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  • Dec 30, 2022
Moving past cookies and still accurately tracking conversions across biddable campaigns

Moving Past Cookies and Still Accurately Tracking Conversions Across Biddable Campaigns

Changes in consumer privacy have changed the digital advertising ecosystem over the past few years, with even more changes coming in the next few months. Conversion tracking is one key part of the digital ecosystem that has been impacted significantly by this. This is not only essential for ad networks, but also the most susceptible to new browser restrictions and ad blockers, as it traditionally relies on pixels. Increasingly, pixel-based conversion tracking is being restricted by various browsers, notably Firefox and Edge.

In response, all of the major publishers (Meta, Google, Twitter etc) are rolling out “Conversion APIs” (CAPIs) as a way to share events server-side, essentially “cutting out the middleman,” which makes them much more powerful because the integration is very reliable and unrestricted by browser restrictions. The downside to server-side APIs is that they’re much more time- and resource-intensive to implement than simply embedding a web pixel into your website (which can typically be done with little to no developer dependency).

In this article, we’ll look at the following:

  • What CAPIs are
  • Some challenges with CAPIs
  • Using Data Warehouses to store CAPI events

Increase in prominence of Conversion APIs

Pixels are the basic building blocks of the digital advertising ecosystem. Introduced by Facebook in 2012 with their web pixel, this tracking mechanism captures website interactions or browser events (eg: pageviews, product views, add-to-cart, purchase, etc.). Conversion data not only powers ad reporting but is also the primary data source for follow-up marketing actions, such as retargeting and, more importantly, it drives ML audience optimization which leads to improved campaigns performance and the creation of similar audiences (lookalike modeling).

In essence, conversion data is used to track various user events from ad platforms to optimize ads, build audiences, and remarket to people based on the actions they have taken on your website or app.

In the past, the main (and easiest) way to share this data was through a Facebook Pixel, which uses third-party cookies to share data back to the Facebook ad platform directly from browser events. Recently, however, changes in consumer privacy laws, third-party cookies, and increasing restrictions through ad blockers have all drastically limited pixels’ ability to collect conversion data and user actions. In fact, Facebook themselves have acknowledged the extent of the issue. One of the solutions Facebook has suggested as a workaround is the Facebook Conversion API (Facebook CAPI) to capture lost event data.


What is CAPI?

A CAPI (also known as a server-side API) is a way to share all of your user data server-side, and it is all managed directly by you. This conversion tracking method is more flexible because it is not limited to a pixel’s capability, and is therefore less susceptible to privacy laws, ad blockers and changing browser restrictions.

Additionally, CAPIs can receive data from offline conversions and events, or anywhere within the customer journey, giving you increased flexibility to track your users across the funnel. You also get the flexibility to decide just which events you want to send to the ad platforms.

It isn’t just Facebook; every other major ad platform has been affected by recent privacy changes, and most are rolling out their own versions of conversion APIs – Google Enhanced Conversions, SnapChat Conversions API, and TikTok Events. Twitter and Amazon are expected to follow suit soon.

Getting Started With CAPIs

The major downside to CAPIs lies in the developer dependency – it takes effort to effectively implement them, unlike pixels that are just a simple piece of code that needs to be embedded into every page of your website. Fortunately, the right implementation choices can significantly reduce the time and effort it takes to set up CAPIs.

Some Event Tracking Issues

In many cases, there are a variety of events that are being tracked across a user’s journey:

  • Leads in a CRM
  • Utilization events in Digital Products
  • Engagement events across digital touchpoints
  • ATC & Purchase events in eCommerce

These might require multiple point solutions, but connecting such solutions to CAPIs has a few disadvantages:

  • Development Costs – Connecting multiple solutions increases development costs, as well as associated maintenance efforts
  • Incomplete Data – Some important events may occur in third-party systems that you do not have direct access to, and therefore might miss out on
  • Lower match rates – When pushing events directly from application servers, you will only have access to the user event data that is available within the context of a specific action (Click, Page View, Add To Cart, etc)


Using a Data Warehouse to Store Conversion Actions

Creating a data warehouse for conversion events significantly reduces the development effort and time taken to start seeing actual value. 

Aggregating user event data within the data warehouse naturally results in a more complete view of the user journey, with not just purchase events but other associated ones as well. The data warehouse also stores other events that a typical web pixel cannot capture, such as offline purchases and post-purchase events ( returns, loan approvals, etc.)

The FB Pixel captures 17 online conversion event types. A data warehouse would contain many of the same event types, both online and offline. Additionally, nearly all CAPIs handle the standard events that a conventional web pixel would track.



In a world where privacy-related changes are constantly cropping up, it becomes crucial to think about ways in which data can be effectively captured and used while keeping up with all these privacy requirements. We need to think of new and creative ways to build data pipelines in order to give users the most optimized marketing experiences, and to ensure brands spend their marketing dollars effectively. Tracking user events is a first step toward that goal, and implementing CAPIs effectively is where it all begins.


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