Your Facebook ad targeting strategy could be better.
That’s not really what most digital marketers want to hear, but nine times out of ten, it’s the truth. Facebook gives us a ton of audience options to choose from, which is great, but using those audiences in an effective and non-self-defeating way is something that takes some thought, knowledge, and skill.
You have to
- know what all your audience options are
- know what purpose each serves in your funnel
- know the right balance between them
- find the right audiences that are interested in your product
- know how to optimize them in a way that gets more results for less cost
All those things can be mind-boggling if you’re just starting out. Heck, they can be mind-boggling for experienced folks, too.
Facebook is a complex organism, and assuming that it’s faster to throw together a build and get started on Facebook than it is on Google Ads is actually where a lot of Facebook problems start.
In this article, we’ll help prevent those Facebook ad targeting troubles by detailing the three essential Facebook ad targeting options every expert advertiser should take advantage of. We’ll also help you figure out how to remedy existing Facebook issues with six nuggets of ad targeting optimization wisdom.
By the time you finish reading, you’ll have trimmed the broad vagueness from your Facebook PPC ads and turned them into tight, streamlined, budget-loving conversion goldmines.
Hoist your pickaxes, Facebook ad miners. Let’s get right to it.
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Why the correct Facebook ad targeting is crucial
We often get asked, “What is the main difference between Google Ads Search (formerly Google AdWords) and Facebook ads?”
More importantly, many of you want to know: Which one is better?
Here’s the difference between the platforms:
- People find your Google ads by typing in search queries related to your keywords, and new people constantly enter and leave that target audience. So, there isn’t ad fatigue.
- With Facebook advertising, you target a static audience, and few people enter or leave that audience. That means ad fatigue rates are higher. You don’t want your ads to get stale, so you need to change them up frequently.
As for which platform is better, each platform has its pros and cons. Many businesses use both Google and Facebook in tandem. Some businesses struggle to succeed on Facebook but excel on Google Ads. And for other businesses, vice versa.
We can’t really say that either platform is better overall. But we can say that one platform may be better for your business.
Does your product sell better using a visual medium that encourages crowd engagement? Facebook is better. Does your product need a higher-intent platform to sell faster? Google is better. You get the picture.
On Facebook, even if you have new ad creative in rotation in your Facebook ad account, you’ll eventually suffer from ad fatigue because repetition lowers ad engagement, and that leads to higher costs for the advertiser. You’ll also suffer audience decay (when interest in your message decreases).
This is why including variety in your Facebook targeting funnel (and constantly working to evolve your targeting strategy) is so important.
In short, build multiple Facebook campaigns with different types of Facebook ad targeting to guard against ad fatigue and audience decay.
Eventually, you’ll create Facebook funnels where people enter and leave an audience depending on their actions (like what you consider a conversion).
Facebook thought leader, Mari Smith, once said: “The best Facebook ads look and feel as relevant and timely in your News Feed as the posts you see from your friends.”
So, if you’re blasting an irrelevant, untimely ad message out to the wrong audience, all you’re really doing is disrupting their feed instead of working naturally into it. In the end, you’re not going to accomplish much with your Facebook marketing.
Before you pick your ad targets
Facebook hands advertisers sharp knives to cut through audience chaos and target ideal customers.
Want to target people who just got engaged? Check.
Targeting people who like video games? Check.
You can mix and match your targeting approach or go for the jugular and target people using their individual email addresses.
But don’t touch anything until you understand ANY/ALL (also known as OR/AND) targeting rules.
ANY means you’re expanding your targeting
When you search for targeting options under detailed targeting and add them one after the other, your audience gets wider. This is “any” targeting, also known as “or” targeting, meaning you include anyone in any of the audiences you’ve selected.
Detailed targeting doesn’t make it as obvious that you’re using “any” targeting rules, but in other types of audience lists, you’ll actually directly specify “any” or “all.”
Here, selecting “any” will be the rule applied to the association between your first audience and any further audiences you include.
For example, say I’m creating a retargeting audience of people who visited my pricing page. I choose “any,” then click “include more people” and select a second audience of people who completed registrations on my site.
What this means is that I will be targeting anyone who visited my pricing page or anyone who completed a registration on my site.
ALL means you’re narrowing your targeting
When you want someone in your target audience to meet more than one criteria, your audience gets smaller. That target must be in all audiences you select. Therefore, this is “all” targeting, also known as “and” targeting.
In detailed targeting, you can accomplish “all” targeting by clicking “Narrow Further” before adding your next audience.
When creating custom audiences, you can select “all” directly. If you do, you’ll notice that any new audiences you add on will say “and.”
Using my last example, if I select “all” this time, I’ll be targeting anyone who both visited my pricing page and completed registration.
Narrowing audiences can be extremely useful for getting in front of the right people, but keep an eye on your audience size. You don’t want to whittle away your audience into one that’s too small.
Excluding audiences from your targeting
Excluding an audience from your targeting means that you don’t want people on that specific audience to see your ads.
Exclusions are especially useful with migrating visitors and prospects from one audience to the next. Exclusions make sure that they don’t see an ad for an offer they’ve already converted on.
A good example of an exclusion strategy we often use is to exclude people on our retargeting lists from our prospecting audiences, or excluding people who have already submitted a lead from all of our campaigns.
The 3 essential types of Facebook ad targeting
Each type of audience targeting has its benefits and drawbacks, but each type serves a specific purpose in your funnel. A fully balanced funnel will likely use a combination of detailed targeting, lookalikes, re-engagement, and custom audiences.
One major thing to keep in mind:
Facebook is an amazing PPC platform, but it doesn’t have the search intent that Google does.
As an advertiser, you want to show ads to people who are looking for what you have to offer.
Otherwise, your audience is so broad that you’re throwing money at random passersby (and they don’t want your money, at least not in the way we mean).
So, make sure you’re narrowing things down a reasonable amount, and try to only show up for people who actually need what you have.
That said, a big part of finding the right audiences is understanding your options. So, without further ado…
1. Detailed targeting audiences
Detailed targeting is in the top-of-funnel range as far as social media traffic intent goes. This means that these audiences are colder prospects than others (they’re nevertheless valuable).
Targeting these audiences with a less threatening offer, such as a free whitepaper download or a free trial signup, will help you make the most of them.
You can find “Detailed Targeting” in your Facebook Ads Manager, within your ad set. Scroll down to the “Audience” section, and you’ll find it just underneath the “Gender” selection.
Within detailed targeting, you can select from three different audience categories:
Demographic targeting can be an exceptionally useful tool, especially when it comes to narrowing down your existing audience selections. With demographic targeting, you’ll target users depending on who they are.
The demographic audience subcategories currently available include
- education (education level)
- financial (income percentile)
- life events (like birthdays and anniversaries)
- parents (parental status)
- relationship (relationship status)
- work (employers, industries, or job titles)
Outside of detailed targeting, there are even more broad demographics audience targeting options you can (and should) consider working with. These include
- location (where someone is located)
- age range (what age someone is)
- gender (what gender they identify as)
- language (what language their browser is set to)
They’re not technically a part of detailed targeting, but they are still an important part of your demographic tailoring. At the very least, you should be narrowing down your location targeting to specific countries, states, or cities. (No one really benefits from—or has enough budget for—targeting the whole world.)
In our typical ad strategy, it doesn’t always make sense to target a demographic audience by itself.
For example, only targeting a list of people whose birthdays are coming up will turn up an audience that’s way too big and broad. The people on it could have any number of interests or inclinations when it comes to their birthday festivities.
So if you sell vintage video games, and you have a buy-one, get-one free birthday promotion, you’re better off advertising to people whose birthdays are coming up and who are interested in video games.
In this sense, we often find that using a combination strategy with interest targeting and demographic targeting suits our needs best.
Interest targeting tends to be the detailed targeting category used the most. This is because there are so many options for really honing in on our most relevant prospecting audiences. With interest audiences, you’re targeting Facebook users based on what they like.
Just to give you a taste (we’ll let you do the rest of the exploring), some of the sub-categories available under “Interests” are
- business and industry
- family and relationships
- fitness and wellness
- food and drink
- hobbies and activities
Plus many more, all of which have a list of their own sub-sub-categories.
When it comes to interest targeting, you can click “browse” to roam the available categories, or you can start searching by typing any word or phrase into the search box. You can also ask Facebook for suggestions (but you’ll need to have some audience targeting already selected for it to suggest more).
Pro tip: Make your interest targeting more precise
Okay, so you know that there’s a ton of different interests to target.
The only problem is: you don’t necessarily know how or why people are part of that audience.
For example, we don’t know how many individual data points need to be established before a user is labeled a “rugby” lover.
Precise interest targeting narrows your audience even further than regular interest targeting.
For example, ask yourself: Which of the below is more of an indicator of true interest?
- Liking or reading a random piece of eye candy content about a rugby player, which might put someone on the rugby interest audience
- Liking and following The Eagles (USA national rugby team)
In this case, you can see how it might be more effective to target people who are identified as interested in certain rugby teams than those who are just identified as interested in rugby.
As much as we love interest audiences, you still need to be careful with the vague nature of some of them. So think about targeting more specific audiences (while maintaining a decent audience size), and you’ll set yourself up for better results.
Behavior audiences target people based on what they typically do or are doing.
Some of the behavior targeting sub-categories include
- soccer (fans and friends of fans)
- travel (travel activities and tendencies)
- digital activities (operating system used, gaming preferences, etc.)
- mobile device users (brands, networks, and operating systems used)
- consumer classification (by country)
Similar to interest targeting, there are many more subcategories and sub-sub-categories to explore. (We’ll let you roam among those.)
Sometimes, behavior audiences can be valuable to target on their own, but many of them will still be a bit too broad to be as relevant as we’d like. So they tend to be best used to help narrow down our audiences to be more specific.
For example, if you’re a resort in Las Vegas, targeting all people who are frequent travelers would be way too broad. Not everyone who travels frequently would be interested in visiting Las Vegas. You’d probably be better off targeting people who are in the “Visit Las Vegas” interest audience and who are frequent travelers.
2. Custom Audiences
Custom audiences are some of the most powerful Facebook ad targeting options you have. We’ve got another article that goes into custom audiences in much more detail if you’re interested in taking a deep dive. But for now, we’ll keep it brief.
With custom audiences, you’re able to upload and/or connect your own data to identify your prospects on Facebook and Facebook’s Audience Network. This is where our strategy goldmines, retargeting audiences, are born.
The best thing about custom audiences and the bottom-line reason we see them continually outperform regular Facebook ad targeting is that the people you’re targeting have already shown an interest in what you have to offer.
They’ve either been on your site or landing page, or they’ve already opted in for something from you.
To give you an example of their importance, one of our clients, Feeling Swell, saw a 521% increase in purchases and a 108% increase in ROAS from implementing custom audiences.
That said, you’ve got two major options when it comes to custom audiences:
Off-Facebook custom audiences
Off-Facebook audiences use sources outside of Facebook to collect the data needed to build your lists. This includes
- website activity (collects website activity using your Facebook pixel)
- app activity (collects app activity from app events you set up)
- offline activity (uses data from offline events you’ve set up)
- customer lists (uses data you upload from contact lists you have)
Website visitors are our favorite audiences to target if you couldn’t tell—those are our valuable retargeting opportunities.
In a study, only about 26% of people who clicked on ads on Facebook then made a purchase. With website activity custom audiences, we stand a better chance of improving this click-to-purchase rate by reviving interest among non-converting clickers.
On-Facebook custom audiences
On-Facebook audiences collect data about users based on what they do within Facebook (or Instagram). We like to call these re-engagement audiences, and they rest in the middle-to-bottom funnel range. They include
- video (people who watched a certain length of your videos)
- lead form (people who interacted with your Facebook lead forms)
- Instant Experience (people who interacted with your Instant Experience ads)
- shopping (people who interacted with products in your Facebook shopping experience)
- Instagram account (people who engaged on your Instagram account)
- events (people who interacted with your Facebook events)
- Facebook page (people who interacted with your Facebook page)
- On-Facebook listings (people who interacted with your on-Facebook listings)
You’ve got a lot of options to test out here. Our favorites tend to be video and Facebook page re-engagement audiences because they consist of people who have given consideration to your brand’s messages.
Liking your Facebook page and posts or following you on Facebook is a strong indicator that someone likes what you do, so they tend to be easier prospects to pitch warmer offers to.
Someone who watched 75% or more of one of your videos was interested enough in your message to patiently hear it; they’re likely a warmer prospect now, too. Food for thought.
3. Lookalike audiences
Lookalike audiences help you reach new people on Facebook who are similar to your most valuable audiences.
Create a Lookalike audience to target a much larger (and yet much more relevant) Facebook prospecting bucket. Facebook will fill your Lookalike list with users who match the behaviors and tendencies of people already in one of your existing custom audiences.
For example, targeting a Lookalike of our past converters is our go-to, and typically turns out a much higher conversion rate than your typical prospecting audience (sometimes even for bottom-of-funnel conversions).
To back that up, look at the results we achieved for one of our clients by targeting a Lookalike of lead submitters:
Lookalikes should be on everyone’s testing list once you have the custom audiences you need to build them.
Pro tip: You can even build out Super Lookalike audiences, which are a combined audience of the top Lookalike percentage ranges (e.g., targeting a 0% – 1% Lookalike and a 1% – 5% Lookalike using the “any” targeting rule).
One of our clients, GATA, tested Super Lookalikes and saw a 3,339% increase in conversions—so if that’s not a good enough reason to try them, I don’t know what is.
Finding insights on your audiences
Ever wondered if there was a portal you could use to peek at potential customers before targeting them?
Well, you’re in luck. This portal exists, and you can find it by navigating to “Insights” within your “All Tools” menu.
Once upon a time, “Audience Insights” was its own separate tool, with more data on your current and potential audiences. However, Audience Insights (as it once was) has since been retired.
Now, there’s a version of “Audience Insights” available under the “Insights” tab, with a bit less information on your audiences than used to be available. Nevertheless, these insights on your audiences are still valuable.
You can see information on the genders and age ranges of your current audience (both paid and unpaid traffic):
You can also see information about where your audiences are located:
And, to top that off, you can see information about your potential audiences, including the top Facebook pages they’re estimated to like:
If you’re wondering where’s best to start advertising, look at the insights on the audiences that typically visit your Facebook page. This is likely a good place to start.
And if you feel like your targeting has gone off-base somehow, check in with your insights to see if you’re still advertising on your top audience attributes.
That being said, we also need to be wise and take some of this information with a grain of salt. It’s a good place to start, but from this data, we really have no idea if people in your “top” insights data are actually the ones that will convert.
6 optimization tips to clean up your Facebook ad targeting strategy
We specialize in bleed-stopping here at KlientBoost—that is, we specialize in stopping money from bleeding out of advertising strategies.
Facebook can be a big source of bleed if it’s not properly optimized, set up, or organized. If you go a little overboard on your audiences and testing, it can be easy for your account to become muddled with self-competition, unfinished learning phases, and audiences whose conversion volume intake speed could be beaten by a snail.
More so, all these problems can get complicated very fast, and it can be tough to figure out how to turn things around.
So, we’re going to give you six pointers to start with to help you get control of that runaway wagon.
1. Group like-audiences together in ad sets where it makes sense
Here’s an unpopular opinion: The one-audience-per-ad-set method is dead.
I mean, there certainly may be circumstances where it works or is necessary, but generally, you’d need a high conversion volume for it to be successful.
This is because the Facebook algorithm needs each ad set to bring in 50 conversions in 7 days for them to leave the learning phase. And leaving the learning phase is important because your ad set performance will be unstable until it does so (you’ll otherwise be seeing higher CPA and less conversion volume).
For many digital marketers, it can be difficult to gain 50 conversions to one ad set in a week, especially if that ad set is targeting only one audience. So, you’re not really getting any benefit out of having a one-audience-per-ad-set structure.
Instead, group your audiences in like-themes. For example, if you want to target multiple interest audiences related to rugby, condense all those rugby audiences into one ad set.
2. Exclude your retargeting audiences from non-retargeting ad sets
When you’re at the finish line and retargeting people who have been to your site before, the last thing you want is for those people to see ads with cold offers from your prospecting campaigns.
Retargeting audiences are your chance to finish the sale or get that high-value lead, but keep in mind that people who are in your retargeting audience may also be in your prospecting or middle-of-funnel audiences.
If you’re not doing anything to stop that, they could be seeing offers from any part of your funnel, making it harder for you to nudge them to that conversion. Having two different audiences from two different ad sets target the same people just means you’re competing against yourself and raising your own CPM.
Excluding your retargeting audiences from any non-retargeting ad sets is a really quick and easy way to fix bleed in your Facebook campaigns.
3. Exclude your converters from your ad sets
As a general rule, you should be excluding people who have already completed an ad set’s desired conversion from that ad set’s audience.
For example, if you have a prospecting ad set that’s driving whitepaper downloads, exclude all people who have already downloaded the whitepaper from that ad set’s audience. Or, if you have an ad set driving your highest value lead, exclude people who have already submitted leads from that ad set’s audience.
There will be times when retargeting your past converters could make sense.
In eCommerce, that could be when you want to push repeat purchases or cross-sell. In lead gen, that could be when you want to target downloaders of your whitepaper with a higher value offer.
But what we’re getting at here is that targeting your converters should be treated as a separate strategy, and you should be expecting to show your past converters different offers than the ones they’ve seen before (and the ones non-converters are seeing for the first time).
You don’t want to keep your converters in the same ad set their conversion originally went to, and you don’t want to continue to show them the same offer or ads they already converted on. It’s a waste of money, especially if that action isn’t something they’d do again.
This is one of the biggest causes of bleed we see in Facebook campaigns. It’s something that many advertisers don’t currently take care of, but it’s also one of the easiest and fastest to fix.
Just create an audience out of your converters (using the website option under custom audience creation) and exclude it from the appropriate ad sets.
4. Separate your audience funnels by campaign
Things get messy when ad sets contain prospecting audiences, retargeting audiences, and re-engagement audiences all in the same campaign.
It’s best to have separate campaigns for your prospecting audiences (detailed targeting and lookalikes), middle-of-funnel audiences (re-engagement), and bottom-of-funnel audiences (retargeting).
From an organizational standpoint, you’ll know exactly where each type of audience is, and that’ll make it easier for you to prevent and/or identify any overlap between your audiences and funnels.
Let me tell you, I’ve seen a lot of builds with retargeting, detailed targeting, lookalikes, and re-engagement audiences all piled into one ad set. These types of builds are usually plagued with ad sets across multiple campaigns targeting the same audiences (doubled and/or tripled in slightly different combinations). That’s a ton of bleed and self-competition.
It’s easy to lose track of your audiences, so separating them out by funnel helps keep things clean.
We like to separate our funnel at the campaign level for visibility and budget control. That being said, we typically use campaign budget optimization (CBO), which means all our budgetary control has to be at the campaign level.
If you’re budgeting at the ad set level still, separating your funnel by campaign might not be needed, but on that note, we highly recommend making the switch to CBO.
5. Separate your Lookalikes from your detailed targeting at the campaign level
Going a bit further on that last note, something we’d recommend is keeping your Lookalike audiences and your detailed targeting audiences in separate campaigns (again, if you’re using CBO).
This one is pretty easy to explain. Your Lookalike audiences will likely be quite a bit larger and more demanding on your budget than your detailed targeting audiences.
We’ve often found that when we combine both these prospecting types of audiences into one campaign, Lookalikes tend to dominate the budget allocated to that campaign; on the other hand, our detailed targeting audiences don’t get as much of an opportunity to shine.
If we want to see how our detailed targeting audiences truly perform, it’s typically best to give them their own separate budget.
Additionally, your Lookalikes may perform better than your detailed targeting audiences. So if you’re using CBO, you’ll probably want to allocate more funds to your Lookalikes than your detailed targeting, rather than making them share.
6. Allocate your budget more heavily toward prospecting
We’ve mentioned this here and there in some of our other articles, but because it’s so important to acknowledge this concept, it does deserve its own short spotlight.
It’s really tempting to pile budget into your retargeting audiences at the bottom of the funnel because those tend to give you the most high-value conversions. But if you pile more budget into your retargeting audiences and less into your prospecting audiences, your retargeting performance will tank.
This is because you need sizable prospecting traffic to beef up your retargeting list. If you focus only on retargeting, you’ll run that audience dry, and ad fatigue will be the death of your campaign.
Here are some stats to back that up: Just seven days after adjusting the budget to be lower in retargeting and higher in prospecting (with no other changes to the account), one of our clients saw a 400% increase in conversions and a 54.69% decrease in CPA to their retargeting campaign.
The proof is in the pudding. Aim to allocate around 60 – 70% of your budget to prospecting and between 15 – 25% to retargeting.
Closing thoughts on Facebook ad targeting
Your Facebook ad targeting is the foundation of your strategy, and without solid ad targeting sense, you can easily flop on Facebook.
Now that you’ve got a good idea of what’s involved in selecting your audiences and what your options are, you’re more prepared to build a killer Facebook strategy and succeed with your Facebook ad campaigns.
And while you’ve got all that ad targeting knowledge bubbling in your brain, it’s a good time to learn the other part of your audience targeting strategy: where your ads show in Facebook ad placements.