Monday, November 9, 2020

How to Audit Facebook & Instagram Ads

Written by
Tim Chard

A perfect Facebook & Instagram advertising audit doesn’t just tell you about the past performance of an ad account: it predicts the future of it.

Often, businesses don’t assess the success of their ads until the worst-case scenario reveals itself: the ads stop working.

If you’re reading this because you’re there, don’t fret.

I, alongside my team, have audited tens of millions of dollars of FB & IG ad spend. This is the framework we use.

We suggest following it in order:

  • Account Overview
  • Campaign Structure
  • Audience Targeting & Optimization
  • Ad Creatives
  • Landing Pages

If you'd like to watch me audit a live and real account, watch our YouTube video.

Account Overview

You start an audit by “zooming out” and looking at overall performance.

Only after getting an accurate big picture understanding should you then dig further into the more granular data. As tempting as it might be, do not start with the ad creatives.

You need to see on a high level how spend and costs are correlated (if at all).

  1. Get the target CAC/ROAS from your company. We suggest choosing CAC over ROAS as a metric. If you don’t know what an acceptable cost of acquisition for your business is, then you won’t know the extent to which you can scale.
  2. Choose the largest reasonable timeframe. A reasonable timeframe would be whenever you began spending significantly until the present day.
  3. Look at the amount spent over time and look for fluctuations. If the account was spending a ton of money, but then suddenly stopped — that’s a red flag. Maybe they ran out of stock…maybe they took a vacation…or maybe their CAC got so high they had to turn off ads entirely.
  4. Look at your target CAC over time. Hover over it and see if the CAC correlates to spend. When spend goes up, does CAC do so as well? Or is it not correlated?
Note the date where spend increased. You’ll want to see if this correlates with a spike in CPA. Example: June 13th.

Look at the dates of highest spend. How does this compare to average CPA? In this example, on June 13th, we can see the highest spend day did correlate with a spike in CPA.

Keep in mind, you might not see a correlation. That’s okay. The main purpose is to see if a correlation exists and to get an idea of how or if daily spend affects CAC.

This will prime your mind to now investigate deeper.

Bonus Tip: Attribution & Errors

On attribution:

What is the attribution window? In other words, after clicking on an ad and a purchase happening, in what time window is that counted as being influenced or created from the ad itself? If the data is not based on 28 day since clicking on an ad & 1 day since viewing the ad (the industry standard), then performance may be worse than what’s presented.

On conversion pixel errors:

While rare, sometimes the conversion pixel was installed correctly.  Make sure Purchase Conversion Value is being passed even if you are using the target cost per purchase.

Additionally, make sure Advanced Matching in Events Manager is turned on.

Campaign Structure

Now we’re ready to see the actual campaigns.

Before you begin, you’ll want to Customize Columns in Facebook Ads Manager to understand the metrics we run through.

  1. Are the campaigns named appropriately? Even on large accounts, we’ve seen campaigns labeled “Prospecting” have ad sets of website visitors. Do a quick check based on campaign names to see if it all makes logical sense. Not sure how to name it? Check our video on Facebook & Instagram Campaign Naming Structures.
  2. Are the Objectives correct? Are they optimizing for Conversions? One of the most common errors is someone optimizing for Traffic.
  3. Are they using Campaign Budget Optimization in their campaigns? If not, write down to ask why or why not.
  4. Look at the frequency (on average, how many times a user sees an ad) of a campaign over time (lifetime and last 30 days). Is that campaign over-saturating?
  5. Is there duplication? In other words, are there identical campaigns targeting the same audiences?

Audiences — The Ad Set Level

Not all of your audiences will perform the same.  While creatives should match the audience you’re targeting, we want to first see how you’ve targeted at the ad set level itself.

For simplicity, look at the last 30 - 60 days.

Let’s run through the edit mode of one ad set.

  1. Location - make sure you’re only targeting those that live in their target market — not “everyone” in the country.
  2. Interest-based targeting is not ideal unless you have specific creatives for it. Typically lookalikes are the go-to “broad” targeting as they are based on your pixel purchase data and auto-update. As such, sure they have a full 180-day purchaser source file for Lookalikes in your Asset Manager. If a 1% purchase lookalike isn’t performing, check in the Assets and ensure it’s not mislabeled (sadly, we’ve seen this!).
  3. Check on placements — click on “Breakdown” by “Placement” and see if they have tested Instagram Story for example. You may find a specific placement is outperforming others, and therefore would help guide the creative process.

  1. Demographic narrowing — with the “Breakdown”, check on gender, age, etc. — are there any trends here? Is it a female trending product? This is less for optimization and more to understand how to change the creative strategy.
  2. Geo-location — do certain regions or states have more favorable CPAs? Facebook is pretty good at automatically EXCLUDING poorly performing regions, but check it out anyway. If there are at least 50 conversion events from a state, and it’s significantly costlier than average, consider excluding it.
  3. Exclusions — are they excluding website visitors & previous customers from Prospecting campaigns?
  4. Retargeting — are they using dynamic ads (if there are a lot of products)? Are they targeting website visitors (basic but sometimes forgotten!) in reasonable time frames?
  5. Are they using dynamic creative to test creative variants? Do they have enough budget for this to even make sense?

Now with those learnings, you can see not only if the current creatives are performing, but if they make sense based on the audience (the ad set) they’re in.

Creatives — The Ad Level

Now we get to the fun part: creatives. Often we see brands trying to address at the ad level fundamental problems with their product/market fit or audience targeting. Creatives are a part of the puzzle, and if you got it right with the previous sections, only then will this be your highest leverage area.

  1. Look at CTRs. Over 1% is a reasonable target. If it’s under 1% CTR, then that means you can likely improve that ad, or the audience is a very poor target.
  2. Check to see the quality of the images and videos.  For images (including video thumbnails), remember - show what the product or service is. Not just context. For example, don’t show snazzy product packaging if you can’t tell from the packaging what the product is.
  3. Check to see the quality of the copy. Do they talk about the value props (the value the product provides for people in their lives)? Do they use bullet lists? Are they testing long vs short copy?
  4. Check the number of ads — both too much and too little. For most audiences, you’ll want to have just 3-4 ads running in the same ad set at one time.
  5. Video ads — check the average watch time. Is it under 3 seconds? Surprisingly, this is the norm for many companies and a huge (but easy to fix) flaw.
  6. Dynamic creative — are they using this correctly? If they are spilt testing too many elements, this will burn through money and will not have a practical (or even more unlikely - statistically significant) conclusion.

Landing Page — After the Click

Why would an audit expand beyond the ad? Well, sometimes it’s after the click that the problems surface.

Small changes in the landing page can yield great results. If it feels like everything is “right” on the advertising audit — but you aren’t converting — this is the last frontier before an unfortunate truth might surface: your product/market fit isn’t there.

Here, you’ll want to look into best practices for CRO.

  1. Are ads leading to the right landing page? We’ve literally seen 404 errors in URLs on ads on accounts spending $500K per month. Check your links!
  2. Assess their landing page conversions key performance indicators (KPIs). What % of people visit and add an item to their cart? What % of people visit and buy? What % of add to carts purchase? Industry standard is 2% conversion rate of Purchases for eCommerce.
  3. Compare mobile vs desktop — are there any major flaws during the checkout or sign up process? Where are most people buying from? Do pop ups or email capture forms disrupt the sales process?

The steps in this audit should not only supply you with the right tactics for increasing performance, but also enable you to assess whether selling via Facebook & Instagram advertising is worth a continued investment. If you'd like to perform an audit for you, you can reach out to us here.

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