I recently wrote an article called “Is Google Ads Right for Your Business?” The answer I gave was a definite “maybe.” When it comes to Meta Ads, I’ll upgrade the answer to “probably.” Does that mean I prefer Meta Ads to Google Ads? No. In fact, I find Meta Ads management to be more frustrating and less user-friendly. But I can’t deny the value Meta Ads offers for reaching a large audience at a reasonable cost. For some types of businesses, Google search ads are prohibitively expensive because there is an ad auction based on keywords and click costs. Competition in each niche raises the cost per click for everyone bidding – and that competition can be fierce. Meta Ads involves a different type of system, where businesses aren’t competing directly with their rivals. (YouTube ads – offered by Google – offers a way to get broad exposure at a low cost, though, in a way that’s more like Meta Ads.)

Exposure on Google search can be wonderful, but it’s also more exclusive. Meta is more inclusive, where a budget of $1 per day allows your ads to be seen. There aren’t many other ad platforms that have the audience numbers, engagement levels, and accessibility of Meta Ads. In fact, can you name one? YouTube and TikTok are impressive, but still lag by comparison.

What Meta Ads offers (In a nutshell)

In a nutshell, Meta Ads allows for your ads to be seen around (mostly) user-generated content online, such as posts from your friends and family members, merchandise for sale on Marketplace, videos, and more. Normally, advertisers get charged by impression (appearance of the ad). In some cases, charges can be by click or video view, but paying by impression is the default method. So, from a high-level perspective, Meta sells impressions like McDonalds sells hamburgers; That’s their core business.

Although their business is selling impressions, there is a lot of sophistication applied to help businesses gain benefits from those impressions. When you create a new campaign, the first question you need to answer is, “What is your objective?” There are six choices for objective: awareness, traffic, engagement, leads, sales, and app promotion. When you make your selection for the objective, you are setting a general direction – not choosing a specific outcome. This gets a bit confusing, but the objective is like a theme: It narrows the other setup options for the chosen theme. It’s possible to get to the same end-point from different objectives. For example, if you want to generate phone calls to your business from ads, you could choose sales, traffic, leads, or engagement as the objective. Then (in the ad set settings) you would choose the optimization setting, aka “performance goal,” of Calls.

“Results” and the power-engine of the system

The real power-engine of the system lies in the performance goal (aka optimization) function. This is where you select the specific “result” you want to achieve, such as phone calls, website sales, leads through Messenger, or video views, among other options. You’ll see the gains of your performance goal in the all-important “results” column in Ads Manager. If your performance goal is landing page views, the number of landing page views will show in the results column; If your performance goal is website add-to-cart actions, the number of website add-to-carts will show in the results column, etc. 

When it comes to achieving your performance goal, a tremendous amount of sophistication is involved. Meta Ads will use all its data along with machine learning technology to try to get “results.” Not only will it learn as it goes from your own campaign; it will also apply ALL knowledge from ALL campaigns from ALL advertisers in its history. This will affect where the impressions get seen, and by whom. For example, the system might know that parents of toddlers tend to watch more Instagram videos on certain days of the week. Or that people who like motorcycles tend to shop on Marketplace early in the morning. These are simplified examples, but the point is that Meta collects information on its users, such as interests and behaviors. Then it uses that information to make advertiser performance goal actions more likely by knowing who to deliver the ads to, where, and when.

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General Strategy

Focusing on awareness first is a good approach because if people aren’t aware of what you’re offering they won’t become customers. It helps to start thinking in terms of simple communication for awareness. Having an “I want to make them buy” attitude isn’t helpful. You can’t make them buy. You need to create awareness and (hopefully) attract interest first. Most advertisers should adopt this general strategy:

  1. Create awareness to attract interest
  2. Follow up with those who showed interest with remarketing

That doesn’t mean you need to choose the Awareness objective in campaign setup (which is one of the six options). It just means that if you’re advertising to a cold audience (people who haven’t heard of your business before), your ad will serve as an introduction, no matter which objective or performance goal you choose. The objective and performance goal relate to what action you’d like them to take if they are interested, which could be watching a video, clicking a call button, or adding items to cart on your website. The performance goal also affects how you might be able to follow up with them. Custom audiences (which I’ll explain more about later) are audiences of people who engaged somehow with your business in the past. Advertising to those people again – which is called “remarketing” – is probably the best strategy you could ever employ. It focuses on the people who are most likely to become customers, and it’s very inexpensive.

Campaign objectives, performance goals, and custom audiences

Since remarketing should probably be a core of your strategy, you’ll want to keep that in mind as you choose your performance goal. You might want to think of your performance goal as a litmus test to gauge true interest. That means asking questions like:

  • Does a click on my ad indicate true interest in my product/ service/ brand?
  • Does a video view indicate true interest in my product/ service/ brand?
  • Does viewing an Instant Experience indicate true interest in my product/ service/ brand?
  • Does viewing a particular page on my website indicate true interest in my product/ service/ brand?

Custom audiences can be created based on many different interactions, and deciding which type(s) of interactions to use for a remarketing litmus test is a complicated subject that I won’t go into here. I will offer this warning, though: Be wary. The performance goal power-engine is fierce, but it’s single-minded for results volume, not quality. For example, if you choose link clicks as the performance goal, it will show your ad to people and in places that are most likely to get clicks – even if the clicks are accidental. Quality is not considered!

Targeting

When it comes to targeting your ads, keep in mind that the system will be focused on delivering your performance goal/ optimization selection, whether you give it further targeting instructions or not. For example, if you choose “leads through Messenger” as your performance goal, the system will target individuals who it thinks are most likely to become a lead through Messenger. Other targeting you add can serve as limiters, though. For example, you can choose a pre-built custom audience that you want the ads shown to, such as a remarketing audience of people who’ve been to your website. Or you can indicate the location area(s), age bracket(s), or gender(s) than you want the ads served to. You can also choose “detailed targeting” options, which include interests or behaviors that users have shown to have. Device type is another limiter you can specify. For example, you can choose to only show your ads on Android phones, or only on desktop computers.

Google vs. Meta Webinar on May 29th, 7 pm

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Wednesday, May 29th, 7 pm

Webinar on Zoom -- free

Subject: Google vs. Meta for Marketing

Measuring Success

Measuring success ranges from very simple to very complicated to nearly impossible. It depends on what you’re trying to track. If you’re trying to get Messenger conversations from people who view your ads, it’s simpler to gauge results. All activity takes place in Meta technologies, so no extra configuration is needed. If you’re trying to track conversions on your website or mobile app, code configurations must be employed with the Meta pixel or CAPI (conversions API). That’s so that actions taken after ad views can be reported back to the Meta Ads system. If you have a long sales funnel where multiple touch points might be involved before a sale, it’s more difficult to gauge success. For example, a customer might have seen your ad on Meta twenty times, which created awareness and convinced them to buy. But when it came to buying, they simply Googled the product name and purchased from that entry point. In this case, all attribution credit could be given to a Google organic link, robbing the Meta ad of all its due credit.

In Closing

Not all businesses are in the position of needing more exposure. But if yours is, Meta Ads offers an array of interesting options for exposure at a reasonable cost. In general, it’s more inclusive and flexible than Google Ads. With a few sentences of text, an attractive image or video, a call-to-action button, and other possible ad components, you can get the message out about your great products or services. If growth is your goal, that’s a good start.