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Conversion attribution on the Facebook advertising network is one of the most commonly misunderstood issues in today's performance marketing world. Facebook certainly does not make the world of advertisers easier, because in addition to the variety of advertising opportunities, the conversion allocation is a topic that leads repeatedly to intense discussions in marketing departments. In today's post, I'd like to explain how, when, and why Facebook allocates a conversion to a campaign.

Facebook conversion requirements

To capture achieved conversions by Facebook, the Facebook pixel must be on the website or the Facebook SDK must be installed in the app, which should be advertised using Facebook ads. In addition to the implementation of the Facebook pixel, the events must also be installed on the website so that Facebook is notified when a conversion has been achieved. Besides using the Facebook Pixel and the Mobile SDK, offline events can also be used to measure visitors in stationary stores.

A conversion can happen when a user has seen or clicked on your ad. Facebook distinguishes between:

View-through conversion: A user sees your ad (but does not click) and performs a desired conversion within the attribution window. The default attribution window for view-through conversion is one day.

Click-through conversion: A user clicks on your ad and executes the desired conversion within the attribution window. The default attribution window for the so-called click-through conversion is 28 days.

Facebook follows the deduplication logic, meaning that a conversion is never counted twice. Either the conversion is assigned to the mere visual contact or the click on the advertisement. It should be noted that Facebook prefers click-through conversion over view-through conversion.

Facebook attribution: view-through conversion example:

On Monday, the user sees the ad in the Facebook newsfeed (does not click). The next day, the same user visits the advertiser's website and then performs the advertised conversion. Facebook now allocates the conversion to the ad, which was seen on Monday.

Facebook attribution: click-through conversion example:

On Monday, a user clicks on the advertiser's ad, but does not execute the conversion. 10 days after interacting with the ad, the user visits the advertiser's website and then performs the conversion. Facebook now allocates this conversion to the ad that was clicked on Monday because the conversion happened within the 28-day attribution window.

View-through vs. click-through conversion example:

On Monday, a user clicks on the ad in the Facebook newsfeed and ends up on the advertiser's website, but without leaving a conversion. On Thursday, the same user sees a new advertisement of the advertiser in the Facebook feed. The next day (Friday) he visits the advertiser's website and performs the advertised conversion.

Which advertisement is Facebook now allocating the conversion?

The performed conversion is in the attribution window of both, the view-through conversion and the click-through conversion. Since Facebook prefers click-through conversion over view-through conversion, the conversion is assigned to the ad that was clicked on Monday.

Short summary about Facebook attribution:

Facebook follows the deduplication logic: A conversion can be assigned to either the ad clicked, or the ad viewed - never to both.

Facebook prefers the click-through conversion over the view-through conversion. When a user clicks on an ad, sees another ad from the same advertiser, and converts within the two different attribution windows, Facebook allocates this conversion to the ad clicked on.

The default attribution window is 28 days for clicks and one day for views.

Facebook attribution model

Facebook advertisers know the problem of the different numbers of Facebook conversion tracking compared to the numbers from Google Analytics.

Some reasons for the different numbers:

  • Facebook sees no other sources of traffic than Facebook. Google Analytics, however, sees all traffic sources (SEO, SEA, display, email)
  • Different attribution models (last-touch attribution model vs. last-click)
  • Different temporal conversion allocation

How does Facebook measure conversions?

  • Click-through conversion: a user clicks on your ad and subsequently performs the conversion.
  • View-through conversion: after a user saw your ad but did not click, the user performs the desired conversion.

Last-touch attribution model

  • Conversions can only be assigned to the click or the view - not both at the same time.
  • Clicks before views. Regarding the allocation of a conversion, clicks are preferred over views.

Temporal allocation of conversions:

In addition to the assignment to advertisements, the temporal allocation of a conversion also differs from the conventional conversion attribution. Google Analytics assigns conversions to the day the conversion happened. Facebook, on the other hand, assigns the conversion to the day of the interaction (Click & View) with the advertisement.

Specifically, this means the following:

On Monday, a user visits your website after clicking on the ad in the Facebook feed, but does not perform a conversion yet. The next day the user visits your website again and then executes the desired conversion. Facebook allocates the conversion to the clicked advertisement and - regarding the temporal allocation - to Monday.

Channel allocation of conversions:

Finally, there is also to answer to which channel a conversion is allocated. Particularly the channel allocation of Facebook leads to the fact that the conversion numbers in the Facebook Ads Manager do not match the numbers of the website analysis tools. The reason for this is the following: Facebook knows no other traffic channel than the visit through the own advertisements. As a result, Facebook allocates users, who reached the site via e-mail marketing or Google AdWords and finally complete the conversion, to the advertisement with which they interacted in advance.

Facebook attribution example:

On Tuesday, a user clicks on the ad and leaves the website without completing a conversion. The next day, the user visits this page through Google's organic search, and then completes a conversion. Although Facebook has a last-touch attribution model, the conversion is not allocated to the Google search, but to the ad clicked the previous day. This is because Facebook does not recognize the other visitor channels and therefore can not consider them regarding the allocation. Google Analytics, on the other hand, imputes the conversion to the organic search on the day of the conversion.

In the end, this leads not only to a temporal distortion, but also to a channel distortion, so that the conversion numbers in the Facebook Ads Manager must be different from the numbers in the website analysis tool (Google Analytics, Piwik, etc.).

How to change the attribution window in the Facebook Ads Manager?

The one-day or 28-day attribution window is Facebook's default attribution window. However, it can be customized as required. In the following I show you how you can adjust the attribution window to your own ideas with just a few clicks.

Once the Ad Manager has been viewed, select in the selection window columns: service the option customize columns.

Facebook Conversion Attribution

There, the attribution window can now be adapted to your own ideas.

Attribution Window Facebook

For products that do not need to be explained, I personally use the attribution window of 1 day (view-through) and 7 days (click-through). After customizing, Ads Manager will display the conversion for both, the default attribution window and the custom attribution window. This helps validating Facebook as a traffic and conversion channel.

Attribution windows for conversion campaigns & branding campaigns

There are quite good reasons for using different attribution windows. The attribution window should be applied differently depending on the ambition. Conversion campaigns, where the targeted users are in the lower part of the funnel, should have a shorter attribution window (1-5 days) to measure the marketing effect. So, if you place retargeting campaigns, like Dynamic Product Ads, a short attribution window is recommended as the user is on the brink to make a purchase decision.

Note: Marketing campaigns in the lower part of the sales funnel (retargeting, search network campaigns) require a short attribution window.

On the other hand, awareness campaigns basically need longer attribution windows because the customer is in the upper part of the sales funnel and the purchase decision is not imminent. Particularly these awareness campaigns make it even possible to place conversion campaigns, because without awareness campaigns, no visitors are reached, who can be addressed with retargeting campaigns. Therefore, often the mistake is made to focus completely on conversion campaigns.

Note: Awareness campaigns should use a longer attribution window.

I hope you enjoyed the post: Facebook Attribution and hopefully I could ease your everyday life.

The Conversion attribution in the Facebook advertising network is one of the most misunderstood topics in today's performance marketing world. Facebook certainly doesn't make the world of advertisers any easier, because in addition to the multitude of advertising options, conversion attribution is a topic that repeatedly leads to heated discussions in marketing departments. In today's article, I would therefore like to explain how, when and why Facebook assigns a conversion to an ad. Campaign attributed.

Facebook conversion requirements:

In order for conversions achieved to be recorded by Facebook, the Facebook Pixel on the website  or the Facebook SDK must be installed in the app that is to be advertised using Facebook ads. In addition to implementing the Facebook Pixel, the events on the website must also be installed so that Facebook is notified when a conversion has been achieved. In addition to using the Facebook Pixel and the Mobile SDK, offline events can also be used to measure visitors in stationary stores.

A conversion can occur when a user has seen or clicked on your ad. Facebook differentiates between:

View-Through-Conversion: A user sees your ad (but does not click) and performs a desired conversion within the attribution window. The standard attribution window for view-through conversion is one day.

Click-through conversion:  A user clicks on your ad and performs the desired conversion within the attribution window. The standard attribution window for click-through conversion is 28 days. 

Facebook follows the deduplication logic, which means that a conversion is never counted twice. The conversion is either assigned to the pure view contact or the click on the ad. It should be noted that Facebook prefers click-view conversion to view-through conversion.

Facebook Attribution: Example View-Through-Conversion:

On Monday, the user sees the ad in the Facebook newsfeed (does not click). The next day, the same user visits the advertiser's website and then carries out the advertised conversion. Facebook now attributes the conversion to the ad that was seen on Monday.

Facebook Attribution: Example click-through conversion:

On Monday, a user clicks on the advertiser's ad but does not carry out the conversion. 10 days after interacting with the ad, the user visits the advertiser's website and then completes the conversion. Facebook now attributes this conversion to the ad that was clicked on Monday, as the conversion is within the 28-day attribution window.

Example view-through vs. click-through conversion:

On Monday, a user clicks on the ad in the Facebook newsfeed and lands on the advertiser's website, but without leaving a conversion. On Thursday, the same user sees a new ad from the advertiser in the Facebook feed. The next day (Friday), he visits the advertiser's website and completes the advertised conversion.

Which ad does Facebook attribute the conversion to?

The conversion achieved is in the attribution window of the View-Through-Conversion as well as the Click-through conversion. Since Facebook prefers click-through conversion to view-through conversion, the conversion is attributed to the ad that was clicked on Monday.

Brief summary of Facebook attribution:

Facebook follows the deduplication logic: A conversion can either be assigned to the clicked ad or the viewed ad - never both.

Facebook prefers click-through conversion to view-through conversion. If a user clicks on an ad, then sees another ad from the same advertiser and performs a conversion within the two different attribution windows, Facebook attributes this conversion to the ad that was clicked on.

The standard attribution window is 28 days for clicks and one day for views.

Facebook attribution model

Time allocation of conversions:

In addition to the attribution to advertisements, the temporal attribution of a conversion also differs from conventional conversion attribution. Google Analytics attributes conversions to the day on which the conversion occurred. Facebook, on the other hand, attributes the conversion to the day of interaction (click & view) with the ad.

In concrete terms, this means the following:

On Monday, a user visits your website after clicking on the ad in the Facebook feed, but does not yet convert. The following day, the user visits your website again and then carries out the desired conversion. Facebook attributes the conversion to the clicked ad and the time allocation to Monday.

Channel allocation of conversions:

Finally, the question of which channel a conversion is attributed to must also be answered. Facebook's channel allocation in particular means that the conversion figures in the Facebook Ads Manager do not match the figures from the website analysis tools. The reason for this is as follows: Facebook does not recognize any other traffic channel than visits via its own ads. As a result, users who reach the site via email marketing or Google AdWords and ultimately complete the conversion are attributed by Facebook to the respective ad with which the user interacted in advance.

Facebook Attribution - An example:

On Tuesday, a user clicks on the ad and leaves the website without completing a conversion. The following day, the user visits this page via organic Google search and then completes a conversion. Although Facebook has a last-touch attribution model, the conversion is not attributed to the Google search, but to the ad clicked on the previous day. This is because Facebook does not recognize the other visitor channels and therefore cannot take them into account in the attribution. Google Analytics, on the other hand, attributes the conversion to the organic search on the day of the conversion.

In the end, this not only results in a temporal distortionThis means that the conversion figures in the Facebook Ads Manager must differ from the figures in the website analysis tool (Google Analytics, Piwik, etc.).

How do I change the attribution window in the Facebook Ads Manager?

The time-based attribution window of one day or 28 days is the standard Facebook attribution window. However, it can be adjusted as required. In the following, I will show you how you can customize the attribution window with just a few clicks. 

After the ad manager has been called up, select the following in the selection window Columns: Services the option Customize columns from.

Customize Facebook Attribution

The attribution window can now be adapted to your own requirements.

Customize attribution window FAcebook

For products that do not require explanation, I personally use the 1-day (view-through) and 7-day (click-through) attribution windows. After customization, you will see the conversion for both the standard attribution window and the custom attribution window in the Ads Manager. This helps to validate Facebook as a traffic and conversion channel.

Attribution window for conversion campaigns & branding campaigns

There are good reasons for using attribution windows of different lengths. The Attribution window should be applied differently depending on the objective. For conversion campaigns where the targeted users are in the lower part of the funnel, a shorter attribution window (1-5 days) should be used to measure the marketing effect. So if you are running retargeting campaigns such as Dynamic Product Ads, a short attribution window is recommended, as the user is about to make a purchase decision.

NoteFor marketing campaigns in the lower part of the sales funnel (retargeting, search network campaigns), a short attribution window should be used.

In contrast, longer attribution windows should generally be used for awareness campaigns, as the customer is in the upper part of the sales funnel and the purchase decision is not imminent. These awareness campaigns in particular make it possible to run conversion campaigns in the first place, as without running awareness campaigns, no visitors can be reached who can be addressed with retargeting campaigns. This is why the mistake is often made of focusing entirely on conversion campaigns.

Note: The longest possible attribution window should be used for awareness campaigns.

I hope you enjoy the article: Facebook Attribution and that I was able to make your everyday life easier.

Tobias Dziuba

My name is Tobias and I am the founder and managing director of the Amazon agency Adsmasters GmbH based in Düsseldorf.

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