Facebook PPC: Finally, True Demographic Targeting!

For some time, the big three PPC engines (Google, Yahoo, and MSN/Bing) have tried to offer demographic targeting to advertisers. Google has offered demographic bidding in the Content Network for the past two years. Microsoft’s adCenter has long considered the pioneer of demographic targeting in PPC.

Traditional PPC demographic targeting falls short, however. Google’s option is only available in the content network; and targeting is based on data provided by website owners describing their target audience — not data from the visitors themselves. So, if I visit a sports website that appeals primarily to males age 18 to 24, I’ll see ads targeting that demographic — even though I’m neither male nor 18 to 24.

Microsoft’s demographic “targeting” is really demographic bidding: you’re telling Microsoft that you’re willing to bid more on ads targeted to your desired age and gender. Microsoft uses Windows Passport data to determine who’s searching, so searchers have to be logged in to their Passport in order for advertisers to target them.

With only about 12 percent of the total search market, and only a fraction of total searchers actually logged in to Passport, you’re looking at a small target audience. Further, the only targeting available is age and gender.

Enter Facebook PPC

Facebook is the most-visited site on the web, grabbing 35 percent of total online traffic. Facebook’s PPC program offers both CPC and CPM pricing models, which is cool. Even cooler are the robust targeting options they offer.

Remember, targeting is only as good as the info provided by users. The number of people who identify themselves on a given content site or via Windows Passport is definitely less than 100 percent.

But with Facebook, we tell them everything: age, gender, marital status, where we work (and used to work), what books and movies we like, and what topics we’re interested in. We tell Facebook more than we probably tell our closest friends and family members (unless, of course, they’re our friends on Facebook). And Facebook makes it easy for advertisers to market to us based on all this great info.

Getting Started

Setting up a Facebook campaign is as easy as setting up a traditional PPC campaign: just log in and click “Advertise.”

But before you start entering ad copy, think about your goals. Do you want to drive traffic to your website, or to your Facebook page? What’s the call to action? Do you want to sell something, generate leads, or just get more fans? If you just want more fans, are you willing to pay to get them?

You’ll also need to figure out who you want to target. Options include:

  • Location
  • Demographics (age, gender, relationships, languages spoken)
  • Likes and interests
  • Education and work
  • Connections on Facebook

Connections on Facebook can be used to target users who are connected to a particular page, event, group, or application — yours, or someone else’s.

Connections can also be used to exclude users. For example, we’re testing a campaign for one of our clients with the goal of increasing their fan base. So, we’re excluding users who are already our fans.

Facebook Estimator Tool

One of the best features of Facebook’s PPC set-up process is the estimator tool. If you’ve done any traditional PPC at all, you’re probably familiar with keyword research tools such as Google’s Traffic Estimator. While these tools are invaluable to PPC advertisers, they’re also notoriously inaccurate.

On the other hand, Facebook knows exactly how many users fit into the targeting categories it offers — and they display that number prominently during the set-up process. While there’s still no guarantee on the number of clicks the ads will generate, the size of the universe is accurate.

As with traditional PPC, either image or text ads can be used in Facebook. Ad tests are also possible. And Facebook offers free conversion tracking, similar to the free tracking offered by Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing, and Microsoft adCenter.

Next time: optimization tips to help advertisers get the most ROI out of Facebook Ads.

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