Facebook Ads · Marketing on a Budget · Social Media

Eliminate or Segment Mobile Traffic in Facebook Ads

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

I’ve audited a lot of PPC campaigns, and one mistake I frequently see with Facebook Ads is not separating traffic for different placements, especially desktop vs. mobile. This problem is so insidious that I’ve even seen it in ad accounts run by professional social media specialists.

When you create an ad set in Facebook, the platform gives you several placement options:

Mobile News Feed
Audience Network
Desktop News Feed
Desktop Right Column
Automatic (with this option, you leave where to show your ads up to Facebook)

See Facebook’s explanation of the different ad placement options.

Facebook lists the Automatic option as “recommended,” but in my experience when a PPC platform recommends something it’s best to be skeptical. Putting too much trust in Facebook’s and Google’s recommendations gets a lot of inexperienced advertisers into trouble. Always remember that the first priority of these companies is increasing their own revenue.

Ideally, you want to have separate ad sets for each of these placements so that you can control how your ads look and create ads that fit in that particular placement. Otherwise, you’re letting Facebook reformat your ads for you, leading to less than optimal or downright embarrassing results.

To illustrate what I mean, I’ve created a sample ad. Here’s how it looks on the desktop News Feed:


Now look at how it appears on the mobile News Feed. Notice that the link description has been cut, which isn’t great if that copy was important to you:

Mobile Newsfeed

On Instagram we lose the headline entirely:


Where things get really bad are with Facebook’s Audience Network for mobile apps, especially the banner ads. The headline, the most crucial part of the ad, is cut off, and the photo is missing (the ad scrolls through to the post text). Note that I’ve included the information underneath the ad preview, which says ad appearance may vary. So who knows what it will actually look like to viewers?

Audience Network Banner

Beyond poorly reformatted ads, the other problem with running all placements in one ad set is that mobile traffic probably performs differently for you than desktop traffic. It may do better or it may do worse, but you should be changing your bids depending on the value of each type of traffic for your business.

Consider also that ads served in mobile apps, like those in the Audience Network, are subject to clumsy thumbs or click-happy toddlers playing on a parent’s phone. Facebook claims to have designed the Audience Network to prevent these accidental clicks, but given that I’ve seen these ads get the most clicks by far in ad sets serving to all placements (despite the poorly formatted ads), I’m skeptical. Often the conversion data supports the argument that this traffic is junk.

Today’s Action Step: Choose one placement type to optimize for, and exclude all the rest. Which type that will be depends on your business. If you have a very visually appealing physical product, Instagram may be the best choice. If you’re sending traffic to a video, then the desktop news feed might work better for you. Ideally you would have some data about how visitors from different placements convert. But if you’ve just started out, and you don’t have the time and budget to separately test ads on all placements, you’ll have to start with an educated guess.

Eventually, you’ll want to create separate ad sets for different placements with their own ads and bids, but that will take awhile to set up. In the meantime, excluding placements that may not be working for you is a quick win.

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