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Facebook Advertising: Are You Still Doing it the Old Way?

Banned accounts.  Increasing Cost Per Click.  Algorithm changes.
Things are changing at Facebook — and you MUST adapt.
You need to learn to use “ungated” content to warm up that ice cold Facebook traffic and convert it into leads and sales.
The good news:  It’s pretty darn easy once you understand this new model.
In this case study I’m going to show you the make-up of two successful content ads. Following this model, you’ll see three benefits:

  • Higher Click Through Rate (CTR)
  • High Relevance Score (keeping Facebook happy)
  • Boosted Conversions

We’ll get into the case study in a second —  first… let’s talk about your audience.
Have you taken their temperature lately?

Warm vs. Cold Traffic: Which Is The Better Lead For You?

Our ninja data analyst did a 7-day analysis on a recent client campaign. Bear in mind the campaign is in an extremely competitive niche with a fairly complex lead magnet – with high cost per leads to begin with.
One thing was clear is that we saw some striking differences in cost per lead in the various target groups:
Although the mobile audiences far outperformed the desktop audiences, it’s clear that the lowest cost per lead were in the “WCA”.
(“WCA” stands for website custom audience and if you’re not sure what they are, check out this post.)
This client is doing an excellent job promoting “un-gated” (meaning you don’t have to give up your email and name to get it) content to their fans, but also to cold traffic.
They do an excellent job boosting posts on their own targeted to specific interests highly relevant to their message.
So, what is the data telling us?

“Warm” Audiences Vastly Outperform Cold Audiences

In this lead generation campaign (a registration for a live webinar), the data screamed at us what we needed to do — Get more warm audiences ASAP.
As outlined in this post, there is a continuum of cold to hot on any type of person you engage with on Facebook.
So how do you actually create ads that will “warm up” your ideal customer so they become a lead and then ultimately a customer?

A Massive Shift is Underway

A few months ago, Facebook added a new metric to their advertising platform.
This metric is called a “relevance score” – and they’re scoring every one of your ads (that have over 500 impressions).
This score is based off of user feedback.

Relevance score is calculated based on the positive and negative feedback we expect an ad to receive from its target audience. The more positive interactions we expect an ad to receive, the higher the ad’s relevance score will be. (Positive indicators vary depending on the ad’s objective, but may include video views, conversions, etc.) The more times we expect people to hide or report an ad, the lower its score will be.” Facebook

So what does this mean? It means that they’re relying on user feedback to gauge whether your ads should receive impressions, clicks, and could even affect your account status with Facebook.
This shift is towards more user-friendly advertising… sending people to content. 
(Digital Marketer is calling this concept “The Pixel Process” and you can read about it here.)

A Tale of Two Posts

Where do you start?
The first thing you ideally need is a blog on your website.
If, for some reason, you just absolutely cannot get a blog installed, there are resources like Clickfunnels, LeadPages, Unbounce , as well as many others that can be used in place of a blog on your site.
Next up, start writing. Or creating videos. Or creating podcasts. Or creating Infographics. You get the point…
But don’t write like you’re pitching; write like you’re helping someone.
The selling will come later…
Let me give you two examples.
First, let’s start with the targeting:

The audience for this post is a Lookalike Audience from two different conversion pixels. One is a webinar registration conversion pixel and an opt-in lead conversion pixel. These are great lookalike audiences to target and some of our favorite ones it use.
It is targeted specifically to the ideal target demographic – 35-55 years of age.
It also excluded buyers as well as Fans of the Page, so we don’t “de-dupe” our interests, something Facebook doesn’t seem to like much.

Facebook Advertising Case Study – Post #1

Here’s a great example of a content only post:
What does it tell us?

  • It clearly states that it’s free content with a “[Blog Post]” as the start for the entire article.
  • Compelling headline: “How to Buy Under Market Value Every Time” – uses the classic “How to” headline to tell people explicitly what they’re going to learn.
  • The headline is also restated behind Phil on the whiteboard – showing people he is in “teaching mode” – lowers the defenses and makes them want to click.
  • The post copy is separated with a paragraph to make it very clear to read and indicates what the article is about but also entices interest. It even personalizes it a bit to the reader using the word “I” in the copy – making it casual yet still letting them know that there’s good content once they click.
  • The image is forward facing – looking the reader in the eye, usually leading to higher engagement and CTR.
  • It is an action shot – proven to typically get higher CTR:


  • Underneath the image the headline restates the headline: “How to Buy Under Market Value Every Time”.
  • Although not a 10/10 on Relevance Score, this ad is going to ice cold traffic and the Relevance Score is pretty dang good:

And over time, its done even better:
And lastly, it has a very clear call to action at the end of the description: “Watch this video to learn how…”

Facebook Advertising Case Study – Post #2

This one does just about everything wrong – but even so, it’s still doing really well — showing that Facebook really likes “un-gated content” even to cold traffic:
What does it do wrong?

  • It does not clearly state that it’s free content  – no “[Blog Post]” as the start for the entire article – although it does say it in the creative.
  • Although the headline is a good “How to” headline, the ALL CAPS headline screams “THIS IS AN AD”!
  • The duration of the video in the headline could be a total detriment to CTR and isn’t something we’d recommend.
  • So far the CTR is less than the one above (although still not horrible):


  • The post copy is all bunched together – making it a challenge to read.
  • The image is not facing looking the reader, but it is an “action shot” proven to typically get higher CTR.
  • The headline underneath the image leads them to know that this is “part two” in a series but the headline should restate the benefit the readers going to get by clicking on the ad.
  • There is no real clear call to action at the end of the description.
  • Even though the layout isn’t perfect, the relevance score is still fairly good, showing us that un-gated content has prevailed through these errors:

So even if you get it half-right when you post your un-gated content, it’s still going to do just fine.
And if you follow a few of those strategies from post #1, you’ll do even better.

In Action: How to Sell Directly on a Content Ad on Facebook

You can sell on Facebook only if you perfectly match the post content and offer to the target audience.
If you get the content and offer right, but fail to match it to the right audience — you’re sunk.
If you get the offer and audience right, but fail to match to match them to the right content — you’re sunk.
You get the picture.
For example a post on “Food” would likely do best to convince an audience who is primarily interested in “Food” to buy a product based on “Food”.
This is not rocket science by any stretch…
Remember when we said we loved targeting audiences using Lookalike Audiences?  You’ll want to implement this to get targeting even more super targeted to your ideal customer.
That way, you target people who are not only interested in the blog post content, but you narrow that audience even further by “overlaying” it with a Lookalike Audience that is unique to you!
A Lookalike Audience can come from your customer list, your lead lists, a conversion pixel, your Fans or from your website custom audience.
(If you’re not sure what a Lookalike Audience is, learn about it here and here.)
Check out this audience pairing here (we had to block out a few for confidentiality):
The REAL power in this targeting was the use of the Lookalike Audience from the customer list in combination with the interests, which anyone can do.

  • The targeting is specific to food related interests
  • The demographics are perfectly matched for the ideal target audience, Namely female 27–47 years old
  • Due to the fact that the call to action sends them to a shopping cart that isn’t super mobile friendly, the ad is targeted for desktop only.

Using many of the guidelines and insights we mentioned before, this turned into a killer sales ad…but it really didn’t look like it at all at first glance.
Here it is:
Which then goes to this post:

Sure, it has an excellent creative, but more importantly, it hits on nearly all the points outlined above in the “Tale of Two Blog Posts”:

  • The “[blog post]” in the title – subtly reminding people that this was actually un-gated content.
  • Authentic, highly personalized copywriting in the post copy.
  • Two very strong headlines.
  • An awesome lead-in “Step 1”… giving it a bit of intrigue.
  • Using a ninja tactic to show there is more content on the other side with the use of “[…]” in the description.

And the click through rate is exceptional.
And yes, this is ice-cold traffic.
Also check out the relevance score – you really can’t get much higher than 10/10…
Even better, the Relevance Score has remained extremely high ever since the post was released:
What’s even more impressive is that the post itself is creating a tremendous amount of sales of the product right from the post — and a very low cost per sale:
However, the real power is in the retargeting…
For anyone who visits the page but does not purchase, they are immediately retargeted with a video testimonial ad.
This video ad is a real testimonial showing how awesome the product is – with a clear call to action:
And here are the results:
As a small business owner or a direct response marketer, you likely don’t want to go to through the hassle of “warming up your audience”.
As little as six months ago on Facebook, you could get away with this approach no problem.
But much less so today…
But if you really think about it, you don’t just decide one day you’re going to buy a car, drive to the dealership and purchase it, do you?
Of course not…
The larger the purchase, the more research and “warming” you likely need.
If you’re selling a $4,700 product or a $47 product, how much warming your customer needs prior to purchase, varies widely.
This much is true, if you want to continue to advertise on Facebook successfully, you’ll need to warm up your audience to get high-quality leads.
In order to get the sale, you have to warm them up even more.
And even more importantly PROVE to them that what you have is really worth their time (and money).
And content, whether it’s a blog post or a video, does exactly this for you – both on the front-end for the lead, as well as on the backend for the sale.
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Ralph Burns

Ralph Burns

Ralph Burns is the CEO of Tier 11, a digital advertising agency that specializes in helping businesses scale through Facebook advertising. Ralph's agency manages a portfolio of Facebook advertising customer accounts in over 30 industries with an annual spend in excess of $40 million.

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