Updates, Data, and Optimization…Oh, My!

Ah, that dreaded word: UPDATE.

Whether we are talking about SEO, paid ads, chatbots, or any other kind of digital marketing, business owners and marketers have learned that an update to any platform or service can very quickly bring severe consequences to the bottom line. One of the more recent examples of this is the iOS 14 update and the challenges it presents for tracking purchases and other activities coming from Facebook traffic.

What we do, in a nutshell, is help our clients succeed with ads by continually optimizing their campaigns. But the fuel of optimization work is data. When there is no data, we are flying blind. That is why the iOS update is so consequential for digital marketing: it blocks businesses from getting the data they need to know which aspects of their campaigns are working and which are not.

If you are struggling to make your ad campaigns work, the most important thing to do is use the right techniques to optimize based on data…and part of that is finding a way to get that valuable data even when people are using iOS!

Facebook Ads: Where Categorizing Viewers Is Everything

Facebook operates the most complex and powerful advertising platform on the planet. It analyzes behavior and finds similarities between individuals, and then it puts those individuals into groups that can be targeted. As Facebook starts to see commonalities between people who buy your offer, it will continue to serve ads to people with those characteristics. This makes the targeting for ads on Facebook very powerful.

The Facebook Pixel

It makes sense that Facebook is able to track the behaviors of people on Facebook – such as their engagement with certain pages and groups and their posting activity. But how does Facebook know if someone goes to a website you own and buys something there? That is something that Facebook tracks with the Facebook Pixel, which is a snippet of code that you add to your website to connect your business to Facebook’s powerful tracking and analytics. For example, if people are taken to a specific page after buying, Facebook’s Pixel will tell Facebook that anyone visiting that page has purchased that offer…and that gives you the data you need!

iOS 14: Also Known as “Trackageddon”

With the iOS 14 update, Apple decided to allow users to mask their IP addresses such that it is impossible to track purchases from users operating iOS 14. This of course means that calculations on the efficacy of your marketing campaigns are not going to be accurate, as a significant portion of the market is using iOS 14.

So…It Is Apple’s Fault?

As humans, once we have heard of some boogeyman causing problems, we are often quick to blame that party whenever possible. But it is important to be able to distinguish between problems caused by the iOS update and problems intrinsic to your campaigns. If you were already having profitability issues before the iOS update, it would not be honest or beneficial to blame Apple for your campaign performance now. However, if your campaigns were doing well before the update but then experienced a significant drop in effectiveness once the update kicked in (and if you have not made any drastic changes such as suddenly trying to 10x your ad spend), that is a clear indication that it is probably a tracking issue caused by Apple.

Time to Leave Facebook Ads?

Many marketers have reacted to the iOS 14 update by sowing fear and telling everyone to avoid Facebook Ads like the plague. But here are a few things to consider about that:

  • Marketers sometimes exaggerate. I know…it is hard to believe. Who would ever expect marketers to exaggerate? It is almost as inconceivable as marketers using sarcasm! But both happen at times.
  • All ad platforms undergo changes. When those updates hit, you will always see people crying out about how the sky is falling. But that is just the way things go. It is not a good idea to scramble for an entirely new platform – with entirely new strategies to develop – every time an update happens.
    • Plenty of businesses on Facebook are still thriving. A number of our clients saw price increases with the update but still managed to be quite profitable. One of the ways businesses have done this is by building a solid value ladder with a series of appreciating offers. If all you have is a $30 offer, a 40% rise in customer acquisition can sink you. But if that $30 offer leads to four- and five-digit offers that your customers often buy, the difference to the bottom line will often be negligible.
    • Competitive businesses love new problems that affect everyone. Wait…what? Yes, you read that correctly. Whenever you encounter a roadblock like this, it is likely that your competitors are encountering the same roadblock. So if you can manage to get over that barrier, you will be that much ahead of all of your competitors who fail to do so.
  • There are solutions. The market has responded to the iOS update by providing tools to help marketers get around the tracking blocks.

In short, no, iOS 14 is not a sign that you should abandon Facebook Ads. It is just a sign that you need to beat your competition by adapting.

Solutions to Blockages in iOS Tracking?

At Wingfire Media, we are strongly encouraging our clients to use tools that can help them to get around the iOS barriers and get the tracking they need to optimize their campaigns. Here are some of those tools:

  • Hyros. This is a powerful third-party API tool that provides top-notch tracking options. They specialize in businesses tracking iOS purchases. But be warned: Hyros is pricey.
  • AnyTrack. This is a third-party API tool that will perform the same basic task as Hyros for tracking iOS purchases, but for less money.
  • CAPI. Short for Conversion Application Programming Interface, this is a solution provided by Facebook. It requires some knowhow to set it up through Zapier, but it gets the job done at a price point significantly lower than the other options. This is generally the solution that we provide for our clients.

So What Now?

In short, if your business has been hit by the iOS 14 update, you should not:

  • Cry.
  • Panic.
  • Despair.
  • Quit.

No. There is nothing particularly surprising or earth-shaking to see here: platforms change, and digital marketing changes. Savvy business owners just have to learn to adapt.

Business is not just about surviving: it is about thriving. But in order to thrive, you first have to survive…and you do that by adapting. And with the iOS 14 update, you can adapt by implementing the right tools to optimize your tracking.