4 Facebook Ads Best Practices For Images

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Facebook advertising is currently one of the most popular ways to advertise. Why is that? Because, if you know how to create Facebook ad images that drive traffic to your primary business goal, they can be insanely effective. 

This article contains four best practices for creating and selecting Facebook ads images that will be creative and effective. In running large amounts of Facebook ads each year for our clients here at GCommerce Solutions, we took a look at the top performing Facebook ad images from the previous year to determine not only which types are performing well, but also the actual data that proves these best practices to be true.

Official Ad Best Practices From Facebook

  1. Opt into Facebook Campaign Budget Optimization

Campaign budget optimization (CBO) automatically manages your budget to allow for the best results. Daily budgets or lifetime budgets can be set for Facebook Ads campaigns, depending on your needs and how much you want to specify in your budget.

  1. Opt into Detailed Targeting Expansion

Detailed targeting expansion provides access for Facebook to reach a broader group of people than what you define in your targeting selections. Facebook is then able to make updates that reflect any findings for better performance outside of the defined targeting selections. 

  1. Opt into Automatic Placements for Facebook Ads

Automatic placements through Facebook increase ad exposure to best utilize the campaign’s budget. Depending on the settings of your campaign, automatic placements allow Facebook to expand the different channels your ads can be seen on. 

  1. Manage Your Facebook Ads’ Creative Fatigue

Creative fatigue is the result of your audience seeing the same images or videos too many times across your ads. This can lead to negative impacts such as lower engagement.

It is important to note some of Facebook’s general ad best practices to keep in mind before choosing your images. However, it may not always be enough to simply follow the ad best practices provided by Facebook. For example, utilizing budget optimization and automatic placements does not always lead to better results without also optimizing your ad images.

4 Facebook Ad Image Best Practices

1. Highlight Your Hotel’s Amenities In Facebook Ads

Does your property have a unique pool? Easy access to the beach? Beautiful surrounding scenery? Highlight it! It’s not always the rooms that drive guests to a specific hotel. In our research, ads with images of pools received a 30% higher CTR and 134% more clicks than non-pool ads running side by side.

2. Show Off Your Hotel’s Activities

Potential guests like to see what they will be able to do in the area while they are staying at your property. By highlighting things to do in your hotel’s Facebook ad images, these future guests can get a glimpse of activities that happen around the area. Based on our research, ad images that focus on activities have 154% higher engagement than ads with other images running within the same campaign.

3. Eat With Your Eyes

Whether a breakfast deal or various types of on-site dining, food sells. Posts that are about various restaurants where the focus of the ad is on the food itself drive guests to want to visit the restaurant. Outside shots of the restaurants are nice to add, but those focused on the food itself perform better. These food focused ad images have a 50% higher reach than those that aren’t food focused when run at the same time, side-by-side.

4. Don’t Keep the Property a Mystery

Having Facebook ads images that focus on the outside of the property can be eye catching and intriguing for potential guests. By seeing these types of images, guests are driven to the property’s website to learn more about where it is located, which can then result in them wanting to visit and stay at that property. These ads that focus on the outside images of the property have an 88% higher amount of clicks and a 35% higher CTR than ads with other images that are running within the same Facebook Ads campaign.

Hopefully this has provided a better understanding of what types of images perform well for Facebook ads for your hotel. Remember that not all best practices are the same across the board, so it is important to test and analyze what does well for you and among your audiences. And don’t be afraid to test new images for new campaigns – you never know what may perform well for you! Contact us today to get started on your Facebook advertising strategy!

Your Guide To Facebook Ad’s "Learning Limited" & How To Beat It

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It seems like each week Facebook is releasing new updates to their ads platform, stronger guidelines to protect user privacy, and more optimization capabilities than ever before. If you are a fellow advertiser on Facebook, you are no stranger to A/B testing and the never-ending journey of finding the optimal targeting, ad copy, imagery, and headline combinations. 

However, the quest for continuous improvement could also be leading to the demise of your Facebook ad performance. Enter: the Facebook Learning Phase.

What is the Learning Phase In Facebook Ads?

The Facebook Learning Phase is the time period where Facebook is using its machine learning capabilities to optimize your results. This is achieved by Facebook showing your ads to different audiences, at different times of day, and within different ad placements to determine the optimal delivery system. 

Facebook has a lot to learn about new ads, and during this Learning Phase Facebook performance is not considered stable. It’s recommended that Facebook advertisers spend no more than 20% of their budget in the learning phase, as those ads usually encounter a higher CPA.

When Does the Facebook Learning Phase Occur and How Can You Exit?

The Facebook Learning Phase occurs whenever a new adset is created or a significant edit has been made. Edits that will force your ad sets into the Learning Phase are listed below.

Campaign

  • New campaign
  • Budget
  • Bid amount
  • Bid strategy

Ad sets

  • Targeting
  • Placement
  • Optimization event
  • Adding new creative
  • Bid strategy
  • Bid amount
  • Budget
  • Pausing for over 7 days

Ads

  • Any change (imagery, copy, URL, etc.)

When Will Your Ad Set Exit the Learning Phase In Facebook Ads?

Once your Facebook ad set performance is considered stable, you will exit the Learning Phase. Stable performance generally means that your ad set has received around 50 optimization events within a 7-day period. Your optimization event will depend on what you have set at the ad set level. This could be 50 purchases, 50 leads, 50 landing page views, 50 add-to-carts, etc. Whichever one you choose, your optimization event should be congruent with your performance goals.

If your Facebook ad sets don’t generate enough optimization events within that 7-day period they will be launched into the dreaded Learning Limited phase.

What Does it Mean to be Stuck in Facebook Ads’ Learning Limited?

When your Facebook ad sets are stuck in Learning Limited, it means you haven’t generated enough optimization events to exit the Learning Phase and become Active. For many advertisers, the Learning Limited Phase is a limbo that should be heavily avoided. Not only will your Facebook ads have a higher CPA, but they won’t be fully optimized toward the best-performing audiences and placements. When Facebook doesn’t have enough data, it can’t accurately predict the best ad placements and positioning which could make your performance suffer.

How To Fix Learning Limited in Facebook Ads

While the Learning Limited phase can be hard to exit, it’s not impossible. Facebook has outlined a few tips that could help catapult your ad sets into the active phase.

Tip 1 - Avoid Excessive Edits In Your Facebook Ads Campaigns

Making constant changes and edits to your Facebook Ads campaigns is easily the No. 1 mistake most advertisers make when it comes to being stuck in Learning Limited. Every time you make an edit, the system essentially has to start over. So while you think you are improving your campaigns by making optimizations, you are actually further delaying your exit from the Learning Phase and wasting valuable ad dollars.

However, this is not to say you should never optimize your Facebook campaigns and make edits. On the contrary, testing new creatives, ad copy, and targeting is how Facebook learns about your ad performance. Testing is essential to performance success. The key is to simply find the balance between making changes and letting your campaigns simmer. 

At GCommerce, we are constantly optimizing our ads and running A/B tests, but last year we found that we were stuck in Learning Limited a lot. We discovered that the main cause was excessive editing. At this discovery we implemented new procedures to only edit campaigns once per week (in most cases) and with this change we quickly saw that we were able to exit the learning phase quicker. 

Tip 2 - Combine Facebook Ad Sets

Are you running multiple ad sets within your Facebook Ads campaigns? This could be keeping you in Facebook’s Learning Limited. When too many ad sets are run at once they begin to take away from each other. This results in less deliveries for each ad set, longer time spent in the learning phase, and more budget spent on unstable ad sets.

Instead, if you are running multiple ad sets with similar targeting or audiences, Facebook recommends combining these into one ad set with a larger budget and audience to deliver to. Larger audiences will give Facebook more options for delivery which can help you exit the learning phase and Learning Limited much quicker.

If you are unable to combine ad sets, try increasing your current audience size by adding in more interests, geographical locations, or other targeting capabilities or taking away harsh parameters that might be restricting your deliverability.

Tip 3 - Increase Facebook Ad Campaign Budget

While this option is certainly not always an option, the number one recommendation to remove your ad sets from the Learning Limited phase is to increase your Facebook budgets by at least 25%. Most advertisers don’t have the ability to increase budgets at whim, but if you are able to this can help with exiting the Learning Limited phase.

Tip 4 - Change The Facebook Ads Campaign Optimization Event

If you’ve tried all the tips above, you could consider changing the event you are optimizing for altogether. If you are optimizing for purchases, but can’t get 50 purchases in a 7-day period, try changing that event to something higher up in the funnel like initiates check-out or add-to-cart. The further down the booking funnel you go, the lower your conversion events will be. Changing to a higher-funnel event will allow you to generate enough events to exit the Learning Limited phase. Note that you cannot change the optimization event on a published Facebook ad set, you will need to duplicate your existing ad set for this.

Final Takeaways on Facebook’s Learning Phase & Learning Limited

We’ve covered a lot in this blog post, and managing the Facebook Learning Phase and Learning Limited can be overwhelming for a lot of advertisers. There is no right way to create success with your Facebook campaigns. Ultimately you need to evaluate your own campaign performance and define what success means to you. It’s important to also take these Facebook phases with a grain of salt; you might be stuck in  Learning Limited, but maybe your performance is the best it’s ever been and you are showing a high ROAS. It’s very possible to maintain successful campaigns without being fully optimized and stable. 

Let the experts at GCommerce help get your Facebook advertising to where it needs to be. Connect with us today for more information!

How to Analyze Your Hotel Marketing Campaigns’ ROAS

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How to Analyze Your Hotel Marketing Campaigns’ ROAS “Return on Ad Spend” - The devil is in the details

Lately, a lot of hoteliers have been talking about “ROAS”. And, what great ROAS they are seeing with their hotel’s digital marketing campaigns.  Well, yes, hoteliers should be seeing a very high ROAS but what most hoteliers don’t understand is that ROAS is just a metric and a very broad one at that. 

How should you view the ROAS metric for your hotel’s digital marketing campaigns?

As most of you know, ROAS, in its basic form, is the total revenue you brought in divided by your ad spend.  The real question is what is included in that “total revenue”.  For instance, if a hotel marketing agency is focused on just a hotel's brand/name terms your ROAS will be very high because you're placing an ad in front of travelers who are searching for your hotel.  Think of this as your phone ringing and somebody wants to make a reservation at your hotel or book a group with you.  Now…throw in a couple of market terms (i.e. hotel in San Diego) and oh no, your ROAS is going to go down.  But wait, market terms, in my eyes, are like cold calling.  You are placing ads out there in front of travelers who are very high in the sales funnel and maybe just starting to look into traveling somewhere.  The question you should be asking yourself is, do my sales people sit around and just wait for the phone to ring or are they out there making cold and warm calls?  Well, now take that thought and ask yourself, is my hotel marketing agency just sitting around and waiting for the phone to ring (brand/name terms) or are they also picking up the phone and making warm and cold calls (market terms).  Then, take that thought and look at how many campaigns your agency is running with both brand/name and market terms.  I explain this as “how many hooks does your agency have in the sea”.  The more hooks in the sea the more fish you're going to catch.  As we like to say here at GCommere, ”ROAS is nice but the main problem with it is that you cannot take it to the bank!”

What does attribution models have to do with my hotel marketing campaigns’ ROAS?

Now, let’s go a little deeper with ROAS as you will see how messy this metric can be once you start peeling back the data.  With regard to ROAS on display ads the question you need to ask yourself is if the ad is being measured based on “view through” conversions or not.  Okay…what does “view through” mean?  Here is a quick scenario… you visit a hotel's website, leave without booking and a cookie is placed on your browser.  You go to another site, let’s say Cycling News.com and then you realize you did not book a room at the hotel so you go back to the site and book your room.  What you did not see at the very bottom of the Cycling News site was an ad for your hotel.  But, the agency is going to charge you a 15+% commission on that booking even though the person who booked the room did not see the ad.  Oh and here is the kicker, the person who booked the room might not have even looked at the Cycling News page at all because their kid asked them a question and you will still get charged a commission for that booking.  So, if you are using a third-party agency for your display ads or social media ads you really need to peel back the data, which is not easy, on what your ROAS actually is. 

Okay, are you ready for your mind to start spinning?  Let's now throw in attribution models.  Oh wait, are you talking about last-click attribution or data-driven attribution?  If you're not familiar with either of these I will help you out. 

Last-click attribution assigns a credit for a sale to the last ad that a user clicked. By contrast, data-driven attribution will spread credit for a sale across every hotel marketing ad campaign that the user interacted with over the span of the conversion, with fractional credit being assigned to each campaign based on Google’s algorithmic analysis of the campaigns. So, is your hotel marketing agency using attribution in the ROAS they are giving you?  It’s important to understand what attribution model your agency is using and if it’s the best way to tell the story of your full funnel campaign strategy.

How to review ROAS for your hotel’s email marketing campaigns

And finally, if anybody tells you that their hotel’s email marketing campaigns are seeing a super high ROAS please tell them…”well, shouldn’t that be the case every time?”.  Why?  Because you're sending an email to a consumer who has either stayed at your property before or is VERY interested in staying at your property.  Think of email marketing as a brand/name term campaign or the bottom of the sales funnel.  Similar to a retargeting campaign, you're placing an ad in front of someone who already has looked at your site and has an interest in staying with you.  They just forgot to book a room.  

So the next time someone highlights ROAS take a minute and ask yourself…”okay, that’s great but let’s peel back that number because the devil is behind the numbers”.  And with the case of ROAS, there is a lot behind the number. 

What Hotel's Should Know About Cookieless Tracking & Google Analytics 4

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We’ve recently written about Google’s latest iteration of Analytics and important things hotel’s should know about Google Analytics 4 (GA4). In this post, we will go into a bit more detail on how the change to cookieless tracking might impact your hotel’s digital marketing efforts.

What are Cookies and Why Do They Matter?

Cookies are small pieces of data stored on your computer by the web browser. What they are isn’t so important as to what they are used for, which is to track individual users. By dropping a unique cookie or pixel onto your browser, a website can then track behavior outside of your website.

Are Cookies An Invasion of Privacy?

This is the big debate currently being waged and many people would say yes. Legislations like Europe’s GDPR, California Consumer Privacy Act, recent updates to Apple’s IOS to block more 3rd party tracking are all efforts to protect user’s individual privacy by making it harder to identify those individuals. At the heart of this debate is cookieless tracking. While cookies are not banned or illegal, a lot of browsers, plug-ins and software help to block cookies and there is evidence the cookies are becoming a less viable way to track users.

What does this mean for Google’s Universal Analytics?

Google’s current and most popular iteration of Analytics, Universal Analytics, uses first-party cookies to determine a number of variables within their tracking. Already, digital marketers are reporting gaps in data based on people that are actively blocking cookies and tracking. Within our own data, we have noticed certain instances where traffic from California has decreased, while traffic from locations not tracked has increased. This change is very likely indicative that California’s privacy laws are having an impact on our ability to track.

Why is Google Analytics 4 A Solution To A Cookieless World?

Despite what the name suggests, GA4 isn’t actually more robust tracking, it is actually less tracking on individual users. This is because GA4 is not tracking every pageview. Rather than rely on cookies and javascript variables to track every pageview, GA4 is tracking based on specific events that are built and established. Google then applies advanced models to fill out data for traffic and behavior. What Google Analytics 4 lacks in individual tracking it makes up for with the robust tools of their machine learning algorithms. The need for something like GA4 comes from the new privacy laws and public awareness around data collection.

What Should Your Hotel Do About Google Analytics 4?

While GA4 definitely seems like the exclusive tracking platform that Google will be supporting in the near future, Universal Analytics is still your most valuable tracking tool, for now. As we discussed above, changes to the way users view their privacy will make Universal Analytics less and less reliable as time goes on. The unfortunate aspect of this is that there is no published timetable for when GA and other tech companies will implement changes. The earlier that your hotel starts to utilize GA4, get familiar with it and start to utilize data from it, the further ahead of the curve your hotel will be when Universal Analytics comes to a point it is no longer recommended to utilize. There is no other time like now to start preparing for the future. 

How To Get Started With Google Analytics 4?

After my father got a debilitating injury trying to build a retention wall in our backyard at the ripe-young age of 56, he decided it might be better to trust the experts. In this situation, we would also recommend utilizing an expert to help install GA4 for your hotel’s website. The truth is, GA4 is a completely novel way of tracking that does not rely exclusively on individual user data. Instead, it relies on event signals that are built and established based on the functionality and goals of your website.

Google Analytics 4 Tracking From GCommerce

If you’re interested in having the experts at GCommerce help establish GA4 tracking and reporting for your hotel website, contact us today!

Flywheel News | September 2021 Digital Marketing Month in Review

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  1. Google announces expanded text ads will be sunsetted in 2022

    Technically this announcement snuck in at the very end of August. But it’s a big shake up in the SEM community so we had to share it here. Google has announced that “beginning in July 2022, advertisers will no longer be able to create new expanded text ads (ETA) or edit existing ETAs in Google Ads”. Instead, you will be forced to use responsive search ads or Dynamic search ad formats. Our search marketing experts break down what this means and more in this blog post about Google’s ETA announcement(link to Ashley’s post).

  2. Expedia group shares fall travel outlook

    We love some great travel insights. These fall travel outlook details from Expedia breakdown who is most eager to travel this fall (hint: Millennials are in the lead) and where they are most interested in travelling to. What excites us most is the mix of both city center and outdoor destinations. Dive into the details here to guide your fall marketing strategies including who you may want to start crafting your targeting and messaging towards.

  3. Google updates how pages titles are displayed in Search Results

    About a month ago Google confirmed that it had changed how it displays page titles in the SERP results. Google decided that in certain situations it would replace title tag text with the text from the page’s header tags. While the initial changes found by many in the SERP immediately after the change were dramatic, the amount of pages/changes that are showing the results have now leveled out. We’ve noticed only certain pages we’ve audited have been re-written in the SERP, mostly pages that had yet to have optimized page titles written. The thought amongst the team here is that Google is only focusing on rewriting or replace page title text that is underperforming. So, if you notice page titles that do not contain your assigned page title text, it may be a good indicator it’s time to try different copy.

  4. Google Ads Phrase Broad Match Keyword Preferability and BERT

    In what seemed to be an announcement that just confused most of the SEM community, Google announced updates to the way keyword matching works. The biggest change seems to come around the inclusion of different relevance signals, including use of BERT, to determine which keyword is most relevant. Exact will still trump phrase and broad in matching to the query as long it is the most relevant and has the higher Ad Rank. GCommerce is continuing to test different ways to use match type structures in our accounts to achieve the most cost efficient results. 

  5. Google Announces it will use Data Driven Attribution in Google ads by default

    Data Driven Attribution was always something small businesses aspired to have, but could never possibly attain due to extremely high minimum conversions needed to qualify. At the end of September, Google announced that it is officially moving away from last-click attribution and instead using data-driven attribution as it’s default for all conversion tags for all advertisers. This means, no matter the total conversions you achieve in a month, your account will be eligible. This will roll out over the coming months and is another step Google is taking to help advertisers “future-proof their measurement” in a privacy centric world. GCommere long did away with last-click attribution many years ago in favor of the next best option for our accounts which was default-position based attribution. We’re excited to monitor how this change impacts our reporting and campaign performance.

  6. Mailchimp Acquired by Intuit

    Our last piece of digital marketing news to round out September updates comes from the major announcement by Intuit that it had acquired Mailchimp. The move comes from a desire by Intuit to establish themselves as an end-to-end customer growth platform. Email marketing and engagement possible through Mailchimp’s platform gives Intuit the ability to do so. From our point of view it proves that owning your customer data and organizing your eCRM in a way that allows you to best communicate and grow your customer database is even more important.

Google Expanded Text Ads Discontinued

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Google recently announced yet another fundamental change to their paid search advertising product - the discontinuation of Expanded Text Ads.

Right now, there are a few different ad types available on Google Ads. Each ad type is automated in some way, but Expanded Text Ads offer some of the most direct control available on the entire platform. 

Expanded Text Ads allow advertisers to choose a particular combination of headlines and descriptions to show up in a search, providing a great opportunity for very specific messaging and branding. However, creating and editing Expanded Text Ads will no longer be supported as of June 30, 2022. 

With Expanded Text Ads disappearing, search marketers will now have to focus their efforts on Dynamic and Responsive Search Ads. These ad types still allow marketers to write copy and choose messaging to some extent, but the opportunity is smaller than that of Expanded Text Ads. These more automated ad types remove the ability to choose exact combinations of copy, relying far more heavily on machine learning and other AI in the interest of improved ad performance. 

But is it actually worth it?

Based on this sample of our client data, it seems like more automated ad types do indeed perform better in almost every way. Even when Expanded Text Ads perform the best, they aren’t very far ahead. With this information, it’s easy to understand why Google is moving away from Expanded Text Ads. Even if the platform pushes Responsive Ads more often, the interaction rates between these two types are pretty similar. Since Google is already interested in automation, the performance of Expanded Text Ads likely isn’t significant enough to keep them around.

However, it’s impossible to predict how this decision will actually affect performance in the long run. Maybe we’ll see a massive boost for Responsive Search Ads without the added competition of new Expanded Text Ads. Maybe users will see lower returns until Google’s AI learns how to deal with the new landscape. Maybe there won’t be a significant change at all, and we’re all just overreacting. 

In any case, marketers have no control over the decision. This will be an adjustment for all of us, and reactions have been sort of a mixed bag. Here’s what our search marketing team has to say about the upcoming Google Ads update.

“New standards and best practices will emerge as the industry figures out how to manipulate Responsive Search Ads effectively. It’s just a matter of keeping up with the changing landscape.”

- Cat Jones

“I’m pretty excited about what this means for the future. Change is the backbone of marketing, and this is just another opportunity for us to flex our problem-solving skills and adapt to the unknown.”

- Alex Scharpf

“The removal of Expanded Text Ads is an exciting new challenge. Advertisers will have to explore the best ways to optimize Responsive Search Ads, allowing for more variables and opportunities for testing.”

- Mike Orrison

“I think this is just the latest in a long trend from Google. Learning how multiple Responsive Search Ads interact within a singular ad group should be something all search marketers explore and test as Expanded Text Ads are phased out.” 

- Patrick Buckner

“The only concerns I have are the lack of robust reporting and slightly less control that come with Responsive Search Ads. I'm hoping that Google will continue to build out its reporting capabilities prior to the sunsetting of Expanded Text Ads in 2022.”

- Lisa McGivney

“Responsive Search Ads have always been a means of testing new headlines and descriptions, and they’ve provided valuable knowledge as to what works and what doesn’t. If control becomes a challenge, we can still implement qualities of Expanded Text Ads in our Responsive Search Ads.”

- Alex Horrocks

“If needed, we can force Expanded Text Ads into a Responsive Search Ad by pinning specific headlines and descriptions. Unless the pinning function goes away or changes, I can't disagree. The change gives us more options and ways to test all at once; I guess we’ll see how it all goes in 2022.”

- Jael Dugdale

We can speculate about the future, but no one knows for sure what the upcoming Google Ads update will mean for the industry. This isn’t the first time Google has made a move towards automation, but every new change brings new challenges. For now, GCommerce Solutions will continue to learn and evolve in order to provide the best possible results for our clients. Contact us for more on our thoughts and plans for the future.

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