Facebooks Ads Conversion Tracking: Should I Use Standard Events or Custom Conversions?

Running Facebook Ads without utilizing some form of conversion tracking is a truly catastrophic error. Facebook’s ad management mechanism is built around the ability to dynamically conversion optimize your ads based off of the data it collects from your Facebook Pixel. If you don’t properly install and utilize the Facebook Pixel for conversion tracking, then you’re not taking advantage of this core benefit.You have better odds trying to fly an airplane while blindfolded and drunk then you do at long-term Facebook success without conversion optimization.

When to Use Standard Events:

First, make sure the event you’re attempting to track is included in the nine standard events Facebook makes available. If it is not, you’ll need to build a custom conversion. If you aren’t sure which type of conversion tracking to use, or if both conversion tracking methods will work, I strongly suggest using standard events for long-term conversion and performance tracking.

  • Standard events offer more features
  • Standard events allow for better and more robust reporting
  • Standard events are more accurate
  • Standard events leave less room for errors
  • There’s no limitation in tracking standard events

While standard events are more difficult to create, they’re going to pay off in the long run. Building standard events into your Facebook Pixel deployment isn’t difficult, it can just be a little tedious. I recommend going through your site, page by page, and identifying all of the events you’ll need to define for each page.

Standard event example:

The vast majority of direct purchases or downloads are going to be standard events. If I’m marketing an ebook as a lead magnet, I’m going to add the standard event ‘Lead’ to the “thank you” page that results in a lead magnet download. What this tells me is that anyone who visits this page has converted and is now a lead. I can use this event to conversion optimize my ads as well as for ongoing tracking and reporting.

Keep in mind that events don’t need to signal the completion of a process. There are events (like ‘AddToCart’ and ‘Search’) that simply allow you to track user actions or behaviors. You can still treat these events as “end results” depending upon the needs of your campaign, but they aren’t necessarily a conversion in the strictest sense of the term. I would recommend spending some time reviewing each of the standard events so you can determine which ones will be most useful for your specific needs.

One last note on standard events is the ability to add various parameters to them. These parameters allow you to collect additional data that can be used for future marketing purposes. For instance, the standard event ‘Purchase’ allows you to also track the additional parameter ‘content_ids.’ This means you can segment your global purchases by the individual product they purchased!

When to Use Custom Events:

I see custom events being used for the sake of expediency. I believe very strongly this isn’t the correct approach to take. Just because custom events are easier to setup doesn’t mean they’re going to serve your purpose. However, if you need to build dynamic rules around URLs then custom events are going to be the way for you to go.

Here’s the best way to think about it: if a page always signals the same event, you’re going to want to use standard events. But if a page signals a different event depending upon how your user got there, you’re going to want to use custom events. Custom events allow you to apply really amazing logical rules to your prospect’s journey.

  • Custom events allow you to create conversion rules based upon user behavior instead of simply the page a user lands on
  • Custom events offer extremely advanced logic surrounding how you identify a conversion
  • Custom events can be tracked and reported against independently in your ad management tool

Remember, you’re only allowed to have 40 custom events, so make sure you use them wisely! Also keep in mind that custom events have a much higher propensity for human error. If you define an event with a URL that includes the phrase “thank-you” as a conversion, every single URL with that phrase will track a conversion. Imagine if you have a product on your site called “thank-you-notes” or a blog “thank-you-for-asking.”

I’m not by any means trying to talk you out of using custom events. There are a ton of use cases where they’re the only way to get the job done (in fact, that’s why they even exist), but it’s important for you to know the risks and pitfalls before making any decisions.

Custom event example:

Custom events allow you to identify special use cases and treat them like conversions. For example, if I have a SAAS product I’m marketing, I might decide anyone who has visited my ‘Features and Benefits’ page (/features-and-benefits) and has also downloaded my free trial (/thank-you-for-downloading) but has not yet seen the ‘Pricing’ page (/pricing) is a perfect user to present my cost calculator tool to. I can build that logic utilizing custom conversions and create the URL rules necessary to track users who match that classification.

The Short Version

Use custom conversions if you need a functional approach to conversion tracking that is only possible through the creation of URL rules; otherwise, use standard events. Chances are you’re ultimately going to need to use both as you build out your Facebook campaigns. Just make sure you’re using the right option for the right reasons!

If you’d like more information on the Facebook Pixel, here are some handy-dandy links:

Facebook Pixel FAQs:
https://www.facebook.com/business/help/651294705016616/?ref=u2u

Facebook Pixel Implementation Guide:
https://www.facebook.com/business/help/952192354843755/?ref=u2u

Website Conversions Blueprint Course:
https://facebook.exceedlms.com/student/catalog/show/169947/?ref=u2u

If you want help figuring the whole Facebook Ads thing out, hit us up! We’re killing it with Facebook right now (in fact I’m willing to bet that’s how you found us) and I’d love the opportunity to share what we know.