Occasionally ads don’t immediately generate any sales. In this article we explore the most common simple reasons why the ads might not be performing as expected and how you can optimize the ad configurations and performance by adjusting the settings.

The most common reason for disappointing ad performance is typically caused by a combination of poor targeting configurations, too small marketing budget, too short campaign run-time and poor creative, and often in case of re-targeting: too small audiences. Let's explore these basic combinations one by one.

Targeting Parameters

Facebook has a lot of data of its users and online shoppers, but in case the demographic settings: Age, gender, location and interest aren’t a match with most prosperous audience, it’s likely that ads won’t perform as expected.

For instance, if a shop sells football fan merchandise and targeted audience is men between 20-40 in a certain country, the audience is probably incoherent as all men aren’t football fans in any country. If an interest option such as football is selected it limits the audience only to those who have shown interest to football, so the audience is more narrow. 

In case you are new to Facebook ads and don’t exactly know which are the best interest groups to target based on previous experience, a lookalike audience is often a good option for targeting as with Nosto it automatically incorporates all interests of recent buyers, their age and location effectively removing the guesswork from selecting interests. In addition, you can also try Fan lookalike targeting.

Re-targeting visitors, cart abandoners and recent buyers is easier by its nature as these users have either given a strong signal of intent or already trust your site. By their nature, these campaigns perform in practice always better than when going after completely cold audiences.

Lesson one: When getting started and when you're targeting new customers, rely more on lookalikes than core audiences based on demographic data.

Marketing Creative Is Poor

Especially touching the prospecting campaigns, remember that the marketing creative is imperative. Thanks to its vast amount of data, Facebook is especially good as a new customer acquisition tool and when acquiring 'cold audiences' as traffic to the site, but remember that the ad creative needs to be aligned with your brand.

Ideally try to put your brand or store into motion by telling a short story of your offering  by using a video as a cold audience completely new to your store is more likely to watch a few seconds of a video than to click directly a product in an ad, even though your targeting parameters would be perfectly set. As a rule of thumb, a good video or series of videos should educate, inform, demonstrate and ideally entertain while being short, unless your brand and ad is socially shareable by its nature. At its best, a good video resonates with your clientele's emotional side and entices them to explore the actual offering: products.

While the video might be the most visible part of an ad creative, give a user a reason to explore more of the offering by writing a capturing and compelling ad copy. This is especially important in re-targeting where you need to cement the deal and trigger the need to finalise a previous purchase consideration there and then.

Lesson two: Don't underestimate the power of video and ideally use video or other inspirational content when acquiring new customers.

Limited Time and Budget

Give Facebook some time and equally impressions and visits to optimize the ad display. Even though the targeting options might be correct straight of the bat, ad creative trimmed, it might take some time for Facebook to learn which are the most prosperous and likely online shoppers. Facebook automatically optimizes the ad display to those users they think are most likely to buy, meaning that every click, visit and eventually purchase conversion help Facebook to find the right audience. If your ad-set is unable to deliver 20 purchase conversions a week, your campaign will likely stay in learning-phase so if your target is not to drive video views or traffic, it might be better to review the creative and targeting options. 

On the contrary, if you have very small daily budget and continuously spend it, Facebook might not have enough volume to learn what works or not! If you have the chance to spend more in a shorter period, it typically makes sense to fail-fast instead of slowly.

Lesson three: Don’t expect results overnight and let your campaigns run at least a week, especially if the daily budget is relatively small.  

Limited Audience Size

With any campaign type, but especially when running a campaign for new customer acquisition (demographic and lookalike targeting), remember that the audience and visitor size needs to be big enough before it’s reasonable to evaluate the ad performance. A good prospecting audience should be tens or hundreds of thousand of users, whereas targeting just hundreds of users in re-targeting probably delivers just a handful of sales. 

For instance, if your average conversion rate is 2% for your whole traffic, it is likely that cold audiences convert at half of this rate, whereas re-targeting might yield 2-5x better conversion rates.

Lesson four: Manage expectations and try to keep prospecting audiences big while re-targeting / intent audiences perform only if you are able to feed them with quality traffic. 

Build a Sales Funnel and User Journey

Ideally, build a sales-funnel where early stage brand awareness campaigns targeting cold audiences feed lukewarm discovery audiences, driving traffic to the site. The intent audience consisting of those who are not ready to buy immediately are acquired with re-targeting, without forgetting customer retention: re-acquiring recent and past buyers back shopping. 

Lesson five: Serve each layer of your audience with different message (creative).

Other Topics: Ad Expectations and Benchmarking

By their nature, Facebook’s prospecting campaigns are very different from Google’s search term based ads, which is often used as a benchmark. While comparing different marketing channels is unarguably valuable, it should be noted that users who search something specific on a search engine show a clear indication of timely interest or need, which partially makes search engine marketing so effective and valuable. Search term based ads are leaning towards the last-click before a customer makes a purchase making it irreplaceable for many retailers.

Facebook’s ads are leaning more towards the first-click as they are typically used to target a wider audience based on data about Facebook users. Naturally, re-targeting campaigns on Facebook are different and therefore very effective. Although the use-case is different, in terms of expectations re-targeting is somewhat Facebook's equivalent to search-term ads on Google.

A simplified example would be thinking Facebook’s prospecting campaigns more as a channel to reach out to people who might become your customers by inspiring them with relevant offering whereas search engine marketing is reaching out to customers who are one or many steps closer to buy something, perhaps after seeing an ad on Facebook.

Therefore benchmarking performance between these two common marketing channels isn’t necessarily wrong, but it might lead to erroneous conclusions if their role and nature as a marketing tool is not taken into consideration.

Other Topics: Short Attribution Window

Nosto uses the shortest available sales attribution window available on Facebook which is 24 hours, because we think it’s fair for our customers. Since the sales attribution window is very short in terms of what’s common for display ads, you’ll only see sales and conversions which happen almost immediately after a user has seen an ad on Facebook.

Other Topics: Common Tech Issues

First review that you have implemented Nosto accordingly and that the conversion tracking is solid and working as it should. This can be done relatively easily from the Nosto admin by simply reviewing if there has been any tracked sales in general.

The other problem might be caused if you or someone from your team has accidentally removed Facebook’s tracking pixel from your site. This is slightly harder to review, but if other Facebook ad campaigns than the one under scrutiny track sales accordingly this can be crossed off from the list as well.

If none of your Facebook campaigns has never generated any sales, it’s worth a while to use Facebook’s Pixel Helper and to review that the conversion pixel loads normally and without errors by making a test order.

Did this answer your question?