The field of web analytics is almost as old as the World Wide Web itself (which was invented in 1989 by Tim Berners Lee). The point of web analytics is to give data about activity that happens on a website, such as which web pages are seen, in which order(s) are they seen, what actions are taken on those pages, and much more. For advertisers, this data is critical for informing how ad spending should be invested in the future.
The two main mechanisms Meta offers for web tracking are called the Meta Pixel and the Conversions API (CAPI).
The Meta Pixel
The Meta pixel is a blob of code that gets placed on all relevant pages of a website. It enables the necessary communication between Meta Ads and the website. When someone visits a web page that has the pixel code installed, a signal is sent to Meta Ads to let it know.
With the help of the pixel, specified actions on a website can be classified as “events” – meaning, events of significance. For example, if someone opts in to receive an email newsletter on a website, they might arrive at a “Thanks for Signing Up” page. Views of that page can be defined as an “event” because it indicates a new subscription. Furthermore, events are classified by type in Meta’s system based on a pre-defined category list. These category types are called Standard Events. Here’s the list of Standard Events that are built-in/pre-defined in Meta Ads:
Subscribe, Lead, Submit Application, Start Trial, View Content, Search, Schedule, Purchase, Initiate Checkout, Add Payment Info, Add to Cart, Add to Wishlist, Complete Registration, Contact, Customize Product, Find Location, and Donate
Associating website events to event category types allows the system to learn and optimize to achieve the desired results from advertising. For example, if you create a campaign choosing the Sales objective, you can define the desired conversion to be the “Purchase” event. Meta will then use historical data to optimize your ad delivery for achieving that outcome.
Note: Meta won’t only use the historical data from your campaign; they will use historical data from any and all campaigns over history to optimize for results. As a simplified example, perhaps the system shows that people who use a particular model of iPhone make more purchases on Tuesdays than they do on Fridays. That information could affect the delivery of the ad.
How does one install the pixel code on their website? That depends on how the website is built, so it’s not easy to give specific advice on that. The key is that the pixel code is inserted in the <Head> section of the web page code. If you’re using WordPress, you can explore the theme settings to find the way to add the pixel or find a plugin that helps. On other platforms, you might need to research their documentation.
The Conversions API (CAPI)
The Conversions API (CAPI) is a relatively new addition to the world of Meta Ads tracking and can be seen as an alternative to using the pixel, although it’s recommended to use both. The CAPI is designed to track website events, but it does so with a direct connection to your website server or CRM. (The pixel, on the other hand, sends tracking data from the on-device web browser, which means there’s a greater chance that the tracking data will be lost or interrupted due to glitches or privacy-enhancing browser tools.)
Meta recommends that the CAPI be used in conjunction with the pixel in order to get the most complete amount of data possible. (A process called “deduplication” makes sure that events aren’t double counted when both the pixel and CAPI are in use.)
Meta currently offers four different ways to set up the Conversions API:
- Commerce platform integration — Major e-commerce platforms offer built-in ways to set up the CAPI, including WooCommerce, Shopify, BigCommerce, and Wix.
- The Conversions API Gateway — This method is available through the Meta Events Manager interface. It’s recommended by Meta to be used if you’re not using a commerce platform integration and you spend more than $2,000 per month on ads that optimize for web events. There is a cost involved because it requires cloud storage.
- Other partner integrations — Other partner platforms, such as Google Tag Manager, can be used for CAPI setup.
- Direct Code integration — With the help of a developer, a direct integration can be implemented for website tracking through CAPI.
Note: The CAPI isn’t engineered to be a way to bypass data sharing policies or privacy rules, such as Apple’s IOS App Tracking Transparency. This is an often-misunderstood fact.
Google vs. Meta Webinar on February 8th, 7 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 8th, 7 pm
Webinar on Zoom -- free
Subject: Google vs. Meta for Marketing