Not sure what’s the best way to learn SEO? Stop thinking and start learning from this comprehensive list of SEO blogs, forums, and more.
SEO | Apr 19
Belynda Cianci on February 2, 2021 • 27 minute read
CPC and lead acquisition costs are going up every day, at the same time budgets are getting leaner all around.
If you’re watching every dollar in your marketing budget, the uncertain playing field of Facebook Ads might make ad spend feel like a risky proposition.
However, given the big potential to reach a large and ready audience of buyers and brand evangelists who live on the platform, it still pays to have a great Facebook Ad strategy that puts at least some portion of your overall marketing budget to work earning new eyeballs. But what strategies and practices can give you confidence in your spend and measurable results?
We asked over 50 experts to give our readers their best tips to achieve great ad conversion results on a smaller budget.
When it comes to advertising on Facebook, several factors directly or indirectly influence the cost of your Facebook Ads, so below, we’ve compiled a list of things to bear in mind, to ensure your costs stay low.
The way your target audience reacts when they’re shown your ad will determine the cost of your ad. If they engage with your ad by liking, commenting, or sharing, that is a good indicator that your ad is relevant and useful to them. As such, Facebook will reward your ad with lower costs. On the flip side, if more people click on “I don’t want to see this ad” for whatever reason, you’ll be charged higher for this ad.
Not all ad placements are created equal, therefore, showing your ads in certain places might cost more. Some of the places where your ad can be shown include Facebook and Instagram feed, Instagram stories, Facebook messenger, Facebook stories, in-stream video, and so on.
Certain types of audiences cost more to target than others, especially when they are in high demand by other advertisers.
Depending on what time of the year you choose to run your ad campaign, it might cost you more due to an increase in the number of advertisers (competitors) targeting the same audience. This is true for peak periods such as Christmas, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving, and so on.
Depending on the objective you choose when creating your ad campaign, you might have to pay more, as your objective controls your bidding and optimization options. Generally, objectives are grouped into three large categories (awareness, consideration, and conversion).
When we asked our respondents to tell us the key areas they focus on when developing campaigns and marketing policies. They came back to us with a wealth of information that will be actionable whether you’re new to Facebook marketing, or a seasoned pro looking to stretch your ad spend further.
Click on a section above to get advice in a specific area, or scroll through to get every valuable idea offered up by our community of Facebook ad spend experts.
Split Testing, also known as A/B testing, is a way to examine the potential results of an ad using an initial small ad spend, allowing you to examine the results without breaking the bank.
Jacob Landis-Eigsti of Jacob LE takes a specific approach where he split tests three different headlines, sales copy, and images with a $5 a day budget: “After five days, I turn off the ads that aren’t performing well. The last small campaign I did had a $500 budget. We tested four audiences with two different ads for five days, using $200 of our budget. We found two ads that performed well and used the remainder of the budget to keep them running. Had we not found any that performed as we wanted, we would have tested different audiences or messages.”
The number of parameters tested varies, according to the budget and time constraints. Jackie Kossoff of Jackie Kossoff – Marketing & Design says, “I start by testing four elements with each of my clients’ accounts: audience targeting, ad copy/visuals, call-to-action, and landing page/follow-up collateral. Once these elements have been tested, we are able to determine the cost-per-result and better understand how to make the most of any budget–no matter how small.
Furthermore, I think it is key to understand that the term ‘small budget’ means something different in each industry, as well as to each individual. As an ads manager, it is my role to provide recommendations for the budget based on my clients’ goals, industry averages, and previous ad performance.”
Alistair Dodds of Ever Increasing Circles also prefers to keep testing spend small, in order to preserve the lion’s share of ad spend on winning ads. “You can quickly learn whether creative, messaging, and audience match and pull budget early before wasting any more. Even with $10 a day you can quickly determine the right audience in a matter of days.”
What testing strategy is employed largely depends upon the goals of the client on a small budget, according to Ben Cook of JC Social Media. One is to “Run a broad ‘page like’ campaign in order to swell the page likes and influence. Likes can be secured for as little as 1-10 cents each depending on the audience.” Alternatively, Cook suggests users “Run a variety of ‘top of the funnel’ ads aiming for reach and brand awareness.”
“With some ads, such as engaging customer testimonials,” says Cook, “brands may draw users in and generate web traffic. It will take some trial and error but you may be able to get the best value CPC this way.”
Editor’s Note: Want to better understand how your community and potential customers are engaging with your ads? Use the Facebook Pages & Facebook Ads: Engagement Summary dashboard to gain insights into your reach and campaign performance.
Many of our experts believe that Facebook isn’t the destination, but rather part of the journey, using paid ads as a means to move an audience off the platform, and into their website and funnel.
While there are a few ways to achieve this, Michael Dinich of The Sweepstakes Mix suggests giving something valuable to audiences to get them in the door. ”One of the best ways to leverage a small budget on Facebook to host a viral sweepstake or giveaway. Facebook provides a very limited window to try and make a sale,” explains Dinich, “so while you may get a lot of impressions inexpensively it can be hard to make a conversion or sale.”
“With viral sweepstakes, you move away from direct selling on Facebook, and instead, encourage Facebook users a chance to win a prize in exchange for joining your email list and following your social media channels.” This is the real prize in ads, according to Dinich, “Once users join your email lists you can drip on them over time and continue to follow up with them. We have found that by switching from a direct offer on Facebook to sweepstakes, we have cut CPC in half. Additionally, our organic traffic and social media following has grown significantly.”
Dinich adds, “A common worry about running sweepstakes is that some of the entrants might only be in it for the prize; however, Facebook’s ability to target your preferred demographics means only people who are likely interested will see your offer.”
Facebook ads can be used to provide an off-ramp to learn more, according to Steve Yanor of Sky Alphabet Social Media. “One of the best options to maximize your budget that most casual advertisers don’t know about is to run a Facebook or Instagram campaign that includes a button such as ‘Learn More’ that leads to a web page.”
“If — and this is important if — you are using an agency facebook ad account (aka ads manager) you can select ‘pay per click’ rather than pay per impression.” As Yanor explains, “With the agency ads manager account, you should already have a pre-built or custom audience selected, so you are only paying for clicks rather than impressions. This saves a lot of money because facebook is showing ads to your desired audience anyway.”
Angelle Erickson of Fisher Unitech also uses ads to share relevant and useful information with an audience. “I get the best results by using my ad budget for traffic and lead generation. For my company sharing interesting and informative blog articles (like tips and tricks or best practices) not only brings more traffic to our website, but it also offers the opportunity to share, engage with actions within the blog ultimately increasing our subscriber rate.”
“For our company,” says Erickson, “impressions aren’t everything, I’d rather focus on bringing people to the site and sharing an article.”
If you don’t know where you’re headed, it’s a lot harder to get there, according to the wisdom of several of our experts. They offered tips and thoughts on goal-setting as a means of making sure your ad spend lands in the right place, for the right purpose.
Lauren Clawson of Portent says, “Use an objective that is as closely tied to sales as possible. If there are lead gen forms on the page, use a campaign optimized towards conversions instead of landing page views. Avoid the desire to narrow or segment your target audience too much. Follow Facebook best practices around creative and format assets to be mobile-first.”
Grace Weselak of Advantix Digital suggests looking to your KPIs for guidance on ad approach, focusing on one that “that matters most to your business, and choosing a campaign objective that will most effectively achieve it.” Says Weselak, “Trying to spread an already small budget too thin is less efficient because it reduces the chances that each campaign or ad set will be able to drive enough conversions to leave the learning phase and begin serving ads more efficiently.”
Alan Gruntz of BarkleyREI also recommends “knowing what you want to get out of a Facebook campaign. If it’s exposure, be sure to choose the reach objective. This ensures your ads will be seen by as many people as possible.” However, says Gruntz, “If you’re looking for conversions or leads, the biggest thing is targeting.”
“To make a small budget work you need to be sure that the leads you’re getting through Facebook are valuable. The CPM & CPC might be a bit higher with tighter targeting constraints, but if you’re hitting the exact persona you want it’s worth it.”
The overwhelming majority of experts we approached pointed to retargeting as the best way to drive conversion rates with a small budget. Retargeting works by observing user behaviors on your site or social media platforms, and serving those who have visited with hyper-relevant ads elsewhere in their online experience. If you’ve ever searched for a product on Amazon for consideration, and had that item pop up in a blog’s ad space, you’ve seen the power of retargeting first-hand.
Andrew Hubbard of Hubbard Digital Pty. Ltd says that retargeting helps advertisers connect with “your website visitors, people who are engaging with you on Facebook and Instagram, your email list, and people watching your videos on Facebook. It also means retargeting people who visit your product pages and checkout pages but haven’t purchased yet with relevant, timely ads. This is the lowest cost, highest ROI advertising you can do.
Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers achieves this through Facebook Pixel. Aufray uses the tool to capture more opportunities with prospects “People seeing your ads are people who already went to your site, already know your brand and, therefore, have more chance to convert.”
“We have analyzed millions of dollars of ad spent,” says Paul Fairbrother of AdEspresso, “to produce an ebook with actual costs.” Fairbrother recommends that “to get the most out of a small budget, focus on custom audiences and retargeting as these have by far the highest ROI.”
Jeromy Sonne of Moonshine Marketing says, “With a very small budget your best bet is some combination of:
As Sonne explains, “Small budgets don’t lend themselves to conversion campaigns as Facebook needs a lot of data, and thus money, to optimize properly. It’s instead advisable to focus on getting people to consume your content instead and building fans and followers rather than going straight away for the sale.”
The barrier in ad-spend is twofold, according to Andres Tovar of Noetic Marketer. “The critical thing to remember with Facebook Ads is that it is a programmatic system. This means that the cost to advertise will depend on your location, audience, industry, and other factors that we may never understand as it is part of Facebook’s algorithm. Since the platform utilizes a bidding system, the cost is heavily influenced by supply and demand. Having said this, many times, you’re stuck with the high prices if you can only advertise in specific locations.”
“One big mistake Facebook advertisers make is that they focus on cold traffic (top of the funnel). But, if you have a small budget, these are the most expensive ads to run. Always concentrate on retargeting first – these are individuals who have already engaged with your brand, and these types of ads should be giving you the most ROI.” Tovar outlines for us the four audiences that users should be retargeting with Facebook Ads. “Website visitors, people who engage with your Facebook page, people who engage with your Instagram page, and email lists of your past clients to get them to purchase again. These are the most straightforward wins with Facebook Ads.”
Editor’s Note: Need to see the finer points of your Facebook Ads and Google Ads campaigns to understand your ROI and course-correct your spend? Check out the Facebook Ads & Google Ads dashboard to get the best data from both platforms in one place.
Like its companion strategy, retargeting, target custom audiences aims to bring the most relevant ads to the right audiences. Good targeting using one or more criteria (such as age, gender, geographic location, etc.) increases the likelihood that your audience will be motivated and able to convert.
Peter Horvath of Sole Trader says that with a small budget, “First, I’d aim to find the best audience for my product/service, based on interests.” Some testing guidelines Horvath recommends are “At least $5 per interest doing conversions.” Though Horvath says this is “ likely a bit upper-funnel with this daily spend, if we can talk about 10+, then purchase optimized for sure.”
“Based on two days of data,” Horvath continues, “I’d try to evaluate which has potential, and which not. Then I would go forward with the one that has potential, trying to collect at least three to four interests that are working. Then, I’d concentrate on those to find the perfect creative combination. Lack of budget makes it harder to find the best combinations, but it is absolutely doable.”
When marketing products on Facebook using paid ads, the success “really depends on what your offer is” according to Marty Spargo of SEO is Life. “If you’re trying to sell a $900 course you aren’t going to get many conversions from an audience that has never seen you before, but if you’re offering $900 of value and only asking $10 for it you are likely to get a lot of conversions.”
Explains Spargo, “In the first case, you might spend hundreds of dollars without getting a single conversion, whereas in the second case, you might get conversions for just a couple of dollars.” It comes down to the quality of an offer, as well. “In general, you need to make sure that you are reaching the right audience with the right ads, which matches the landing page and has a strong call to action with a great value proposition. That’s the key to Facebook Ads success.”
Ads aren’t always a numbers game, either, suggests Bernard May of National Positions. “It is better to have a highly targeted campaign and to focus on quality rather than quantity. If your budget is limited (or not) the most powerful thing you can do is get to know your audience and target them appropriately.” Like Fonseca, May believes in strong content at any budget. “Make sure your ad creatives stand out. If you don’t have the budget for a designer, use a platform like Canva to build some visually stunning ads – for free.”
Though McKinzie Pack of ARES PRISM suggests waiting for bigger ad spend opportunities (even if you have to save for it. “If you MUST spend $100 on Facebook ads, use it to create a hyper-targeted ad in Facebook’s Power Editor.”
The reason McKinzie recommends waiting is that “unfortunately for marketers, if you want your Facebook followers to see what you post, you have to spend money.” As McKinzie explains, “Facebook is frustrating for organizations because they spend time and effort to organically build up their Facebook page to hundreds or even thousands of followers, only to have a minuscule amount of those followers (3% or less) organically see what they post on the platform.” McKinzie cautions, “Do not create Facebook ads to increase the number of Facebook page likes/followers, because you’ll end up paying twice– once to acquire those page likes and again to reach those followers afterward.”
Adam Riemer of Adam Riemer Marketing, LLC reminds us that hyper-targeting “does not mean just selecting demographics.” Reimer says, “It means combining in interests and using the must include, must not include, and other items for job titles, interests, and affinities.”
Dan Young of Loud Digital offers us a specific data point of targeting that can increase results. “If money is tight, you should focus… a highly defined audience such as a lookalike of highest-spending purchasers.”
And who you leave out is just as important as who you bring in, says Kevin Fabisiak of Big Sea. “You can also exclude users you know fall outside of your target audience so you don’t waste money on valueless clicks and impressions.” Mike Lewis of Active Web Group agrees that conserving the budget is tricky but imperative, recommending users “target custom audiences, like existing Email Contacts or Engaged Followers.” Taking this approach says Lewis, “ensures less of your ad budget is wasted.”
“Think about the demographics that you hope to reach and then plan accordingly, “says Alexandra Zamolo of Beekeeper, offering some encouragement along with this advice: “With a small budget, you can still achieve results.”
Colette Nataf of Lightning AI says, “The strategy is different depending on the industry/client. We optimize toward leads and our AI helps find your perfect audience immediately, so we don’t waste so many dollars testing manually.”
Anthony Kaylor of Laire Group Marketing suggests users “Prioritize retargeting and lookalike audiences from custom sources, such as customer lists, lead submissions and website interactions.” Also, Kaylor recommends that users “Structure campaigns around historical data to optimize towards specific demographics, locations, and placements (Desktop vs Mobile).”
“Focus your ad targeting on News Feed Ads, versus Automatic Placements (most of which do not perform nearly as well). Start with a small budget and scale up slowly as you test various audiences and ad copy, until you identify what provides the most value for your spend. Base your decisions regarding structure and optimization on data, not opinion.”
Harry Gandia of Igniting Movement observes that simply throwing money at a campaign won’t guarantee results. “Boosting a post isn’t enough to get the most out of Facebook Ads. You need to go in and make sure that you are targeting an audience that will show interest in the product that you are pitching them. How do you learn? Test. Test. Test.”
Alexander Porter of Search It Local took the look at the numbers to surface the reasons why. “Facebook Ads represent a proven way for small businesses to generate exposure and drive sales – even with relatively small budgets. Despite this, the cost of Facebook Ads is rising. In 2005, the average CPC across all industries was $0.52. In 2019, the average CPC across all industries has risen to $3.82.”
Those types of numbers make effective marketing strategies vital. Says Porter, “At Search It Local we make the most of smaller Facebook Ad budgets by constantly experimenting. We typically start with tight targeting for direct response goals. Then expand to broad targeting focusing on branding. This is equivalent to sending out flyers to a known market, and then posting a billboard to generate exposure. By working from one target to the other we create a sweeping field of data to frame our changes going forward.
“Case in point,” explains Porter, “we experimented with the optimization settings for a recent small business client. There was no change in ad text. All we experimented with was optimizing for ad delivery — Specifically, link clicks overreach. Prior to this change, we were seeing three clicks a day for roughly $7 CPC. Following this, we saw a marked improvement to 10 clicks a day for roughly $2 CPC.”
“So while smaller Facebook ad budgets can make it difficult to compete with others who have higher Facebook Ad budgets, here are some key takeaways from our experiments:
Many of our experts advised our readers to leave the emotions and second-guessing out of the equation and simply follow the data. Taking an objective look at the numbers can in many cases give you all the guidance you’ll need to steer your ad conversion rates upward. Re-using and improving the data you already have can help you get the extra mileage required to make the most of your ad spend.
Josh Krakauer of Sculpt advises users with smaller budgets to “limit testing too many elements at once. The number of attributes you can test is relative to your total budget. Facebook Ads perform best when there’s enough budget for your ad to learn and optimize.”
“If time allows,” recommends Krakauer, “consider optimizing for your top-performing offer/angle, audience, and ad creative format in that order. If you try to test them all simultaneously you may struggle to learn what’s working and apply it to future campaigns.”
Charlie Patel of Ampfluence says, “The best method to use when you have a small budget is to make the most out of your existing data. For example, instead of spending a lot on low Return On Advertisement Spending (ROAS), cold/direct campaigns, I recommend tackling the low hanging fruit first through retargeting to understand what resonates with your target audience.”
Where to begin? Patel says, “In short, start with retargeting ads! There are so many audiences one can potentially retarget – page engagement/likes, video viewers, website visitors, abandoned cart, opt-ins, etc. This strategy is most beneficial for clients who are new to Facebook ads or have a limited budget.”
One example Patel provides, “If you’re really tight on the ad budget, your ad strategy should be highly targeted and intentional. For example, small businesses may post a handful of videos back-to-back and run a video views campaign objective. Thereafter, they can segregate the top video viewers and direct them to specific offers or target them with another qualifying video ad. The more creative small businesses are towards targeting their audience, the more likely to close sales.”
Jeremy Ong of HUSTLR agrees, choosing to hone in on the most effective audience through what Ong dubs “laser marketing.”
“I use this strategy for facebook ads and generate 55-65% leads. The biggest mistake small business owners make is they do not make the best use of Facebook targeting features including age, gender, location, and, most important, interests. By doing so, they end up targeting the broad audience, which does not generate the leads.”
Ong illustrates the method perfectly with a sporting analogy:
“If you have created an ad for cricket-related products, will it be okay only to target people who follow a well-known batsman page? No, it’s the wrong approach because our goal is to focus “die-hard fans” of cricket, not the general ones. Most of the people could know the well-known batsman, but only the cricket freaks would know and explore the one less known to the public. So, it is good to target the followers of the less known batsman. As chances are, his followers are die-hard followers of cricket as well. This approach will generate more leads and, ultimately, more revenue.”
Stephen Fiser of Central Standard Technologies recommends using the data to establish the correct expectations for your campaigns. “The most important thing to do when you have a small budget is to find benchmarks for your niche or industry. If your budget is small, it likely means that you are a beginner, and you won’t know what works and what doesn’t. If the money is coming out of your own pocket, you’re going to be wrestling with the fear of messing up and losing money. Having a sense of what a good result looks like can help you get past that.”
Besides using good creative and copy, Lanny Heiz of BEE Inbound recommends advertisers be bold and follow the data in seeing what works, likening it to evolution. “Throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks is the ONLY way to figure out a problem whose complexity is beyond comprehension. It’s exactly what nature does with natural selection and capitalism with businesses.
The trick is not getting it right in the first draft but filtering out the 580 variations that don’t work and focus on the remaining 20 and iterate with them. It’s about the facts, not the feelings. 99% of the time the combination I thought would be the winning one ended up being shit. But there’s no point in being attached to it. Quality is up to the market, not me or my creative team.”
Says Heiz, “The ads are not the end but the beginning. Let’s say you set up the process for conversion and get leads? What’s next? If you don’t have a clear process after you got the conversion then, even the best FB ads won’t drive revenue. This is actually the biggest mistake I see. The funnel leads to be crystal clear and ideally set up in a straightforward way in order to be scalable.”
Theresa Keller of Delta Marketing Group cautions us to go where you’re sure the people are in terms of marketing. “Generally, use Facebook ads to target your buyer persona(s) who are most on the platform. Don’t waste time and money creating ads for an audience that is more active on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn. Then, run some time tests to see when ads perform best. That will help you most effectively make the most out of a small budget.”
Sanya Aru of MakeWebBetter believes the ad itself isn’t the prime mover, but rather the data they yield. “Facebook Ads are more about collecting data and running that data through various tests. It also depends on multiple factors, such as the objective of your campaign, demographics of the audience you are targeting, and so on.” Aru recommends meeting a certain threshold in spend. “One should go with a minimum budget of $500, and aim to optimize CPC as per their campaign objective.”
Reverse engineering is one way Mitch Hills of Mastered Marketing approaches the predicament of ad spend. “What I find useful is to decide how much you have to spend, and work backward. Basically, creating a plan to get the most bang for your buck. The challenge for new marketers is knowing… is it working? Is lots of reach good? Is a high clickthrough rate useful? Who knows? The answer comes down to your goal and the Cost Per RESULT.”
“For example,” Hills says, “If you want to generate leads, the only metric that matters is how much it costs to generate a lead. If you want website traffic, the only metric that matters is cost per click.”
“’How do I know if it’s working’ completely depends on knowing your numbers,” Hills explains. “For example, if you know that a customer is worth $1000, you can spend up to $500 to acquire a customer and double your money (so anything under that would be good). You might also know that five out of 10 leads will convert into a customer, allowing you to figure out how much you are comfortable spending per lead. The same thing applies to eCommerce.” Therefore, suggests Hills, “‘How much should you spend?’ completely depends on your budget and your goal. E.G if it costs $50 for a lead and you want 10 leads a week, you’d spend $500 a week.”
Editor’s Note: If you need to be sure the dollars you’re putting in are creating earnings in your Facebook ad campaigns, use the Audience Building & Brand Awareness dashboard to understand the costs and returns in your efforts.
When you’re tight on money, it makes a lot of sense to make the most of what you have. In the case of ads, this may mean content, copy, and creative. Keith Kakadia of Sociallyin says, “A few things you can do would be repurposing top-performing content, targeting lookalike audiences, and regularly optimizing my ad strategy. Dallin Hatch of Womply agrees. “For us, we’re able to make the most out of a small budget by only boosting our best performing content while constantly improving market segment targeting.
Tate Olson of The Influencer Academy suggests making the right content for the purpose of small-budget stretching and breaking the ice with audiences. “The best method I have tested to stretch a small budget is to make short, one-minute videos that relate who you are and why you do what you do. After that re-target them with another ad that explains your product/service more. It will always be cheaper to run ads to people who are familiar with you, and it also increases conversions.”
To see how well these ads might perform, Domenick Delbuco of Puzzles Marketing Systems uses a certain metric in decision-making. “We look at the Relevancy score to ensure that it’s at least an 8. If you don’t know your numbers, you cannot scale, so we look at the clicks vs unique views vs conversions. From there, we determine where there is a leak if there is any. Ad copy and audiences will be tweaked until our conversion rate is looking great!”
Spreading your efforts can be effective if doing so in a strategic way. Paul Romancsak of Flipsnack suggests taking this approach as follows. “We make the most out of our Facebook Ads budget by diversifying the campaign types we run on the platform. We create both acquisition and retargeting campaigns.
For acquisition, we use lookalike audiences and intersections of custom audiences. Our ads are mainly in-feed ads for Facebook or in-feed videos and stories for Instagram. Our Facebook Ads strategy is equally oriented for brand awareness and website conversions expressed in sign-ups and purchases.”
Taking targeted actions within your Facebook ad campaigns can go a long way to helping advertisers with smaller budgets gain traction and make the most out of every ad dollar. These tools and tips can be the starting point for future campaigns funded by early successes, leading to a virtuous circle of conversion and ad spend that can fuel business growth in short order.
SEO | Apr 19
Marketing | Apr 16
Metrics & Chill Podcast | Apr 16