Optimizing Facebook Ads for Affiliate E-Commerce Sales

Optimizing Facebook Ads for Affiliate E-Commerce Sales

My recent Facebook Social Ads trials were aimed at driving traffic to retail websites in order to earn affiliate commissions.  Here is what I did and what I learned.

  • Bidding

Place very low bids.  Adhering to Facebook’s recommended bids will drive you to complain about how ads on social networking sites do not work. My objective was to drive lots of low cost but well qualified clicks to high value products on retail websites, and then benefit from sales that occur over the next 30 days (affiliate cookies typically last 30 days).

  • Headlines

Like with any ads, experimentation with different headlines and ad copy is critical. Once established, the optimized copy can deliver consistent returns.

  • Well targeted headlines that were very specific worked best. For example, “Buy Books” was not as good as “Vampire Lover?” when talking to an audience of female Edward Cullen fans.
  • Getting clicks is easy using truisms in your headlines and Facebook’s interest based targeting system facilitates this well. For example, a female between 18 and 25 who has an interest in Vampires and Edward Cullen is likely to be responsive to the headline:  “Vampire Lover?”  And a 27 year old male in San Francisco is likely to take notice of the headline:  “27 and in SF?”

Ad Copy

With ad copy, I found two styles work well:.

  1. A compelling message that is conversational in style.  For example, positive customer reviews like: “I love this set of Vampire tales! It has everything you want Mystery,Fantasy and of course romance with juicy bits! Only $88.99.”
  2. Other good ad-copy requires a compelling, yet specific value proposition that sounds believable.  For example “Today Only” was not as good as “Until sold out” because people hear the phrases like  “Today Only” and “One Day Only” far too frequently.

Coupon codes also drove good clickthrough rates and allowed me to easily track which specific combination of headline and ad-copy worked best.  Interestingly, resulting conversions where very limited.

  • Product Strategy

Promote specific, high value items to a captive audience (people who want what you are selling) who are more than likely to become customers. This increases the probability of your ROI being positive.

  • Targeting

Improve your targeting by looking at which specific page or application on Facebook each of your clickthroughs come from.  I ran identical Google Ads for comparison and my sales reports told me exactly what search terms people are using to trigger my ads to show.  I can then add these keywords to my Facebook targeting.

  • Limitations of the Facebook Social Ads Platform

Currently the Facebook social ad campaign manager is somewhat limited compared to AdWords. For example, if you want to change your bid, you need to make the change for each ad manually.  There is no global bid manager, although i’m hopeful we will see this option appear in the future, together with email reports. In addition:

  • A recent change has meant that the % symbol is no longer allowed in ad-copy, which constrains the type of value proposition you can convey to your audience.
  • I’ve tracked a number of clicks from intern.facebook.com.  I was suspicious that I was being charged for these clicks, but a count of my clicks vs. charges revealed that this was not the case.
  • Concluding Observations and Comments
  • I was using the Amazon Associates Program until they announced they will no longer pay referral fees on paid-search-derived traffic. In any case, the system seems to work better outside of the USA.

    Finally, Subway has made clever use of Facebook, displaying ads with headlines like: “It’s time for Lunch” and “Hungry?” between around 11am to 2pm and encouraging you to order online. I think they are certainly doing something right.

This is a guest post by Kunal Kripalani, who most recently led marketing strategy for Australia’s biggest online bookstore, Fishpond. Kripalani has been experimenting with Facebook Ads as a channel for affiliate e-commerce sales, so we asked him to share his tips here.

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