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Two brief items before we dive back into the croc-filled wetlands of Facebook Ads:

  1. I wrote a detailed post on comp authors over at my blog: how to find them, where to use them, and why your comp author list should change dramatically for each ad platform. Check it out here - it's a good one!
  2. Some big BookBub Ads changes are coming. I’ll have more on that next week – I’ve been playing with the changes for a while so can get you up to speed on best practices right away.

But first, let’s continue with Facebook!

FACEBOOK 8 – Building A Campaign II

After all that song-and-dance last week about me forging my own path and parachuting into the cannibal-filled jungle that is Facebook Ads without so much as a compass, most of what I shared with you was pretty standard advice and nothing was that controversial really. What a letdown!

This week is where I’ll truly diverge from commonly accepted wisdom on Facebook Ads, but, as I explained last week, I’ll explain my logic as I go. You can either hop aboard with wild abandon - ready to get wind, in your hair and muck on your tires - callously dismiss it altogether, or even strategically pluck your favorite feathers from the carcass of my ideas.

Don't forget, you can review the last episode, along with anything else you missed, in my Email Archive.

Hawk-eyed hepcats will note that we are up to EIGHT episodes now in this Facebook series. That was the sum total of the BookBub series, and we are only at around the halfway mark with Facebook. 

This should give you some idea of the relative complexity..

A couple of people suggested that I add in more screenshots. Problem s, as soon as you put in more than one or two images in an email, the likelihood of it not ending up in your inbox spikes considerably. Note: it’s a very good idea to add me to your Contacts on Gmail to ensure these emails always go straight to your inbox. For instructions, and for other providers, go here.

That said, I might have a stab next week at recording a very quick video guiding you through the process of ad creation, incorporating all these tips. Maybe. For now, though, puny words must carry the load.

Ad Sets: Placements

We snipped things last week just at the tail-end of the Ad Set segment. The next step in building your Facebook campaign is to look at Placements – i.e. where Facebook shows your ads. And we’re going to veer off the road of perceived wisdom right away, because I only show my ads in one place: the Facebook newsfeed.

I don’t run ads in Messenger, in-between videos, in the right-hand feed, on Instagram at all, and I sure as hell don’t run them on the Audience Network – which is a collection of third party websites that Facebook has a partnership with.

Most people love running ads in all those places, because they make your numbers look pretty. You will get lots of impressions, and lots of clicks. Cheap clicks too! I can run a campaign to Newsfeed only and I might be paying 50c a click or more. And if I ran that same campaign and let it run everywhere, my CPC might drop to 10c.

So why don’t I do it? Because it’s junk traffic. It doesn’t convert. All it does is give you bragging rights about how low your CPC is, or how great your CTR is. (I hate those context-free conversations.)

The Audience Network is particularly notorious for delivering cheap clicks in huge volume… which never buy a single book. So, if you want great CPCs, go for it. But if you actually want to sell books, stick to the Newsfeed. I get conversion rates of 20%+ on my Facebook Ads because I target buyers, not clickers. (This is waaaaaay above the average on Facebook, FYI…)

I can’t stress enough how important this is, particularly with Facebook’s Friendly Neighborhood AI making more and more of the spending decisions. I had one campaign with a $200 budget where I forgot to turn off the Audience Network, and the system saw those cheaper clicks and devoted 96% of that budget to the Audience Network… which didn’t result in any sales. I caught my error after $185 was spent.

It really is junk traffic. Stick to Newsfeed.

BTW, you do this by clicking Edit Placements – it’s not the default, you must proactively do this – and then laboriously unticking all the boxes except for Newsfeed. A cynic might suggest Facebook make this deliberately tedious so most people won’t bother. 

And Facebook keeps defaulting back to looping in these networks – in boosted posts too, you may have noticed. It’s pretty sly; sometimes when you copy an ad, which really should save the settings you have already chosen, the system “glitches” and switches back on the Audience Network. A cynic might suggest that it's weird how the glitches which work in Facebook's favor are super slow to get fixed.

Another giant red flag about the quality of this traffic. If you need to trick people into using something, it’s probably not very good! (A cynic might further suggest pairing Facebook ad-wrangling with a robust Malbec.)

Stick to Newsfeed. Have I stressed that enough? 

Ad Sets: Optimization and Delivery

There are a few different things in this section you may wish to explore further but I want to particularly highlight the two most important. 

Optimization for ad delivery should always be link clicks – at least for any campaign trying to sell books on Amazon (or elsewhere). When we get into alternative uses for Facebook Ads, like Awareness campaigns or building up your list, then this might be different, but stick with Link clicks for any direct sale campaigns like this. Not conversions, landing page views, engagement, or anything else. Link clicks.

That’s pretty straightforward. The next bit is not. If your loins are handy, gird them, because I am about to tackle a GIANT misconception about Facebook Ads that might take some time to get your head around. Certainly did for me, at least, although I’ve a thicker skull than a statue wearing a titanium helmet…

When you are charged usually defaults to Impression. But most advertisers don’t like paying for impressions. They want to pay for results – i.e. clicks. They select Link Click (CPC), and move on without a second thought. (Note: sometimes you have to click More options underneath Impression to get the Link Click option to show.)

Here’s the thing though, Facebook always charges by impressions anyway. You can see this yourself by looking at a campaign which hasn’t garnered any clicks yet – your costs are still creeping up anyway. Other types of campaigns give you other options in this field, and you can choose to get charged per video view, per landing page view, per conversion, per click… and none of it ultimately matters. You get charged by impressions anyway.

This is such a crucial fact about Facebook Ads, so central to the entire system, so poorly explained in the interface, and so widely misunderstood as a result.

Selecting Link Click (CPC) isn’t completely pointless though, and I still recommend doing it, but it’s very important that you internalize this key fact about how you will be charged for your ads: you will end up paying even if no one clicks on them.

Opting to get charged for clicks instead only really does two things for you: it changes how information is displayed to you a little, and allows you to put in a CPC bid cap. Facebook defaults to $2 here, so make sure to reduce that. I think the highest I’ve ever used is $1. Sometimes I put in $0.50 or $0.75, and then use various optimization techniques to bring those costs down much further. 

Just note you can only put in a bid cap if you have selected Bid Cap in your Campaign Bid Strategy right at the start (see last week’s email). If you selected Lowest Cost instead, which basically gives control of this to the system, which can sometimes work well, but can also be risky, then you won’t see the option to do this here. Merely noting that in case you experiment.

Delivery type is the final setting in the Ad Set level and it defaults to Standard – i.e. spreading your budget over your schedule, rather than spending it as quickly as possible. Live this as it is, and don’t even consider testing the other way until you are an advanced user.

Okay, onto the final part, the Ad level. This section will determine what your audience will see – the ad image and ad text. As with everything to do with Facebook Ads, there is also a surprising level of complexity at this stage, but, again, there really is one good way to set everything up, and you can just copy that approach each time. 

Ads: Identity & Format

Identity is simple: select your Facebook Page. This will associate your Page with your ads, and help gain you some surprisingly good quality spillover Likes from any ads you run. Ignore the Instagram settings as you are not advertising there.

Format is also easy. It should default to the middle option Single image or video. We’ll talk about Carousel ads in a future episode, but you will be sticking to Single image ads for now, sometimes called “static image ads” to distinguish them from video. And ignore the section named Add an Instant Experience.

OK, on to the ad itself.

Ads: Media

This is where you put in your ad image. Now, I might do a whole episode just on ad images – they are simply that important – but I’ll give some quick advice for those who are playing with Facebook Ads right now and don’t want to wait.

My approach here is pretty similar to how I approach BookBub Ads. Review Part 4 of the BookBub Ads series in the Email Archive if you want a detailed refresher, or check the relevant sections BookBub Ads Expert – Chapter 4 for sure, and Chapter 7 will probably help too – which are more comprehensive again, of course.

In short, I very strongly disagree with the general thinking on effective Facebook images. I see lots of people advising you not to use your book cover in these images. I don’t know what they are smoking, quite frankly, because using the book cover in your ad image makes conversion soar. Using a non-book image can result in good CTRs and CPCs (I’ve tested it, of course), but conversion tanks completely, in my experience

My theory as to why conversion tanks so hard is that people don’t realize it’s an ad for a book, and click away as soon as they realize that it's not the show or game or movie they thought. Just a theory; the true reason doesn’t matter so much. The results are what matter and those are clear.

As with many areas where I diverge from perceived wisdom, once you factor in conversion – the most important metric of all! – the case is clear. Use your book cover. Or the cover art in some fashion, at the very least.

Maybe the opposition to this is based on some out of date thinking. Facebook used to police the amount of text in ads very strictly, stopping your ad from running altogether, sometimes even if the only text in your entire ad was on the book cover itself. But the policy has been relaxed several times since.

Text which is actually on products – like book covers – have an exception now. And even if the system flags your ad for too much text, you can appeal it, and a human will actually look at it and should approve it. (If you see one of those yellow warning banners at the top/bottom of your ad interface, warning of too much text and asking if you would like a manual review always say yes. In my experience the review will happen quite quickly.)

In practice, not only can I insert my book covers – some of which are very text heavy – but I can also get away with a price and often a tagline too. The threshold is supposed to be 20% text, but it has always been kind of fluid in various ways.

Don’t fill the image with text though. Your ad will get throttled, it won’t deliver properly, and you’ll pay a surcharge for the few impressions you do get. It doesn't look good anyway.

As for the image itself, I recommend outsourcing it to begin with, unless you actually have design skills. The format is always 1200 x 628 pixels. (Carousel ads are different, as are some of the placements which we switched off, just FYI.)

As with BookBub Ads, designers can knock these up very quickly and charge as little as $20 for a bunch of ad graphics. They often bundle them for free with your covers, so that’s the best time to order them. At the same time, you should practice in tools like Canva and learn how to make your own over the long term.

The image should contain the book cover, and then I like using the cover art as part of the background too. This post will give you a quick tutorial. And then I usually add a price tag – particularly stressing this if the book is free or 99c.

The Facebook crowd isn’t half as price-sensitive as BookBub, so you don’t need to have a discount to run an ad. But it always helps. I’d recommend sticking with discount-focused ads until you get more experience.

If you have some killer social proof (like a bestseller tag or juicy quote) you can consider adding that too, but keep the text minimal to avoid exceeding those thresholds. Let your cover do the selling for you! If you have a good cover, it will do that job better than any text you could slather across your image.

There’s another reason why you should hold back on overlaying text: unlike BookBub Ads, these images on Facebook are accompanied by a text box. 

And there’s an art to getting that working for you.

We’ll cover it next week, as this email is already very long, along with the final options for making your ads sing. 

Until then!


P.S. Writing music this week is from João Gilberto - the inventor of bossa nova, who sadly passed away last weekend at the grand old age of 88. This song is called Maria Ninguém. It's not half as famous as The Girl From Ipanema, but even more beautiful IMHO.

David Gaughran

Broomfield Business Park, Malahide, Co. Dublin, Ireland

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