This article has been formulating in my head for a long time and I’m really psyched to finally get it out.
Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to manage and optimize ads for a lot of great companies. In the process of spending over $1,000,000 on Facebook ads and generating over 200,000 new users signups for our clients, I’ve also been able to test a lot of features and strategies and to dig into a lot of delicious data.
This post is a summary of some of the most important (and often unknown) optimizations and strategies that we’ve learned about running a highly effective user acquisition campaign on Facebook. If you have any questions or any other tips you think should be included, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
OK, we got a lot of good stuff here, so let’s get started…
1) Get the Facebook pixel on your site long before you start advertising
The longer you have Facebook’s pixel on your site, the more data it can collect for retargeting lists and for creating Lookalike audiences. Remember, the pixel is also gathering user info from people who come to your site from other marketing channels and who are currently signed in to Facebook (so, pretty much everyone).
2) Don’t sell to cold audiences on FB
People on Facebook aren’t looking to buy stuff. So offer them free, valuable content (videos, articles, etc) so they can build a relationship with your company and products. In the long run, you’ll end up selling a lot more this way. You’ll just need be a bit more patience.
3) Promote gated content on Facebok
Gated content can work really well with cold audiences. Gated content means that you require an email in exchange for valuable content (i.e. ebooks, templates, etc). By capturing a visitors email, you can build a relationship with them via email marketing or with a Facebook custom audience.
4) Freemium or Free Trial offers can work great to cold audiences
Because you’re offering something valuable for free, these offers can be very successful on Facebook. Especially if you target a good Lookalike audience.
5) Don’t put too much focus on gaining fans.
Facebook fans are usually just a vanity metric unless you are putting real effort into building a relationship with those fans.
6) Promote blog content in order to cookie more people for your retargeting campaigns
Content promotion campaigns are a great way to generate lower priced clicks and to introduce people to your brand and product. Then you can sell to them later with retargeting.
7) Use UTM tags to track your Facebook ads traffic better in Google Analytics
The power editor provides a field to enter your UTMs separately from the destination URL. However, I like to append the UTM parameters directly to the URL so that organic shares of my ad get attributed to my campaign.
8) Use an ad management software to create automated optimization rules
Try using AdEspresso to create “If, Then” rules that let you pause ad sets or individual ads that are underperforming or to increase budgets for ad sets that are generating a conversions at a profitable CPA.
9) Monitor leads from Facebook further down your sales funnel to make sure they are generating ROI.
10) Make sure your product and sales funnel are awesome before you start investing heavily in paid ads.
If your product, landing page or sales funnel suck, then the best ad campaign in the world probably won’t make you very much money.
Bidding and Budgets
9) Use daily budgets
Facebook reps I’ve spoken with have recommended that I work with Lifetime budget in order to let their algorithms optimize the best days and times to deliver my ads (they also say you should set your lifetime schedule for more than 7 days so that it can learn which days are best). However, from my testing, I’ve concluded that daily budgets give you the best control over your ads and usually results in better ROI.
10) Always start with oCPM
Optimized CPM (oCPM) bidding almost always gets more clicks and conversions than regular CPM or CPC bidding. In most cases, there’s no reason to start off with anything else.
11) oCPM bidding works best with audiences of over 500,000 people
If your audience is too small, then Facebook’s algorithms won’t be able to to optimize properly. If you have targeted a much smaller niche audience, then you may do better with CPM or CPC bidding.
12) Try using CPM for retargeting
So, one exception to #12 above is if you’re running a retargeting campaign you may want to go with regular CPM bidding. The reason is that with retargeting, your entire audience should be pre-qualified based on the fact that they already visited your site. You don’t need to rely so much on Facebook’s algorithm to find the people most likely to convert.
13) Test with small budgets and scale up when you find something that works
Don’t spend too much too fast. If a campaign isn’t working after you’ve spend $100, it probably isn’t going to work at all. Pause that test and try a new one. Once you find something that performs well, then start to increase your budget. But don’t scale up to fast. Trying increasing budget by %30-%50 every few days until you find your sweet spot.
14) Start ad sets targeting broad and then refine based on your data.
Facebook’s reporting provides a lot of data. I often start an ad set with broad ages, genders, locations, placements, etc. Then after the ad set has had a few days to run, I run a report broken out by different variables and determines what is working best. Then I will go back and refine my ad set parameters for higher performing audiences.
15) If you aren’t getting enough volume of impression with oCPM, try setting a maximum target CPA.
But enter a number that is 20% higher than what you really want to pay. Keep a close eye on your campaign.
17) Rotate ad creatives frequently
Keep an eye on the frequency of delivery of your ads. Once your frequency gets higher than 1.5 on Desktop newsfeed or Mobile (or higher than 10 on right column), you’ll want to start thinking about running some fresh ads.
18) Download our swipe file for inspiration for your ads
You should always be looking for fresh inspiration for your ad images and copy. Download my Facebook ads swipe file of over 100 awesome ads to get some new ideas for your campaigns.
19) Make sure your ads don’t have more than 20% text in your images.
Facebook only allows your images to be 20% text (and they measure it in a pretty lame way). Download this free grid template to make sure your ads comply with the 20% text rule.
20) Monitor negative comments on your ads.
Negative comments can kill the effectiveness of your ads. Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t provide an easy way to monitor comments on ads. Luckily for us, AgoraPulse has a great tool to help you monitor comments on your ads.
21) Share the same dark post across multiple ad sets
When you create an ad, you are essentially creating an unpublished “dark post.” And when you duplicate an ad set, you end up duplicating the ads and making more (identical) unpublished posts to manage comments for. We recommend promoting the same post in multiple ad sets.
To do that, publish the first ad in the Power Editor, then visit the ad’s permalink and copy the post ID. Then in your new ad set choose to “Use Existing Post” and enter paste the ID of the existing post.
This technique also has the advantage of consolidating all likes, shares and comment to a single post which provides more social proof for your ad.
22) Delete comments from trolls
If people who have never done business with your company are criticizing your product unfairly, then don’t feel bad about deleting their comments.
23) Don’t delete ads from people who have legitimate complaints. Try to answer them productively.
Unlike in #22 above, if people have legitimate grievances about your company, products, services, etc, then you should never delete their ads. Facebook comments are a legitimate forum for customer questions and complaints. As such, consider responding to these comments as an important part of your customer service.
24) Pause ads with too many negative comments.
If a particular ad has too many bad comment that you can’t delete, then simply pause the ad, duplicate it and start fresh with a clean one.
25) Tier your retargeting campaign for “hot” prospects who visited pricing page
Try creating a retargeting audience of only HOT prospects who have shown deeper interest in your product by visiting your signup page, checkout page or pricing page. You can have a separate retargeting audience and ad set for people who visited your homepage and other pages of your site.
26) Lookalike audiences based on a conversion pixel are usually the top performers.
OK, so this should probably be the #1 tip for getting the most conversions at the lowest CPA. This audience works so well because it builds an audience based on demographic and behavioral data that Facebook knows about the people who have already converted on your site. This audience accounts for over 70% of conversions for the client accounts that we manage.
27) Facebook reps recommend having at least 25 conversion per day to create a Lookalike audience based on a pixel
If you don’t have enough data points to create a good lookalike, then you should probably work with Interests and other targeting option until you have enough volume of conversions to create an effective lookalike.
28) You should have at least 5,000 people in a custom audience to build an accurate Lookalike audience
If you build a Lookalike audience from a custom audience of less than 5,000 people, then you shouldn’t expect the best performance.
29) Exclude custom audiences of people who have already converted from all your campaigns.
This should be an obvious step but unfortunately, it’s often overlooked. You can exclude current users and customers from your active campaigns in several ways, the easiest ways are to
- Exclude a retargeting audience of people who have visited your conversion confirmation (or Thank You) page or who visited your website app URL, or
- Exclude a constantly updated custom audience of all your customer emails.
I recommend that you combine both techniques.
30) Try targeting specific people or companies
Did you know you can often target specific influencers or employees of specific companies with ads? Just think of all the creative ways to use that super power. Here’s a quick tutorial to teach you how to do it.
31) Test right column ads. They often work better than desktop.
For some reason, people have this crazy idea that right column ads don’t convert. I can tell you conclusively that’s totally BS.
In fact, in the campaigns we manage for InVision, 45% of all conversions came from right column ads and the average CPA was 36% cheaper than via other placements such as the newsfeed or mobile. Read more on our InVision case study.
32) Mobile ads are great for awareness and content promotion campaigns
Facebook users love to use Facebook on their mobile devices. For that reason, Facebook has lots of ad real estate to fill and costs are generally lower. That makes mobile a great place to promote blog and video content that doesn’t require visitors to submit forms or make purchases.
Looking for more conversion on mobile? Try these 3 magic words.
33) Facebook Video ads usually work best on mobile. You’ll generate lowest cost per view on mobile.
Video ads usually aren’t about direct response (i.e. conversions). The goal with videos is usually to simply get people to watch your video and learn more about your company and products. You can usually get the most video views for the lowest price with mobile ads. Just make sure you’re using the video engagement report to understand how much of your video viewers are actually watching. Video views can be very cheap on Facebook but just be aware that Facebook counts a view as someone who watch only 3 seconds even with the sound off.
34) Start testing Instgram ads. You can manage them from the Power Editor together with your Facebook ads.
Instagram can be a great opportunity for companies with strong visual content. They’ve only recently been made available to everyone, so you still have an opportunity to be an early adopter.
35) Try running different ad sets for different placements (Desktop newsfeed, mobile and desktop right column)
Facebook’s recommended best practice is to include all ad placements into a single ad set and let their algorithm determine the best place to deliver ads at any given time. However, after testing, we’ve concluded that Facebook doesn’t always allocate your budget to the best converting placement. Therefore, our recommendation is to split different placements into different ad sets so that you can better control which placements you want to allocate your budget to.
36) Combine multiple small countries into a single ad set
Remember, as we discussed above, oCPM bidding works best with larger audiences (usually more than 500,000 people). We usually combine smaller countries into a single ad set. You should keep an eye on different performance in different countries by breaking out countries in your reporting dashboard.
37) Avoid having multiple ad sets targeting the same audience
When you have several ad sets targeting the same audience, you end up competing against yourself. Better to create a hierarchy of importance of your audience, then make sure that your lower ranking audiences exclude your higher ranking audiences. My hierarchy usually looks something like this:
- Custom audiences (email, website, etc.)
Over to you…
Were these tips helpful? Leave a comment and let me know which of these Facebook ad optimizations was the most helpful to you.
And if you leave your best tips in the comments, we’d love to add them to the article.
Wishing you happy optimizing and lots of new conversions!