Google recently rolled out a beta called “enhanced conversions“, a feature to improve the accuracy of your conversion measurement by sending hashed first party user data to Google relative to a conversion action. This extra explicit data assignment gives Google a better chance of matching that valuable user action to ads that might have influenced the related user.

Google vs. Facebook: the battle to identify users

Facebook is a ubiquitous identify platform. Everyone using Facebook must be logged into their personal Facebook account, and users do not share accounts – so there is certainly the user is who they are logged in as.

Why does this matter? If, while honoring security & privacy preferences of users and regulations thereof, Facebook can use first party data to match user activity to a Facebook account, without being dependent on soon-to-be-extinct cookies, Facebook is able to accurately attribute valuable user actions to advertising. This is a huge deal when it comes to tracking integrity in a world of increasing tracking disintegration (Safari ITP + iOS 14 tracking changes).

Google has more of a patchwork identify platform. Yes, millions of users are logged into their Google account while using Chrome as their browser. Same with Youtube, and Gmail, Google Maps, etc. But, users often don’t have a single ubiquitous account across these apps as do Facebook users, and in some scenarios they can use the service without being logged in to an account. Also, Google accounts are more likely to be shared (e.g., a parent allowing a child to watch YouTube videos on their mobile phone). As such, Google ends up doing a good bit of modeling to track user activity across all of these apps – and relative to advertising attribution.

Facebook advanced matching

To take advantage of their identify platform in tracking Facebook user activity outside of the Facebook mobile app & website, Facebook’s pixel can be configured to engage in advanced matching. Advanced matching is sending hashed first party user data to Facebook with pixel events that allow Facebook to better match user activity with a Facebook user account.

There is automatic advanced matching (AAM), which is a pixel setting where the pixel code tries to guess at user data fields in form submissions. There’s also manual advanced matching (MAM), where digital property owners specifically purpose to assign user data with a custom pixel code implementation. Facebook’s best practice is to engage AAM, but their best-best practice is to engage both AAM and MAM. These tools greatly increase Facebook’s chance of associating related activity with a Facebook user account, which is critical to drive accurate attribution reporting & conversion optimization – and also to build richer, larger audiences for targeting.

Google Ads Enhanced Conversions

Facebook’s advanced matching has been around for a while, and Google is playing catch up with their new enhanced conversions beta effort. This is definitely a tracking technique worth considering. But, once again – you must do so honoring security & privacy preferences of users and regulations thereof. We’ll be setting up enhanced conversions with Google Tag Manager for all our clients where this beta is enabled. As of February 2021, you have to request enabling this tracking technique from your Google rep.

Next up? Google will imitate Facebook’s Conversions API

For a while Google has offered an “Offline Conversions Tracking” (OTC) solution. This requires that you save the Google click ID (GCLID) from an ad click relative to digital property conversions, and send that data to Google along with the name of the conversion, the date / time it happened, and its value (if applicable). With the advent of enhanced conversions, it is not a stretch to expect Google to apply this concept to their own version of the Facebook Conversions API. This solution from Facebook allows for sending conversion data along with first party user data to allow for matching the valuable action to a Facebook user account. But, this approach is not just useful for matching with online activity. It also can serve offline scenarios. Surely Google is headed in this direction as well, sooner than later.

Google Ads Enhanced Conversions imitates Facebook Advanced Matching