Facebook ads don’t work for us“! 62% of small business owners said so in response to a recent Weebly survey. I run and advocate Facebook Ads for most types of companies, yet I believe this number is too low. Why? Because there are just too many ways to mess up your Facebook Ads if you lack the right know-how.

How should you go about finding what you did wrong? While every advertiser will always find unique ways to shoot themselves in the foot, most of the problems fall into distinct 5 categories. Diagnose your problem right, and you will get a chance to fix it, given sufficient focus and attention to detail. In most cases, you should expect to find problems across multiple steps. So let’s get started!

Step 1: Media Cost & Reach

The first questions with buying ads is always how much you are paying and how much can you buy.

A successful campaign could easily turn into a failure if you start overpaying for media. Conversely, you can turn around your failures by idenifying where you can trim the fat. The price you pay for thousand impressions (CPM) is mainly dependent on how you are targeting and how you are bidding. Cost usually goes up when your audience reach gets saturated. And of course you could easily fail to get any traffic at all if your bidding settings are off.

Specific questions to ask:

  • Access: Are you able to obtain any traffic at all? Can you get ads approved?
  • Benchmarks: How does your CPM compare with relevant “averages” (by country, niche, audience, etc)?
  • Too Cheap: If CPM is abnormally low, are you getting a real bargain or buying wrong traffic?
  • Too Expensive: If CPM is abnormally high, is there a problem with your bidding settings?
  • Seasonality: Are your results hurt by seasonality (e.g. holiday season) or other algorithm disruptions?
  • Budget: Is your budget right for your audience size? How does CPM change if you increase or reduce it?
  • Frequency: How is the frequency looking? Does it indicate your audience saturation?
  • Expansion: Should you expand to other audiences to reduce saturation problem?
  • Dayparting: Are you wasting money on specific days of week and times of day?
  • Manual Bids: Have you tested manual bidding at different levels to buy media more efficiently?
  • … and a lot more

Step 2: Creative + Targeting Fit

Your ads are certain to fail if they don’t break through the noise and clutter. Simple as that.

Note that this isn’t just about the ad creatives themselves, but ads taken together with targeting. Soccer moms, teenage gamers, football fans, retired homeowners and political activists are going to be motivated by different types of messages and imagery. If you haven’t researched what makes your audience respond and take action, your ads are going to miss the mark. Don’t just copy/paste your slogans, tell a story with strong hooks that connect!

Specific questions to ask:

  • Engagement: What click / view/ comment / share rates are you currently getting?
  • Relevance Scores: How do you rank compared to others advertising to the same audience?
  • Visuals: Are the graphics visually compelling? Would they stand out in the cluttered newsfeed?
  • Headlines: Do your headlines grab attention and plant the hook to get reader interested?
  • Long Copy: Are you telling a compelling story in a long form with the “post text”?
  • Emojis: Is your copy bland and unremarkable or is it using relevant emoji symbols?
  • CTAs: How good are your calls to action? Are they repeated? Do they match your story?
  • Suspense: Does your ad give everything away or teases some unanswered questions to drive action?
  • Videos: Are you using them? How do they tell your story?
  • Viral Contents: How could you motivate your audience to share ads for greater organic reach?
  • Lack of Focus: Are your audiences too broad to address in a compelling way?
  • … and a lot more

Step 3: Offer & Landing Page Relevance

Content gimmicks will get you nowhere without a value proposition, that is compelling and easy to act upon

If your business has paying customers this means someone actually needs what you are selling. But this doesn’t mean you have already made it easy for a total stranger (or a repeat tire-kicker), to take the first step. Once you have created ads that capture user’s attention, you must provide a smooth way to convert attention into action. You need a “no brainer” offer and a focused landing page to help convert it.

Specific questions to ask:

  • Conversion: What story do the conversions rates tell us now?
  • Value: Does your target audience really want what you are selling?
  • Timing: Is the offer relevant to the audience right now? How does it create urgency?
  • Committment: Are you asking for too much on your “first date” with your prospect?
  • Consistency: Do the offers and landing pages fulfill the promise of the ad creative?
  • Social Proof: Do the comments and reviews help or hurt the chance of your offer being accepted?
  • Deal Killers: What about your products, offers or creatives could possibly put off a prospect?
  • Feedback: Are you reviewing the comments and messages? Are you responding to sell your offer?
  • Form Data: Are you asking for too much data on your forms? Is that stopping your prospects?
  • Page Usability: Do landing pages focus the prospect on completing the offer or do they distract?
  • Single CTA: Is there a single call to action on every page or do you present confusing choices?
  • … and a lot more

Step 4: Tracking & Attribution Problems

Do you trust your ad reporting? Are you sure? Why are you so sure? Can you explain every number?

In my experience most advertisers don’t fully understand their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). There is often a reverse correlation between “being sure that everything is tracking fine” and the actual situation. I have seen some really eggregious examples of in-house techs mislabeling pixel events, passing wrong values, double-firing conversions and inventing bugs you’d never think of. This leads to Garbage-In-Garbage-Out reports, corrupted audiences and confused optimization. And that is before we can even start making sense of attribution!

Specific questions to ask:

  • Coverage: What conversion events are you currently tracking? Which ones are you missing?
  • Documentation: Do you have written definitions of these events? Both logical and technical?
  • Sanity Check: Do the reporting numbers look consistent or something seems wrong?
  • Interpretation: Can you explain the results by looking at ads, offers and conversion definitions?
  • Tag Manager: Are you using a tag management platform to reduce technical errors?
  • URLs: Are you relying on URLs for conversion definitions? What do you do when pages move?
  • Advanced Match: Do you pass emails to Facebook Pixel to increase match rate?
  • Attribution Windows: Have you compared results under different attribution window settings?
  • View Through: Do you know what share of conversions happen without an ad click?
  • Out-of-the-Window: How do you track conversions outside of Facebook’s max 28 day window?
  • Creditjacking: Can you estimate how much credit retargeting ads steal from acquisition ads?
  • LTV Modeling: How do you model and measure the Lifetime Value (LTV) of your customers?
  • LTV Bidding: Are you maximizing your investment in growth by bidding the full LTV?
  • … and a lot more

Step 5: Customer Journey Design

Do you need a breakthrough? If minor tinkering isn’t producing results, look at the forest, not the trees!

When all else fails (or if you want to turbocharge your successes), time to bring in the big guns and fully rethink the entirety of your customer experience. The process is explained in more detail in an earlier blog post: “Fix Your Marketing With a Customer Journey Map“, so here I’ll just include the key highlights. The central idea is to consider whether you have been forcing your prospects to run an obstacle course.

Does your Customer Journey feel like a Marine Obstacle Course?

Specific questions to ask:

  • Mapping: Have you documented your entire customer experience with a Customer Journey Map?
  • Obstacles: Which of the steps in the journey are hurting the overall conversion rate the most?
  • Analysis: What do we know or believe about the key reasons for underperformance of these steps?
  • Data Assets: Is the journey tracking generating data assets that are underutilized (e.g. for lookalikes)?
  • Channels: How can we reinforce Facebook Ads via other channels (email, SMS, messenger, etc)?
  • Touchpoints: What specific systems need to be deployed to manage these channels?
  • Offers: How can we redesign our offers for a new flow of steps (e.g. start with short lead form)?
  • Retargeting: Which of the steps are being overlooked for retargeting campaigns?
  • Creative: How can we better align ad and offer content with prospect’s mindset (retargeting)?…
  • …and a lot more


  • Don’t rush to conclusion that “Facebook ads don’t work
  • Any of the factors discussed in this post could decisively fix your case
  • Reimagining the Customer Journey could drive the biggest payoffs
  • Make a plan to work on the areas that need improvement; Take action!
  • Did we mention we do this for our clients and will be teaching it via training?
Follow me

Dmitriy Kruglyak

President at TargetChoice LLC
Data Geek. Process Fanatic. Growth Hacker

Making Advertising Profitable for Businesses

Building Marketing Tech since 1998
Dmitriy Kruglyak
Follow me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>