Ads attribution is one of the most confused and least understood topics in advertising. Facebook certainly makes it difficult for advertisers to work because, in addition to a large number of advertising opportunities, attribution is a topic that repeatedly results in heated debates in marketing departments.
About Facebook attribution
When people interact with your Facebook or Instagram ads, they can take a variety of actions such as visiting your website, watching a video or purchasing a product. Each of these actions is recorded. Thus when your ad leads to a conversion, Facebook will attribute credit to the ad in Ads Manager. It’s important to have this data to see how well your campaigns and ads are doing and to determine whether you are reaching your goals.
The number of days between when someone viewed or clicked on your ad and then took action on your website is referred to as an “attribution window”. Facebook reports on both views and clicks of ads taken within the attribution window. The default Facebook ads attribution window settings show actions taken within 1 day of viewing your ad and within 28 days of clicking on your ad. This means that your reporting will reflect data on conversions that can be attributed to the last ad click that happened within 28 days or the last ad impression that occurred within one day prior to a particular conversion, whichever happened last. You can change the settings for both the view and click windows to 1, 7 or 28 days.
If your product or service is generally considered affordable, the majority of your conversions will happen soon after a click so it is appropriate to use a smaller time frame. The more money a product costs, the longer we can expect the decision to take and as a result, you will see more conversions happen beyond the 1-day click. In those cases, advertisers rely on a 28-day attribution window to include the resulting conversions.
Removal of the 28-day attribution model
According to Facebook’s official announcement, “Upcoming digital privacy initiatives affecting multiple browsers will limit the business’s ability to track human interactions across domains and devices. Among these limitations is the ability to attribute conversions to ads over longer periods of time”.
Due to changes in the data tracking policy, Facebook will no longer be able to offer a 28-day time frame but will be limited to a 7-day review. The changes were originally due to take effect on October 12 and it was suggested downloading data in order to track the campaign’s historical performance.
For example, if in a 28-day click attribution window, you drive 20 purchases for €200 and you change it to a 7-day click window, it might say that you drove approximately 10 purchases for €200. Those results are then used to determine things like which ad sets or creatives are working, how to allocate budget, etc. If results mostly happen within 7 days of an ad click, the picture doesn’t change much but for brands with longer sales cycles, this could be a real adjustment. If you use the default attribution model, there are a couple of things that would be best to implement. First, get familiar with your 7-day attribution results. This will be the new normal, so make sure you have a grasp on what your results tend to look like in order to identify issues moving forward. Second, make the necessary adjustments. If you have any rules that rely on data from a 28-day click window, you’ll need to adjust according to the 7-day time frame.
After the feedback from a number of advertisers, Facebook decided to keep the setting until the end of the year whilst next year this change will have to come to life due to the upcoming inevitable changes regarding web browsers. Browser changes in cookie handling (e.g. Chrome’s intention to eliminate third-party cookies) are expected to override the 28-day time frame and push Facebook towards 7-day default attribution.
Facebook emphasizes that the 7-day attribution model is a more realistic representation of ad impact, reducing the role of 28-day attribution even though that setting has been their default choice for many years. They also point out that this type of advertising valuation will make the process itself more flexible for future privacy and browser changes. As privacy measures continue to move forward, there will undoubtedly be future changes in advertising settings. Many will continue to watch Facebook closely, especially since their history of privacy issues has been most visible to the general public.