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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

How to implement a testing strategy for your Facebook campaigns

Facebook is changing the game for advertisers of all kinds. They’ve made significant advancements to the platform, introducing machine learning to help improve campaign planning as well as execution.

Facebook’s optimizations to the algorithm and it’s advertising tools have allowed businesses to compete with big brands without having to invest in third party ad technology.

Automation features like auto bidding and auto placements have simplified the media buying process, allowing advertisers to spend less time inside ads manager.

With Facebook handling the optimization of budgets and bid changes in real time, business owners can now turn their attention to tweaking their ad creatives, setting them apart from their competitors.

But even after these improvements to the platform, business owners are still losing money on Facebook ads. They can’t seem to create profitable ads.

Many of them, like you, take a swing at new ad campaigns everyday hoping to finally strike gold and hit profitability. They test a bunch of random demographics and interests, use lots of different images and rely on direct response for some quick wins.

Then there are those who have a fear of failure and end up launching no ads. They're so overwhelmed with the complexity of the platform, they start to assume it's a waste of money.

If you’re serious about using Facebook to drive revenue to your business, you need to embrace these challenges and come up with a game plan to succeed.

Otherwise you run the risk of ‘shiny object’ syndrome: bouncing from one advertising platform to the next hoping for that silver bullet.

In this article, I’ll cover:

What is testing?

To achieve and sustain a return on ad spend (ROAS), you need to invest into creating profitable ads. However, all ads you create won’t be profitable from day one. Infact 95% of your new creatives might even fail to deliver on your goals.

This is why it's important to test different versions of your ads so you can understand which version resonates more with your audience and drives better results.

The iteration of your ad creatives to drive profitability within your business is what is known as testing.

Testing ad creatives have become a major driving force in depicting the financial success of a business. Businesses need to quickly solve problems like creative fatigue and audience saturation with fresh high performing creatives or else their campaigns will fall flat.

Why is it important?

Now that we’ve understood what testing really is, let's look at the three major reasons why you should develop an in depth testing strategy for your campaigns.

1. Gain a competitive advantage:

One of the key benefits of ad creative testing is to get a leg up on your competitors. Your business will have an array of competitors you can look up to, to determine what’s working for them.

Identify the top competitors in your space and check whether they have a current Facebook ads strategy. You can do this by visiting the ‘info and ads’ section on their Facebook business page.

Filter to a specific country or just select ‘All’ to views ads in all countries. Take a look, or even screenshot what ads they’re running but most importantly what creative they’re using.

I say this because - a Facebook ad creative can make or break your campaign.

In a recent experiment, Consumer Acquisition tested over 100,000 Facebook ads to find out what works and why. They learnt that creatives are responsible for 75% - 95% of your ads performance.

Ads with lots of social proof can also give you a rough idea of what's working. Dig into the comments to identify if there are certain elements their customers are raving about and see if you can integrate these elements into your own creative.

For example, maybe your competitors are running video ads because they’ve seen high conversion rates. Depending on your industry, use this information and integrate it into your ad ideation process. Not only does this take the pressure off of your creative team, but you’re also reducing risks as you know this creative already works.

Once you’ve seen what's working, start creating new concepts on the backbone of these ideas and develop ones which are unique and which will set you apart from your competitors.

Constantly creating these high performing ads will distinguish your brand from others and ultimately drive up your ROAS.

2. Find profitable audiences & ads

As you outline your Facebook strategy you will start to identify lucrative audiences within your target market.

Facebook also allows you to create custom audiences from the data your pixel receives on your website.

No two audiences are alike. They will tend to relate to different marketing messages and how you speak to them will ultimately decide whether they convert or not.

The testing process allows you to develop targeted creatives to these audiences and figure out what resonates best with them.

As you find an audience and ad match you can then scale up your spend to reach a wider portion of that audience.

As you can see, without a testing process, it's possible to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on these audiences and not see a return on your investment.

3. Get the return on ad spend you need

As discussed earlier, a vast majority (95%) of your ad creatives will fail to resonate with your target market. This means only 5% - 1 out of 20 ads will deliver a profitable ROAS.

Adding to this misery, users on average are exposed to 5000 ads a day. Your competition is spending alot of money to compete for their attention.

Take a look at this example from Strategyzer. They launched a Facebook campaign to increase ticket sales for their event.

For their first campaign, they tested audiences with different images and the ad looked like this:

After investing $4,443.53 in Facebook ads, they happened to acquire just one sale. Their cost per acquisition (cpa) was $4,443.53. That's an insanely high cpa and their ROAS was in the negative!

To improve their results, their marketing expert used storytelling to give their audience an overview of what they’d learn by attending the event. Here is what the improved ad looked like:

Just by changing the tone and the ad copy, they were able to drive $212,000 in sales from an ad spend of only $11,357.26. That's a return of $18.66 for each $1 spent on Facebook ads.

To drive a high volume of sales into your business, you need creatives that will stand out from the crowd. When people see ads that speak to what they care about, they engage.

And finding this creative means you need to be constantly creating new ads and extensively testing them for performance.

Ultimately those breakout ads are what make you unique and will drive revenue and increase ROAS for your business.

Key mistakes people make when testing

While some businesses do realise the need to test, very often it's a case of not setting up a test correctly which leads to inconsistent results.

Here are some of the key reasons I’ve found on why your Facebook testing process might not be delivering you the results you want:

Testing everything at once:

One of the most frequent mistakes I’ve seen business owners make is testing various elements within their creatives at once.

Not only does this skew results, it also prevents you from identifying what element resulted in a success/failure.

When you start testing your batch of creatives with potential audiences, you want to test only one element at a time.

Therefore, if you’re testing images, don’t use different headlines.

If you’re testing headlines, then dont use different images.

Concluding a test too fast:

I cannot stress this enough - to validate your creatives you need to have enough of impressions on your ads.

Each audience you’re testing needs your ad to be served for a period of time before you can conclude your test. Doing so will drive statistically significant results and help you confirm which variation outperformed the other.

In our agency, we ensure our tests go beyond the 24 hour window to avoid discrepancies in results.

Focusing on spend rather than impressions:

This too is a fairly common mistake I’ve been witnessing in the accounts I audit.

Business owners will conclude a test after a certain amount of money has been spent. There’s caveat to this is -  let's say you want to spend $20 to test two audiences:

Audience #1 has an average CPM $50

And audience #2 has an average CPM of $10

We know that CPM is defined as the cost per 1000 impressions. If you’re running a test based on spend, audience #1 will get you about 400 impressions for $20 whereas audience #2 will get you 2000 impressions for the same amount of money.

Can you see how this is not statistically significant?

At our agency, we allocate sufficient budget and use impressions as a metric to determine whether our ads have resonated with said audiences.

Testing with small audiences:

The point of testing is to spend the minimum amount of money to test audiences and ads.

Once you find these winning audiences and ads, you can then choose to scale spend and accelerate conversions.

To accompany this scale in spend, Facebook recommends using bigger audiences so that they are able to find the conversions you’re after.

After a certain period of time it will be difficult to scale a 500,000 audience size compared to an audience of 4 million.

How to develop a testing strategy for your business

Before you dive into testing, you need to decide the kind of budget you want to allocate towards it.

This budget depends on a number of factors such as your niche, your product, the types of audiences you’re targeting and so forth. You should also consider the significance of your results and the cost of the objective you’re optimizing for.

At the most, I’d start with a daily budget of atleast $20 per adset and increase it depending on how many ads you have per adset.

Now that you’ve got a handle on your budget, I’m going to outline the testing process we use in our agency.

1. Test your image:

As discussed, images are the most important part of your Facebook ad because they catch the attention of your users first.

Your ads are going to compete on the newsfeed against your customers' friends and family posts. Hence you ads need to be highly engaging and should have the ability to catch the attention of your customer.

For the sake of this article, I’ve developed some ads with different images for the first round of testing. The campaign is targeting cold audiences and is optimised for website conversions. The goal of this campaign is to test which ad will drive people to the website.

Let's say we ran these ads for 2000 impressions to multiple audiences. Because the ad is optimised for purchase, we are looking for those audiences which converted down the funnel. Some of the metrics we look at are:

To determine the winner, align the KPI’s of your business with your campaign stats. For example, if you’ve mapped out your cost per acquisition (cpa) to be $25 and your ad gives you a cpa of $15, then this ad would be declared as a winner.

Now that you’ve determined your winning ad, let's move on to creating variations of this to see if we can improve performance.

2. Test your hook:

After your image, your hook is the second most important factor that will help catch the eye of your customer.

Your hook is usually the first line of your ad copy. You want to make sure your hook isn't long enough that it is hidden from your customers.

To convince your customers to click, you can choose to test your value proposition in your hook.

3. Test your headline:

Testing your headlines can lead to significant improvements as well. Use your headlines to appeal to the benefits of your products.

For example, if you sold smoothies, a great call to action would be ‘Smoothies that promote great skin health’. Alternatively if you are running a website discount, promoting a ‘shop now for 20% off’ would be another great way to get customers to click.

4. Test your body copy:

Images stop your customer from scrolling and your copy converts.

This means without good copy all you’ve got is someone to pay attention. If your copy doesn't communicate clearly enough as to why your customer should consider your product you’ll lose them.

Test different forms of copy to engage your audience. We usually test short form, mid form and involve storytelling to create a long form version of our ads.

After you’ve tested these major elements, you can then start to test different formats and call to action buttons.

Once you develop a high performing creative, scale these ads to reach a wider net of your winning audiences. You’ll want to have more ads ready to go so rinse and repeat the testing process for your next batch of creatives.


Having a Facebook testing strategy can benefit your business in many ways. Without one, it can be really difficult to recognise high performing ads.

Assuming an ad will do better without thoroughly testing it will cost you alot of money down the line. Instead, rely on the data to give you insights into what's working and what can be tweaked to improve performance.

By committing to test on an ongoing basis, you can develop creatives that allow you to stand out from your competitors, minimize wastage in ad spend and drive revenue to your business.

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