Facebook Ads are one of the more popular advertising options for people who are new to online marketing.
However, despite 90% of marketers claiming to use Facebook Ads, there are still many who try and fail to generate positive conversion rate results.
If you’re someone who is frequently asking yourself, “why are my Facebook Ads not performing?”, then this post is for you!
In this post, we’re going to go through some of the common Facebook ad mistakes that people make when running Facebook Ad campaigns of their own.
We’ll look at why most ad campaigns tend to fail and what can be done to fix a campaign that isn’t bringing you any results.
By the end, you’ll have a crystal-clear sense of what needs to be done if you want to fix your ineffective Facebook Ads.
1. Poor Targeting
One of the main reasons marketers fail with Facebook Ads is that they fail to target their ads properly. Facebook allows you to create a custom audience, but many people don’t realize this.
More than 2 billion people use Facebook every day – it’s pretty hard to say that your ads aren’t working because your target market isn’t hanging out on the site.
The main advantage of Facebook Ads is that they provide you with the ability to target your ads so that they’re shown to a very precise audience who will be curious about your offer and click, ideally to a specified landing page.
It’s why there are more than 3 million businesses that advertise on Facebook.
However, the flipside of that is that if your ads are poorly targeted, your ads will be shown across social media to people who may not find them relevant, leading to horrible site conversion.
So, knowing how to target your ads to a custom audience is important.
After all, you could get everything else right. But, if your targeting is off base, nothing else will work.
What good is an awesome-looking ad, if the ad is shown to people who have no use for it?
Think about it – if you aren’t interested in buying dog food, but a poorly targeted ad tries to promote some to you, even an awesome-looking dog food ad isn’t going to change your mind on the matter.
Sure, you might click on the ad – just out of curiosity. Conversion tracking will show a positive conversion pixel, but your bounce rate will give the real story.
If you’re a marketer, that’s one of the worst things that can happen.
“Curiosity clicks” will just result in uninterested people who will never buy from you, yet clicking on your ads and, hence, costing you money.
So, knowing all of that, what can be done to target your ads effectively?
If you want to target your ads properly, you must first take a look at who your customer is and build a custom audience profile.
Knowing the traits and characteristics of your ideal customer will give you a chance to set up your ads, so that they’re shown to the right people.
Consider taking some time out to create a buyer persona.
A buyer persona will map out an ‘avatar’ based on the traits, characteristics, and demographics of your ideal customer designed for site conversion.
Ideally, you’ll want to write down the following information when writing out your buyer persona:
- Age and gender
- Who/what influences them
If you take a look at the image below, you’ll see the targeting options that are provided to you by Facebook.
At the very least, you need to be able to comfortably fill in these sections.
In some cases, you might not know your customer as well as you’d like.
Thankfully, in situations like this, Facebook offers a tool that you can use to research your ideal customer.
That tool is called Audience Insights.
When you visit Audience Insights, go to Audience from the left navigation menu. Then select Potential audience at the top of the screen:
You’ll notice that your estimated audience size is quite high. That’s because we still need to filter to fit our audience needs.
To do so, click Filter on the top right. You’ll then see a popup with a variety of demographic filtering options:
The more data you can provide, the better.
As you make selections, you can click Create audience to see your numbers become more reasonable:
Here, we’ve targeted:
- Location: New York, United States
- Age: 18 – 35
- Interests: Running (sport)
We’re beginning to see more reasonable audience numbers.
After we’ve entered in a location and an interest, we are then presented with some data that represents the traits, demographics, and interests of our ideal customer that will ideally lead to website conversion.
Below, you’ll see the Age and Gender information that was returned, based on my input data.
After reviewing this information, we might decide to exclude age groups 18-24/35-44.
That’s because the bulk of our audience can be found in the other age groups.
As you refine your audience, you’ll notice more helpful insights are available to you. For example, if you scroll down, you can see the top Pages that your audience likes:
This gives you insight into where your target audience shops (e.g., Walmart, Amazon), what music they listen to (e.g., Drake, Eminem, Nicki Minaj), and how they spend their free time (watching comedy, learning how to cook).
Now let’s say you want to narrow your audience even further with the newfound interests. You can do so back in Ads Manager.
At the bottom of the filter popup, click See your audiences in Ads Manager:
Once redirected, click into the new audience. Click Actions > Edit in the top right:
While you can make edits to the base demographics you have set, you can also further narrow the audience by excluding subsets of people or narrowing based on more specific interests and behaviors:
Now, let’s look at what else can be done to fix Facebook Ads that don’t work.
2. Lack of Audience Data
One of the biggest reasons your Facebook custom audience is not working is that you are using basic demographic data.
A standard marketing playbook will tell you to create simple buyer personas or customer profiles that describe your typical customers. These are a great tool when you are finding your target audience.
They usually look something like this:
Buyer personas are a summary of basic information, including a name, age range, gender, and job title.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Buyer personas are amazing. I use them on a daily basis to drive sales and traffic to my businesses. But when it comes to Facebook Ads, buyer personas aren’t sufficient. They aren’t nearly detailed enough to find scalable growth and profit.
With that said, I’ve seen a lot of marketers take data from buyer personas and use it to create a new custom audience.
For example, if you head to the Meta Business Suite (formerly Facebook Business Manager) and create a new audience, do you create something fairly basic like this?
That looks a lot like the audience we created above!
Saved audiences on Facebook are great, just not when you limit yourself to demographic-based targeting. Simple metrics like age and gender aren’t going to get you qualified buyers.
Take a look at how diverse and large this audience is:
Trying to target 1.2 million to 1.4 million people with a single ad set and a niche product isn’t going to get you very far. Why? Because if 1.4 million people were interested in your product, you wouldn’t need Facebook to advertise.
You simply can’t appeal to everyone. And that’s fine! If anything, it’s a good thing. Larger audience sizes on Facebook often perform poorly because the targeting isn’t specific enough. You could be wasting tons of money on clicks and impressions without ever seeing a dime in return.
Part of this is Facebook’s fault. It asks you to create an audience when you create a new ad.
And the main options are demographic data.
So, if you see your Facebook custom audience isn’t working, it’s probably because you are relying only on demographic data. Creating a custom audience that is not custom enough is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when managing Facebook ads.
Luckily, there are literally a dozen different ways you can create a custom audience that doesn’t focus on demographic data. These include:
- Website data using a Facebook pixel
- The activity of users on your app
- A list of your customers
- Offline data you collect in-person
- People who watch your Facebook videos
- People who have interacted with your Instagram account
- People who clicked on your Facebook or Instagram shopping experiences
I’ll touch on some of these in more detail below, and it doesn’t hurt to give all of them a try! However, there is one Facebook ads feature I cannot stress the benefit of enough, and that’s Lookalike Audiences.
Lookalike audiences are pretty simple. You create a custom audience from your email list, and Facebook replicates that audience with new people.
Facebook does this by taking your existing customer list, matching those emails to accounts, and then finding other users with similar data that would also be interested in your products.
And it works.
It’s great for creating fast custom audiences without doing the legwork of interests, exclusions, or detailed remarketing optimization.
Lookalike audiences give you the option of choosing what percentage of the population you want to target:
The range is from 1% to 10%, with 10% producing the largest audience size and 1% producing the most specific and smallest audience size. 10% will net you 10% of the total population in the countries you choose, with those selected more closely resembling your other audiences and customers.
Given that Facebook’s user base totals 2.96 billion people, you might think that a 10% lookalike audience sounds like a good idea. A bigger custom audience will generate better results, right?
Actually, the exact opposite is true.
AdEspresso proved this by spending $1500 on a lookalike custom audience experiment in 2017. They wanted to test the three most common levels of lookalike audiences: 1%, 5%, and 10%. So, they conducted a study over a period of 14 days, using the same ad for each audience:
These were lead-based ads that were meant to capture emails via lead magnets. They offered deals to customers who had shown interest in their blog posts or services but weren’t ready to convert just yet. So, when someone clicked on the ad, they had to enter information to receive the free e-books.
Next, they created a new campaign and used Facebook’s A/B testing functionality to test their audiences against each other.
With Facebook, you can split-test multiple audiences, which is what AdEspresso used to simultaneously evaluate those three audience levels. Their timeline was 14 days with a budget of $1,500, which gave them $35 a day to spend:
They set up their three targeting percentages:
The results showed some significant data as to why many marketers were not finding success with this custom audience type. Here’s some of the most important information and concluding data that they found:
You can see the results of the study in the image above. The far left column is the 1% audience, the middle image is the 5% audience, and the far-right image is the 10% audience.
The 1% lookalike audience had a cost per lead of $3.748. The 5% lookalike audience had a cost per lead of $4.162, and the 10% lookalike audience had a cost per lead of $6.364.
One key factor stood out that proved how effective smaller audiences are on Facebook:
The 10%-based lookalike audience was found to have a 70% higher cost per lead than the 1% audience. That could be a game-changer for improving Facebook ad effectiveness.
So, what’s the reason behind the results? Larger custom audiences just aren’t specific enough to drive great results.
10% audiences sound great in theory because they give you the option to corral tons of users, but they just don’t deliver specific enough results. Targeting a large audience usually works, but on Facebook, more users mean less targeting accuracy.
Creating a 1% lookalike audience of your own is easy. Simply navigate to the Audience section under your Meta Business Suite and select Lookalike Audience.
Next, you need to choose the source for your lookalike audience.
The source could be anything from a custom audience to an email list to a specific page or profile. You’ll then select the location you would like to target. Once you’ve selected both source and location, make sure you select 1% as your audience size.
If you want to run an A/B test like AdEspresso, repeat the above steps twice – one with a 5% audience size and one with a 10% audience size.
Once you create your Ads in Meta Business Suite, you will be able to split test using the three new lookalike audiences you created.
Remember, Facebook custom audiences are all about specificity. Don’t make the cardinal sin of trying to cast too wide of a net. The more specific your audience, the better your conversion rate.
3. Not Choosing the Right Bidding Option and Bidding the Right Amount
Another reason Facebook Ads don’t tend to work out is because marketers are not bidding correctly.
If you find that your ads are not generating enough impressions or clicks, the bidding section might be where you need to make some adjustments.
Now, the good news is that the Budget section of the Ad Manager has been simplified:
If you find that your ad isn’t getting any impressions to your landing page, in spite of you bidding within these numbers, you might want to go a little bit higher.
That’s not to say there aren’t ways to optimize your budget and spending, though.
If you scroll back up to the Conversion section, you’ll notice a few additional options for spend. They are:
- Cost per result goal: If you’re aiming for a certain cost per result goal, then here is where you can set that amount. It’s recommended, however, that you use cost per result data from previous campaigns with the same optimization event and attribution settings. Otherwise, you may limit the efficacy of your ad.
- Attribution setting: The attribution setting ensures the conversions that Facebook optimizes for are the same ones you want to measure. For example, with a 1-day click and view setting, Facebook would learn from conversions that happened within a day and show ads to people likely to convert within a day.
- When you get charged: For some ad types, you can choose to be charged by Impression (when the ad is seen) or by Action (e.g., someone clicks through to your website). The most common type is Impression, and there are many ad types that will only allow this setting.
- Delivery type: Here you can choose between Standard pacing and Accelerated. Standard is the option that works best for most ad types as it will ensure you don’t blow through your ad spend too quickly each day. Accelerated is good for time-sensitive campaigns like those advertising a one-day sale.
Of course, all of your selections above depend on how much you can afford. So, it helps to work out the lifetime value of a customer if you want to remain profitable.
If, after bidding higher, you find that your ads are still generating low impressions, then you might need to take a look at your custom audience targeting. It might be too precise.
Alternatively, it might be that your ad itself isn’t click-worthy – a concept we’re going to discuss next.
Note: If you have a campaign that is well-targeted and is generating a lot of clicks and results, consider switching it over to being charged by impressions. This can potentially reduce the cost of a campaign.
4. Failing to Create Click-Worthy Ads
If you’ve taken care of the issues we’ve discussed already, but your ads still look like they need fixing, you might then want to take a look at adjusting the way your ads look.
A lot of the time, you can tell that your ad creative is performing poorly if your ad has a low CTR.
The average CTR on Facebook is anywhere from 0.75% to 1.5% dependent on industry, funnel stage, and click type.
However, if you’re running a News Feed ad, you’ll want it to be above 5% and 1% for a Right sidebar ad.
Facebook is a very visual platform and you’ll want to make sure that your ads are good at catching the eyes of your custom audience.
If you do not have a lot of experience in creating Facebook Ads, you might want to study what other advertisers are doing.
Keeping a swipe file is a good way to keep a record of ads that have impressed you.
What’s a swipe file?
A swipe file is simply a collection of screenshots of anything that caught your eye or caused you to take action.
You can use a tool, like Evernote, to safely store these files on a cloud server.
Bear in mind that you can also study people who are not within your niche.
That is because if you find something that works in another niche, there’s a good chance that it will be transferable to your niche.
A different style of ad might also be refreshing for the people you’re trying to reach, making your ad even more appealing.
Sometimes, you can make your ad more click-worthy by placing a call-to-action within the image.
If you’re going to use text in an image, it can impact the reach of your ad.
If you use a lot of text, it can reduce the chance of your ad succeeding, as shown below.
As with many kinds of online marketing, penning persuasive copy is essential. That’s because you need to convince people to click on your ad.
You can write better copy by understanding what it is that your customers fear and desire. It also helps to know what objections they may have, in relation to an offer like yours.
When you know that kind of information, you can write copy that speaks directly to them, while also reassuring them that your offer is something worth checking out.
It is essential that you always include a call-to-action within your ad copy, so that people know what to do next.
5. Pitching Cold Audiences
Most people use custom audiences when they run simple remarketing ads on Facebook. That’s because you can quickly set up a new website-visit-based remarketing campaign and audience within Meta Business Manager.
But custom audiences for remarketing often fail for one very specific reason: the default 30-day cookie window isn’t effective.
Here’s what it looks like when you create a new custom audience based on website visits:
Facebook defaults to custom audiences from the last 30 days.
This is the number of days you want people to remain in your audience after meeting the traffic criteria or goal. In plain English, this means that when someone visits your website, they will only remain in that audience for 30 days after that visit.
But that’s problematic when you look at the typical sales funnel:
Most customers won’t make a purchase the first time they see your product. They’ll need to transition through the various stages of the buying process first.
In the awareness stage, customers are still trying to figure out what their problem is and how they can solve it. They are only just beginning their research. In the interest stage, they start to explore various products or services to fix their problem. They have still not committed to a purchase, and they are considering your competitors.
Next, they decide which business they think will help them the most. They still haven’t made a purchase at this stage. It’s only when they finally take action that you see a return on your investment and a full completion of the sales cycle. And that conversion cycle can last much longer than 30 days in many cases. In fact, research shows that almost three-quarters of B2B sales to new customers take at least four months to close.
If you’re lucky enough to convert prospects to sales in fewer than 30 days, you’re probably fine with Meta Business Manager’s default settings.
If you are like most of us who aren’t able to convert a non-brand-aware user to a customer in under one month, though, you should be using a much longer window for your audience.
BigCommerce first noticed this mistake when they were running ads for clients and found that the conversion windows were heavily delayed:
Tons of the sales for their client weren’t coming in until 12-30+ days. So a 30-day window wasn’t the most efficient option.
If your retargeting Facebook ad is not working, use a longer window like 30-90 days, instead.
Experiment with this number by creating two custom audiences with different cookie windows to see which performs best over the period of two months.
Another great way to fix a failing custom audience is to simply add another parameter: Frequency.
In theory, the more someone has visited your site, the higher the chance that they’ll buy from you.
First-time visitors aren’t likely to convert.
In fact, it can take anywhere from 2 to 4 visits for a user to convert. So if you don’t sort by frequency, you continue to risk targeting too large of an audience.
As we discussed, the sales funnel is complex, especially when it comes to Facebook. Here’s an example of just how complex a sales funnel can be when using Facebook Ads.
Sometimes it takes upwards of five ads to convert a customer.
And it’s the same way with your website. If you can’t expect first-time visitors to buy, you shouldn’t waste ad spend on anyone who hasn’t visited your site more than once. That’s why you need to enable frequency targeting when managing Facebook ads.
Enable frequency tracking by clicking “Further refine by” when creating a custom audience.
Next, select frequency from the menu.
Now you can add an extra buffer layer to your custom audience to give you an even better shot at converting users with less money and fewer ads:
Here’s what your entire custom audience will look like:
In the above example, a user will get added to your custom audience if they visit your specified URL two or more times within 60 days. This is one of the easiest fixes when your Facebook custom audience is not working.
Simply up the frequency, and you’ll narrow your audience to users who’ve shown strong engagement levels on your site.
In fact, targeting users who have been on specific landing pages more than once is one of my favorite ways to create better custom audiences and fix Facebook ads that are not delivering is to get even more specific by targeting users who visit specific pages and take certain actions.
We know that demographics don’t cut it. Even adding in interests and exclusions might not be enough.
When all else fails, you need to jumpstart your campaign with visitors who are highly likely to buy from you. And thankfully, with custom audience targeting on Facebook, you can target users taking incredibly specific actions from your website.
Let me give you an example before we dive in. Check out this advertisement I ran for a webinar that I hosted:
Notice how specific it is? It’s not a basic, awareness-style ad aimed at grabbing the attention of millions. It’s directly relevant to the webinar that I was hosting at the time. And these ads were only targeted to a custom audience that showed a deep interest in my webinar.
I ran these because I knew that people would convert if they had shown prior interest by visiting my webinar landing page. So instead of remarketing to all my website visitors, I targeted specific page visits and URLs where leads showed an interest.
This isn’t the only way you can use site behavior to optimize your custom audience. You can also target:
- High average order customers by creating a conversion event when a purchase is 20% or more above your site average.
- The users who spend the most time on your site by targeting the top 25% of active users
- Users who haven’t visited your site in a while.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different landing pages, different frequencies, etc. Speaking of experimentation…
6. Lack of Experimentation
Experimentation is an important part of fixing a Facebook Ad campaign that isn’t producing desired website conversion results.
Many of the best-paid traffic experts in the world often fail to produce a winning ad on their first go.
A lot of them need to go through a process of testing, in order to find an ad that is going to bring them optimal results.
When it comes to your own campaigns, consider creating multiple variations of the same ad.
Below is an example of how you can split test a campaign.
You should let ad variations run for a couple of days and then check in on the data.
Odds are, you’ll find that one ad produces better site conversion than another.
Images aren’t the only elements of an ad that you can split test. You can also experiment with the targeting and the copy of an ad.
There’s even the option of seeing what happens when you use different ad formats – such as Instagram ads, or Right sidebar ads.
When you carry out split tests, it is essential that you try and make some radical changes to your existing ads.
That is because this is more likely to bring you a dramatic upturn in results versus small, incremental changes.
7. Lack of Alignment Between Landing Pages And Ads
If you have resolved the issues above and your ads still aren’t converting, there is one more element that is often overlooked: landing page alignment.
What do I mean?
The landing page you choose as the URL for your advertisement can be a huge factor in whether a user converts or not.
When a buyer clicks on an ad, they are doing so with the intent of fulfilling their curiosity about that particular ad. This is usually in relation to the Call to Action (CTA), such as “click to learn more” or “click here to see our newest colors.”
If the user clicks and is brought to a landing page that in no way fulfills the user intent, they are likely to click off the site.
This does two things:
- It breaks consumer trust in your brand; and
- It causes you to pay for a wasted impression or click.
So if you are sure the mechanics of your advertisements are set up for success, then it’s time to look into things such as landing page URL and alignment with your ad messaging.
When considering landing page alignment with your ad, ask yourself these questions:
- Does the landing page deliver on what the ad messaging promises?
- Is there a logical connection between the landing page messaging and my ad’s CTA?
- Would I be frustrated as a consumer if I was sent to this landing page from this ad?
Fortunately, bringing your landing page into alignment with your ad is one of the easier fixes on this list. So once all of the above issues have been addressed, be sure to triple-check your landing page and ad alignment for the best results.
Do you have more questions about reasons your Facebook ads don’t convert? We have the answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic.
What are common Facebook ads mistakes?
A few common Facebook Ad mistakes are not being specific enough with your audience targeting, failing to monitor active ad campaigns, and choosing the wrong ad type for the intended outcome.
Why are my Facebook ads underperforming?
There may be a number of reasons why your Facebook ads are not performing or are underperforming. Some of the most common reasons include poor targeting, lack of audience data, not choosing the right bidding options, failing to create click-worthy ads, pitching cold audiences, falling to experiment, and lacking alignment between landing pages and ads.
What are some top recommendations for adjusting a Facebook advertising strategy?
If you need to adjust your Facebook advertising strategy, the best places to start are:
- Choosing ad goals that align with your campaign goals: When creating a Facebook ad, you’re first asked to identify your ad goal. By choosing the goal that aligns most closely with your campaign and marketing goals, you ensure you have the settings necessary to deliver the most effective ad.
- Refining your custom audiences to target a specific audience: By reducing your audience size to target a more refined list of customers, you increase the odds of your ad’s success. You spend less money targeting irrelevant audiences and maximize your conversion rate.
- Allowing your ads to run long enough to see meaningful results that can inform future ad campaigns: When an ad doesn’t perform as you’d hoped, it can be tempting to turn it off early. By running longer-term ads, though, you can collect valuable information. This can be used to make tweaks to future campaigns.
Facebook Ads can be a great way to increase traffic numbers for your website, and grow more all-essential conversions.
However, if you have yet to see an adequate return on investment, it may just be that you’re making some common mistakes leading up to getting your custom audience to your landing page.
In this post, we have covered some simple fixes that you can act upon, if you want to mend a Facebook Ad campaign that isn’t working out.
We’ve taken a look at how you can make changes to targeting and ad copy. We also touched on the importance of testing multiple variations of the same ad, in order to find a winner.
Take action on what you have learned and see if you can fix some of your low ROI Facebook Ad campaigns.
Do you have any tips that you can share when it comes to improving a Facebook Ad campaign that isn’t delivering as it should? Let me know below!
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