Facebook Sponsored Results: More Click than Action?

Now that you can create Sponsored Results that appear in the Facebook search typehead, the overwhelming question is this: So, do the ads work?

According to early results reported by InsideFacebook, the clickthrough rate is spectacular. Ampush Social is seeing CTR between .5% and 1% while PageLever is reporting between .8% and 2%. These rates are higher than that of standard Facebook advertising by a factor of 10 (or more).

Sounds great, right? The problem is that the click doesn’t tell the entire story. When I tested Sponsored Results (for a mere $10), I also saw great peripheral stats. But the bottom line? Read on…

My Test

I budgeted a modest $10 to test out Sponsored Results. I created four different ads as follows:

Facebook Sponsored Result Ad 1 Ad #1: I targeted 18 countries outside of the US. I targeted users who weren’t already fans of Jon Loomer Digital who were searching for the following Pages:

  • Facebook Pages
  • Social media marketing
  • Marketing
  • Facebook For Small Business
  • Facebook Advertising Tips
  • Facebook Marketing Bootcamp UK
  • Social media marketing
  • The Social Media Monthly Magazine
  • Social Media Examiner
  • Facebook Marketing Bootcamp
  • Boost Social Media
  • Social Media Marketing Best Practices
  • Mashable – Social Media
  • HubSpot
  • AllFacebook.com
  • Facebook Marketing
  • InsideFacebook.com

Note that some of these are well-followed Pages and some are not. In some cases, I wanted to reach people who were searching for a topic, but there was a Page under the same name.

Other than the targeting mentioned, I cast a wide net. I didn’t care about interests because I figured that if they were searching for these Pages, they were within my target audience.

This ad drove people to the landing tab for my Facebook marketing eBook. In order to access the eBook, they’d first need to Like my Page.

Ad #2: Same as Ad #1, but targeting only users in the US.

Facebook Sponsored Result Ad 2 Ad #3: I targeted the same Pages and countries as in Ad #1, but this time I drove users directly to my Facebook Page. No carrot this time, just looking to get people to Like my Page.

Ad #4: Same as Ad #3, but targeted inside the US.

The Results

First, let’s focus on the Clickthrough numbers, since that’s the only data we’ve seen from preliminary reports.

Ad #1 (non-US, eBook): 747 Impressions, 7 Clicks, .937% Clickthrough
Ad #2 (US, eBook): 5,847 Impressions, 16 Clicks, .274% Clickthrough
Ad #3 (non-US, Page): 732 Impressions, 7 Clicks, .956% Clickthrough
Ad #4 (US, Page): 5,682 Impressions, 19 Clicks, .334% Clickthrough

As you can see here, my numbers are consistent with what others have found. That said, my Clickthrough is far better outside of the US than inside, which is no surprise. However, I found it odd that so many more of my impressions were inside the US than outside. Also, there was no noticeable difference between my two ad variations.

But the flaw with the other reports is that they don’t go beyond the click. We know there are Facebook bots out there. We know they are click happy. Do these ads inspire action beyond the click?

For me, the answer is a resounding “No.” I won’t even show you the stats. I’ll just tell you that of the 49 clicks I received, only one resulted in an Action (a Page Like). Since all four ads were looking for the Like, I’d consider spending $9.55 for one Like (and no eBook downloads) a massive failure.

The Open Questions

Admittedly, the sample size of my test is as small as it gets. But the CTR is consistent with prior reports. It’s just not clear if my other results are also consistent.

So that leaves me with some open questions:

1) Are brands seeing that these ads are not driving Actions?
It’s possible that I am the exception here. But if brands are seeing a high Clickthrough rate and very few Actions, why? Is it a flaw with the ad unit? Is it because many of the clicks aren’t from humans? Is it because we as advertisers haven’t yet figured out how best to follow through on what we promise?

2) Are the other incredible results focused outside of the US?
We need to train ourselves to start asking this question when we see Facebook ad results that are too good to be true. There is a high concentration of bots and spam accounts outside of the US. If you want to focus on specific countries, you can get some eye-popping — though hollow — numbers.

3) Are these ads prone to bot clicks?
Yes, this is related to #2, but I’m curious about this. I realize that bot activity may be more sophisticated than I understand, but I had expected that this ad would be less prone to bot clicks due to the fact that users would first need to type a specific Page name into search. Granted, bot programmers would eventually work that into the code, but my expectation is that clicks on these ads would be somewhat clean out of the gate.

My theory is that bots will inflate clicks and they’ll inflate Likes if there is a Like link within ads. But these ads are different because there is no such link. Users are redirected and then must perform the action. That’s why my suspicion is that these click numbers are inflated by bots, and those bots drop off after that first click.

Am I wrong about this? Are these ads as susceptible to bot clicks? Maybe even more so?

4) Are my results an indication of a missed opportunity?
When I see 49 Clicks ad only one Action, I can’t help but wonder if I did something wrong. It’s certainly encouraging that the ads at least got clicks. If not, I’d be more willing to point my finger at the ad platform itself. But since it got clicks and only one Action, I wonder if the problem is me.

With only four different ads and two variations, I should split test more. There may be another angle that I need to take that would lead to success. It’s far too early for me to indict Sponsored Results in general.

What Are You Seeing?

I need to collect more data. Have you tested Sponsored Results yet? Are you seeing similar CTR data? How about Actions?

Facebook Sponsored Results Test

  • Seeandwear.com

    Exactly we observed in our adverts, we immediately stopped advertising because they were just burning money.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Interesting. I’d still like to test a couple more myself. It’s entirely possible that we need to approach these ads much differently than we do standard Facebook advertising.

      • Emily Violaris

        Hi Jon…..i would love to expand more ‘likes’ but definitely generate a lot more business……i’ve spent far too much money without results other than the likes so can you please help me do so with my online jewellery business. Em

      • Mr. Landing Page

        I use graph search, and instead of running an ad on Facebook and dealing with bots, I click the “Message” area of the company I want to target and write a short call-to-action, and in my message, I send them to a landing page on my own website, a page on my site that is hidden from my site’s menu, so only people with a link to the page can find it.
        I measure my first metric by how many people find my hidden landing page.

        • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

          Sounds like the spam I ignore every day.

  • The Frugal Exerciser

    The same with me. I’m throwing money away.

  • http://twitter.com/SagePhotoWorld Photographer

    I’m quitting online advertising – it just doesn’t work.

  • Jewellery designer

    I’ve used Facebook sponsored ads twice. The first time I used them (with a $50 free voucher) I targeted various countries and had approx 100 likes in two days, but no other benefits – no sales and no comments or other activity (so I deemed them empty likes). The second time I advertised to particular cities in Australia. I’ve so far had about 8 likes and one sale. I don’t know if I will bother advertising again until I have clearer info.

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      I’ve actually had great success with Facebook ads in general. So this experiment with Search Ads definitely makes me wonder what’s going on.

  • Lenny

    This is def worth testing more! I see that maybe your hook is too broad given that maybe who searches for these pages might already a regular so they are bombarded with marketing in general. Maybe if you were to be more clear in your UVP it might attract more specific actions. e.g.

    Hi I’m Jon Loomer and I bring every other day updates on what works today in Facebook Advertising. With your Like you’ll secure your FREE regular updates.

    I think there’s opportunity in being more specific and playing with how they should act.


    Thanks for sharing

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Not a bad thought, Lenny. Only issue is that I’m limited to 70 characters!

      • Lenny

        haha yeah, but you get the idea lol

  • Donna

    We promoted a ‘share this to win…’ post on Facebook, and the report shows that we had a reach of 972, frequency of 1, social reach of 972, actions 14, clicks 33, CTR 3.274, for $4.93.

    • Donna

      Oops… just realized that this is very different from Facebook sponsored results – sorry! Appreciate your tips on advertising in FB, even though (obviously) I don’t really know what I’m doing! :)

      • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

        No problem, Donna! A lot of people have thought the same thing.

  • Gazz

    When you look in the ads though – doesn’t “click” actually include Likes? So there is some crossover with the actions stat? I’ve attached a screenshot of the Facebook tooltip which confirms that – in which case, not having Actions is not necessarily a fail… unless of course you checked that no new likes whatsoever were obtained during the campaign…

    • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

      Yep, but if you get 0 “Actions” it won’t include Likes. Facebook tells you how many likes you get, so there is no mystery there. I didn’t have much success with these ads, though I do want to try them again.

  • Dylan

    This is not conclusive, Jon. I’m inclined to wait for a study done on multiple sponsored stories to make sure other variables are not involved here.

  • Adam Main

    Hi – The trouble I am having is that I was under the impression that a click was a subset of actions. Meaning that one click would also equal one action, and therefore you could never see more clicks than actions. Can you please let share what “activities” are considered clicks only and which are considered actions only and which fall into both categories. Thanks,