2016 has been a huge year of growth for DigitalMarketer, especially when it comes to paid traffic.
Over the last year, we’ve run 440 Facebook ad campaigns. Since each of our campaigns includes at least two ad sets and eight ads—that means we’ve created AT LEAST 3,520 different Facebook ads in the past year. Like I said: HUGE growth.
Here on the DigitalMarketer blog, and within our membership program DigitalMarketer Lab, we talk A LOT about Facebook ads.
(Want to learn more about DigitalMarketer Lab? You can do that here.)
What about the actual ads? What images and copy make people click—and why?
In this blog post, I’ll reveal seven more of the best Facebook ads we created at DigitalMarketer in 2016, and WHY they outperformed the rest (I say more because this is the third year we’ve featured our best ads of the year! Keep scrolling once you’ve finished with 2016, and you’ll be treated to our 2015 and 2014 editions).
Without further ado… here are DigitalMarketer’s best Facebook ads from our highest performing ad campaigns of 2016:
As you can see from last year’s list of best-performing campaigns (specifically #8 & #9 below), campaigns to Lead Magnets work really, really well for us.
They’re the bread and butter of our business. They’re the way we build our email list. They’re the way we acquire customers.
Website conversion campaigns that optimize for lead generation accounted for 50% of our media spend in 2016.
We’ve found that in one year’s time, we really only need two great Lead Magnet campaigns to grow the business at a rapid rate.
After running a ton of tests, this was the winner.
This ad works for many reasons. As we teach in the Ad Grid, the image really portrays the marketing message.
Not only does the image stand out in the newsfeed, it’s also RELEVANT. We’re really playing off of the word “library” and the design elements help the prospect conceptualize the meaning of the ad quickly.
The copy makes the resource feel like something you can’t pass up. Anyone interested in traffic loves swipe files and seeing what’s worked for others (that’s why you’re reading this post), so that’s why we lead with the line about compiling our highest performing ads.
By saying that these ads have generated 400,000 leads and millions in revenue, we’re really layering on the proof and authority.
The call-to-action (CTA) is subtle yet enticing. Instead of telling prospects to “click here,” we’re using language that helps them visualize themselves actually using the resource by encouraging them to “scroll through” the library and “get inspiration for your very own ads.”
This campaign alone produced 83,285 leads at $3.26 a piece.
As I said above, website conversion campaigns that optimize for lead generation accounted for 50% of our media spend in 2016.
After running a ton of tests, this was the winner.
This ad resembles the iconic Brady Bunch image. Anytime you can replicate something that’s worked in pop culture (without violating copyright) absolutely do so. No need to start from scratch.
(We also tried a version of the Guess Who? game but it didn’t convert as well):
The Brady Bunch-like campaign worked for a multitude of reasons. First off, the ad image is very eye catching and again portrays the marketing message. We used different people in the image to play on the word “customer.”
The first line of copy is educational–which is working better and better now that Facebook’s relevance score is so important to the platform. This line of copy also highlights the importance of defining your customer avatar, which makes downloading this Lead Magnet feel even more essential.
Like the last ad, the CTA is subtle (not using “click here”) yet powerful for the user. They imagine themselves actually using the worksheet to gain clarity on who they’re marketing to.
This campaign alone produced 33,062 leads in the last three months.
In 2016, we had a lot of success with lead ads.
In 2015 (right after lead ads were released), I wrote a blog post about lead ads and how they weren’t performing as well as website conversion campaigns.
I did note that lead ads would be effective if used in certain situations.
The issue with lead ads is that once a user submits their information, they’re not forced to visit your site. So, if you’re running a traditional acquisition funnel, you would have trouble generating those immediate sales needed to offset traffic costs.
But, if you’re in a situation where you JUST need someone’s contact information – lead ads are awesome.
In 2016, we built our very first sales team here at DigitalMarketer. This meant that we needed to alter our traffic strategy a bit.
Instead of needing to make all of our sales online, a chunk of our sales started happening via 1v1 conversations on the phone, email, Facebook Messenger, etc.
Lead ads allowed us to generate high-quality leads for our sales team.
This particular campaign is called “The Modern Marketing Growth Plan.” Prospects see this ad in their newsfeed:
Upon clicking, the form appears (pre-populated!):
As soon as someone submits their information, the sales team is notified and this person is contacted. If they’re qualified (have a big enough team) the prospect is asked to schedule a time for a consultative call to help structure their marketing team.
If they aren’t qualified, they are sent to a web page to download the plan and then have the opportunity to purchase HQ online.
Lead ads have been very effective for driving leads to our sales team. If you have a need to acquire contact information with no expectation of purchase on the following page, definitely give these a shot.
One of our best campaigns of 2016 involved getting people to sign up for our free, 6-week class called Double Your Sales.
We ran traffic to this offer in 2015 with a lot of success. But, in 2016, we made a simple tweak to the copy that decreased our lead cost by 30%.
Here’s the ad we ran in 2015:
And here’s the ad we ran in 2016:
The ads are almost identical with only a few tweaks to the copy.
Can you see what is different?
The second ad (the high performer) spoke directly to the prospect. It CHALLENGED them to double their business in six weeks… it even asked them if they were UP for it!
The first ad was all about US! It’s okay to use “we” or “I” in ads, especially when establishing credibility, but if you can find a way to make your ads about the prospect, and especially if you can find a way to challenge or get them excited, you will see higher conversion rates.
If you want to learn how we structured this campaign, read this post.
We were able to decrease lead cost on this campaign by 30% in 2016 vs. 2015.
So, this was a pretty fun campaign to create and execute.
The purpose of this campaign was to retarget people who had visited the Traffic & Conversion Summit website but who hadn’t purchased a ticket.
There are a few price points for the event and the price increases as time passes.
About three weeks before the price was increasing from $995 to $1495 we started running this ad:
A week before the price increased we switched to this ad, and ramped up the budget:
This worked really, really, really well!!
I believe there are a few reasons for this.
First off, scarcity is always your friend as a marketer. Psychologically, people will buy things because they realize in the future they may no longer be available.
With a live event, you have real scarcity. There are only so many seats to sell and the price will increase by $500 on a certain date. If you don’t buy before that date, you will pay more later. Plain and simple.
I also believe this worked because it plays off of “fear” that everyone with an iPhone already has. Especially if you have an emotional attachment to technology, the red battery icon on your phone can literally initiate fearful emotions.
Now, I’m not saying we were trying to ruin anyone’s day – but, again aligning your hook/image with something that people are familiar with in a culture works well. They already know what the image means. You don’t have to explain it.
If you want to learn more about using paid traffic to sell tickets to events, read this post.
This campaign had a 240% ROI.
Facebook released messenger ads in 2016. In short—we’re really excited about this.
“Messenger” is now a destination for Facebook ads. So, instead of sending traffic to your website, you can tell Facebook that you actually want your ad to open in a Facebook message.
This allows you to have 1v1 conversations with prospects and customers.
Then, once someone has messaged your page, Facebook and other tools (like ManyChat.com) allow you to send broadcast messages to the list of people who have messaged your page.
We are seeing open rates as high as 90% for those broadcasts. It’s nuts.
The goal of our first Facebook messenger campaign was to generate conversations for our sales team (with the hope that the conversations would lead to sales).
We targeted our email subscribers and asked if they had questions about our product and how we could help them:
Two members of our sales team were there to field questions and help people decide which DigitalMarketer product would be best for their business.
We were able to generate 300 conversations for only $800. We saw a 500% ROI on our first messenger campaign.
This worked well because the questions posed in the ad were relevant to the audience.
Since these people are on our email list, they know who we are. They probably even know what we sell. Asking if they had questions about how we could double their business or if they had questions about our products just makes sense.
If we ran this same ad to cold traffic it may not have done so well.
If you’ve never heard of DigitalMarketer you wouldn’t know what products we sell, or it’s possible that you don’t own or have the immediate need of doubling a business.
The key to Messenger moving forward is to use it to pull levers that will make the biggest difference in your business, especially if you don’t have a lot of human capitol to actually man the chat.
Retarget people who visited an order for but didn’t buy. Retarget your best people to see if you can move them further down your Customer Journey. Use this opportunity to try and overcome any barriers to the sale.
This is a HUGE win for 2016, and we’re currently running a ton of Messenger tests that we will share with you guys later.
Last, but not least, I wanted to share our best Facebook campaign to cold traffic. The purpose of this campaign was to get people who had never heard of us before to consume our content.
This allows us to build credibility, pixel visitors (so that we can retarget them later), and to give value first.
This post was one of the top six most visited on our blog for 2016…
We ran this campaign to digital marketing professionals. People who work or want to work for others in the field of marketing.
One reason this ad worked so well is because of the copy. The opening line really grabs this audience’s attention with, “want the secret to future-proofing your career?”
What professional doesn’t!?
The copy leads the reader to realize how important marketing skills are to the career of your dreams.
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…
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…
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…
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)!
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…
This ad campaign produced 68,830 leads for DigitalMarketer in 2015.
Facebook added video ads to their platform in 2015… and what a blessing they’ve been.
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.
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…
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.
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.
Carousel 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…
… and this is the second panel that someone sees if they click the arrow to move the carousel…
… and the third…
… the 4th…
… and the 5th…
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.
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…
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.)
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”.
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.
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…
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 example 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:
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?
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”.
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 ad — we 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:
To learn more about how we dynamically retarget throughout our funnels using Facebook Website Custom Audiences, click here.
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 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 FacebookView all Posts by Molly Pittman