The 4-Step Approach to Effective Facebook Ad Targeting

Facebook Ad Targeting 4 Steps

[AUDIO VERSION: I also recorded an audio version of this blog post. Click below to listen. Let me know if this is something you find helpful!]

You can create ads with amazing imagery and compelling copy, but many advertisers are missing a very important component: Targeting.

Create the best possible ad, and it won’t matter if you’re reaching the wrong people. The truth is that most advertisers are simply in the dark when it comes to targeting, focusing on the same broad group of people no matter the objective.

This post is meant to help demystify when each level of targeting should be used based on your objective. I recommend that you actively run all four types of campaigns instead of focusing only on the sale.

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1. Objective: Website Traffic or Engagement

This is the lightest type of action. As a result, brand recognition and trust aren’t major hurdles for campaigns with these objectives.

Promoting posts with light actions is important, but I strongly recommend that you focus on driving website traffic rather than general post engagement (like with an image). When you drive website traffic, you are actively building a Website Custom Audience (or should be) for later targeting.

I promote every new blog post that I publish. Here’s an example…

Promote Facebook Post

You can bet that once I publish this very post you’re reading, I’ll promote it, too!

When I promote these posts, I primarily target two different groups:

  • Fans
  • Website Visitors Last 30 Days

I can do this because I have more than 200,000 visitors to my site every month and approximately 80,000 fans. So these groups are very effective for all actions.

But what if I didn’t have these audiences to work with? What about brands that are just getting off the ground and lack a built-in audience?

In those cases, I still recommend you target the above groups. But you should assign a very small budget for them since you’ll exhaust them quickly.

Dedicate more budget to the following:

I personally prioritize audiences not connected to my brand in that order, but do what works. Your goal should be to drive these people to your website so that you can target them — potentially with something heavier — later.

Think of it like this… When you target a broad group of people to drive website traffic, you can bet that approximately 99% (give or take) will ignore your ad. That top 1% that clicks your link separated themselves as people who have interest in you. You’ll want to focus on them later.

Promoting posts is a great way to set the foundation. You are simply sharing helpful, educational or entertaining content with no strings attached — no sale and no opt-in required. This is how you build trust and a reputation for someone who can be respected in a certain topic.

2. Objective: Page Like

What type of Facebook user is most likely to like your page? It’s typically going to be someone who already knows who you are — typically someone who has bought from you or visited your website.

It’s important to have campaigns running for the sole purpose of driving traffic so that any of the following objectives can be promoted with success. I’d even say that’s true of increasing page likes.

I’d start with these two main audiences for the purpose of increasing page likes:

  • All Website Visitors 30 Days
  • Email Custom Audience

Now, it’s up to you whether you need to target both. Personally, I think that if someone has visited my website lately that they’re more valuable than someone who is on my email list but hasn’t seen my stuff lately. And some of those email addresses may be old and stale. Either way, up to you!

Sure, you could target Lookalike Audiences, interests, behaviors and demographics to build your page likes. On the surface it may even seem effective if based solely on a cost per page like basis.

However, keep in mind that many of these fans didn’t know who you were before they liked your page. You gave a compelling reason to like your page, but are they likely to be loyal readers or fans who will provide heavy engagement?

I know that building a fan base can be a challenge early (and YES, page likes still matter). I understand wanting to skip straight to Lookalike Audiences and interests. But I’d strongly advise that you prioritize website visitors.

Quality of your audience is more important than ever — and the argument for quality over quantity has never been stronger. If you don’t want to be one of those brands complaining about reach or a lack of engagement, you can’t afford taking short-cuts here.

If you aren’t getting enough website traffic to target many people for the purpose of building a fan base, then you should dedicate more budget early to drive traffic. You’ll be happy you did later!

I won’t say to completely avoid Lookalike Audiences and interests for the purpose of building a fan base. But you should limit how much of your audience is built this way and be prepared to move more — or all — of your budget to targeting website visitors eventually.

3. Objective: Opt-in or Install

You can probably see where this is going, but we’re moving further down the funnel now.

Driving website traffic or engagement is a light action. It requires very little brand recognition or trust to click a link. Your goal is to build more trust by providing valuable content for them to read. In this case, you can target broadly.

While a page like may not be a “heavy” action, you also have to be careful that you are building a quality audience. In that case, you should focus fan base building primarily around targeting those who already know and trust you through visiting your website.

That takes us to the opt-in or install. I can tell you that I am very protective of both my email address and my phone. I won’t give my email address to just anyone. And I’m going to use a limited number of apps on my phone.

While some may have success targeting broadly for these actions, such success is rare. And when you think about the value of your own email address or space on your phone, you should understand why.

For someone to provide an email address, it helps significantly if they know who you are. It helps even more if they’ve read a blog post by you in the past. And it could also help if they are a fan of your Facebook page.

When it comes to targeting website visitors for an opt-in, I suggest taking it a step further and targeting those who read something specific related to your offer. I’d prioritize targeting like this:

  • Facebook Fans (if built properly)
  • Website Visitors of Specific Pages
  • All Website Visitors

I’ve found that fans are most likely to opt-in or buy something. However, it’s important to note that just “any old fan” won’t do here. You need to build your fan base the right way, as explained above. Otherwise, don’t expect success.

Ideally, you will get enough website traffic where you can segment your website retargeting to focus on specific pages. For example, I might target anyone who read a blog post about Power Editor to promote my Power Editor ebook.

Of course, such segmentation will limit your audience. This will only work for those with a lot of traffic or low budgets.

I’ve found targeting “all website visitors” during the past 30 days to be very effective for opt-ins. Of course, all of my content is also closely related. This may not work as well for a site that publishes content covering wide ranging topics.

4. Objective: Sale

This is what everyone wants. But far too many advertisers start here, and far too often they are targeting broadly with minimal success.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the first three steps. Without them, getting a positive ROI here can be incredibly difficult.

If people are protective of their email addresses, how likely is a user to whip out a credit card to buy a product if they don’t know or trust you? I’ll answer that for you: very unlikely.

But by following the first three steps, you are setting yourself up for success. You are laying the building blocks, and you’ll be happy you did!

Here is how I’d prioritize targeting for closing the sale:

  • Related Opt-in Custom Audience
  • Related Purchase Custom Audience
  • Facebook Fans (if built properly)
  • Website Visitors of Specific Pages
  • All Website Visitors

Related Opt-in Custom Audience: When you create something that requires an email address (like an ebook or white paper), it should be for the purpose of eventually selling something. Those who request the opt-in are often not ready to buy from you, but trust you enough to provide an email address.

That opt-in should help answer questions that these people had to convince them that your product is necessary. The opt-in should be the start of an email funnel that will result in messages being sent to them to push the sale.

You shouldn’t rely only on the email funnel. You should target those who provided their email address for that opt-in to promote the related product.

You can do this via either an email custom audience or Website Custom Audience for the success page following the opt-in (or both). I personally prefer the WCA since it’s dynamic and there are fewer issues matching up Facebook users to those who opted in (expect 30-70% of email addresses to match up).

Related Purchase Custom Audience: You should also target those who have already bought from you — preferably a related product. A couple of examples would be for upgrades (new model released) and upsells.

If you are launching Widget 2.0, you should make sure to alert those who purchased Widget 1.0 that the new model is available.

if you have a product that is available at multiple tiers and prices, you should target those at the lower tiers to upsell the more expensive ones.

Again, you can do this with a combination of email custom audience and WCA targeting.

Facebook Fans (if built properly): I’ve found a great amount of success selling to my fans. But once again, this won’t work if you don’t focus on quality when building your fan base.

Website Visitors of Specific Pages: Just as I could target people reading my articles about Power Editor to promote my Power Editor ebook, I can target this same group to promote my Power Editor training course. In either case, these are people who — by their actions — expressed interest in a topic directly related to my products.

You may also want to take the “abandoned shopping cart” approach and target those who visited the landing page for your product but didn’t convert. Sometimes, all these people need is a reminder, but they may also have outstanding questions that they’d like you to answer prior to making the purchase.

All Website Visitors: The more traffic and business you get, the more segmented you can get in your targeting. But if it’s early and you’re still building an audience, targeting general website visitors can be effective, too!

Your Turn

This is the approach that I take with Facebook ad targeting, but how about you?

Let me know in the comments below!