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Handbook Chapter 4

Audience creation with the pixel



If the algorithm is Facebook’s brain, then the pixel is its all-seeing eye.

Without your own pixel, you only get half the power of Facebook marketing.

Install it properly to improve your ROI through better campaign tracking, create higher-value audiences, and retarget shoppers who bought or almost bought.

The power of the pixel lays in its ability to track user behavior and pass information back to Facebook from third-party sites like yours.

In this chapter, we’ll guide you through setting up your pixel – a basic installation is straightforward and generally the best option. Then we’ll take you further, all the way through to retargeting so you can double down on abandoned carts and converted shoppers.

Meet pixel, your secret audience builder

Using a Facebook pixel is an integral part of building your Facebook audience – it’s Facebook’s way of tracking the performance of your campaigns and creating custom audiences to help you expand your marketing. It’s staggeringly useful to marketers for two main reasons:

  1. It tells you the ROI of your campaign (conversions that are coming through).
  2. It lets you build campaigns and custom audiences off the traffic coming to your site.

The Facebook pixel has been around since the inception of Facebook Ads Manager. It made good business sense for them to build a way to track the performance of campaigns once ads were being run from Facebook to external sites, so that’s what they did.

The pixel is to Facebook ads what Google Analytics is to Google Adwords. The pixel started to evolve as soon as it was created – Facebook started to add a lot of different ad objectives (such as to build awareness, increase engagement, or drive traffic to your website) that could be optimized through the pixel.

But what is it exactly? The Facebook pixel is essentially a cookie that gets left on your website. It’s a third-party Javascript that fires off information to Facebook about the Facebook profile of visitors to the site: who they are, and information about their demographics and interests. It also shares data about the company using the pixel.

For example, if a company chooses to share the value of a product purchased on their site through a pixel, Facebook can read that data and make its algorithm smarter when optimizing for conversions.

The pixel is an essential tool when it comes to tracking, monitoring, and measuring ROI on all Facebook campaigns. People are dependent on it not only for conversion tracking, but also for creating lookalike audiences and retargeting. It constantly updates and therefore doesn’t require the slower method of manually uploading custom audiences for ads to track against.

It also has auto-matching which allows the pixel to gain more data from your website to make your ads more precise, the trade-off being that it can be considered invasive. Those with privacy concerns regarding social media may not want to have their actions on the platform tracked by a pixel.

Gerard tip
How the pixel got its name

How to install your pixel

Installation is fast and painless. Start by opening your Facebook Business Manager/Ads Manager.

Open the Menu and hit Pixels on the navigation pane.

  1. Name your pixel (ideally you’d give it the name of your company).
  2. Install it. You have 3 options:
    • Do it yourself.
    • Email the code and instructions to a developer (Facebook provides both).
    • Connecting to Google Tag Manager (if you’re using it) should automatically install the pixel for you.

If you’re installing the pixel yourself, instructions may differ depending on what platform you use, but Facebook will try to simplify the process as much as possible by giving you a single code to use.

In most popular website building platforms, they provide an option in their settings where you can enter the Facebook code.

If you’re not sure you installed your pixel correctly, download the Chrome extension Facebook Pixel Helper. Once installed, it can help you see if there’s a Facebook pixel installed on your website, check for errors, and clarify which data is coming from your pixel.

Rena tip
Install your own (basic) pixel without a developer

Creating custom events

When you install a pixel, it will initially go into every page of your website and you’ll be able to track who visits which page. This ability is known as a ‘standard Facebook event’.

As long as every page on your website has only one purpose, these standard events will give you enough information to effectively track and retarget users.

If you want to track at a finer level, however, you’ll need custom events or custom conversions.


Events are actions people take on your site, such as buying something or reaching a level in a game.

Parameters are specific data points for an event, like the amount paid for a purchase ($79.95) or the level achieved in the game (Advanced).

The most common custom events and parameters that smart marketers create are:

  • Setting up a cart and checkout (if you’re an e-commerce site), and tracking when people add to the cart, when they go to the checkout page, when they make a purchase, and what the value of the purchase is. Don’t make the mistake of only tracking when someone makes a purchase or you’ll miss key data on why people aren’t converting (finalizing their purchases) and for what value they convert. This will help you identify any blockages in your sales funnel and help you judge whether someone is worth retargeting.

  • For SaaS and service-based companies, you’ll want to track email subscriptions and when someone signs up for a free trial (and how many products they try), etc. This will give you a stronger idea if the audiences you’re getting from Facebook are qualified and going all the way through your funnel.

In most cases, you’ll need a developer to make custom events and conversions possible for your site.

The exception is if you’re using one of the larger website creation platforms like Wordpress, Squarespace, or Wix. Once you’ve installed your pixel in your settings, you’ll have the power of custom events and parameters set up already.

Standard versus custom events

Standard events sometimes reveal more

Standard events tell Facebook a lot more than custom events alone, because they can read on-page details. For example, if someone is buying something from you, you want to be able to see that on Facebook’s end and send that data through Facebook to your pixel.

With custom events, the data would only show that your site had 10 purchases that week. But with standard events, you’d get a lot more information, such as that those 10 purchases equated $5,000 in revenue.

For example, if you want to drive people to sign up for a free trial on your website, Facebook can track this lead action. This advanced implementation does require more coding, and you have to go into each page you want to track as a conversion event and install the code there.

Facebook calls this a ‘standard event’. Companies tend to go this route if they have a concern with privacy and want to protect their data – implementing their own tracking code means they’re not sharing all their website data with Facebook.

The downside is that there are some optimization events and tools on Facebook’s end that can only restart an event – you’ll probably need to install the custom code yourself.

Passing additional data via custom parameters

Using standard events and working with a developer allows you to access more data and find out how the values you’re measuring are being pulled.

One usage example is when you have a shopping cart with $100 of purchases, you might want to know how that is being pulled into your website.

Working with a developer, you can figure out that value and add it to the tracking code. Because these are advanced tactics, working with a developer is advisable (unless you’re a developer yourself, in which case, you’ve got this).

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Work with a developer to build custom code into your pixel.
  2. Use Google Tag Manager, which will walk you through how to set the variables and values, and then you can install the pixel through it.

The second option is more of an onerous process, but the tradeoff is that the better the data you provide Facebook, the better your Facebook ad campaigns will perform.


Leverage your pixel on Instagram

Your Facebook pixel can also be used on Instagram, since the two platforms are linked.

That means any data that goes to Facebook is passed on to Instagram as well. In fact, many people market on Facebook with the main intention of leveraging their third-party platform audiences.

To do this, target your ad to your right column News Feed on Facebook. Your ad will then be blasted out to Facebook’s third-party network, which is essentially Facebook’s display platform.

In this case, the pixel has the important function of allowing you to remarket and expand your audience by finding lookalike audiences.

Remarketing to recapture lost shoppers

Remarketing comes into play when you’re creating ad sets in Facebook. In the simplest terms, it means you have the opportunity to choose where the ad is going.

You have several options for setting this up: the ad can be served to Facebook, Instagram, the Messenger app, or other third party platforms. When you’re creating these ad sets with the pixel in mind, you’re able to use these platforms to see how you’re marketing to those people and what you’re tracking.

Why is remarketing so important?

Without remarketing you can’t effectively track your conversions, so you’re missing out on opportunities to remarket to people who have been to your site or who have put items in their shopping cart but not checked out. These are prime audiences you won’t be able to target without a pixel. Typically, they’re highly likely to convert but got distracted during the conversion process.

Remarketing allows you to follow up with them via ads that might motivate them to go back and make a purchase. You can create ads using your pixel that will tell Facebook something like: ‘this person has already come to our landing page and added a product to their cart, but then abandoned it’ and Facebook will retarget them using different (and more creative) methods.

You can think of remarketing or retargeting as the MOST targeted way of talking to your potential buyers.

E-commerce brands run into these types of conversion issues constantly. With potential buyers who abandon their carts, it works best to let Facebook decide how often to retarget them.

Ken tip
Track events for cost-effective remarketing

How often to remarket

Facebook has its own frequency caps on serving ads. As a general guideline, how often to retarget depends on your target audience and the cost of the product.

With lower-priced products that someone didn’t complete the checkout process for, it’s more likely it was an impulse buy, so you wouldn’t want to follow up with them too much. 2-3 times is a good maximum.

For a higher-priced, higher-end product, buyers typically need more convincing. They’re interested, but unsure about spending the money.

With this longer product life cycle, you may actually need to retarget them many times to get them to convert. Facebook can also gauge the proper frequency of serving up ads to them before they drop off.

Facebook always has the user in mind when it comes to doing what they can to get them to stay on their platform longer. So if you’re serving up an ad that is creating a negative experience (they either scroll right by or hide your ad), Facebook will see that and kill the ad in terms of spend and reach to stop it being served to these same people repeatedly. Facebook’s got your back!

Also, remarketing is a good general fallback tactic when you know your ad is not performing as well as before.

Sometimes just switching out your messaging and creative (otherwise known as A/B testing) is all you need to do to see results again.

Getting more out of remarketing

Go ahead and get creative! Don’t get hung up on only remarketing to the last point before conversion (for e-commerce brands, this would be someone adding something to their cart).

For example, if you have a blog post that’s getting a lot of traction (maybe it’s a case study that people are getting a ton of value from), remarket to these people and eventually you can create a portfolio of blog posts on the same theme with high conversion rates that you can keep serving up to people in remarketing campaigns.

Then you can bundle these up and create ads that target this niche audience showing high interest in your content for more of a longer engagement campaign. You’re providing ongoing value and no longer just focusing on the end result of conversion. You’ve just killed two birds with one stone.

Save your audiences for later

Saved audiences are your gold standard audience for when you’ve figured out what works. It’s an efficiency play to have these on deck.

Once you’ve narrowed down interests, behavior, and demographic, and have a really dialed-down audience, you can then retarget them again and again when you know what they’re likely to respond to. There’s no need to constantly rebuild your audience from the ground up.

Once you have your audiences created and saved, you can reuse them whenever you like. One thing to note: you can’t create these without the Facebook pixel unless you only want to create saved audiences with interest targets, and not for custom audiences.

Once you’ve got this audience, you need to engage them. Here’s how to do it.

Creating engaged audiences that are likely to buy

From watched videos

When it comes to thinking about how to create an engaged audience, you should revisit what we covered in Chapter 1 and figure out what objective you’re targeting for Facebook ads. To build engagement, you’d most likely select an awareness or consideration campaign. You can do this in two ways:

  1. Create a video ad for people to watch and engage with.
  2. Create blog posts and other engaging content that lives on your site and that people have to click through to to interact with.

When you create custom audiences for this awareness campaign, you’ll get to choose where you pull these audiences from. A great option for this is Post Engagement, so you could target people who have watched either your entire video start to finish, or who only watched 50-75% of it. Try to figure out what the difference in conversion is like between those two audiences.

In your Facebook ad campaign, blast out your awareness or consideration campaign to the 100,000 people who watched part of your video ad (at least 50%) and create a new saved audience out of them. Then you can remarket to them!

This is powerful because while they may have watched your video ad, they haven’t been to your site before. You can now direct them there because you’ve already engaged them.

You know they’re engaged because they actually watched your work of art instead of just scrolling right past it to the next shiny object in their News Feed. This is hugely valuable because video is highly engaging and can help you create an engaged audience you can remarket to again and again.

This enables you to quickly build large audiences of qualified leads who are now interested in your product.

From page interactions

This works the same with traffic you’ve directed to your site that has resulted in blog or landing page views. You can find people who landed from a consideration campaign and people who landed from your blog posts and retarget them.

You could even target campaigns to people who have messaged you before (through your business page), people who have liked and shared your post, or simply people who are already fans of your page.

This is why it’s so important to make sure your pixel is already in place: so you can benefit from people who are visiting your site and run a remarketing campaign to them.

If you’re using videos that live on Facebook in your ads, they don’t need you add the pixel to your ad campaign because you’re not sending them off the platform.

When you create custom audiences of people who are ‘page interactors,’ it’s always best to keep them on the platform until you feel they’re qualified leads you can send off Facebook and straight to your site.

Test until you’ve figured out which of these audiences (such as the ones who message you versus ones who like and share your content) is clicking through to your site and converting more.

Videos people consume on Facebook will outperform blog posts people read on your site and off Facebook. It’s always harder to get people to click on a button that leads them off Facebook, so it’s better to host your video on your Facebook business page instead.

Another example is that if you’re running Canvas ads that function as mini-landing pages that live on Facebook, it’s essentially like recreating a landing page off your website and within Facebook.

Run dual campaigns where one is an awareness campaign that sends people to your Canvas ad to educate people about your product, then run the same campaign to a mobile landing page that looks exactly like your Canvas ad.

You’ll then want to run a comparison to see how much time people are spending on Facebook versus on your mobile landing page.

Spoiler alert: Facebook Canvas ads will beat them nearly every time because Facebook has an algorithmic preference for ads that keep people on their platform.

From opened/completed lead forms

This option is a really great tool for people who are running service-based or SaaS businesses, or who have sales organizations.

Facebook lead forms are perfect for these types of businesses because they allow you to create a campaign and then have users who are interested in those ads give you their contact information via the lead form without ever having to leave Facebook, so it’ll feel less like they’re just handing over information or money to an unknown business and more like they found something interesting while scrolling through Facebook.

If you qualify a lead enough through the ad itself (because it’s targeting specific demographics and interests), and then you’ve built enough trust for them to give out their email address or phone number, it’s highly likely they’ll convert.

Many businesses choose to build their lead lists solely through Facebook ads because it’s such an easy and low-barrier way to convert. There are far fewer steps than requiring someone to click on an ad, go to your website, fill out a form that has 4-5 fields, and then submit their information.

In fact, users don’t have to type in information about themselves at all. When users click the Sign Up button in your Facebook ad, Facebook will then pull their data in automatically, making the process super-smooth.

Auto-filling has been shown to result in much higher conversions, and people tend to see lower CPAs on Facebook when using lead forms. This also gives you two retargeting options:

  1. People who opened your lead form but didn’t fill it out all the way (retarget them with an ad nudging them to complete it, or with a different ad that that might help convince them further by including social proof about why people like the product).
  2. People who did complete the lead form and hit Submit (retarget them with more offers or more information about a specific product to help guide them through the consideration funnel).
Pro tip

Use pixel to keep your email list up-to-date

If you harvest email addresses off-site, they won’t be updated if the person changes the address.

If you harvest them from Facebook, however, they’ll be automatically updated when that person updates their personal data.

There are some caveats here, of course (aren’t there always?) For example, if you’re a B2B company, you might not want lead forms that automatically fill out someone’s personal data because most people don’t use their business email to sign up for Facebook, and a SaaS company would only be interested in collecting business addresses.

You have to figure out the right trade-off for how much data to collect in your lead forms that will still qualify the individual without putting them off or making them feel like they’re sharing too much personal information.

Definitely A/B test this to help you find the sweet spot of including enough qualifying information to disqualify people who won’t make good leads. Just make sure you’re not causing people to bounce because you’re asking 20 questions on something they want to spend less than two minutes on.


Pixel gives clarity. Without a pixel plugged into your website, you can’t connect activity on your site with your campaigns on Facebook.

Standard events are powerful. You don’t need custom events along as every page on your site has a single purpose (privacy can be an issue, though).

Custom parameters are useful. Even though you need a developer to implement them, custom parameters give you greater insight into things like purchase values.

Remarket to abandoned carts. Get distracted shoppers back to your site with retargeting campaigns geared toward reminding them what they forgot to buy.

Save and build engaged audiences. Create lookalike audiences based on those that convert. Engage (and eventually convert) this new audience with a full-funnel campaign.