direct to a cold audience. You get much more credibility and you establish your brand over time by providing a ton of free value and education. 

I believe that running marketing campaigns is all about long term ROI (return on investment), scalability as well as sustainability (Evergreen Campaigns). Giving free value is a great way of that.

Below is the typical ad I would use to retarget the people who had clicked on the initial ad (Ad 1).

As you can see, there is continuity in the order of ads and it also captures the attention of the viewers of the previous blog post. There are a number of ways to do this but the most basic form would be just having multiple blog posts targeting cold audiences, then retargeting them with other blog posts once they have clicked on at least one of the cold ads (and exclude those who have read that specific post before).

As you can see, there is continuity in the order of ads and it also captures the attention of the viewers of the previous blog post. There are a number of ways to do this but the most basic form would be just having multiple blog posts targeting cold audiences, then retargeting them with other blog posts once they have clicked on at least one of the cold ads (and exclude those who have read that specific post before).

Landing Page Views vs Clicks

When you run a traffic campaign on Facebook, there is an option for you to select what you would like to optimise for, the two main ones being LPV (landing page views) and Clicks.

Landing page views are counted when a person loads a web page or Instant Experience after clicking your ad, and your pixel fires a PageView, PixelInitialised or ViewContent event. The PageView and PixelInitialised events are automatically captured by your pixel and do not require any additional setup.

A pixel from your ad account must be installed on your web page in order for a landing page view to be counted. If your ad links to a web page that does not have a pixel installed on it (for example, a redirect page), then a landing page view will be counted if your pixel fires a PageView, PixelInitialised or ViewContent event within 3 minutes of the original ad click.

Again, in simple terms, a landing page view takes into account external factors such as load speed of the site, whether the site URL is active/broken, etc.

In comparison to clicks, you get much more qualified traffic as you are certain that these visitors had stayed long enough for the page to load, and that the page is actually working.

For clicks, as long as they click on the ad (any part of it), regardless of whether they go to the landing page or not, it is still attributed as a click. This means that cold traffic prospects can click on the ad, and close the window before the page loads. Or, click on the link, but the actual page URL is broken and it is still counted as a click. 

Using this metric lets Facebook optimise for higher quality traffic, and is also a great way to see if your funnel / landing page is broken. (You will not get landing page views if the website is down).

Custom Audiences - Scaling & Efficiency

Now some people might get triggered at this point and say “you can create custom audiences by importing emails from a list of buyers you already have”, yada yada.

Yes you can, but you get 2 main problems from the above process.

First off, not all people use the same emails for Facebook, and for their purchases. Facebook is only able to identify people from an email list, if they used the same email for their Facebook account.

Next, a lookalike audience made from a list of buyers as a result of other traffic sources rarely performs better than a lookalike audience made from conversions as a result of Facebook ads.

There are too many variables in play in my opinion, so someone who would have converted on Google ads, if you had marketed to them on Facebook they might not have converted.

Lookalike Audiences (Scaling)

  • Lookalike audiences based off all data collected by the pixel
  • Evergreen Mode

Lookalike Audiences essentially allows you to create a brand new audience from an existing one (say, an audience consisting of previous buyers) and find other people who are similar.

Facebook allows you to create up to 6 lookalike audiences at a time, between 1% to 10% (basically the similarity rate in terms of interests that Facebook can detect).

Evergreen Mode

When we create ads, we typically have one adset variation (audience) that is cold, made up of interests via the Facebook Ads Manager directly. 

Once we gather enough data, we duplicate that adset and change the audience to a lookalike audience of all the people who have clicked on the ad and had visited that specific URL.

We’ll keep both the new and original (cold audience w. interests) adsets live. As more people visit the page, it repopulates the lookalike audience and basically lets you go into “Evergreen Mode” as the audience will continue to populate itself as long as you have visitors going to that specific page.

Likewise, for conversion campaigns, most campaigns in eCommerce or lead generation campaigns aim to enter Evergreen mode, using a lookalike audience of past conversions.

Exclusion Audiences (Efficiency)

  • Exclude previous buyers / existing buyers
  • Control Frequency on Ad Campaigns

Excluding audiences are also a great way to ensure your ad dollars are being spent wisely. You don’t want to waste money targeting people who have already triggered your conversion event with the same ads. For example, if you are running a lead gen campaign, the last thing you would want to do is after someone has become a lead, show them the same ads taken them back to the landing page which they had already signed up through. Big waste of money!

Facebook allows you to exclude any Lookalike Audience and Custom Audiences you have created.

In eCommerce, exclusions can play an important role in determining overall profitability based on where they are in the funnel. 

One of the main objectives of an eCommerce campaign is to turn strangers into buyers. But after the stranger becomes a buyer you also want to ensure they stop seeing any ads, i.e exclude purchasers. The timeframe in which you use the exclusion depends significantly on the product but as a rule of thumb 30 days is sufficient. 

But we can go one step further and exclude the current customer list from also seeing the ads, as in reality, it is rare that all sales of a product will come solely from Facebook. But if they do, Facebook only allows you to create a list of purchasers for a maximum of 180 days i.e anyone who purchased 181 days ago won’t be included in that list. 

To exclude the current customer audience you will need to download the client’s customer list as a .csv and upload it into Facebook as a Custom Audience. This can also be used in lead gen campaigns.

Measuring Campaign Success

Tracking Conversions & Ad Attribution

Let me remind you of the first thing we learned about the Facebook Pixel:

In Facebook’s own words, “ The Facebook pixel is an analytics tool that allows you to measure the effectiveness of your advertising by understanding the actions that people take on your website. “

“Once you’ve set up the Facebook pixel, the pixel will fire when someone takes an action on your website. Examples of actions include adding an item to their shopping basket or making a purchase. The pixel receives these actions, or “events”, which you can view on your Facebook pixel page in Events Manager. From there, you’ll be able to see the actions that your customers take and have options to reach those customers again through future Facebook ads.”

The primary objective from installing the Facebook pixel is to gather data on people’s behaviour on your website so you can adjust your advertising campaign appropriately, ensuring as best possible each dollar you spend ultimately leads to profitability. 

Running a campaign without the feedback provided from the Facebook pixel is essentially like trying to rock climb in pitch black. It is possible to get results but you don’t have any idea which ad, audience or campaign was responsible for the sale. 

It’s almost impossible to optimise a campaign as frankly, you don’t have a clue what is working and what isn’t. Without hard data, you can’t make any informed decisions about the effectiveness of each ad  variation/audience combination. In other words, INSTALL THE FACEBOOK PIXEL!

The final element of any ad campaign is knowing how to track your conversions so it is clear which campaign, audience, and ad is responsible for the action you want, i.e. the lead or sale.

Measuring ROAS

Within eCommerce, a metric that is important to understand is Return On Advertising Spend.
or ROAS. 

ROAS is the ratio of the amount spent on facebook against the amount sold from that campaign, ad set, and ad. A ROAS > 1 indicates for every dollar spent you earned more than a dollar. The opposite is true for a ROAS < 1. 

It is important to note ROAS only takes into account the return based on the sales price and does not include any additional items such as shipping and taxes. So the figures you see in your eCommerce platform dashboard and Facebook will differ. 

Arguably it is also one of the most misleading indicators. Naturally, everyone would like to achieve a ROAS > 1, or ideally greater than the cost to produce the items. In the case of an item that has a 70% net profit margin, a ROAS > 1.43 is required. 

But this only takes into account the front end cost to acquire a new customer. Subscription-based or repeat purchase products tend to have high Lifetime Values per customer, so logically, acquiring as many customers as possible at a reasonable price should become the main objective. 

This could mean an initial ROAS < 1, but over time a ROAS > 10 (for example) as the LTV of the customer kicks in. Unfortunately on Facebook you only see the front end number via the platform. But this is an important lesson that not many people are able to grasp. 

Attributing Conversions To The Right Campaign

The amount of time it takes someone to have viewed or clicked your ad and then taken action on your website is called the “attribution window”. By default on Facebook, this is set to 28 days clicked and 1 day viewed.

What that means is Facebook will attribute the conversion to when the ad was clicked up to 28 days prior, not when the conversion event happened (which is a common misconception). Let me give you an example:

  1. Customer clicks an ad on 4 April
  2. Purchase is made on 28 April
  3. Conversion is attributed on 4 April NOT 28 April

In reality, most people will make the purchase immediately after the click, or at least a few hours after. 

But what this does show is the data you see today doesn’t necessarily stay static once the day is complete and you can actually have an “uplift” of performance as Facebook attributes sales completed to previous days. 

Depending on the type of campaign you are running, i.e. lead generation of eCommerce, the conversion you are concerned about will differ, e.g a lead or a sale. 

Fortunately for us, the Facebook pixel attributes the data we need to the ads that were responsible for the conversion event, albeit sometimes delayed depending on when the attribution occurred in Facebook’s eyes. This means we can gauge the effectiveness of each ad variation/combination and begin A/B testing creatives, ad copy, headlines, etc., to optimise the performance of our campaigns.

Without the Facebook pixel, this would not be possible.

Conclusion

I’m sure you can see, the Facebook Pixel is responsible for more than just retargeting ads. It’s a very powerful data-gatherer that can help you in all aspects of running your ads, from measuring behaviour on your website, optimising for your chosen objective, helping you become more efficient with your spending and ultimately allowing you to perform tests to improve performance. 

I would suggest if you have a client that is reluctant to install the pixel on their website, it may be worth working with someone else. If you don’t have the tools to help you be successful, ultimately you will struggle and most likely not get the results they are looking for. 

I hope you guys enjoyed this post and got a ton of value off of it.

To your Success

Gabriel

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