A few weeks ago, I finished reading the book “The Like Economy”. This book has given me tons of great ideas that I could implement right away.
While I already implemented some ideas mentioned in the book, today, I’ll be sharing with you an experiment I did on both Facebook and Google Adwords advertising.
My first intention was to only experiment with Facebook advertising and use some of the optimization tips the book advises. However, before I started my experiment, I received a magic email from Payoneer (which is a prepaid Mastercard global payment service I use) with a FREE $50 voucher for Google Adwords.
Without taking further thinking, I instantly went to Google Adwords and claimed my award. From there, I decided to hit 2 birds with one stone to give you the maximum benefit.
I learned a ton of stuff in this experiment and I’ll be sharing all of them in this post. Because Payoneer gave me $50 worth of advertising budget on Google Adwords, I decided that the Facebook budget should be the same in order to make the comparison easier (in terms of overall clicks, CTR, CPC…etc).
For the target page, I’ve set up 2 identical pages that has my monthly management plans in order to track each one separately.
The first thing I did was purchasing some photos from iStockPhoto. I dedicated about $10 to photos which made the budget for the Facebook campaign $60 ($10 more than the Google Adwords one). Most people will think that Facebook advertising is more expensive that Google Adwords, but the high CTR that the visual images will bring will end up lowering your cost per click, and by the end you’ll discover that you’ve spent less on Facebook than on Google advertising.
The criteria I used to select images are:
1- Choose images that have faces of people in them (as people respond better to faces).
2- Choose images that have some attention grabbing colors (like red).
3- Choose images that have an impression (overwhelmed, frustrated…etc).
4- Choose images that speak the dream of your target audience (money, profit, success…etc).
After purchasing 6 basic images (you only need small images for Facebook advertising), I went straight to setting up my Facebook campaign.
I dedicated about $4 per day for this campaign and I created several ads in it.
Setting up the ad
As you can see, the first section to creating any ad is the “Set Up Your Ad or Sponsored Story”. The first thing you should do is to put the URL of your desired page that you want people to go to after they click on your ad.
The first mistake I did was putting the direct URL in the “enter a URL” field. After a day or 2, I realized that Google Analytics counts Facebook clicks as direct traffic which I ended up changing to track the performance of these clicks (I’ll share details later on this post).
Your photo isn’t actually the only factor that determines the effectiveness of a specific ad. After you grab users’ attention with your image, you need to give them an attention grabbing yet relevant headline as well.
The main goal of your headline is to keep the user interested so they read your text or description. The most important thing that you should keep in mind is to never use misleading headlines or descriptions as this is only going to make you lose money and not convert any of the traffic that goes to your target page.
As you can see in the previous example, the headline speaks directly the benefit of the target page. It also states the problem that the target market is trying to solve (which is more profit from social media).
The text should explain what benefit the user gets from your target page. In the previous example, the text promises the user to achieve their business goals through social media. You probably noticed that I upper-cased “NOW”, and the only reason for this is to make the user notice the call to action which is “click now”.
The image is probably the first thing that users notice. In the previous examples, I relied on the red color to grab attention. With the first one, I used a photo of a pretty woman (this always works!) that seems to be thinking and probably confused. With the second one, I focused on the dollar sign, which is again in red.
In the previous image, I included a photo of a woman overwhelmed by work load targeting people who are overwhelmed by social media activities, and I offered a solution to help them manage their social presence with our affordable plans.
Choosing your audience
This is probably why Facebook is considered the best advertising platform right now. This section lets you target your audience based on location, age, gender and the best of all precise interest.
I know that most people start with setting up an ad and then jump to targeting. However, I believe that if you go the opposite way, the results should be better.
When you setup your target market first, you’ll have a clear understanding of your audience needs. This will allow you to condition your ad to meet those needs. In the previous example, my target market was small business owners and entrepreneurs. I know that a small business owner doesn’t probably have a full-time social media manager because they can’t afford it. I also know that managing their social presence is a pain for most of them as they want to spend their time creating valuable products and services. When I knew these, creating the ad was easier and more effective.
Campaign, Pricing and Schedule
This is the section where you set-up your budget and specify how long you want your campaign to run.
Many people are confused of whether to use the CPC or the CPM model. I advise you to select the CPC first, and when you notice that your ad is performing well, you can setup a separate campaign with the CPM model and see if you get a lower cost per click.
When you choose the CPC model, you’ll get Facebook to give you a suggested bid. Many people try to lower that to figure out next that their ads aren’t showing. I advise you to leave it as Facebook recommends because that’s not what you’re going to be paying per click. If your ad has a high CTR, then your cost per click will drop and you end up paying way less than their suggested bid.
The thing that you should keep in mind is that Facebook cares only about the performance of your ad (if it fits their guidelines of course). If you have a high performing ad, your cost will drop and your reach will expand, but if your ad isn’t performing well, your cost per click will go up and your ads will stop showing to the target audience.
The most important factor that determines the effectiveness of any advertising campaign is definitely continuous optimization. If you see that some ads aren’t performing well, then you need to change them immediately (whether change the targeting, the ad text or the bidding). On the other hand, if some ads are performing really well, don’t expect them to stay that way forever. Even your best performing ads will burnout and you have to change them when you notice that their performance is dropping.
After a day or 2, I started seeing that some ads are performing better than others. What I ended up doing is to test the targets of good performing ads with different images and ad text. Facebook doesn’t allow you to create 2 ads with the same target in the same campaign so I had to create another one to improve the good performing ads even more.
As you can see above, some ads have performed really well (this is the second day from starting the campaign). The best CTR was for the second ad (0.324%). Many experts say that if you’re above 0.1%, then you’re doing great, so try to keep it at least above the 0.08%.
For the ads that aren’t getting any impression, I ended up pausing them or changing either the targeting or the image and ad text. Also, if your ads aren’t performing well, after a while, Facebook will notify you and gives you probable solution to your ads low performance. When an ad isn’t performing well, there are actually 3 reasons:
1- Your target market is too small
In this situation, try to broaden up your target audience a little bit like: expanding age, choosing both men and women (if it’s suitable), adding some related interests…etc
2- Your ad isn’t enticing
Sometimes you have the right target, but you end up doing the wrong targeting. You can improve the performance of your ads by changing the picture of the ad as well as experimenting with different headlines and texts until your CTR improves.
3- Your bidding price is too low
Sometimes, when you’re in a competitive market, choosing a low bidding price can cause your ads to not show at all. As I said before, you should leave the suggested bidding price by Facebook as you’ll end up paying way less if your ads are performing well. If you look at the previous example, you’ll instantly see that with the best performing ad (the second one), I ended up paying less than the half of the suggested bidding price.
What I did after that is that I took the best performing ad and replicated it into another campaign, however, this time is was based on a cost per 1000 impression model (CPM). After a while, I noticed that the ad isn’t performing well, I tried to increase the bidding price but no luck. However, it’s worth it that you test your best performing ads with a CPM model to decrease your cost.
Many people rely only on Facebook stats when it comes to measuring the performance and profitability of their campaigns. However, I believe that this is not enough. It’s true that Facebook will tell you how much your reach is, how much you’ve spent per click, your CTR…etc, but there are many other factors that you need to look after, especially if you’re directing people to an external page.
Let’s first begin with Facebook reports
Total money spent: $50.33
Total number of clicks: 54
Average cost per click: $0.93 (not really good as some low performing ads were costing more than $1 per click).
Seeing that the social media marketing market is competitive mainly because these guys are social media savvy, it’s logical that I got a fairly high average cost per click. However, there is a lot of room to improve the campaign and decrease the cost per click.
For the first 2 days or so, I noticed that Google isn’t tracking the clicks I’m getting from Facebook advertising. After doing some research, I’ve come to realize that Google put those clicks into the direct traffic category which makes it impossible to track (as a large portion of my traffic is direct traffic).
What you need to do to start tracking Facebook traffic is to add some code to your embedded Google Analytics code. I found an article on Ordoro.com that explain this in details. If you don’t have Google Analytics installed on your website, then go grab your code. If you already have it installed, then all you have to do is to go where you’ve placed that code which looks like this:
var _gaq = _gaq || ;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’); s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
And add these 5 lines in red:
var _gaq = _gaq || ;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’); s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
These added parameters will help Google Analytics identify the traffic source and list details about that traffic in the campaigns section.
All you have to do now is to go to Google’s URL Builder and type in your target URL that you’re directing people to from your Facebook ads, plus the parameters that help Google Analytics grab information related to those clicks.
1- Enter your target URL that you intend to use on your Facebook campaign.
2- Your campaign source is Facebook.
3- The medium is CPC.
4- Enter your campaign name here.
5- When you click “generate URL”, you’ll get your custom URL.
What you need to do now is to use that URL in the URL section of each of your ads instead of your direct URL.
When you go to your Google Analytics traffic sources, you click on sources and then on campaigns, you’ll see the Facebook traffic that is coming from your ads.
Total Visits : 27 (I applied the URL builder from the 3rd or 4th day of the campaign, so Google Analytics wasn’t able to track the clicks on the first days).
Average Visit Duration : 03.07 minutes which is a really good number.
Bounce Rate (people who leave without clicking on other pages of your website): 66.67% which is not too high. However, this metric isn’t really important in this situation as you could be directing people to a one page squeeze page. Also, a low bounce rate in this situation could mean that your target page is distracting visitors to click on other webpages which is not what you really want.
The results imply that the targeting was good enough as visitors are spending time on the target page.
The great thing about Google Analytics is that you can set specific goals to see if your visitors are completing an action that you want them to complete on your webpage like (subscribe to your email list, purchase something, fill in a contact form…etc). Setting up goals in Google Analytics will be the subject of a future post.
Google Adwords advertising
As I told you before, I got a free $50 voucher code from Payoneer. After I claimed it, I got around €39.70 (my Google Adwords accounts is set in Euros).
I set up 1 campaign with 3 ads each serving a different set of keywords. The great thing about Adwords is that you don’t have to create another campaign if you only want to change the ad copy like Facebook. You can have as many different looking ads as you can for the same keywords in the same campaign.
As you can see above, all you have to do is to enter the headline, description line 1 and 2, the display URL (that you want to appear on your ad) and the destination URL that you want to drive people to.
In the destination URL, you can either do the same steps of setting a custom URL using Google’s URL Builder and put the link there or associate your Google Adwords and Analytics together to track traffic coming through your Google ads (Google doesn’t track your campaign by default).
Like in Facebook, I set up the bidding to “Auto” which I believe adjusts the price to keep your ads running in the first places of paid search results.
I dedicated a budget of €4 per day and let the campaign run until the amount in exhausted. Google also gives you a set of keywords to choose from and I chose to put all of those keywords between quotes to make the search “phrase match” (that means that the query that will trigger my ads to appear contains the exact matched keyword in addition to a query at the beginning or the end of the keyword). EX: let’s say that my keyword is “social media manager”. The phrase match keyword would either be “social media manager”, “I need a social media manager” or “social media manager needed”. All of these keywords will trigger my ad to appear as long as the exact keyword “social media manager” is present in the phrase.
The great thing about Google Adwords is that it recommends you additional keywords for each ad after running them for a while. This will increase the chances of your ads being seen by more people and if you craft your text well and target the right keywords, you’ll start seeing traffic back to your target page.
Like Facebook, we’re going to see the results that Google adwords provides in addition to the ones provided by Google Analytics and which contain more useful information about how our traffic behaves on our target page.
Total money spent: $50 (€39.70)
Total number of clicks: 23
Average cost per click: $2.17
As I told you before, you can either use Google’s URL Builder like we did with Facebook, or just associate your Adwords and Analytics accounts together (see how it’s done HERE).
You can see here that the number of clicks coming from Adwords is 21 (I linked my Analytics and Adwords accounts a while after I started the campaign and that explains the missing 2 clicks).
Average Visit Duration: 01.36 minutes.
Bounce Rate: 47.62%
The comparison: Facebook vs Adwords
Time, effort and money
You can obviously see that Adwords outruns Facebook on the resources spent. For time, Adwords campaigns are easier and less time consuming than Facebook campaigns. Also, you don’t usually suffer ad burnout in Adwords as everyday there will be new people using your search queries and clicking your ads. With Facebook, you have to change even your best performing ads after letting them run for a while, because your target audience will get used to them and develop a sort of immunity against clicking them.
For the money spent, Adwords also outruns Facebook. With Adwords you only write text, while with Facebook you need to purchase images to set up your ads. However that doesn’t imply that Adwords campaigns cost less or perform better than Facebook campaigns as we’re going to see next.
From the previous analytics, you can see that the $50 I spent on Facebook has brought 54 clicks with a $0.93 per click. On the other hand, Adwords has only brought 23 clicks which is almost half of what Facebook has brought. The cost per click is also very high $2.17.
When we compare the Google Analytics data, we’ll instantly notice that the visitor coming from Facebook spends more time (3.07 minutes) than the Adwords visitor which only spends 1.36 minutes. However, the bounce rate of Facebook visitors is 66.67% while for Adwords it’s only 47.62%. This implies that most Facebook visitors has spent all of their time on the target page before they’ve exited the website while most Adwords visitors have jumped to other pages on my website because they weren’t interested in the offer I made (probably they found the price to be high). Because Adwords users have more buyer intention, the results above justify why Adwords visitors leave the page and the website too soon. If they don’t like the offer, they leave immediately to find a better one.
When we talk about advertising campaigns, the most important thing that we should pay much attention to is the return on investment. Because the above experiment was just to test both platforms (Facebook and Adwords) and report back to you lessons I learned along with the results each platform has produced, I didn’t really pay much attention to the offer page (the monthly management packages). I used a page on my website (which is not advised as there are many distractions that prevent visitors from staying focused on the offer), and I also didn’t do much to optimize it for advertising traffic.
In the course of this campaign, I got several contacts, but they were all spammy. Only one serious client who is looking for a social media marketer for healthcare providers. I still have to ask her whether she came from Facebook, Adwords or from any other traffic source that I’m getting traffic from (Facebook, Twitter, organic listings on Google…etc).
I wouldn’t say that the 2 campaigns haven’t brought the results I was expecting because they were just done for the sole reason of this case study. However, I’m pretty confident that the next campaigns will be much profitable and effective (I’ll share the results with you on this blog).
Things I learned
1- High performing CPC ads don’t always perform better when switched to a CPM model.
2- I know that there is a lot of controversy these days about whether to put fixed prices on your packages and show them on your website or not.
You can see that in the first 3 days of the 2 campaigns, the average time spent on the website was 0 minutes for Adwords visitors (number 2) and 1.29 minutes for Facebook visitors (number 1). When I started the campaigns I removed the price of packages for the first 3 days to test this particular thing.
When I returned to show the price of each package on the target page, the average time on site has dramatically increased.
You can see that beginning from the 4th day until the end of the campaigns (without counting the days I didn’t track), the average time duration for Facebook visitors went up to 03.38 minutes while on Adwords it has jumped from 0 to 01.40 minutes. This could be a very good indicator that putting prices increases the effectiveness of your target page, but you have to test both versions yourself and see if you can drive a conclusive conclusion.
3- Facebook advertising costs less than Adwords advertising, but you need to test the ROI first to determine which one is more profitable (never base your conclusions on clicks and cost per click).
4-Facebook’s interest targeting is a goldmine so make sure to exploit it properly.
5- Advertising doesn’t always cost lots of money. You can dedicate minimum budgets ($100 or even $50 per month) and you still get to see good results, so let your guards down and start experimenting with advertising, especially Facebook for different goals that you want your business to achieve (fan acquisition, affiliate marketing, lead generation…etc).
Things I should’ve done
I’m not the kind of guys that looks back and whine about what they should’ve done better, but there are many lessons I learned from these micro campaigns that I feel necessary to share with you.
1- As I said before, these 2 campaigns were for the sole reason of demonstration. However, if you’re going to spend money anyway, then you first need to optimize your landing page. The higher converting your landing page is, the less money you’re going to spend and the more profit you’re going to gain. It’s true that with small budgets, we don’t get to test the performance of our landing pages until we find the killer one, but you can still optimize your target page using you very best guess and then optimize from there.
2- The second mistake I did was to assume that Google Analytics tracks the traffic coming from the 2 campaigns. If I’ve set up tracking earlier, I wouldn’t miss the data of the first days and with that I’ll be able to drive more accurate conclusions. So make sure that you install your analytics correctly before you move forward with your campaigns.
3- The other thing I missed doing was to set up goals on Google Analytics to see what actions the traffic coming in from both platforms completes (fill in the contact form, optin to my email list, go to another page…etc). However, this will be the subject of another future post, so stay tuned.
4- I believe that the best performing landing pages are the ones that contain no links to other pages. My goal was to get those visitors to fill in the contact form, a future goal might be getting them to subscribe to my email list or purchase something. Directing them to a page on my website (with a menu and dozens of other links) made them distracted from the main goal. If you think of starting a campaign, just make sure to put a dedicated page to your goal that has no menu or links in it.
While the campaign wasn’t big enough to drive accurate conclusions, I’ve been able to come up with many lessons as long as ideas that I could implement in the near future. The biggest lesson I’ve come up with is that Facebook advertising still has a tremendous potential that yet to be exploited.
I’ll be conducting other experiments like this one in the future (like advertising for fan acquisition, lead generation, affiliate marketing and niche specific client generation “real estate, organic food…etc”), so make sure you subscribe below to stay tuned.
So have you tried Facebook or Adwords advertising before? If so, let us know what lessons you’ve learned and conclusions you’ve driven from it. If this is your first campaign, please come back and share your experience with us. Good luck!