Facebook Pixel Gotchas: A Guide to Pixel Setup and Utilization

Learning how to use Facebook pixel tracking will dramatically improve your conversion tracking, but you first need to know ways to test Facebook pixels to avoid common pixel setup issues.

The Facebook advertising platform has widely been touted as a place for marketers to see high returns on ad dollars. Its targeting and testing abilities allow for highly personalized ads in line with consumer interests and expectations, and can even allow for dynamically served product ads based on user behavior. For eCommerce companies to truly see the value of the Facebook advertising platform, however, the Facebook pixel and pixel events need to be properly implemented. For companies already on popular eCommerce platforms such as Shopify, NetSuite or WooCommerce, the implementation should be even more straightforward. This post dives into the pixel’s benefits, use cases, common issues and also provides high-level instructions for how to set up a Facebook pixel.

Meet Dan

Dan is a marketing manager at a mid-sized clothing retailer. Working in his office on a Thursday afternoon, he hears a knock on the door followed by his boss, the CMO, popping his head in.

Great, Dan is thinking, here comes another random request that I will have no experience or internal resources to fall back on.

Right on cue, the CMO asks,

“Why aren’t we utilizing the Facebook advertising platform? I just listened to a podcast that said Facebook is the platform with the highest ROIs for paid initiatives!”

“We’ve run quite a few test engagement campaigns with boosted posts, but it is difficult to measure success without a dollar amount attached to impressions. However, I’ve been reading more about the Facebook Pixel and learned you can uncover more data and dynamically target product ads.”

His boss is intrigued at the prospect of these capabilities and after a brief back and forth decides to devote a $5,000 test budget and the necessary time from Dan and the rest of the team to undertake setting up the pixel and running a test campaign.

Dan is eager to get started, but when he sits down to begin to create his Facebook pixel, he has a lot of questions.
"How does a Facebook pixel work?"
"Where do I find my Facebook pixel?"
"How do I add a Facebook pixel to Shopify?"

He's got a lot of work ahead of him. Luckily, this article should cover everything he needs to know.

You’ve got approval and budget… now what?

Getting approved for new projects and initiatives is always exciting for about the first 10 minutes, then you realize you actually need to execute on all the things you just sold in! Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • If you have a development team, you’ll probably want to secure their support to help with the initial setup (if not, no worries, we’ll walk through step-by-step how to do it).
  • You will also want to be sure to familiarize yourself with the different types of events and what can be done with them (more on this below).
  • Depending on the type of campaign you want to run, gathering item data to be uploaded as a product catalog may also need to be undertaken. Keep reading for more details.

High Level Pixel Overview

Like any tracking pixel, the Facebook pixel is a 1×1 pixel that tracks user behavior and traffic on a website. This pixel contains two parts: the base code and the event code.

Install the Facebook Pixel by dropping the base code into the header of every page on your site or implemented with an integration such as Shopify, WooCommerce, or Google Tag Manager. The base code is used to bring forth data about page views on your site.

The event code takes it one step further than the base code by triggering the Facebook pixel to fire when specific actions happen on your site, such as a purchase or a views of specific product. Below, we'll show you how to install your pixel, how to get your Facebook pixel code, and how to get data from your Facebook pixel to track conversions or create custom audiences for retargeting ads.

Step 1: Creating Your Pixel

Before exploring the different ways to utilize the Facebook Pixel, you’ll need to create one and get it set up.

To create a Pixel, access the “Pixels” tab in the Facebook Ads Manager (see image below).

Setting up a pixel in Facebook Events Manageer

Step 2: Setting Up Your Pixel

How you setup your pixel will depend on your role and expertise within your organization and the current tools being used. If your site is hosted on a popular ecommerce platform such as WooCommerce or Shopify the integration should be even easier. If you’re on NetSuite, integrating with Google Tag Manager is a great way to go. Easier still, if you have a development team to handle changes to your site’s code, you can simply email instructions to your developer straight from the pixel setup page (shown in the below two images).

Create Facebook Pixel
Install Facebook Pixel

In case you are on your own, this portion of the post will focus on manually installing the code. A guided wizard will take you through the process step-by-step. To begin, click into the option as shown in the above photo. Installing the pixel code has two parts:

  1. The base code
  2. The event code(s)

Base Code

The base code of the pixel tracks traffic to your site for users who are logged into Facebook and is placed in the global header of your site. Once you place the base code in the header, there is a built in tool to send test traffic to be sure the base code is firing correctly before continuing to the event codes.

Facebook pixel code example

Event Code(s)

The event codes are truly the fun part of the pixel and allows for wildly targeted advertising based on specific actions users have taken on your site. When using the pixel setup wizard, you are allowed to include parameters such as the content ID to be sure you can target based on specific page or product views. Once the code is configured, be sure to place it just below the head tag of pages you wish to track.

How to get Facebook pixel code

Facebook Automatic Events

Something that often takes marketers by surprise is Facebook’s automatic events. Many advertisers have had a pixel base code installed for a while and are surprised to see “Purchase”, “AddToCart” and “InitiateCheckout” events being tracked seemingly out of the blue. Fear not, no corporate espionage is occurring here. Facebook implements automatic events, which for some advertisers is a great thing. However, these automatic events are setup as basic events, which means dynamically served ads, one of the greatest benefits of having pixel data, cannot be utilized. As such, if you wish to use dynamically served catalogs and ads, it makes sense to turn off automatic events and setup your own advanced events.

Wouldn’t it be nice if automatic events would pull in product parameters?

Alternatives to Using Facebook Event Codes

As noted above, many advertisers only have base codes installed that are tracking website visitors, rather than specific custom events. While this limits your targeting capabilities, it doesn’t mean you can’t still be targeted in your ads, as you can include and exclude keywords from the URL parameter to create custom audiences.

For instance, at a basic level you can create an audience of all web visitors in the past x amount of days and target them with a lead generation campaign. Taking this workaround one step further, you could even include all users who have viewed any page with a URL containing “shirt” and serve them up ads for pants on Facebook as a cross-sell opportunity.

Let’s go through an example of how a retailer might retarget users who have viewed a specific category of products using only the base code.

Step 1: Begin by accessing the “Audiences” tab of your asset library and creating a custom audience.

How to get data from Facebook pixel

Step 2: Choose to create the audience based on traffic to your website.

Facebook ads pixel

Next, you will want to narrow down our audience based on specific products or categories of products they have viewed. In this example, we will be retargeting users who have viewed one of our many umbrellas but haven’t actually purchased one.

Step 3: Use the dropdown to choose to target users who have visited specific web pages. We can also choose how many days we want users to remain in the audience after triggering the desired criteria. Here we will be targeting any user who has hit a product or category page containing the word “umbrella”. You could even take this a step further and include brand names as narrower qualifiers.

Important note: you will want to be sure your website’s URL structure is taken into account when creating criteria. If your product page URL is not set up to contain the word “umbrella” you may need to get more creative or granular in your criteria. For example, you could target users viewing only a single product and use the exact URL of the product page you wish to advertise.

Facebook pixel fire targeting a

Step 4: Now we will want to begin to exclude users who have already purchased the products we are advertising. If we wanted to cross-sell rainboots to those who already purchased umbrellas we would want to include rather than exclude here. In this instance, we will exclude all users who have hit the checkout confirmation page. Again, it is important to keep in mind your site’s URL structure and at what point the transaction is actually completed.

Creating Facebook ads pixel custom audiences

Utilizing Your Pixel Event Data

Now that your shiny new pixel and its accompanying events are firing, you get to utilize this data in ways that make marketers feel like a kid in a candy store.

Product Catalogs

Product catalogs are a great way to take advantage of pixel data flowing into Facebook. We can create product catalogs and product sets within catalogs to give users the chance to jump straight to checkout from Facebook based on a variety of strategies. These can be uploaded manually or automatically updated via a feed.

Retargeting/Abandoned Carts

Retargeting, in general, is often the impetus for creating and installing the pixel in the first place, and for good reason. Retargeting users who have viewed specific products, but not checked out are prime to convert, as are those who have taken a step further and added to cart.


Beyond simply trying to sell products in which users have shown interest, we can also use pixel events to help cross and upsell users. By displaying products that pair well with items a user has either purchased or used, we can increase our chances of being able to sell additional product while the momentum is strong.


An often overlooked way to utilize event data is gathering leads directly from Facebook. Targeting users who have viewed educational pieces of content such as a blog, or simply viewed products are prime for signing up for an email list. Consider running a lead generation campaign based on criteria from your Facebook events to gather emails from people engaging with your site.

Common Mistakes and Issues

Here at Tadpull, we work closely with digital marketers and have a unique perspective on some of the different challenges and mistakes that often occur when implementing and managing the Facebook pixel.

Mistake #1 – Not Defining Conversion Values

One of the most common mistakes we see marketers make when it comes to the Facebook pixel is not defining conversion values. Attaching a dollar amount to various actions a user takes on your site allows for more in-depth analysis and optimization based on ROI. This is not to say each event needs a conversion value, defining a product view for instance with a dollar amount may be extrapolating too far. However, at the very least including the product ID within parameters will allow for product based granularity.

How to avoid it: Defining a purchase event’s conversion value is usually pretty straight forward (the selling price of the purchased item). However, when it comes to events like AddToCart, Lead, or ViewContent using a combination of your sales funnel data and average order values often makes sense. For instance, if you know on average how often users complete checkout after adding to cart, you can divide your average order value over the percent that complete checkout to get a rough estimate of the conversion value for your AddToCart event.

Mistake #2 – Incorrectly Defining Product ID in Purchase Parameter

Another common mistake we see digital and SEM marketers make when setting up pixel events is incorrectly defining the unique product ID. Often times, the assumption is that the product ID will correlate directly to a SKU. This is not incorrect, however often times there is a unique product identifier that can be found in your site’s source code, or through your ecommerce platform backend such as NetSuite, WooCommerce or Shopify.

How to avoid it: The below screenshot shows an example of finding a product ID within the source code on Macys.com. Performing a search within the source code for “product_id” often yields results. Overall, if you don’t know where to find the product IDs of your inventory, ask you developer or manager in charge of items and they should be able to point you in the right direction.

Mistake #3 – Not Comparing Pixel Data to Other Data Sources

The Facebook pixel is only as good as the data that comes from it. Being sure your data is accurate will be key for campaign optimization and reporting going forward.

How to avoid it: Cross reference what Facebook reports with Google Analytics. Checking the number of purchases and page views on a day-by-day basis compared to Google Analytics can help you validate the quality of your pixel data. An important note to keep in mind is that Google Analytics should report slightly higher numbers of conversions and page views compared to your pixel. This is because the pixel will only be able to track events on your site if those users are logged into Facebook.

Mistake #4 – Not Associating Your Catalog to Your Pixel

Last, not associating your product catalog to your pixel will lead to errors and delivery issues for your campaign and is something that could easily be overlooked.

How to avoid it: To be sure your catalog is associated correctly, access “catalogs” from the main dropdown and click into “settings”.  From here, find “event sources” and be sure your catalog is associated to the correct pixel.

Top Considerations for NetSuite SCA

  • The most time efficient and straightforward way to implement the Facebook pixel on NetSuite SCA is to utilize the Google Tag Manager integration.
  • When creating a manual product catalog, start by accessing the webstore items and downloading to an Excel spreadsheet. Next, re-format based on the Facebook Catalog guidelines.
  • It is noteworthy that because NetSuite SCA is a single page application, pixel reporting within Facebook may show inflated engagement metrics (page view, pages per session, etc.).

In Summary, the top things you need to know are…

  1. The Facebook pixel tracks traffic and actions users take on your website while logged into Facebook. This allows for remarketing campaigns to be utilized.
  2. Setting up ViewContent, AddToCart and Purchase events with parameters allows you to dynamically serve ads and retarget based on actions users took on your site.
  3. There are creative workarounds to events with parameters by understanding and utilizing your site’s URL structure with the Facebook base code.