iOS 14 and recruitment marketing

Update: iOS 14.5 is now live.

You have probably read about it; Apple is implementing a new tracking policy that prevents data-hungry apps and services to track you on iOS devices without your consent. Called App Tracking Transparency, this new policy will have a pretty significant impact on your recruitment marketing campaigns and I think this is just the first step that Apple is taking. In this post, I’ll break down the changes and explain what actions you need to take.

Background

To properly understand the impact, you first need to understand how this tracking work.

Each iOS device has a unique identifier, also known as an IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers). An IDFA is consistent across all apps on a single iOS device, so advertisers like Facebook can track user activity across apps. Say you click on an ad in an app for a mobile game, download the game and then play that game; because the IDFA is the same in both apps, the advertiser knows that that click led to a conversion (downloading the game and playing it).

With the advent of iOS 14, any app that uses IDFA must ask permission to do so. And the consent message is pretty terrifying, take a look below:

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The consent message is controlled by Apple, which means it is not possible to tweak the message and try to increase the acceptance rate. Looking at cookie consent messages as enforced by the GDPR, there’s a huge variance in the acceptance rate depending on how the consent message is styled. Although we can only guess, I’d say given the messaging that Apple has chosen, the acceptance rates will be low.

Advertisers, with Facebook being the front runner, used that IDFA to track user behaviour across all your devices and apps. Aside from using that information to build up a targeting profile of you, it also used that to track events and conversions (like finishing an application) that were driven by ad campaigns.

Facebook super-charged the usage of IDFA. They can combine all they know about you (a lot!) and combine that with the advanced tracking using IDFA, they could very precisely target the right people, who have a bigger chance of converting, meaning they could sell their ad real-estate for a higher price.

While most of the attention was given to IDFA, that is not the only way tracking can be done. As an app developer, you can ask your users to signup with their email and relay that information to advertisers like Facebook. With the new policies that Apple is going to enforce, app developers can no longer freely do that as well; they first need consent from the user. This makes tracking a lot more difficult.

Let’s take Facebook as an example. As mentioned, Facebook is the front-runner for using IDFA and combining it with their own data. They can finely target and using IDFA, also do very precise attribution, meaning they know very well who converted from what campaign.

Under the new policies from Apple, Facebook has to fall back to statistical modelling, which is far less accurate. That’s actually a real bummer to lose. Facebook, as the middlemen between a business and its customers, was able to tell businesses with a high degree of precision how effective their ad campaign was, without actually telling whom the ads were advertised to. It was precision with privacy, but now that’s about to be gone.

Interestingly, Facebook is very vocal about the upcoming change, whilst Google and LinkedIn are not. I can only presume Facebook, where 99 cents out of every dollar they make comes from advertising, is scared about this change and the path Apple is taking.

So I hear you asking; when will this happen and what do I need to do to prepare for this? The answer to the first question is: soon. Apple originally wanted to roll out this change with the release of iOS 14 last fall, but has chosen to give developers more time to comply with these new policies and has now planned the release ‘early spring’. To answer the second question, I’ll dive into the four biggest platforms used for recruitment marketing: Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and job boards.

Facebook

As you might have read by now, these changes are going to impact the business of app marketing a lot. However, most of our work as recruitment marketing happens in browsers, for example through your career site.

Although Apple has been cracking down on tracking on websites with their Intelligent Tracking Prevention, the upcoming changes in iOS 14 will not target the web as much as apps. Although we will see the actual data after the new policies are enforced, I therefore think the impact will not be as big.

Most of Facebook’s data collection happens from their own apps and websites that use the Facebook pixel. Of course, the Facebook apps will need to request permission to track users, the Safari browser has been cracking down on tracking and the GDPR has made it more difficult to track users, all these changes are happening much more gradually. This gives platforms like Facebook more time to come up with possible solutions to keep their campaigns performing well.

However, there are certain steps you should take to prepare for the upcoming changes.

Preferred Web Conversion Events

There will be a maximum number of eight conversion events per domain for you to work with. Facebook will initially pick the eight events that they think are most relevant, but you should pick the eight you think are most important. Conversion events like ‘apply completed’ or ‘apply start’ are of course very important and you don’t want to be missed by Facebook. Therefore go and pick those eight events here.

Ad sets optimising for a conversion event that is no longer available will be paused and can no longer be turned on when Apple starts enforcing these new policies, so be quick; you don’t want any of your campaigns that are driving great applications to be paused.

This also means you can only create new ad sets that optimise for one of these preferred web conversion events. This is a critical step!

You can only set the preferred web conversion events for domains that are verified in your Business Manager.

Domain verification

Although this is not new, you should verify your domain with Facebook to prevent your ad sets from erroring. This is definitely the case if there are multiple advertisers with their own pixel on your domain or if you are running ads from personal ad accounts. When there is no verified domain associated with an event coming from a pixel as set in your ad, that ad will be turned off.

Domain verification must be done for the effective top-level domain plus one (eTLD+1). If you run your career site from a subdomain, like (careers.acme.com), you only need to verify acme.com.

One domain is can only be verified by one Business Manager, but one Business Manager can verify multiple domains.

Domain verification can be done in three ways:

  • Through a DNS record. This is, in my opinion, the preferred method as it is the most robust one. You’ll need someone who can manage the DNS records for your site, probably someone from the IT department or the company that has built your career site. A guide can be found here.
  • With uploading an HTML file to your web directory. You’ll need somehow who has access to the servers from where your website is running, probably someone from the IT department or the company has built your career site. A guide can be found here.
  • Adding a piece of text (meta tag) to the <head> of your page. This should ideally be done by the developers of your career site. This is not possible using a Tag Manager.

These changes will be important for any recruitment marketing tool that uses your Facebook page for advertising or an agency using their own pixel, whom don’t advertise from your ad account or business manager. You need to verify your domain in your own Facebook Business Manager and then add them as partner.

Next to that, you need to align with your agency or the recruitment marketing tool that you use on the preferred website conversion events, as there is a maximum of eight per domain. If there are events that your agency or recruitment marketing tool rely on, that becomes more important.

If you don’t have a Facebook Business Manager, it might need to set that up, so you can verify your domain and assign your agency or recruitment marketing as a partner.

Therefore it is important to align with your agency or recruitment marketing tool quickly, as otherwise campaign will be paused by Facebook automatically.

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Changes to reporting

A lot of changes are coming to reporting, which will have a significant impact on the way you should base your decision.

  • All reporting will no longer be realtime, as it can take up to three days before the data is visible to you.
  • The precision of results from your campaign might be impacted, as for iOS 14 users statistical modelling may be used to account for conversions. But as mentioned; since most of our campaigns will be for websites, the impact might not be huge.
  • This one is going to be a bummer; breakdowns, such as region, placement and gender will be no longer supported.
  • The attribution window, which currently is set at account level, will be set at ad set level once Apple enforces the new policies. Additionally, the default for all new or active ad campaigns will be set at a 7-day click attribution window.
  • The 28-day click-through, 28-day view-through and 7-day view-through will become unavailable.

We’ve always advised companies to not solely rely on data from ad partners, but instead use solid website tracking that you own yourself and combine that with the strict use of UTMs.

Targeting

There is not a lot known at the moment regarding targeting, but it is safe to assume the quality and size of custom audiences and lookalike audiences will be impacted.

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LinkedIn

Interestingly and partly explainable, LinkedIn did not yet announce their changes in preparation for the upcoming policy changes of Apple. I say partially explainable, as LinkedIn does not have a campaign objective for App Installs, which are, as you known by now, impacted the most by the new policy.

The vast majority of the traffic from LinkedIn ads is either staying in the platform (e.g. Pipeline Builder pages) or going to websites, which is good news for LinkedIn and us recruitment marketeers.

But there will also be an impact to the way LinkedIn can track users from their iOS app and using the way the LinkedIn Tag can track users, so I’m curious about the coming weeks for Linkedin.

Google

Google has been a bit more vocal about upcoming changes and they have removed tracking from their iOS apps, but they have chosen a different strategy than Facebook.

They focus primarily on app developers, which is logical considering they will face the biggest impact.

This means there are no significant changes for running recruitment campaigns on Google.

Job boards

Job boards might appear like a big of an odd one in the mix, as they are primarily web platforms. However, certain job boards like Indeed also have iOS apps to browse jobs. No job board has yet issued a statement, but we can safely assume there won’t be a big impact on job board advertising.

Closing

I think that the stride for privacy that Apple is making is a great one. The way advertisers like Facebook for years were able to harvest so much data on us, without us knowing, is not a pleasant way to use the Internet. Giving the candidate more control over the way those advertisers track our data and use that data, is therefore a good thing.

On the other hand, it also poses challenges for recruitment marketeers, definitely those who rely heavily on Facebook. However, with a number of concrete steps and a solid analytics setup on your career site, you should be fine.

The change (blocking third-party cookies) that is going to be implemented by end of 2022 for Chrome, by far the most used browser, is going to be much more impactful for running recruitment campaigns. Given that is a long way out, you have plenty of time to prepare for that.

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