7 Lessons Learned from 1,140 Facebook Ad Campaigns in One Year

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December 18,2015 by
Molly Pittman

2015 has been a year of growth for DigitalMarketer, especially when it comes to acquiring leads and customers with paid traffic.

At the end of 2014, we wrote an article highlighting our best Facebook ads of the year.

Here’s an excerpt from that article…

“We’ve created 567 Facebook ad campaigns in the past year and were just talking campaigns. Campaigns usually contain AT LEAST 2 ad sets and 8 ads.

That means we’ve created AT LEAST 4,500 different Facebook ads in the past year. Phew.”

(Note: The full version of the 2014 version of this article appears below this article.)

We definitely upped our game in 2015.  We’ve run 1,140 Facebook ad campaigns over the last 12 months or so.

But our growth isn’t just in the number of campaigns!  In 2015, DigitalMarketer went from simply creating “ads” to creating “ad campaigns”.

What do I mean?

We developed an automated system for acquiring new leads/customers and monetizing our existing customers.

We quit running “one hit wonder” ads that generate results right out of the gate, but quickly die and provide a poor experience for the end user.

As you’ll see in the ads below, we’ve grown and learned so much in every aspect of what it takes to run successful ad campaigns including…

  • making the right offer
  • improving the design
  • honing the sales copy
  • focusing our targeting
  • scaling winning ads

… and more.

We took what worked in 2014, made it better, and we weren’t afraid to scale a winning campaign.

The change and growth from 2014 to 2015 wasn’t just about us… traffic platforms are also maturing. They’re rolling out new ad types and features that make it easier for us to obtain success.

If you have an offer the market wants, and create ad images that appeal to that market, AND refine your targeting to make sure you’re putting that message in front of the right audience, you will win.

We appreciate you all for joining us on this journey and experiencing this growth as it happens… and we wish the same for your business.

Without further ado… here are DigitalMarketer’s best Facebook ads from our highest performing ad campaigns of 2015:

1. Newsfeed Ad to a Lead Magnet #1

Ah, The Ultimate Social Media Swipe File… our highest performing Lead Magnet of all time. It also happens to be the first Lead Magnet we ever ran to cold media here at DigitalMarketer.

You’ll notice that The Ultimate Social Media Swipe File made it onto this list last year (#9 below) which is a testament to having a good offer. Once you create a solid Lead Magnet, it can benefit you for (literally) many years to come.

The Ultimate Social Media Swipe File campaign from 2014 finally tired out.

This was the 2014 version of this ad…

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But, we knew this offer still had life.

In July of 2015, we created completely new ad campaigns for the offer.

Here is the highest performing ad from those campaigns…

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You’ll notice we refreshed the copy and images.

We wanted to scale this offer to an even broader market than before, so we went with the newspaper theme because someone outside of “online marketing” would still understand a “headline” in reference to a newspaper.

We tested these images with color variations and the black and white outperformed all the rest.

The copy works for a few reasons…

  1. we lead with a call-to-action to “copy & paste”. Using the words copy & paste also express the ease of using these headlines.
  2. “72” creates specificity and shows the abundance of headlines they’ll receive.
  3. “Get more clicks” speaks to the end result of using the headlines.
  4. “Facebook, Twitter, and your own blog” helps to explain the application of the headlines so that the end user doesn’t have to even wonder WHERE they would use these headlines.

In 2014, The Ultimate Social Swipe Campaign produced 33,000+ leads for the business. At that time, it was our highest performing advertising campaign to date.

In 2015, our new ad campaigns for this offer (went live July 21st, 2015) has generated 72,033 leads in 2015 alone. (That’s more than double last year)!

2. Newsfeed Ad to Lead Magnet #2

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The second ad on our list for 2015 is for our 60 Second Blog Plan Lead Magnet.

This Lead Magnet appeals to bloggers and content marketers.

Notice the ENGAGEMENT on this ad! When you have high positive engagement on an ad (likes, shares, comments) it helps increase your Facebook relevance score. When your relevance score is high, you pay less and your ad is more likely to be shown to your target audience.

Why was this ad successful?

We really, really thought about our target market here.

The ad image looks like the WordPress admin panel, which would immediately appeal to most content marketers. This is what we used to catch their eye. We also tied the “60 second” aspect of the offer into the image with the clock.

A major pain point for content marketers is having the TIME to create all of the content needed. We really played on that “hook” with this ad.

In terms of the copy, this worked because we used language like…

  • “YOU can create a Blog Content Plan”.
  • “60 seconds or less by filling in these 5 simple blanks” was used to highlight the speed and simplicity.
  • “YES, IT’S REALLY THAT SIMPLE” was added to help overcome any objections and add some brand voice to the piece.

This ad campaign produced 68,830 leads for DigitalMarketer in 2015.

3.  Retargeting with a Video Ad

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Facebook added video ads to their platform in 2015… and what a blessing they’ve been.

There’s so much more that can be said in a video ad than in an image, and if used correctly video ads can not only work to cold traffic, but also for retargeting.

The beauty of Facebook videos ads is that you can now create website custom audiences of people who watch the video and retarget them with other ad campaigns (perfect for cold traffic).

You can also use video ads to retarget people who have visited your site or visited certain pages on your site.

That’s exactly what we did with the ad above.

We hold an annual event called Traffic & Conversion Summit. The above ad was used to retarget people who had visited the sales page to buy tickets but didn’t actually buy.

Ryan Deiss (our Founder and CEO) shot a quick video that said something like this…

“Hey there (arms waving), before you go, if you’re watching me right now it’s because you’ve heard of Traffic & Conversion Summit – XX discount is about to end, if this video is here then the offer is still active, BUT -you have to get it now!”

There was incredible ad scent here because the sales page for the event features a video of Ryan.

So, we thought that seeing a retargeting ad with Ryan speaking to them again would definitely make them stop in their newsfeed.

We were right.  :)

This campaign had a 3,858% ROI!

The best part? It only took 20 minutes to shoot the video, upload it, and set up this retargeting ad.

This was VERY low hanging fruit… retargeting is simple to set up and you’re leaving a lot of money on the table if you aren’t following up with your prospects and customers.

4. Newsfeed Ad to Blog Content

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This ad was to cold traffic (people who were not connected to DigitalMarketer in any way).

We sent traffic to a blog post first to introduce ourselves to the audience, give value first, and to “pixel” people who clicked so we could retarget them with a relevant offer.

The copy for this ad is lengthy… which we recommend for any ads you’re using to send traffic to content.

It shows the end user that you’re going to provide value. Because they’ve never heard of you before, you need to really explain yourself and give them a reason to click.

You’re investing money INTO the relationship bank with your prospects by giving them value first BEFORE asking them to give you their contact information or buy something.

Revealing the formula in the ad copy creates curiosity to get people to click.

We use the verbage “Your business” to qualify the audience. We want people who own businesses to click.

The promise for the ad is incredible… we will teach you 4 ways to double your sales. This ad shows that a good promise/ offer can even outweigh a mediocre message or image.

This ad generated 50,000 clicks to the blog post in order to prime the pump for this next ad…

5.  Retargeting with a Newsfeed Ad to a Mini-Class

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This ad campaign was used to generate leads for Double Your Sales, a free training course we released this year in partnership with Infusionsoft.

Double Your Sales isn’t your typical “Lead Magnet”. It’s a 6 week mini-class that takes dedication and time… it is not easily consumable.

That’s why this ad looks a bit different than our normal “Lead Magnet” ad.

Notice how long the copy is. We tested three variations of copy for this ad campaign (one was very short) and the long copy outperformed the others every time.

Why? Because this course is more of a commitment, we really have to sell someone with the ad copy.

We not only use the promise of teaching them 6 ways to double their business, we also give specifics at to what they’ll learn each week.

The image is super engaging and plays off of the message of there being 6 ways to double your business… and the finger pressing the button makes you want to ACT and actually click the ad.

This ad campaign has produced over 20,000 leads for DigitalMarketer in 2015.

6.  Carousel Ad to Blog Content

Ah, carousel ads! Another new ad type that Facebook rolled out in 2015.

When scrolling through the newsfeed, you actually see the first image with an arrow pointing to the right that you can click on to scroll through the ad.

Carosel ads are awesome. Not only do they stand out in the newsfeed, they’re great for multiple reasons… you can use each square to talk about a different benefit of a specific offer (all of them clicking over to the same page).

You could also use them to highlight different testimonials for your business or product and retarget people who visited your sales page but didn’t buy.

In this case, we used the ad carousel ad type to promote 4 different blog posts (each square goes to a different URL).

This is the first panel…

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… and this is the second panel that someone sees if they click the arrow to move the carousel…

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… and the third…

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… the 4th…

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… and the 5th…

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We ran this ad to cold traffic and allowed people to select which topic they were most interested in.

The best part of this is that because of retargeting, we were able to follow up with these people with offers that were most specific to the blog post they clicked over to.

If they clicked on the blog post about Facebook ads… we retargeted them with an ad for our Lead Magnet about Facebook ads.  If they clicked on the blog post about email marketing, we retargeted them with an ad for our Lead Magnet about … you guessed it… email marketing. :)

This ad sent 15,000+ clicks to various blog posts.

7.  Newsfeed Ad to Perpetual Product Launch

This ad sends traffic to a perpetual launch for our email marketing product called The Machine.

Last year our ad for this product targeted people that already knew the benefit of an email list or those that had an email list.

We wanted to broaden the marketing message to take this product to a different audience.  So, we developed a new campaign.

The message of the 2015 campaign boils down to…

 “the average adult receives 147 emails a day”

… and called out to business owners by asking them how they were going to stand out in the inbox.

Here’s the ad…

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This new messaging was all about broadening the marketing message and it WORKED. We also use a quote (that reads like a story) in the newsfeed description that stops dead in the middle and creates curiosity.

“We can help” makes them feel like they are apart of something bigger.

The ad image appeals to most people because everyone knows what that blue email icon means and sees it daily… and having almost 5k emails in your box would stress most people out.  The image is eye catching and speaks to a pain point.

This campaign has put more than 20,000 people into a perpetual launch for our product, The Machine, and is consistently running at 80%+ ROI positive.

(NOTE: Want the Ultimate Facebook Ad Template Library? Copy & paste these 7 proven Facebook ad campaigns to create low-cost, high-converting ads on demand. Get them here.)

But don’t stop there! Check out all the lessons we learned in 2014…

1.  Newsfeed ad to Lead Magnet #1

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This ad is for our 212 Blog Post Ideas Lead Magnet.

This is one of our all time best ads. It’s generated over 30,000 leads for less than $2.06 a piece.

(Want to learn our optimization strategy for generating those 30,000 leads? Click here.)

Why does it work?

The Image: The image features a person (and although this is Ryan Deiss, we ran the ad to a TON of audiences who have no idea who he is).

The person is looking at you. That’s eye-catching. Any ad where a person is applicable, we suggest using them in your image. Either make sure the person is looking forward or looking towards a part of the image you want them to pay attention to.

Also, the chalk on the chalkboard is unique – we found the chalkboard on dreamstime and photoshopped the “212 Blog Post Ideas” on there.

The Copy: “Writer’s block? Boost your content with theses 212 blog post ideas, applicable to any niche”

This ad is speaking to people who blog. With the copy, we wanted to speak to a pain point – writer’s block.

We then gave them a benefit for clicking with the “Boost your content with these 212 blog post ideas”.

Lastly, we overcame the objection that these ideas may not work for them by adding “applicable to any niche”.

2.  Newsfeed Ad to Lead Magnet #2

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This ad is for our Social Media Headline Swipe file. It’s the biggest ad campaign we’ve ever run on Facebook. It’s a similar ad and funnel (designed to put people into our DM Lab continuity program) to the 212 Blog Post Ideas that I covered above.

This ad has generated over 33,000 leads for an average of $1.70 a piece.

Why does it work?

The Image: This image is distinctive. From the mouse patterns in the background, to the contrasting colors, it makes you want to look. It also makes you want to look without being overly obnoxious.

That’s what’s important about this image. Gone are the days of running ads with obnoxiously loud colors and arrows just for the sake of grabbing someone’s attention.

That screams, “I’m going to ask you for money if you click here!” Not that standing out isn’t still important, but – make sure your ad makes sense from a design standpoint. You can hire someone on Fiverr or oDesk or create an ad using Canva.

The Copy: “Want more clicks from your Social Media posts? Download our 72 headline swipe file.”

This ad is speaking to people who are social media managers or are interested in social media. With the copy, we wanted to speak to a pain point – no one is clicking on my posts!

We then gave them a solution… “Download our 72 headline swipe file”.

If I were to optimize this further, I would have added “applicable to any niche” as you saw in the 212 blog post ideas.

“Steal Our Swipe File” was important copy to have on the image. Telling someone to steal from you is certainly an interruption as they scroll down their newsfeed.

3.  Newsfeed Ad to High-Ticket Product Lead Generation

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This ad generated leads for a launch of our product called The Machine. We were giving away our email marketing game plan in exchange for email addresses.

This ad generated 7,422 conversions at $1.54 per lead.

Why does it work?

The Image: After looking at demographics for the audience of website visitors that had already hit this product’s website, I noticed that over 90% of visitors were male.

It was also late summer/early fall and football season was starting. In order to tie in with the “game plan” aspect of the offer, we went with a football field.

Tying in a theme that would relate to your target audience is a great way to relate.

The image’s color (yet still not obnoxious, see my comments on the previous ad) and the football field/formation makes you STOP, it also ties perfectly with the offer being a “game plan”.

We wanted to make sure email marketing was still tied into the theme of the image, and that’s why the “Email Marketing Game Plan” copy is on the field along with the red envelope.

The Copy: “Do you have a game plan for your Email Marketing? Don’t hit the field without one…”

This ad ran to people who were interested in email marketers, mostly males. Again, as most of our successful ads do, the copy began with a question.

This copy appeals to someone’s urge to have a plan and to be prepared.

Also, even if you do have a plan for your email marketing, you can always improve upon it…

 

4.  Newsfeed Ad to Lead Magnet #3

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This ad is part of a bigger campaign for our Gain, Logic, Fear email template campaign. We’re giving away a 3 part email series that users can copy and paste into their email service provider in exchange for their email address.

This ad has generated 4,441 leads for $1.90 a piece.

Why does it work?

The Image: What makes this ad so successful is the strategy behind it, not necessarily the image.

This image goes against the statement I made in ad #2 that people are catching on to the obnoxious colors and arrows that scream “BUY SOMETHING FROM ME”! If I were to do this over, I’d still use the text/word document screen shot but have a designer make it look more professional.

(2015 Update:  As you can see in our most recent ads, we have moved WAY beyond this type of image in our ads, but this strategy still works.  Just be careful that you aren’t calling out to the audience about something that is against Facebook’s ad policy such as identifying the person by name or mentioning a disease they might have. )

It shows them EXACTLY what they’re going to get and how easy it really will be to just copy and paste these templates.

But like I said, the strategy was the most important part of this campaign…

The Copy: This campaign had multiple ad sets that targeted different email service providers via interest targeting… Mailchimp, Aweber, ConstantContact, Infusionsoft, Getresponse, etc.

Each ad set had different ad copy. This examples shows the ad copy for GetResponse.

“Use GetResponse? Copy and paste this FREE email series into your account today.”

Replace “Use________?” with the email service provider I was targeting in each ad set and that was the copy for each of these ads…

The copy was VERY targeted and specific.

The “Copy & paste this FREE email series into your account today.” made people think:

  • The email series was specific to their service provider so why wouldn’t they use it,
  • The email series is FREE, you’re not going to be asked to buy something on the landing page,
  • This is something I can USE today… I don’t have to wait to implement or learn something and then do it. I can simply copy and paste…

Think of a way you could apply this tactic to your ads. How can I take this one Lead Magnet or offer and slightly alter the targeting and copy to become even more specific?

5.  Retargeting Ad to a High Dollar Product

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If you’re ever selling something that is timely, that won’t always be available, you HAVE to run an ad like the one above.

We ran this ad to everyone who had hit The Machine website or opted in during the pre-launch of that product.

Once we were about to close registration for the class, we ran this ad for 72 hours. Boy, do people jump for things that they think are going to be gone soon…

We spent $3,196.15 on this ad and saw $211,682 in return.

That’s the most profitable 3 day ad we’ve ever run :).

There isn’t much to discuss in terms of image or copy for this ad other than the ad maintained the same design/feel that we had used to introduce them to The Machine (the football field ad for example). Also, the ad was eye-catching (of course) and would have stopped them in their tracks while scrolling through Facebook.

The most important take away from this ad is the scarcity.

“The Machine is Closing! Don’t miss out…” and “We’re Closing it Down”.

6.  Retargeting Ad to a Low Dollar Product

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Look familiar? This is a retargeting ad for the funnel I introduced in ad #1 above.

This ad runs to people who opt in for the 212 Blog Post Ideas Lead Magnet but don’t take us up on our $7 Tripwire offer for our 1,000 Blog Subscribers execution plan.

Why does it work?

The Image: You’ll notice that the ads are VERY SIMILAR. You want to catch their attention by showing them something that they’re familiar with, but create a bit of variation so they don’t think it’s the same ad.

You’ll also notice that second ad says “1,000 Blog Subscribers” –- this is because the Tripwire teaches you how to get your first 1,000 blog subscribers.

The Copy: The most important thing to keep in mind is the copy. We use “Did life get in the way? You forgot to take advantage of this deal?”.

This is the SAME COPY we use for EVERY retargeting ad. It saves you from writing a ton of copy and it is always applicable.

It also assumes that they didn’t say ‘NO’ the first time and there is an important psychological principal at play here.

The words “Did life get in the way” and “You forgot…” give the prospect a reason to reconsider the offer.  Because if they said “NO” to the offer — you’re asking the prospect to admit they were wrong the first time — and that isn’t easy.  With this adwe assume they didn’t have their credit card last time, their children distracted them, they went to dinner and forgot, etc.

Here’s another example of a retargeting ad, this one retargets people who opted in for the social swipe file (ad #2 in this blog post) but didn’t purchase the Tripwire from that funnel:

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To learn more about how we dynamically retarget throughout our funnels using Facebook Website Custom Audiences, click here.

7.  Facebook Offer Ad to High-Ticket Event

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This is a Facebook offer. Facebook offers are a certain kind of ad for discounts, flash sales, etc. They appear differently in the news feed with a “Get Offer” Button in the bottom right hand corner of the ad.

When they click the process is different, too. There’s a pop up that thanks them for claiming the offer, and then they’re given the link to claim the offer and it’s ALSO emailed to them!

The link that we use for the offer is always to a landing page.

For example, the ad above was 82% off tickets to TNC.

Why does it work?

Facebook offers are shared a ton and receive awesome organic reach because people want to share deals with their friends. Also, the email touch point is BIG.

The Image: This image shows a highly engaged conference. It catches people’s attention and shows them that Traffic & Conversion Summit isn’t a borefest.

The Copy: The copy displays the benefit… 82% off the event and also establishes credibility by says that Traffic & Conversion was recommended by Forbes, a credible source.

When used appropriately, offers are powerful Facebook advertisements.

Remember, advertising is all about placing the right message in front of the right audience.

This blog post gives you 7 examples of how to create the right message with your Facebook advertising.

(NOTE: Want the Ultimate Facebook Ad Template Library? Copy & paste these 7 proven Facebook ad campaigns to create low-cost, high-converting ads on demand. Get them here.)

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Molly Pittman

About Molly Pittman

Molly Pittman is Digital Marketer's Vice President and Traffic Manager. She uses her wide range of business and communication skills to acquire customers through paid traffic. She graduated with a degree in Business Administration & Marketing from Transylvania University in Lexington, KY. Molly has a tiny black dog named Larry. Connect with Molly on Facebook

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