Neil Patel

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21 Ridiculously Powerful Ways to Improve Your Facebook Ad Targeting


When was the last time that you searched for someone on Facebook and were shocked to discover that they didn’t have an account?

It’s probably been a while.

We’ve all had that happen, but it’s pretty rare. Nearly everyone is on Facebook nowadays.

With so many people in one place, Facebook presents a huge opportunity for businesses to reach out and connect with potential customers.

But unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy as it once was. You and I both know that the reach of organic content is decreasing.

Facebook changed their algorithm in January in a major way.

They made it so that people would see more personal content in their news feeds and less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and the media.

This is where Facebook Ads come in.

Paying for ads is becoming increasingly important if you want to reach your target audience.

But spending money doesn’t guarantee success. You could spend good money on Facebook Ads and still struggle to get results.

But if you’re going to invest in Facebook Ads, you want to make sure that you know what you’re doing. And a great place to start is your targeting.

That’s what I’ll talk about in this post.

I’m going to show you 21 ways to improve the performance of your Facebook Ads by simply fixing your targeting.

First, let’s talk about why targeting is so important and how it can dramatically affect the results of your ad campaign.

Targeting can make or break a campaign

Targeting the right people with the right message is the key to a successful ad campaign.

Are you familiar with the traditional sales funnel?

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Customers at each stage of the funnel are looking for something different.

If you target someone in the “know” stage with a sales call to action, you will fail.

If you target someone in the “trust” stage with an informational message, you’ll still probably fail.

Targeting is not simply figuring out the general demographics of your audience.

If you get any of a wide variety of traits wrong, you won’t yield the results you want, no matter how amazing your ad looks.

If you send the perfect message to the wrong audience, they won’t click it.

Not only that, but Facebook’s Relevance Score has shown that the better you are at targeting the right ad message to the right audience, the lower your cost per click will be.

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AdEspresso decided to test this measure.

They targeted two different audiences and ran the exact same ad to both of them.

The results were dramatic.

The one with better targeting had a lower cost per click and gained four times more clicks!

So here’s the takeaway for you:

Proper targeting will not only make your ads more successful, but it will also lower your overall cost of running them. This improves your ROI and boosts your bottom line.

You need to fix your targeting before you fix any of the other issues your Facebook Ads may have.

Now, I’ll show you 21 ways to improve your targeting so you immediately see better results from your Facebook Ads.

1. Start with a combination of basic demographics

When you’re setting up an ad, the first thing Facebook will ask you to do is select the location, age, and gender of your target market.

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Selecting only these three targeting options is a huge mistake. It will make your audience far too large.

That doesn’t mean that you should ignore them, though. Don’t be so focused on the advanced options that you skip past the basics.

Facebook offers free courses on how businesses can use their targeting options.

If you check out their advertising course options, you will notice that there are several basic courses to help you build a solid foundation.

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They recommend that you take these courses before you get into the more advanced targeting classes.

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Make sure you narrow down all three basic fields for every ad you create. This should be your first step for audience targeting.

Even if everyone from the ages of 18 to 65 could use your product, you shouldn’t try to speak to everyone with the same ad.

Every time you make your ad too broad, you set yourself up for failure.

2. Target your audience’s interests

Trying to target your ideal customer just based on demographics like age and gender isn’t going to cut it.

That’s why you need to be very specific with your targeting.

If your target audience is too large, your click-through-rate will be low, and your ads will fail.

The best way to narrow down your audience is by defining the interests of your ideal customer.

Make sure you narrow your focus as much as possible.

One of the best ways to do this is with the “but no one else would” trick.

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The way to do this is by selecting a specific interest that no one other than an avid fan would have.

If you want to sell to golfers, don’t choose Tiger Woods. He’s so popular that even non-golfers may be fans.

Bubba Watson is a far better choice. Only serious golf enthusiasts would know him and like him.

There are thousands of different interests you can choose to target with Facebook Ads.

Simply go into your ad settings and find the “Interests” section.

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Type any possible interest into the search box and it will populate suggestions for you.

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This gives you a description of the interest and how many people on Facebook currently share it.

But selecting a single interest will still result in far too broad of a target group.

Over 850,000 people are interested in me alone. That may be flattering, but it isn’t useful as a target market.

You need to either select multiple intersecting interests or combine this targeting with at least one of the other methods below.

For example, this Dr. Pepper ad is targeting three intersecting interests:

  1. College students
  2. People who like college sports
  3. People who like soft drinks

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You can see that they’ve perfectly targeted the visuals and messaging in the ad to their chosen market.

Had they used one of their other ads, like this one, it probably would have failed.

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Make sure your ad message suits the interests of the audience you’re trying to target.

3. Find people already looking to buy your product

Whether you find it creepy or not, Facebook can generally tell if you’ve been online searching to buy something.

If you sell a high-end product, this is an excellent way to target customers.

73% of consumers research a product online before purchasing.

The purchase consideration window is not very large though. For most products, you have a week or less from the time a customer starts shopping until they buy.

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Even for products worth more than $500, 54% make their decision in less than a week.

By the time two weeks have passed, 75% of people have made their purchase.

Facebook can identify your ideal customers who are already in the looking-to-buy stage and instantly target your ad to them.

This means even if they haven’t heard of you yet and have only been researching on competitor sites, you have a chance to steal them away before they make up their mind.

Since most consumers make up their mind based on price, a targeted Facebook Ad offering a discount could be enough to persuade them to purchase from you over the competition.

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How do you do this?

Within Facebook Ads, there is a section called Behaviors.

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You can try typing in ideas and see what is suggested or you can browse.

There are a ton of different purchase options to choose from.

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Even within folders, there are subfolders so you can narrow it down as much as possible.

If you sell modern, high-end furniture, target the purchase behavior for ‘modern sofa’ rather than ‘sofa’ or ‘furniture.’ Then create the ad specifically focused on your modern sofas for sale.

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4. Target people by their income level

Do you have a high-end product that is typically only bought by people making over $100,000 a year?

Is your ideal customer a broke college student?

If your service or product is targeted to people of a specific income level, then your ads should be targeted the same way.

Facebook allows you to target consumers through 30 different financial behaviors. This helps make sure that the people seeing your ad are the ones who will be able and willing to buy it.

Under the Demographics section, you can target by Income, Net Worth or even Liquid Assets.

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How does Facebook know my income?

Well, it doesn’t. Not exactly.

They use a host of third-party data, combined with general demographic, household, and other information they have to come up with an approximation.

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It won’t be perfect for every person, but it doesn’t have to be.

Targeting by income will still be massively more effective than trying to target everyone.

Imagine you’re selling engagement rings.

What’s more successful?

Creating one ad showing a mid-range ring and trying to connect with everyone looking to buy a ring?

Or targeting low-income men with your most affordable rings and targeting the most affluent guys with your largest, priciest diamonds?

With the first technique, you’re likely going to lose both audiences, even though they’re both in the market to buy an engagement ring.

Here’s an ad for affordable homes targeted at low-income consumers:

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5. Focus on where your audience works

Does your product or service appeal to people in a particular industry or occupation?

In the demographics section, you can narrow down your audience by work categories.

Aleja Seabron, Social Media Manager, agrees that proper planning, including knowing what your target audience does for a living is “by far the best thing you can do to ensure you are spending your ad dollars wisely.”

First, browse by demographics, and then select work.

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Now you can search for a specific employer or job title or you can search by industry.

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You’ll notice that the amount of people in each industry pops up on the side.

Most of these are way too large to be effective on their own.

There are almost 10 million business and finance professionals on Facebook.

That’s way too broad to be a good target market. Combine it with other options to improve your audience, or narrow it down by choosing specific job titles within the industry.

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You can also target by office type. If you’re trying to reach startups or small business owners, this option can be very useful.

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Here’s an example of an ad targeted to construction professionals:

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6. Target home ownership

Facebook allows you to target people based on whether they own or rent their home.

Not only that, but you can narrow it down to whether they are a first-time home buyer or not.

You can find this under the demographics section.

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You can even choose home type:

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Why does this matter?

This is obviously a great way to target ideal customers if you’re a realtor.

But what about the rest of us?

Well, knowing if someone is renting or owning can be useful for companies selling insurance, large appliances, home-care services, and a wide range of other things.

First-time home buyers are also likely to be shopping for everything that needs to go in that new home, from kitchenware to a living room set.

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Julie Van Ameyde, Marketing Consultant at Simply Social LLC shares:

My students and clients ask me all the time what is the most important thing to finding success with Facebook Ads. I tell them it is: Targeting, Targeting, and Targeting! Facebook allows us to do what most other forms of advertising do not: the ability to hone in our target market. Whether it is by demographics, location, interests or behavior make sure you know your perfect client.

7. Group your audience by their level of education

Knowing the education level of your target market helps you customize everything from tone to the language of a campaign.

It’s also important if your product is suited for people with a certain level of education.

If you’re a school offering Master’s Degree programs, you want to target people who already have a Bachelor’s.

Education is under the Demographics section.

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You can also narrow down by field of study, specific school attended, or undergrad years.

This one can be particularly useful if your service is aimed at recent graduates.

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Is your product for experienced professionals?

Choosing a graduation year further in the past can help you target people who have been in the workforce longer.

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68% of all Facebook users have a college education.

If your ideal consumer has a secondary education, Facebook has a lot of potential for reaching them.

Just make sure you target your ads so you’re not wasting money showing them to the other 32% of the population who aren’t your ideal customers.

8. Decide if your ads are ethnic

If you live in the US, you have the option to select an ethnic affinity.

You can find this option in the Demographics section.

rab ethnic affinity targeting

America has a rich and diverse background with people from many different ethnicities.

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If your product or service is more popular with a particular ethnicity, this option can help you target the right ad to the right group.

Keep in mind, that if you’re targeting an ethnicity, and your ad has people in it, they should be of the same ethnicity.

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9. Target people with children

Under Demographics, you can choose to target people based on their parental status and the age of their child or children.

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You can also specifically target moms.

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These options are useful whether you’re selling kids’ products or services specifically for parents.

This is also great for products and services that are meant to be time-savers or stress-relievers.

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Parents are known to have larger budgets for many household items such as groceries.

Research shows that they also take their children’s interests into account when making the family or household purchases.

This means, knowing what demographic their child fits into and targeting to the kid’s interests can improve ad results.

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10. Search out people who love to travel

Facebook Ads gives you the ability to select your audience based on their travel behaviors.

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You can select from any of the following options:

  • All frequent travelers
  • Business travelers
  • Commuters
  • Currently traveling
  • Frequent International Travelers
  • Returned from trip 1 week ago
  • Returned from trip 2 weeks ago
  • Used travel app (1 month)
  • Used travel app (2 weeks)

Of course, travel providers are the obvious choice for this.

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But these options are useful for tons of other businesses too.

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For example, consider the following:

  1. People who are frequent travelers may be either well-off or in a job that requires travel
  2. Business travelers are an ideal market if you have a B2B business
  3. Commuters may be more interested in products that help pass the commute time, such as e-books and mobile apps
  4. People who are currently traveling near you are the perfect audience if your product or service is directed at tourists

11. Focus your ads on people with similar political beliefs

Facebook Ads allow you to target people based on their political beliefs, as long as your ads are for the US.

Political options can be found under the Demographics section.

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You’ll notice the bottom options are all self-reported.

This means Facebook can only target the people who have voluntarily chosen to put their political views in the About Me section of Facebook.

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This can be helpful if your product or service relates better to one typical political view over another.

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57% of consumers are more likely to buy from or boycott a brand because of its stance on a social or political issue.

In other words, targeting those who align with you politically, and avoiding those who won’t, should immediately increase your ad performance.

12. Target couples who have an anniversary approaching

Under demographics there is a Life Events option:

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Within this category, you can find the anniversary choices.

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You can choose to target people with an anniversary in the next month or the next two months.

If you’re trying to target people ready to buy a present, this is a good option to select.

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Anniversaries and holidays are huge events for retailers.

Valentine’s Day alone was predicted to rake in close to $20 billion in consumer spending this year.

13. Search out friends of people celebrating a milestone

Another great way to find people ready to buy presents is to seek out friends of people who are about to celebrate something.

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Whether it’s birthday presents, housewarming gifts for people who recently moved, or baby shower gifts for people who are expecting, you can select it here.

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14. Focus on people who are in a long-distance relationship

Another option under the life events category is a long-distance relationship.

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As you can see, there are millions of people currently in long-distance relationships.

If you sell gifts with fast delivery, this can be a great market when combined with upcoming celebrations, anniversaries, or holidays.

Imagine realizing you forgot to send your partner something for Valentine’s Day and you suddenly see an ad promising same-day delivery of flowers.

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People in long-distance relationships spend more money on travel, events, and restaurants than other couples.

If your product or service falls into one of those categories, this is a worthwhile group to target with your Facebook Ads.

15. Target people who are currently away

Other life events that may be worth targeting are people who are currently either away from their family or away from their hometown.

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Facebook can tell by location data whether someone is currently away.

This is similar to targeting those in a long-distance relationship.

People who are away from home spend more on food, whether it’s through restaurants, hotels, recreation sites, vending machines, or schools and colleges.

It can also be used to target people who might be looking to change a career, or are homesick and wishing they could find a cheap travel option to visit.

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16. Promote to new hires

Life events can always be triggers to shop and a new job is no exception.

You can target people who just started a new job under the life events section.

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A new job could mean a raise and therefore more disposable income.

It could also mean a new dress code and a need to buy new professional clothes.

It’s important to dress for success, whether it’s for an interview or a new job.

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This is also a good potential market if you offer professional or personal improvement courses and services.

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17. Target buyer profiles

Similar to purchase types (#3 above), this is another way of targeting shoppers who are likely ready to buy.

Buyer profiles are found under the Behaviors section.

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These people are considered to be strongly aligned with the given profile based on their activities and characteristics.

Using this option can help you target people most likely to buy your type of product.

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If you’re not sure what your ideal customer’s buyer profile is, there are tools that can help you figure it out.

A good place to start is Facebook’s own free Audience Insights tool.

18. Search for people in expensive homes

Under demographics, select Home.

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Then choose Home Type, followed by Home value.

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Now you can select from a range of home prices to target your ideal customer.

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This can be a great alternative from targeting by income if you want to target people able to afford luxury or high-end products.

People may have no income if they are a stay-at-home parent or are retired.

But they could still have a significant amount of disposable income and be the decision maker when it comes to large purchases.

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Combining home cost with location can make this targeting even more specific because people in the most expensive homes generally choose to live in one of the United States’ “power markets.”

19. Target gamers

Gaming is a huge market, and there are multiple ways to target gamers with Facebook Ads.

The first option is found under Buyer profiles. Simply select Gamers.

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A second option is under Digital activities. Here you can select Console, Canvas, or Facebook gamers.

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There’s also a third option, which you can find under the interests section.

Beneath the Consumer electronics drop-down, you can select Game consoles as an interest.

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You can target one of these or all three to see which performs better.

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Combine this target with age to get the best sales results.

Gamers under 35 are much more likely to pay to download a game.

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20. Focus on a good cause

Are you a non-profit organization?

Maybe you’re partnered with one or your business supports one.

If you have any affiliation with a charity, focusing on people who support it can be a smart advertising tactic.

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3 out of 5 Americans expect businesses to lead the way in improving society and the environment.

This means that 60% of people are very conscious of the brands and businesses they buy from.

Target people who are interested in the same causes that you support.

You can find people who donate to or support charitable causes under the Behaviors section.

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21. Target mobile phones

Under Behaviors, you can choose to target people based on which device they use to log into Facebook.

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If your product or service is related to cell phones or tablets, particularly if it’s only supported on either Android or Apple, then this is a good way to narrow your audience.

People are very loyal to their phone brands and operating systems.

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Over 90% of Android users are unlikely to switch to an iOS system.

This means if you’re selling an Android-related product, you should immediately exclude iOS users from your targeting.

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It also tells you that people will most likely be viewing your ad on mobile, so make sure it’s mobile-friendly.


Facebook Ads can work extremely well for your business.

You can even build a six-figure business in 90 days using them.

If you don’t see the results from your ads, start narrowing down your target audience with the options I walked you through today.

There are a ton of combinations you can choose from to perfectly define your target market.

Don’t worry about going too narrow. Your market and ad need to be specific and perfectly-matched if you want to see results.

Remember, there are billions of people on Facebook. You can narrow down your focus to only a tiny portion of them and still be raking in the profits.

Facebook Ads are very effective when done right. As long as you understand your ideal target market, and use these methods to reach them, you will see the ROI for your ads improve in no time.

Which targeting choices have given you the best return on investment so far?

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Neil Patel