In almost all cases, Facebook charges businesses per impression, meaning every time their ad loads on any person’s device. If you’re scrolling through Instagram and you see an Instagram ad, that company is being charged for that impression, regardless of whether you watch, click, or just scroll by.
The way that Facebook chooses which ads to show when and to whom is through an auction: they are looking for the best ad from all of the potential ads that can be shown to that user. So if you live in New York, NY, and you’re between the age of 25 and 45, there are likely more advertisers targeting you than if you live in Nepal and you’re 87 years old. Because there’s higher competition—there are more advertisers targeting there—it costs more to get the very same one impression for a person in New York, or a person on the Las Vegas strip, than in a place that’s less targeted by other businesses.
This is a fact that is 100% out of your ability to change–you cannot change the competition that is running ads against you. Because of that fact, Facebook chooses a price to charge you as a business for your ad to be shown. And many of the factors are things that you can’t actively control.
Some of these factors are surprising. For example, after a person purchases from you, Facebook will select a list of those people and survey them on how satisfied they were with their purchase. They ask, “How quick was delivery? What sort of customer service did you get? Is the product what you expected?” and you get a ranking on the back end of how well your business provided the service that the person purchased; they essentially give you a grade. Based on that grade, your cost for ads can either go up because you got a bad score, or it can go down because Facebook sees that you’re providing great service.
Is a person who messages your page getting a fast, helpful response? Is a person clicking because they like the post? Are people liking, commenting, sharing? Are they sharing your posts with their friends on Messenger? All of these actions increase your quality score.
Another thing that you can’t control is if a person sees your ad and decides to hide it or report it as spam, which gives your ad a very negative score. Now trying to show that ad to more people will cause an increase in impression costs.
There are literally hundreds of factors that can change how much you are spending per a single pair of eyes on the Facebook ad platform. Those aren’t all things we can actively pull the levers on. What we must understand is that Facebook is prepared to charge less per impression if it means that the user will have a better experience. They are prepared to lose out on some extra money, if they can show a higher quality ad. Knowing this, we, as ad buyers, can raise the quality of our ads to get a “discount.”
The user experience can happen on the ad, but could also happen on the funnel when they click on the ad.
Facebook can see if someone who clicks on an ad bounces back very quickly. On desktop, they can see it if the site has a pixel; on mobile, especially on iOS devices, you don’t actually get sent to a browser when you click on a link—you’re still within the Facebook or Instagram app, and that means they can see time on site for any of the sites that the person goes to on the Facebook web browser.
If a person visits a site and immediately leaves, it means that they did not find the quality of that landing page to be one they wanted to be on. That penalizes you and causes your ad costs to go up. If you can get a person to want to see and engage with your ad, come to your site, and fill out the offer, Facebook will reward you with a lower cost for that ad.
So if you are seeing high CPMs—which stands for cost per 1000 impressions—then the first thing to figure out is if there is something wrong with the user experience on your ad. Are you showing a picture people want to engage with? That might mean changing the thumbnail of your video, changing out the image, or changing the color of the image.
A super easy thing you can fix is if you are running an ad and Facebook sees that the picture you’re using doesn’t fit in the screen. Another factor is that Facebook actually has rules against having buttons on the picture. So if your picture has a fake play button on it, or a button that looks like they can press it to sign up for something, they penalize you for those things because it lowers the quality of the user experience.
And then, are you sending the person to the right place on your website for them to actually take an action that flows with what they want? Back in the old days of Facebook, you would see ads that said, “Win a free cruise!” and then when you clicked on it, the website would say, “Buy my thing for a chance to win a free cruise!” Users thought, “I didn’t come here to purchase something. I came here to win a free cruise!”
So you want to make sure that the user experience is there, and also make sure that your service is good—you ship on time, you provide good customer service—but again, that is not something you can actively monitor right now in the ad manager.
We know that Facebook has data about your website, and they want to know that the flow works well: does the page load quickly, does the purchase actually work, do all the pixels fire properly on your site? If any of that stuff doesn’t work smoothly, Facebook puts up red flags to say, “This is not a site we want to send people to,” and they’re going to hold off and charge you more for using a really slow site that doesn’t load.
Businesses can actually check this: Facebook has a tool called the Facebook debugger. You can put in any URL you want—not just the homepage, but any URL—click “debug,” and Facebook will show you what they have scraped from the site to know what the header image is, what the headline text is, what the description is, etc. so they can confirm that the site works as it should.
If there’s no image uploading when they scrape it, or if the image doesn’t fit, or if the image is too small, these are things that you can change. Improving those elements increases the quality of the user experience, which means that Facebook will charge you less for impressions because they know that there’s a better quality of use for the user.
If you take all of these things and you say, “I, as a business, can’t control how many people report my post as spam, or how many other people are advertising in the same space”—well, what can you do? Maybe you could slow down frequency, which is the number of times people see your ads, so that they don’t get annoyed by seeing the same ad a hundred times. But really, if a person doesn’t like you, there’s nothing you can do. If a person reports that your customer service was bad, you could try to get your customer service to be better, but it’s not something you can actively fix right now in Ad Manager.
You know Facebook wants the best possible quality of use for the user. You want to make sure your images fit right. You want to make sure your site is sending people from Facebook with the offer on your ad to a page that matches the offer, and that Facebook sees that the page loads properly. That the text of the ad is something that resonates with the user, and that this is the sort of post that users want to engage with.
Then Facebook is going to reward you by giving you more impressions for a lower price, and hopefully get more sales in your business.
Come back next Thursday for the next part in this three-part series!
Part 2: User Experience