Publishers Shouldn’t Freak Out About iOS 14 Impacts on Facebook Ads

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I’ve had many publishers contact me about how the privacy changes in iOS 14 will impact their Facebook Ads (including Instagram). This development has made for dramatic headlines and any publisher who has logged into their Facebook Ads Manager recently has seen the warning.

Facebook Warning in Ads Manager about iOS 14 Changes
Facebook Warning in Ads Manager about iOS 14 Changes

Of course, there are still some publishers out there who wonder why this impacts them … and why they would advertise on Facebook / Instagram in the first place. The short answer is that publishers can use Facebook / Instagram advertising to build their own email databases, drive event attendance, drive paid / controlled subscriptions and to sell co-branded social media ads to their clients.

So What’s Actually Changing?

iOS 14 Tracking Prompt
iOS 14 Tracking Prompt

With iOS 14, Apple changes its privacy settings and requires all apps (including Facebook and Instagram) to show a prompt on iOS devices asking if the app can track the person across other apps and websites.

In practice, this is not much different from the cookie notification and acceptance that publishers already deal with for GDPR and CCPA legislation.

No one knows how many people will opt out of this kind of tracking, but Facebook (and publishers) are concerned that most iOS users will not allow it.

If this does happen en masse, Facebook will not be able to track visitors as effectively across multiple websites and apps. They also won’t be able to process conversion tracking as effectively as they used to.

How Does the iOS 14 Facebook Ads Change Impact Publishers?

Honestly, the impact on publishers isn’t as dramatic as it’s been made out to be.

First, realize that this change doesn’t impact your entire audience. For most B2B trade magazines or regional business publications, iOS represents around 30% of a site’s total traffic. For national and regional consumer magazines, iOS can be up to 50% of their total traffic. While this is a certainly a big segment, 50-70% of your audience won’t be affected at all.

Also, if you run Facebook Lead Ads … where you actually have a form that pops up right inside Facebook or Instagram … those will not be impacted at all by this change.

The Facebook Audience Network Won’t Be As Effective

For publishers not familiar with it, Facebook allows you to target ads on non-Facebook websites and apps (the Audience Network). This is similar to how Google ads can be displayed on 3rd party sites and apps through the AdSense network. Facebook itself has said that Apple’s changes “may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14 in the future.”

However, for most publishers, I don’t recommend using the Facebook Audience Network anyway. Like many ad networks it is a hotbed for impression and click fraud. When publishers run audience development ads, or co-branded social media ads for clients, I recommend that they only target users actually using Facebook and Instagram. By turning off the Audience Network (and Messenger), I have seen much better end results and ROI.

Facebook Conversion Tracking Will Be Impacted

This change also affects ads that use conversion tracking. These are ads that use Facebook’s pixel to track how many people convert (e.g. register, subscribe, etc.) directly from a Facebook ad. Again, remember that this only impacts ads delivered to people using an Apple iOS device.

For publishers who run co-branded social media ads for their clients, the iOS / Facebook Ads change doesn’t impact those campaigns at all. You should be running those campaigns with a reach objective instead of a conversion objective anyway.

However, if you do run ads on Facebook or Instagram to drive email signups, magazine subscriptions, or event / webinar registration, you typically should use conversion tracking. You can still run these types of campaigns, but Facebook will be switching to a new way to measure conversions called Aggregated Event Measurement.

With Aggregated Event Measurement, you’ll still be able to track conversion events in your Facebook ad campaigns. But even before this change, you shouldn’t rely on Facebook reporting alone. You should also use Google Analytics conversion tracking for all Facebook / Instagram ad campaigns. And if possible, you should use unique sign up forms or source codes in your email or subscription management system to most accurately measure true results.

What Publishers Need to Do

First of all, If you don’t yet have a Facebook Business Manager account, now is a great time to set one up. Within Facebook Business Manager, you’ll want to verify your domain name, connect it to your Facebook page, and make some changes to how you track conversions.

Verify Your Domain and Connect It to Your Facebook Page

To verify your domain in Facebook Business Manager and connect it to your Facebook page, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to Facebook Business Manager and navigate to domain management

    From the Facebook Business Manager home page, select your account and then navigate to Business Settings > Brand Safety > Domains

  2. Click the “Add” button and enter the domain of your website

    Do not include https:// or www … just use the root domain. For example: nearviewmedia.com Then click the “Add Domain” button.

  3. Have your developer add a TXT record to your domain

    You’ll need to do this to prove to Facebook that you own the domain. Give your developer the TXT record. They should know how to add it to the DNS records of your domain.

  4. Verify domain ownership

    Within the domain management section of Facebook Business Manager, click the “Verify” button for your domain. Note that changes to your domain could take up to 72 hours to take effect, but can often take effect within just a few minutes.

  5. Navigate to domain connected assets

    Once you’ve verified ownership of the domain, go back to the domain management section of Facebook Business Manger, click on the domain, and then click the “Connected Assets” tab.

  6. Connect the domain to your Facebook page

    In Connected Assets, do a search for the name of your Facebook page. When you see your page listed, select it and click the “Add” button to associate it with your domain.

Adapt to a Limit of 8 Conversion Events per Domain

Within Facebook Ads, you can set a conversion event to be triggered when someone views a specific page on your site. For example, you might create a conversion event whenever someone sees your email signup thank you page, subscription confirmation page, or event registration confirmation page.

By using conversion events, Facebook optimizes its ad delivery to people who are more likely to actually convert (sign up, subscribe, register) rather than just see your ad, click it, or visit your website. It also allows you as the advertiser to see cost-per-conversion data within your Facebook ad campaign.

Of course, to create a Facebook conversion event, you must install the Facebook tracking pixel on your website. It’s the only way Facebook knows if someone actually visits that page … and is why the changes to iOS 14 affect you.

To adapt to the iOS 14 changes, Facebook has moved to Aggregated Event Management which complies with Apple’s privacy policies. As a publisher, this means that you are now limited to a maximum of 8 conversion events per domain since that’s all that Facebook Aggregated Event Management supports.

This shouldn’t be a problem, as I recommend most publishers only have four Facebook conversion events anyway:

  • A conversion event for new email subscribers.
  • A conversion event for new magazine subscribers.
  • If done properly, conversions for lead magnets / whitepapers (e.g. downloadable assets) can be accomplished through a single Facebook conversion event on a single web page, no matter how many different downloads you have.
  • Likewise, conversions for event / webinar registrations can also be accomplished through a single Facebook conversion event on a single web page, no matter how many different events / webinars you have.

Again, you only need Facebook conversion events if you’re actually going to be running Facebook / Instagram ads using a conversion objective.

The iOS 14 Facebook Ads Change Is Good for Publishers

Something that very few people talk about is how the iOS 14 change is actually a good thing for magazine publishers. Regulations like GDPR and CCPA, along with privacy protections that companies like Google and Apple are implementing, make it harder for businesses to use programmatic and social media advertising.

Advertisers are going to increasingly turn to trusted publications who have an established digital audience in their market. As programmatic and social advertising becomes more nebulous and uncertain, your targeted website advertising inventory and email list will increase in value. Your ability to run co-branded social media advertising on their behalf will become more valuable.

So, while this new privacy change may cause bit of short-term extra work for you as a media company, it will be well worth it in the long run.