There’s one big common question that Facebook advertisers ask: which audiences should be targeted to complement and maximize the efficiency of campaigns?

Thanks to Facebook’s unlimited targeting combinations, this definitely isn’t a straightforward answer.

Your campaign objective will determine your method of targeting, however you will need to determine which campaigns you will prioritize to maximize results. This article will attempt to help you prioritize your targeting. This isn’t an exact and clear cut ‘rule book’ – the size of your audience and your budget are significant factors, however this is a jump off point to get you thinking.

1. Specific Web Pages (Targeting and Excluding)

When creating a new Website Custom Audience, you have the option to include or exclude a specific page of your website.

Facebook Ads Audiences - Specific Web Pages -

This hyper targeting will result in a smaller audience size, however you will have access to a highly relevant audience, which results in powerful targeting.

Using an e-commerce example, let’s say someone added a product to their cart but abandoned the process for whatever reason. Since you know they only proceeded to a certain point in the process, you can customize your ad copy to reflect that, bringing them back to complete their purchase.

If someone has viewed a particular blog post or category, you can promote a new piece of content, or a related opt-in or product based on their viewing history on-site.

If you’re considering sequential ad targeting, you could create a funnel based on Website Custom Audiences for single pages of your website. This will allow you to include/exclude pages and funnel visitors to content they have or haven’t yet read. This can be particularly effective with a product you may be promoting to a warm audience.

Remember, you want to include and exclude your audiences.

If someone’s already purchased a product or opted in, you may want to exclude them from your campaign. The easiest way to do this is by excluding the ‘success’ / ‘thank-you’ page that would be visited upon conversion.

2. Specific Web Sections

While a single page WCA can be absolutely amazing, you may be severely limited due to a small audience size. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to step back and target an audience based on the content category or related sections of your website.

This is an easy process when using Website Custom Audiences.

You might have a website that includes a category with the URL structure, like this example below:

The category in this example is “facebook-ads”. If I wanted to target previous visitors that were interested in Facebook Ads, I could create a WCA of anyone that has viewed the 50 blog posts within that category.

Facebook Ads Audiences - Web Sections -

Using the category targeting method, we aren’t reliant on a high number of single page visitors, but can capture visitors across dozens of related pages.

Ideally, you would do this if you were promoting something highly related to that category of content.  

If you don’t have a visible category within the structure of your URL (I don’t), you can use keywords to filter your audience. If you’re following proper URL naming conventions, your URLs will be descriptive and you can create your WCAs for any keywords within your URL.

3. All Website Visitors

Targeting individual pages or categories are great, but you need a fair amount of traffic before you can begin running effective campaigns using a WCA.

If you are getting a few thousand visitors per month, targeting all of your website visitors using a Website Custom Audience is a great first step towards re-engaging.

Facebook Ads Audiences - All Website Visitors -

When you’re deciding on the duration, take a look and see how big your audience looks over 30 days. Lower traffic will require that you use a higher duration, whereas high traffic will give you some flexibility to decide what the appropriate time range is.

Depending on your target budget, you may need to use a higher duration as well. Overall, this approach will work for websites and traffic of just about any size.

Using an All Website Visitors – 30 Days Website Custom Audience is great for a lot of campaigns, such as: blog post promotion, driving opt-ins, pushing traffic to products, or even increasing page likes.

If you’re operating in a tight niche, you’ll likely find that your audience can be applied across many different campaigns and objectives.

4. Email List Segments or Tags (Targeting or Excluding)

This is a tactic that’s similar to WCA #1 and #2.

If someone has purchased your product or opted in for a particular offer, you should segment them within your email list. You can tag them specifically within the list, but it doesn’t matter how it’s done so long as they’re segmented. You are then able to create a Custom Audience based on your segmented email list.

Facebook Ads Audiences - Email List -

This is fantastic for targeting. If someone purchased Product A and you want to push Product B once it’s available, you are able to reach the audience that purchased Product A.

A strong advantage of using an email list over a Website Custom Audience is the maximum duration limitation of a WCA. A WCA has a maximum duration of 180 days whereas an email Custom Audience is something you can use for targeting at any point. This is a great targeting strategy for future product based campaigns.

On the other hand, you can also use an email list as an exclusion, much like how you would use an individual page WCA as an exclusion in #1. If you’re promoting a product or opt-in, you may want to also exclude those who have already bought or opted in.

You can not only do that by using a WCA, but you can also exclude that segment based on your email list to ensure you’re not targeting them again a few months down the road.

5. Entire Email List

This is very similar to #3. Similar to how you could target all website visitors to target a larger audience, you can target your complete email list to give you more reach, rather than limiting by segment or tag.

Remember, your email list won’t expire. There is a big difference when compared to a 180 day duration limit on a WCA.

There are some things to watch out for when creating an email Custom Audience, however.

One is the age of an email address on your list – you might have some pretty old addresses on there. They may not be as applicable for targeting as they once were.

The second, you may only find that 50% of your email list will actually match up to a Facebook user.

It’s a good idea to remove any older emails and to only target those that are most likely to take action on your campaign objective.

6. Fans

You haven’t forgotten about these guys, have you?! This is quick and highly effective!

Facebook Ads Audiences - Targeting Fans -

It’s pretty common that you’ll see people complaining that Facebook fans don’t matter due to a drop in organic reach, but the fact is that fans still have value. In fact, there is still organic reach, and if you build your Facebook page audience properly from the start, you will have another layer of awesome targeting to take advantage of.

If a targeted user likes your page, they’re bucketing themselves for you. If you’re targeting 80,000 people and 1,000 end up liking your page, you can easily segment these 1,000 from the other 79,000.

It’s highly likely that your 1,000 fans that liked your page will be engaged in other ways too. This audience is more likely to read blog posts, opt-in to your offers, and buy your products. There’s a reason huge brands have huge audiences.

Forget about padding your likes with quick buys, crappy ads, bad content, or free contest giveaways for anyone. This will poison your fan base as an effective targeting group.

It’s important to discover the value of a Facebook fan for yourself. It has the potential to be a goldmine.

7. Lookalike Audiences + Interest and Behavioral Layering

This is a priority list, so remember, if you have decent website traffic, a fan base and email list that will operate within your budget, I would not create a separate campaign for interest/behavioural layering. You can experiment with it, but your core WCAs will perform the best.

For those who don’t have the luxury of the above, you have a ton of different options here. You will want to focus your targeting incredibly tight – this will be your primary targeting method.

Facebook Ads - Lookalike Audiences - Interests -

Creating a Lookalike Audience can help you scale your campaigns by leveraging a smaller audience you already have. Facebook will find people similar to those within your audience and you can push reach to the level that you need it to be.

I wouldn’t rely on Facebook to qualify your Lookalike Audience, however. It’s important to layer in ‘must have’ interests and behaviours to ensure that the audience performs well.

Using Audience Insights will help you define and refine your target audience, so take a serious look to make sure you’re leveraging every qualifying interest/behaviour to keep your audience highly relevant.

8. Advanced Interest and Behavioral Targeting (Logic + Exclusions)

Flexible logic is a huge help when targeting interests or behaviours. For example, if you were to target a user like this…

Interest 1 OR Interest 2 OR Interest 3 OR Interest 4

Your ad would reach anyone matching any of those four interests.

For very detailed targeting, it’s highly beneficial to target people who are connected to ALL of those interests. Like this…

Interest 1 AND Interest 2 AND Interest 3 AND Interest 4

Facebook Ads Audiences - Interest Behavioural Targeting -

To become even more effective, you will need to collect data and measure which individual interest is most productive. If you do find highly productive audiences, you could limit your audience to those who are related to all four, maximizing efficiency.

However, you can also do something like this:

Interest 1 BUT NOT Interest 2

Facebook Ads Audiences - Interest Behavioural Targeting Exclusion -

This is can very useful when dealing with specific categories of users where you really need to drill into a core interest.

9. Friends of Fans Layering

Social proof is huge, and it’s no surprise that the likelihood of people likely to perform an action – buy a product, click a link, comment on a post, like a page, etc. – is significantly higher if a friend did, too.

When editing your audience, you have the option to target Friends of Fans within the connections field.

Facebook Ads Audiences Connections - Exclude Fans -

Targeting friends of fans can be great, however it’s important to remember your targeting requirements when doing so. You had better be sure that your friends of fans audience is driving desirable actions such as sales or opt-ins, or else you could be faced with tainted results.

As an example, it would be cheaper and easy to target friends of fans to generate engagement or increase page likes, however the quality of these people may not be ideal. If their only motivation to take action is because a friend did, they’re probably not going to buy what you’re selling.

To qualify a user and avoid ‘fluffy’ engagement, you will want to use additional layering. You can always expand your audience through interests or a Lookalike Audience to qualify them, also targeting choosing to target friends of fans for that audience. This can be highly effective.

10. Lookalike Audiences

As mentioned briefly in #7, creating a Lookalike Audience is a great way to widen your net on a small but relevant audience. Facebook will analyze the details of your current website visitors, fans, or subscribers and find other Facebook users will match them using similar interests, behaviours, and a number of other factors.

Facebook Ads - Create Lookalike Audience -

Using website audience data to scale is generally much more effective compared to interest or behaviour targeting. There is a lot of upfront guess work and required learnings when choosing and running interest and behavioural based campaigns. If you have some website traffic that is qualified, leveraging Lookalikes Audiences will essentially take the guesswork out of the audience selection process.

Due to the scale that Lookalike Audiences provide, advertisers will see lower traffic costs, however I would consider these users to be at the top of the funnel. Most of these people will be unfamiliar with your brand, so you will want to warm them by directing them to your article or through post engagement, then retargeting.

11. Demographics

Interest targeting in itself is pretty vague. If I was to target people interested in “social media marketing”, for example, Facebook would identify any users connected to that interest in some way. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve added this as an interest to their profile or liked a specific “social media marketing” page, but Facebook has identified that through some action they’ve taken on content will be a relational match to that particular interest.

Interests are pretty cloudy, but Demographics provide you with details that are much more defined.

Facebook Ads Audiences - More Demographics -

When selecting Demographics, there are many types of information you can choose from:

  • Education: Education Level, Fields of Study, Schools, Undergrad Years
  • Relationship: Interested In and Relationship Status
  • Work: Employers, Industries, Job Titles
  • …and more

This data is pulled directly from what a user has entered into their profile. If you wanted to target married people who attended Harvard between 2001-2005 with a focus on Marketing and who work for a marketing or advertising agency, you can do that.

This may not be applicable to everyone, but there may be campaigns or points in your sales funnel where this level granularity could apply.

12. Behaviours

There is a lot of qualifying potential with Behavioural targeting. Behaviours are based on actions people take – often outside of Facebook – and what they spend money on.

There are a number of behavioural categories you can choose to target, such as:

Following are behavioral categories that cover what you can target:

  • Automotive
  • Charitable Donations
  • Digital Activities
  • Expats
  • Financial
  • Job Role
  • Media
  • Mobile Device User
  • Purchase Behavior
  • Residential Profiles
  • Seasonal and Events
  • Travel

Pretty crazy targeting, right? Pretty much. But there are some limitations.

The majority of these targeting options are only available for targeting a United States based audience and are only available to US advertisers. That could be a big limitation if you want to target a global audience.

Even if you are a US advertiser that’s targeting a United States based audience, the data still isn’t complete. There has also been talk of the accuracy and effectiveness. There have even been a few cases where Facebook has removed behavioural targeting options that showed to be less effective.

There is certainly potential, don’t get me wrong, behaviours can work. However, there is a list of more effective things to try.

13. Interests

Interest targeting goes back to the beginning of Facebook advertising, so it makes sense that interests are the last thing on this list.

If you have low traffic, interest targeting is where you want to work. This is if your email list is small. Or if your fan base is small or nonexistent. This is something you target when you don’t have data to leverage.

Interests can be pretty broad and they’re not well defined. Facebook hasn’t shared what actions and people may make up a particular interest. So, when you’re targeting, it’s essentially an educated guess. You are trusting that Facebook is doing the right thing when you run interest targeting.

With that in mind, interest targeting is a heck of a lot better than similar themed targeting outside of Facebook. It’s as good as it gets! Facebook’s targeting options are just so much deeper than interests, so this should really only be a last resort. Or a first step.

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