Well hello there, Catherine Langman here, and welcome back to another episode of the Productpreneur Success Podcast. And today will be a bit of a doozy of an episode – we’re going to talk about how to deal with your Facebook Ads when they suddenly stop working!
As I record this episode in mid October 2020, a lot of people are talking about their ad campaigns on Facebook and Instagram are suddenly not converting the way they normally do.
Some brands have had long-standing campaigns that have always converted really well and really profitably, have suddenly tanked. They’re not converting as well as they used to.
People are noticing and complaining about big drops in Return On Ad Spend (ROAS).
So what is going on???
In any year – Q4 can be a bumpy ride if you’re not prepared…
Q4 is generally the most expensive quarter for ad costs. We’re in the lead up to Black Friday and Christmas, lots more advertisers are on the platform bidding on a finite amount of ad space, so that level of competition will always drive costs up a bit.
This year, we don’t just have Black Friday and Christmas enticing businesses to spend money on ads on the platform – there are also major elections happening in the USA and elsewhere around the world. Political parties are spending a TONNE of cash on ads right now. Apparently the Trump campaign is spending a million dollars a day on Facebook ads, and Biden’s campaign is spending many times more than that. So that extra competition for ad space also pushes costs up for the rest of us.
But there’s more to it than that…
#1 This year, there are way more businesses wanting to advertise on Facebook
Thanks to Covid-19, the migration of businesses from offline to online has been enormous.
The growth in eCommerce businesses has spend up about 5x faster than the year-on-year growth rate.
Not to mention other business models moving to a digital business instead of in-person.
All this means that there has been a dramatic increase in businesses wanting to advertise on the Facebook platform.
What has this got to do with your own ad results dropping?
Basically – you need to understand that when you book ads on Facebook you are essentially entering a bit of a competition for a finite amount of ad space. So if more advertisers are wanting to buy ads, there is more competition for that space and the costs drive up.
#2 Because of this move to online business, Black Friday and Christmas this year will be HUGE!
Black Friday Cyber Monday is pretty much the biggest promotional event on the eCommerce marketing calendar each year. It happens across 4 days, starting on the last Friday of November.
Each year, the amount of money consumers spend during Black Friday increases massively year on year.
And obviously with Christmas, consumers are spending up big on gifts, so it’s always going to be a busy sales time of the year.
But this year, again due to Covid-19 and the resultant massive migration of business to online, means that Black Friday and Christmas will be a much bigger deal.
To put this into perspective – From April to May this year in 2020, so right after Covid-19 really hit hard, eCommerce shopping was greater than for the entier 2919 holiday shopping season from November to December!
Basically, customers around the world will be spending up big online because many people don’t have a choice, they can’t go into a store.
And in places where there aren’t Covid-related restrictions in place, we’re still seeing that consumers are buying online more than they used to. My own theory about this is that consumers have adopted new shopping habits and are now trained to shop online in ways they never used to before.
#3 Facebook has rolled out major algorithm changes
Now, I’m not privy to the exact details about Facebook’s algorithm changes. They don’t share the specific details with advertisers unfortunately.
But each year, we know that Facebook rolls out big updates to their advertising platform and the algorithm that drives it, at about this time of year each year. Who knows why – but it definitely throws things out of whack for a couple of weeks while we all figure out how to work with their changes.
This year, it appears that they’ve had to make some significant changes to their algorithm for a couple of reasons:
- Facebook has committed to weeding out fake news and fraud. This might be fake news about Covid conspiracy theories, or Russian interference into the US election, or about anything else. And unfortunately, along with the massive migration of legitimate business moving to the online space, so too have all the frauds and scams. So they’ve had to make changes to the algorithm to pick up these sorts of things. And unfortunately, making the algorithm stricter like this always results in some good guys being caught in the net as well.
- Facebook has also committed to getting better at managing users’ privacy. If you’ve watched the recent documentary on Netflix called The Social Dilemma, you’ll know that Facebook is really under the spotlight about privacy. Some geographic areas are requiring stricter conditions than others, such as the UK and Europe with their GDPR regulations, and California has something similar in place now as well. But regardless, Facebook has definitely been updating their algorithm to better manage users’ privacy. These stricter privacy regulations impact things like the audiences we can target and our ability to retarget warm audiences as well. So, extra restrictions are placed on our ads that make it harder to see a return on investment.
#4 Browsers are blocking pixel tracking
Pixel blockers are nothing new really, but it seems that more and more people are using them while they brose the internet.
So historically, Facebook has always tracked results based on pixel tracking.
What the heck is a pixel? It’s that little bit of code that you get from your Ad account and place on your website. And the way it works is that, when someone visits your site, the pixel fires off a little notification back to your ad account to let Facebook know that some activity happened as a result of your ad. And the pixel will track things like people looking at your products, adding them to their shopping cart, starting the checkout process or purchasing.
But if the customer has a pixel blocking extension on their internet browser, then Facebook won’t be able to track their browsing behaviour.
Obviously that would then make it difficult to measure your advertising results accurately!
#5 Higher costs for some ad types
Another really strange thing that we’ve noticed is – some ad types are attracting much higher costs than others.
Let me give you an example…
A Conversion campaign targeting the exact same audiences on the same daily ad budget attracting MUCH higher CPM (cost per million impressions) compared to a Traffic campaign optimised for landing page views. So same audiences, same budget, but vastly different CPM, resulting in the Traffic campaign reaching way way way more than the conversion campaign. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the traffic campaign converts more sales than the conversion campaign, but the higher CPMs in those cases definitely has reduced the ROAS compared to before.
No doubt there’s more happening behind the scenes that could be impacting results, but these are the main ones we’ve been noticing.
So what the heck do you do now?
Obviously Facebook and Instagram are important channels for brands looking to attract an audience and drive traffic and sales through their web stores.
But at the same time, we can’t keep dropping mega big bucks to advertise on these platforms when the results just aren’t there.
If that’s happening to you – the first thing to do is to NOT PANIC!
Keep in mind – Facebook’s own income relies on businesses continuing to pay for advertising on the platform. And businesses won’t continue to do that if they don’t get good results.
Secondly – Facebook is introducing a new method of tracking to supplement the Pixel. It’s called a Conversions API, or CAPI. Basically, this operates as more of a deeper integration between your Ads Manager and your website platform.
To sum up the difference between the new Conversions API and the existing Pixel, with the API, the event fires from your web server and is passed back to the Facebook server, rather than from the users browser (as is done currently with the pixel tracking).
If you’re using Shopify for your website, you can set up the Conversions API by heading to Shopify.com/facebook-instagram and if you’re on WordPress, it looks like the WordPress Facebook Pixel plugin and the PixelYourSite plugins already have support for the Conversions API, and I’m sure other plugins will be updating accordingly as well. But keep an eye out for all that.
Here’s what else the ad accounts who are performing well right now have in common
#1 Put the focus on content and engagement
One really common theme among the accounts we work with, is that they put a big focus on creating great content for Instagram and Facebook (or whichever platform your audience is most engaged on).
Instagram Reels seems to be the latest “in favour” placement for content, meaning that the content is getting fed out to more users and therefore attracting higher engagement levels.
And video generally still gets much higher reach and engagement.
But regardless of what placement of format you use, really put some thought and focus on your content.
What would your customers find interesting? Inspiring? Funny? Entertaining? Educational? Helpful? Newsworthy?
What do they need right now? Teacher gifts for end of school year? Gifts for clients? Gifts for friends and family? New clothes for summer (or winter if you’re in the northern hemisphere)?
A big tip: remember that Facebook is a social platform and the kind of engagement they’re looking for is about human interaction.
Humans don’t want to interact with brands, businesses or corporations.
They want to interact with other humans! So share content that shows the personal side of your business (ie you, your staff, your customers).
Any time you find a piece of content that has attracted some really good engagement – go ahead and boost that to drive further engagement.
Facebook LOVES to see engagement staying ON the platforms, and we always see accounts that have really engaged audiences are rewarded by better ad costs and campaigns that optimise faster. I’m sure the latter is down to the fact that the platform can easily identify who your audience is, because they’re right there engaging on your pages.
#2 Restart campaigns now
If you’ve turned off cold traffic campaigns, or you still have some underperforming campaigns running, turn those off and then restart with new campaigns.
We’re definitely seeing things settle down on the platform now as the algorithm changes are bedded down and errors being weeded out.
Campaigns we’re running are now heading back to much healthier results, so it’s worth getting stuck back into things.
#3 Use different campaign types
Try using some different campaign types, like Traffic campaign optimised for Landing Page Views, or Video Views or Post Engagement campaigns to drive engagement.
#4 Make sure your website is converting
Sometimes, the reason your ads aren’t working is because something has changed or broken on your website.
Have you made any changes to your site recently? Things like images and menu, or even your product pages?
Are you out of stock of your best selling products or sizes? Or have you changed your shipping costs?
Is anything else suddenly not working on your website? Check it on mobile as well as desktop.
If everything is hunky dory on your website and there is literally no reason why it should be a bottleneck for converting traffic into sales, then definitely go back and look at your ads again. But sometimes, it can be something as innocuous as changing the hero image on your home page, and suddenly customers are bouncing off at a higher rate, impacting your conversion rate.
#5 Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
The second thing that the best performing brands we work with all have in common is – they send a lot of emails.
And you would know I’m sure, that I talk a lot about the importance of email marketing as part of your marketing mix.
When I started my last business, Facebook wasn’t a thing yet. We had to rely on things like SEO, search engine ads, ads with other online media, and, building an email list and regularly sending marketing emails.
Building your email list is so very important – it’s an asset that you OWN. Your marketing results, therefore, are not at the whim of someone else (here’s looking at you, Facebook…)
But also, consumers generally need to see a marketing message multiple times before they will act. So sending the same new product offers and promotions out on email as well as promoting them on social media, either in your pad ads or in your organic content, will ALWAYS outperform a brand who just relies on one channel alone.
OK – so that’s what I’ve got for you today!
If you’re looking for help with improving your ad results, then by all means please get in contact with us. You can head to http://www.productpreneurmarketing.com if you’d like to book in for a free strategy session.
Otherwise, please make sure you join our free Rockstar Productpreneur community. I’ve got a bunch of free training materials in the group’s Units section, so you can start learning how to improve your marketing.
Just head to this podcast shownotes page, at https://www.catherinelangman.com/episode-40 and you’ll find the link to join our free community.