How Apple’s iOS14 privacy settings affect Facebook Ads reporting (and what you can do about it)
Apple's recent iOS14.5 update allows users to block Facebook and other platforms from tracking their behavior. While many see this as a big step towards giving individuals control of their personal data, there are important implications for advertisers who rely on this tracking to monitor conversions.
The changes were actually announced by Facebook last year, in preparation for Apple's update. However, the full impact is only now being noticed by Facebook advertisers, as the iOS14.5 update began rolling out in late April 2021.
Since late April, research shows that as little as 2% of iOS14.5 users in the U.S. are allowing Facebook to track their behavior. This alone highlights the huge amount of information that is now missing from Facebook Ads, especially when it comes to conversion tracking.
Importantly though, there are still some ways that advertisers can access accurate Facebook Ads conversion data. We implemented some changes many months ago in preparation, and today we've released more updates to help agencies report to their clients.
Below we've got a brief overview of what has changed, followed by information on how AgencyAnalytics users can monitor and report on as much data as Facebook allows. As long as you've got things set up correctly, you'll be able to access your data in most cases.
Apple iOS14.5 users can now opt out of ad tracking. This means that if an Apple user sees or engages with your ad and then makes a website purchase, an app install, or takes some other action related to the ad, this action might be blocked from your Facebook Ads results.
Obviously, this causes problems when advertisers attempt to report on their conversions. Facebook can no longer share some of this data, you'll sometimes see incomplete or missing data, and in some cases, Facebook may not even know that the conversion took place.
Facebook is now also estimating the number of some conversions rather than providing exact figures.
Where will advertisers notice this?
Within Facebook's Business Manager interface
You've probably noticed that Facebook Business Manager (or Ads Manager) no longer shows aggregates for conversion-related metrics in some situations. Instead, you'll see a "-" at the bottom of your table where the total should be.
Facebook usually blocks this data when you have multiple different attribution settings in your dataset.
For example, if some of your campaigns or ad sets have a 7-day attribution window, while others have a 28-day window, Facebook will not give a sum total for some conversion-related metrics (these metrics include things like website purchases or app installs).
However, if all of the ad campaigns or ad sets in your dataset have the exact same attribution setting, Facebook will give you aggregates. This is an important point to remember, as it affects how you can see data inside Facebook's own interface as well as within other platforms that Facebook sends this data to.
Within reporting platforms like AgencyAnalytics
Since your data is being blocked or modified within Facebook's interface, any platforms that pull data from Facebook (like AgencyAnalytics) into a Facebook Ads dashboard will also receive the same incomplete or modified data.
This will be noticeable in AgencyAnalytics stat widgets (which show aggregates), which can sometimes show nothing as Facebook provides no aggregated data.
In other cases, your data may be incomplete across all widgets, since Facebook will sometimes hide the data of Apple users who have chosen not to be included (we'll cover how to avoid this shortly).
When Facebook provides no data, you'll see a "-" within the AgencyAnalytics interface, which is the same "-" shown within the Facebook Business Manager interface. In addition, your staff and admin users will see a "?" on AgencyAnalytics widgets that are missing data, to give more information on why Facebook is blocking your data.
The data you see within AgencyAnalytics will match what is shown in Facebook Business Manager, provided the exact same date range, filters, and other settings are applied. If you see inconsistencies, check those settings and filters.
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How to report Facebook Ads data accurately
Despite the above limitations, you can still provide very accurate Facebook Ads data to your clients.
AgencyAnalytics offers a number of options to help agencies deal with Facebook Ads' tracking limitations. The exact options you choose usually depend on the attribution settings of your ad campaigns or ad sets.
AgencyAnalytics attribution filters for Facebook Ads
First up, it's important to be aware of the extra attribution filtering we've put in place. This filtering allows you to quickly request data from Facebook in different ways, to pull in both row-by-row information on each ad campaign or ad set, and aggregate so you can show clients a total number of conversions.
Doing so allows you to access as much of your advertising data as possible without any information being hidden due to it violating Apple's tracking restrictions.
To use AgencyAnalytics' attribution filtering, go to your Ads > Facebook Ads dashboard and click the settings button at the top right. This can also be accessed from each widget's settings in reports or custom dashboards. You'll have two drop-down menus with different attribution options regardless of how you access these settings.
Here's a quick overview of each of the options and how it relates to your Facebook Ads reporting.
Account attribution vs. unified attribution option
The first attribution drop-down menu allows agencies to toggle between two different reporting options provided by Facebook's API: an account attribution setting or a unified attribution setting.
The account attribution setting pulls Facebook Ads conversion data based on the exact attribution windows that you've configured for each ad campaign and ad set. The data is available for each ad campaign or ad set, and for aggregates shown in stat widgets and charts.
However, in many cases, Facebook will report fewer conversions than actually occurred when using this setting, because Apple iOS14.5 users can choose to not be included in the data. So when using this setting, be aware that the data Facebook is providing may be incomplete.
If you want to include iOS14.5 users in your reporting, use the unified attribution setting.
The unified attribution setting is our default setting, due to the above problem. When using this setting, Facebook allows you to access data that includes Apple iOS14.5 users, and Facebook will provide this information for each individual ad campaign or ad set. We released the unified attribution setting near the beginning of 2021, in preparation for the changes Facebook and Apple were working on.
However, when using the unified attribution setting, Facebook may not allow you to access aggregated data for some conversion-related metrics. This means that you'll be blocked from seeing the combined totals for all ad campaigns or ad sets in your stat widgets, and in charts. The missing data is the same as the missing data within Facebook Business Manager's interface when looking at all ad campaigns or ad sets (as mentioned earlier, Facebook Business Manager will show a "-" instead of the sum total when this occurs).
Specific attribution filters
Along with the ability to switch between account attribution and unified attribution settings, we also provide the ability to filter ad campaigns and ad sets by specific attribution window(s).
As mentioned above, a key reason Facebook blocks some data is due to having mixed attribution settings within that data. If you have more than one attribution setting across the ad campaigns or ad sets you're viewing, Facebook can refuse to give you aggregates.
To overcome this, we've implemented filters that allow you to pull in data for just one type of attribution. This filtering was released today, to help agencies whose situation is not solved by the unified attribution setting alone.
Simply choose the exact attribution window you want to see data for, and you'll gain access to both a row-by-row breakdown of each ad campaign or ad set's conversions, as well as sum totals and chart-based information.
For example, you can choose to only show data for ad campaigns that have a "7-day view and 1-day click" attribution window, which will allow you to access Facebook's aggregated data and a row-by-row breakdown of each ad campaign.
This is usually the best choice to access the most data possible, provided your ad campaigns or ad sets are all configured with the exact same attribution setting. In many cases, they will be, especially since Facebook is now restricting some attribution windows when tracking iOS14.5 users. We usually recommend combining this filtering with the unified attribution setting outlined above (and this is one reason why we apply the unified attribution setting by default).
If needed, you can also select multiple different attribution windows via the checkboxes in the drop-down settings menu. However, be aware that this can cause Facebook to block your access to aggregated data.
Filtering for specific Facebook Ads campaigns or ad sets
As well as using our attribution filters, AgencyAnalytics users can also choose the exact ad campaigns or ad sets they'd like to report on. While this is slightly more time-consuming, it's another method to overcome blocked data as you can be very specific with the data you request from Facebook.
Simply open the Facebook Ads dashboard settings (or a widget's settings in your report or custom dashboard). Use the checkboxes to select the exact ad campaign(s) or ad set(s) you want to include. Provided you're selecting ad campaigns or ad sets that all have the exact same attribution window, you can access the most data possible from Facebook Ads.
Sharing accurate Facebook Ads data with clients
We understand that accurate client reporting is critical, both for agencies to highlight their achievements to clients, and to grow trusting long-term relationships with them. Clients are often paying you a lot of money to help their business, so you need to show they're getting value. Agencies can still do exactly that, despite some of the above conversion tracking restrictions.
Quickly share data via PDF reports, emails, or links
Here's a tip if you're applying the above filtering on your Ads > Facebook Ads dashboards: You can easily add what you see to your automated client reports via our "add to report" option.
This instantly creates a new section in a report, and this section will include the exact widgets and filters that you've set on the Facebook Ads dashboard. You can also share what you see via an instant web link, a PDF, email, or by adding individual widgets to your custom dashboard which clients can access anytime.
Mix-&-match filters: Get highly customized with your filtering of ads data
As well as instantly adding an entire section to your report, you can easily filter any individual widgets in your report (or on your custom dashboard) to use any combination of the above settings or filters.
Simply open the widget's settings and configure as needed. If you've added a full report section, you can choose to filter some widgets in that section differently, to ensure each widget is showing the Facebook Ads data you need.
For example, applying some attribution filters to your table and others to your stat widgets can allow you to overcome some of the restrictions we've covered above.
Wait three days before sending your reports
Finally, we also recommend having at least a three-day gap between your reporting period and the date your automated client reports are sent. This is because Apple takes up to three days to provide ad-related data to Facebook.
This type of report scheduling can be easily configured in our interface: For example, you can send a monthly report on the 4th day of each month, to give time for Facebook to receive the full dataset for the previous month that you're reporting on.
Looking to the future
We'll continue to update our Facebook Ads reporting tool integration as new reporting options arise. Our development team closely monitors Facebook's API updates, to add new filtering and metrics quickly once they're available. We're also working on our own powerful upgrades behind the scenes, which will bring you even more reporting possibilities in the future.
If you've read all of the above and you're still unsure why you're seeing different figures in Facebook Business Manager compared to your AgencyAnalytics account, don't hesitate to reach out to our support team. We'll be happy to work through your specific situation with you, and we can give tips on how you can access the most accurate Facebook Ads data possible.
Matt brings over a decade of experience managing customer-facing teams, projects, and research across a wide range of industries. He now leads the customer support and customer success departments within AgencyAnalytics.Read more posts by Matthew Davis ›