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Overcoming Facebook’s Aggregated Events Measurement with Google Analytics data

With Apple’s recent release of iOS 14.5, marketers are expected to have a hard time optimizing their media spend on Facebook Ads. Though iOS 14.5 introduces the PCM framework (Private Click Measurement) for web-based measurement, this framework will not be actively enforced (unlike the SKAdNetwork framework for apps). Ad platforms can voluntarily choose to opt-in to use this framework, yet none have publicly announced this. 

In parallel to Apple’s release, Facebook has released its own framework, AEM (Aggregated Event Measurement), which will impact marketers across both app and web, with restrictions similar to Apple’s. This framework is effective immediately and will greatly impact marketers everywhere.

The key elements of Facebook's AEM are: 

  1. Reporting will be limited to the campaign level only (data for the ad set level will be modeled) and conversion reporting will be delayed by 48-72 hours.
  2. Breakdowns of the converting users will be removed, for example, demographic information.
  3. Attribution windows will be reduced significantly to 1-day view-through and 7-day click-through.

Optimizing your campaigns with such limitations is a complex task. For example, any change done to an ad set will reflect only two to three days later in your reporting. That's far from anything we are used to today.

No data? No Problem

With the data available on Facebook Ads so limited, analyzing the data available on other platforms will become critical for marketers. Since other platforms will continue to work (as they haven't opted into Apple's PCM), we can use them to optimize our Facebook Ads campaigns.

The usual suspect for such an implementation is naturally Google Analytics (GA). Since most sites have it installed in parallel to Facebook's pixel and tracking conversions, it already plays a part in their optimization plan.

The key addition we need to do is make sure the data passed into GA is able to compensate for the data lost in Facebook Ads. This is achieved by using UTMs in our ad links (new to UTMs? Read this guide first). However, to compensate for the data loss, UTM tracking must drill down all the way to the specific ad level.

This is also in compliance with other Apple privacy frameworks, such as ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention), which considers UTMs to be a reasonable tracking solution as it doesn't expose any identifiable information about the user.

The most important benefit of this solution is that all the data is available in real-time. Say goodbye to the 48-72 hours report lag.

Passing the data to Google Analytics

Facebook Ads has a built-in feature that enables marketers to add Dynamic URL Parameters to their ads.

Dynamic URL Parameters

This is a common practice for marketers working with multiple ad platforms in parallel, that want unified reporting in Google Analytics or other BI tools.

 

Setting up the Dynamic URL Parameters in Facebook

In the ad setup, under the Tracking section, you can add URL Parameters that will be appended to the Website URL you set.

For example, if your website URL is https://www.mysite.com/page, these will be appended after a question mark, e.g. 

https://www.mysite.com/page?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc.

You can use any combination of static and dynamic values in these parameters. For example, the utm_source and utm_medium parameters can be static (i.e. facebook/cpc) while the other values should be set as dynamic values. 

We recommend using this syntax, which takes the source/medium as facebook/cpc and also adds in the campaign name, ad set name, and ad name to the relevant UTMs.

?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=&utm_term=&utm_content=

These are the available parameters:

  • ad_id=
  • adset_id=
  • campaign_id=
  • ad_name=
  • adset_name=
  • campaign_name=
  • placement=
  • site_source_name=

You can apply the tracking template to existing ads in bulk by selecting them and editing them all.

Viewing the data in Google Analytics

After creating the Dynamic URL Parameters in Facebook Ads, new ad clicks will now be tracked in GA. This data will feed into the following dimensions:

  1. Source (from utm_source)
  2. Medium (from utm_medium)
  3. Campaign (from utm_campaign)
  4. Ad Content (from utm_content)
  5. Keyword (from utm_term)

These dimensions can be added as secondary dimensions to all standard tables, or paired as part of up to five dimensions in a Custom Report.

Google Analytics Report

To create a Custom Report, simply click Edit (top right corner) in any existing GA report. This will now use the report you've seen as a basis for the custom report, saving you plenty of time in finding the right combination of dimensions and metrics. You can then add and remove dimensions and metrics to the report to tailor it to your specific needs. 

You can also create a report from scratch by navigating to Customization -> Custom Reports.

Note that within a standard Explorer type report you can only add up to one visible dimension (with drill down on click), so if you would like to see several dimensions at once, use the Flat Table report type.

Importing cost data to Google Analytics

Once we have the data in Google Analytics we can start making better decisions and act on these. However, there's still one final piece of the puzzle that's missing here - cost data. Luckily, there are great tools such as Funnel that streamline this for you.

Using Google Analytics' built-in data import feature, you can use Funnel to connect your Facebook Ads spend, along with your other marketing costs, clicks and impressions, with your GA data. You can learn more about this export feature here

Caveats to using Google Analytics

While this solution is pretty good, there are some caveats that you need to take into consideration.

  1. Reliance on 1st party cookies - Google Analytics relies on first-party cookies for its tracking and attribution. This means that any cross-browser (e.g. clicked an ad to the in-app browser and converted from Google search on Chrome) or cross-device activity can be misattributed.
  2. No View Through Data - Since the view-through data is only available on the ad platform, this won’t reflect in GA. This means that only users that have actually clicked through to your website from the ad will count towards attribution.
  3. Google Ads attribution - Naturally, Google Ads does integrate natively with GA. This means that the attribution for Google Ads campaigns doesn't rely solely on the 1st party cookies and is more "aggressive" than other platforms. This means that more attribution credit is given to Google Ads than other marketing channels.

What’s next for you? 

As data becomes more and more limited and obscured from Facebook, you need to ensure you’re packing as much first-party data as possible into your UTMs. So make sure your UTM data is clean and that you’re packing information about your campaigns down to the ad level for when you’re viewing and analyzing it in Google Analytics. 

And make the data in Google Analytics complete with cost data from Funnel.

 

About the Author 

Elad Levy Elad Levy is the Co-founder of Fixel (acquired by Logiq) and a marketing technologies expert. He specializes in Web Analytics and Marketing Automation for global B2B brands, working both client and agency side.