How To Use Custom & Lookalike Audiences with Facebook Ads

Posted by on Jul 24, 2013 in Advertising, Social | 26 Comments
How To Use Custom & Lookalike Audiences with Facebook Ads

Facebook offers a great deal of targeting options that you can’t find anywhere else, but there’s much more than the ability to target users by their relationship status. In this post we’ll cover how to use both Custom & Lookalike Audiences in Facebook Ads so you can leverage your business’s contact lists and take your Facebook ad campaigns to the next level.

Custom Audiences

With Custom Audiences, you now have the ability to target your Facebook ads to specific contacts! It works like this: Over time you’ve developed contact lists of leads, customers, subscribers, and more. Many, if not most, of your contacts are on Facebook so Facebook now lets you upload your lists to target them specifically.

You now have the ability to target your Facebook ads to specific contacts.

Here’s an example of this in action: you could get more likes on your business’s Facebook page by running a like campaign to past customers that haven’t yet liked your page. They will be much more likely to respond to your like campaign than a standard audience since they already have a relationship with your business.

How to Create Custom Audiences

Building your Custom Audience is extremely easy when you have a list of contacts..

  1. First identify the contacts that you want to reach with your new Facebook campaign. Perhaps you want to reach all of your contacts, or just a segment such as you current or past customers, leads, or subscribers. Just make sure your list is at least 500 people.
    Creating a custom audience
  2. Create a spreadsheet of the corresponding emails or phone numbers for your contacts. If you utilize a CRM, simply export your list.
  3. Open the Facebook Power Editor and upload your list of emails or phone numbers.
  4. Navigate to “Audiences” on the left.
  5. Click the “Create Audience” dropdown at the top and select “Custom Audience.”
  6. This will take you to the upload screen where you can upload your list and give it a name and description.

Facebook will then encrypt your data and match it against all active Facebook profiles. The result will be a new Custom Audience in your account complete with all matching profiles.

Lookalike Audiences

In addition to Custom Audiences, Facebook allows you to create Lookalike Audiences. Lookalike Audiences are groups of people that are similar to those in your Custom Audiences. If you have a Custom Audience of past customers, its Lookalike Audience will be filled with similar Facebook users that are likely to be interested in your offers.

How to Create Lookalike Audiences

Creating Lookalike Audiences is even easier, but requires an existing Custom Audience to build off.

  1. In the Power Editor, select “Audiences” from the left.
  2. Select an existing Custom Audience or create a new one.
  3. Click Create Similar Audience.
    Create similar audience
  4. Choose the country you’re targeting along with your optimization preference.
    •  If you choose to optimize for Similarity, Facebook will scan your selected country and include the top 1% of people in your new Lookalike Audience. This means you’ll end up with a narrow list of very similar users. If you’re working on a limited budget, this is your best option.
    •  If you choose to optimize for Greater Reach, Facebook will scan your selected country and include the top 5% of people in your new Lookalike Audience. This means you’ll end up with a larger list of users to reach, although with a less precise match. If you’re looking for the broadest reach across similar users, this is your best option.
  5. Click Create (it may take 6-24 hours for your Lookalike Audience to be ready).

Pro Tip: You can create a Lookalike Audience for each of the two optimization options, but they will overlap. If you wish to advertise to both, you can exclude your Similarity audience from the ad targeting your Greater Reach audience.

Website Custom Audiences

Learn how to retarget on Facebook with Website Custom Audiences.

How to Implement Your Audiences

Once you’ve created your audience, you can implement it in your Facebook ad targeting.

  1. In the Power Editor, select the ad you’d like to modify or create a new ad.
  2. In the edit panel below your list of ads, select “Advanced Options” under “Audience.”
  3. Begin typing the name of your audience in the Custom or Excluded audience field.

If your list is larger than you like, you can narrow it down further by overlaying other Facebook targeting options just like any other ad– just keep in mind that this will affect your reach.

Selecting a custom audience

Pro tip: Consider excluding current customers from ads that are targeting new customers.

The ability to target Custom Audience is a powerful feature unique to Facebook Ads. How have you been able to take advantage of it? Please let us know in the comments.

5 Tips For Creating Effective PPC Ads

Posted by on May 23, 2013 in Advertising | 27 Comments
5 Tips For Creating Effective PPC Ads

I admit it: I really get a kick out of writing online ads! It’s an opportunity to craft a message that will be seen by thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people. But the excitement doesn’t stop there– these ads generate near real-time statistics that let you evaluate their performance and make them even better! If you’re new to online advertising or are looking to be more purposeful in your copywriting strategy, check out these 5 high-impact tips for creating paid search ads.

1. Make Your Headline Count

An ad with an unclear headlineAn ad with a clear headlineDon’t waste this space with 7 purposeless characters! Your headline is the most prominent aspect of your ad so make sure it carries its weight. You have 25 characters of space to take advantage of; use it to make a statement. For ads targeting generic keywords, consider using descriptive headlines that explain your product or service. For ads targeting searches on your brand name, make sure to include your company name as well.

2. Include Keywords in Your Copy

Another helpful trick is to include your keyword in your ad copy whenever appropriate. This reinforces the relevance of your ad to the searcher and will help them see the value in your offer. Google will make keywords (and synonyms) present in your ads bold, which can really make your ad pop.

Ad copy with bolded keywords

Note: Try to avoid stuffing keywords into your ads. Keyword stuffing looks unnatural and confuses the message.

3. Create & Test Multiple Ads

Ads are social creatures… they don’t like to be alone. So never stop at only 1 ad in your campaigns and ad groups. Create 2-3 ad variations and let the networks find and serve the best performing version (you can set your ad rotation to optimize for clicks to let the networks serve the best ads). For example, duplicate your first ad and change the headline to see if that works better. You can also create an ad that highlights a different feature. Your ads are also competing with other companies for your customer so try out a few different messages and let them run. Test a wide variety of messages and you’ll likely learn that your personal favorite failed while another succeeded. Once you find a winner, you can test variations of that ad and pause all the others.

Two ad variations to test

4. Qualify Your Customers

Ad with clear pricingIt’s not hard to get a lot of clicks, but it is hard to get a lot of clicks from qualified people that are willing and able to become your customers. Make sure your ad text qualifies potential customers and prevents clicks from those that will leave your site without converting because your offer isn’t right for them. For example, if most of your competitors typically charge less than you, consider including your price in the ad copy. It may result in fewer clicks, but the clicks you do get will be from customers that are willing to pay that price.

5. Include a Call to Action

ppc ad with a clear call to actionIt’s amazing how many advertisers fail to include a “call to action” at the end of their ad text. This is your chance to tell customers what they should do once they arrive on your site, and it really works! What is your goal? Do you want to drive downloads, collect leads or increase sales? Tell your customers what the next step is and you will see an increase in the number of them that actually follow through.

Note: Make sure your website also echoes this call to action. You don’t want customers that land on your site to be confused about what to do next.

Expand Your Reach with AdStage

Check out our all-in-one online ad platform to create effective campaigns across Google, Facebook, Bing & LinkedIn. AdStage helps you amplify your reach across multiple networks from a single application to grow your business and reach new customers.

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Robert Scoble Interviews AdStage Co-founder & CEO, Sahil Jain

Posted by on May 13, 2013 in Advertising | No Comments

Robert Scoble of Rackspace and Scobleizer interviewed our co-founder and CEO Sahil Jain about AdStage and building online ad campaigns. Check out the full video here!

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Facebook Always Spends My Budget

Posted by on Nov 19, 2012 in Advertising, Social | No Comments

Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned a lot about online advertising and the process of launching ad campaigns. After letting my campaigns run for a week, I tried to fix my mistakes and optimize my campaigns as much as possible.

I noticed something that seemed to be a bit oddFacebook is guaranteed to spend my entire ad budget every single day, and it’s frequently within hours of launching campaigns. Granted, my budget is quite small per day, but compared to my other campaigns, I get many clicks, but only a small percentage convert. Spending the budget quickly isn’t in itself a problem, but I do want maximize my conversion rate, regardless of spending, clicks, and impressions. What do you guys see with your campaigns?

I need to learn whether my Facebook clicks and impressions can be turned into conversions for AdStage.

What are some possible explanations?

Advertising online

  • Poor targeting causes the budget to spend quickly, to an audience that isn’t interested in the product.
  • Ad text isn’t accurately describing the product.
  • Images are causing people to click regardless of the ads promote.
  • People are actually interested in the product, but our homepage isn’t compelling or clear.

Advertising toolsThis is our landing page. I’d want to sign up! What do you guys think?

My first step is to assume I haven’t optimized my Facebook campaigns yet. My goal is to have my Facebook campaign drive conversions. Facebook is a great network for getting your brand and message in front of many users (aka loads of impressions). It’s up to me (or any new advertiser) to get ads in front of the right audience with the right message. Then, I can expect a higher percentage of conversions when someone clicks my ad and they are sent to a landing page that’s compelling enough to encourage a sign up or whatever other conversion goal I set for my campaigns. The more I learn about this process, the better I understand what about the user acquisition process I can and can’t control.

There are some clear pros and cons to what I’ve seen on my Facebook campaigns.

Pros: I know people are seeing and engaging with my ads. As long as clicks and impressions give me an opportunity to show someone a great landing page and simple sign up procedure, my campaigns should improve and succeed in acquiring new users.

Cons: I’m not driving conversions yet. Clicks are good, but the goal is to convert people that see my ads into AdStage users. There’s an opportunity cost to using part of my budget on Facebook, if that portion of my budget could be spent more efficiently to drive conversions on other networks.

What do you think? Have you experienced similar behavior with Facebook or any other network? Do you see many conversions from your Facebook campaigns when compared with the other networks?

Thanks for reading. AdStage built a dashboard to help you see these kinds of trends in your own ad analytics – your key metrics, budget recommendations, competitor insights, and more. Sign up here for access to the private beta.

If you have any suggestions or ideas for future posts that would help new advertisers, please let me know. You can reach me at or send us a tweet at @getadstage.

Optimize Facebook & Google ad campaigns

Posted by on Nov 12, 2012 in Advertising, Search, Social | One Comment

Last week I posted some basics about launching ad campaigns and setting up ways to track my progress. This week, I want to take a look at my first week’s results and explain what changes I plan to make to optimize my Facebook and Google ad campaigns and why.

So lets see how I did in my first week:

Advertising metrics

Week 1 Dashboard

My dashboard shows some good and bad signs. Most notably, I had three conversions for the week – two on Facebook and one on AdWords. So in three cases, someone saw an ad and signed up at the AdStage homepage. That’s why I’m running these ads, so it’s a positive sign. CPA was about $12 for AdWords and $12.50 for Facebook. I think I can bring these down and analyze what impacts CPA most in coming weeks. This week, there’s no previous state to compare against. Right now my CTR appears to be low – 0.052% on AdWords and 0.03% on Facebook and clearly my campaigns on Bing and LinkedIn were not effective, thus I’ll be making changes for next time.

Here are two good Quora discussions about CTR on both AdWords and Facebook ads. Keep in mind that a campaign’s goal should ultimately be to drive conversions, and it is possible to have a high CTR without driving conversions at a low CPA.

What is a good CTR in an AdWords campaign?
What is a good CTR for a Facebook ad?

In my dashboard, I can also see best and worst performing ads, all of my top performing ads, and other high performing ads of similar companies or companies in a similar space.

Ad performance

Highest and lowest performing ads

Online ads

Other high performing ads & ad suggestions

These insights are really useful, both in making changes to my less performant ads and in incorporating elements of effective similar ads into my own ads.

Social campaign changes

In setting up my first campaigns, I wanted all ad text, headlines, and images as consistent as possible. I discovered a few differences that I adjusted for week 2. This is an issue I ran into partially because updating and adding new ads to each campaign while comparing for consistency across networks can be a pain.

For Facebook, I highly recommend using the power editor once you have more than a few ads and definitely once you have multiple campaigns. You can perform lots of useful actions that would otherwise move very slowly in the typical interface. For instance, you can duplicate ads and whole campaigns, and you can quickly edit ad details like the ad copy and images.

Here’s what the power editor looks like. You can see many options within the interface. With your own ad data in the editor, you’ll see it’s real power.

Facebook power editor

Power Editor

LinkedIn and AdWords have better interfaces and you can easily duplicate and edit your ads.

I should have also mentioned last week that you can import AdWords campaigns into BingAds. This will speed up launching your BingAds campaigns and it will ensure that your Bing and Google campaigns are the same. (I’ll warn you that Bing calls this a beta feature, and the first time I tried it, it did not work. However, the second time I tried, it did work.)

Bing Import from Google AdWords

Bing Import from Google AdWords

My next optimization was in network targeting. As I mentioned above, I had a few inconsistencies between my Facebook and LinkedIn ads. For my cross-channel campaigns, I want as much consistency as possible. Beyond the actual ads themselves, I also had targeting inconsistencies within my Facebook ads. To fix this, I took the targeting my top performing ad and made it the targeting for all of my Facebook ads. This way, I can start comparing apples to apples (ie. i can compare the ad headlines, ad text directly since the targeting is the same).

LinkedIn targeting needed a lot of change. I initially setup to target job titles and groups. This gave me an audience of about 20,000 users related to marketing and advertising. I expected my ads to be highly relevant to the audience and result in a high percentage of conversions. Instead, the audience was so small and I had hardly any impressions at all and didn’t engage any users. In week two, I’ll try targeting job function to gain a broader audience of about 1,000,000 users. Those users will still find my ads relevant, but the larger audience should result in more impressions, clicks, and hopefully more conversions.

Search campaign changes

My search campaigns also needed some optimizations – primarily concerning my keyword bids. On BingAds, I somehow didn’t change my chosen bid from the minimum allowed bid of $0.30. Beginner’s mistake! This was the first thing I did to improve my BingAds campaign. I checked my AdWords campaign’s keyword bids (which I set to auto-bid) and the average CPC was about $2.00. I switched out the old minimum bid on BingAds and matched it to my AdWords average. As I move further along, I will do more analysis on these changes and the predicted improvement I expect to see. For now, there are more obvious adjustments I need to make first.

While the auto-bidding for AdWords worked well since I didn’t know quite what to bid, it also resulted in an overpriced, low value click. Partly at fault for this click was that I included many keywords in my first week, some of which were not highly related to AdStage’s primary audience. Also partly at fault was that I did not set a bid maximum in AdWords. Specifically, I paid $4.14 for a click on an ad that displayed when someone searched for “ppc programs“. The chance of a conversion coming from that search term would seem to be very small.

Here’s a look at my week one keyword activity and my dashboard suggestions for new keywords:

There are three major lessons that come to mind specifically from week one.

  1. Pay attention to your keywords. You may find a good list or come up with your own list, but make sure most of your keywords are directly related to your product and company. Otherwise you risk paying for clicks that will not result in conversions. Google provides a good keyword tool that can help you here. You can do some simple searches to figure out possible good keywords.
  2. Make sure your bids are thought out. While you might not know anything about bids right away, there are some quick ways to learn. Bing offers good information like – whether your bid is likely to place your ad on the first page, the first ad slot, or otherwise. Set a bid that will land you the result you’re looking for. For me, a mainline (an ad placed in any position 1-4 in the top of search results) position and bid is the goal. Though, paying a little extra to guarantee top ad placement may be worth it for certain keywords. It all depends on how you much you value a given keyword. AdWords gives you less information about bidding, but a quick tip is to use auto-bidding and set a bid maximum. That way you’ll get the AdWords intelligence, while not paying more than you’re comfortable with for any given keyword.
  3. Double check your targeting. A good balance of size of audience and relevance of audience is most effective. As I saw, my relevance may have been good, but my audience (at least on LinkedIn) prevented my ads from getting enough exposure to have a successful campaign.

Those were my changes in the first week. Some of these changes could have been addressed before I even launched campaigns in the first place. This is part of the learning process and I’m already learning to take advantage of the tools I put in place specifically to help me optimize my campaigns. Hopefully pointing my mistakes out and showing how and why I’m changing my campaigns will help you build your own successful campaigns.

Thanks for reading and check out AdStage if you would like a great, simple way to compare your campaigns and get insights to improve your campaigns in one, well designed dashboard.

If you have any questions or need any help with your campaigns, please let me know. You can reach me at with anything on your mind – questions, comments, critiques, suggestions for future posts, or just to say hi.

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Setting up AdWords & Facebook campaigns

Posted by on Nov 7, 2012 in Advertising, Social | 2 Comments

In the first post I asked some important questions, made some predictions, and identified some of the main differences I know of between Search & Social ad networks. Now it’s time to launch my first campaigns. I’ll start by setting campaigns on Facebook and Google AdWords.

First, Go to (assuming you have a Facebook account) and pick a destination site.

Facebook advertising

I want to setup specific destination urls for each network with custom UTMs (this is simply a string of text appended to a site’s url) that lets me know where traffic to our site comes from. Google provides a great free tool to build urls with custom UTM information here.

Now I can build my first ad with a headline, text, and a photo. The goal of these characteristics is to attract and grab a user’s attention. This week, I created a variety of ads with different images, headlines, and ad text. This will let me easily compare the performance of my different ads and get an idea of which ads are working.

Facebook advertising

Here’s a good point to discuss some basic ad terminology. To start with, there are three key terms that are fairly self explanatory – an impression is simply someone seeing your ad, clicks occur when someone clicks on your ad, and a conversion is when someone performs a set of actions defined by the advertiser.

Connected to these terms are CPM, CPC, and CPA. CPM refers to cost per mille or cost per 1000 impressions, CPC refers to cost per click, and CPA refers to cost per acquisition. On most networks CPM and CPC are the common budget methods.

Facebook advertising

Creating similar campaigns across a few networks (ie. LinkedIn, BingAds, & AdWords) will let me compare network performance with some control. Each week, I’ll tweak my campaigns. The different audiences, different character counts, and different targeting options all give me ways to optimize my campaigns as I learn more. This leads me to an important discussion of some network differences.

Differences between the networks

Facebook and LinkedIn’s network targeting differences that are worth pointing out. Facebook can target precise interests that users have identified like marketing or advertising, broad categories like small business owners, along with social connections, workplace, education, relationship status, and more. LinkedIn similarly targets people, but with much more focus on business information like job title or function and skills.

Networks also differ in the amount of characters they allow. It may seem insignificant, but it is good to be aware. Both Facebook and LinkedIn, let you can use 25 characters in the title. In ad text, LinkedIn allows 75 characters, while Facebook allows 90 characters. This may lead you to customize your Facebook ads using that extra space. AdWords and BingAds share the same character count limits.

AdWords and BingAds also use similar targeting, but with a few exceptions. Both have simple targeting options like the device you want to target (ie. only laptops), location, and language. On BingAds, you have the additional ability to increase or decrease keyword bids (how much you’re willing to pay for a given keyword) depending on the age and gender of the person searching.

Now, I’ll walk through the process of building an AdWords campaign.

Head to and select the campaigns tab on the top left (create an account if you don’t have one already).


On the next page, you will see a New Campaign button. You’ll have options to make your campaign Search only, Search & Display, or Display only. I started with Search Network only.

Setting up an AdWords campaign

AdWords gives you options for several types of ads and targeting, but I am building a standard search text ad for people within the United States using laptops or desktop computers. This is also where you decide your bid and budget (automatic bidding is also an option). You can adjust these settings to fit your company best. For my first campaign, I created a budget of $5/day and let Google automatically decide on my keyword bids.

Setting up an AdWords campaign

Next, I create my first AdWords ad. I need to create an ad group, and from the same screen I can setup my first ad and keywords I would like to bid on.

Setting up an AdWords campaign

If you have no idea what a good ad is, there are a few easy ways to start. Search Google for your competitors or keywords that fit your company and take a look at those ads as a first step. Your ads will get better over time as you iterate on what you find. Take a look at a quick search I did for “advertising analytics dashboard”. Right away, I have some idea of what competitor’s ads look like and what keywords might work for AdStage.


A couple other quick tips:

  • Fill your ads with keywords you’ll be targeting
  • Have a clear, simple call to action
  • Try things like “Sign up Today” or “Free” – clear incentives should improve your conversions
  • Use Google’s keyword suggestions (shown below in right-hand column)

Adding keywords to AdWords

The next page is a view of my ad group where I can see my ads, create new ads, add keywords, change settings, enable or disable my ad group, change my default bid, and much more.

AdWords ad group

That’s the process of setting up a social campaign and a search campaign. They are slightly different, but with the Facebook and AdWords examples you can replicate the process through BingAds and LinkedIn as you wish. The best way to get a feel for setting up campaigns is to simply explore the interfaces yourself.

Now that I’ve setup campaigns, I want to track their performance. Check out Part 3 to learn how to hook up Google Analytics and AdStage for tracking the success of my campaigns.

Thanks for reading and check out AdStage if you would like a great, simple way to compare your campaigns and get insights to improve your campaigns in one, well designed dashboard.

If you have any questions or need any help with your campaigns, please let me know. You can reach me at with anything on your mind – questions, comments, critiques, suggestions for future posts, or just to say hi.

Part 3learn how to hook up Google Analytics and AdStage for tracking the success of my campaigns.

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