Social Media

Reasons Facebook Ads Fail (And How to Avoid Them)

Dominic Sergi

Facebook ads can be a powerful and cost-effective arrow in the marketer's quiver. But just like any other tool, they can be used well or badly... and using them badly really defeats the purpose of using them at all.There are plenty of ways for Facebook advertising to go wrong. The good news is, there are also simple ways to correct most of the problems that lead to Facebook ad failures. Here we'll cover four of the most common reasons that Facebook ads fail, and how you can avoid them.

Fail #1: Not Putting in the Work

This seems like it should go without saying, but: put in the work. This one is all about the basics. The things your ad should never go live without, if your marketing team is at all competent.Your ads should never:

  • Infringe copyright. Borrowing copyrighted images that don't belong to you, for instance, is a quick route to legal headaches and a serious hit to your credibility.
  • Rely on a program or template that serves up canned copy. Your ad should never come up in someone's feed saying "Contents of this ad will be generated dynamically at the time it's rendered." That's a dead giveaway that someone was in too much of a rush to actually fill out the ad copy. Embarrassing.
  • Accidentally include awkward references. The pop culture phrase "Netflix and chill" -- a colloquial reference to hanging out and having sex -- achieved a brief period of infamy when clueless advertisers tried hastily to leverage it for profit. In other cases, marketing teams have produced ads that reference "Molly" (a super-duper illegal drug) while clearly not knowing what it means. These are giveaways of simply not putting in the work: such humiliations can be avoided with a five-minute Google search.
  • Be a mismatch with the target market's language. Your ad's parameters should always be set to ensure that, for example, you're not delivering ads in Pinyin to an English-speaking audience.
  • Be irrelevant to the audience's topical interests. Your excellent ad selling pulled pork sandwiches is wasted on viewers that have already told you they're vegetarian or vegan.
  • Make false or outlandish claims. If your ad pops up in people's feeds promising large amounts of money for no effort or making otherwise outlandish claims to solving the reader's problems, that's a great way to convince your audience that you're running a fly-by-night confidence scam instead of a legitimate business.

All of these seemingly distinct problems are really the same problem.They're the result of marketing teams being in too much of a rush to get their campaigns out to bother with dotting their proverbial I's and crossing their proverbial t's.

How to Avoid This: Well... Put in the Work

This may sound facile, but really.The above errors aren't fictional: they're all drawn from very real Facebook ads that genuinely happened. And there's no reason for any of these errors to happen if you're working methodically and covering all the basic needed steps for launching a Facebook ad campaign.Putting in the work is the first and simplest hurdle to clear for running effective ads.

Fail #2: It's Targeted Too Narrowly

Facebook offers powerful tools for targeting specific, curated audiences with advertising. This is great, but it can have a downside: sometimes, marketers are tempted to get a little too specific.There's a delicate balance to be observed in targeted Facebook advertising. Targeting makes it possible to:

  • Think in terms of your demographic. If you're confident that your product is more appealing to women than men, you can specify your outreach to include the first and exclude the second.
  • Take specific lifestyles into account. Some products and services are ideal for people in a certain stage or mode of life, such as parents with toddlers. Facebook ads often make it possible to zero in on these specifics.
  • Incorporate your audience's interests. Interests related to running might be appropriate for advertising a running shoe, to take one obvious example. This might extend to track and field, marathons, general fitness and wellness, and so on. Alternatively, a gaming ad might also appeal to people who are interested in tech, in certain gaming consoles, or in content with a relationship to the game (World War 2 enthusiasts might be an ideal market for an action game set in that time period).

Bringing all of these together, it could be possible to target an ad for a floral arrangements business at married women in a certain age range with an anniversary within the next month, and who specifically like romance novels and roses.Here's the snag: that specific niche might indeed be a fit for your campaign, but it may also be so specific that the real number of people you wind up reaching proves to be far too small to justify the expense.Ultimately, only a small percentage of any demographic you connect with can be expected to actually click through on your Facebook ad.If you narrow your outreach too much, you can wind up blunting or even negating the impact of your ads.

How to Avoid This: Keep Balance in Mind

Facebook provides an audience meter to help with this very issue. Make use of it and pay attention to when the needle slips into the red: that's indicator that you're narrowing your audience too much. (Also stay alert for moving into the yellow, which indicates an audience that could be too broad.)Ultimately, testing and re-testing your campaigns will provide the final word on whether you've gotten your targeting right, but staying attentive to the issue from the jump will save plenty of time and money.

Fail #3: Ad Creative and Copy Isn't Up to the Task

Even after you've got the basics in place and refined your ad targeting, there's another critical piece to keep in mind: making sure your ads look good and read well.Problems with creative work and copywriting can haunt even big brand advertising campaigns. Some general things to look out for:

  • Copy with broken links. Failure to keep track of link rot in your resources can lead to broken links turning up in your ad copy, a waste of time and resources for both you and your audience.
  • Bad ad copy. Does your ad include a CTA? Does it use link copy efficiently? Is its message simple and vivid? Well written copy should be able to answer "yes" to all those questions.
  • Ineffective images. Is your image technically correctly sized but still showing lots of wasted white space? Is the image too small, leading to an ad dominated by text? Either of these will make it stand out as low-effort to the viewer. Make sure your ad images are a natural fit for the space you have, and leverage lifestyle-focused imagery wherever possible.
  • Suspicious-looking URLs. If you're linking to a URL that doesn't match your brand, and that otherwise looks like a tracking site, many prospects will assume it's malicious and decline to click on it.

These are all common examples of ad creative and copywriting failures that can considerably reduce an ad's effectiveness.

How to Avoid This: Make Sure Ad Creation Gets Multiple Layers of Review

If it's at all possible, there should be more than one set of eyes on any ad that you're generating.No matter how clean your copywriting and editing skills might be or how flawless your eye for design is, a single person can be vulnerable to missing key flaws in ad copy or creation.With two or three competent reviewers to check on it, there's a much better chance that your ads will live up to high quality standards and perform well.

Fail #4: Your Landing Page is a Disappointment

If you've rolled out a great-looking ad campaign on Facebook with accurate targeting, gorgeous imagery, and concise and powerful messaging, what should follow is more traffic from social media to your company's landing page.If that doesn't generate a corresponding boost in sales, though, there could be another problem at work: your landing page itself.There are several common ways for landing pages to fumble the benefits of an otherwise solid ad campaign:

  • The landing page makes the product hard to find. An advertisement for lighting kits should, ideally, lead directly from the ad to a way to purchase lighting kits. If your ad instead directs your audience to a homepage, or to a different product entirely, or to a confusing profusion of menus and choices where the product's location isn't clear at all, there's a good chance your prospects depart in frustration.
  • The page's visual design is hard to read or crowded. Sometimes, a landing page can have exactly the information and product it's supposed to have, but the information gets crowded out by irrelevant headlines, or an over-busy design that's also trumpeting customer reviews for unrelated products, or links to only tangentially-related content. Or it gets simply missed because the applicable text is in light font on a white background.
  • The page is just straight-up... ugly. Sufficiently motivated customers won't fault you too much for clunky looking design choices, a page that looks like it was generated in the Oughts and never updated, or a banner graphic plainly picked on a photo site for its inoffensiveness instead of its relevance. There's a limit to that indulgence, though, and there's no reason to take a chance.
  • The page goes overboard with CTAs. A landing page with a single, clear CTA is all that should be necessary to drive conversions in most cases. If your landing page has multiple CTAs -- "Sign Up Now," "Buy Now," "Register Here," "Free Price Quote," "Get a 10% Rebate" -- it's more of a bombardment than an invitation, and can easily drive prospects away instead of enticing them.

It's a needless tragedy when a landing page fumbles potential conversions from its advertising.Fortunately, correcting most problems like this really stems from correcting the mindset you're approaching the landing page with.

How to Avoid This: Make Your Landing Page Experience Customer-Centric

Most of the above kinds of landing page failures are avoidable if the page is thought through with the customer's perspective in mind.What you're a customer, what do you want from a landing page?Chances are you'd like it to be clear and readable, for it not to have an air of either desperation or minimum-possible effort, and for it to align with your intent when you clicked: meaning that if you clicked through to find and purchase a dog bed, that's what the landing page should first and foremost allow you to do.Thinking through your landing pages from a customer-centric perspective is the best way to make sure they're up to snuff when the ad campaigns roll out.

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Dominic Sergi
Dom is a co-founder at Local Digital. Google Ads is his #1 game and driving ad spend efficiencies his aim. He's also well versed in all things digital marketing, sales and business growth.

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