I’ve been asked if Facebook ads for small businesses (and bloggers) are a smart choice. Let me just say this…
Facebook ad campaigns are not for beginner bloggers.
Facebook ad campaigns are usually not for intermediate bloggers.
And even for “advanced” bloggers, profitably creating, managing and optimizing an ad campaign can be challenging.
Using Facebook ads for the first time is a lot like beginning your blogging journey. You start out all googly-eyed. You think you’re going to drive insane traffic, triple your income and finally live that laptop lifestyle. Then you realize it’s a lot harder than you had anticipated. It turns out you don’t just “go viral” overnight, and you’re bleeding money on ad spend.
Fortunately, much like blogging, Facebook ads can be conquered. It just requires sacrificing your firstborn, all of your free time, and what little sanity you have left.
Okay, so maybe not your firstborn.
But it will require an extreme attention to detail, a whole lot of patience, A/
B/C/D…/Z testing, a reasonable budget for ad spend, and a clear recognition of what your goals are.
Now, if in some sort of sick and twisted way, this all sounds fun to you — like it is for me — then buckle up boys and girls ’cause you’re not in Kansas anymore. ?
Are Facebook ads for small businesses a good idea?
Not everyone has the funding required to hire out an agency to run their Facebook ad account. For many bloggers and solopreneurs, spending any money at all on advertising is out of the question.
But the truth is, even for those of you that do have room in the budget for advertising, your money may be better spent elsewhere. The fact of the matter is that some business models are better positioned to get a good return on ad spend than others.
Businesses that are a good fit for Facebook ads
Have a local small business with clear knowledge of what client acquisition cost is worth to you?
Facebook ads are for you.
Have a high-priced product that you know just needs extra eyes on it, because it’s going to sell itself?
Facebook ads are for you.
Stephan over at JustLegal shows just how powerful lead generation can be for a high-priced product or service.
In the article, he quickly shows how an effective campaign he ran generated 19 new intakes for his local law firm at $30.58 per acquisition — or about $600 in total spend. He doesn’t actually get into how much each client is worth, but I think we can safely assume that acquiring a new client for under $31 a pop is an absolute steal.
So what businesses are a good fit, you may ask?
Think local gyms, law firms taking on new clients, and health clinics looking for new patients. You have people with extreme pain points, perhaps literally, needing help and you’re offering them that solution.
If your business falls under any of the categories below, you’ll have an easier time converting on your ad spend:
On a total side note, if you’ve dabbled with Facebook ads before, love them, and want to make a few hundred extra bucks a month running campaigns for these exact types of businesses, Bobby Hoyt at Millennial Money Man (M$M) has an amazing and reasonably-priced course that teaches people how to do exactly this.
There’s a reason his course teaches people how to target users for high-converting, local small businesses. They’re easy-to-acquire clients that students like you can convert given the proper training. That’s more than I’m going to get into in this article but something Bobby’s course covers in great detail.
Businesses that may NOT be a great fit for Facebook ads
You can use Facebook for small business marketing. However, that doesn’t mean ever small business is a good fit.
There are many variables at play here but if your main goal is to make a profit (versus something like general brand awareness), then having no or very low-priced products will make it more difficult, although not impossible, to generate profit from a Facebook ad campaign.
Ironically, this puts the majority of bloggers in a tight spot because their business models are often predicated on things like affiliate marketing where there are tons of hoops to jump through in order to create a converting client. Even for those of you that do have digital (or physical) products to sell, acquiring the knowledge to develop a profitable sales funnel via an ad campaign is no easy task.
Furthermore, reaching your ideal client (given you know what your ideal client looks like) is complicated by the fact that they don’t always have a uniform identity for you to target with an ad campaign.
For example, many of the people reading this blog don’t have high-ticket items to sell. They rely on marketing other companies’ products, for which they receive a commission. For people who blog about blogging, as we do on BTOP, this often means referring readers to high(er) ticket items like hosting packages.
So even if you were able to develop a crazy engaging creative (think 10+% CTR) to a particular blog post or freebie page, and your ridiculously well-optimized landing page converts at 25% or more, you still fall victim to the fact that your funnel is only as good as HostGator’s (or any other hosting providers) user interface. Too many steps, too many lost clients (K.I.S.S. y’all).
If you fall under any of the below categories, you may have a hard time converting sales with Facebook ads. Therefore, your money may be better spent elsewhere:
Again, this isn’t to say you can’t make money with these sorts of models, but it will be more difficult to do so.
Can affiliate marketers make money with Facebook ads?
Some bloggers in the personal finance/business niche, such as Deacon Hayes at Well Kept Wallet, Bobby again at M$M, and ourselves, are using ad campaigns to drive traffic to specific, affiliate-oriented articles (at very small positive ROIs) to offset ad costs, break even, and/or even turn a profit on ad spend. We do this all while leveraging the ad spend to grow our Facebook pages at the same time.
The nuts and bolts of it are:
- Determine the average gross revenue per unique pageview (to a particular landing page or blog article)
- Understand that not all audiences are the same (i.e. Google users, Pinterest, and Facebook users all convert at different rates, so a pageview isn’t merely a pageview).
- Drive traffic cheaper than that gross revenue/click
That’s a mass-generalization of what all is entailed. However, if you can generate clicks at less than your gross revenue/click, then you can theoretically drive traffic and grow your Facebook page at no cost to you.
Unfortunately, audience sizing, ad frequency, competition, and budget all bring us back down to Earth at some point or another. It does go to show, however, that it is at least possible to turn a profit on ad spend even without promoting your own digital product.
The monster differentiating factor between these guys and everyone else is that they’ve addressed every single aspect of the process. Without doing that, you’re going to burn more money than you can ever imagine on Facebook ads.
How bloggers can use Facebook marketing for growth
I wrote this post with our readers in mind. That said, I’m going to focus on the two ways that most bloggers in our niche make money with ads — creating and selling digital products and driving traffic to affiliate-laden articles.
1. Selling a digital product
I’m not going to get into all the nuances of creating a profitable sales funnel as there is so much to it, but potential advertisers need to understand a couple things:
1) You need to have an extremely clear vision of what you’re trying to accomplish.
2) Setting realistic goals is super important to Facebook advertising.
Beyond that, you only have to account for the fact that there are extremely important steps at every single point in setting up the campaign and if you don’t generally get them right…bye bye, ad spend.
Remember when I said Facebook ads are not for beginner bloggers, they’re usually not for intermediate bloggers, and that even advanced bloggers struggle with them?
Yeah, I meant it.
Although you really can make money with ads, throwing gobs of cash at them without doing your homework first is budget suicide.
Further complicating things is the fact that bloggers don’t often think about the marketing aspect of selling their product until after they’ve already created it. They then throw $100 towards advertising a $200 product with what they think is great targeting and lick their wounds after they don’t sell a single package.
It happens, we’ve all been there. Odds are you messed up a lot along the way, but you definitely shot yourself in the foot from the get-go without having the perfect audience.
Building the perfect audience (and targeting them):
Okay, so this time you are wiser. You’re not going to make those same mistakes.
- This time you’re going to determine what your ideal client looks like
- Make sure you have a pixel installed on your website/product page
- Create a custom audience based on traffic identified by the pixel to a specific URL (or maybe even target the followers of a close competitor *gasp*)
- Experiment with look-alike audiences based on that same traffic (if applicable)
- Filter your look-alike audiences based on your demographic information/ideal client
- Experiment with cold lead generation and warm lead generation and learn the difference between them
- Re-target people that have made it further down your funnel because they’re literally oozing money out of their pockets
- Did I mention you need a pixel for all this?
There’s a lot to think about, but successful Facebook marketers have at least a decent understanding of most of it.
Furthermore, you need to understand that if your product is only applicable to 250,000 humans, you have a natural ceiling that you’ll inevitably reach. Adding to the fun is the fact that a zillion other companies are targeting those same 250,000 humans with products of their own.
Be reasonable. Understand that there will be limitations as to how much you can scale your campaign before rising ad costs will no longer make it profitable.
Choosing the right campaign goal:
Let’s say you’re selling a digital product that tips the scales at over $20.00. You’re going to have a whale of a time trying to generate sales from a “targeted” cold audience without some sort of lead gen campaign.
Think about the sales process and understand that it’s going to be very difficult to sell people on a product they’re unfamiliar with unless your cold-traffic targeting is lights-out.
Instead of a traffic or engagement campaign to a sales page, determine an acceptable price-point for lead generation and warm the audience through another method (i.e. free course/email sales funnel).
Creating the perfect creative:
Again, there are 9 billion variables at play here but AdEspresso has some great tips to help you get started with creatives. Not obsessed with tracking how a single variable changes the efficacy of a campaign? Then Facebook ads aren’t for you.
Building the perfect landing page:
Yikes, yet another roadblock in an already complicated process. It just goes to show how each part of the puzzle fits together. Even a small gap in the system will suck up your ad spend.
To help you in the journey of creating a great landing page I’m going to link you to a HubSpot article that has some good landing pages as examples (as opposed to giving you generalities about what constitutes a good landing page).
You’ll also want to do some homework on what specifically contributes to a good landing page. Having a solid user experience with a compelling call-to-action is essential in converting your ad spend into paying clients.
Some additional thoughts to consider:
- Is your product appropriately priced?
- Do you need a campaign to warm clients before they hit your sales page with some sort of value offer (i.e. drive cold traffic to an email funnel and warm them from there)?
- You can have an extremely well-designed landing page, but if a prospective client doesn’t trust you, they’re not going to convert on your high-end offer (i.e. the importance of audience-warming)
- Do you have a separate creative/ad copy for fatigued audiences or people further down your funnel?
2. Driving traffic to affiliate-oriented articles
Your ROI will typically be lower. However, this can be a great way to grow your Facebook page, increase traffic and revenue, and get good exposure.
If you’re in the business and/or personal finance niche and have a Facebook account, odds are you’ve probably seen an ad from Deacon, The Penny Hoarder, Cheap Genius, The-Penny-Pincher, The College Investor or any other like-minded company. Typically they’re all sending traffic to a blog article that contains affiliate-based links selling the products of other companies.
They’re eking out razor-thin (or even slightly negative) ROIs on a massive scale to drive traffic and grow their brands. The better they get at audience targeting, campaign optimization, and creating clean landing pages, the greater profit they can turn. It’s not easy. You’re already working with super thin ROIs. That means you have to get every aspect of the process correct in order to profitably scale.
Hitting that huzzah! moment, where you’re driving $0.03 clicks, is worthless if you’re not generating revenue on a well-designed landing page.
Some helpful tips:
- Build custom audiences (via your pixel) and then create lookalike audiences to reach additional consumers
- Create a streamlined user experience for a single affiliate for hyper-targeted, smaller audiences
- Create a streamlined user experience for an article with multiple affiliates for a larger audience (diversity of choice)
- Eliminate useless clutter on a landing page/anything that distracts your reader (turn off ad networks, eliminate frivolous email opt-ins that aren’t applicable)
- Focus on page speed/on-page quality
- Find affiliates that actually convert cold(ish) traffic relatively well
- Get extremely familiar with sub-IDs and UTM tracking
How it applies to our websites:
We were able to grow our Facebook page at almost exactly break even on our ad spend to our target audience. Most notably, we’ve done this with our newer personal finance website DollarSprout.com and it’s associated Facebook page.
During our launch campaign, we got about 700 hyper-targeted likes per week at basically break even. How? By driving traffic to an affiliate-based article.
I used an engagement campaign to garner a small amount of social proof on an existing ad. Then I turned it off and used a traffic campaign to drive traffic to the article. Even though the campaign was optimized for traffic (relevance score 9, traffic at $0.03-$0.07 click), it also generated a decent # of likes — a nice side-benefit to the campaign.
Now, for what its worth, we tied up about $5,000 in ad spend over the last few months at effectively break even. I won’t complain because we were able to effectively grow our Facebook page, collect emails, and cheaply drive traffic. However, it was a pretty good chunk of change to tie up on a monthly basis — and it’s definitely not something everyone can afford.
Since then, we’ve actually reallocated a lot of that monthly ad spend on an SEO project we’re working on. But now that mass-consumerism associated with the holidays is over we’ll likely ramp up our campaigns again.
That said, users can start experimenting for something much more affordable like $5/day and not tie up gross amounts while you get the hang of things.
3. Creating general awareness and building brand recognition
Some people are 100% okay with taking a loss on ad spend. Ideally, we’d all like to somehow profit from our advertising campaigns. But sometimes the goal is to grow our page or place our brand in the back of clients’ minds.
Even if this is the case, it’s still super important to have crystal clear targeting and a focused goal in mind. Don’t just aimlessly spend money on ads and regret burning through cash after you acquired 3 new Facebook likes and have nothing else to show for it.
At a time when Facebook has publicly stated they’re reducing (and even eliminating) the organic reach of business and news pages, it may be more prudent to focus on a specific product/objective as opposed to running the like-campaigns that were mega popular in the past.
Tying it all together
For anyone interested in Facebook marketing, and for those of you that have perhaps even dabbled in it, you’ve likely heard that having a focused campaign goal is very important.
I can’t drive home that point enough.
If your goal as a blogger is to profitably drive traffic to a blog article that has affiliate links, then take all the necessary steps to do it right.
If you’re at the point in your blogging or solopreneur career where you are considering setting aside a budget for daily ad spend, you’ll thank me a million times over by spending the first part of that budget on learning from someone who knows how to do it. Their wisdom truly will pay for itself 100x times over assuming they’re competent and they’re arming you with the correct tools for the job.
At the end of the day, it’s important to recognize that certain business models have more leeway/room for error in generating a profitable return on ad spend.
If you’re a blogger and trying to generate income via ads and affiliate marketing, just be wary that you need to be proficient in nearly every step in the process to come close to breaking even in your endeavors.
Welcome back to Kansas, folks.