A person budget planning for digital ad spend

How We Decreased Pathstream’s CAC by 59% YoY

tuff-2022-growth-marketing-agency-landing-case-study-1

When we first started working with Pathstream – a Series A startup that offers online certification programs that help people level up their careers, they were spending nearly $1m each quarter in ad spend to hit their lead volume goals, but with a ROAS right around 1.10. They were hitting their application targets, but they were breaking even doing it. 

By restructuring ad accounts, testing creative, audience targeting, and different conversion events, we were able to help decrease Pathstream’s CAC by 59%, leading to their most efficient quarter ever and hitting their ideal LTV to CAC ratio for the first time. 

For 80% of our partners, we take a blended approach to reducing CAC – we focus on decreasing costs on ad channels to send more traffic to the site with the same amount of money, and we create a CRO strategy to improve website conversion rates. 

The exception? When development capabilities are limited or a partner has a custom CMS. That was the case for Pathstream. We weren’t able to implement robust CRO tests in order to improve CAC – we had to get creative when it came to optimizing Facebook and paid search campaigns on Google to hit those CAC targets.

Facebook

When we first partnered with Pathstream, a majority of their ad spend was dedicated to Facebook ads, but the cost per lead, cost per application and cost per enrollment were extremely high and they knew they needed to drive these costs down in order to keep investing a large majority of their paid spend into Facebook. 

With this goal in mind, our social ads team immediately started diving into the Pathstream ad accounts and analyzing the existing data to identify opportunities or “quick wins” as we call them, while also simultaneously working on a longer term strategy for driving down Facebook costs. 

Here’s a sneak peak of how we drove down their Facebook CPL by 63% year over year. 

Testing new audiences 

We tested a handful of new audiences over the past year for Pathstream from job titles, to interests, demographics and lookalikes. We found that our most successful audiences were based on interests for specific Pathstream programs (Asana, Salesforce, Digital Marketing, Data Analytics) and a lookalike of 5% based off of previous Pathstream students who have enrolled in one of their certification programs. 

Since some of the program interests we were targeting could possibly have overlap (Example: Digital Marketing and Data Analytics), we used the audience overlap tool to ensure that the overlap wasn’t greater than 40% so that our program specific audiences wouldn’t be bidding against each other.

testing audiences on Facebook

After we discovered that these were our top performing audiences, we tested a combination audience that targeted both the interest audience and the lookalike in one ad set. This ultimately did not perform as well as the two audiences segmented out into their own ad set. Based on this learning, we segmented each audience back into its own ad set and set the budget at the campaign level which allowed Facebook to allocate the daily budget to the audience with the lower cost. 

Optimizing for Higher Funnel Conversion Events

When we first launched campaigns, we were extremely focused on driving down the cost per enrollment, so all of our campaigns were optimized toward the “purchase” conversion event. We soon realized that most Pathstream students don’t immediately enroll in a program when they first find out about Pathstream. In fact, it could take weeks or even a month for someone to enroll in a Pathstream program after first expressing interest. 

This led us to switch up our optimization strategy and test out a higher funnel conversion event (submit application), which fires once someone enters their information, becomes a lead and also completes a quick application. 

By switching to a higher funnel conversion event, we were not only able to increase the total number of applicants, but we were able to drive down the cost per impression, cost per click, cost per lead and cost per enrollment by bidding on a higher funnel action –– which is less expensive and in return gives the Facebook algorithm more data to target users likely to submit an application. 

Developing new conversion-driven creative

A large part of our Facebook strategy we put together in our initial research for Pathstream included new create asset ideas based on a creative analysis we pulled together with what’s working well and what’s not resonating as well with the Pathsream audience. 

💡We create data-driven ad creative at Tuff, and have an entire blog post about how we approach that for our partners. Check it out here!

We wanted to test a mix of image and video assets that showcased Pathstream’s value props in an engaging way that would get our audience to click on the ad. We tested a combination of school-branded assets and pathstream branded assets and found that all of the assets that mentioned “100% online” and “get a project management/digital marketing/salesforce certificate” in 6 months were our top performing static ads. 

We also tested UGC style videos (like this one) and saw a 56% increase in CTR and decreased the cost per lead by 37% once we rotated those into our campaigns. 

testing creative on Facebook

Paid Search

With an ad account this large, we ended up restructuring campaigns twice since we started partnering with Pathstream.

Phase 1 Account Restructure

Initially, Pathstream had over 30 different Google Ad accounts they were running campaigns from. Pathstream partners with different universities to offer their certification programs covering curriculum on Facebook Digital Marketing, Salesforce, Tableau Data Analytics, and Asana Project Management. They had a separate ad account for almost every university + certification program combination. 

Our first step was combining the campaigns across 30 ad accounts into one to increase the amount of lead data in one ad account to make the Google algorithm work smarter for us.

Even though we culled down campaign structure significantly in phase 1 of our account restructure, we still had over 40 different search campaigns, each with minor differences. 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach. Many partners have similar account structures and are certainly successful, and Pathstream was finding success early on with this approach as well. With the goal of getting CAC even lower though, we set out to restructure things again after a few months. 

Phase 2 Account Restructure

At this point, we were utilizing many automated, conversion focused aspects of Google Ads. Max Conversions bidding strategy, Data Driven Attribution, Dynamic Search Ads. With these campaign features, Google works best when there is an abundance of data, specifically conversion data flowing into each campaign. 

If campaigns are too spread out, only receiving a few conversions per month, you may be underutilizing the true power of automation. This was partially the case for Pathstream.

By condensing campaigns from 40+ to 15, we allowed more conversion data to feed into fewer campaigns, in turn making our ads more efficient. We did not limit targeting. This was not designed to decrease our volume or impression share at all. We were not looking to lighten our workload either. Instead, limiting the number of campaigns gave Google more conversion signals, gave Tuff more opportunity to experiment and learn quickly,  and also allowed for better informed expansion across channels in the future.

For starters we left our highest performing campaigns alone. The ones bringing in the most conversion volume and most search volume remained mainly untouched. The big changes were with the campaigns that had the least amount of monthly search volume. Many of them we grouped together into a catch all campaign. What was 10 separate campaigns all converting only a few times a month became one larger structure that converted much more often as a whole. 

Only 3 weeks after our account restructure we saw these results:

  • Conversion Rate increased 26%
  • Cost Per Lead decreased 38%
  • CPC dropped 21%
  • CTR increased 8%

This was only the beginning. Performance continues to improve week over week while we gather more data in a much less congested structure. From here, we can start to expand our reach by efficiently pivoting what is working best for us in the short term and beyond. 

Have a complicated Google ad account structure you could use a second set of eyes on? Or need help reducing your costs on Facebook? We’d love to help!

mapping user flows for landing pages and paid ads

How (and why) You Should Optimize Landing Page Copy For Each Target Audience

mapping user flows for landing pages and paid ads

When we think about developing 1:1 messaging for our targeting audiences, our brains immediately think: ad creative. Making sure that the image, caption and headline speak directly to the audience you’re targeting is critical to our success as a growth marketing agency, for sure. But it’s equally as important to think about the landing page experience, too. 

CRO is a big, broad (and kinda vague) marketing term we like to throw around a lot. We could write about CRO strategies, best practices, and what’s been successful for our partners for days. For the purpose of this blog, we’re focusing on developing landing pages for paid campaigns that use value props and messaging specific to different target audiences to improve the user experience.

Optimize existing landing pages with small copy tweaks

The targeting options are almost endless on paid social, and there’s so many different combinations of interests and behaviors that could indicate a user fits in your audience persona. Oftentimes, we’ll find ourselves running several prospecting audiences at once, all applicable to our target audience persona, but potentially different in the actual ad channel.

Take this example from one of our partners, Sharetown. Their target audience is anyone living in a suburban area, with an entrepreneurial spirit, that’s looking for a side hustle. They’re probably married, have a family, and between the ages of 25-40. There are SO MANY different ways of targeting that group of people on Facebook – and we’ll test several ad sets to see which targeting combo is most efficient. 

building facebook audiences in ads manager

 

The Dave Ramsey interest audience has always been a top performing audience for us – a personal finance guru of sorts who teaches his followers how to get out of debt and build their personal wealth. When the conversion rate to our original landing page started to dip, we built out a new version of our main paid social landing page that uses terminology the Dave Ramsey audience is familiar with.

landing page example for social ads

 

This simple copy tweak in the hero zone of our landing page increased our conversions 38% the first month we implemented it. 

From a strategic perspective, we didn’t start out with custom landing pages for each and every interest audience on Facebook. We instead focused on testing new landing pages for all of our audiences to find pockets of success. After we ran campaigns to our top performing paid landing page for a bit, scaled budget, THEN saw our CVRs dipping, we refreshed the landing page we drove our top performing prospecting audience to with copy that was most  relevant to them.

Build custom landing pages based on each audience persona’s pain points

If the targeting options are there, and you’re able to clearly segment your campaign structure with two to three audience personas, there’s nothing wrong with building out ad experiences that are custom to each of their pain points. 

The key to being successful with this approach: ensuring that your audience in the ad channel is specific enough to resonate with more individualized messaging, but not compromising your audience size with targeting that’s too narrow. 

Take our partners over at Multiverse for example. Our Tuff team helped build awareness around their software engineering apprenticeship program in the U.S. Multiverse has two different B2B audiences for this program, and we were able to target narrowly enough to prevent overlap between the two main personas, while making sure our audiences were a decent size.

After researching the audience targeting capabilities on LinkedIn, we decided to create custom ad journeys and landing page experiences for each persona. Why? Because they experience very different pain points, and our value props were stronger when we could use 1:1 messaging for each audience. 

mapping landing page to paid ads  ppc landing page

paid search landing page optimization  paid search landing page design

The copy is close, and maps back to a similar value prop, but articulates the problem in a way that’s customized to each audience. We’re only able to speak directly to each audience persona in this way because the targeting options work in our favor on LinkedIn. 

Paid search and how your landing page experience is critical to success

Quality score, costs on Google, and the landing page you’re driving traffic to all go hand-in-hand. One of the simplest ways to optimize your Google ads campaigns is to make sure that the keyword you’re targeting and your ad copy make it onto your landing page. 

Wizardry does exist where you could dynamically insert keywords into your landing page. You’re able to see strong results with this approach, for sure. Like any dynamic keyword insertion tactic, you do run the risk of things getting a little weird. 

Here at Tuff, our PPC team organizes similar keywords into the same ad group on Google. This structure allows our team to create landing pages that are specific to certain keyword phrases. 

MyWellbeing is an excellent example of this. MyWellbeing is an online therapy platform that matches therapy seekers with therapists that are right for them. One of the things that makes MyWellbeing unique is their matching process – where individuals can select things that are important to them in a therapist. MyWellbeing is particularly successful among the LGBTQIA+ community in New York, because it’s hard to find LGBTQIA+ therapists that can truly relate with what the therapy seeker is going through. 

We saw that keyword phrases like “lgbtq therapist in nyc” is a top performing keyword for us in terms of clicks and volume, but didn’t stand out in terms of conversion rate. To optimize the landing page experience and improve our overall quality score on Google ads, we incorporated those search terms into the hero zone of that landing page.

landing page for specific keyword

This landing page tweak led to a 25% conversion rate for our paid search campaigns.

Landing pages for paid campaigns can always be tested and improved upon. It’s so easy to focus on your ad creative and targeting, but the reality is that your landing page experience has a stronger impact on your paid performance than almost any other campaign element. 

There are so many ways to approach a landing page test. The next time you start brainstorming ways to improve your campaign, try a 1:1 messaging approach, and let us know how it goes! 

testing different desktop landing pages

A/B Testing Your Landing Page to Reduce CAC: Tiny Changes & Big Result

testing different desktop landing pages

There are so many pieces to a growth marketing campaign that it can be hard to tell which levers you should pull to make the biggest impact. Or which levers need a bit of work. That’s where A/B testing comes into play. It’s important to facilitate thoughtful A/B tests for your landing pages, ad creative, audience targeting, CTAs, color choices… and well, almost every single element in your marketing campaigns.

Proper A/B testing takes patience, especially CRO and landing page tests. Here at Tuff, we map out our A/B tests like a science experiment, focused on testing one variable at a time so we know exactly what drove the most impactful results. This approach is methodical and can take a bit of time to execute, but in the end, we’re able to optimize our conversion rates, and scale our budgets while maintaining a profitable CAC.

Note: Throughout this article, I’m going to be referencing one of our partners, Sharetown. Our goal is to increase the number of reps on their team by 15% each month, with a CAC of $900. A rep is someone on their team who picks up and resells like-new furniture as a side hustle. 

We have campaigns running on Facebook/Instagram, Google Search, and YouTube. We also just started growth content to help with organic growth. 

Our landing page test methodology

For Sharetown, we didn’t propose a complete redesign. Instead, we focus on implementing impactful, but sometimes small, design changes to the existing page’s layout, copy, and images to help increase conversion rate. 

landig page example

It’s also important to isolate as many variables as possible throughout testing so that you can definitively say what improved (or negatively impacted) results. Not all CRO landing page tests go as planned, but with our testing methodology, we can always go back to the previous version of the landing page and start again with a new variable to test. 

That’s why we structure our tests bracket-style. (Any other March Madness fans out there? We see you.) We’ll have two almost identical campaigns running in our paid channels, but with the ads pointing to two different landing pages. We’ll take the winner, and pit it against the next iteration of the landing page. 

Statistically Significant Testing

Before we make any calls on what worked and what didn’t, we have to make sure that each landing page gets enough traffic to make our insights meaningful. That’s why we aim for 500-1,000 clicks per landing page before choosing the winning landing page. This threshold can be different for every brand, but we normally base the amount of traffic we need on historical conversion rates and CAC. 

Establish a Baseline

Even if your marketer’s gut instinct says that the landing page you currently have is going to be a total dud, we still recommend running campaigns with it to establish a benchmark. This will give you the data you need to compare future iterations.

But what the heck do we even test first?

Big Landing Page Elements to Test

Once you’ve established a baseline with the existing landing page that needs a little love, we start by updating the following thing (elements that we’ve identified as having the biggest impact based on previous experience)

  • Changing the images throughout the page
    • Incorporate images that don’t look like stock photography
    • Incorporate designed infographics/explainers that are more intelligible and helpful
  • Rewriting the copy to make the page more action-forward and incorporating value props more clearly
  • Rearranging the layout of the page to display value props in a more prioritized order
  • Changing CTAs and button colors
  • Adding simple “how it works’ sections 
  • Incorporating social proof and testimonials

Sample Landing Page Test Plan

The sample landing page test plan below is from a test we conducted with Sharetown. This test is still a work in progress, and we’ll update with more data as we get the results.

landing page testing plan

If you’re interested in doing something similar, here’s a sample gantt chart template we use to plan for landing page tests

Phase 1: Existing Page – Establish Baseline

  • Over the course of three weeks, drive traffic to the current page to establish a baseline with paid acquisition channels running (vs. just organic/referral/direct sources)
  • This will also give our channel experts an opportunity to collect initial acquisition data to refine targeting and ad creative

Phase 2: Two New Landing Pages – New Layout, Testing Different Copy

  • Phase 2 is where we start our landing page test, now that we’ve established a baseline as part of Phase 1. 
  • We’ll create a new layout to use for both landing pages, but each landing page will have different copy, specifically on the hero image and button. The design will stay true to the integrity of the existing Join The Team page, with updates to the layout and the order in which certain sections and elements appear. 
  • Variables to Test:
  • Header image copy
  • Button copy
  • Number of Landing Pages to Develop: 2

Phase 3: Brand/Partner Recognition

  • We’ll take the winner of Phase 2, and pit it against Phase 3’s landing page
  • Variable to Test
    • Placement of brand recognition
  • Number of Landing Pages to Develop: 1

Phase 4: Video

  • We’ll take the winner of Phase 3, and pit it against Phase 4’s landing page
  • Variable to Test
    • Putting a video in the hero zone
  • Number of Landing Pages to Develop: 1

Phase 5: Opt-In

  • We’ll take the winner of Phase 4, and pit it against Phase 5’s landing page
  • Variable to Test
    • Testing an opt-in pop-up
  • Number of Landing Pages to Develop: 1

Phase 6: Graphics v. Images

  • We’ll take the winner of Phase 5, and pit it against Phase 6’s landing page
  • Variable to Test
    • Using graphics instead of images throughout the page
  • Number of Landing Pages to Develop: 1

Phase 7: Earnings potential calculator

  • We’ll take the winner of Phase 6, and pit it against Phase 7’s landing page
  • Variable to Test
    • Creating an earnings potential calculator (similar to Zenernet’s!)
  • Number of Landing Pages to Develop: 1

Measuring your landing page test

Now for the fun part. Digging in the data to determine if your landing page test was successful. It’s important to take a full funnel approach when you’re evaluating the outcome of your A/B test. 

We create scorecards that allow us to measure conversion rates throughout the funnel, especially when the user journey includes multiple steps. In the Sharetown example, we have four conversion rates that we monitor: 

  • CVR from traffic to lead
  • CVR from lead to application
  • CVR from application to vetted opportunities
  • CVR from vetted opportunities to reps

Our first landing page versions had a killer CVR from traffic:lead, more than doubling that conversion rate from our benchmarking phase. But, by working with Sharetown’s sales team, we realized that the lead quality was quite low, and no one seemed to be converting to become a rep. 

We asked their sales team to give us any qualitative feedback that they had on why these applicants weren’t finishing the process. After gathering a few call transcripts, we realized that many of those leads were only interested in the first half of the rep role — moving bulky furniture. They weren’t interested in the gig when they found out Sharetown reps are required to resell the like-new furniture on a marketplace, like Facebook or Craigslist. 

After realizing that, we made tweaks throughout hero zone to emphasize reselling by changing the copy and switching out the image to show a Facebook marketplace listing.

landing page results

The data in the table above (peep Phase 4), speaks for itself. Our conversion rate from traffic to leads decreased significantly from ~8% down to just 2%, resulting in fewer total leads. But they were the right leads. Our bottom of the funnel conversion rates increased tenfold.

This is a prime example of why it’s important to look beyond initial conversion rates to make sure that your landing page test is actually moving the needle. Without collaborating with Sharetown’s sales team, we would have never known why the leads weren’t converting.

Questions? Comments? Ideas! We’d love to hear from you! Drop us a note. 

How We Achieved a 12x ROAS on TikTok with $7K in Ad Spend

phone using tiktok

Diversifying your paid social channels is the name of the game when it comes to social advertising in 2021, especially since iOS 14 rolled out. And any growth marketing agency like Tuff is testing TikTok, trying to find ways to make the viral video platform profitable for our partners.

We’ve managed thousands of dollars in TikTok spend for our clients, and we’ve seen a ton of success and growth opportunities on the channel, particularly for our client Sabio – an online coding bootcamp based in Los Angeles. (So much so that we had to pause campaigns for a bit because there were too many leads for their sales team to work. 🤓)

Like any new channel that a TikTok ad agency tests, we started small to make sure TikTok was going to be effective, and gradually increased our spend over a three month period. Numbers speak louder than words in most marketing conversations, so this blog post includes data from Sabio campaigns.

A little bit of background so these numbers have context: 

  • Sabio is an online coding bootcamp — our primary goal is to grow the number of qualified applications submitted on their site. 
  • Our primary KPI is Cost Per Application (CPA). 
  • We’ve ran ads on 8 different channels for Sabio – Reddit, Google, Bing, Quora, YouTube, Facebook & Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat! So we have a ton of data to compare channel performance.

The CPA on TikTok was 62% lower than the CPA on other paid acquisition channels.

When we first launched TikTok, we saw immediate success, with CPAs consistently in the $11-$16 range over the first few months. But I think we were all a bit skeptical over the quality of the applicants. 

To help keep a pulse on lead quality, we worked closely with the Sabio team to keep a pulse on how many TikTok applications were attending info sessions and enrolling in bootcamp programs. 

We did see that TikTok’s applications were slightly less qualified compared to Facebook, but the CPA was 62% lower, so it still made sense to continue to run ads on TikTok.

In fact, TikTok campaigns generated 448 total applications, and 7 enrolled students. With a bootcamp tuition of $12K, that’s $84K in total revenue, and a 12X ROAS.

Here are some of our biggest takeaways so far from TikTok:

High-Impact Creative is Necessary

If you want to see success on TikTok, you have to make sure you’re using creative that mimics the TikTok style that users expect to see when they scroll on the platform.

tiktok ad example

For Sabio, this was easy. They’ve already gone all-in organically on TikTok. They post several videos a week, and some of them have half a million organic view. 

Our top-performing ads played off of some of TikTok’s most viral video trends, with text overlays that speak to Sabio’s value props.

BUT if posting to TikTok everyday isn’t right for you, don’t let it deter you! TikTok ads could still work for you if your audience is on the channel. You can still create strong video ads without necessarily repurposing organic posts. Check out this article where we talk about some of our best creative tips for TikTok!

But is your audience on TikTok?

TikTok’s ad platform is still in its infancy, and like all other social ads platforms when they first got started, the audience target capabilities leaves us wanting more (much, much more). 

Before you add TikTok to your mix of social advertising channels, take a beat and ask yourself if your audience is ACTUALLY an active TikTok user, or if this is a shiny new toy and you’re jumping in without a real strategy. 

Not all audiences are on TikTok, and it doesn’t make sense for every single brand. But if we’re working with a B2C brand targeting users between 17 and 35 years old, TikTok’s probably going to be on our list of channels to test.

Sabio’s target audience is perfect for TikTok: 18-30 year olds who tend to be early adopters. Specifically, we targeted:

  • Users interested in Gaming (top performer!)
  • Users interested in Music
  • Users interested in Culture/Education
  • Users interested in Tech (top performer!)

At the time that we launched these campaigns, TikTok didn’t have a lookalike audience feature, and the number of applications on our TikTok pixel wasn’t quite big enough. But this is on our radar to test in the coming weeks!

Campaign Setup

Whenever we test new social channels, one of the first things we test is campaign optimizations. For Sabio’s TikTok campaigns, we tested conversion vs. traffic. 

While our traffic campaigns had insanely low CPCs (like $0.08), the quality wasn’t there. The conversion rates were abysmal, and we quickly decided that conversion campaigns were the clear winner. 

Note: That seems super intuitive, but you’d be surprised how many times we see traffic campaigns crush it on some of these secondary social channels like TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

Day Parting

Within the first month, we noticed that our TikTok campaigns were spending the daily budget before 2 p.m., and we knew that our audience was likely active on TikTok at night. 

We tested running ads from 12 p.m. to midnight, and saw 33% lower CPAs compared to the original campaigns.

While TikTok was wildly successful for Sabio, it definitely hasn’t worked for all of our partners. No matter what campaign optimization tricks you have up your sleeve, TikTok will only work if you have the perfect audience + creative combo. 

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for spending a few minutes reading through my TikTok endeavors! I hope you picked up a thing or two to test. 

I’d love to hear how TikTok has performed for you! HMU with any questions.

Got a Crappy iPhone Video? You’ve Got the Perfect Facebook Ad

A selfie of three smiling friends on the beach

There’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for successful social ad creative. After working with 50+ brands in all kinds of industries and executing countless A/B tests, we’ve learned a thing or two about what good paid social creative looks like. 

Disclaimer: what works for one account might not work for another. Make sure you’re testing different kinds of creative to find what works best for your brand. 

Yes, every Facebook ad account has its creative differences. But when it comes to the Facebook ad creative that works the best in 2021, there are definitely some common themes. Check out our tips for developing Facebook ad creative that yields the best results.

Low Fidelity Video > Everything Else

Say “hello” to iPhone videos, and “see ya later” to hella expensive video production. On most all of our accounts, low-fidelity iPhone quality video typically outperforms the polished high-end video we’re testing against. 

Typically, brands think that developing video assets = 💸💸💸. But that isn’t the case. Shoot the video on your iPhone, edit it together in TikTok, and export it to use on other social channels. Mimic the latest video editing trends on social, and you can get scrappy with creating your own video content — and see great results.

We tested this for Felt — an app that lets you send handwritten cards right from your phone.

Note: our Facebook campaigns are optimized for app installs, and one of our primary KPIs for measuring success is cost per install (CPI). 

The CPI for ads that featured low-fidelity video assets was 20% lower than its high-fidelity video counterparts and 50% lower than image ads. 

 

 

The data above shows the average CPI for $36K in Facebook spend. 

 

Curious? Check out some of our ad creative for Felt. This will help give you a better idea of what we’re talking about when we say low fidelity and high fidelity video content. 

Low Fidelity Example | High Fidelity Example

Over time, we’ve gleaned a few other tidbits for editing video for social ads. Selfie-style video of someone talking about your brand works really well (this could be the founder, an employee, or an influencer you’ve partnered with) – just make sure you add subtitles! We’ve also noticed that videos with subtitles and graphics that match the in-app design features are also some of our top performing video assets. Ask yourself: What are the kids makin’ on TikTok these days? And how can I copy and paste that style for my brand in a way that makes sense? 

What are Non-Dynamic Ads?

Dynamic ads allow you to upload up to 10 images, 7 videos, 5 captions and 5 headlines, and the algorithm will pair different combinations of creative together to make what it thinks is mostly like to perform the best. 

In theory, Facebook’s dynamic ad creative option sounds too good to be true. And my grandma always told me that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

For some brands, Facebook dynamic ads can work. But if you’re currently using dynamic ad creative and seeing less-than-stellar results, try switching back to the regular non-dynamic ad creative.

Non-dynamic ads give you more control to make optimizations, and it’s much easier to translate the data into actionable insights. 

When we onboard new clients at Tuff, we often see that they’ve been running dynamic ad creative on Facebook – especially if someone in-house has been running their Facebook ad campaigns because it’s such an easy ad format to execute. 

We experienced this with two Tuff clients: Joyn and Team Boocamp. One of the first optimizations we made was to switch their Facebook campaigns from dynamic to non-dynamic ads. 

And by making that simple switch, our cost per signup for Joyn and Team Bootcamp decreased 42% and 47% respectively. 

a sharp drop in Joyn's CPS after launching non-dynamic ads

Images with Text > Lifestyle Images

You would have never, ever caught me saying this two years ago, but well, here I am. Social media advertising is ever evolving, and so is our approach to developing creative for Facebook ads. 

Creating images with text used to be one of the biggest Facebook ad creative faux pas because of the 20% text rule – AKA the bane of my existence. 

When Facebook semi-recently did away with the 20% text rule (praise be), it changed the type of image creative that works best for ads. Now, images with graphics and text overlay tend to perform better than the typical lifestyle image. 

When you add a bit of text to an image, you give yourself more real estate to get your message across. Think about a text overlay on your image as your headline, and the native text elements in Facebook ads manager as supporting copy. 

We put this to the test for Offline – a restaurant subscription service in North Carolina. We found that graphics yielded an 48% lower cost per signup (CPS) compared to regular images with no text overlay. 

Aside from CPS, we saw that graphics had a stronger CTR, lower CPC, and drove healthier traffic to the site – doubling the time on site (TOS) compared to regular image ads. 

a chart that shows the decrease in price and increase in efficiency between images with graphics and images without

 

Interested in learning more about our A/B testing methods for social ads? Give us a shout

 

tuff-six-signs-its-time-to-update-your-facebook-ads

Six Signs It’s Time to Update Your Facebook Ads

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new links and examples for you to use! 

Has your Facebook ads performance dipped? Maybe your ads never achieved your desired outcome like increased eCommerce sales or lead generation. Facebook ads performance can drop off — or never take off at all –– for a variety of factors, but one of the most crucial is your ad creative (copy, images, and video). 

Across our clients, Tuff manages anywhere from $1,500 – $100,000 / month in Facebook ad spend. This article pulls from this experience and outlines six factors we’ve identified that can indicate it’s time to update your Facebook ads creative. 

If you don’t have the time to read these detailed explanations, here’s the tl;dr on when to know it’s time to replace your Facebook ads creative: 

  • Campaigns costs are going up / objective completion
  • Ad frequency is getting high causing dreaded ‘ad fatigue’ 
  • Facebook ‘Ad Diagnostic’ scores are ‘below average’
  • Google Analytics is telling you performance has declined 
  • Facebook makes an update to any part of the user experience
  • You’re not selling more or generating more leads despite an initial bump in performance after the campaign launch 

If your ads just didn’t perform in the first place, check your targeting. Even the best ad creative will tank if you aren’t targeting the right audience.

Before jumping into this read, please note, much of what we discuss is irrelevant if your tracking is out of whack. This article assumes that the Facebook Pixel, Google Analytics, and/or other tracking mechanisms are in place to measure your Facebook Ad performance. Unless otherwise stated, all mentions about measurement and metrics are in reference to data available in the Facebook Ads manager and Google Analytics. 

Campaign costs are going up. Is the cost for your campaign objective going up?

We typically focus on Facebook campaign objectives of traffic, leads (website conversions), or eCommerce website purchases. If you’re seeing the average costs for these objectives go up, it may be time to update your ads. For instance, if your campaign used to average $4 per website conversion, but now averages $6, it may be time for an ad refresh.  

Before you get an update underway, verify that the ad set level learning phase is complete (it takes at least 50 events to exit the learning phase, so depending on your budget and campaign objective, it could take a few weeks to exit the learning phase!), no major edits have been done to the campaign, and that there aren’t external factors at play. For instance, an eCommerce apparel brand might see spikes around the holiday shopping season but then dip at the start of the new year. Or a boot camp designed to help med students study might see huge growth at the beginning of the semester, but then taper off after a few months.

Your ad frequency is getting high (AKA ad fatigue)

Ad frequency is an average of how many times people in your target audience have seen your ads. It’s calculated by dividing the total impressions by the total reach. 

Although there’s no hard and fast rule to abide by, our team likes to evaluate ads for declines in performance at around a frequency of 2. Ad frequency is more of an art form to evaluate though, because frequencies that trigger declines in performance may vary by industry and audience. We have seen frequencies of over 10 lead to conversions in niche B2B verticals. 

High frequencies often lead to a phenomenon called ‘ad fatigue’ wherein your audience is simply tired of seeing your ad. Unlike paid search where intent is high, social ads are intrusive, and interrupt a user’s feed. High frequency and decreasing performance may mean your audience is tired of your ad, and that you should fire up new copy and creative. 

Facebook Relevance Scores are Average or Below Average

Facebook has assigned a ‘relevancy’ score on ads for years. In summer 2019, they broke out relevancy into three categories outlined below. The relevancy scores are now out of three possible ratings, above average, average, and below average. If your ads are scoring ‘below average’ especially in the ‘conversion rate ranking’ or ‘quality ranking’ category, consider a media and copy update. 

Facebook Ad Relevance Diagnostic Categories 

  • Quality Ranking – does your ad ‘fit’ within your audience’s newsfeed? Your ad will receive the worst rating of ‘below average’ if your audience feels like the ad is salesy, trashy, or spam. 
  • Engagement Rate Ranking – similar to organic post’s engagement metrics, are users liking, commenting, and sharing your ad? If your ad can make these things happen you’ll land best marks of ‘above average’ in this category.  
  • Conversion Rate Ranking – will users take the conversion action you’ve optimized your campaign for? Scoring an ‘above average’ here, means users are more likely to ‘convert’ from your ad than average Facebook ads. 

These Facebook Ad Relevance Diagnostics are scored comparatively across ads on Facebook. The ‘below average’ rating in any category will also tell you if you’re in the bottom 35%, 20%, or 10% of ads overall. Poor marks in ad diagnostics are one of the best indications your ad creative should be updated. 

What does Google Analytics reporting tell you?

Google Analytics can be a great arbiter of truth by offering an unbiased look at your Facebook Ads performance. At Tuff, we’ve made it a practice to gut check Facebook campaign reporting with Google Analytics reporting (don’t be surprised when you see that the analytics differ between the two platforms – we often find our Facebook metrics to be slightly inflated compared to Google Analytics). 

Using UTM parameters on all Facebook ads allows us to see how the campaign objective, audience and creative perform. In Google Analytics, take a look at your Facebook campaign and individual ad set’s cost per session over time. Look at goal completions. If costs are going up or conversions are going down as reported by Google Analytics, it’s a good indicator that it is time to refresh your ads. 

Facebook makes (another) update

Facebook and Instagram are constantly evolving to improve the user experience, and some of those changes call for updates to your ad creative to stay timely and relevant. For example, TikTok and Instagram Reels have changed the way people watch video. Short, vertical videos edited in a style that matches a particular sound are killing it right now. 

When an update like this happens, it might be time to update your antiquated video creative to stay relevant. Remember, social ads interrupt a user’s feed – make sure you’re interrupting it with content that makes sense. 

How’s your bottom line looking?

Facebook and Google Analytics tracking isn’t perfect for a variety of reasons, so at the end of the day, it’s important to evaluate your own balance sheet. Are more or fewer customers becoming leads or making purchases online? Have increases to Facebook campaigns correlated with upticks in business? 

Because of differences in attribution between the two platforms, we often see goal increases in organic and direct site traffic that correlate with an increase in Facebook spend, even though Facebook has a seemingly negative ROAS. 

Is that uptick starting to wane? Use common sense, if you launched a $10,000/month Facebook campaign and saw an uptick in business, the campaign is likely playing a role. When performance declines, it’s time to reset.

Conclusion

Facebook thrives on novelty. People are on Facebook for a number of reasons, but when they’re in the app or on Facebook.com, it’s rare they’re looking for an advertiser’s product or service specifically. Ads should be optimized to stop someone’s scroll and get them to take action. 

As a rule, it’s often good to start planning your next round of Facebook ads before performance ever dips. This way, you’re not caught on your heels when one of the above factors causes a dip in performance. Though great ads paired with ideal audiences can have a tenure of several months, we like to plan for new Facebook Ads creative every 4-6 weeks.

Own Your Assets: How to Set Up Your Facebook Account for Success

You’re ready to start running Facebook and Instagram ads, but not sure where to start? Or you’re not sure how to keep all of your assets organized?

Here at Tuff, we work with businesses who’ve just begun to run Facebook ads, those who spend thousands of dollars each month on the channel, and many in between. We’ve learned a thing or two about how to (…and how not to) set your Facebook accounts up for success. 

This blog has plenty of Facebook jargon. Here’s a handful of definitions to help you keep things straight:

  • Facebook Asset: One of the many Facebook properties that have to be created in order to run ads on the channel (page, ad account, pixel, and product catalog are the main ones).
  • Business Manager: Facebook’s central hub for organizing all of your assets.
  • Personal Profile: Your personal Facebook account, where you go to connect with friends and groups you’re part of. This is granted access to your Facebook page via Business Manager (if set up correctly), but is separate from your business’s Facebook assets. 

Common Mistakes

When we onboard new clients, we often run into two common setup mistakes:

  1. Previous agency partners own the brand’s Facebook ad account, pixels, pages, and product catalogs because they created them.
  2. Their ad account and page is owned by a personal profile rather than a Business Manager account. 

One of the biggest hiccups we run into is when a previous agency or marketing partner creates the ad account and pixel for the brand. This often means that the user who created the asset also owns the asset. And when that partnership ended, the previous agency still owned all those assets they created. 

This is why Tuff coaches our clients on how to create their own ad accounts, then grant our team proper access to it. 

Why It’s Important to Own Your Own Assets

Fundamentally, we believe in transparency with our clients, and that starts with how we set our channels up before we launch campaigns. When you own your Facebook assets, you also own the data you need to make marketing decisions. 

What is Business Manager? 

Facebook Business Manager helps advertisers integrate Facebook marketing efforts across their business with external partners (like Tuff!). It acts as a central place to manage your business, separate from your personal Facebook profile. 

This free platform allows you to run and track ads, manage your pages and ad accounts, and add agency partners. 

As Facebook advances the measures it takes to prevent spam accounts, it’s becoming more essential for brands to set up a Business Manager account rather than own all assets through a personal profile. 

It’s essential that someone on your team—usually the business owner or marketing manager—creates the Business Manager account. The personal profile that creates the Business Manager will also own the Business Manager. If necessary in the future, you can change ownership, but you have to go through Facebook support to do so. 

Giving Your Agency Partners the Correct Access

Once you’ve created your Business Manager account, you’ll want to assign your agency’s Business Manager as a partner. Then, you’ll click “Share Assets” to give them the access they need to your ad account, pixel, page, etc.

Here at Tuff, a Growth Marketer will provide you with detailed instructions during the onboarding phase to help make sure you’re set up properly! 

Interested in learning more about our social advertising service? Give us a shout! 

 

iOS 14 is Coming: How Improved User Privacy Will Affect Targeting, Tracking, and Optimizing Facebook Ads

Apple’s latest iOS update will restrict data usage in an effort to hold apps to a higher standard when it comes to user privacy. At the heart of it, this will affect how your Facebook pixel receives data, which could negatively impact your targeting, tracking, and optimizations. Have you thought about what this means for your Facebook ads strategy? We have! And we’re here to help. 

What exactly is the iOS 14 update? 

As part of Apple’s new AppTrackingTransparency framework, there are two big changes coming with iOS 14 that impacts how apps use your data. 

  1. Apps will be required to describe how they’ll use your data in the App Store.
  2. You’ll begin to receive a notification from each app asking permission to use your data to track you across apps and websites.

Facebook anticipates that many people will opt out of app tracking on iOS devices, which could negatively impact targeting that allows for a more personal advertising experience for users and performance reporting. 

Changes Facebook’s Making To Prepare for iOS 14

In preparation for iOS 14 and Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency framework, Facebook’s making a few notable changes to Ads Manager that will impact how we build out campaigns. (Some of this gets technical, so bear with us!) 

Check out this list of changes that Facebook’s making and how you can prepare your ad accounts for them!

#1 Conversion Events

Starting in early 2021, advertisers will be limited to using only eight conversion events per domain set up on your Facebook pixel. Once this goes into effect, ad sets optimized beyond the eight prioritized conversion events will be paused. 

How You Can Prepare:

 

#2 Value Optimization

This update will really only affect e-commerce brands with large product catalogs that rely on dynamic ads. If that’s not you, skip ahead to number three!

Value Optimization is a delivery setting you can currently enable at the ad set level in Facebook Ads Manager. It tells the algorithm to bid on audience members who are most likely to spend more money. In theory, this helps improve your Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). 

Value sets will be moved from the ad set level to Events Manager, and will count as part of the eight conversion events that are allowed per domain. 

How You Can Prepare:

  • Start moving away from Value Optimization delivery (if you currently use it!)

 

#3 Tracking and Measurement

Facebook will be eliminating its 28-day attribution windows and instead, all ad accounts will default to the 7-day click attribution window. Attribution window settings will also be controlled at the ad set level instead of the ad account level. This will help ensure that conversions being measured are the same ones used to inform campaign optimizations. 

For app and web conversion events, the ability to use breakdowns is going away. You’ll no longer be able to break down your results for these events by age, gender, region, placement, etc. 

We won’t know definitively until the iOS 14 updates fully roll out in early 2021, but we’re expecting this change in attribution window to cause cost per results to increase. 

How You Can Prepare:

  • Update any automated rules using a 28-day attribution window.
  • Begin using the comparing windows feature in ads manager to see how conversions attributed to ads compare across different attribution windows. You can access this by creating custom columns in Ads Manager, then click “Comparing Windows” in the bottom right corner.

ios14-facebook-ads

#4 Dynamic Ads

No major changes will be happening to Dynamic Ads, but if you use them for Retargeting, you could start to see audiences sizes decrease and lower performance. For now, Facebook’s expecting minimal impact to broader prospecting audiences being served Dynamic Ads. 

How You Can Prepare

  • Verify your product URL domains in the catalog feed and avoid the use of URLs redirecting users to a different domain (no bit.ly!)
  • Prepare to use one pixel per catalog to optimize for prioritized conversion events across all catalog items.

 

There’s still so much to learn about how iOS 14 will impact Facebook advertising. 

At the end of the day, we won’t truly know the impact iOS 14 will have on Facebook advertising until these changes roll out. 

We don’t know how many Apple device users will opt-out of app tracking (although my gut says it’ll be the majority). We don’t know exactly how targeting and tracking will suffer. 

Each brand’s volume of iOS users will differ. Some brands will have higher percentages of iOS users compared to Android and desktop users than others. Start researching this in your ad account now by analyzing your device impressions breakdown.

While Facebook will be going through massive changes this year, several other social advertising channels have made huge strides in their paid acquisition offerings. Platforms like Pinterest, TikTok, LinkedIn and Twitter are upping their game, and now might be the time to diversify your social advertising channels if you’ve been reliant on Facebook up until now. 

If you’re interested in talking more about how to prep your ad account for iOS 14 or broaden your social advertising to other channels, let’s talk!