5 Essential Steps for Maximizing Facebook and Instagram Advertising

There’s no doubting how popular and prevalent paid social advertising is in today’s world. Facebook is the second largest digital advertising platform behind Google, bringing in almost $30 billion in digital ad revenue last year in the US alone. While many brands already leverage Facebook and Instagram to connect with consumers, there are still opportunities to make the most of your paid social activity.

Essential 1: Set Campaigns Up for Success

A strong foundation is vital for campaigns, no matter the channel. Before going any further, make sure you address these factors:

  • Appropriate Campaign Goals – Ensure your KPIs are aligned with your campaign goals, as an incorrect application can set you up for failure. There are some shades of grey where the impact might not be quite so pronounced, such as between Reach and Brand Awareness, but if you’re running a Traffic campaign to maximize ROI, your campaign will never truly succeed even with perfect targeting, creative, and more.
  • Pixel Implementation – Many Paid Social campaigns fail or underperform due to incorrect or non-optimal pixel set-up. It’s essential that the key standard events are firing with the correct parameters, with the exact configuration of these varying in line with your vertical and KPIs. 
  • Attribution Approach – Relying solely on Facebook’s tracking is intrinsically flawed, as it operates in a silo and doesn’t take into account other touchpoints on the path to purchase. This can muddle the number of conversions that paid social significantly influences, causing advertisers to undervalue the channel.
  • Consistent Naming Convention – A consistent convention enables accurate and scalable optimization, reporting, and auditing.

Essential 2: Leverage Granular & Varied Audiences

One of the most significant selling points for Facebook and Instagram is the unparalleled scale and variety of audience options available through which to reach your target audience. 

Proper usage of these empowers your campaigns to bring in the right new customers as well as maximizing revenue generation from current ones. Be sure to evaluate the potential of targeting based on interest, behavior, demographic data, lookalikes, dynamic retargeting & prospecting, pixel-based audiences, and CRM data.

Instagram targeting (source: Instagram)

While granularity in paid social is incredibly important, it’s essential that it’s justified. If you’re not serving a different creative, directing to a different landing page, utilizing a different budgeting strategy or some other variation, then do you really need to segment?

Facebook & Instagram offer a large number of customizations you can perform within ads such as different creatives for different placements. Overeager segmentation is likely to instead impair Facebook’s natural optimization by overly constricting audience sizes, negatively impacting performance, and potentially driving up costs.

Essential 3: Inspiring & Hyper-Relevant Creative

A consistent brand image is key for paid social, but a one-size-fits-all approach is highly unlikely to maximize success. Once you’ve defined your audience and the goals of campaigns, the appropriate imagery and copy should be used for each group. While this should draw on the key elements of your brand image, it’s important that different audience segments you’ve identified are hit with creative aimed at that user type if you are to elicit your desired reaction.

Are you trying to draw new customers to your business, where they may need a more informative creative? Alternatively, are you driving existing customers to site or re-engaging with lapsed customers? In this case, it may be more important to highlight offers or any new products.

The ad formats you choose are also key, so ensure that you’ve run tests across all relevant formats such as instant experiences, stories, collections & more. However, don’t be afraid to pull back on low performing formats, as different brands are very likely to have varying levels of success with different formats.

Essential 4: Maximize on Dynamic

Dynamic is a great opportunity to boost your paid social results. The success of your dynamic campaigns is wholly dependent on the quality of your technical set-up. Before setting up campaigns, ensure a full audit has been carried out on the events being fired by your pixel & that these are matching up as expected with your catalog. Additionally, the catalog must be regularly updated, with category data, custom labels & more populating daily at a minimum.

While many advertisers are making good use of dynamic retargeting, there remains a dearth of quality Dynamic Ads for Broad Audiences (DABAs) campaigns. We historically see significantly stronger returns from these campaigns than traditional prospecting campaigns, and their dynamic nature makes them much less labor-intensive to set up & maintain. 

Dynamic variations of the same ad (source: Facebook)

Finally, ensure you’re leveraging as many dynamic elements as possible in your ads, pulling in things such a price, category, and multiple images to make the ads as engaging, attractive and tailored to the individual user as possible. Some sense checking is essential here, as gaps in the feed can lead to unusual-looking ads, and incorrect prices present in ads lead to a negative customer experience.

Essential 5: Excel at Cross-Channel

If you’ve set up your Paid Social correctly, the logical next step is to appreciate its role within your wider marketing mix and business strategy, to break it out of the siloes and drive increased performance across your business. Sharing is the keyword here – sharing data, insights, attribution – all of this improves an individual channel’s performance as well as the business as a whole. From testing successful Instagram copy on Search to using Google Shopping best sellers in Facebook DABAs, you can cultivate a more effective consumer journey.

To learn more about maximizing your Facebook advertising, join us for our upcoming webinar, “Driving Facebook Growth: The Full-Funnel Strategy” on March 31st.

SERP Update: PDFs on Mobile

As Google continues to update what appears in the SERP and how; we are beginning to see a new feature appearing amidst mobile search results. 

After arguing that PDFs aren’t mobile-friendly in 2018, attitudes at Google have begun to change as some users report seeing the first page of a PDF appearing for some mobile searches. 

Screenshot of Google Search Results for "travel pdf", with the top result showing the first page of a PDF.

While this won’t force too many changes for brands, it’s likely that we’ll begin to see producers of PDFs working to create more attractive front pages for their documents in order to draw the users’ attention. However, more data is needed to evaluate whether PDF thumbnails impact CTR, or what causes one PDF to appear rather than another.

What this does highlight is a continuing shift towards the importance of optimizing the search experience as a whole. Marketers will need to think about how they approach PDFs as a part of the SEO ecosystem; something they’ve never had to do before. The focus must now be on making the most of all of our organic and owned media – tying them all together for the benefit of the user.

As more information and trends become apparent, we’ll be sure to update with best practices for SEO.

Stay Ahead of Your Competition by Identifying Gaps in Digital Marketing

Competition across every industry in the digital space is stronger than ever. New entrants are constantly joining the fray, forcing brands to challenge both their current competitors and newcomers.

In the United States, ecommerce sales are expected to grow by 59% by 2024. As industries continue to evolve, it can be difficult to manage and focus on your brand’s performance, let alone that of your competition.

Running analysis on your key competitors is not only important but necessary. Without a proper understanding of the gaps in your competitors’ marketing efforts, it is not possible to both grow and maintain a strong position in your industry.

Gap analysis can be confusing if you don’t have prior experience – what metrics matter? What tools should I be using? How is my competition performing? Luckily, these questions can be answered, and even simplified.

So how do you effectively analyze your competitors’ gaps in marketing? The same way you would analyze your own. Let’s explore the various ways you can evaluate your digital marketing efforts and competitors.

Search Engine Analysis

Search engines are one of the most significant opportunities for both finding gaps in digital marketing strategies and staying ahead of the competition. If you or your competitors do not have strong positions in organic or paid search results, this can greatly affect website performance. The top 3 Google organic search results receive 75.1% of all clicks and paid search position is just as important.

When analyzing organic rank and paid performance, simply search for your brand, the most popular products/services, and your competitors on each search engine. If your company is on the first page (preferably ranked first) for your branded terms with no others outbidding you, great! However, evaluating paid search strategy requires more granular methods.

Google offers powerful tools through their ad platform, and one that can greatly supplement your search engine analysis is the Ad Preview and Diagnostics Tool. A downside to using search engines to review paid search results is the inability to narrow your results by regions outside of your current location. 

With the Ad Preview tool, you can see search results from any city in any country within Google’s reach. You can also define what language your search results are in, what device the results will display on, and what type of audience is querying the search (similar audience, visitors of certain sites, etc.)


Google’s Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool

If you find your company ranked outside of the first page for non-branded terms related to your product/service, search engine optimization (SEO) should become a priority. If competitors are outbidding you on your branded keywords or other related terms, you might want to consider shifting your focus into paid search campaigns to recapture your market share.

Site Performance

Evaluating site performance is also an effective way to identify gaps. Site performance data gives you an overview of how many people are visiting a website, what source this traffic is coming from, and which locations the traffic is coming from, which can expose certain gaps.

One of the strongest and simplest tools to use is SimilarWeb, a web analytic site that provides a comprehensive list of metrics to help brands assess site performance. 

SimilarWeb’s Chrome Extension

The best thing, however, is that they have a free Google Chrome extension that provides you with a snapshot of any site’s traffic, geography, and traffic sources.  If you don’t use Google Chrome as your web browser, you can still access SimilarWeb’s site and receive the same data.

If you’re looking for more in-depth data, SimilarWeb also offers premium models that provide you with a robust set of data that covers everything from search traffic, to demographics, to competitors (yes, they can tell who your competitors are).

One useful feature in SimilarWeb is the compare button, which allows you to compare up to 5 different sites’ performance across all of the various metrics. This is one of the fastest ways to identify gaps between you and your competitors’ digital marketing campaigns. 

The compare function can be used multiple ways, including comparing traffic sources to see how customers typically find sites in your industry, comparing keywords to identify which search terms your audience prefers and traffic share for those keywords, or comparing advertisers to determine which channels provide the greatest amount of traffic.

Identifying Trends

Discovering gaps in digital marketing also involves identifying opportunities. Every industry has trend periods where opportunity is high or low, and being aware of these shifts gives you a massive edge as a brand when optimizing your efforts. A great tool to investigate trends is Google Trends. Using Google Trends is very simple and provides you with four metrics: interest, interest by region, related topics, and related queries.

Google Trends

To use the tool, just type in a keyword related to your product or service and you’ll see a results page like the one above.

Following the example of “basketball sneakers”, there is a low trend/stagnation in the spring and summer months, and a strong uptrend in the fall/winter. This uptick can be easily explained by the fact that basketball season for most players begins in November, so players are looking to buy new shoes starting in October.

Notice how the metric used in these results is interest, not search volume. Interest is a normalized and indexed metric created by Google to show awareness and intent for keywords and key phrases. This means that all of the data points are relative to the highest level of interest. Therefore, a data point with an interest score of 100 has twice as much interest as one with a score of 50.

Keeping this in mind, let’s look at interest by subregion. The top 5 results can be interpreted as New Jersey and New York showing the highest amount of interest, while the surrounding states show very similar levels of interest. Therefore, the northeast region has the highest relative level of interest for the term “basketball sneakers” in the United States.

Using this approach, you can easily understand your industry’s trends, its popular regions, and what topics are trending.

Filling The Gaps

While all of these tools provide oversight and tons of data in a flashy, interesting manner, it is up to you as the marketer to correctly use them. These tools are only as effective as the person using it, so be sure not to incorrectly interpret data, as this can be counterproductive in improving your digital marketing strategy. 

For example, when using Google Trends, I also searched for “basketball shoes”, and the results for interest by subregion were completely different. The new results centered around Midwestern states (Nebraska, The Dakotas, Wyoming). The terms “basketball shoes” and “basketball sneakers” have no physical difference, yet their interests by subregion are concentrated in very different areas. 

So if you are a sneaker retailer and want to sell basketball shoes, targeting the terms “basketball sneakers” and “basketball shoes” will allow you to effectively cover a larger part of the United States in your paid search campaigns.

It’s important to do your due diligence and be thorough in your analysis efforts. If you find all of these data sets overwhelming and hard to interpret for your industry, it might be best to consult a marketing partner to help effectively manage your digital efforts and consolidate the data into simpler terms for your brand.


Google’s 2-Year Plan: Cookie Deprecation and Sandbox Preparation

[This article was originally published on the website of our sister company, DQ&A.]

Google’s announcement in January, that they will have phased out support for 3rd-party cookies in Chrome within 2 years, has triggered a flurry of press articles. Quotes have been sought from industry opinion formers still trying to form their own opinions on implications contingent on the solutions that the 2-year notice is meant to allow for the development of. This is an unenviable task given that “we’ll have to wait and see” would be deemed the absence of opinion, whereas application of the forewarned changes to the current landscape says nothing of the 2022 reality.

One prism that we can usually expect commentators and commenters to view Google’s decisions through is that of being the latest example of leveraging its dominance in multiple fields to limit the potential of ad tech competitors. However, if Chrome was owned by a company without such a vested interest in the future viability of ad tech as an industry, such potential would be somewhat diminished, to say the least. This is evidenced by the unmitigated approach of Safari and Firefox who are already blocking 3rd-party cookies by default.

Another criticism that we have usually come to expect is that Google’s announcements leave little time for others to react and develop solutions. Not so here with the lengthy but finite timeline guidance and it’s certainly not the first time a future without 3rd-party cookies in Chrome has been addressed. However, any solutions developed or proposed by ad tech companies tend to miss the point of the uncontrolled privacy concerns that are driving this shift in the first place (e.g. fingerprinting).

It follows that Google’s Chrome privacy Sandbox APIs will be the main focus of solution development where it will be worked out what can and should be supported. However, given that the implications can only be understood in terms of these interim developments, what conclusions can be most confidently drawn?

Here are our top 3 predictions:

1. 3rd-party Data Providers

The current use of 3rd-party data providers in Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) will become obsolete and will be replaced by an increase in the use of publisher data and contextual targeting. The more budget that has been shifted into programmatic real-time bidding, the greater the scrutiny these kinds of data providers have come under. Meanwhile, DSPs have released features that have given advertisers a greater suite of targeting options. For example, private deals have enabled publishers to overlay their data for custom audience targeting solutions. Also, keyword targeting has increased the specificity of using content as a proxy for audience to the extent that its granularity serves as a viable alternative to using 3rd-party data.

2. Platform-based Audiences

Google’s own DSP, DV360, has a broad suite of proprietary Audience targeting options. Some of these segments are consistent across all buyers and defined by a cohort’s common interest in a topic or propensity to purchase a certain product or service. Some are unique to the advertiser and customized by the buyer based on input such as relevant URLs and keywords. This has already made it difficult for generally available 3rd-party segments to be able to compete on a performance basis. This is especially true once the actual data cost is factored in, which is not a distinct consideration for the Google audiences. Google’s huge advantage in this area is its ownership of products besides the DSP. If a bid request comes in from a site on Google Ad Manager, which is by far the largest ad exchange, both products are already talking a native language about who that user is. However, that is not to say that other DSPs cannot do a better job of trying to replicate this model, albeit on a smaller scale. The requirement is for the use of universal IDs recognized across both the DSP and publisher set, without missing the point of the aforementioned privacy concerns. Google’s announcement will heighten focus on this area.

3. New Environments

Even if we take the most pessimistic view of the scope for technical solution development in the narrow sense, there will always be opportunities to find benefits in the resultant paradigm shift. One thing that hampered the programmatic and unconnected worlds’ embrace of each other is that most programmatic practitioners have spent their entire careers working with the most measurable activity in the history of mass marketing. However, if the loss of 3rd party cookies weakens this assurance, then previously unconnected devices and environments, such as TV set-top boxes and ‘Digital out of Home’ billboards, no longer need to live up to those standards. An incompatibility of metrics has always created marketing silos and these have always hindered joined-up campaign planning and analysis. That’s an ideal that will become more attainable for some. Indeed, even if hyper-objective granular performance metrics are lost in the programmatic space, many won’t mourn. This is because they see the original heralding of this as the sector’s defining feature as ‘making a rod for its own back’. The implication being that it had been held to account in a way that other channels are not, stunting budget investment.


It has always been the job of a media buyer to construct an optimal approach within the parameters of what is available on a case by case basis. There is never a case of everything being available for any given piece of activity anyway, due to external and self-imposed restrictions. The examples above of alternatives are just the existing options. Innovation over the next 2 years will mean that options will have increased, not decreased, by the time 2022 comes around.

HSBC, Klarna, and Google take Center Stage at latest Incubeta Ignite

Last month, Incubeta kicked off their events program for the year with an in-depth look at the retail sector. The Retail Shakedown brought together a range of experts from across the industry, covering everything from influencers to sustainability.

Access to the full presentations and session recordings can be found on the Incubeta website. Below is a short description of the presentations from Marks & Spencer, Klarna, HSBC, The Planet Market, Google, and of course our parent company, Incubeta.

One to One with HSBC:

We kicked off our retail shakedown with a dive into the trends and insights from across Q4 in 2019. Finance Director Sally Laycock was joined by HSBC’s David Maddison for an in-depth fireside chat. If you want to catch up on the key opportunities for 2020, this is a great starting point. (See Full Write-Up)

New Loyalty with Klarna:

Loyalty. It’s not what it used to be, or at least; that’s the premise of Klarna’s Richard Blakeborough’s presentation. Experience, it seems, has also changed. With a look into Gen Z’s attitudes to loyalty, there’s a lot of practical guidance that you can take away from Richard’s session. (See Full Write-Up)

Influencer Marketing with Marks & Spencer:

Influencers are a hot topic for retailers these days, but 84% of marketers feel that proving their ROI is a challenge. Hannah Tyrrell uses her experience with M&S to show how you can think differently about influencer value to extract and maximize ROI. If you’ve got your eyes set on influencers, you won’t want to miss this. (See Full Write-Up)

Why Successful Retailers Don’t Think Digital with Incubeta:

Despite the media’s constant coverage, Amy Jackson’s presentation reminds us that the ‘retail apocalypse’ isn’t as bad as we think. Retailers are sitting on a huge, untapped resource that they can take advantage of. Find out how to make the most of it in this write-up. (See Full Write-Up)

Measurement Strategy with Google:

The importance of an effective measurement strategy cannot be understated. In his in-depth presentation, Google’s Alex Maksimov provides an overview of the lay of the land as well as tips for choosing your measurement strategy. Make sense of measurement with the help from Google in this presentation. (See Full Write-Up)

From Talk to Action with The Planet Mark:

Sustainability is one of the most important topics for both retailers and consumers, but getting your messaging right isn’t always easy. Dave Carlos of The Planet Mark offers fantastic guidance on driving businesses and consumers alike from talk to action when it comes to our planet. With this playing such a key role in the decade to come, this is essential reading. (See Full Write-Up)