Every UA manager knows ad campaigns are complex systems. Make one change to one aspect of a campaign, and it will affect all the other aspects of the campaign. UA automation is no different.
These are the three biggest drivers of UA campaign performance right now:
While targeting and budget manipulations are powerful ways to improve performance, creative optimization beats the pants off both of them.
Google itself has acknowledged this, citing a study that found “on average, media placements only account for about 30% of a brand campaign’s success while the creative drives 70%.”
The fact that creative accounts for 70% of brand campaigns’ success are not the only reason to get serious about optimizing creative. The best reason to focus on creative is that the other two main drivers of UA performance – budget and targeting – are now largely automated.
We have shifted into a world where creative is the only real competitive advantage left.
All that said, there are still significant performance wins to be had with better targeting and budgeting. They may not have the same potential impact as creative, but they have to be dialed in or your creative won’t perform as well as it could.
Yes – Facebook and Google’s ad platform algorithms can now go out and find your ideal customers for you. But that doesn’t mean those algorithms can’t benefit from a little help.
Audience targeting is so critical to the performance that we’ve created a powerful tool to help us slice and dice audiences with a level of precision and efficiency that most advertisers never even know is possible.
Our Audience Builder Express lets us create hundreds of lookalike audiences with incredibly granular targeting in seconds. It also allows us to alter the lifetime value of certain audiences just enough so that Facebook can better target the super-high value prospects. By “stretching” the data in certain ways, we can give the algorithm a much clearer profile of the ultra high-value customers we want the most.
All this sophisticated audience targeting helps performance and reduces audience fatigue, but it has one other benefit: It lets us keep creative alive and performing well for much longer than without our advanced targeting. The longer we can keep creative alive and performing well, the better.
We’ve come a long way from bid edits at the ad set or the keyword level. With campaign budget optimization, AEO bidding, value bidding, and other tools, now we can simply tell the algorithm which types of conversions we want, and it will go get them for us.
There is still an art to budgeting, though. Per Facebook’s Structure for Scale best practices, while UA managers do need to step back from close control of their budgets, they do have one level of control left. That’s to shift which phase of the purchase cycle they want to target.
If a UA manager needs to get more conversions so that the Facebook algorithm could perform better, they can move the event they’re optimizing for closer to the top of the funnel – to app installs, for example. Then, as the data accrue and they have enough conversions to optimize for a more specific, less frequent event (like in-app purchases), then they can change their conversion event target to something further down the funnel.
This is still budgeting, in the sense that its managing spend, but it’s managing spend at a more strategic level. Now that the algorithms run so much of this side of UA management, we humans are left to figure out a strategy, not individual bids.
Each of these primary drivers is critical to campaign performance, but it’s not until you use them in concert with creative that they really start to stoke ROAS. They are all interconnected. Ignore one, and suddenly the other two won’t hold you up.
This is a big part of the art of campaign management right now – bringing creative, targeting, and budgeting together in just the right way. The exact execution of this varies from industry to industry, client to client, and even week to week. But that’s the challenge of great user acquisition management right now. For some of us, it’s a lot of fun.
While user acquisition managers can now step back from certain parts of campaign management, there’s still a need for humans to supervise the machines.
The algorithms are increasingly effective, but they still have some serious blind spots. For example, algorithms run on data. Restrict their access to data, and performance drops off precipitously.
Data restrictions can happen due to campaign structure (which we talked about earlier), but they can also occur when market conditions change rapidly… during events like a pandemic, for example. Or during Black Friday. It’s surprise events like these when humans are most valuable: We can adapt to unfamiliar situations faster and more effectively than machines can.
Another critical aspect of “algorithm management” is to question the decisions the algorithms make. We can across a very interesting example of this in early 2020 when we started to really wonder why the control ad always seemed to win. After some careful strategic testing, we revealed a bias in the algorithm. The video below explains what it is, how we found it, and how to adapt you’re A/B testing to get around this “bug” that could arguably be seen as a feature for most beginner advertisers.Facebook Creative Testing: Why Does The Control Always Win? from Brian Bowman on Vimeo.
As Facebook and Google App Campaign optimization algorithms have drastically improved, and each platform has rolled out powerful – and powerfully effective new automation features, they’ve created a more level playing field for social advertisers of all sizes.
Advantages that were once held by third-party adtech providers have diminished, with media buying and bidding becoming much easier and faster with these improved native tools. As a result, Facebook and Google’s algorithm improvements have made a lot of adtech largely obsolete.
A lot of adtech… but not all of it.
We’ve managed over $3 Billion in ad spend over the last few years, driving ROAS for some of the most profitable apps and companies in the world. We do it as efficiently as humanly – or “mechanically” possible, thanks to having both a gifted team and some very powerful tools.
AdRules is our own Self-Service Ad Buying & Creative Automation For Facebook & Google App Campaigns. It simplifies the process of social advertising by using workflow automation to build ads quickly, reduce management, and improve reporting performance over Facebook’s native tools. AdRules is free until the end of July.
AdRules also includes the AdRules Audience Builder, which we introduced in an earlier section of this whitepaper. It allows users to create hundreds of defined audiences with just a few clicks.
Competitive Analysis Tracking Tools. We didn’t build any of these in-house, but we recommend their use highly. Competitive analysis is one of the highest-return activities a UA manager can do now, especially if they include player profiles and creative trends in their analysis. For tools, start with Facebook’s Ads Library to see what your competitors are publishing, then experiment with: Social Ad Scout, PowerAdSpy, Connect Explore, SocialPeta and AdSpy.
See our article, Facebook and Google App Campaign Best Practices for Competitive Analysis of a Competitor’s Best Ads, Using the Latest Ad Spying Tools, for a detailed explanation of how to do competitive analysis.