The impact of Apple IOS 14.5 update on Facebook Ads

Last Updated: February 18, 2022

What is Apple IOS 14.5 update?

Apple released IOS 14.5 on April 26, 2021, which requires all mobile apps in the App Store to show a prompt to users on IOS 14 devices. This prompts basically ask users whether they want the app to track them.

Here is how this prompt looks like:

ask app not to track

As you would expect, most users said NO.

When Facebook first issued the statement that Apple is going to hurt small businesses with this update, many critics brushed it off as nothing more than a self-serving statement.

While it is a self-serving statement, it is also true that for many businesses Facebook is the only affordable advertising option. And this update is in fact hurting them really badly.

Following are some of the important negative impacts of the IOS 14.5 update on Facebook ads:

attribution windows gone small
  1. A sharp decline in reported traffic and returning users from Facebook ads on mobile devices.
  2. The ‘Landing page views’ metric is no longer reliable.
  3. A decline in the size of the website based custom audiences.
  4. People using IOS 14.5 or later devices may not be excluded from your targeting.
  5. Underreporting of events, custom conversions, ROAS and results.
  6. The reported CPA (‘cost per result’) is no longer reliable.
  7. The cost controls (cost cap, minimum ROAS, Bid cap) are no longer effective because of underreporting of conversions.
  8. A/B testing is no longer reliable because of underreporting of landing page views and conversions.
  9. ‘Website purchases’ and ‘Website purchase conversion value’ metrics are no longer reliable because of underreporting of purchases and inclusion of view-through purchases.
  10. View-through conversions are no longer reported separately.
  11. Retirement of Facebook Attribution tool, Facebook analytics tool and Facebook Audience Insights tool.
  12. 28 days click/view attribution windows gone.
  13. Ability to analyze reports via different attribution windows gone.
  14. Targeting by age and gender has gone worse.
  15. Lots of conversions are being attributed to ‘Uncategorized‘ and ‘Unknown’.
  16. A maximum of 8 events can be configured per domain using Aggregated Events.

You need to be in the advertising space to understand the true pain of this update.

If you don’t know where your website sales are really coming from, you can not find and scale winning channels, campaigns, ads and keywords. You then can not get rid of the losers.

Use Facebook Conversion API along with your Facebook Pixel

Ever since the IOS 14.5 update, your Facebook pixel has been getting weaker and if you don’t do anything about it then sooner or later Facebook advertising may become unprofitable for you.

The Facebook pixel is getting weaker because it is unable to collect data from those website users who opted out of tracking and the number of such users continues to increase.

As the Facebook pixel collects less data about the users, the size of your custom audiences continues to shrink.

Since your lookalike audiences are based on your custom audience, your lookalike audiences deteriorate and as a result, your CPM, CPC and CPA start going up.

To mitigate some of the negative impacts of the IOS update, Facebook recommends that you use the Facebook Conversion API (CAPI) along with your Facebook pixel.

When you use the CAPI, you collect server-based events. Such events feed your pixel in the absence of corresponding browser-based events.

However, unless you use server-side tracking, you won’t be able to use the CAPI.

How to deal with the Facebook conversions being attributed to ‘uncategorized’ and ‘unknown’ after IOS 14.5 update

The Apple IOS 14.5 update has created two new abominations called ‘uncategorized‘ and ‘unknown‘. The majority of conversions are attributed to them.

uncategorized and unknown

Now we have no idea where the sales came from. Now how do we find winners and losers?

How do we scale advertising? Is this the end of advertising profitably? Is there any solution to this problem?

There is.

The first solution is that you invest in an advanced attribution modelling solution. However, it is going to cost you thousands of dollars a month.

The second and cheaper solution is to look into the CRM connected with your Facebook sales funnel:


You can then find the exact location from which each sale came and in many cases also find the gender of your customers.

However, if you don’t have a CRM, if you don’t have Facebook sales funnel and the CRM does not integrate with your funnel then you are screwed.

That’s why the knowledge of marketing attribution is so important.

How to reduce the cost of your Facebook remarketing campaigns after IOS 14.5 update

Here is one quick and easy trick to greatly reduce the cost of your remarketing campaigns on Facebook within a couple of days….

reduce marketing cost

Ever since the IOS 14.5+ updates, the size of your custom audience has been shrinking because of the people opting out of tracking on Apple IOS devices and because of other privacy restrictions.

So if you are using a custom audience like ‘Website Visitors in last ___ days’ for re-targeting purposes, it does not really represent your true website visitors in last _ days.

So what you can do is create a new custom audience that is based on the following event: “Everyone who engaged with your page in last __ days’.

For example, “Everyone who engaged with your page in the last 180 days”:

everyone who enaged with your page

When you create and use such a custom audience, you can re-target all those people who visited your Fan page or interacted with your ad or post in any way (reactions, shares, link clicks, comments, carousel swipes etc).

And since this custom audience is based on a Facebook source (as opposed to your source), it is likely to also include all those people who visited your website after clicking on your ads but under normal circumstances can still not be re-targeted because of IOS 14.5+ updates.

Facebook can still track anything that happens within the Facebook ecosystem, on its own platform.

So you can use this custom audience “Everyone who engaged with your page in last __ days’ along with your regular custom audience and can thus increase the overall size of your retargeting audience. 

An increase in the size of your retargeting audience tends to make your advertising cheaper. 

When we used this tactic on some of the retargeting ad sets, the cost per result dropped by almost 50% within a few days. So it is worth testing.

How to report on the performance of Facebook Ads after IOS 14.5

Here is how I report on Facebook ads performance (the attribution window could vary from business to business)

Total Facebook Ad Spend: $____

Our fees: $___

Total Spend: Total Facebook Ad Spend + Our Fees

Website Purchase Conversion Value (based on 7 days click or 1 day view attribution window) : $____

Assisted Sales: $____

Note(1): Facebook stopped reporting on Last click sales and Last view sales. Facebook also stopped reporting on sales based on attribution windows.

Note(2): These results do not include conversions from people who have opted out of tracking on iOS 14. So there is heavy underreporting of conversions and conversion values.

Return on Ad Spend = (Website Purchase Conversion Value + Assisted Sales) / Total Spend

That’s it.

We don’t report on impressions, clicks and CTR of each and every campaign, ad set or ad. That’s all BS reporting. That’s an attempt to mask the real performance.

We often audit the reports of marketing agencies. They are usually several pages long and full of crap.

The client does not understand what is really going on and then we have to explain to them in terms of ROAS.

  1. Referral Traffic in Google Analytics Explained
  2. Facebook Attribution and Conversion Windows Tutorial
  3. Facebook ROI Calculation, Analysis and Examples
  4. How to set up the Facebook Attribution Tool
  5. How to Setup Funnels in Facebook Ads Manager
  6. How to use funnels for your Facebook Ad Campaigns
  7. Secret to Setup Facebook Pixel Tracking Correctly in Google Tag Manager
  8. Facebook Pixel vs Google Analytics Data Discrepancies
  9. Referral Traffic in Google Analytics Explained
  10. Learn to set up Facebook Pixel via Google Tag Manager
  11. Send Facebook Pixel Purchase Event via Google Tag Manager
  12. Open Graph Protocol for Facebook Explained with Examples
  13. Tracking Facebook ‘Likes’ and ‘Unlikes’ in Google Analytics
  14. Google Analytics for Facebook Tutorial
  15. Facebook Attribution Models Tutorial
  16. GTM Server Side Tagging for Facebook Tutorial
  17. How to advertise on Facebook for FREE with unlimited budget
  18. How to add Facebook Pixel to WordPress Website
  19. How to add Facebook Pixel to WordPress without a Plugin
  20. How to track Facebook events via Google Tag Manager
  21. How to use the Facebook Event Setup Tool
  22. How to use the Facebook Pixel Helper to Test Facebook Events
  23. How to automatically turn off Facebook ads on weekends
  24. How to name Facebook Ad Campaigns like a Pro

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