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Facebook ad testing best practices for more successful campaigns

What are some of the things you need to keep in mind while doing Facebook ad testing? This blog post goes through some of the best practices of Facebook ads testing.
Sam Russo

This blog post is designed to help new and experienced marketers avoid some of the most common mistakes made when testing Facebook ads, while also providing expert guidance and Facebook ad testing best practices that will help you nail your Facebook advertising strategy.

By using the Facebook ad testing best practices outlined in this post, you'll be well on your way to creating optimized Facebook ads that will drive results and improve your overall advertising ROI.

Best practices for Facebook ad testing

Focus on a measurable hypothesis

When testing ads, it is essential to have a clear target hypothesis or theory that you are testing before you ever get started. In order to have a valid hypothesis, it needs to be one that is actually measurable and can be proved or disproved by further testing. It also is important to make sure that your hypothesis isn't too vague or general - you want it to be specific in order to get more accurate results. Remember that your hypothesis should clearly identify the variable(s) you are going to test, and state the expected relationship between those variables. 

Here are some examples of well-thought-out hypotheses:

  • I want to see which generates more conversions: images of my product being used by a model or images of the product by itself.
  • I want to see which discount drives CTR the most: BOGO, dollars off, or percentage off.
  • I want to see which background colors generate more leads.

Choose the right campaign objective for your KPI goals

Before you will be able to start testing, you will need to first create a new campaign — at which point you'll be asked to choose your campaign objective with Meta Ads Manager (or, if you are using Marpipe, this step is done within Marpipe).

Right now, there are six different options to choose from when setting the Facebook campaign objective: 

  • Awareness: Reach the largest number of people most likely to remember your ad.
  • Traffic: Increase traffic to your website or app.
  • Engagement: Find people who are more likely to like and share your content, watch videos, etc.
  • Leads: Generate sign ups for your business, your newsletter, event, product beta, etc.
  • App promotion: Get mobile users to install or interact with your app
  • Sales: Find people most likely to buy your product or service.

When deciding, you should take into account your specific business goals, and consider what your main objective is for your ads. Your advertising objective is the outcome you and your business would find the most valuable. It's important to know what you want to achieve in order to choose the right campaign objective.

Remember: just as your KPI’s shouldn’t be static, neither should your campaign objectives.  Reevaluate them every once in a while to be sure that you are using the most effective campaign objective in order to help you reach your business goals.  

For example, at first you may want to focus on building awareness and acquiring new customers, while later on, you may want to encourage people to make a purchase or sign up for an event. 

Be sure to consider what actions prospective customers can take that will be most likely to result in your desired outcome. That way, you can choose the best campaign objective with the highest potential to help meet your KPIs.

Test against multiple audiences

When it comes to creating ads that convert, targeting the right audience is key. First of all, you need to identify your total addressable market and do some research on which demographics are most likely to engage with your ad. 

Once you have a list of potential audiences, test different ad formats and creative ideas to see what types of ads they respond well to

Facebook allows you to target super-specific things like your audience age, region, interests and more - so take advantage of these targeting methods to make sure your ads are going to be seen by the right people. 

Lastly, you may also find that different audiences migrate toward different ad creative. For example, existing customers may convert more often when a discount is present, but new customers may be more likely to convert when presented with a brand benefit message.

When to use Lookalike Audiences

If you have the Facebook pixel installed on your website, you can also take advantage of something called "Lookalike audience" which essentially targets another audience that is similar to your existing one.  

Lookalike audiences can help you identify common qualities of the people who visit your website, like age and interests, and deliver your ad to people similar to them. You can use the lookalike expansion feature to show your ads to people outside your defined lookalike audience, to try and grow your potential customer base.

You should also be aware that with the iOS 14 update earlier this year, there were some new privacy options introduced for iPhones, which has impacted the amount of tracking that can actually be done within the Facebook app. 

In particular, the lookalike feature has taken a bit of a hit due to these changes, as it has made it more difficult for Facebook to find similar people, so just keep that in mind when using this option.

Set a strategic time frame

Setting a time frame for your Facebook ad testing is crucial in order to get the most out of the resources you are investing. 

Generally, we would recommend performing your tests in 7 day increments - this helps avoid any changes due to the particular days of the week. 

That way, If you have an ad that you are looking to implement fairly quickly, 7 days will allow enough time to collect data and still be able to implement the ad within a reasonable amount of time.

However, if you do have the time to collect more data before scaling your ad, 14 days is usually an ideal time frame for most circumstances. 

One more thing to consider when deciding your time frame is your budget. For example, if you have a set budget, it will be spent faster over the 7 days - which could give you less time to cut the test off early and save money if it isn’t performing well. 

Without a set timeframe, it becomes difficult to track results and make necessary adjustments. This will not only affect your advertising strategy but also hamper your overall content marketing efforts, which is why setting a time frame is a crucial step in the Facebook ad testing process.

Calculate a sensible budget

It is always important to start with a sensible, but also adequate budget for your Facebook ad testing. If you don't budget enough, you risk not getting enough data to have statistically valid results from your tests. If you set too large of a budget, it can become really easy to overspend during testing. 

The budget you allocate to testing Facebook ads depends on a variety of different factors including your industry, your product or service, the market, the audiences you want to target, etc. A good starting point for most businesses is to set about 10–20% of their advertising budget for ad testing. 

Remember that your Facebook ad testing is an investment, and ensuring you have an adequate budget is the best way to get more accurate results that will have a greater impact on your ROI. If your brand spends $30,000 a month or more on paid social ads, multivariate testing (which we’ll cover in a moment) is recommended for finding deep ad creative insights and increasing ROAS at scale.

Track your data continuously — and keep it organized

Tracking your data when Facebook ad testing is an essential part of the process in order to make informed decisions about your ad campaigns. It's also important to stay organized so you can actually use the insights gleaned from past campaigns to help form the basis of your advertising designs in the future.

This can be done manually with a spreadsheet by using some very specific, detailed naming conventions, and exporting all of your data from the Facebook Ads Manager into the spreadsheet, which then allows you to track your asset performance over time by analyzing relevant key metrics such as your CPC (cost-per-click) and CPA (cost-per-acquisition).

Here’s an example naming convention template:

campaign_audience_image_headline_CTA_postcopy

And here it is in practice:

ProspectingV1_Broad_ManWalking_TakeATrip_SignUp_FreeTripWithPurchase

While this may be a bit tricky to initially set up, it is worth it to have all your data organized and stored neatly in one place. That way, you can easily access it in the future to help you make insightful metrics-backed decisions when designing your Facebook ads.

The benefit of testing your Facebook ads

It saves you money and time

One of the best parts about ad testing is that in the long run, it will save you a ton of time and money. It can be a bit of an upfront expense (both time and money wise), but it is one that is well worth it. By taking the time to test out different parts of your ads, you can then easily identify which elements worked well, and then use that to inform your ad design in the future. 

It also benefits not just your future ads, but your current ones, because you can see which ads are winners (and losers) out of the ones you are currently running. That way, once you have a winning ad campaign, you can scale the winning ad instead of continuing to show the less effective and underperforming ones — increasing ROI in ways seen and unseen.

It helps you create the right ad assets

When it comes to creating an effective Facebook ad, creating the right ad assets is of the utmost importance. So, what does that mean exactly - how do you know what the "right" assets are?

This can be determined by using a method of testing called multivariate testing - which allows you to test the different elements within your ad, and then you can use the information gathered during this testing to help your design team create better ads in the future.

It helps you understand customer patterns

Understanding customer behavior is an essential part of creating ads that are effective and engaging. Testing can help you identify specific demographics, interests, or behaviors that correlate with your target market, which you can then use as insights to create ads that resonate and convert better. 

You might find, for instance, that male customers prefer seeing your product in use by a model, while female customers may prefer seeing the product in an environment without a model. 

We also suggest using the "Custom Audiences" on Facebook, which groups people together based on their behavioral patterns — then you can identify those who are most likely to respond positively to your offer. Once you understand these groups of customers well enough, it becomes easier to track the results of your Facebook ad campaigns and fine-tune them as needed.

It helps you constantly find new and winning ads

One of the most beneficial aspects of testing your Facebook ads is that it will always help you find new and winning ads that are going to grab the attention of your target audience, while also working to meet your business goals. You can rely on your tests to always result in winning and losing ads — info you can use to determine which ads you should scale, and when.

It provides valuable insights for future ad campaigns

The main reason that you should test your Facebook ads is to gather data to learn from, so you can use that data to inform your future ad campaigns. When doing this, you reduce the chances of running an underperforming ad because you already know what works. This will result in higher click-through rates (CTRs), and also higher overall conversion rates for your business.

Furthermore, testing different creative variables allows you to explore what appeals to your target market and then you can use that information to tweak existing and future ads accordingly. This way, not only do you improve performance but also save time and money by avoiding wasted ad spend.

Mistakes to avoid when testing Facebook ads

Now that you know all the things you should do when testing Facebook ads, we thought you probably would like to know about all the things you shouldn’t do (That way, you can avoid making some of the most common mistakes, in order to ensure your results are going to be statistically valid. Here are a few things to watch out for:

Testing for too long or too short of a time frame

It is important to set a testing time frame that captures as much data as possible. If you test for too long, your ad budget will be wasted. However, if testing is done too short a time frame, you won't get accurate results which can lead to erroneous decisions being made. Not setting a deadline on your testing also has its downsides — the biggest of which is ad fatigue, and this can lead to a lower CTR (click-through rate).

Setting an inadequate budget

It can be tough to set a budget for your ad testing, and many people that are new to Facebook ad testing mistakenly set a budget that is far too low for them to really get any data that will be statistically valid. To ensure that your initial testing budget is appropriate, a good starting point is to leave about 10–20% of your total advertising budget for ad testing.

Getting too specific, too soon

Now I want to preface this by saying that there isn’t really any test that is too specific - but it can hinder your testing process if you get too specific too early on in the process. This is because you may have a hard time determining where to go next, as your results likely won’t have any huge outliers in the data that can provide you a clear direction for any subsequent tests.

Instead, it is usually more effective to start out your first few tests by testing drastically different creative. Then as you collect data over a few tests on what is working and what isn't, you can then start to test more specific details with more similar ads. 

For example, you would likely be better off starting your first test by using two completely different graphics, rather than testing two ads that use the exact same graphic, with a minor variation in the size or placement of the graphic. 

While getting very specific about your creative elements is extremely beneficial, and can provide you with highly valuable information, it is best to save this type of granular testing for later on once you have a better understanding of the general themes and aesthetics that will resonate with your audience. 

Relying too heavily on the Facebook algorithm

This is another thing you should watch out for as there are occasionally some issues with the algorithm. One of the challenges is that the algorithm will sometimes determine very early on in the testing which of your ads is a "winner", and then prompts the algorithm to show that ad to more people, giving the others in the same ad set less exposure. 

When this happens, it doesn't provide clear enough results to make any sort of judgement from, because the ads never had the same amount of exposure. This skews your data in favor of the one declared to be the "winner".

To help you stay on top of this issue, it is a good idea to also use Google Analytics and UTM tags to get a better understanding of your ad performance. You can also monitor results regularly and make necessary changes as needed; for instance, if ads are not performing as expected or if you notice an increase in ad spamming activity. 

By utilizing these other tracking methods you will have additional details that can provide some more context regarding how your ads are performing. 

Why we recommend multivariate testing

Multivariate testing allows you to see every possible variation of your ad creative in order to find the best performing ads and creative elements within your ad. 

It can help give extremely detailed insights about your ad creative, like, what color of background gets a higher CTR, or which font is more likely to result in a higher conversion. Then you can use that specific information to determine which ad variation performs the best overall. 

In short, you learn not only which ads are winners, but why they win.

Multivariate testing tests every possible combination of creative elements.

For example, the above multivariate test includes four headlines, three images, two background colors, and three CTA’s for a total of 72 ad variations (4x3x2x3). Each creative element is paired with every other creative element, controlling all possible variables and allowing for component-level test results. 

While this is a slightly more complex approach and can be a lengthy task when done manually, it provides the greatest amount of data — and the data provided is more useful because it can then be applied to future ad campaigns. 

Keep in mind that multivariate testing doesn't necessarily need to be more time consuming, as automated tools can make the process significantly easier. *cough* Marpipe *cough*. Because no one wants to spend all day manually setting up 72 variants of the same test in Facebook ads manager.

Scale your Facebook ad testing with Marpipe

Facebook advertising is a powerful marketing tool that can help you reach a wide audience. However, in case you haven't figured this out yet, manually testing Facebook ads can be at times, well — how do we put this lightly — mind-numbingly boring and tedious. 

On top of that, it also is extremely time-consuming. If you have a lot of different ad creative you want to test, it could take you nearly all day to get everything set up properly, and there are probably other things you'd rather be doing with your time.

That's where Marpipe comes in.

By using Marpipe for your Facebook ad testing, you gain the ability to test ads quickly and easily at scale — you can get more results than you could ever possibly produce when doing it manually thanks to our automated multivariate ad testing platform. 

This in turn will improve your Facebook ad testing results, while also saving you hours of doing it manually. This also makes it easy to find effective ad creative that will pay off for your business, so you can spend less time testing, and more time running ads that actually work.

With Marpipe, you can:

  • Upload all your brand assets
  • Build your unique ad design and define your variables
  • Drag and drop the images, copy, colors, and more you want to test
  • Auto-generate every possible combination of ads with one click
  • Automate the process of structuring and launching test campaigns
  • Control for spend across all ad variants (Marpipe does the math for you)
  • Know when you have significant results

Automating the entire multivariate testing process lets you find conversion-boosting opportunities you didn’t even know were there and scale winning ads with data-backed confidence.

Optimize your Facebook ads with multivariate testing

Facebook ads are a powerful way to reach and engage with your target audience. However, following basic Facebook ad testing best practices is essential to ensure that your ad testing produces accurate and statistically valid results.

By following the Facebook ad testing best practices mentioned in this article, and utilizing automated multivariate ad testing tools like Marpipe, you can ensure that your ads are reaching the right people and driving results — without needing a huge team of people to make it happen.

If you want to read more about how you can optimize your Facebook ad testing with Marpipe, take a look at the guide to modern creative testing on our blog.

FREE DOWNLOAD: First Test Best Practices

Answers to the five most common questions from first-time multivariate testers.

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How to Run a Multivariate Test

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How to Run a Multivariate Test
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