Best Practices for Targeting with Website Custom Audiences

We sat down with Facebook advertising guru, Jon Loomer to dig into creative targeting with website custom audiences. He truly is one of, if not the, very best Facebook advertising experts around. And he gave us some awesome pointers. Let’s see what he had to say!

 
 

DEFINING A WEBSITE CUSTOM AUDIENCE


Before we got into creative targeting, I first asked Jon to explain Website Custom Audiences. 

Jon said the term “custom audience” is something people may be familiar with, especially an email custom audience. Essentially, it’s a list of people who are connected to you in some way, who you are allowed to target with ads on Facebook. So, instead of guessing you can target people who may share a common interest, who are certain age, and who live in this country, etc. A WCA consists of people who already know who you are. They have bought from you before, they subscribe to something, visited your website, etc. You can create a WCA of people who have visited a specific page, a section, or a family of pages on your site, or however you want to do it.  You can also target people who have visited your website in the last 24 hours, in the last week, or even over the last 180 days. 

This is all done with a Facebook pixel, a snippet of code that's on every page of your website. Each time a page of your website is fired, Facebook is notified, and then able to generate audiences based on rules that you create. Jon says it’s his favorite form of targeting for Facebook, and he doesn’t think it gets any better.

 

EMAIL CUSTOM AUDIENCES VS. WCAs

I mentioned that I also love this form of targeting the most, with my second favorite being building custom audiences from targeted emails. Custom audiences can be built from email lists, but again, the big difference is that WCAs are based on actual traffic on different sections of your website. Jon said he likes email custom audiences, but greatly prefers the WCA for a couple of reasons (although I don’t believe he’s only go with WCA, but rather just put it higher on the priority list with regard to budget spends).

  1. First, the email custom audience only matches up to Facebook users about 50% of the time. It's not a 100% match because you're not able to target all of your subscribers or customers, whereas with the pixel on your site, you can get pretty darn close to 100 percent.
  2. Secondly, while an older business is likely to have tons of email addresses, they might not be very valuable. In contrast, WCAs will all be recent. According to Jon, you can pretty much replicate what you would do with an email custom audience (for new emails being collected, not the previous ones already owned) by creating a website custom audience for the thank you page after someone has bought something or opted in.  

 

AUDIENCE SIZE

I asked Jon how big a website custom audience needed to be before it could be used for targeting or retargeting.

Jon said it all depended on what you're going to do with it.

Facebook won't report the number until it's over 20. Though, it still works if it's less than 20 people. So, should you use an audience of 20, 50, or 100 people who have visited any page of your website to sell them something? And are you optimizing for conversion? Those are the kinds of things that won't make much sense with a really small audience. That said, Jon does do things with very small audiences.

Jon recently wrote a blog post on this evergreen campaign he created with various WCAs. He started with anyone who subscribed to a particular email list - and again, this is a WCA built from people who went to the thank you page (in this case, the “thank you for subscribing” page). These people immediately fell into the Facebook campaign, and for the first four days, they would be shown one ad, and for the four days after that, shown another, and so on. He was trying to get people to sign up for a membership, understanding that in order to be added to this audience, they needed to subscribe to a particular PDF, or whatever it was, during the last four days. This ended up being a very small, yet extremely relevant group of people, because they subscribed to something. 

When utilizing evergreen campaigns, bidding still matters. Instead of getting into the weeds, you can read more on bidding strategies here.

When Jon speaks to his one-on-one clients, his first question is always “How much traffic are you getting?” If the answer is “not much,” Jon always emphasizes the importance of increasing traffic. Building up an audience, so you’ll have a large custom audience, means you can go after that group to promote new content, products, or opt ins. 

EVERGREEN CAMPAIGNS

Jon had mentioned evergreen campaigns earlier, so I asked to delve in a bit. I told Jon I thought an evergreen campaign was like an email drip campaign through Facebook. In other words, a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5-step process. I asked Jon if he thought this was accurate way to describe this strategy, and he thought it was. 

For example, the strategy would look something like this: 

  1. Someone opts in for a free PDF  
  2. They fall in to an automated email campaign
  3. They will get a new message every few days
  4. After 20-30 days, that campaign will be over
  5. If members of your audience ever convert, or do the thing you want them to do, they'll fall out of the campaign, and you won't continue to target them. 

The same thing can happen with Facebook, but to do it right but you have to use something like website custom audiences.  

What’s really cool about evergreen campaigns, is that they are based on a duration of time. Once it’s been 12 days, 24 days, or 30 days, and they still haven't converted, you stop sending ads.

This helps avoid a big mistake most advertisers (even Loomer, himself) have made in the past. You will have a really large WCA of all the website visitors over the last 180 days, but have the same campaign running to the same group of people for weeks or months on end. Eventually, you’re just wasting money.

EVERGREEN TIP

Jon said first and foremost, you need a trigger that puts someone in to a campaign. And the trigger must be something they will do only once.  Because of the way this tool works, if a person comes to that page a second time, it will re-start them in the campaign. This of course, defeats the purpose. That’s why it’s ideal to use evergreen on a thank you page for something people will only subscribe to once, so they'll only see that page once, too. If you want to utilize WCA for an evergreen campaign for people who visit a particular blog page, you would need to use a one-time altered link. For example, if you used UTM parameters with the URL of a blog post, once visitors returned to the post, it wouldn't have those UTM parameters in it, and you create a website custom audience out of the altered URL.  

EXCLUSIONS

I asked Jon to explain what exclusions are, and how they relate to Facebook.  Jon said with any type of custom audience, you can use exclusions to either target people, exclude people, or a combination thereof. You have multiple custom audiences within the same ad set; one you're targeting, one you're excluding, etc. and that's valuable. The following is an example of what makes this so valuable. 

Say you're promoting a product, a one-time purchase type product. Obviously, you don't want to waste your money on people who have already bought the product, so you're going to exclude anybody who has. 

So in this evergreen campaign, there are two things you're going to exclude.

  1. Assuming the campaign is created with the ultimate goal of selling a product, if they've already bought it, you don't need to put them through that evergreen campaign.
  2. While you can't create a website custom audience of people who have visited that thank you page during the last five to eight days, you can create a website custom audience of people who have visited during the last eight, and of people who have visited during the last four, and then you target for people who have visited during the last eight and exclude anyone who visited in the last four.

I know this sounds kind of confusing, but that's the way you go about it, in order to make sure that you’re serving a different ad the first four days than you do in the next four days, and the four days after that. In essence, you can control that drip.

BEST PRACTICES FOR THESE TYPES OF CAMPAIGNS

As far as best practices go, Jon says the most important steps are:

  1. Having a trigger
  2. Creating various website custom audiences 
  3. Bidding.

By default, you would normally be optimizing for an action. So on Facebook, when you optimize for conversion, you show your ad to people within the audience you are trying to target, but only those people within that audience who are most likely to convert. So maybe it’s 10 percent of that audience, for example. But we don't want that to happen within this evergreen campaign. It's already an audience that could be under 100 people, so we want to show it to everybody. They're all equal, as far as we're concerned. 

So that's when we use a bidding called Daily Unique Reach, which means you'll show it to as many people in that audience as possible, but no more than once per day. Then you’ll throw a crazy high manual bid on it, because you want to make sure you’ve reached all those people. You won’t have to worry about bidding too much, and having frequency go too high, because with Daily Unique Reach, it'll only be shown once per day. 

BIDDING STRATEGY EXAMPLE

Jon gave us a real life example of how he applies this strategy. He first used a $50 CPM bid within a blog post, but learned that $50 manual bids sometimes worked, but also found out that sometimes these ad sets weren’t even running. So he now does a $100 CPM manual bid, with the understanding that when you have this really high bid, it doesn't mean that's what he’s going to pay. That is the most he’s going to pay to reach people. What he’s seen is that with a $100 CPM, he normally ends up paying around $25 or $35 CPM. This is still a little on the high side, but reminded us that these ad sets contain extremely valuable people, so he’s willing to spend more to reach. 

He likes to introduce himself for the first four days. So kind of a “Thank you for opting in to whatever this is, you may not know a lot about me, here's my story.” After the first four days, he’ll send an ad telling people something along the lines of “I know you opted in to this PDF recently, so here are three other articles on the same topic that I think you’ll enjoy.” He’s still not trying to sell anything, he’s just trying to introduce them to the value he’ll provide. Four days later, it may be three other articles he’s written on other topics, that are still related to Facebook advertising. Finally, he’ll introduce them to the Power Hitter's Club, his membership club, and the ultimate conversion goal for this campaign. 

SPECIFIC TOPIC INTEREST TARGETING

I asked Jon to dig in to targeting people who have shown an interest on a particular topic (side note: we are not talking about targeting via interests in general, but targeting via people who have shown an interest on particular content on your website).

Audience Interest History

Jon reiterated that you can create a website custom audience out of a family of pages on you website. So let's say your website talks about politics, current events, and world events. You want to focus only on people who visit pages of the site related to politics.  So, let's assume that the politics category is within the URL. So you would create a website custom audience of any page where the URL includes “politics”.

Promoting Similar Content 

The idea is that when lumping all the people together who have shown this common interest, you can feel confident that they’ll be interested in reading more relevant content- additional blogs, or downloading a related e-book, or even better, buying this related product, as opposed to just guessing how everyone has visited your site. 

Multiple URLs

One last pointer on this topic is that you can do multiple URLs but you can also do a “URL equals” or a “URL includes”.  When doing a “URL includes”, you're not necessarily putting an entire URL in there, you're putting one portion of the URL that you may find in multiple URLs. So it could be, for example, a category like “women’s fashion” that would appear in multiple URLs. So you wouldn't then just create a website custom audience out of people visiting a single page, it could be a whole bunch of different pages that all have those characters within the URL.

VIDEO ENGAGEMENT TARGETING

Facebook just created a new feature in Power Editor for targeting people and creating custom audiences based on the amount of engagement with your videos. There was something similar already in place, where Facebook generated two different video view audiences based on whether they viewed three seconds of your video or 95 percent of your video. But there was no flexibility in that feature, and because it was automatically generated, you couldn’t alter the duration. Plus, it was only based on one specific video. 

What changed, is that you now have have six different options, based on the level of engagement with your video.

  • So if someone viewed 50 percent of your video, you can create an audience of these people to market to later, but additionally, you can do it for more videos.
  • Say that they watched 50% of any of 10 videos. You can create an audience out of those people.
  • You now can create an audience of people who have viewed his video today, or within the last three days, five days, or whatever, which opens up many possibilities.  

For example, evergreen campaigns now become an option with videos. Maybe you show a video that people will never see again that introduces them to something. They watch 95% of it, and then fall into a new evergreen campaign: So, you’ve watched this video, great! Now, let me show you the next video in the series.  And remember, that because you can also exclude people, you could even exclude anyone who saw that first campaign. They no longer need to see that campaign. Let's show them the next video, and then they go in to another audience, and then another, and so on. 

NEGATIVES OR DOWNSIDES TO WCAs

I asked Jon of there were any negatives to targeting via WCAs. He said the one negative he could think of was the time limit of these being 180 days. So if you want to exclude people who have bought a certain product from you that is a couple of years old, you will need to combine the email list custom audience with the website custom. Jon says this is probably the biggest weakness he runs into, but there are ways of getting around the issue a bit by combining WCAs with email custom audiences.

Jon Loomer

Jon Loomer Digital started in the fall of 2011 with the goal of helping other businesses maximize "social media that makes a difference." In a little over 17 months, Jon has built a profitable, self-branded business around a website that has generated 4 Million page views.

Jon also hosts weekly webinars with Q&A sessions on advanced Facebook marketing called the Power Hitters Club.

 


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