TikTok Attribution Explained

Like many others we were ecstatic to hear that TikTok was working to expand its attribution window, but it never seemed to materialize and TikTok’s own resources aren’t the most helpful. We wanted to set the record straight on what attribution models are available.

TikTok’s initial reliance on same session attribution made it very difficult to measure performance in the early days of the platform. Essentially, when a user clicked on an ad they’d have to convert on the session generated in the in-app browser. Any conversions that came from multiple visits or a view through were not tracked, making it difficult to compare performance to most other paid social channels.  So much so that we wrote another blog post explaining why you can’t judge performance with the same targets as other channels. Like many others we were ecstatic to hear that TikTok was working to expand its attribution window from single session to 7-day click, 1-day view, but it never seemed to materialize and TikTok’s own resources on the subject aren’t the most helpful. After speaking with a few different TikTok rep’s and asking a lot of questions, we wanted to set the record straight on what different types of attribution are available and how to set them up yourself. 

Attribution Windows

Pixel - Standard Mode

This is the most simple and probably most common set up for most advertisers. It’s as simple as copying and pasting the pixel code onto your site, tag manager, or enabling it via the Shopify integration. It will allow you to track standard events and set up custom events based on Clicks, URLs, and CSS rules in the TikTok Events Manager. It’s important to note that if you’re using some sort of tag management tool, like GTM, you won’t be able to fire the pixel via triggers within GTM. Instead, you’ll only be able to track events that are Click or URL based and are created within TikTok’s Events Manager. 

This setup allows you to attribute conversions on a 1-day click basis. It’s important to note that conversions from any iOS users who have chosen to opt out of tracking will only be able to be attributed on a single session basis. 

Pixel - Developer Mode 

Developer Mode allows for customization in event rules and allows for more dynamic parameters to be passed back to TikTok, like purchase value, so that you can more accurately assess advertising performance. Implementation is similar to most of the Standard Mode implementations in that you simply need to copy and paste the code to your site or tag manager. It’s important to note that you can’t currently set this up via the Shopify integration. To utilize all of the features of Developer Mode, some JavaScript knowledge is required, so depending on your skillset, you may need to get a developer involved. Also, if you’re currently using GTM, this setup will allow you to leverage your GTM triggers to fire events. 

This setup allows for the same attribution windows as the Standard Mode, with the same exceptions to certain iOS users, but you are able to extend it by enabling Advanced Matching.

Advanced Matching

Advanced Matching allows customer emails and phone numbers to be securely passed back to TikTok and matched with users to increase attribution. This allows you to extend your attribution windows to 7-day click, 1-day view with the usual caveat of iOS users. Currently, there are only two different ways to gain access to Advanced Matching. If you’re tracking web based events (purchases, leads, etc) you can either set up Advanced Matching for Web (which will be in open beta starting Feb 17, 2022) or TikTok’s Events API for Web.

For Advanced Matching for Web, there are currently two ways to implement. The first being what TikTok calls Automatic Advanced Matching. This is basically TikTok leveraging the pixel to recognize form fields like email or phone number and pass that back. No coding is necessary, just head to your events manager and click on your pixel. There, you'll see a toggle to turn on advanced matching. The second is Manual Advanced Matching, it's only available if you have a Developer Pixel installed on your site. To set this up, you'll have to edit the event code to include parameters for things line phone number and email. It's recommended to have both set up to limit any to limit any missing parameters. Manual Advanced Matching will always be prioritized over Automatic Advanced Matching.

The Events API appends what it calls a Click ID (similar to a GCLID) to the URL of any click from an ad. If the conversion doesn’t happen in that same session, a record of the Click ID is stored and used to match against the customer email and/or phone number sent by the Events API. As of right now, it’s currently in testing so you’d need to work with an account rep to get it set up. 

For in-app events, you’ll need to be using a Mobile Measurement Partner and set up a TikTok App ID.  This ID is used for TikTok to confirm ownership of an app. Once an App ID is generated, you’ll add it to your MMP and you’re off to the races. Completing this set up allows access to unattributed events that you can use for audience creation like excluding existing users, retargeting, re-engagement, etc. 

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