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Facebook Ads: cpc vs. display?

What is the optimal way to set up UTM tracking from Facebook Ads for maximum benefit in Google Analytics in 2020?

Typically you see everyone recommending to set the utm_medium as cpc (or relevant cases, cpm), but they don't explain why:

So, my questions are:

  1. Doesn't it make more sense to mark it as display instead, since they're technically display ads?

  2. Or is there something else entirely that you recommend doing for the utm_source & utm_medium URL parameters for FB Ads?


I'm aware that there's always the possibility to set up custom parameters, but that often makes GA accounts non-standard and then doesn't show up in default GA segments and dimensions.

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If you use utm_medium cpc, the traffic will get bucketed into the Paid Search default channel grouping in GA.

If you use utm_medium cpm or display, then that traffic will get bucketed into the Display channel in GA.

See the below definitions for channel groupings in GA (ignore the red highlighting, it's from another context):

Channel groupings for Default

As per your observation, to me, it would make more sense to have it go into the Display channel, or alternatively I would edit the default channel grouping (or create a new channel grouping) and add a new channel for Facebook ads.

However, I would still use utm_medium cpm or display to make it clear that they are display, not search-based ads.

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    Great answer, thanks! I found an image and edited to add it to your answer. Seems like everyone recommending to use cpc is nonsensical here – Baumr May 25 at 20:12
  • Thanks, appreciate the edit. I need to improve my typing :-) – Bronwyn V May 25 at 20:15
  • I recommend a Channel called Paid Social. After all, in Facebook ads you can bid per click or per impression. If you're paying per impression it seems inappropriate to categorise them as cpc, and if you're paying per click it seems inappropriate to categorise them as Display. – Lag May 26 at 12:26

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