Facebook Conversions API: What You Need to Know

Jemima van Oldenbarneveld
Jemima van Oldenbarneveld
Lead Social Consultant

We already know that cookies are disappearing. However, the best alternative solution for this big shift in digital marketing is sometimes unclear. Recently, Facebook launched the Conversion API to offer advertisers another option instead of the pixel to send conversion data. What does this entail and how do you set it up? This article will explain everything you need to know! 

What does Conversion API (CAPI) mean? When sending an email address in this data payload or, in some cases, other first party identifiers, Facebook is able to know: “The user that bought a product on your platform is now visiting his Facebook newsfeed on ours,” and therefore serve or not serve ads to this user. So the cookie or IDFA isn’t needed anymore if you send it over through the Conversion API.  You can see this API a new road to Facebook, where the customs in between do not look at your cookie for identification, but actively ask for an identification number (which can be a hashed email address). 

Now, this doesn’t mean you don’t need the pixel anymore. The Conversion API, as the name already implies, is meant for conversion data first. Site clicks, pageviews, scroll events or other engagement data, is still being sent through the pixel and, therefore, cookie. So don’t delete that tag / pixel just yet! Facebook also uses the pixel to fill in the gaps for conversion data when it doesn’t receive it through the conversion API. 

Benefits of the CAPI

  • More accurate data: Mechanisms like Apple’s ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention), delete first party cookies after a maximum of 7 days. With the CAPI, you’re sending this data over without cookies, so it won’t get deleted. This means more conversions attributed to the right campaign. Also, as the pixel is Javascript-based, it can be blocked or not executed when people click away very fast. If you use the CAPI you don’t need that Javascript, so you don’t have to deal with those issues. 
  • You can do remarketing and ad personalisation. Because you don’t need a third party cookie and you send over your own identifiers of your users, you can still serve personalised ads to users who have already converted, added something to their cart, or other engagement behavior (but note that you first need to ask for a first party identifier from the user).
  • Better campaign results. Ad serving optimisation models will be fed with way more data. So predictions to who and when to show ads become much more accurate. 

How to set up the Facebook Conversion API

There are multiple options for setting up the CAPI. 

Google Tag Manager Server Side

Google Tag Manager Server Side is still in public beta, but it allows you to start working on a cookieless tracking hub. Facebook launched a new server-side tag for the conversion API that uses Google Analytics 4 events to send over data. So, it kind of piggybacks on GA4.

This solution is fast but doesn’t give all the benefits. In this setup, the data is sent from GTM client side (Javascript-based), then sent to GTM server-side, and then sent to Facebook through the Conversion API. In simpler words, this is the same method as the pixel, with the only benefit that Ad Blockers aren’t able to block the connection. 

Server-to-Server Custom built

This option is the most time consuming and complex but provides the full benefits of the Conversion API. You provide your developers with the CAPI documentation and let them set up an automated connection from your platform (for example your CRM, lead generation or e-commerce system). When installed correctly, your conversion data is now sent to Facebook directly without the need of cookies or Javascript. Every conversion is now sent, and when you send over first party data, like hashed email addresses, you’re also able to do remarketing. 

See documentation here

Server-to-Hub-to-Server – Custom built

This builds further on the direct server-to-server option by adding one extra step in between, giving you even more benefits! By connecting your own system to a tracking hub (like server side GTM), you are able to delete, enrich or change the data before it’s sent over to Facebook. You can use this setup for more marketing vendors such as Google Ads, so you get full control of your data. The downside is that you need developers and technical web analysts to build this setup but, in the long run, this is the best route you can take. 

Partner integration

Facebook also provides some plug and play, out-of-the-box partner integrations. This simply means that frequently used systems like WordPress, Magento, Salesforce, Shopify etc. have modules that you can turn on, authenticate and, without any development or technical work, send over data through the Conversion API. It offers less flexibility in terms of data enrichment, deletion or modifications, but it’s a quick method to get started. 

New: CAPI-G – Conversion API Gateway

The most recently launched solution from Facebook (October, 2021). Facebook realised how technical implementations can get and that organisations were not making the move to use the Conversion API, so they’ve built a do-it-yourself interface in the Business / Ads Manager where you can walk through some steps to set up your CAPI. This is done by transferring your conversion data to a cloud server in AWS, which you can set up without technical knowledge, which then sends over the data to Facebook through the Conversion API. For companies without a lot of resources, this is an accessible and less costly way to set it up, but do realise that you won’t have the same flexibility as with the third option. The CAPI-G has multiple benefits: speed; cost efficiency; low technical lift, and low maintenance costs. 

What is the urgency?

If you don’t implement a solution that’s not so reliant on cookies, you won’t be able to show relevant ads to your customers. Also, your Facebook campaign won’t measure as many conversions anymore which makes the optimisation models perform suboptimal. Facebook is also canceling features like the conversion lift study if you make use of the Facebook Conversion API, which makes sense when you’re not properly tracking conversions. So, to conclude, the urgency is definitely there, and it’s time to start working on non-cookie-reliant solutions like the Facebook Conversion API.

Need help?

We partnered up with Facebook to help organisations and clients set up the Conversion API. This involves matching the right approach as every organisation is different and has its data stored in a wide range of systems. Don’t hesitate to contact us when you’re not sure on how to set it up, or what method fits your organisation best.


Jemima van Oldenbarneveld

Lead Social Consultant

Jemima van Oldenbarneveld

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