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 guru, Lozz Newton, breaks down a clever conversion tracking method — so you don’t have to.
Facebook for business is a tricky old concept even when you’ve got all the tools at your disposal. When some of those tools are unavailable, it’s an absolute nightmare.
In this Facebook ads guide, I’m going to show you how to track your conversions in Facebook Ads Manager, even if you don’t have a thank you page. I’m focusing on using Facebook for business, but this guide could still be useful if you’re using any form of tracking code that has limitations on the way its tracking code fires.
Tracking conversions in Facebook Ads Manager is a headache if you haven’t got a URL to place the Facebook pixel on. A lot of client websites which come to me 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 I 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 that they just took on your website. Hence the name “thank you page”. Reassuring your customers that the action they took 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 in which 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.
Next, tell Facebook the URL of your thank you page. There are two ways to do this in Facebook: either you can create a Custom Conversion, or you can install the Standard Event code onto the thank you page (more on that below). I’d recommend using Standard Events tracking as it’s required in order to use the solution we’re discussing today (and it can provide additional information to Facebook, which is handy too).
Facebook then pretty much just counts the number of visitors to that page and records that number as the number of conversions that you’ve got. A thank you page is the perfect URL to use, because the thank you page will be the page that the customer visits immediately after having performed the desired action on your site. The only way for them to get to that URL is by performing that action. This means that there is a good chance the number of visitors to that page correlates with the number of conversions you’re getting pretty accurately.
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 my 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 be focusing on this exact problem: how to track conversions in Facebook when there is no thank you page.
The Official Documentation Is No Help At All
Facebook advises users to add code to the “special pages of your website” and doesn’t give any alternative locations for the code.
Facebook doesn’t offer any alternatives at all if you can’t add the code to the “special pages of your website”. In fact, the Facebook help team don’t seem to be aware of any alternatives in their own help forums, but I promise you there is one.
Facebook Page Analytics: Standard Events
The Standard Event codes are extra pieces of code that you can add in addition to the standard Facebook Pixel code. They tell Facebook that something interesting just happened and it’s worth recording that in Facebook Ads Manager. In order 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:
Caption: The full list of standard events available for implementation
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 I feel that the “view content” Standard Event ties quite well with a specific URL. However, if you have an element that needs to be clicked in order to reveal the content then 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 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 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 own help centre. Again, this means that there is no URL to install the Standard Event on.
I wonder how Facebook is tracking searches in their own help forums? (Answer: they don’t, they haven’t even installed a Facebook Pixel on these pages.)
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 their action has been noted by the website 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, I can think of 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, I 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 — and this has been proven to reduce 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 more likely to do that if it requires six page loads (the extra one is the checkout), or ten?
It’s clear that loading a 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 tracking 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.
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 that you wish to run and are tied to a Trigger that tells it when to run. For example, your Facebook Lead Standard Event code:
Adding the Facebook Standard Event into a Tag Container in GTM
A Trigger tells GTM when you want that code to load.
Creating a Trigger to fire on loading a URL that ends with /thankyou
In this example, I’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 that I’m absolutely nuts. This is a rule that’s super easy to create inside Facebook and I’ve introduced about ten additional steps into your process in order to achieve it. 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:
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 in Facebook. Just use the Form Submissions Trigger.
- With an “add to wishlist” or “add to cart” button that allows the user to continue browsing at the same time, this method will allow you to track that. 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 really precise user behaviours and put together some incredibly helpful digital marketing analytics. I’m sure that 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!
If you’re struggling to get your Facebook Ad campaign running profitably for your business, Exposure Ninja is here to help.