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Maximizing Conversions with Facebook Ads: What Works and What Doesn’t

Facebook has been offering businesses advertising in some form since its early days (check out this Mashable article for a good guide to advertising on the site over the years). But Facebook advertising as we know it now is still fairly new.  There are now 2.5 million advertisers using Facebook Ads, and the number is growing (see this link for more stats).  The ads provide many benefits for businesses, but you may not have experimented with the platform yet. Or you may have given it a try only to fail to get high conversions from your efforts.

Here’s a guide to what you need to know to get more from your Facebook ad campaign.

Why Bother?

Facebook offers a fantastic opportunity for advertisers. It is vast, and its users are active. As a result, most of your target customers probably use it, and many of them will use it on a daily basis.  Because of the targeting options on Facebook, you can target exactly the kind of people who you want to buy from you.

It’s also worth remembering that this is a very different platform to AdWords. Facebook users are not searching for your product or service but browsing photos and updates from friends. Facebook is therefore a great way to reach out to them and increase familiarity with your brand. It can therefore work very well alongside AdWords (rather than assuming that you have to choose between the two).

Pro Tip: Paid advertising on networks like Facebook is very different from PPC, and therefore must be run with a different (complimentary) strategy.  Many businesses try focusing on bottom of the funnel conversions and get discouraged when they see a low conversion rate vs what they might be generating with PPC.  Remember: Unlike search engine users, Facebook users are not specifically looking for your product or service at that moment.  So, your strategy should be more about introducing them to your brand and starting a relationship (newsletter signups, whitepaper downloads, blog traffic, etc) vs trying to get them to convert at the bottom of the funnel.  

Set Up Your Ads

Setting up your ads on Facebook is easy. There are three stages, consisting of: Campaign, Ad Set, and the Ad.

Let’s look at the Campaign first. This is important because it is here that you choose your objective. Facebook lists a selection of objectives to choose from, so take your time over this and decide on what you are trying to accomplish.

  • Is it to Promote Your Page, where you want to get more likes?
  • To Send People to Your Website?
  • Or to Increase Conversions on Your Website?
  • There are many more, including Increase Engagement in Your App, Get People to Claim Your Offer, Get Video Views, etc.

Next, the Ad Set. Here you will define your audience, set your budget, choose your schedule, and more. This is where you get into the details of the campaign, and a single campaign can have multiple Ad Sets.

And finally, the Ad itself. This is what the users will see, including its image, headline, description. Again, a single Ad Set can have multiple Ads.  Once you complete an ad, Facebook will approve it, and then your ad will start running.

Target for Success

The above is the basic process for setting up your ads. But how can you get more from your ads? How can you increase conversions to make them pay?

First of all, you will need to target your audience. Facebook allows you to be very specific in who you target with your ads, so take advantage of this.  One option is to choose your targets based on various demographics including age, location, interests, gender, and more.

Another interesting option is to choose between Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences.  Custom Audiences are where you use a list, such as your email list, and target these specific people on Facebook. Lookalike Audiences is where you use the same list, but you then reach out to similar people, or lookalikes, rather than the contacts themselves, so you can find more people like your current customers.  See the excellent beginner’s guide at CrazyEgg for more details of the practical steps involved in setting up these steps.

Improve Results by Testing Your Ads

So how do you make sure you get the most from your ads? As always with online marketing, it comes down to testing.  Just as you do with AdWords, you will want to test your Facebook ads extensively. This includes testing the image, headline, and ad copy to start with. But you should also the targeting, demographics, and ad type.   There is a great guide to split testing your ads at AdEspresso if you want to know more about the details of running a test.

Choosing the Right Images

Before you start testing, you should pay special focus to the images that you use in your ads. What is the right image to use? There are a few best practices that you can stick to.  Firstly, ensure that you spend a lot of time on your image. It should not be an element that you only consider right at the end, and instead your ad should be built around the image to drive engagement.

One of the most important best practices to stick to is to make your image stand out. This could involve using bright colors or an eye-catching visual, but just ensure you use something that will make it stand out from the photos and videos surrounding it.  Don’t use too many small details in the image, and don’t use small text that requires the users to stop and squint.

What works well? People work well, especially faces—and especially happy faces. Can you show someone modeling your product? Or benefiting from your service while smiling? If so, you’re onto a winner.  Also make sure you use something that stands out from the blue and white of Facebook. If you use the same colors as the site, it will simply fade into the background.  Pets, children and babies are all good as well, but you might also simply want to find something that stands out for being unusual or funny.  The key to choosing an effective image is to make sure it gets noticed, and it’s this you need to focus on when you create your ad.

Don’t Forget the Landing Page

If you are sending your clicks to a landing page, make sure you also optimize this for conversions. After all, clicks are worth nothing unless they actually get results.  Unbounce has some good examples of Facebook campaigns where the landing pages fall short, so take a look through these. You’ll notice that many of the same points come up each time:

  • Make sure the landing page matches the ad. The person who lands on the page should know they are in the right place, which means the image, colors, and copy should be similar. This is good message match, and it applies here just as it does with AdWords landing pages.
  • Make sure you have a dedicated landing page. This means one single page with one single call to action, rather than a crowded page that only increases confusion for the visitor.

I’ve written on landing pages before, and the same practices apply, so take a look through these tips before creating your Facebook campaign.

Facebook Continues to Change Up its Ads

Advertising is how Facebook makes its money, and you can bet that it will continue to innovate to get more out of its platform for its advertisers and its users.  For example, at the time of writing, Facebook had just announced that it was opening up Canvas, as reported in Time. This provides a way for mobile users to enjoy the ad experience faster without having to visit the advertiser’s website, which can sometimes be too slow.  But whatever new innovations come along in the coming months and years, get the basics right now and you can adapt your campaign accordingly as changes to the platform are brought in.

Explore Facebook Ads

If you’ve only ever stuck to AdWords until now, give Facebook ads a try. It’s a great compliment, or even replacement depending on your goals and audience.  

A general word of caution – Don’t take away from what’s working to try something new.  For example: if you’ve got a good PPC campaign running and you’re not maxing it out yet, don’t take funds away and start experimenting with Facebook.  Doing one thing really well is better than doing many things poorly.

  • But if I think like a real user then I find that I never used to watch or like any kind of ad while using Facebook. So its just my assumption that Facebook ads doesn’t plays an important role in increasing conversions.

    • Hey Lily,

      Perhaps the ads you are used to seeing (like most of us) simply aren’t relevant. However, as technology gets better and marketers get smarter, ads become more relevant. So, perhaps next time you see an ad and it happens to be about something you’ve been researching or learning about recently it will resonate better.