Ad Optimization

What is a Conversions API (CAPI)?

Get an overview of what a Conversions API is, why you need one to run successful digital marketing in the post iOS 14 world, and what your options are for setting up a Conversions API connection on your eCommerce site.

It’s likely that your Facebook rep, digital agency, or marketing consultant has told you that you need a Conversions API connection. These data connections are not only just a best practice, but the best way to ensure valuable data from your website is making its way back to your ad account. This was always a valuable way to maximize performance and ensure attribution is accurate, but has become increasingly important due to privacy changes in the post iOS14 world.

Let’s dive into an overview of Conversions APIs and what it means for you as a digital marketer working with the Facebook and Shopify platforms. 

What is a Conversions API?

A Conversions API creates a data connection between your website and your advertising platforms. Specifically, you want to be able to share what is happening on your site (clicks, purchases, etc) and who is taking those actions (match actions back to a specific person). When an ad platform has this line of site with what’s happening on your site, it can better understand who your most valuable site visitors are (and find more of them!) as well as which site visitors made purchases (and assign credit to your ads).

Website pixels used to do a great job of this, but between iOS14 opt-outs and the broadspread use of ad blocking web browsers, website pixels are now only effective a small fraction of the time. By Facebook’s own estimates, 60% of the data being sent back to Facebook is being dropped. A Conversions API is a direct data connection, know as server-to-server, to ensure all of this important data actually makes its way back to Facebook.

Facebook’s Conversions API, also known as CAPI, is one of the most broadly used Conversions APIs out there. Initially it was launched to help complex eCommerce sites send more detailed information about specific products to support Dynamic Product Ads. Now setting up a powerful and accurate Facebook CAPI connection is the best way to restore the data loss caused by iOS14.

TikTok, Snapchat, and Google have also developed Conversions API and this server-to-server data sharing is expected to grow in popularity and usefulness, particularly as there are more privacy laws and policy changes in the future.

Why do you need a Conversions API?

Most ad platforms are closed systems, even sometimes called Walled Gardens, where all of their data is centralized and available. But if you are running an eCommerce company, you want those ads to drive people out of the Facebook or Instagram feed to your website when they can browse and buy your products. Once someone leaves the feed, they’ve left the Walled Garden and it becomes both important and challenging for Facebook to know what’s happening outside of their own system.

This is why sending data from your website back to Facebook is so critically important. A Conversions API is the best way to do this for several reasons:

  • Data is sent server-to-server and is not blocked by ad-blocking browsers
  • Data is enriched with browser info (like ip address), product info (like price, name, etc), and user info (like encrypted email, phone number) to send the most possible data back to Facebook
  • Data is sent in real-time, with the highest possible accuracy
  • Data is sent with unique identifiers to ensure that Facebook can deduplicate correctly when it receives info from multiple sources

What benefits do you get when using a Conversions API?

With a well configured, advanced Conversions API connection, your site isn’t impacted by iOS14 data loss, and isn’t impacted by the increasing use of ad blocking technology. You should expect to see improved ad performance, more stable and consistent performance, and more accurate attribution. Why? Because Facebook is getting all of the data it needs to optimize and accurately measure the impact of your ads.

More specifically, here are the key benefits of an advanced Conversions API connection:

  • Greater connectivity between your website and Facebook ad platform
  • Elimination of data sharing problems caused by browser loading failures, network challenges, and ad blockers
  • Increased data governance versus website pixels, due to granular control over precisely what you share and when you share it
  • Improved ad optimization and performance due to better data being fed into Facebook’s machine learning algorithms
  • Improved full funnel measurement due to high accuracy, real-time conversion information with a high match rate back to individual people

Note that not all Conversions API connections are equal. To get all of these benefits, you need to ensure your connection is set up correctly and is setting all of the correct data in the correct structure.

What are your options for Conversions API?

When you are considering leveraging a Conversions API, here are a couple of options to consider: 

  • Facebook Custom CAPI: Anyone may build their own Conversions API connection thanks to Facebook's free tools and documentation. But doing this takes a lot of technical knowledge and time. This is best reserved for fully custom built sites that can’t leverage off-the-shelf solutions.
  • Facebook CAPI Gateway: Facebook's attempt to make setting up a Conversions API connection simpler is the CAPI Gateway. Although it still calls for a high level of technical proficiency, it does provide precise, unambiguous directions.
  • 3rd Party Tool: The process of setting up a Conversions API connection can be streamlined and/or automated by third-party platforms like Popsixle (hey, that's us!), EdgeTag, and Elevar.

Note that attribution platforms like TripleWhale and Northbeam are excellent attribution platforms, but they are not sending back data to Facebook and do not leverage the Conversions API. For the best possible digital ad performance, you need a variety of solutions. For many brands this means working with both a Conversions API partner and an attribution partner. Read more about the difference between Popsixle and TripleWhale here.


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