On the face of it, Facebook marketplace and search advertising are similar. In both platforms, the advertiser places a bids for an ad, competes against other advertisers at the impression level and then pays the platform a CPC for every click. These similarities help search marketers who are increasingly being asked to manage Facebook campaigns.
However, there remain some fundamental differences in the two platforms which can be categorized under two broad umbrellas – strategic objectives and tactical campaign management.
While much can and has been written about the strategic differences in Facebook advertising, I shall focus on a key tactical aspect of Facebook campaign management – Ad Fatigue.
What Is Ad Fatigue?
Search marketing is a “pull” type of advertising. The searcher declares intent and the marketer shows her ad based on the expressed intent. Facebook (and display) are more of a “push”. Typical Facebook users are not looking for a product or a service but are looking to interact with the platform. As a result, they are less likely to click on the ad. This fundamental difference has two consequences:
(a) The CTRs of Facebook ads are much lower than Search ads – an obvious effect.
(b) Your ads will potentially be less effective over time as your ads will be shown to a user base repeatedly. Fatigue is less of an issue in search because the lower funnel users are always changing and are also more intent on purchasing. However, Facebook users, on average see the ad many more times before a purchase and hence are more likely to get tired of the creative. This sounds good in theory but does the data bear it out?
The above graph shows the click, impressions and CTR of a Facebook ad over a period of 12 days. While the bid was exactly the same the number of clicks it received dropped by over 30% in a span of two weeks. So is this ad fatigue? Yes and No.
If it were purely ad fatigue, the number of clicks would drop in proportion to the drop in click through rates as the proportion of users inclined to click on the ad would drop over time. The graph shows that CTRs have dropped but not as much the drop in clicks. So while there is some ad fatigue there must be another factor in play.
A closer look at the impression volume reveals that a substantial trend in the drop in clicks can be explained by the drop in impressions. The drop in the number of impressions is not a function of user interest but is a function of the Facebook platform. Facebook in a sense decides that an ad is getting old and lets the ad participate in few auctions. As a result the overall impression volume drops over time.
Tips To Combat Ad Fatigue
While the actual causes of ad fatigue are debatable the consequences are clear. If left alone, Facebook ads will quickly decline in performance. Here are some tips to mitigate the problem:
(1) Set most of your budget for performance but a small fraction of it for creative testing. As you identify new winners in your creative test, you can apply the learnings to the performance oriented campaigns.
(2) Refresh your creative with the winners from your test campaigns on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to combat ad fatigue. As a general rule, if you see impression or click volume drop at the same bid and budget levels, it will be a good time to change your ad.
(3) Test creatives in a systematic manner. The testing has to be done in three fronts – the image, the message and the demographic. Ideally you want to identify the right creative, image combination for every targeted demographic.
(4) Unlike search, setting up a systematic ad testing process on Facebook campaigns is a little involved as Facebook does not currently allow you to rotate ads evenly. To overcome this, you can place your creative/target combinations in different campaigns and allocate separate budgets. This will force spend on the combinations you want to test.
These tips will help you continuously optimize the creative on your Facebook campaigns while combating ad fatigue.
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