Paid digital marketing platforms are aplenty. But for the purposes of this article, we are going to be discussing the big dogs, Google and Facebook advertising.
Google and Facebook are renowned the world over for being the “Digital Duopoly,” the ringleaders in terms of online advertising based on their scale and gargantuan user-base.
Fortunately, in terms of modern marketing, this means that businesses have access to a greater number of well-qualified prospects to advertise to, as dictated by some of the most advanced algorithms created to date by these tech giants. But, here’s where the problems begin.
Let me put into perspective the extent to which the almighty “algorithm” dictates your marketing success on either of these platforms. Specialized algorithms now control who sees your ad, where they see it, how they see it, and when they see it. Algorithms also control your relevance in the market against the competition.
Overall, these algorithms are extremely advanced systems with tons of moving parts that no single person is a master of. With such an advanced advertising algorithm, it should come as no surprise that there are issues that become apparent to most digital marketers from time to time.
Let me start with a quick disclaimer. When I say “digital advertising,” I’m talking about paid advertisements through Google and Facebook (or their affiliates) mainly. After all, Google and Facebook make up the two largest digital advertising platforms out there right now (a combined 56.8%). And most organizations are using them in some way or another.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Google and Facebook advertising don’t operate exactly the same way.
Facebook is more in-line with disruptive advertising because the platform shows ads that were not related to inquiries from the audience.
Google, however, is less disruptive because it is search-based, meaning that a prospect or potential customer must have some vested interest in whatever it was that they searched. They both have advantages and disadvantages.
By the way, in case you’re interested, here’s another article on the top 5 Facebook advertising mistakes that marketers make. The link will open in a new tab so you won’t lose your spot here! Thank you.
The Problem: Algorithm Ambiguity
The beneficial increase in market outreach and prospecting that has been made available to digital advertisers is negatively affected by a few inherent issues. One of which being what I call “Algorithm Ambiguity.”
Algorithm Ambiguity is the term I use to describe the inherent confusion or misattribution of certain advertising factors to the ad’s overall performance. Put simply, there are factors that the algorithm controls behind the scenes that affect your ad’s performance, which often causes confusion around which factors are truly responsible for the advertisement’s overall results, and whether you can control them.
Here’s a good question that makes my point clear: When you are dealing with a complex algorithm that actively alters your advertisements (or ad placements) to “optimize performance”, how can you be sure where to improve your advertising in the first place? How would you know which overall factor of the campaign was responsible for its success or failure?
A/B testing will help, but there is no certainty when you are tracking campaigns that have constantly changing variables of which you are unaware of.
It’s this internal lack of control and transparency that has plagued online marketers for many years. Without knowing exactly how the algorithm decides to show your advertisement the way it does, you’ll simply never know exactly why one advertisement was more effective than another.
And the worst part? You can’t escape it, but you can control it with some key considerations that we’ll talk about in a moment.
This ambiguity can paralyze marketers or businesses that don’t know how to react or adapt to it. Put simply, algorithm ambiguity lets confusion enter the relationship between your ad message, placement, and results or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).
Now that we’ve defined the issue, let’s get to the good stuff!
Real quick, if you’d like to schedule a free consultation with Austin to discuss your online marketing strategy, click the button below!
Solution #1: Limit the Advertising Guesswork
The best way to gain more control over the advertising algorithms is to give the algorithms less guesswork to accomplish by further defining your audiences (markets). There’s a right and a wrong way to go about this, however.
The algorithm uses all available data that you input to define a potential audience. Put simply, the more data that you enter that appropriately defines your market, the less deviation the results will be from the algorithms in terms of its experimentation.
It’s like a goalpost. The more defined your audience is, the more accurate the Facebook algorithm will have to be to show your advertisements within the allotted spectrum. Therefore, the businesses and brands that truly know their market are more effective at optimizing conversion value and minimizing conversion cost.
Here’s how you can accomplish this. When creating your audiences/ad sets for Facebook and Google, be sure to include similar interests, hobbies, passions, or demographics that define your audience as much as possible without being needlessly limiting.
This sounds like an obvious first step, that’s because it is. But I am consistently surprised at how often marketers neglect defining an audience appropriately.
Solution #2: Align Campaign Objectives with Chosen KPIs
Here’s another way to resolve the issue of “algorithm ambiguity.” Recognize that these algorithms are designed to test and optimize ads within your chosen campaign objective. Always choose an objective for your campaign that is in-line with your overall goals. This is HUGE.
One of the largest mistakes that digital marketers make is attempting to gather meaningful data from an online advertising campaign that was optimized for something completely different. For example, attempting to gather data around brand awareness from a campaign that was optimized for conversions.
Here’s the issue with this; The online marketing algorithms employed by Google and Facebook will forego certain KPIs that do not match the chosen objective, thereby making data that is not in tune with that objective irrelevant, simply because they were placed on the backburner.
This is all about where you choose to place your focus in terms of KPIs and in which stage of the funnel you are trying to reach your consumers through digital marketing. Check out the following image.
Your campaign objectives in Google and Facebook should work in tandem to move people down the sales funnel and eventually to a purchase decision. Targeting different areas of the funnel will require a specific objective to track due to the shift in mindset from your consumers. This further reinforces the importance of choosing proper campaign objectives.
Now, in terms of Google advertising, which is based solely around keywords, you must be careful building a portfolio of keywords to target. Certain keywords will be more lucrative but may also be more expensive (CPC) due to competition.
Pro Tip: Choose keywords that match the commercial intent of your audience based on their position in your funnel. If you are targeting people at the brand awareness stage of the funnel, you’ll want to target generic keywords that introduce your brand to the majority of searches. However, if you are optimizing for conversions, choose keywords with high commercial intent that indicate a more pressing purchase decision. These will naturally vary by industry.
I recommend creating separate campaigns for each objective for organization’s sake.
Cold outreach campaigns should be focused on building brand awareness, whereas retargeting and conversion-based campaigns are generally focused on creating purchasing decisions from somebody who is already aware of the brand and the offer.
Solution #3: Be More Competitive With Your Advertising
One of the most elusive factors in your digital marketing performance is competition. In fact, competition plays a huge role in your online marketing because the algorithm that dictates your ad’s performance prefers higher bid rates and ad budgets which means more revenue for the advertising platform (Google and Facebook).
Put simply, the algorithm will almost always favor those who pay more.
In terms of Google, where competition is keyword and search-based, increasing your bid rates or CPC (Cost Per Click) for certain keywords can help you increase your CTR (Click Through Rate) and ranking in search results. This may help you gain some understanding on how to control the algorithm in terms of competition.
Facebook, on the other hand, will favor high quality ads. High quality ads are defined as ads that are appropriate, well placed, and generate lots of engagement due to its relevance in the lives of the chosen audience. These are a few of the criteria that affects Facebook’s “quality ranking score” for your advertisements. Once again, circling back to the whole “know your market” point.
By becoming more competitive in your digital marketing endeavors, you will be able to curve the results of the algorithm in your favor and knock competition off the list of things that result in ambiguous ad performance.
Solution #4: Learn the Relationships between KPIs
One of the most common reasons for failing ad strategies is “analysis paralysis”. Sometimes, a marketer will be so focused on a single metric that they become blinded to other options for improvement elsewhere in the system. Put simply, they neglect the relationship between certain metrics and KPIs that provide clues for their improvement.
For example, let’s say you are constantly tracking your click through rate (CTR). And let’s say your click through rate is declining recently after making some changes to your ad’s design. This is likely worrying for you as a marketer, but may not be a bad thing for the overall ad’s performance.
For example, let’s say that the conversion rate increases, despite the lower CTR. This means that less people are clicking on the ad because the ad is doing a good job of attracting and qualifying the right buyers. In other words, the ad attracts fewer, but better, clicks.
Without considering the bigger picture and relationship between KPIs like CTR and Conversions, many marketers would make the mistake of thinking that the new ad is performing negatively strictly due to the declining CTR, but in reality, the ad may be performing better for conversion rate, value, and more.
By learning how each KPI ties in with the others, you can avoid tunnel vision as a marketer and open yourself up to possibilities and insights that wouldn’t otherwise have been apparent.
Overall, the largest problem with Google and Facebook advertising is ambiguity. But the solution to this problem is quite simple in both cases. You can choose to implement any or all of these recommendations.
- Further Define Your Audience
- Align Objectives with Appropriate KPIs
- Be More Competitive
- Learn The Relationships Between KPIs
After all, the only true way to become a successful marketer is to be one that is always learning, testing, and growing.
Let me tell you a quick story about my experience with Google and Facebook advertising. I had been in the game for a while, optimizing and testing ads as part of my job.
Randomly, one day I receive a call from a Google employee who wants to advise me on ways my ads can perform better. After discovering that they actually were Google employees (some of these calls are scams trying to gain access to your account) we had our call.
Every “recommendation” they gave me was simply another way for me to increase ad spend. Why? Because Google makes more money that way, even thought they were advising me to spend more without really gaining anything valuable.
At one point they walked me through the budgeting tool in Google ads, we ran some numbers, and they advised me to add about $10-$15 to the daily budget because it would provide me a projected average increase of one single conversion.
On the other hand, it would INCREASE my cost per conversion by quite a lot, for a single conversion extra. I asked them why they would advise me on projections that made me unprofitable, to which they said it was part of the algorithm to optimize my ads for me.
I asked them how the algorithm does that despite Google’s own projections that I would become less profitable. To which they said they’d “get back to me” and never have. Case in point, do your own research and don’t trust the “good will” of these tech giants and their almighty algorithm.
Thank you for reading, if you’d like to schedule a free consultation with Austin, click the button below!
-Austin Denison is a management consultant and coach from Southern California and founder/CEO of Denison Success Systems LLC. He is the author of The Essential Change Management Guidebook: Master The Art of Organizational Change as well as The Potential Dichotomy: The Philosophy of a Fulfilling Life, and, the Best-Selling book, KICK*SS Content Marketing, How to Boost Your Brand and Gather a Following.