6 Common Facebook Ad Mistakes E-Commerce Businesses Make

I’ve had the opportunity to peek under the hood at a lot of Facebook ad campaigns run by e-commerce businesses. It’s always fun to see how other people have handled campaigns before requesting professional intervention. 😁 I get to strap on my nerd goggles to run diagnostics on what’s working well and what needs improvement.

Doing this, I see patterns — mistakes many companies make in their Facebook ad campaigns that are easy to fix as long as you can recognize them. Here I'm highlighting six of the most common mistakes I see and what to do if you're making them.

1. Not using the Facebook pixel to track conversions

The Facebook pixel tracks conversion events on your website (add to cart, initiate checkout, purchase, etc.) so you see what ads resulted in sales. Without the pixel, you’re paying for traffic to your website with no idea what that traffic is doing once they get there. You’re basically flying blind.

Don't avoid taking the hour or so that it will take to read the documentation and configure this important part of your account. If you’re using Shopify as your e-commerce platform, you really have no excuse — installing the pixel is a piece of cake.

2. Using purchases as your only success metric

Facebook campaigns are always a learning process. In the beginning you're usually forking over a large spend without immediate results. It takes a while to figure out what ad copy, images, placement and targeting works best to drive sales, so during the initial process it’s important for you to look at other metrics beyond sales as your only measure of success.

You can customize (and save!) the columns you view by default in your Facebook ads reporting interface.

You can customize (and save!) the columns you view by default in your Facebook ads reporting interface.

This data tells you what ads are likely to cost you less and result in more sales in the future. Instead of looking only at how many sales an ad resulted in, look also at the:

  • CPM — cost to reach 1,000 people in the audience you've targeted
  • Conversion rate — the percentage of people (versus the straight #) of people who bought something after seeing an ad
  • CPC — the cost per click, or what it costs you to drive traffic to your website with the audience you've chosen
  • Relevance score — how well a particular ad is resonating with the audience you've chosen, based on a score of 1 to 10 and measured "behind the scenes" by Facebook

3. Not using Custom Audiences

There are three types of audiences on Facebook: Saved Audiences (audiences you build from demographic, behavior and interest targeting), Look-a-Like Audiences (using Facebook’s algorithm to extract data from your current audiences and make an informed guess about similar audiences) and Custom Audiences (audiences whose data you already own). 

Custom Audiences are audiences of people who are already familiar with your business and therefore more likely to buy from you. You should be using these audiences to advertise sales, new products, events, etc. The conversion rates are typically way higher with these audiences.

The following are some smart Custom Audiences to use: people who have visited your website or certain pages on your website (you need to install the tracking pixel to use this); your email list; people who have recently engaged with your Facebook content.

4. Using the same ad format in different placements (Facebook “recommended” setting)

Within the Facebook ads interface, Facebook recommends that you leave their default settings on ad placement intact, meaning you’re running ads using Automatic Placements by default.

While this can initially help you understand where your ads are most likely to be successful because Facebook will automate the testing and optimization process for you, over time you want to create content that works for a specific placement.

Just as you wouldn’t use the same images and copy for a billboard as you would an ad in the newspaper, you shouldn’t use the same creative for every possible Facebook ad placement (that includes desktop feed, mobile news feed, right column, instant stories, and Instagram). What you're choosing when you choose Automatic Placements is exactly that. Instead, separate your ad sets by placement as well as audience so you get a better understanding of where your ads are performing well.

5. Targeting too broad

Facebook is one of the only marketing channels (and certainly the cheapest) that allows you to reach people based on their recreational interests. It's a super powerful platform for that reason and using interest targeting is extremely tempting because it seems like such a sure thing: if I'm selling golf clubs, shouldn't I naturally target everyone on Facebook who likes golf?

Probably not.

One rookie mistake I see a lot of e-commerce businesses making with their Facebook ads is using targeting that is too broad. If your product appeals to a niche community, then you should use get in front of that niche community. Niche is always better than broad, because niche interests say so much more about a person’s true habits. For example, what's the difference between a person who likes movies and a person who likes John Waters movies? A lot.

My friend Andrea runs a business called Leche Libre, a line of edgy, fashion-forward breastfeeding apparel. Her clothing is intended for breastfeeding, but it’s definitely not something that appeals to all moms. To begin with, not all moms (even recent moms) are breastfeeding. And not all breastfeeding moms want to purchase a breastfeeding-specific dress or sweatshirt. Andrea’s clothing sells well at conferences like Mommycon, a very specific group of moms who are into things like co-sleeping, baby wearing and natural birth. She should use Facebook targeting to reach women with an interest in attachment parenting topics and fans of attachment parenting websites — not all new moms.

6. Sending traffic to a landing page that does not match the message in your ad

I was recently working with a client who was advertising a sale on a certain style of pants. The pants were $30 off the regular price (priced $120 originally, now $90) and the Facebook ad advertised that. However when you visited the product page for the pants, the pants were listed at $90 with no indication that the original price was $120. Confusing!

If you’re setting up an expectation with your Facebook ad, you have to deliver on that expectation in the landing page. If you're advertising a specific product, your ad should lead to your product page or a product-specific landing page, not your homepage. And because so many people are viewing Facebook ads on their phones, your landing page must be mobile optimized.

Always be improving 

Can you really make a "mistake" with Facebook ads? Not really. Facebook ad campaigns can always be tweaked and improved upon. Nothing is permanent. Rather than think of these approaches as mistakes, think of them as rookie practices that, once you recognize and fix them, will ensure your campaigns are on a faster track toward success.