Digital Marketing

Are you ready for Facebook’s changes to Attribution Windows?

Rachel Fyfe

2 Dec 2020

Facebook is constantly evolving and it can be hard to keep up, but this is an important change that you’ll want to be across! 

What are Attribution Windows?

An attribution window, or conversion window, is the number of days between when a person viewed or clicked your ad and took an action, such as a purchase. These actions are measured based on clicks and views of your ad:

  • Click-through attribution: A person clicked your ad and took an action.
  • View-through attribution: A person saw your ad, didn’t click it, but took an action within the attribution window.

Actions that occur within Facebook, like a video view, are recorded in Facebook’s Ads Manager. Actions taken off your ad, such as a purchase on your website, are attributed to your ad if they happened within a certain number of days after someone viewed or clicked on your ad. 

By default, your attribution window is set to: one-day view and 28-day click. This means you see actions that happened one day after someone viewed your ad, and up to 28 days after someone clicked your ad. 

The length of time for the conversion window depends on the product or service you are promoting. If you are advertising something that requires a bit of consideration (longer purchase cycle), such as a computer or a luxury item, you’ll want to use a longer conversion window, as it’s not unreasonable to expect a person to click on an ad for a computer and take a week to consider the purchase before making it. In this case, you would consider a seven days or longer attribution window.

So, what is Facebook changing?

Facebook is updating the default click-through attribution window to 7 days and removing access to the current default of 28 days. This change was planned to roll out as a test to select advertisers, but after taking into account advertiser feedback, they decided to not proceed with the test for any advertiser in Q4 2020. 

Facebook experts say this change is due to upcoming digital privacy initiatives expected to limit businesses’ ability to measure people’s interactions across domains and devices. This includes limiting the ability for businesses to attribute conversion events back to an ad over various attribution windows. 

When should I expect these changes?

As early as January 2021.

Removing the 28-day click-through attribution window may come as a shock for advertisers who have become accustomed to this long attribution window. Now, any actions that occur after the seven days will no longer be attributed to your ads, resulting in fewer reported conversions.

Despite the unease from advertisers, Facebook says the new attribution window will be more resilient to any future internet browser changes, enable businesses to better measure marketing investments on Facebook and make the attribution window a more sustainable measurement strategy. 

Interested to know what I found?

I compared a seven-day attribution window to a 28-day attribution window for a leading online retailer to highlight potential differences. The results showed fewer purchases (reported conversions) and a lower ROAS (return on ad spend) compared to a 28-day attribution window.

Total Purchases decreased by 39.23% 

ROAS decreased by 40.43% 

This tells us that roughly 40% of purchases were recorded after the seven-day window, and these purchases will no longer be attributed to Facebook once the change has been implemented. 

How can I prepare for these changes?

You can:

  • Use the Comparing Windows feature to see how conversions attributed to your ads compared across different attribution windows. This will allow you to better anticipate any changes in reported conversions as a result of moving to a seven-day window.

  • Export any historical 28-day attribution window data needed before the changes go into effect on October 12, 2020.

  • Update any automated rules currently using a 28-day attribution window to prevent any unexpected adjustments in spend once the new seven-day click-through window default goes into effect.

  • Communicate this planned change with clients or key stakeholders, explaining how this may affect future reported conversions. 

  • Tag URLs with UTMs so that all data is being displayed at Google Analytics attribution settings so you will have a consistent view of the same attribution setting across all channels as a comparison.

  • Compare reported results between Facebook and Google Analytics. GA’s attribution window defaults to a 30-day attribution window.

How do I change the Attribution Window?

You can change the attribution window to show one-day, seven-day and 28-day view and click attribution. To see all activity related to your ad, you should change your attribution window by selecting both view-through and click-through attribution for the same time period to see if people are taking action after seeing or clicking on your ad.

The Bottom Line

As the Facebook attribution window is planned to decrease from almost a month to a week, you are likely to see less reported conversions if the actions you value and measure happen off Facebook. However, it is important to keep in mind that this new model is likely to be a more accurate result of your Facebook marketing efforts.
Learn more about Facebook’s attribution model.

By Rachel Fyfe, Social Media Lead at GrowthOps

GrowthOps Digital is a full-service digital agency that offers end to end digital marketing services such as Google Ads, Social Media, Partnership Marketing, and more. Speak to us about your growth needs today.