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The Search Marketers Guide To Facebook Ads

With more than 400 million active users on Facebook, advertisers are salivating at the opportunity to reach targeted and engaged audiences through Facebook ads. But paid advertising on Facebook is still in its infancy. Few organizations have figured out how to effectively leverage Facebook ads, and in many cases resources and budgets have not yet become available for investment in the channel. For smart search marketers, this uncertainty around Facebook ads represents an opportunity.

Just as advertising on content networks required a shift from intent-based to contextual advertising, Facebook ads represent a similar shift. It’s true that advertising on Facebook is driven by targeting users based on their likes and interests, as opposed to user queries. But most of the skills and techniques that you develop as a successful search marketer can be translated into the skills required to build winning campaigns on Facebook. The reason for this is that despite differences in targeting methodologies, Facebook and paid search advertising share a common bond—their ad platforms fundamentally rely on targeting specific segments of users.

With a large set of potential keywords to explore, Facebook marketers have to balance expanding their audience with refining their traffic quality, and do so with a keen eye to the impact that factors such as creative and landing pages have on conversion. This plays to the search marketer’s strengths: analyzing conversion rates and ROI down to the creative level, building out multiple similar campaigns with varying targeting parameters, sub-segmenting campaigns based on quantitative results to refine traffic, testing ad copy and landing page effectiveness, bidding to business goals on ads with little history or data, and managing ad quality.

But how do you begin? As a search marketer, there are lots of ways to leverage your existing search programs to give yourself a head start on Facebook. More importantly, there are some unique best-practices on Facebook that you should know about. Below, we will share a few best practices that we’ve discovered from working with clients using Facebook ads.

Thoughtfully re-purpose your top keywords to generate likes and interests

Just as in paid search, you will likely use keywords (called Likes and Interests) to target your ads to potential customers on Facebook. Identifying your highest performing paid search terms can give you a head start in determining relevant keywords for use as likes and interests. But, you have to be thoughtful about how you use these keywords. Similar to advertising on a content network, focus on topics and themes rather than individual terms in order to translate from search keywords to keywords representing likes and interests.

You should be creative about generating likes and interests by including related themes. For example, if you sell tents, consider likes and interests like “camping,” “backpacking,” “trail running,” “rock climbing” and other related activities. Also, you need to be wary of keywords that are too general. These terms can cast a wide a net in terms of audience and end up diluting traffic quality and performance. Use Facebook’s advertising tools to estimate the reach of targeting parameters, including candidate likes and interests.

Test images before copy

On search engines, ads are typically limited to a 25 character headline and 75 character description, making testing and tweaking copy a snap. On Facebook, you have a little more copy to play with, but more importantly you have the option to use an image in your ads. With the variety of engaging social content on Facebook pages, to put it simply, you need your ads to stand out to grab the viewer’s attention. While relevant value propositions, differentiation, and calls to action, in copy are vital, using the right image can have a much larger impact on whether or not your ad garners a second glance or a click.

Most successful ads include colorful, engaging images. Adding borders to your photos in colors like orange or yellow, that contrast with the blue and white Facebook interface, is a simple way to pull the user’s eyes your way. Make sure to test early and often here, as the results will surprise you. We often find that winning images are not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing; rather they are the ones that grab the most attention.

Keep your ads fresh

With users spending an average of over seven hours a month on Facebook, they will be presented with your ads much more often than paid search ads. Because an ad can be served to the same users multiple times, it doesn’t take long for Facebook users to become “blind” to an advertisement. Additionally, if your ad has low click-through rates Facebook may look to serve the ad less than newer ads without performance history. Rotating images and ad copy are important to keep ads fresh and quality scores high. Even Facebook themselves suggest that you move around images and copy every couple of days to make sure your ads remain fresh to the viewers and encourage clicks. Serving a variety of ads to the same target group can also help you hone in on the messaging and images that make an impact on particular segments.

Refine bids by micro-targeting campaigns

Applying micro-targeting and price de-averaging strategies lie at the core of search marketing, and not surprisingly these strategies are also central to success with Facebook ads. There are a lot of levers to toggle in Facebook when you are dictating the audience for your ads. Making sense of these levers requires beginning with a large target audience, and then refining your campaigns based on data.

For example, assume you are targeting people who are interested in “biking” for a variety of biking accessories that you sell. You can start with a campaign targeting “biking” enthusiasts and then build multiple campaigns each targeting “biking” sub-segments by age, gender, location or even other likes and interests. By measuring the performance of each sub-segment in terms of click-through and conversion, you can calculate appropriate bids for each segment. This allows you to decrease bids on low performing segments and increase bids for your high value audiences. For search marketers this process will sound similar to refining your match types. The key difference here is that Facebook requires you to build a new offer for each new segment you want to target, making exploration a little more time consuming. But with the right tools, these types of strategies can go a long ways towards making Facebook ads deliver profitable returns for your business.

More info on Facebook ads

Want to get going with advertising on Facebook? Here are some great resources to help you on your way.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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