8 reasons your Facebook Ads don’t work (and how to fix them)

Starting to believe “facebook ads don’t work”? They probably never will if you’re making any of these 8 mistakes.

“Facebook ads don’t work”

I hear this all the time from new Shopify merchants all the time.

It drives me absolutely insane!

Imagine you taking your car to a mechanic and saying “this engine doesn’t work for my car”.

That’d sound crazy, right?

Well, that’s exactly how I look at people who say “Facebook ads don’t work for my Shopify business”.

Here’s the truth, Facebook ads work. You just aren’t using them properly.

That’s why they’re huge revenue sources for most e-commerce companies.

Facebook ads are one of the most popular and profitable ways to promote an e-commerce business.

The problem is, it’s tough to get them right. And if you lack the patience, you’ll give up too soon.

I don’t want that to happen to you.

Which is why I decided to create this list of the top seven reasons Facebook ads aren’t working for you (yet).

1. You don’t understand your customers (social behavior)

This could sting. But you probably don’t understand your customers well enough.

Targeting is by far the easiest area to mess up on.

Facebook has over 1.4 BILLION active users on the platform and you can virtually reach every single one of them via Facebook ads.

The problem is, you don’t want to do that. You only want to reach the people who are interesting in your product or services.

Easier said than done.

Accurate targeting starts with understanding your customers. We always recommend marketers to start with retargeting to drive more sales and build up audiences, but aside from that, you should know your customers..

How much income do they generate?  What TV shows do they watch? What devices do they most use? These are all questions you should know about your customers.

If you don’t, here’s a very tactical way to learn more about your customers.

Create a custom audience of all your purchases in the last 30 days. Then load them up into Facebook Audience Insights and start taking notes.

Another way to learn more about the device usage (and where you’re having advertising success), is to do a device & platform breakdown in ads manager.

Continue to study and learn from your customers.

Facebook gives you all of the targeting options you need to reach your customers, you just need to use them accurately!

2. You don’t capitalize on ALL website traffic.

Whenever I hear people complain Facebook ads don’t work, I always ask them “what have you tried?”.

99% of the time their answer lacks a sophisticated approach to Facebook Retargeting.

Maybe they tried letting a chatbot run their ads, or they were ineffectively “boosting” their page posts.

But never have I ever heard a company lose money on intelligent retargeting. Retargeting is the best way to convert website browsers into buyers. And it almost always works.

Not only should you have basic retargeting, but you should be capitalizing on all of your website traffic. Not just end of the funnel traffic.

The key to making this work is to ensure you use the right offer at the right stage of the funnel!

If someone bounced from your home page, a sales-y ad will be less effective than one promoting a free giveaway.

But for people who abandoned a cart full of products, it’d be silly NOT to show a sales-y ad, because they are so close to purchasing!

Your website visitors express how interested they are in purchasing, by how deep into your checkout funnel they go. When someone is less interested, you need to give them a little more to come back.

We talk a lot about Facebook retargeting because our app helps users do it, but you should be doing it with or without our app because it works like magic!

( much more magical with our app though ;)(The best marketers know there’s money in all visitors. not just the end of the funnel… Segment audiences & serve sequential >>Retargeting Ads<<

3. You are lying to Facebook (inaccurate optimization).

What do you want from Facebook ads?

Purchases or Clicks?

Video Views or Add To Carts?

An easy way to improve your Facebook ad performance is to optimize delivery for your desired result.

Sounds self-explanatory but many marketers don’t realize how important this is. The way Facebook serves ads is hugely misunderstood by most people. There is so much complexity and detail that goes into how their ads get served that even the smallest mistake could cost you big time.

We’ve learned about optimizing for your desired directly from the Facebook team.

Here’s how they unofficially explained it to us.

When you ad gets served in the feed, it’s main focus is listening to the rules (targeting, placements, etc) while matching it to the most relevant users.

If you want purchases, but are optimizing for link clicks, you’re ad will not be shown to the most relevant audience.

Facebook will show the ad to people who are likely to click. But not necessarily be interesting in purchasing.

Meet “Clicky Carly”.

She’s a 14-year-old girl who loves cats and saw you were promoting a cat product.

She’s never purchased anything from Facebook ads, but she clicks on every single one just to look. Facebook knew she was likely to click on your ad, so they showed it to her.

See the problem now?

But if you were optimizing for purchases, Facebook may not serve your ad to her or any other people who have no historical purchasing behavior.

This is an unofficial example of how their algorithm works but Facebooks engineers their ad delivery system to get your desired result, at the cheapest price.

So make sure you “tell them” what you’re trying to achieve by optimizing your ads for the proper event!

4. Always be testing

Are you running tens or even hundreds of tests & ad experiments per week?

If not, you’re not testing enough.

We have our hands in a number of ad accounts and none of them are successful without constant testing and iteration. Most Facebook ads are not a “set it and forget it” type thing.

You constantly have to launch new ads with different headlines, creatives, landing pages and target audiences to find optimal performance.

This can be difficult to do when you’re on a limited budget but there’s no way around it. That said, there are common mistakes to avoid like many listed in the article so you can save some money by not testing those. 😉

5. Focus on ROAS

How would you define a successful Facebook ad campaign?

The best marketers will resort to two metrics to answer that question.

Cost Per Acquisition and Return oASpend.

Those are the only metrics that matter, to be honest.

ROAS (Return On Ad Spend) – also known as ROI or “Return On Investment” is how much you’re getting in return for your ad costs.

Generally speaking, in e-commerce, you’ll want to aim for an average of 2x ROAS or more. So you get $2 for every $1 you spend on ads.

CPA is Cost Per Acquisition which in most scenarios, is referring to the Cost Per Website Purchase. This is the amount it costs to acquire a new website purchase/customer.

These two metrics are inversely correlated and are the key identifiers of a successful ad campaign

Your profit margins will determine what makes an acceptable ROAS and CPA but you should always closely monitor these metrics to decide which ad campaigns need the most attention.

Some other advertising metrics can potentially help to “debug” campaigns, but if I could only look at to metrics for the rest of my marketing life, it’d be CPA and ROI!

6. Always improving their funnel / remove friction

If you study the top e-commerce companies, you’ll notice their websites are always changing and improving.

These companies have marketers on staff who’re solely responsible for running A/B tests and improving the companies’ sales funnels. Removing friction from the checkout is by far the easiest way to unlock new revenue.

Over the years we’ve experienced this first hand and have also seen how it directly impacts the performance of Facebook ads.

About a year ago, one of our clients rebuilt their website.

We were running their Facebook ads at the time and 2 days after their new site went live, we were in shock.

Without touching any of the Facebook ads, the ROI of the campaigns had doubled. It was the easiest uptick in ROI we ever got to take credit for! Haha, kidding.

They did three things that contributed to this unexpected increase in performance.

  1. They removed a lot of unnecessary forms, questions, and options in the checkout flow. Less questions = less friction.
  2. They optimized their website images to load faster. Smaller file sizes = less loading time = higher conversion rates.
  3. They added an upsell at checkout. Higher AOV (average order value) = Higher ROI

If we had to give majority credit to one of these three improvements, I would say the upsell helped the most.

Learning from this, we started to advise all of our clients and customers to carefully consider reducing checkout friction, optimizing images and offer upsells during checkout to increase ROI on their ads.

This client had to hire a developer to make these changes but nowadays, this can all be done yourself through Shopify apps. For optimized images, we’d recommend the image optimizer app. For reducing friction, consider looking at Bolt for checkouts. And for upsells, bold has a great app!

7. Learn fast. Implement faster.

Facebook ads are practically changing every week.

New formats are added, metrics are changed and different tools come out.

The nice thing about the always evolving platform is that nobody really has the time to stay an “expert” for too long.

Which means you can become quite proficient fairly quickly. But only if you’re seriously committed to learning.

I believe being eager to learn and implement new ideas is one of the greatest contributors to our marketing success. When we were first getting started, we had no experience. In fact, we were clueless. But the fastest way to learn is when you’re losing money.

Having the student mindset (and sometimes shallow pockets) is what helped us learn so quickly and we’ve seen hundreds of others do the same.

Learn fast. Implement faster.

One way to cheat the learning curve is to copy your competitors. Find your largest competitor and study their ads. If you find an ad that has a lot of engagement (and is still running), consider that a high performer and take notes. They wouldn’t keep the ad running if it wasn’t making money!

The only real reason Facebook ads “won’t work”, is if you’re unwilling to learn.

8. Your site is not Trustworthy

One of the greatest reasons people use Shopify is because it’s so easy to build a website.

You don’t need any design or technical skills. But if I’m playing devil’s advocate here, design and technical skills are incredibly useful.

A lot of the struggling Shopify stores I encounter have very poor design and major web performance issues.

Oversized logos, never-ending loading signs, obnoxious colors and spammy countdown timers, the list goes on. Having a clean, well-styled website is a major component of a high converting site which impacts Facebook ad performance.

If you have a spammy looking site, it’s going to be difficult to make Facebook ads work they way you’d like. But that’s not a Facebook ad issue, that’s a website issue.

If people don’t trust your site and brand enough to enter their credit card, no ad or marketing tactic will help you.

To avoid this, make sure you follow design best practices and try not to steer too far off of the Shopify template you started with.

Most Shopify templates (provided by Shopify themselves) have been engineering to look great and convert well. Another great way to improve the look and feel of your site is to go study (and even copy) competitors in your space (notice a pattern here?).

Large e-commerce companies spend millions of dollars testing and optimizing their website conversion rate. If you’re studying a bigger brand, every button and image is methodically placed.

A great way to leverage there learnings is by simply replicating their site as a starting point. Even if you don’t understand why things the way they are, do it anyways. From their home pages contrasting colors to the small text under the buy buttons, it’s all their for a reason.

Don’t reinvent the wheel when you don’t need to! Make sure your site is credible looking and feels safe before investing too much in Facebook ads.

Your turn

There’s no magic formula for facebook. As you can see, there are a lot of delicate parts and one small mistake can cause major issues.

Let me know in the comments below what you think!