07.11.20178 min read

How to Tell if Your Facebook Ads Suck

CPC, CPM, Relevance Score, CTR, and hundreds of other metrics are available in Facebook's behemoth advertising system. It's like walking into a Home Depot when you just want a box of nails. But are your ads working and how can you tell? You throw $20 on a few posts and aren't exactly sure whether the boosting did anything. Industry pundits claim miraculous results, but aren't providing all the facts and are largely peddling their wares. And even though you don't really want to advertise on Facebook, it's not like you can afford NOT to be advertising on Facebook—everyone says you have to do it, and that's where the people are. 

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How Much Do Facebook Ads Cost? A Budgeting Guide for Small Businesses

Facebook advertising can be very fruitful, but also expensive when not done properly....

Or maybe you're a smart direct marketer and ran some cold traffic to your landing pages, tried a couple variants, and have claimed "it doesn't work"—doesn't work for my vertical, traffic costs too much, or the system is just too confusing.

The idiot lights

Dennis and I were just at Facebook headquarters and got the lowdown for you.  

Facebook has a "check engine" light on your campaigns, giving you a warning if things aren't quite right—idiot lights. They call this indicator Relevance Score, and it's much like Google's Quality Score. All your ads are scored from one to 10, with one being absolutely horrible and 10 being awesome. There are many factors that go into Relevance Score and Facebook is clear about them. The top factor is CTR (click-thru rate), which is a general measure of whether people are interacting with your content. If the CTR is under 1 percent, then there's a good chance that your targeting is wrong or your content is weak, hence, the name "Relevance Score." And if negative feedback is greater than your positive feedback, that's also a bad sign. Negative feedback is not people saying hateful things in the comments—it's the four actions they can take to hide this post, hide all posts, report spam, and unlike the page.

And sometimes it's OK to have high negative feedback when the positive feedback is high, too. But Facebook won't tell you the degree or number of negative actions just from ads—they just bucket your scores into low, medium, and high. Facebook's head of the ads auction told us that negative feedback counts for about 100 times the weight positive feedback. So check the number of likes, comments, and shares relative to the negative actions on the post (whether organic or paid). If you have any ads that are Relevance Score of one, kill them immediately. Then try to figure out what's wrong. When we see Relevance Scores, 90 percent of the time, the culprit is that you're trying to convert on a cold audience, meaning that they didn't get a chance to learn about you first, be influenced by one of your customers, or even have a need for what you sell at the time you happen to want them to buy.

Six, four, two

Assuming you're using Facebook the way they've intended you to, you've grouped your content into three stages of the funnel—awareness, engagement, and conversion. This is the AEC funnel. Facebook even organizes the ad objectives into these three groups—calling the middle stage "consideration" instead of "engagement."

You want awareness ads to be at least a six Relevance Score

Sixes are easy to get, especially when you're telling your story and customer stories through video. I'm not talking about the $5 animated videos from Fiverr—this is you speaking to the audience through your iPhone or interviewing others. Not fancy, high-budget professional stuff that looks like a commercial—your customers (and you) are too smart for that. You're letting potential customers get to know you as a person since people buy from people. The fact that you like to slow cook brisket or splash in the pool with your kids has nothing to do with what you sell, but it is key to setting up trust later in your funnel.

You want engagement ads to be at least a four Relevance Score

Now that you've had a first touch via one or more videos, you can drive them to a lead form, to your site, or to some article about you. You've got some more videos explaining what you do and how you do it. Perhaps you're sharing step-by-step how you solve problems or educating them in some other way. You're not hard-core selling, but you are asking them to give you a few minutes of their time to check out an article you wrote, teaching them about something related to what you do. And when you have an educated customer, they will naturally favor your versus others who may appear to offer the same thing. Just consider your experiences as a consumer to know this is true. Because you're asking for more than a video view right in their newsfeed and since this content isn't as interesting as a personal story in the Awareness phase, you'll want to get at least a four Relevance Score.

You want conversion ads to have at least a two Relevance Score

Most people who find Facebook ads "don't work" run only conversion ads, much like the pickup artist who practices his lines instead of wanting to build a relationship over time. But if you set up custom audiences (remarketing) properly in the previous two stages of your funnel (awareness and engagement), then you have a warm audience that has already demonstrated an interest in what you're offering. Your awareness campaign established that you're a decent human being who cares about the same things you do. Your engagement campaign demonstrates you're knowledgeable in the area they need to hire someone or buy something.

So when you now say what you offer and what it costs (yes, don't be afraid to talk about costs—even if it's to discuss factors that go into cost), you've earned their trust. Yet people on Facebook don't like ads (Warning: foul language!). "Get off my Facebook," they say since they don't understand it's free for them because the ads pay for everything. So that's why the Relevance Score bar is only a two at the conversion stage. It may be that you do such a good job in the other two parts of the funnel that you're able to get fours and fives in the conversion stage— perhaps you're the reigning NBA champions or something. And there are many advertisers that will keep running their conversion ads when the Relevance Score is only a one, claiming that it's still profitable. Our response here is that you're driving on a donut tire. Yes, you're still moving down the freeway, but you can't safely go above 50 miles per hour, and eventually, you'll need to change it for a regular tire.

This six, four, two Relevance Score model won't tell you exactly what is wrong, nor if your ads are profitable. They are the idiot lights that merely signal that you need to fix something. It's when any of your ads are flagged by Facebook that then you dig into the data to determine whether the audience is burned out, your content needs tweaking, the budget is too high, the conversion rates are too low, you're trying to convert a cold audience, you're using the wrong content type, your custom audiences are too small relative to your goals, and so forth. 

The Ultimate Guide to Capturing and Converting Leads with Facebook - Download Now

Logan Young is the vice president of strategy at BlitzMetrics. He implements ad campaigns and helps structure companies marketing funnels. All while working internally with the BlitzMetrics team to instill culture and help team members meet their goals. He's traveled to more than 45 cities across five continents for speaking and client meetings. He's spoken in NYC, California, Las Vegas, Arizona, Singapore, Australia, London, Portugal, Amsterdam, and Vancouver and also been interviewed on multiple international podcasts. In his spare time, he likes exploring with his dog and enjoying home life.

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