What Startups Can Learn from ‘Tax Relief’ PPC Campaigns

Old-school industries don’t get the credit they deserve.

Every blog focuses on the hot new startup.

People write case study after case study on the trendy new subscription box.

But no one ever talks about offline companies.

Even though, many times, there’s WAY more money at stake.

Take ‘tax relief,’ for example.

The latest IRS numbers show that people fail to pay $458 billion a year in taxes. That accounts for almost 69% of our annual deficit.

Obviously, people don’t get away with avoiding taxes for too long. Eventually, they’ll be caught.

And then they’ll need to pay back the IRS.

The problem, of course, is that they probably won’t have the money on hand.

So what will these desperate people do?

They’ll start looking for help from tax relief companies.

These companies specialize in helping people reduce or avoid certain debts.

What’s the problem?

This is a heavily commoditized market. Many of these providers are offering the same services, more or less.

If a ‘Blue Ocean Strategy‘ refers to uncontested markets, tax relief is a very, very, molten lava, red-hot, competitive market.

It’s among the most competitive in the world. You have massive companies all chasing the same few people who owe lots and lots of money.

You know what else that means?

There is no room for error.

These companies literally cannot afford to make a mistake.

They’re among the highest-priced PPC terms, for instance, reaching up to around $40-50 bucks a click.

And that’s just for a single visit!

They still have to try and convert those visitors. So the actual cost per lead is well into the hundreds of dollars, easy.

That’s why we should be studying these old school industries. They might not have the flashiest designs or most cutting-edge tech.

But they are slogging it out, day in and day out, with competitors who’re all spending a TON of money.

In this article, I’m going to show you strategies from the best in the tax relief business. At the very end, you’ll be able to take these tips and instantly increase your own PPC campaigns.

First, however, we need to start by getting a lay of the land.

How to research an industry you know nothing about

PPC is one of my favorite marketing tactics.

I love it because it produces results almost immediately. You can turn campaigns on and make adjustments on the fly.

Do it right and customers start flowing in within a few days.

I also love it because it’s consistent. You can predict what kind of results you’re going to get.

And you can predict them, because a simple competitive analysis will give you almost all the data you need.

For example, before this post, I knew nothing about tax relief. Thankfully!

My trick to uncovering the best marketing tips isn’t to watch what people say. It’s to watch what they do.

If you want to know more about ‘tax relief,’ let’s start by Googling the competition.

So far so good. The first four ad results show they know what they’re doing.

My search query was “tax relief Seattle.”

But all of them do a good job bringing up benefits of their service.

Why does that matter? Because just over a year ago, Google opened up the ‘expanded’ headline.

This way, you could hit the keyword in the first headline. And then add a secondary benefit to get people to click.

Here’s an awesome example:

“Take 60 seconds to cut taxes” helps the searcher hop over the first objection hurdle: It’s going to be too long or boring.

When this new expanded headline debuted, WordStream ran a study and found that adding an additional benefit like this can increase your click-through rate by 400%!

Just a few simple queries like this will help you quickly find a whole slew of companies.

Stick to big, popular queries at this point.

The reason? Keywords like “tax relief” will also be among the most expensive in the space.

Which means the companies you see advertising on them will have the big bucks.

They’ll be the most aggressive.

And you can use them as a benchmark.

For example, Precision Tax Relief had an excellent ad earlier. They used ad extensions like star ratings and reviews.

So you know they’re legit.

Now, I’m going to grab their URL and drop them into two tools.

First, let’s see what their site brings up in SpyFu:

Check that out.

Two seconds and you can see:

  1. The number of keywords they’re bidding on
  2. An estimate of clicks they’re receiving
  3. Their total monthly budget

And then, you can even drill down into the individual keywords in their account.

Each one will show a cost per click, the total ad budget on each, and where they’re showing up for them.

SEMrush will show you similar data:

In this case, you’re able to sort the keywords they’re bidding on by search position.

See something interesting already?

Precision Tax Relief is paying for the #1 position of a competitor, Optima Tax Relief.

Judging by this traffic estimate, they’re also stealing a TON of their clicks, too.

Look further down the list and you see more of the same.

Why should we spend time looking up competitors?

Because these tools will uncover the strategies the best companies in the industry are using.

So far, we can see that Precision Tax is using a branded search strategy.

Instead of just dominating their own name, they’re actively bidding against the competition’s.

But that’s not the most important thing buried in here.

For starters, they’re giving us the 800LB gorilla in the tax relief space: Optima.

Which means we can now go research them to see what’s making them so successful.

Let’s start with reverse-engineering their keyword strategy.

Analyze the best in the business to see what works

There’s a trick I use to shortcut keyword research for SEO.

Instead of wasting tons of time on inaccurate tools like the Google Keyword Planner, I do the same thing every time I get a new site:

Fire up an AdWords campaign.

The reason? It saves me a ton of time.

The hardest part about optimizing a brand new website is that you don’t know the ‘money’ keywords.

You have no idea which keywords will deliver the best bang for your buck. Or hours.

AdWords can help you solve that.

You can add a bunch of keywords from five minutes of research. Set up a decent daily budget.

Then, the AdWords Search Terms report will tell you exactly which keywords are worth focusing on.

That’s what we want to replicate in this case, too.

Right now, we still have no idea which keywords perform best.

Sure, we saw that some companies are going after the competition hard.

But you often can’t rely only on competitive brand queries.

Instead, let’s look up the top keywords for Optima Tax Relief. They were one of the biggest in the space.

So they probably have a pretty good keyword strategy already in place.

Here’s what that looks like in SEMrush:

Notice what they’re doing?

They’re employing a location-based keyword strategy.

A lot of the estimate monthly volume is really low, too. ~200-300 monthly queries is nothing.

“Tax relief,” by comparison, gets over ~8,000 monthly searches alone. It’s also expensive, with CPC’s that can range up to ~$40 a click:

Instead of going after just those big keywords, Optima is going after a ton of long-tail keywords.

That’s good and bad news.

It’s good news because long-tail keywords should offer better conversions and cost less per lead.

But it’s bad news because there’s often not enough of them to go around.

In other words, you have to piece them all together to get the end results you’re looking for.

You can’t grow a business off one or two conversions each month. Instead, you need to stack those like bricks.

You need thousands to really take off.

Clicking on those individual keywords they’re running will also show you the different ad creatives they’re using.

And you’ll get to see the other similar search terms their ads are appearing on.

For example, here’s what it looks like when you click on “tax attorney nyc”:

Now, you’re seeing all of those little long-tail variations that go together.

And you’re looking at the exact ad copy they’re using to drive clicks.

See how this works?

With about ten minutes of research, you can start piecing together a winning campaign.

Even in an industry where you have no prior experience.

Of course, this is just a start.

There’s actually a whole lot more involved in a successful ad campaign.

We’re only scratching the surface right now.

Keywords and ads get people to click. But they’re not why people convert.

Most of the time, that happens when people start interacting with your site.

Your site’s landing pages not only determine conversions, though. They also can end up determining how much you’re going to pay for each click.

Here’s how.

Mimic the customer’s process to understand their experience

Back in the day, when I first started out, AdWords didn’t have a Quality Score.

That meant anyone could advertise on any keywords and there was no penalty.

As long as you had the money to spend, it was fine.

That created a problem for users, though. The results were often irrelevant.

Google’s Quality Score changed all that.

It factors in a bunch of different variables, like ad relevance or expected click-through rate, to determine which ads are best.

Generally speaking, the better the score and your Ad Rank, the less you often end up paying.

In this video, I give 5 tips for increasing your Quality Score:

So while AdWords is an auction, you can sometimes pay less than the people showing up below you. If your scores are better.

Years ago, Larry Kim analyzed millions in ad spend and found a 16% cost difference based on Quality Score. A point higher and you paid less. A point lower and you paid more.

Jacob Baadsgaard repeated this experiment a few years later and found a 13% correlation.

In other words, your Quality Score can often directly influence your costs.

Now, here’s the kicker:

A huge component of your Quality Score comes down to message match.

Here’s what that means:

  1. How well does your keyword selection represent someone’s search intent?
  2. How well does your ad text match the keyword you’re bidding on?
  3. And how well does your landing page match both the ad text and keyword?

Those three elements should be in perfect harmony.

The more they’re aligned, the better the message match, the higher the Quality Score, and the lower cost you pay.

Still with me so far?

Let’s go back to our original example from Precision Tax Relief.

Here’s what their ad looked like again:

Notice how the headline is: “Best Tax Relief Seattle”?

The ad copy below also uses “attorneys,” among other keywords.

Compare that ad to the landing page people see when they click:

Not bad, right?

Technically speaking, the headline on this page (“Best Seattle Tax Attorney”) is a little off. Ideally, you’d make them the exact same as the ad and keyword.

But think through what that means, now.

Earlier, we saw how Optima tax relief was using a bunch of different long-tail keywords, sorted by location.

That means you’d have to create unique landing pages for almost every one!

You’d probably want to keep the same overall design to make your life a little easier.

However, you’d want to at least customize the text to better reflect what sent people here in the first place.

That means you might have one example for attorneys, specifically:

And then you’d have another targeting physicians and dentists:

There are a few ways you can pull this off.

You could have designers and developers help create custom pages for you.

But not everyone has that luxury.

Instead, I also like using dynamic text replacement wherever possible.

I’m all about ROI. The best solution is often the one that scales the best.

Landing page tools like Unbounce have features that will automatically replace text on a page, depending on where they came from.

That means you can create just one single landing page template.

Then, you can simply switch up the words.

Here’s a location-based example, just like those keywords from earlier.

This landing page says “Caribbean” right now.

You can highlight the location-based text, then click the “Dynamic Text” button on the right-hand side of Unbounce.

Now, we can customize the text based on the location or “destination”:

Now, repeat this process for all of the different keywords you’re bidding on.

You’ll get a simple, customized URL to copy and place in your ad campaigns.

That way, when someone clicks on the ad for “California” beach getaways, they’re going to land on a page with “California” all over it.

And you never had to create more than a single landing page.

Let’s go back to tax relief.

Because I came across a landing page that uses another advanced feature. You have to see it.

Here’s how Optima tax relief uses qualifying questions to convert more users.

Qualify and lead new customers to your doorstep

Clicking on an Optima Tax ad will bring you to the following landing page:

Here’s what it looks like if you want to play along at home.

Notice what you don’t see here?

You don’t see a Name field. You also don’t see Email or Phone.

They’re not asking you any personal information just yet.

Instead, they’re starting with “How much tax debt do you have”?

Weird, right?!

Except, it’s not so weird when you dig below the surface.

Right off the bat, they’re qualifying new visitors.

They’re trying to see how much you owe, between 0 – $50,000+.

If you owe less than $10,000 for example, and there’s probably not enough they can help you with.

They won’t stand to gain a whole lot.

Owe over $50,000 and their hands might also be tied. They’re not miracle workers, after all.

So they’re segmenting potential visitors to customize the kind of response you’ll get.

They can automate most of the disqualifying, gently letting people know they can’t help that much.

While they can also fast-track people who do fit right in their wheelhouse.

Only then do they ask for your personal information:

Virtu did two similar tactics to skyrocket conversions.

They asked qualifying questions to figure out how to treat individual leads:

And then they add Calendly to the Thank You page for good leads to remove any remaining friction.

Their rate of leads scheduling phone calls jumped from 20% to over 60% in just the first month.

There’s another reason this inverted process works, though.

Think about it from a customer’s perspective.

They probably don’t feel great. They’re embarrassed or hesitant about reaching out.

So landing on a page that immediately asks for a bunch of personal information is a little off-putting.

Counterintuitively, asking easy questions first can increase conversions later. It lowers the barrier to entry.

KlientBoost calls this the ‘Breadcrumb Technique.’

It’s based off research from Scott Fraser and Jonathan Freedman that showed how starting with a small ‘ask’ can make it easier to get a “yes” to the big ‘ask’ after.

By as much as 76% vs. 20%!

KlientBoost tested both approaches on a mortgage landing page:

And here were the incredible results:

  • The Cost Per Acquisition fell from $800+ to $35
  • Total conversions went from 6 to 135 a month
  • The conversion rate jumped from 1% to nearly 20%

Pretty remarkable, right?

But we’re not even done yet.

There’s still a big difference between people that apply for tax relief help, from those that go through with the service.

We still need to see how people get over that last sales hump, then.

Here’s how you can use automation to largely set-and-forget this process.

Lastly, automate and fine-tune your intake process

After submitting your personal information, Optima Tax follows up with an automate email.

That’s pretty typical, though.

You’d expect that.

What’s not so expected is the text message you’ll receive at the very same time.

It will read something like this:

  • “$NAME Thanks for your interest in OptimaTaxRelief.com, we’ll be calling you soon.”

I know, because I ran through this process and received one myself. 😉

Soon after, you will receive that call, too.

So far they’ve followed up in all three primary channels:

  1. Phone
  2. Email
  3. Text

If you don’t pick up that phone call, you’ll receive another text message with something like:

  • “We were unable to reach you. Click 800-481-3615 to call a tax relief”

Fail to respond, and they’ll continue calling you throughout the next few days.

What’s happening here?

Optima Tax knows that this space is tough.

You, the customer, could have lost interest. Or you could be on the phone with the competition, comparing rates.

So they’re persistently aggressive to get ahold of you.

If and when you do get on the phone, they’ll ask you the same basic questions:

  • Why are you calling us today?
  • How much do you owe?
  • What do you do for a living?
  • Have you filed a tax return?
  • Have you filed an extension?
  • How did you hear about them?

And on and on.

They will also use an interview to figure out if you own any other assets, have insurance, what your household income looks like, and if you have any dependents.

The entire thing is scripted. They’re sizing you up, determining if they can win your case and how much you can afford to pay them.

They want to close you right there on the initial phone call, with costs ranging from $995 – $2995 depending on how much you owe.

Decline their first invitation to sign up, and they’ll continue sending you messages:

All of this can be choreographed ahead of time.

Based on the answers people give you, they can receive different messages.

Based on the way they act or don’t act, they can receive more, different messages.

Best of all, you can create these sequences in a matter of days with options like Hubspot, Drip, Infusionsoft, or Autopilot.

There are text message apps like TextMagic that can help you customize messaging based on responses or behavior, too.

The best tax relief companies have a masterful conversion funnel.

It’s no different than signing up for a new SaaS app.

You go through the trial period. Receive a bunch of emails. Then, you’ll get upgrade notices before your information is cancelled.

The same can and should apply to all businesses. You need a well-oiled funnel like this to convert the most people.

Remember: These leads and clicks are expensive!

These companies can’t afford to spend $40,000+ on ads each month and not see a significant return.

So each step of this funnel is fine-tuned, scripted, and automated. That way, they can easily isolate and tweak the parts that aren’t working.

Conclusion

“Boring” industries don’t always get the credit they deserve.

They don’t get any major press. And they don’t land on the front page of TechCrunch.

Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll see that the best are well-oiled machines.

While they might not get a lot of attention, what they do get is a whole lot of money.

They’ve been around the block. They’re not distracted by trends or other shiny hacks.

They’re just really good at routinely turning strangers into customers.

I almost learn more from watching these old school examples than new apps.

Because they just quietly go about building a huge business.

What’s the best example of a ‘boring,’ yet highly profitable company you’ve seen?

About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.

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5 Facebook Advertising Tips to Help You Maximize Your Budget in 2018

If you want to be successful on Facebook in 2018, you’ll need more than just incredible content.

In fact, Facebook marketing success is as much about distribution as it is content. Especially as organic reach in Facebook’s News Feed continues to decline for many Pages.

So how do you get your Facebook content in front of more people? And not just any people, the right people – your target audience.

In 2018, many businesses are turning to Facebook ads as a way to boost the performance of their content. In our State of Social 2018 report we found that:

  • 94% of businesses have invested in advertising on Facebook; and
  • 67% of businesses intend to increase their social media advertising budget in 2018.

Added to our findings, Forrester believes that the total US digital marketing spend will be near $120 billion by 2021, meaning investment is still on an upward curve.

So when it comes to creating the perfect Facebook Ads for your business, what factors should you consider?

Here are five Facebook advertising tips to help you get the most bang for your buck in 2018…

1. Think about who you’re targeting

With Facebook advertising, it’s not so much about reaching the most people as it is reaching the right people.

Sure, big numbers look awesome on your reports, but you need to reach people who are open to discovering your content, curious about your business and receptive to your message. And that’s probably fewer people than you think.

When it comes to targeting and reaching your audience with a super-relevant message, you need to understand:

  • What platforms your audiences use?
  • What types of language they use and how do they communicate?
  • What types of content they engage with most often?

More often than not, you can find the answers to these questions through data and research.

One of the best places to look to learn more about your audience is Facebook’s Audience Insights.

Audience Insights gives you the opportunity to learn more about a specific audience. For example, by checking out Buffer’s insights I was able to learn:

1. People in our audience also tend to like other ‘software companies’ like Moz, Mailchimp, and WordPress. As well as ‘internet companies’ like Hootsuite, ClickFunnels, and Salesforce. With this data, we begin “watching” these Pages to keep an eye on what’s working for them.

2. 35% of our audience work in management. This could help us to think about the language we use in out Facebook adverts as well as the story we tell.

3. People in our audience are more likely to click on an advert than the average Facebook user.

This only scratches the surface of what you can learn about your audience from Facebook’s Audience Insights.

To check the Audience Insights for your own Page head to: https://www.facebook.com/ads/audience-insights/ and choose the “People connected to your Page” option:

And then you can drill down your data even further using the options on the left-hand panel:

You can use these newfound learnings about your audience to create even more targeted ads and craft messages that you know will connect with your prospective customers.

For example, at Buffer, when we wanted to boost our podcast downloads, we created an audience of people we knew would be interested in our ads before spending a dollar. As Brian explains on his blog, we:

  1. Created a custom audience of people who had visited our blog or Buffer.com
  2. Added an additional layer of targeting to only deliver ads to people using iPhone, iPad, and other iOS devices
  3. Promoted our most popular podcast episodes as we knew this content would appeal to our audience

This approach resulted in 3,870 clicks to our podcast episodes for a spend of $922.

2. Tell a great story

Stories are an integral part of human communication. And storytelling – whether in-person, through the written word, or social media – plays an important role in building connections with others.

When you’re planning on creating Facebook Ads, stories are essential to capture the interest of your target customers.

Take Refinery 29, an independent fashion and lifestyle website, for example. The brand generated two different Facebook ad campaigns, both aimed at bringing in new subscribers to their website.

The first campaign featured some eye-catching creative and a clear call-to-action to subscribe. Whereas the second ad set guided the viewer through a simple narrative including an introduction to the brand, an article from the brand, and then a call-to-action to subscribe. Ads for both campaigns were served in News Feed to lookalike audiences.

Here’s a glimpse at how the ads looked:

Campaign #1 (creative + call-to-action):

Campaign #2 (with narrative):

The results were fascinating:

  • Among those who were exposed to the sequenced, narrative-focused ads compared with those who were exposed to the non-sequenced ads, there was an 87% increase in people visiting the landing page
  • There was a 56% increase in subscription rates among people who were exposed to the sequenced ads compared with those who were exposed to the non-sequenced ads

When you’re planning your Facebook campaigns, think about how you can create a narrative and tell stories within your ads in order to build a stronger connection with your target audience.

For more on how you can use storytelling techniques in your social media posts and ads, check out this guide.

3. Monitor performance and adjust in real-time

Social media has changed the world of advertising a great deal.

Back 10-15 years ago, if you ran an advert on TV, radio or even online, you didn’t really have any idea how it was being received in real time.

Now, social media enables you to monitor your ad performance from the moment you set the campaign live.

It might be tempting to set your ad campaigns live and then come back to check performance once each campaign is completed. But by doing this, you’re missing out on massive opportunities to enhance the performance of each of your ads.

Monitoring your Facebook Ads campaigns in real-time enables you to know whether or not your ads are resonating with people and allows you to make adjustments as you go along. For example:

  • If your clicks are slightly lower than expected, it could be worth optimizing your call-to-action.
  • If your engagement isn’t where you want it to be, you could create a new ad set with updated creative.
  • If your reach is too low, try updating your audience targeting parameters.

You can view the performance data for your ads in Facebook Ads Manager:

By clicking on a particular campaign you can also view the performance of each individual ad within that campaign:

And to tweak a particular ad, click on “edit” link underneath the ad title and window will slide in enabling you to make changes:

You can make the following edits to your ads without creating an entirely new campaign:

  • Change your audience
  • Change your budget & schedule
  • Change your optimization & delivery choices
  • Change your placements
  • Change your ad creative

Chances are you won’t create the perfect ad first time around. It takes a lot of experimentation and learning to nail down ads that will deliver results for your business.

Ideally, you want to create several ad sets and ads before you start your campaign and then eliminate under-performing ads as your campaign progresses.

It can take a couple of days before you have enough campaign data to start measuring ad performance. Julian Shapiro recommends waiting until you have at least 2,000 reach per ad (number of people who’ve seen your ad) before comparing the performance of your various ads.

Once you’ve identified the ads that are performing well, then you can continue to iterate on those to get drive more value from your ad spend.

For example, in the below image you can see we:

  1. Started out with three ad variants
  2. Stopped running the under-performing ads
  3. Created an additional variation of the best-performing ad

Note: One of the factors that determines how Facebook will distribute your ads is how each ad is received by your audience. So if your original ad sets are completely underperforming across the board, it can be a better strategy to start a whole new campaign rather than tweaking your existing ads. The above strategy works best to tweak ads that are already performing reasonably well.

4. Track the right metrics for your business

Before you start thinking about launching any Facebook Ads campaign, I would encourage you to think clearly about how you will measure the performance of your ads.

For example, are metrics like brand awareness and email subscribers your #1 focus, or maybe you’re focused fully on driving leads.

In our State of Social 2018 report, we found that most marketers (42 percent) measure the success of their ads by how much engagement they receive, with leads (17 percent) and sales (15 percent) being the second and third most common measures of ROI:

Having a clear measurement of success in mind before you kick off any advertising campaign will help you to understand the performance of your ads and make any needed adjustments to ensure you’re delivering maximum value for your business.

Our State of Social 2018 report also uncovered that companies that invest in social media ads are more than twice as likely to say social media marketing is “very effective” for their business:

So if you feel that social media isn’t delivering the desired results for your business, it could be worth experimenting with Facebook Ads to see if paid social media marketing can help you get the results you’re after.

5. Think long-term

The important thing with Facebook (or any kind of advertising or marketing) is to have a long-term strategy behind your actions.

Let’s say you create an ad set targeting engagement. Awesome! But what’s the long-term plan here? How will you turn this initial engagement into something more tangible for your business?

For example, if you’re running a health and fitness business that sells online exercise programs, you might run a video ad showcasing a simple home workout. This ad would be aimed at engagement and getting as many people to view, like and share your video as possible.

But instead of being the first and final piece of the jigsaw, this could act as a starting point to get new prospects into your funnel.

Using the Facebook pixel, you could then create a custom audience for people that have watched more than 10 percent of the video. Then, you could run an ad towards those people for a class schedule that’s hosted on your website or a trial of your exercise program. So even engagement campaigns can fit into your long-term strategy.

Here’s a simplified look at that campaign might look:

  • Ad Set 1: A video ad showing a simple home workout for people in our audience who are interested in fitness
  • Ad Set 2: A carousel ad looking to drive clicks to our website and increase brand awareness amongst people who watched 10 percent of the video in Ad Set 1
  • Ad Set 3: A conversion focused ad aiming to get people who clicked the link in the previous ad to become customers of our fitness company

You should also consider your customer lifetime value (LTV) before jumping into ads. LTV is the amount of revenue you generate from your average customer in their lifespan with your company.

If you’re selling subscriptions to an online tool at $30 per month and your average customer stays for 12 months your LTV would be $360.

A general rule is that you should aim to acquire customers for no more than one-third of your LTV. So with an LTV of $360, you might want to set your customer acquisition budget at $120 per new customer.

Over to you

Facebook advertising has proven incredibly valuable to thousands of businesses across the globe and I hope these quick tips will help you to make the most of your advertising budget in 2018.

Has your business invested in Facebook advertising yet? I’d love to hear your experiences and any Facebook advertising tips you might have.

Huge thanks to Buffer’s resident Facebook Ads whizz, Brian Peters, for his edits and suggestions for this piece. 

5 Facebook Advertising Tips to Help You Maximize Your Budget in 2018

If you want to be successful on Facebook in 2018, you’ll need more than just incredible content.

In fact, Facebook marketing success is as much about distribution as it is content. Especially as organic reach in Facebook’s News Feed continues to decline for many Pages.

So how do you get your Facebook content in front of more people? And not just any people, the right people – your target audience.

In 2018, many businesses are turning to Facebook ads as a way to boost the performance of their content. In our State of Social 2018 report we found that:

  • 94% of businesses have invested in advertising on Facebook; and
  • 67% of businesses intend to increase their social media advertising budget in 2018.

Added to our findings, Forrester believes that the total US digital marketing spend will be near $120 billion by 2021, meaning investment is still on an upward curve.

So when it comes to creating the perfect Facebook Ads for your business, what factors should you consider?

Here are five Facebook advertising tips to help you get the most bang for your buck in 2018…

1. Think about who you’re targeting

With Facebook advertising, it’s not so much about reaching the most people as it is reaching the right people.

Sure, big numbers look awesome on your reports, but you need to reach people who are open to discovering your content, curious about your business and receptive to your message. And that’s probably fewer people than you think.

When it comes to targeting and reaching your audience with a super-relevant message, you need to understand:

  • What platforms your audiences use?
  • What types of language they use and how do they communicate?
  • What types of content they engage with most often?

More often than not, you can find the answers to these questions through data and research.

One of the best places to look to learn more about your audience is Facebook’s Audience Insights.

Audience Insights gives you the opportunity to learn more about a specific audience. For example, by checking out Buffer’s insights I was able to learn:

1. People in our audience also tend to like other ‘software companies’ like Moz, Mailchimp, and WordPress. As well as ‘internet companies’ like Hootsuite, ClickFunnels, and Salesforce. With this data, we begin “watching” these Pages to keep an eye on what’s working for them.

2. 35% of our audience work in management. This could help us to think about the language we use in out Facebook adverts as well as the story we tell.

3. People in our audience are more likely to click on an advert than the average Facebook user.

This only scratches the surface of what you can learn about your audience from Facebook’s Audience Insights.

To check the Audience Insights for your own Page head to: https://www.facebook.com/ads/audience-insights/ and choose the “People connected to your Page” option:

And then you can drill down your data even further using the options on the left-hand panel:

You can use these newfound learnings about your audience to create even more targeted ads and craft messages that you know will connect with your prospective customers.

For example, at Buffer, when we wanted to boost our podcast downloads, we created an audience of people we knew would be interested in our ads before spending a dollar. As Brian explains on his blog, we:

  1. Created a custom audience of people who had visited our blog or Buffer.com
  2. Added an additional layer of targeting to only deliver ads to people using iPhone, iPad, and other iOS devices
  3. Promoted our most popular podcast episodes as we knew this content would appeal to our audience

This approach resulted in 3,870 clicks to our podcast episodes for a spend of $922.

2. Tell a great story

Stories are an integral part of human communication. And storytelling – whether in-person, through the written word, or social media – plays an important role in building connections with others.

When you’re planning on creating Facebook Ads, stories are essential to capture the interest of your target customers.

Take Refinery 29, an independent fashion and lifestyle website, for example. The brand generated two different Facebook ad campaigns, both aimed at bringing in new subscribers to their website.

The first campaign featured some eye-catching creative and a clear call-to-action to subscribe. Whereas the second ad set guided the viewer through a simple narrative including an introduction to the brand, an article from the brand, and then a call-to-action to subscribe. Ads for both campaigns were served in News Feed to lookalike audiences.

Here’s a glimpse at how the ads looked:

Campaign #1 (creative + call-to-action):

Campaign #2 (with narrative):

The results were fascinating:

  • Among those who were exposed to the sequenced, narrative-focused ads compared with those who were exposed to the non-sequenced ads, there was an 87% increase in people visiting the landing page
  • There was a 56% increase in subscription rates among people who were exposed to the sequenced ads compared with those who were exposed to the non-sequenced ads

When you’re planning your Facebook campaigns, think about how you can create a narrative and tell stories within your ads in order to build a stronger connection with your target audience.

For more on how you can use storytelling techniques in your social media posts and ads, check out this guide.

3. Monitor performance and adjust in real-time

Social media has changed the world of advertising a great deal.

Back 10-15 years ago, if you ran an advert on TV, radio or even online, you didn’t really have any idea how it was being received in real time.

Now, social media enables you to monitor your ad performance from the moment you set the campaign live.

It might be tempting to set your ad campaigns live and then come back to check performance once each campaign is completed. But by doing this, you’re missing out on massive opportunities to enhance the performance of each of your ads.

Monitoring your Facebook Ads campaigns in real-time enables you to know whether or not your ads are resonating with people and allows you to make adjustments as you go along. For example:

  • If your clicks are slightly lower than expected, it could be worth optimizing your call-to-action.
  • If your engagement isn’t where you want it to be, you could create a new ad set with updated creative.
  • If your reach is too low, try updating your audience targeting parameters.

You can view the performance data for your ads in Facebook Ads Manager:

By clicking on a particular campaign you can also view the performance of each individual ad within that campaign:

And to tweak a particular ad, click on “edit” link underneath the ad title and window will slide in enabling you to make changes:

You can make the following edits to your ads without creating an entirely new campaign:

  • Change your audience
  • Change your budget & schedule
  • Change your optimization & delivery choices
  • Change your placements
  • Change your ad creative

Chances are you won’t create the perfect ad first time around. It takes a lot of experimentation and learning to nail down ads that will deliver results for your business.

Ideally, you want to create several ad sets and ads before you start your campaign and then eliminate under-performing ads as your campaign progresses.

It can take a couple of days before you have enough campaign data to start measuring ad performance. Julian Shapiro recommends waiting until you have at least 2,000 reach per ad (number of people who’ve seen your ad) before comparing the performance of your various ads.

Once you’ve identified the ads that are performing well, then you can continue to iterate on those to get drive more value from your ad spend.

For example, in the below image you can see we:

  1. Started out with three ad variants
  2. Stopped running the under-performing ads
  3. Created an additional variation of the best-performing ad

Note: One of the factors that determines how Facebook will distribute your ads is how each ad is received by your audience. So if your original ad sets are completely underperforming across the board, it can be a better strategy to start a whole new campaign rather than tweaking your existing ads. The above strategy works best to tweak ads that are already performing reasonably well.

4. Track the right metrics for your business

Before you start thinking about launching any Facebook Ads campaign, I would encourage you to think clearly about how you will measure the performance of your ads.

For example, are metrics like brand awareness and email subscribers your #1 focus, or maybe you’re focused fully on driving leads.

In our State of Social 2018 report, we found that most marketers (42 percent) measure the success of their ads by how much engagement they receive, with leads (17 percent) and sales (15 percent) being the second and third most common measures of ROI:

Having a clear measurement of success in mind before you kick off any advertising campaign will help you to understand the performance of your ads and make any needed adjustments to ensure you’re delivering maximum value for your business.

Our State of Social 2018 report also uncovered that companies that invest in social media ads are more than twice as likely to say social media marketing is “very effective” for their business:

So if you feel that social media isn’t delivering the desired results for your business, it could be worth experimenting with Facebook Ads to see if paid social media marketing can help you get the results you’re after.

5. Think long-term

The important thing with Facebook (or any kind of advertising or marketing) is to have a long-term strategy behind your actions.

Let’s say you create an ad set targeting engagement. Awesome! But what’s the long-term plan here? How will you turn this initial engagement into something more tangible for your business?

For example, if you’re running a health and fitness business that sells online exercise programs, you might run a video ad showcasing a simple home workout. This ad would be aimed at engagement and getting as many people to view, like and share your video as possible.

But instead of being the first and final piece of the jigsaw, this could act as a starting point to get new prospects into your funnel.

Using the Facebook pixel, you could then create a custom audience for people that have watched more than 10 percent of the video. Then, you could run an ad towards those people for a class schedule that’s hosted on your website or a trial of your exercise program. So even engagement campaigns can fit into your long-term strategy.

Here’s a simplified look at that campaign might look:

  • Ad Set 1: A video ad showing a simple home workout for people in our audience who are interested in fitness
  • Ad Set 2: A carousel ad looking to drive clicks to our website and increase brand awareness amongst people who watched 10 percent of the video in Ad Set 1
  • Ad Set 3: A conversion focused ad aiming to get people who clicked the link in the previous ad to become customers of our fitness company

You should also consider your customer lifetime value (LTV) before jumping into ads. LTV is the amount of revenue you generate from your average customer in their lifespan with your company.

If you’re selling subscriptions to an online tool at $30 per month and your average customer stays for 12 months your LTV would be $360.

A general rule is that you should aim to acquire customers for no more than one-third of your LTV. So with an LTV of $360, you might want to set your customer acquisition budget at $120 per new customer.

Over to you

Facebook advertising has proven incredibly valuable to thousands of businesses across the globe and I hope these quick tips will help you to make the most of your advertising budget in 2018.

Has your business invested in Facebook advertising yet? I’d love to hear your experiences and any Facebook advertising tips you might have.

Huge thanks to Buffer’s resident Facebook Ads whizz, Brian Peters, for his edits and suggestions for this piece. 

5 Facebook Advertising Tips to Help You Maximize Your Budget in 2018

If you want to be successful on Facebook in 2018, you’ll need more than just incredible content.

In fact, Facebook marketing success is as much about distribution as it is content. Especially as organic reach in Facebook’s News Feed continues to decline for many Pages.

So how do you get your Facebook content in front of more people? And not just any people, the right people – your target audience.

In 2018, many businesses are turning to Facebook ads as a way to boost the performance of their content. In our State of Social 2018 report we found that:

  • 94% of businesses have invested in advertising on Facebook; and
  • 67% of businesses intend to increase their social media advertising budget in 2018.

Added to our findings, Forrester believes that the total US digital marketing spend will be near $120 billion by 2021, meaning investment is still on an upward curve.

So when it comes to creating the perfect Facebook Ads for your business, what factors should you consider?

Here are five Facebook advertising tips to help you get the most bang for your buck in 2018…

1. Think about who you’re targeting

With Facebook advertising, it’s not so much about reaching the most people as it is reaching the right people.

Sure, big numbers look awesome on your reports, but you need to reach people who are open to discovering your content, curious about your business and receptive to your message. And that’s probably fewer people than you think.

When it comes to targeting and reaching your audience with a super-relevant message, you need to understand:

  • What platforms your audiences use?
  • What types of language they use and how do they communicate?
  • What types of content they engage with most often?

More often than not, you can find the answers to these questions through data and research.

One of the best places to look to learn more about your audience is Facebook’s Audience Insights.

Audience Insights gives you the opportunity to learn more about a specific audience. For example, by checking out Buffer’s insights I was able to learn:

1. People in our audience also tend to like other ‘software companies’ like Moz, Mailchimp, and WordPress. As well as ‘internet companies’ like Hootsuite, ClickFunnels, and Salesforce. With this data, we begin “watching” these Pages to keep an eye on what’s working for them.

2. 35% of our audience work in management. This could help us to think about the language we use in out Facebook adverts as well as the story we tell.

3. People in our audience are more likely to click on an advert than the average Facebook user.

This only scratches the surface of what you can learn about your audience from Facebook’s Audience Insights.

To check the Audience Insights for your own Page head to: https://www.facebook.com/ads/audience-insights/ and choose the “People connected to your Page” option:

And then you can drill down your data even further using the options on the left-hand panel:

You can use these newfound learnings about your audience to create even more targeted ads and craft messages that you know will connect with your prospective customers.

For example, at Buffer, when we wanted to boost our podcast downloads, we created an audience of people we knew would be interested in our ads before spending a dollar. As Brian explains on his blog, we:

  1. Created a custom audience of people who had visited our blog or Buffer.com
  2. Added an additional layer of targeting to only deliver ads to people using iPhone, iPad, and other iOS devices
  3. Promoted our most popular podcast episodes as we knew this content would appeal to our audience

This approach resulted in 3,870 clicks to our podcast episodes for a spend of $922.

2. Tell a great story

Stories are an integral part of human communication. And storytelling – whether in-person, through the written word, or social media – plays an important role in building connections with others.

When you’re planning on creating Facebook Ads, stories are essential to capture the interest of your target customers.

Take Refinery 29, an independent fashion and lifestyle website, for example. The brand generated two different Facebook ad campaigns, both aimed at bringing in new subscribers to their website.

The first campaign featured some eye-catching creative and a clear call-to-action to subscribe. Whereas the second ad set guided the viewer through a simple narrative including an introduction to the brand, an article from the brand, and then a call-to-action to subscribe. Ads for both campaigns were served in News Feed to lookalike audiences.

Here’s a glimpse at how the ads looked:

Campaign #1 (creative + call-to-action):

Campaign #2 (with narrative):

The results were fascinating:

  • Among those who were exposed to the sequenced, narrative-focused ads compared with those who were exposed to the non-sequenced ads, there was an 87% increase in people visiting the landing page
  • There was a 56% increase in subscription rates among people who were exposed to the sequenced ads compared with those who were exposed to the non-sequenced ads

When you’re planning your Facebook campaigns, think about how you can create a narrative and tell stories within your ads in order to build a stronger connection with your target audience.

For more on how you can use storytelling techniques in your social media posts and ads, check out this guide.

3. Monitor performance and adjust in real-time

Social media has changed the world of advertising a great deal.

Back 10-15 years ago, if you ran an advert on TV, radio or even online, you didn’t really have any idea how it was being received in real time.

Now, social media enables you to monitor your ad performance from the moment you set the campaign live.

It might be tempting to set your ad campaigns live and then come back to check performance once each campaign is completed. But by doing this, you’re missing out on massive opportunities to enhance the performance of each of your ads.

Monitoring your Facebook Ads campaigns in real-time enables you to know whether or not your ads are resonating with people and allows you to make adjustments as you go along. For example:

  • If your clicks are slightly lower than expected, it could be worth optimizing your call-to-action.
  • If your engagement isn’t where you want it to be, you could create a new ad set with updated creative.
  • If your reach is too low, try updating your audience targeting parameters.

You can view the performance data for your ads in Facebook Ads Manager:

By clicking on a particular campaign you can also view the performance of each individual ad within that campaign:

And to tweak a particular ad, click on “edit” link underneath the ad title and window will slide in enabling you to make changes:

You can make the following edits to your ads without creating an entirely new campaign:

  • Change your audience
  • Change your budget & schedule
  • Change your optimization & delivery choices
  • Change your placements
  • Change your ad creative

Chances are you won’t create the perfect ad first time around. It takes a lot of experimentation and learning to nail down ads that will deliver results for your business.

Ideally, you want to create several ad sets and ads before you start your campaign and then eliminate under-performing ads as your campaign progresses.

It can take a couple of days before you have enough campaign data to start measuring ad performance. Julian Shapiro recommends waiting until you have at least 2,000 reach per ad (number of people who’ve seen your ad) before comparing the performance of your various ads.

Once you’ve identified the ads that are performing well, then you can continue to iterate on those to get drive more value from your ad spend.

For example, in the below image you can see we:

  1. Started out with three ad variants
  2. Stopped running the under-performing ads
  3. Created an additional variation of the best-performing ad

Note: One of the factors that determines how Facebook will distribute your ads is how each ad is received by your audience. So if your original ad sets are completely underperforming across the board, it can be a better strategy to start a whole new campaign rather than tweaking your existing ads. The above strategy works best to tweak ads that are already performing reasonably well.

4. Track the right metrics for your business

Before you start thinking about launching any Facebook Ads campaign, I would encourage you to think clearly about how you will measure the performance of your ads.

For example, are metrics like brand awareness and email subscribers your #1 focus, or maybe you’re focused fully on driving leads.

In our State of Social 2018 report, we found that most marketers (42 percent) measure the success of their ads by how much engagement they receive, with leads (17 percent) and sales (15 percent) being the second and third most common measures of ROI:

Having a clear measurement of success in mind before you kick off any advertising campaign will help you to understand the performance of your ads and make any needed adjustments to ensure you’re delivering maximum value for your business.

Our State of Social 2018 report also uncovered that companies that invest in social media ads are more than twice as likely to say social media marketing is “very effective” for their business:

So if you feel that social media isn’t delivering the desired results for your business, it could be worth experimenting with Facebook Ads to see if paid social media marketing can help you get the results you’re after.

5. Think long-term

The important thing with Facebook (or any kind of advertising or marketing) is to have a long-term strategy behind your actions.

Let’s say you create an ad set targeting engagement. Awesome! But what’s the long-term plan here? How will you turn this initial engagement into something more tangible for your business?

For example, if you’re running a health and fitness business that sells online exercise programs, you might run a video ad showcasing a simple home workout. This ad would be aimed at engagement and getting as many people to view, like and share your video as possible.

But instead of being the first and final piece of the jigsaw, this could act as a starting point to get new prospects into your funnel.

Using the Facebook pixel, you could then create a custom audience for people that have watched more than 10 percent of the video. Then, you could run an ad towards those people for a class schedule that’s hosted on your website or a trial of your exercise program. So even engagement campaigns can fit into your long-term strategy.

Here’s a simplified look at that campaign might look:

  • Ad Set 1: A video ad showing a simple home workout for people in our audience who are interested in fitness
  • Ad Set 2: A carousel ad looking to drive clicks to our website and increase brand awareness amongst people who watched 10 percent of the video in Ad Set 1
  • Ad Set 3: A conversion focused ad aiming to get people who clicked the link in the previous ad to become customers of our fitness company

You should also consider your customer lifetime value (LTV) before jumping into ads. LTV is the amount of revenue you generate from your average customer in their lifespan with your company.

If you’re selling subscriptions to an online tool at $30 per month and your average customer stays for 12 months your LTV would be $360.

A general rule is that you should aim to acquire customers for no more than one-third of your LTV. So with an LTV of $360, you might want to set your customer acquisition budget at $120 per new customer.

Over to you

Facebook advertising has proven incredibly valuable to thousands of businesses across the globe and I hope these quick tips will help you to make the most of your advertising budget in 2018.

Has your business invested in Facebook advertising yet? I’d love to hear your experiences and any Facebook advertising tips you might have.

Huge thanks to Buffer’s resident Facebook Ads whizz, Brian Peters, for his edits and suggestions for this piece.