How I Optimize Facebook Ad Campaigns In 15 Minutes Per Day

By Dennis Yu 

We call it MAA (not MMA or AMA) — and it stands for Metrics > Analysis > Action. The idea is this:  Sort to find the top performers, ignoring the rest. Don’t mass-multiply; spend a few minutes per day, not three hours once per month. Amplify what’s working by using different forms of social retargeting via sponsored stories, sponsored results, and custom audience targeting. Don’t waste time making reports, unless you’re in that type of company — focus on insights and actions. Software is nice, but expert action is better. Software can’t mask missing competency. Repeat these cycles quickly — you can get them down to minutes and multiple cycles per day.


Now, in more detail:

So, great. You’ve made 183 different Facebook ads. You’ve targeted multiple interests and tested out various creatives and landing page combinations. Over time, your garden has grown to quite an unwieldy mess.

Maybe you use power editor, but know that if you have more than 50 ads in a campaign, the sorting doesn’t work.

Maybe you’re an AdWords veteran trying your hand at Facebook ads but finding that the same optimization flow doesn’t quite work. It’s not about title, copy, and image combos. Maybe you spend more time making reports and having meetings than actually optimizing. Or your stubborn IT brethren are being uncooperative.

Well, here’s how to cut right to the chase to make maximum impact with your limited time. May this be the Tim Ferriss of Facebook ads, minus the pill business he ran under that model.

I’m assuming you have a target metric, such as more traffic, or perhaps more conversions at a lower cost per conversion. If you don’t, then stop reading this article, since you have nothing to optimize for. And I’m assuming you have power editor ready.

1) Sort all ads by spend descending, looking at today.

If you spend less than $100 per day, then look at the last few days. Optimize just the top 10 ads, ignoring the rest. By optimize, I mean look at your cost per conversion, cost per click, and click-through rate. If you have the new offsite pixel, you can get a CPA (cost per acquisition).

When you have new ads, optimize to CTR first — kill the ones that have low CTR on at least 10,000 impressions. I like to see at least a 0.1 percent CTR, but your CTR will vary depending on the placement (I prefer mobile news feed) and the vertical that you’re in.

Usually CTR is inversely related with cost per click. If you’re going for conversions, then you should be using optimized CPM anyway.

Sometimes ads don’t have quite enough data to tell if they are winners or not. See these ads? The fact that one ad has a couple more conversions than another is statistical noise if you optimize on CPA  alone. Look at CTR as a leading indicator of relevancy, so you can kill these ads before they spend enough to be statistically relevant from a CPA standpoint. 


2) For your winners — any ads that generate conversions at less than your target CPA — you want more conversions at lower cost. So clone the top couple ads in this way:

  • Add in larger audience targets. Often, the best performers start out as small audiences, so find related interests to expand the audience.
  • Prune the audience. Maybe the ad is nearly profitable, but if you narrow it down by demographics, fewer interests, or adding in a broad category target on top of a set of precise interest targets, it can be profitable. Look at the demographic responders report in the Web-based version of the ads tool for clues. Some colleagues are big fans of mass-multiplication — to immediately start out with hundreds of ads, then prune. I believe in smaller cycles where we can move quicker. That means just a few ads at a time. Because Facebook doesn’t report on interest-level performance in either case (mass-multiplication or rapid testing), you’ll eventually need to get down to one ad per audience.

  • Try other landing page tweaks. If you have the right audience, but it’s just not converting, then it’s your landing page. I prefer to use landing pages that already convert on display or search traffic. If it’s a fresh landing page, you’re starting from scratch — and that means the bulk of your efforts will be here, not in actually making the ads.

So you’re killing the bottom 10 percent of your ads, creating more variations of your winners, and ignoring the middle 80 percent. While a script can mindlessly do this for you, whether through the Facebook ads application-programming interface (hard to get) or Google AdWords API (easy), you want to do most of this manually. It’s not about self-inflicted torture, so much as being able to spot a pattern as to what is working or not, while you’re turning stuff on and off.

The WHY is the most important piece.

You may discover that a certain meme is working really well. For example, Marketo found that a music theme was not only driving interest at the top of the funnel, but subsequent conversions, too.

 So you’d do more of this type of content. Use services like Fiverr or FancyHands to get folks to write articles, do designs, do research, and other busywork that can be delegated. No more whining about not having enough time or money, since these jobs will cost you $5 and save you hours.

3) Amplify the hot content.

Determine hot by what’s getting the most engagement or conversions. Split your account into three segments: branding, lead capture, and conversion. The amplification of your hot content will likely be branded content — the funny photos, as opposed to the downloadable guide that requires and email to see it.

Run page post like stories to drive more engagement. You won’t be able to measure the direct return on investment from this type of ad unit, but it definitely will drive influence among the people you care about.

4) Steal from your other marketing campaigns.

Have you tried your top-performing copy and creatives from other channels? Not only is it more likely to perform, but you enforce a single brand, especially if you run your social ads at the same time you’re doing direct mail, TV, PPC, or whatever.

Dennis Yu has helped brands grow and measure their Facebook presences. He has spoken at Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, Web 2.0, The American Marketing Association, PubCon, Conversational Commerce Conference, Pacific Conferences, HostingCon, Affiliate Summit, Affiliate Convention, UltraLight Startups, MIVA Merchant, and other venues. Yu has also counseled the Federal Trade Commission on privacy issues for social networks. Yu has held leadership positions at Yahoo and American Airlines. His educational background is finance and economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics.