Cover of 'Help! My Facebook Ads Suck.'

Image from Goodreads.

A month or so ago, I tried my first Facebook ad campaign. It was unimpressive. “That’s just what marketing’s like!” I told myself. “You never make back the money you put into ads. You’re paying for exposure!”

I’m not yet convinced that’s wrong. When I see someone talking about making big bucks in marketing, I assume they want to sell me their books.

But, then again, I also know absolutely nothing about advertising. I know I made mistakes, and I know I can do better. And while I’m a long way away from running profitable ads, I’d still love to know more about running better ones.

So I picked up Help! My Facebook Ads Suck. Is this going to turn my ads around? I have no idea. Is the advice in this book helpful? I haven’t tested it out.

But it did tell me that my Facebook ads did, in fact, suck. Here’s what I learned.

I shouldn’t have done a 30-day campaign.

This was something I discussed in my Facebook ad postmortem. Facebook gives you two ways to do ads:

  • You plug in a time period (like a week or 30 days) and give it a budget. It divides your budget over those days.
  • You give it a daily budget (which can go as low as $5) and let the ad run until you stop it.

I did the first one: $30 for 30 days. This meant Facebook gave me $1 of ads a day to play with.

My Facebook Ads Suck confirmed that this was a bad idea. It suggests that ads should “fail fast.” I cycled in ads and let them run for one or two weeks at a time. The book suggests running ads at $5 a day and letting them go for three days. Then you check numbers, gauge success, and pull the ad if it doesn’t measure up.

It’s obviously easier to do this if you’re running an ad day-by-day. You run them for a few days and only spend more than $15 if the ad is doing very well. By scheduling my ads for a 30-day period, I spent less per day, kept my ads up longer, and kept so-so ads running for weeks at a time.

I had no idea that images with text on them perform less well on Facebook.

According to My Facebook Ads Suck, Facebook doesn’t like images with text on them. Apparently, if your ad image has text on it, Facebook will show it less often and charge you more per click.

Consequently, the author suggests not using book covers as ad images. He suggests using stock images instead.

This is… curious. I don’t honestly like stock images, or like the idea of associating generic images with my work, but…

I was paying way, way, way too much per click.

…Maybe I should consider it, because my ads didn’t work that well.

The first chapter of My Facebook Ads Suck is about math. There’s a lot to it, but the end result gives you how much you can afford to pay per click on Facebook. Basically, you can only afford to spend so much on ads. You want to make ads that average a certain number of sales, then make sure you pay less to get those sales than you make in a sale.

But if you don’t want to do the math, he gives you a ballpark: keep your Facebook price per click under 30 cents.

This is tricky. Unlike Goodreads, you don’t set your price per click on Facebook. You plug in your budget and audience, and then Facebook wiggles its fingers and decides how much it costs to reach those people. Lots of things result in a higher click rate–My Facebook Ads Suck describes several of them. But two of the ones I want to think more about are:

  • The image you used
  • The audience you selected.

Images with text on them are (apparently) more expensive. Reaching certain audiences is more expensive. Choosing the wrong audience makes it more expensive. Choosing overly large or extremely popular audiences can drive up your cost, too.

If your ad is going to a carefully tailored audience who is closely associated with what you’re trying to sell (i.e., they’re actually readers and actually like your genre), and it’s not an oversaturated marketing term, you should have a lower price per click.

My most effective Facebook ad cost me 40 cents a click. That’s expensive.

I probably had low amounts of interaction, too.

The book suggests that good ads get roughly one sale for every 30 clicks. My ad campaign resulted in 57 clicks and one sale. So a truly effective ad might have gotten two sales for that much interaction, but with numbers this small, it’s hard to definitively say “My ad resulted in half as much interaction as it should have!”

But I was paying too much those impressions (40c/click), and my $1/day budget didn’t buy me a lot of impressions in the first place. If I had played with my ads until my Facebook-calculated cost-per-click was lower, then one sale for 57 clicks would have… well, maybe not been approaching profitability, but it would have been more cost-effective, because then I’d be getting a lot more sales out of $30 of investment.

Furthermore, I didn’t even know what the “relevance” score was when I ran my ads. This is Facebook’s attempt to see how relevant, on a scale of 1-10, your ad was to the audience you targeted. My Facebook Ads Suck suggests you aim for 8 or higher. So, of course, my best ad was 7. That means my ad was reasonably well targeted to my audience, but something was off. That definitely implies that I could have done better by changing my audience.

So where does that leave me?

My campaign was, unsurprisingly, not very effective.

This was my first time advertising on Facebook, and I didn’t go into it with a ton of information. So none of this is surprising! But if I was going to do it again, I would do a few things differently:

  • I’d run campaigns at $5 a day and decide whether to stop them in a matter of days, not weeks.
  • I’d try out using text-free images and possibly even stock images.
  • I’d fiddle with the audience. I need a much more intelligently focused audience–people who read “young adult books” or “fantasy books” is definitely not narrow enough.

The risk is, of course, that spending $5 a day makes it really easy to waste a boatload of money. This means that just testing an ad costs $15, and any ad that approaches viability is going to cost you $35 a week to keep up. Those costs ad up quickly–unless, of course, they start making more money than they cost to keep up.

And that still seems like a far-off dream. In the meantime, maybe I should just keep fiddling. And learning. I definitely have a long way to go.

Of course, there’s also the other option: write more books. (I’m working on it! I promise!) I’ve seen several places suggest that you shouldn’t bother marketing at all until you have at least 3 books out. And even My Facebook Ads Suck spends a lot of time calculating the value of a series, because a certain number of people who read book #1 will read everything the sequels. I only have one book out right now, and that seriously limits what I can do.

Ah well. One step at a time!