The billionaire media mogul Ted Turner has a simple formula for success: “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and advertise.” For some people, the advertising part is the most difficult since its outcome is uncertain. I talk to people all the time who say things like, “I spent $1,000 on online ads and didn’t get one customer from it.” That certainly can happen, and paid advertising is always a risk. But sometimes, the benefits come in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. There’s often a big difference between how people think it should work and how it does work.

With any type of ad, though, it’s essential to have ways to track results. Having tracking mechanisms in place allows you to do systematic testing over time and make changes for continuous improvement.

What are events, and how are they tracked?

In the Meta ads lexicon, “events” are actions people take on your website. For example, submitting a contact form, making a purchase, adding an item to the shopping cart, or scheduling an appointment. There are different technologies available that allow this tracking to occur, such as:

The pixel – A block of code that gets added to your web pages. This has been the primary tracking vehicle since the beginning of Facebook ads.

The CAPI (Conversions Application Programming Interface) – A newer tracking method that involves sending tracking data directly from the hosting server.

Currently, Meta recommends having both the pixel and the CAPI installed to send the same events. Since this is a redundant approach, a process called “deduplication” occurs to prevent double counting.

What are standard events?

Standard events are at the heart of the entire Meta Ads platform. It can’t be overstated how engrained they are at all levels of the system. Meta documentation describes them as “actions with predefined names that we recognize and support across ad products.” Tracking standard events is beneficial in three significant ways:

  1. They allow you to see the results of your ads.
  2. They give the system something to optimize for so that tremendous resources can be applied to attain a specific result in the future.
  3. They allow custom audiences to be created of people who took the relevant action in the past.

When it comes to optimization, the system uses machine-learning technology as well as troves of data to “learn” how to achieve the desired result. When an ad set is new, it enters what Meta calls the “learning phase,” which is a period that allows the system to learn by trial and error. Although there are different aspects of the learning phase, Meta has customarily suggested that it is based on having fifty-plus events occurring over about one week.

Here’s a very important point about standard events and optimization: Yes, the system will use the learning phase for your ad set for trial and error to learn. But it will also use all data from all accounts in Meta advertising history to support your effort to achieve a standard event action.

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List of standard events available

Here is the list of standard events that Meta supports, as well as a description of their meaning and relevant tracking code:

Add payment info — The addition of customer payment information during a checkout process. For example, a person clicks on a button to save their billing information.

fbq(‘track’, ‘AddPaymentInfo’);

Add to cart — The addition of an item to a shopping cart or basket. For example, clicking an Add to Cart button on a website.

fbq(‘track’, ‘AddToCart’);

Add to wishlist — The addition of items to a wishlist. For example, clicking an Add to Wishlist button on a website.

fbq(‘track’, ‘AddToWishlist’);

Complete registration — A submission of information by a customer in exchange for a service provided by your business. For example, signing up for an email subscription.

fbq(‘track’, ‘CompleteRegistration’);

Contact — A telephone, SMS, email, chat or other type of contact between a customer and your business.

fbq(‘track’, ‘Contact’);

Customize product — The customization of products through a configuration tool or other application your business owns.

fbq(‘track’, ‘CustomizeProduct’);

Donate — The donation of funds to your organization or cause.

fbq(‘track’, ‘Donate’);

Find location — When a person finds one of your locations via web with the intention to visit. For example, searching for a product and finding it at one of your local stores.

fbq(‘track’, ‘FindLocation’);

Initiate checkout — The start of a checkout process. For example, clicking a Checkout button.

fbq(‘track’, ‘InitiateCheckout’);

Lead — A submission of information by a customer with the understanding that they may be contacted at a later date by your business. For example, submitting a form or signing up for a trial.

fbq(‘track’, ‘Lead’);

Purchase — The completion of a purchase, usually signified by receiving order or purchase confirmation, or a transaction receipt. For example, landing on a Thank You or confirmation page.

fbq(‘track’, ‘Purchase’, {value: 0.00, currency: ‘USD’});

Schedule — The booking of an appointment to visit one of your locations.

fbq(‘track’, ‘Schedule’);

Search — A search performed on your website, app or other property. For example, product or travel searches.

fbq(‘track’, ‘Search’);

Start trial — The start of a free trial of a product or service you offer. For example, trial subscription.

fbq(‘track’, ‘StartTrial’, {value: ‘0.00’, currency: ‘USD’, predicted_ltv: ‘0.00’});

Submit application — The submission of an application for a product, service or program you offer. For example, a credit card, educational program or job.

fbq(‘track’, ‘SubmitApplication’);

Subscribe — The start of a paid subscription for a product or service you offer.

fbq(‘track’, ‘Subscribe’, {value: ‘0.00’, currency: ‘USD’, predicted_ltv: ‘0.00’});

View content — A visit to a web page you care about. For example, a product or landing page. View content tells you if someone visits a web page’s URL, but not what they do or see on that web page.

fbq(‘track’, ‘ViewContent’);

Custom events

What if you want to track a website action that’s not listed in standard events? You can then create a custom event. Custom events are actions that fall outside those covered by standard events. They can be given a unique name to represent the action taking place. Like standard events, they can be used to track results, conversion optimization, and audience building. Unlike standard events, custom events you create aren’t deeply engrained into the system and aren’t supported by the historical data from all accounts over history.

How can custom events be created and tracked? Just like standard events, custom events can be tracked with code. You can call the fbq(‘trackCustom’) function anywhere between your webpage’s opening and closing <body> tags, either when your page loads, or when a visitor performs an action like clicking a button.

For example, if you want to track visitors who share a promotion in order to get a discount, you could track them using a custom event like this:

fbq(‘trackCustom’, ‘ShareDiscount’, {promotion: ‘share_discount_20%’});

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Adding object properties to events

To truly be useful, some events require additional information to be passed. Meta supports several “object properties” that can be included with event tracking. Any of these properties can be added to custom event tracking, but they can only be added to included with standard events if they are relevant for what’s being tracked.

Some of the supported object properties include:

content_ids — Product IDs, such as SKUs

content_name — Name of page or product

num_items — The number of items when checkout was initiated

value — The value of a user performing this event to the business

For a full list of support object properties, click here.

In closing

Meta advertising is a deep specialty. To be fluent with the many different tools and techniques takes quite a while. There are so many integrated and overlapping features it can make you dizzy. You also have to roll with the continuous changes and glitches that occur.

Standard events are a vital feature to understand if you are investing in ads and want to track actions on your website. I hope this article helped you have a greater understanding of them.