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Don’t Waste Money on Facebook Ads: Follow These 6 Critical Tips

By Dmitry Dragilev 5 Comments Last updated on October 16, 2017

Running a Facebook (FB) ad campaign is so damn confusing.

Are you including and excluding the right demographics?

Are you targeting the right interests?

Are you…

Wasting money?

How do you even get going if you’re a newbie?

We caught up with Jason Dea, one of the founders of Toocoo, and a master of product marketing to help us answer these questions.

Jason’s been building and running FB ad campaigns to drive growth for B2C companies for nearly a decade.

He helped us boil down the process into six simple steps to get you results while saving you money.

After reading, you’ll understand how to start an efficient FB marketing campaign.

Or, you’ll know if you’ve bee wasting your precious ad dollars.

And now, without further ado, here’s Jason to show you how to not waste money on FB ads…

——-

The one question folks who are trying to get started in FB advertising ask me the most is, “How would you spend your first $100?”

Well, the answer’s simple, but it can be tough to hear:

I wouldn’t.

Spending $100 isn’t enough to implement a FB ad platform. And, worse, it could even hurt you.

I’ve run thousands of FB campaigns myself, and I’ve made thousands of mistakes.

Here’s why I think a $100 budget is useless, and potentially harmful:

In the world of online advertising (whether on FB or any other platform), data is the most important asset when it comes to buying ads. 

However, there is one caveat to keep in mind – you need ENOUGH data to be able to make insight-driven decisions

If you get lucky using a small budget, don’t base bigger decisions on that small sample size of data.

In online marketing, initial success isn’t often repeatable, and using a small data set to make key decisions leads to expensive mistakes.

Instead, spend an appropriate amount of money the first time to get enough data to make actionable insights into the future.

A Bigger Budget

What if you are able to scrounge up, say, $2000 for a FB advertising experiment?

What now?

Well, with that kind of budget you should have more than enough money to get a substantial pool of data.

Of course, this is assuming an average cost per click (CPC).

Some budgets with very niche audiences will need more than $2K for an adequate sample size.

Either way, here’s the six-step process I use for getting my campaigns up and running, and on the road to meaningful data and results, without wasting money:

Design Your Ad

Which ads and landing pages are you planning to use?

Don’t copy your competitors.

Aside from a significant laziness factor, and an entire discussion on unique value propositions, there’s a bigger problem.

Everything online has a fixed half-life, advertising especially.

If you’ve noticed your competition using a particular type of ad (image, copy, etc.) for a while, it probably works. Actually it probably did work and is now close to its saturation point of effectiveness.

So instead, let’s start with a brainstorming exercise.

If you’ve already got a focused value proposition or “elevator pitch,” this should be the starting point.

The rest should be an easy wordsmithing exercise.

a) Brainstorm angles:

What is the motivating theme of the ad – fear, pride, price, emotion? Think of headlines and ad copy that work with that theme.

For inspiration, check out this post on PR pitch angles. The subject might be different – PR pitches vs. FB ads – but the takeaways apply here as well.

Newsfeed ads don’t have character limits, and there are three areas you have to insert ad copy into:

1. Post Text (above the photo)

2. Link Headline (written in blue just underneath the photo)

3. Description (under the link headline and the text is slightly greyed out)

For ads in the sidebar you have two areas to insert copy:

1. Headline (25 character limit)

2. Body (90 character limit)

For the new generation sidebar ads, you still have two areas for copy with character limits:

1. Headline (35 character limit)

2. Body (90 character limit)

b) Find, or better yet, create pictures to use in ads that support these ideas.

Newsfeed ad images should be 400px by 209px

Mobile ad images should be 560px by 292px

Sidebar ad images should be 100px by 72px

c) Mix and match headlines, body copy and images, and filter out combinations that don’t make sense

So if you had three headlines, three bodies and three images for an ad in the sidebar, you now have 27 different ads you can try.

d) Create basic wireframes for landing pages to support each category of ad campaign

A Winning Design

There are no right and wrong answers, but here’s some design advice to not waste money on FB ads.

The internet, as we all know, is flooded with advertising. Getting a potential customer’s attention is tough.

This is particularly challenging on FB, since you’re competing with other ads and, FB’s main attraction, personal news feeds.

So how do you create your own ads that stand out?

One thing I like to do is collect amazing ads that I see when I’m using FB.

I’m usually numb to ads, having seen and created tens of thousands of them, so if there’s a particularly creative ad that I notice, it has to be good.don't waste money on Facebook ads by making better ads

I keep a folder with hundreds of screen grabs of these that I use for inspiration. Not to copy, but to learn new or unusual techniques and image ideas.

For example, there was one company that used a lens flare effect on a pretty mundane photo.

But guess what?

That lens flare caught my attention even though it was buried in a right-hand-side ad.

That showed me how simple Photoshop effects can make a huge difference in creating images that pop.

It also proved to me that you can do that without a lame technique like putting a fat red border around your ad (Facebook hates that btw).

Creating ads that get attention is the perfect way to save money and get results.

Tracking

This is all the “technical stuff” you have to do to not waste money on FB ads.

Never launch campaigns without proper tracking. Depending on your level of sophistication and budget, there are a number of options here. On the low end of the spectrum, you should be able to get by with the native reporting from FB and Google Analytics. Just take all those stats and collate them all together in a spreadsheet.

If you want to be more sophisticated (and have the budget) you can use simple tools like CPVLab to do this for you in an automated fashion.

The campaign tracking market is a big one.

And you can even go with tools as premium as Marin software.

But use your own needs, budget, and available resources as a guide.

Personally, I like to go the free route, especially if my objective is to not waste money on FB ads.

Now, you obviously should have a separate landing page dedicated to the campaign itself, usually that’s the best practice. There are a slew of services out there which can help you make a landing page (LeadPages.net and Unbounce.com are just some of them).

Upload your landing pages and confirm you have added the Google Analytics script correctly as well as the native FB tracking pixel script.

Go through the steps in this knowledge base to create and add native FB tracking pixels.

Ad Creatives

Now it’s time to upload your ads.

This can be a time-consuming process as a user (FB power editor is not the most intuitive tool).

It can take anywhere from 1 to 48 hours for the FB team to approve all your ads.

So plan for this in your schedule.

You’ll know it’s working if you see this happen.

google analytics tracking to not waste money on FB ads

Launch and Collect Data

I always launch a new campaign with a really small test (say the $100 you might have originally wanted to spend).

This testing isn’t for ad testing, but for testing that all your tracking pixels and tracking scripts are firing correctly, your pages are loading quickly, Google Analytics is working, etc.

If you’ve correctly inserted the Facebook tracking into your page, you should be able to see more detailed user behavior data like this when you look at your ad performance.

 

It’s better to take the time to make sure everything works, before you start really spending your hard-earned cash.

This way, you won’t have to waste money on FB ads that don’t have all the nuts and bolts in place.

After your first day of spending, you should check that you’re seeing numbers at all — clicks, click-through-rate (CTR), etc.

It’s not unheard of for something to be missing, or for an ad to be declined without you noticing, causing all your impressions to be paused.

If you are getting traffic, make sure that the CPC is something you’re comfortable with.

Most importantly, you should check that your traffic numbers from FB are matching what you’re seeing in Google Analytics.Facebook tracking to not waste money on Facebook ads

Once everything has passed your tests, then you’re good to go.

Cross your fingers, you are ready to spend.

Remember the goal is to collect data. You need to get statistically significant data before you start making decisions.

Use Split-Testing

It’s more than likely your campaign will not start off with a bang.

That’s ok, and frankly it’s to be expected.

Every good campaign takes a bit of optimization to get there.

The way to turn a campaign profitable is by running tests, over and over, and over again.

You should consistently, and constantly, run experiments in order to improve your campaign’s performance.

Your objective with each test is to incrementally improve the performance and profitability of your campaign.

Here’s a simplified example of how to iterate:

Let’s assume that you’ve launched your first campaign.

Initially, you might be at a completely negative 100% ROI and losing money.

So what do you do next to not waste money on FB ads any further??

  • First, within the group of ads you’ve launched your campaign with, there must be one that is performing better than the others. The interesting thing about the FB Ad platform is FB will often do this for you by giving a disproportionate amount of ad impressions to one ad over all your others. Find that one, and we’ll use that to start optimizing.

 

  • Test #1: Test that winning ad using 3 different images, but use the same headline and ad copy. Run these ad variations until you get a number of clicks on each one. Keep the best one based on click-through performance (usually better click-through will translate to lower cost per click as well). Improving your call to action is the first round of optimization and might bring you up to -50% ROI.

 

  • Test #2: Test three variations of your call to action. Use the winning image + headline + body combination from Test #1. Again, let them run and keep the best performing ad. Now you’ve improved your ad performance over two test iterations, and perhaps brought your campaign close to break even at -10% ROI.

 

  • Test #3: Test five landing pages that your winning ad from Test #2 sends visitors to. Continue the process, and keep the best one. Now you’re in the black at +25% ROI. This is the ongoing process required to optimize your ad campaigns. There’s not really much magic, just time and effort.

 

The biggest mistake is not optimizing at all. Some people will try to set it and forget it, assuming that traffic will normalize, or that it’s a bad time of year.

You don’t find winning campaigns, you create them.

When you’re running your experiments, you will want to split test (or A/B test) individual variables at a time. Here are some of the variables to optimize against:

Ads — Don’t focus on only the highest click-through rate. An ad could have an amazing CTR, but still lose money, because it doesn’t convert.

Sure, people will click on pictures of scantily clad women, but I’m pretty sure that has nothing to do with your business.

Some images are going to get people to click, but won’t convince them to buy your stuff.

It will just cost you instead of helping you to not waste money on Facebook ads. That’s why it’s important to track.

Landing Pages — Different styles of pages, with images, headlines, buttons, etc.

Ad Bids — There’s no established protocol on the best way to bid.

Experiment.

Low to high, high to low, bid a certain percentage above or below the suggestions FB gives you.

Try them all.

To be honest, it’s more superstition than science from what I’ve seen.

Day & Week Parting— Day parting is running during the best times of the day. If you’re only profitable from 5pm-12am EST, then try running only during those times.

Week parting is running only on the days of the week that you’re profitable.

If you’re making money on weekends only, then try running only during those days.

Jason Dea has some sound advice around putting split testing into action. “Set a budget for yourself to test ad formats and audience segments. Once you find a recipe that fits, scale it.”

Analyze the data!

Now that you have collected real data, you can start making real decisions to make the campaign better and not waste money on FB ads..

If you’re tracking everything, then you will have detailed daily stats.

You should also have been calculating your own metrics such as Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) to summarize all of the ad, page and click-through numbers. Your CPA is calculated as Total Spend/Total Conversions.

If you’re not already tracking that, do it now.

Spend as much time as you need to log data into a spreadsheet with exact spend, clicks, leads, conversions, etc.

If you’re a visual learner like I am, you can convert this data into charts.

Use charts to identify patterns that are emerging and fine-tune the campaign to not waste money on FB ads.

Which campaigns do you keep, which ones do you trash?

Just because a campaign is making money doesn’t always mean you should keep running it.

Does it have future potential?

By this point, you should have other campaign variations, as well, and you have to decide which ones are worth your time.

Ask yourself:

How can I start systemizing this campaign?

Is there something here that can be scaled?

Just Do It

Hopefully, you now have a rough idea of how and when you’ll want to dip your toes into advertising on FB.

Spend the time to prepare, and then go for it!

 

Jason is Chief Operating Officer at Toocoo, a Toronto-based digital agency specializing in eCommerce, offering services ranging from design, integration and media buying, to their referral marketing platform, Forewards. Whether Jason is, in fact, “too coo” is yet to be determined. You can follow him on Twitter @threadyblock

Enjoyed the article? I have more, just for you!
Written by Dmitry Dragilev

I'm the founder of JustReachOut.io which helps 4,000+ small businesses and entrepreneurs pitch press and get exposure daily without any help of PR firms. See more here.

5 thoughts on this article
  1. Patrick McCoy  Reply

    This makes me a little sad. I was trying to do something similar with $100 bucks of facebook ads. Thanks for saving me money, back to the old drawing board.

    • Dmitry Dragilev  Reply

      No problem Patrick haha. $100 is a good to test that everything is setup and is working fine but not enough to really gather enough data unfortunately.

    • Jason Dea  Reply

      Hi Patrick. The idea is to put together a structured plan ahead of time to get to a successful ad campaign, or ad campaign formula.

      The trap I see a lot of people get into is trying to “dabble” here and there with small budgets that only get you part way through your testing phase, and never really improving their campaign performance. Having a larger budget in mind ahead of time helps improve your chances of getting statistically useful data, and also psychologically puts you in a more strategic frame of mind as well.

      Hope you found the article helpful.

  2. Gene  Reply

    Interesting article. Thank you for writing it. How would these concepts in your article apply to testing the validity of a new online guitar lessons business? I’m specifically asking about setting a budget for a cold audience. I will be using FB ads as a way to test the interest in my idea. The thought was to run about 3 variations of the ad with a budget of $100 lifetime for each variation. Seems like you don’t think this is enough budget. How would you evaluate the data and what data points would be important to you? Would appreciate your feedback.

    • Dmitry Dragilev  Reply

      Good question Gene! I would look into testing a cold email outreach for some of your potential customers to focus on specific demographics and know who to go after, try something like this for example: http://videofruit.com/blog/3kpermonth/ Once you have some data about who it is you think might be your idea customer you can go and run some ads against these folks. IN terms of budget, I would look at at least $1K-$2K to just start to test and get some good data back about which ads work on which audience.

      My advice – get your conversions on your site and figure out your target market before you run ads.

      Let me know if this helps?

      -Dmitry

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