One of the great advantages of advertising on Facebook is the ability to fine-tune your audience targeting using the platform’s research tools. With Facebook’s Audience Insights tool, you can go beyond high-level demographics (location, age, gender, etc.) and identify the specific interests, websites, publications and content topics that your current customers (and similar customers) consume and share.
Not knowing your audience is a big mistake! But doing audience research can be cumbersome, it takes a lot of time. And research tools that make big promises often fall short. Still, the labor of research has to be done if you want to take advantage of Facebook’s fine-tuning and content insights.
In this post, we’re going to show you some super effective shortcuts using the Audience Insights Tool to gather the information needed to develop buyer personas, spy on your competitors and discover where your target audiences consume content and what content resonates the most with them. As we move through this exercise, we are going to finish with a list of at least 25 interests or topics that we can use to create targeted audiences or audience layers (for larger audience segments) to help us reach the right people on Facebook with our ads.
Facebook Competitors, Interests, Pain Points – Get Your Thoughts On Paper (or Spreadsheet)
Before we even log in to Facebook, we should fire up a spreadsheet (or deploy more old school tactics like pen and paper). We’ll start by writing down everything that we know about our target customers, our target niche, and our target markets in an organized fashion.
Now, ask yourself, who are the big players in the space? Where are they consuming information that is relevant to them; websites they frequent, magazines they read, Pages they visit on Facebook, companies they follow, athletes they admire, things their kids do, etc. What kind of topics and interests resonate with them on a regular basis? Write it down!
Go beyond their interests and really dig into what drives them as individuals. What are their backgrounds, what are their responsibilities, what are their challenges and pain points? What kind of content are they consuming and where are they consuming it, and on what channels? How can we help them? Write it down…
Start to document all of this on your spreadsheet or paper. Break it up into three categories – competitor research, niche topic research, and customer pain points and needs:
- As we look at the information available to us in the Audience Insights Tool, the basis of our competitor research is to understand who the major players are and what type of content they are using on Facebook to engage their audiences.
- The main objective of niche research is to understand at a deeper level the other related topics and channels where content is being consumed by your target audiences.
- Writing down your target customer’s pain points and needs that your products and services specifically address will make it easier to develop great content ideas when we start looking at your competitor’s Pages.
Facebook Interests – Know What You Don’t Know
Okay, we’ve got the known direct competitors, interests and audiences traits documented. Now it’s time to fine-tune our targeting and niche down even further.
Navigate to the Audience Insights Tool and click on “Everyone on Facebook”. Scroll down the left-hand side of the page and type in your client or company name in the “Interests” field.
Take a look at the “Demographics” information. If you know your audiences already, there should be no surprises here.
Still, take a moment to evaluate this information. How does it compare to your initial assumptions or previous research from other channels? Is it the same? Is it different? If it is different, it’s good information to note for future Facebook targeting efforts as your core audiences may be different on this platform than others, including your own website traffic. (Fine-tune this information even more by filtering the age and gender – and locations if applicable – to match your target customers or site traffic.) Make notes and adjustments on spreadsheet or paper.
Next, navigate to the “Page Likes” dashboard and look at the “Top Categories” sections to discover closely related competitors also prominently found on Facebook. As you scan down you may see some familiar names. But most likely, you are going to see a bunch of companies you never even knew existed that are attractive, relevant and interacting with your target customers. Some of them will be your direct competition, while others will be places your customers consume content.
Click on their link and go directly to their Facebook page to validate they are worth targeting in your niche or market. In other words, if their products, services, and content is trying to attract the same people/customers as you, write them down.
Discover Great Content Already Resonating With Your Target Market With Facebook Page Insights
This is where the good insights start to surface! When you click from the Audience Insights dashboard directly to their Facebook Page, you’ll find a goldmine of research information and content inspiration right at your fingertips. Begin perusing their Page and take note of the content and user engagement.
On the left-hand side of their Facebook Page, you’ll notice direct links that filter their content by several categories, most notably: About, Instagram, Photos, Posts, Videos, Community and several more depending on the publisher. Engage each link and dig deep to see what type of engagement they are getting. When you know what kind of engagement they are getting – positive or negative – you can discover ways to adapt the strategy to your own.
Take a look at each section and start taking notes:
- What kind of content are they publishing? Are they addressing their audience’s pain points, responsibilities, and interests? In what format (posts, video, reviews)?
- Which topics and content resonates most with their Fans and receives the most Likes and Comments?
- Are there topics and discussion threads that reveal new information to you that could inform your strategy?
- Look at the competitor’s “About” section for great information you can incorporate into your strategies (or share with your client); Awards, Products, Product Categories, Our Story, Milestones, etc.
- Look at their Photos and Videos sections and note the type of content they are publishing; the good, the bad and the ugly. What types of content are getting the most views and engagement?
- Does a competitor feature their products in the “Shop and Review Products” section?
- Look at the Events section to see if they are promoting their events through Facebook. If so, what is noteworthy?
- What else…?
For instance, if your competitor is just posting clickbait content it may be a way to increase engagement but may not complement your strategy. Instead, look for the ways competitors and relevant channels engage their customers that moves them down the sales cycle or reinforces a positive, lasting relationship. Write these insights down and start connecting your dots.
You can now use these insights to start developing audience targeting strategies that siphon off traffic from relevant channels or steals traffic from your competitors. And, you’ll know which kinds of content your audiences are interested in already.
Use your research insights to develop your own content marketing ideas that incorporate your unique value propositions and messaging. Go head-to-head with your closest competitors and promote relevant topics and content. Only better! Want some more information on how to be a better Facebook marketer? Just starting out on Facebook ads and don’t know where to begin? Check out our article Facebook Ads for Beginners: 5 Resources to help you craft a successful Facebook strategy.
Post updated by Aaron Childs (prior post date: 2/28/18)
Your Guide to Winning with Performance Max Campaigns
The first mention of Performance Max dates back to 2020, but it is still considered the new kid on the block for businesses and marketers alike.
For many business owners, and especially eCommerce store owners, there has always been that search for the Holy Grail to simplify online advertising. With many options available, it was difficult for many to choose where to start. For those unfamiliar with the Google Ads ecosystem, it became a very expensive lesson, with many chalking it up as an expensive lesson in futility.
Then came a shift in the landscape, with the release of their automated behemoth, Smart Shopping. This new campaign option offered the likes of many amateur shop owners a simplistic way to take their first steps into the online advertising universe. This made for a simplified process for users to easily showcase all their products, putting most of the decision-making in the hands of Google.
Whilst this provided some relief for many, there were still boundaries. For one, the ability to extract pertinent data to review and assess was one of them, as was providing the opportunity to the inexperienced to expand into the other Google advertising ecosystem (YouTube, Display, etc.) where their products may flourish. This provided a void for advertisers to expand their reach and required something to fill the gap.
That was until now!
With the announcement that Google is sunsetting the Smart Shopping campaign, the talk moved quickly to how this will be handled. There was the mention of a “one-click” solution to transition across to this new kid on the block, which was music to the ears of those still not familiar with the Google advertising network. Whilst this may sound like the perfect solution for most, not having that understanding of what you’re working with, could be the difference between the success and failure of your efforts.
This is why I want to equip you with a full understanding of what Performance Max is, and how you can go about implementing the moving parts to set it up for success.
Introducing Performance Max
Performance Max is the latest installment from Google’s war chest of advertising tools. Unlike other automated options of its predecessors, Performance Max harnesses the power of its advertising ecosystem and enables advertisers to serve their ads across YouTube, Gmail, Discover, Search, Shopping & Display networks from a single campaign.
In their own marketing efforts, Google has made it sound simple to get these new campaign types in place, and in some ways, they have. Simply provide your ad copy, upload inspirational product images, add links from your YouTube account, and connect to your Google Merchant Center and you’re only a button click away from unleashing its power. From there, Google’s all-powerful machine learning systems will seek out and find the perfect customer and serve your ads to whichever platform they may be using at the time.
So now, instead of having to create multiple ads and assets for specific channels, you get to “throw it all together” and let Google work its magic, managing its potential to full effect across their advertising landscape.
Performance Max campaigns leverage their automated bidding and targeting technology, creating tailored ads and putting them in front of customers, no matter where they are on the Google Ads network. From the average person, this sounds too good to be true, especially those that are happy to let Google have complete control over their funds.
To help you get the most out of Performance Max, let’s break it down into the many parts that go into making it work.
Anatomy of a Performance Max campaign
Unlike other previous campaign types, such as Search which focus on text-based queries, from this single campaign, you can now show ads to other platforms that include Shopping, Search, YouTube, Display, Local, Gmail and Discovery.
As an automated campaign type, all you need to do is add your assets, select your goal and let Google proceed to do the job by showing your ad to the right person, on the right network, to give you the best possible chance of success. It sounds like the holy grail of advertising and whilst you will see results, having a better understanding of how to put it all together will go a long way to its success.
So where to begin.?
Whilst you’ve read this far, let’s presume that you have a good understanding of the basic campaign settings for creating a Google Ads campaign, including your budget, location, language, etc. As these are generally pre-determined when you plan your campaign and the goals you want to achieve, there are some areas to take into consideration when doing so.
With Performance Max campaigns, you have 2 options with the bidding strategy. Maximize Conversion or Maximize Conversion Value. While there are only these options to choose from, your success is based on choosing the right one. Whichever goal aligns with the outcome you are wanting to achieve, we suggest not putting in any limitations such as a target ROAS or CPA when starting out, and allowing Google to “spread its wings” to jump-start the campaign.
There is one caveat within the settings and that is the Final URL Expansion section. If there is a page on your site that Google believes is more relevant than the landing page you want to direct them to, it will send them there. This does take some control out of your hands, but it is based on your historical conversion data combined with the characteristic profile data it has on users. If there are pages that you specifically do not want to be included, you have that option through the Add the URLs you want to exclude option.
Asset groups can be similarly described as the “new ad groups” of these Google Ad campaigns. Within these asset groups, you have the infrastructure to create themed assets, including imagery, video, shopping products, and text ad copy, that will provide an inventory for Google to showcase across its advertising platform. Keep in mind that if you are not utilizing your own video or YouTube channel, Google will create one as part of the asset group. If this is not an option, you can contact your Google rep to remove the Performance Max campaign from the video network.
Within each asset group, you can manually select which products you want to be served up across the Google Shopping network. These listing groups can be segmented by Category, Brand, Item ID, Condition, Product Type, Channel, and Custom Labels. While there is no right or wrong way to set these up, I suggest breaking them down so they align with your themed Asset Group. For example, you may have an Asset Group for Nike and it would make the most logical sense to only include the range of Nike products, especially if you’re using keywords as an audience signal to find your customers.
For those a little more advanced, you can take advantage of using custom labels to get granular with the products that you want to include, such as top sellers, on-sale items or even by a price point. Aligning your products is a key element here, so ensure you spend time looking at how you want to segment these out in comparison to the audience that you will be targeting.
Creating these signals will guide Google’s machine learning models on the way to better optimize your campaign. One caveat with this is that these campaigns may show ads to audiences outside of these signals if Google’s machine learning indicates that there is a likelihood of attaining a conversion that falls within your goals.
When starting out, it’s always good to have a solid foundation of audience signals in place to get things going. This initial information is going to help your campaign ramp up and optimize performance faster. Whilst having all your products and signals in one group is the simplest way to start, ideally, every audience should get its own asset group and intended audience. These audiences should include:
- All website visitors
- Competitor terms and website
- In-Market with a combination of relevant and “outside-the-box”
- Customer match list or All converters
- Converting keywords
These are not the specific audiences that you’ll be targeting but the characteristics of those audiences Google will use to find the right customer.
*Top tip – If you’re looking to create a large number of asset groups by combining categories and audience signals, Google Ads Editor is going to be your best friend. Whenever you duplicate an asset group from within the Google interface, the Listing Group defaults back to all products and you’ll need to segment it each time. If it is duplicated in the Google Ads editor, it will retain the original segmentation of the products.
All Done, What’s Next?
Not quite but you do need to understand that these new campaigns take time to work through the learning process, gathering all the data from your assets and signals, to achieve the goals you have in place. While this doesn’t mean you won’t see some early wins, and you should, it just means you’ll have to be a little more patient. Generally speaking, this can take up to 5-6 weeks from the time you hit the GO button for new campaigns, which for some can be a nervous period.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean you can walk away and let it do “its thing” for the next few weeks. As they say, a champion team will always beat a team of champions, and this is no different when talking about your Google Ads account. Relying on a single campaign, as many did with Smart Shopping, can be fraught with danger. Whilst Performance Max campaigns utilize all of the advertising networks that Google has to offer, you want to ensure that you’re not missing any opportunities.
For starters, a Brand campaign.
I suggest running a branded search campaign alongside to ensure that Performance Max is not taking all the glory in sales and converting the low-hanging fruit of those people looking for your business. Although there is hope that it will eventually become available, you’ll still need to speak to your Google rep about adding your brand name, and its derivations, as negative search terms to Performance Max.
Running a standard shopping campaign can also be beneficial, especially if you have core products that need to be front and center with your audience. There is a lot more control, and data to analyze, which can help with improving the overall account, too. The Performance Max campaign will help with “filling in the gaps”, especially with the additional channels it has to market to.
You should also look to run a Dynamic Remarketing campaign. Unlike the previous Smart Shopping that so many were used to running, the remarketing component was far superior, and a dedicated remarketing campaign will give you far more information to review and make decisions.
We live in a media-rich world, where platforms such as Instagram and TikTok rule. The reason they are the kings, or queens, of the social media world is the use of visual creatives. This is no different when it comes to Performance Max campaigns. Make sure you keep a stock of fresh visual images and videos and implement them into newly created themed asset groups for further testing.
But won’t this reset the learning cycle?
Thankfully, it won’t reset the learning phase for the entire campaign, just the newly created asset group.
Will Performance Max campaigns take traffic/sales from my other campaigns?
The short: it depends. Whilst they are known to “steal” impressions and clicks from other campaigns, there are reasons why. Part of the reason comes down to your ad ranking across all your campaigns. For Search based campaigns, if there is no exact match term in other Search campaigns, then it will be based on the highest ad ranking in your account. When it comes to competing against other YouTube and Discovery campaigns, it’s different again.
To clear up the confusion, here’s a table to give you an idea of which campaign will show:
|Campaign #1||Campaign #2||Campaign entered in the auction|
|Search campaign that matches user query exactly||Performance Max||Search Campaign|
|Search campaign that does not match user query exactly||Performance Max||Campaign w/ higher ad rank|
|Standard Shopping campaigns||Performance Max||Shopping Ads on Search/Shopping: Performance MaxShopping Ads on search partners: Performance MaxShopping Ads on Gmail & YouTube: Campaign with higher ad rank|
|Display campaigns (with no feed)||Performance Max||Campaign w/ higher ad rank|
|Display campaigns (with feed)||Performance Max||Dynamic remarketing: Performance MaxAll other display ads: Campaign w/ higher ad rank|
|Video campaigns||Performance Max||Campaign w/ higher ad rank|
|Discovery campaigns||Performance Max||Campaign w/ higher ad rank|
|Local campaigns||Performance Max||Campaign w/ higher ad rank|
|ACE campaigns||Performance Max||Campaign w/ higher ad rank|
As you can see, getting started with a Performance Max campaign isn’t as difficult as it may seem, and for those that are either new to Google Ads or crossing over from Smart Shopping, that journey has been made simpler.
Whilst the above will get you up and running, there is still much that can be done through review and testing, as well as working on accompanying campaigns to complement the performance of your account.
If you’d like to find out how to get the most out of Google Ads for E-commerce, you can contact me at Digital Darts.
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