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The First Rule of Facebook Ads: Don’t Assume ANYTHING!

May 13th, 2015 Posted by


Want to separate the intermediate from advanced Facebook advertiser? Listen to them talk. Do they speak in universal, definitive terms? Are things concrete? Do certain things always work while others don’t?

They talk about a universally good CTR. They say that sidebar is a waste of money and they only advertise in the news feed. They only bid CPC and they only target a particular audience.

If they speak in such ways, they’re usually trying to sound smarter than they are. The truth is that advertising on Facebook is fluid — it’s always changing. And the sooner you accept this, the sooner you’ll find success.

It’s much easier to speak as if there are universal truths. When this is the case, we approach each new campaign the same way. We use the same objective, bid the same way, target the same audience, reach the same placement and measure success in the same ways.

When it’s fluid, nothing is certain. We’re constantly trying new things. Constantly experimenting. Constantly challenging what we think we know. We’re pushing the boundaries as opposed to accepting the status quo.

This is a challenge for all of us, and I include myself. A prime example is my long-held belief regarding the audiences I should target when widening the net. When I finally opened my eyes, I was surprised by what I found.

My Assumption

My assumption wasn’t a bad one, in and of itself. I always suggest you prioritize targeting people most closely connected to you first. As a result, Website Custom Audiences should be a prized tool in any advertiser’s toolbox.

The assumption is also that the shorter the duration, the more relevant the audience. No one can deny this is generally true. But the problem is that when multiple audiences are relevant, the level of relevance doesn’t necessarily determine the success.

The thought was that if you have enough traffic, you should use the shortest duration possible. Target those who have visited your website during the past 30 days. Have the traffic to shorten that duration? Target those who visited during the past 14 days. Even one day.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to increase relevance. But I made a mistake by what this drive for increased relevance led me to ignore.

Widening the Net

I get about 200,000 visitors to my website every month. As a result, I tend to target people who have visited my website during the past 30 days. I’ve recently started focusing more on those who visited during the past 14.

Occasionally, I decide to widen the net. I want to spend more budget, reach more people and drive more actions (traffic, opt-ins, sales, etc.). Historically, I’ve done this by dipping into two main groups: interests and lookalike audiences.

It makes sense why I did this. Both gave me what I was looking for — a much wider net. And I would typically do this for top-of-the-funnel actions only (usually driving traffic), so targeting people who may not know me could lead to some success.

But this was stupid. It was unnecessary. And I was missing an audience that was right in front of my face:

Website visitors during the past 180 days.

Maybe you read this and think I was stupid for ignoring this group. You’re right, it was stupid. But it’s just my example of how we all can have a bit of tunnel vision and do thing one certain way based on bad assumptions.

My original goal was to widen the net so that I could spend more money, reach more people and drive more actions. I just needed to expand beyond the 50k-100k or so audience that I was otherwise going after.

I didn’t need 2 million people. I just wanted to double or triple my budget. And that option was available by simply reaching people who were already exposed to my content, but may not have been to my site in a while.

Such people are clearly relevant because by visiting my site — whenever they did — they indicate an interest in my specific topic. And if they remember who I am, that’s simply a bonus.

Early Tests and Results

So during the past week, I have been adding an ad set to several of my campaigns to target those who have visited my website during the past 180 days, but not during the previous 30 (because I was already targeting that group in another ad set).

The sample size is still small, but I’ve spent $451.86 on this audience for the primary purposes of driving traffic and opt-ins. This has led to $.22 per website click and $.97 per conversion. Considering some campaigns have the objective of traffic and others opt-ins, those are pretty darn good averages (if the objective is traffic, I usually won’t get many opt-ins and when the objective is for the conversion, the traffic tends to be more expensive).

Breaking this down a bit more, I was getting $.14 per website click targeting website visitors during the past 180 days when my objective was driving website traffic. I was getting $.68 per opt-in.

Meanwhile, I had previously spent $769.53 during the past two weeks targeting audiences based on some combination of lookalike audiences for the sole purpose of driving traffic. That resulted in $.38 per website click.

When targeting only interests, I spent $334.02 to get a pathetic $.56 per website click. And the cost per conversion when targeting either lookalikes or interests (understanding my goal was traffic) was insanely high.

Why Is WCA 180 Effective?

There’s a very simple explanation for why targeting website visitors during the past 180 days can be just as effective as targeting those from the past 30 or 14 — and sometimes more effective: It’s cheap to reach these people.

During the past 30 days while the objective is driving website traffic, my average CPM when targeting lookalike audiences is $4.94. When targeting interests, it’s $5.36. When targeting any type of Website Custom Audience, it’s $.59.

In other words, it’s about 11-12% the cost to reach people who visit my website versus going after people who may not know me.

Amazingly, the CPM and success rate is nearly the same, regardless of whether I target users who visited during the past 14, 30 or 180 days. Here’s the breakdown when my objective is Clicks to Website:

  • WCA 14: $.60 CPM, $.14 per website click, 1.0% website click rate
  • WCA 30: $.77 CPM, $.19 per website click, 2.5% website click rate
  • WCA 180: $.50 CPM, $.14 per website click, 2.9% website click rate

Some of these stats make us question what we think we know, and that’s a good thing. Why would the website click rate be higher as the duration gets longer? It could be because Facebook has a larger group to work with, so they can better optimize. Maybe.

Well, keep in mind we are looking at small sample sizes here. Once again, we don’t want to make sweeping generalizations or make any universal declarations about what this means.

The one thing I do know is this: Targeting website visitors during the past 180 days can be far more effective than I ever thought. And any time we learn something new by doing things differently, we are succeeding in this game of Facebook advertising.

Your Turn

What’s an example of where you did things differently and found results that surprised you?

Let me know in the comments below!

Category: PHC Blog Uncategorized