HomeBlog5 Reasons Your Facebook Ads Aren’t Working

5 Reasons Your Facebook Ads Aren’t Working

Author: Brad Smith
Last Updated: November 6, 2022 | Facebook Ads, Social Media

You’ve got AdWords down, right? CPC’s are holding steady and cost per lead is trending down. Conversions look good and your ad management is largely on maintenance-mode, needing only minor tweaks here or there.

Facebook, on the other hand, is a mess.

Sure – impressions and clicks are there. But conversions aren’t.

Part of the problem is that Facebook ad campaigns are a completely different animal compared with what you’re used to.

If you’re not yet seeing the return you’re looking for, start troubleshooting now. Here are five likely reasons why your Facebook ads are failing, along with helpful tips to get your campaigns on track.

facebook ads not working

Reason #1. Your Approach

Many people will struggle on Facebook before they even start – especially so if they’re used to dominating AdWords, and try to control + C / control + V that same exact approach.

Look: We get it. AdWords is incredibly powerful. Nowhere else can you harness the power of searcher’s intent to translate ads into revenue, fast. There’s a reason why most of Google’s revenue comes from AdWords (and not all that other stuff they’re up to).

Facebook advertising definitely has its own strengths. But intent isn’t necessarily one of them.

Nobody goes on Facebook looking for your company’s latest eBook (at least, no sane person).

why men and women use facebook

(via Mashable)

Instead they’re going on to reconnect with old grade school classmates, #humblebrag to their friends about escaping a winter week soon for the Caribbean, and of course, the obligatory stalking of one’s ex.

That means (1) you’re playing a different game on Facebook, and (2) you’re competing with people’s family and friends. (Good luck!)

There is a way to do it, but it’s gonna take some leg work and ingenuity.

For starters, forget about those bottom of the funnel commercial keywords that convert so well on AdWords (at least for now anyway).

Dust off a copy of your customer journey maps (which was a thing before HubSpot said it was), and roll up your sleeves. Because we’re going to need to create a few different Facebook campaigns, one for each major step or stage of the funnel.

For example:

  1. New Awareness: We need to (somehow) grab attention away from your BFF’s baby pictures and use a great content piece or promotion to get a few seconds of your prospect’s attention.
  2. Lead Generation: The best way to generate more leads? Un-suck your offer. All the flashy ad creative bells and whistles can’t make up for another boring free consultation offer. Instead, get inspiration from unique offers that offer unique value, like Lowe’s Lawn Care Plan or WordStream’s very own AdWords Grader.
  3. Conversions: A perfect blend of timing + lead nurturing + the right sales offer can work wonders. One tactic to try? Product splintering, courtesy of Digital Marketer. TL;DR version: break out a small but compelling piece of your primary product or service and sell separately at a price that’s too good to be true.
why aren't my facebook ads working

Restructuring your approach and creating multiple offers like this will help make sure you’ve at least got the basics covered.

But…it means you’re also going to need to fine-tune your audience targeting. Let’s cover that next.

Reason #2. Your Audience Targeting

Audience selection on Facebook is pretty much the opposite of AdWords – when selecting keywords and topics in AdWords, your audience largely self-selects.

For example, “smog check irvine” makes this process pretty obvious. Set-up the right match types, negatives, and geotargeting and you’re never going to get someone from Tuscaloosa, Alabama calling you.

On Facebook though, you have to start with the audience. Which can get tricky, especially in the awareness/top-of-the-funnel stage, where you’re casting a relatively wide net and crossing your fingers a little bit.

So start broad, and then get narrow. Look for a combination of basic demographics (like their A/S/L from your AOL days) and their interests (either as stated or by who they like and follow).

Keep your awareness-stage audience ranges to around 1-2 million users to start with. Too small and you won’t get enough data or feedback, too large and you’ll get a lot of junk.

Optimize for lowest Cost Per Click, and test a few different audiences to start with.

Moving one step down the funnel brings you to the lead generation phase. And here’s where custom audiences start to come into play.

The good news is that if you’re doing Step 1 right, you should have a steady stream of new website visits coming in on a daily basis. So you’re going to want to create and target your lead gen campaigns against those peeps.

Here’s how. First you need to create a pixel for this new audience.

Go into Pixels > Create Audience, and look for the “People Visiting Specific Web Pages But Not Others” option. (Jeez that was long.)

Here you can select all the visitors to an initial piece of content, product/service or some other landing page, and then explicitly rule out anyone who might have already converted (like if they saw a Thank You or confirmation page).

facebook ad pixel

Now you’ve got a custom audience for recent web traffic, people who ideally expressed some interest in what you’ve got to offer (because they viewed a key page) but who haven’t yet taken the plunge (idioms that allude to toilet terms are the worst).

Awesome. Next step, let’s target all of those leads you just generated with sales offers. But how?

Two ways.

First, you can go into custom audiences again to create a specific list. Go to All Tools > Audiences > Create Audience.

From here you’ll see a few different options that give you more specific targeting (like the website traffic one we just looked at). In this case however, you’re going to want to select the first one – Customer File.

troubleshooting facebook custom audiences

Then you have two more options. With the first, you can run a basic export on a list of contacts and then copy and paste their data (like their email addresses and phone numbers), and Facebook will do their damndest to match those with as many of their user accounts as possible.

The second option allows you to connect MailChimp lists and contacts to expedite this process a bit.

connecting facebook and mailchimp

Now when you go to create that next award-winning ad campaign, you can pull up audiences, and see something that resembles the following with a few new custom ones to choose from.

troubleshooting facebook ad audiences

This sounds like a lot of work. And it is. But it also allows you to cover your bases.

Assuming you’re not selling some $10 widget, people are going to need a few different reminders and messages in a few different channels prior to buying. At least 6-8 ‘touches’ on the low end.

Which means you can combine your other lead nurturing tactics in the middle of the funnel, like drip campaigns or marketing automation, with retargeting or remarketing ads too.

RELATED: Facebook Ad Not Approved? Here’s What to Do (+10 Tips to Avoid It)

Reason #3. Your Relevance Score

Y’all are smart. You know all about your AdWords Quality Score.

You know it has the power to influence where your ad shows up, how many times it shows up, and what you’re gonna pay.

And you know (or should know) how a single point difference either direction can result in a 16% cost change. (Read this for more.)

Quality Score Impact on CPC

Well it turns out that Facebook has a similar metric in an ad’s Relevance Score.

When this was first introduced, AdEspresso ran a quick test of over a hundred thousand ads to see how an ad’s Relevance Score correlated with the effective Cost Per Click (CPC) and Click Through Rate (CTR).

relevance score versus ctr and cpc

(image source)

To test and refute, they ran two campaigns with the same ad design against each other. One was to a random audience, the other a specific custom audience.

The poorly targeted one had a Relevance Score of 2.9 and a cost per click of $0.142. The same ad with better targeting had a Relevance Score of 8, leading to a cost per click of only $0.03 – netting them 4 times more clicks.

Therefore the Relevance Score isn’t exactly like the AdWords score in that it “grades” your design or copy. But rather it looks at audience targeting to determine how relevant your message is to the demographics of people you’re trying to reach.

On the flip side, even a decent or mediocre design and copy with great audience targeting can still receive a high Relevance Score (and thus, lower cost per click).

You can find this little score by navigating to one of your ad campaigns, going down to a specific Ad Set, and then looking in the lower right hand corner. The score is 1 out of 10, low being bad and high being good.

facebook ads relevance score

Awesome. Thanks for the overview. But how do you fix it? Change it? Improve it?

Here’s how.

Reason #4. Your (Lack of) Message Match

The best online ad campaigns align a few key features or variables to provide viewers with a seamless, coherent experience from end to end.

Message match (as it’s known in the biz) means the keyphrase you’re targeting should also show up in the headline of your ad and on the headline of your landing page too.

It’s a little more sophisticated in reality, but that’s the gist.

To borrow an example from Unbounce, let’s say you see an ad that looks like:

facebook message match

It looks interesting enough (what wonderful use of clip-art!), so you decide to click and see this on the landing page:

message match on facebook ads

There’s alignment between the headlines, taglines, and imagery. That’s message match.

Easy enough, right?

Sure. But the problem is that many still get this wrong.

For example, one informal study from Oli at Unbounce found that 98% of 300 different landing pages did not correctly align message match.

In AdWords, improving message match can help boost your Quality Score so you pay less per click or lead.

On Facebook, being mindful of message match can help you boost your Relevance Score so you pay less per click or lead.

In this case though, it’s all about aligning audience targeting instead of keywords. That means ads should be (need to be) created (and then targeted) to people that are as specific as possible. (You know, like specific buyer personas.)

The words being used in your copy, or the things being depicted in your images, should be aligned to that specific persona’s pain points or preferences.

Then you can use granular targeting options, like interests intersection for example, to precisely target ads to people who like Interest A AND Interest B.

facebook ad targeting

Generic, one-size-fits-all ads and audience targeting lowers your Relevance Score and raises costs – and poor message match can harm conversions back on your site too.

Reason #5. Your Ad Creative

Let’s be honest with each other for a second: AdWords text ads aren’t always super creative. And sometimes that’s just fine – a simple and direct headline featuring the bottom-of-the-funnel keyphrase can work well!

However, on Facebook, there’s a ton of moving pieces.

Assuming you’ve made it this far (which is no small feat), nailing your Facebook ad creative is still important.

You’ve got the value proposition behind everything, then there’s the headline, the description copy, CTA use, and the image.

Some advertisers manage to screw up every single piece here. For example, this actually happened:

bad facebook ad example

Yes. People paid money for that ad. I have no idea why either. Or what it’s supposed to be about.

The good news is that there are best practices to follow which can shortcut your workload.

The best converting headlines should somehow manage to encapsulate your primary value proposition too. If done correctly, you can kill two birds with one stone.

A perfect example of this? Go download Headline Hacks from Jon Morrow. In it, he discusses a few classic headline templates or formulas that work because of the deeper primal motivation they touch on.

For example, negative headlines can outperform positive ones by 60%. Two ways to spin it:

  1. Protect yourself from external threats. (“Why this New Facebook Ad Change will Kill Your CPC“)
  2. Fix these obvious internal mistakes. (“5 Ways Your Headlines are Sabotaging Your Facebook Ads”)

The best headlines (on Facebook ads) are also short. Like, short-short.

One study of over 37,000 ads found that the average headline length is only five words.

facebook ad headlines data

Now on to the “creative” part in “ad creative.”

Facebook naturally prefers (and enhances) content that’s visual. There’s a reason, as links with videos on Facebook for example get shared 7 times more than links without.

facebook video shares

(image source)

One more “no-duh” fact of the day is that people don’t like reading all that much anymore (you must be the exception).

As a result, images help increase user engagement 94% (!) because they only take 13 milliseconds for us to process them. That’s why visuals are so important on Facebook, and why they’re so heavily scrutinized in ad reviews and with the old “20% rule” (which has since been loosened a bit).

The best Facebook ads can be classic hero images, transporting the viewer into their future self (or helping them imagine what it would be like after experiencing said product/service). Or they can be more concrete and tangible, showcasing what someone is going to get when they click (like an example of the software or eBook along with a helpful CTA).

Putting it all together now, here’s the anatomy of a good Facebook ad:

perfect facebook ad

(image source)

Don’t Give Up on Facebook Ads Yet!

Facebook advertising is challenging because the platform has its own unique mix of features, targeting options, and variables. Your Facebook ad campaigns aren’t going to look like your AdWords campaigns, so strategy and troubleshooting are both going to look different.

Getting all of this stuff right is tough. But the good news, once you nail the basics, Facebook ads really do work! Here’s how to advertise on Facebook (the RIGHT way) in 10 steps.

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Meet The Author

Brad Smith

Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, long-form content creators for SaaS companies. Their work has been featured in The New York Times, Business Insider, TheNextWeb, Shopify, Moz, Unbounce, HubSpot, Search Engine Journal, and more.


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