Using Facebook for business can be complex, but with a little help from the experts, you can make it work for your business. Exposure Ninja’s digital marketing analytics gurus break down a clever conversion tracking method — so you don’t have to.
In this Facebook ads guide, we’re going to show you how to track your conversions in Facebook Ads Manager, even if you don’t have a thank you page. We’re focusing on using Facebook for business, but this guide could still be useful if you’re using any form of tracking code with limitations on the way it fires.
Tracking conversions in Facebook Ads Manager is a headache if you haven’t got an URL to place the Facebook pixel on. A lot of client websites that come to us don’t have a standard “Thank You” page on their website — the page a customer views right after making a purchase. Let’s talk a little about the regular setup of thank you pages and Facebook Pixels before we get onto the solution to this problem.
Thank You Pages and Facebook Pixel Are Best Friends
The purpose of a thank you page is to thank the customer for the action they just took on your website. Hence the name “thank you page”. Reassuring your customers that the action they made has been noticed is a great idea, so they don’t accidentally order twice or anything like that. Basically, this means directing the user to a web page with some custom text on it thanking them after they click the submit button on your contact form or the buy button in your online store.
If you’d like to see an example of a thank you page, then just pop over and get your free website review from Exposure Ninja — there is a lovely thank you page after you hit “submit.” ?
For a business owner, this is also super useful for tracking your conversions in most tracking software like Google Analytics, or the topic of this blog post — Facebook Ads Manager. The way this works in Ads Manager is by installing the Facebook Pixel on every page of your website. A Facebook Pixel is a small piece of code that simply tracks visitors to your site and tells Facebook about it. You can always get your Facebook pixel ID by going into your Facebook Ads Ads Manager > Pixels > Create Facebook pixel. Then copy your unique 15 digit ID.
Next, tell Facebook the URL of your thank you page. There are three ways to do this on Facebook. You can create a Custom Conversion, install the Standard Event code onto the thank you page (more on that below), or you can use Facebook’s new tool of tracking custom events without code implementation. This option is usually more suitable for tracking small events like a button click or a newsletter subscription, but we’re going to detail this below.
Facebook then pretty much just counts the number of visitors to that page and records the number as the number of conversions you’ve got. A thank you page is the perfect URL to use, because this is the page the customer visits immediately after performing the desired action on your site. The only way for them to get to that URL is by performing the action. By doing this, there is a good chance the number of visitors to that page correlates with the number of conversions you’re getting pretty accurately.
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But What If I Don’t Have a Thank You Page?
Things like tracking when someone submits contact details to an email list becomes so much more difficult without a page like this. Sites without any sort of thank you page for the actual sales process are uncommon, but it does happen. In these cases, not tracking conversions is simply not an option. If you’ve read our Facebook Ads beginners guide, you’ll know just how important conversion tracking is to a site, so we need to find another way of achieving this.
The rest of this article will focus on this exact problem: how to track conversions on Facebook when there is no thank you page.
The Official Documentation Is No Help At All
Note: If you have a Shopify Store, you’re in for a treat. Facebook offers standard, custom event integration with your Shopify Store with a simple Facebook pixel added onto your platform. Simply add your Facebook pixel ID to your store (go to your Shopify admin, go to Online Store, then Preferences, and copy-paste in the Facebook pixel ID).
Facebook Page Analytics: Standard Events
The Standard Event codes are extra pieces of code you can add in addition to the standard Facebook Pixel code. They tell Facebook something interesting just happened and it’s worth recording that in Facebook Ads Manager. To track a Standard Event, Facebook requires us to add the Standard Event code to the URL of a page. To Facebook, each of these events is equivalent to a unique URL, because we need to add the code to a unique URL to track it.
Have a look at the list of Standard Events on Facebook:
Let’s discuss how realistic it is to tie each of these events to a URL on your website. Generally speaking, when we view content on a website, we’re loading a web page with that content on it — so the “view content” Standard Event ties quite well with a specific URL. However, if you have an element that needs clicking on to reveal the content, you won’t be able to track if people have bothered to read that content by adding this standard event to a URL, as there won’t be a new URL.
In this scenario, the content will load on the same page. If somebody is searching, they are probably going to load a page of search results, so that we can see a link between loading a web page and the “search” Standard Event. However, some sites may choose to have searches on the site performed in a drop-down menu rather than a separate page — for example, the search bar in Facebook’s help centre. Again, this means that there is no URL to install the Standard Event on.
It’s best practice to create a thank you page for a website when someone takes a desired action, like making a purchase or submitting details to be signed up for a newsletter. We need to give the customer some reassurance that the website has noted their action and they don’t need to take any further action. As discussed above, this is the perfect place to install your tracking code and the “Make purchase”, “Lead”, or “Complete registration” Standard Events.
However, there are plenty of websites that don’t load a new page when these events happen. Perhaps a pop-up opens with the thank you message, or maybe the entire purchase process happens within an iframe window. If your website doesn’t load a new URL at this point, there is no URL for you to place the “Complete registration” code on.
Then we have actions such as “Add to wishlist”, “Add to cart” and “Add payment info”. For each of these, you could certainly tie these actions to a URL by having a new page load when people click buttons on your site to do each of those things. However, we wouldn’t particularly recommend loading a new URL for these actions. Loading a URL just to track something like “Add payment info” means your checkout process will become a multi-page process — this has proven to reduce the conversion rate. “Add to wishlist” is likely to harm your user’s browser experience if you show them a new URL every time they click a button to add an item to the list. “Add to cart” will work the same way.
Do you just want your users to buy one item and leave? Or do you want them to check out with a basket fit to burst? If you want the latter, loading a page with an “updated basket” message and then forcing the user to load another page to go back to the store to add another item is a bit of a disaster. Let’s say the user wants to buy five items from you. Are they more likely to do that if it requires six page loads (the extra one is the checkout), or ten?
It’s clear that loading an URL for each action you want to track with your Facebook pixel is not necessarily the best thing to be doing in terms of your website’s usability. It will work for monitoring the basic stuff most of the time, but there are loads of situations where you just need a better solution. So let’s move on and discuss that better solution now.
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Tracking Conversions: What’s the Alternative?
The alternative is Google Tag Manager. GTM allows you to add lots of different types of code to your website using a tagging system. I’d even recommend it if your only task is just to add your Facebook pixel to your website, as it can be easier to use than quite a lot of CMS alternatives out there.
If you’re going to be adding other code to your site, such as Analytics or AdWords code, then doing all three in GTM will be much easier than adding the three code pieces to your website individually. Here’s a link if you want to learn more about GTM.
GTM requires two things: a Tag and a Trigger.
Tags record the code you wish to run and are tied to a Trigger that tells it when to run. For example, your Facebook Lead Standard Event code:
A Trigger tells GTM when you want that code to load.
In this example, we’ve created a Tag with the Facebook pixel Lead Standard Event that will fire when the Trigger “page URL contains /thankyou” is true.
At this point, there might be a few people thinking we’re absolutely nuts. After all, this is a rule that’s super easy to create inside Facebook — and we’ve introduced about ten additional steps into your process to achieve it. So you’re totally right — but now comes the clever part.
Triggers Don’t Need To Be URLs
Here’s the full list of Triggers available in GTM:
We can tell the Facebook pixel code to fire on page views (which is the only option Facebook ever mentions in their official documentation), but we could also have the code fire when:
- The window has loaded
- The user clicks on a link
- They submit a form
- After a certain time
- And plenty more!
Facebook Ads Guide: What Is This Actually Useful For?
Let’s discuss some of the ways you can benefit from this little trick:
- If you have a contact form on your website, but no Thank You page, this method will allow you to track those leads on Facebook. Just use the Form Submissions Trigger.
- Use an “add to wishlist” or “add to cart” button that allows the user to continue browsing at the same time. This method will enable you to track the action. Just use the Click Elements Trigger.
- If you are showing important information to a user, but you want to know if they actually read it, you can set the ViewContent Event to trigger after a set time or after a button click.
There are lots of ways you can use this to track some exact user behaviours and put together some incredibly helpful digital marketing analytics. You’ve probably got a bunch of ideas about new ways to track your data, and this is going to give you a whole lot more to optimise your campaigns in the future!
Facebook Help Reloaded
If all else fails, Facebook does, however, have a handy tool to help you track these standard events without having to create new events. However, you won’t get to skip the step of installing your Facebook pixel — sorry!
Once you’ve created and properly installed your Facebook pixel, you will see quite soon (after the first few clicks on your website, monitored by Facebook), the ever-so-salving option of tracking without events. Simply go to your Events Manager > Settings >Open Events Setup Tool. And voila! Enjoy!
If you’re struggling to get your Facebook Ad campaign running profitably for your business, Exposure Ninja is here to help.
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This post was written by Laurence Newton and revised in 2020 by Alexandra Casian.