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What Is the Meta Pixel & What Does It Do?

by Ted Vrountas in Facebook Advertising This image shows how to set up retargeting campaign in Meta pixel.

Beyond its massive audience, there’s no shortage of reasons Facebook is an advertiser’s dream: engaging ad types, helpful integrations, and laser-focused targeting among them.

Arguably the most compelling, though, has nothing to do with those three. It’s not immersive Canvas ads or the ability to target prospects down to the car in their driveway that has advertisers splurging on Facebook ads; it’s the retargeting ability of the Meta Pixel.

What is the Meta Pixel?

The Meta Pixel, also known informally as the Facebook retargeting pixel, is a snippet of code you can insert into the back end of your website. Like other tags, it helps drive and decode key performance metrics generated by a particular platform. Specifically, the Meta Pixel helps businesses with a Facebook page determine and improve the ROI from the world’s biggest social network. Here’s how…

The capabilities of the Meta Pixel

The Meta Pixel can track and boost ROI for businesses on the platform, but so can a lot of tools. Before going into more detail, let’s nail down exactly what the Meta Pixel can do:

Use the pixel to build Custom Audiences

This is one of Facebook’s most powerful targeting capabilities. Instead of building your audience with the social network’s self-serve ad tool, you have the option to let the Meta Pixel do it for you. It makes the whole process faster, easier. But even better, it adds to the effectiveness of your advertising campaigns too.

These audiences aren’t defined by demographics or interests; they’re created from people who have engaged with the page that your pixel is on:

Facebook retargeting pixel Custom Audiences

As a result, they’re more relevant than anything you could build from a general group of Facebook users. They’re people who have already shown an interest in your business.

Use the pixel to build Lookalike Audiences

Custom audiences are great — tailored and relevant. But what about when you want to expand your reach beyond the ones visiting your website?

That’s what Lookalike Audiences are for. By installing the Facebook retargeting pixel, you can use your custom audiences as a starting point for new audiences that Facebook will automatically generate to be similar to the original.

Facebook retargeting pixel Lookalike Audience

That means instead of making an educated guess to create a new targeting group, you can reach ideal prospects like the ones in your custom audience, and you can do it faster than ever.

Use the pixel to track and improve conversions

If there’s one fundamental reason that all Facebook advertisers should use a Meta pixel, it’s to track conversions. Installing one on key post-click landing pages will inform you of who’s converting, which pages they’re visiting, and how much ROI your campaigns are delivering.

That way, you’ll have data to inform next steps for improvement, like a hypothesis for A/B testing. At the test’s conclusion, you’ll have a better idea of which tactics are working and which aren’t.

Use the Meta Pixel for remarketing

The Meta Pixel is versatile. It can:

  • Enhance relevance by serving ads to custom audiences made up of visitors to your website.
  • Boost ad reach by creating audiences from a custom audience of website visitors.
  • Track key performance metrics that matter to your business.
  • Improve conversions on key post-click landing pages.

Looking at all those together with the eyes of an advertiser, you’re probably thinking, “the Meta Pixel is one of the most powerful retargeting tools on the internet.” And you’re right.

A quick retargeting refresher

Chances are you know the idea behind retargeting, but there’s no harm in a refresher…

When prospects arrive at your website for the first time, they’re probably not going to buy what you’re selling. Heck, they might not even download an ebook or claim a consultation even if it’s free.

What they’ll do is probably abandon your page and do some more research, maybe wait around for a better offer from somewhere else…

And at some point they might return to your website of their own accord. Or maybe they won’t.

But as an advertiser you don’t want to leave that decision to chance. In a time when people are busier than ever, you want to stay top-of-mind with an ad that says “Hey, remember that course you were thinking about purchasing? Come check it out again.”

That’s retargeting, also known as remarketing. With the Facebook retargeting pixel, you can serve dynamic ads to audiences who take actions that indicate they’re interested in your products and services. It works like this:

How the Meta Pixel works

For the Meta pixel to work, it needs to be installed on the back-end of all the relevant pages you want to track, create audiences, and remarket with. If you’re using Facebook ads to drive visitors to a click-through post-click landing page where you sell a course, you might want to install it on that page, the following checkout page, and the “thank you” page after that. Here’s why:

Generally, you’ll have three different groups of people to track in this campaign.

The three groups of people

  • Group 1: People who click through to your post-click landing page but don’t progress to the sales page. These people will click on your ad, evaluate your post-click landing page, and decide they’re not ready to buy. The Meta Pixel on that page will add them to an audience that you can target with a tailored Facebook ad that attempts to draw them back to that post-click landing page.
  • Group 2: People who click through the post-click landing page to the sales page but don’t submit a payment. These are people who liked the idea of your course but got spooked by the credit card field on the next page. The Meta pixel on the checkout page will add these people to an audience as well. You can target them with a dynamic Facebook ad that attempts to draw them back to the checkout page. You know these people are further down in the funnel, so maybe a small discount or one-time-offer will push them over the edge to your “thank you” page.
  • Group 3: People who make it all the way through the checkout process to your “thank you” page. The Meta pixel on your “thank you” page will add its visitors to another list, which you can exclude from your other targeting groups to ensure you’re not reaching people with Facebook ads for an offer they’ve already claimed. You can also create an entirely new campaign to cross-sell them on another course or add-on, or even use this group to create a lookalike audience of your ideal customer to find more people likely to purchase your product or service.

The pixel works automatically

And maybe the best part about it all is that it’s done automatically. Once you’ve implanted the Meta pixel on your relevant post-click landing pages, audiences will be continuously updated as people visit different pages.

An audience will be targeted with ads to return to your checkout page until they proceed past the checkout page to the “thank you” page. Once they’ve done that, they’ll be added to a new group of people receiving ads for add-ons and other offers.

All this from one pixel?

If you’ve been an advertiser on Facebook for an extended period of time, you’ll remember the days when you needed two different pixels to do all this. There was the conversion pixel, and the custom audience pixel and each had its own job:

Facebook retargeting pixel comparison

Today, though, they’ve both been replaced by the Meta Pixel, which does the job of the two and more. And it’s just as easy to find and install as the older pixels.

Where to find the Meta Pixel

As an advertiser, getting the Meta pixel all set up is pretty straightforward. If you’re not a Facebook advertiser yet, you’ll need an account to do so. Learn about getting set up here.

If you’re already an advertiser with an account on Facebook, follow these few easy steps to set up your pixel.

Step 1: Navigate to the pixels tab in your Ads Manager.

Step 2: Select “create a pixel.”

Facebook retargeting pixel create

Click “Create” in the box that appears and you’re done creating the pixel. Piece of cake. Now it’s time to install it.

Add the Meta Pixel to your website

Once your pixel is created, all it takes is a few more steps to get it fully set up. What those steps are depend on your role and knowledge of a website’s back-end.

If somebody else adjusts the back-end of your website…

You’ll want to send the installation instructions to him or her. That’s easily done by navigating to the pixels tab in your Ads Manager, selecting “Set up pixel” and then “Email to a developer.” Instructions on how to install the pixel will be sent straight to the email addresses you specify once you hit “send.”

If you update your website’s back-end

If you use a tag manager or a CMS, Facebook offers integrations that allow for an even more streamlined installation. Find them here.

If you’re going to install the Meta pixel yourself, first, you’ll need to locate the header code of the website. Here’s an example from Facebook:

Facebook retargeting pixel header code

Then, copy and paste the code into the bottom portion of the header, above the closing tag as shown above.

And lastly, to ensure your Meta pixel is working, click the “Send Test Traffic” button and wait a few minutes. If you get no response, check to ensure you’ve installed your pixel correctly. If you’re still having trouble, contact Facebook support.

Facebook retargeting pixel test traffic

Once you’ve completed the process, your pixel’s ready to go. But if you want to, you can power it up to do even more.

Take your Meta pixel to the next level

To get even more from your pixel, you can set up events to figure out how your prospects are behaving on your website. These events, like when someone makes a purchase, clicks a button, etc. will give your conversions context.

You’ll have to add an additional piece of code to the back-end of your website, but once you do, your Facebook reports will let you know detailed information about the behavior of your visitors and how it’s affecting your campaign ROI. And you can tie your pixel to fire on those behaviors and, then create remarketing campaigns based on those events.

Step-by-step breakdown

Here’s how to do it:

1: Navigate to the “Pixels” tab in Ads Manager.
2: Select “Set Up Pixel.”
3: Click “Manually Install The Code Yourself.”

Facebook retargeting pixel install

4: Click Continue.
5: Select “Install Events”
6: Choose the event you want to track by hitting the toggle next to it.

Facebook retargeting pixel tracking event

7: Based on the kind of event you wish to track, choose Track Event on Page Load or Track Event on Inline Action.

Facebook retargeting pixel track event page load

  • Pick Track Event on Page Load is the action you want to track is someone landing on a page, like a “thank you” page or the post-click landing page after a click-through post-click landing page.
  • Select Track Event on Inline Action if the action you want to track is someone clicking something, like a button or link.

8: Decide how you want to track your action with parameters like conversion value or currency. When these are specified, the Meta pixel will let you know how much you’re actually generating with a particular campaign, ad, post-click landing page in live reports.

Facebook retargeting pixel event parameters

9: Once you’ve determined your parameters, Facebook will spit out an event code. Paste it on the back end of the relevant page, ensuring you don’t modify the pixel code you’ve already pasted into the header of your website.

  • For page load events: paste the code just under the closing header section of the page (you should find that right after the opening tag).
  • For inline action events: add the event code between script tags next to the action you want to track (like a button).
    To learn more about getting your pixel to fire during an event, check out this Facebook resource for developers.

Make sure your all your pixels are working and run your campaign

To be sure your pixel is working, it’s recommended you install Meta’s Pixel Helper for Chrome. To do that, navigate to the Google Chrome store and search “Meta Pixel Helper.” Then just click “Add to Chrome” and “Add extension.”

Now, when you click the “Pixel Helper” icon in the address bar, you’ll be able to see if there are any pixels on the page, and if they’re working correctly:

Facebook retargeting pixel helper

If the Meta Pixel Helper finds no issues, you’re ready to begin driving traffic to your post-click landing pages. Build those post-click landing pages better and faster with the web’s most robust post-click automation platform.

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Ted Vrountas

by Ted Vrountas

Ted Vrountas is a Content Writer specializing in psychology and persuasive copywriting. His expertise spans digital advertising, landing pages, and humanizing marketing industry jargon.

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