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What Facebook Ad Optimization Taught Us About Visitor Motivation

Published by Jeff Giddens

At NextAfter, we’ve done a lot of Facebook ad optimization and testing to acquire both new leads and new donors. Let’s look at some of our most interesting ad research to see how visitor motivation impacts ad performance (and how you can tweak your ads for maximum impact).

This particular example in our library is experiment number 1311. It is, again, Hillsdale College. This is a Facebook ad for their Constitution 101 online courses. These ads targeted multiple different audiences on Facebook with the goal of getting people to click on the ad, go to the landing page, and ultimately sign up for an online course.

Constitution 101 Control Ad

The main message is “Become a constitution expert.” Part of our assumption in this control is that people want to be an expert on the constitution and that message will motivate them. You notice the little button down in the bottom right-hand corner is a “sign-up” call to action. That’s ultimately what we want people to do: sign up.

For the treatment, we went back and looked at our original ad. Looking at it through an optimization lens, we found several changes that we wanted to make. The first thing we did was we softened the language in the copy around the ad.

Constitution 101 Ad Treatment Elements

The biggest change we made was to the ad image itself. We changed the primary value proposition because we hypothesized that perhaps “Become a Constitution Expert” was not believable. Maybe people didn’t think that they could take one course and become an expert in the Constitution. Maybe, instead of expertise, what they’d like to do is understand the constitution better than they ever have before. So, we simply changed that message in the ad creative.

We also looked at the button text. Although “sign up” is what we wanted people to do, we hypothesized that “learn more” would be more consistent with user’s motivation, particularly in response to the new ad creative. We changed the button from “sign up,” which is the ultimate goal, to simply “learn more.”

The other thing we considered is that if you’re seeing this on Facebook, you’re not going to just sign up because you saw a Facebook ad that told you to sign up. That’s probably too big of an ask, and too high of a commitment right away. You probably need a little bit more information about what the courses are, how long they last, and how you access them. You probably have a bunch of questions that you need answered in order to make the decision.

So, we ran an experiment:

Constitution 101 Ad Treatment

You can see the ads side by side above. The control is on the left. The treatment is on the right and in our A/B split tests we discover that the treatment produced a 31 percent increase in clickthrough to our landing page. We sent more traffic to our website and we got more conversions out of the back end.

The main takeaway from this particular experiment comes down to this: We can send more motivated traffic to the website by changing the value proposition. It doesn’t just hold through in an email; it can work in ads as well.

How exclusivity and urgency impact ad performance

Let’s look at another example, experiment number 1461 in our research library. Again, this is a Facebook advertisement this time for the Texas State Historical Association. The offer is this really cool Battle of the Alamo eBook.

TSHA had discovered that they were getting these huge spikes in traffic overnight because the History Channel began broadcasting a new series called Texas Rising. Texas Rising was all about different elements of history and one night it was focused on the Alamo. We said, “Wow, this is really cool. Why don’t we tap into all these people that are going online and we know, through search volume, they are interested in the Alamo?”

We looked at a Facebook ad they were running. and thought there was a way we could optimize it a little bit more. So we created a new treatment.

Battle of the Alamo Ad Treatment

The first thing we did is was to deemphasize the creative. If you notice in the control, we have this beautiful picture of the Alamo as it originally existed during the time of the battle. The control really emphasized the headline, “Love Texas History?” Then the offer was a little-sized subhead, “Get the free Battle of the Alamo eBook.”

In the new treatment we designed, we simply focused on the offer. “Get the free Battle of Alamo eBook while it lasts.” Very interesting, we added this little phrase that increased the urgency of the offer: “…while it lasts.” That changed the tone of the message entirely. We were saying, “Get the free eBook but you better hurry up because we’re only going to offer this for a limited time.” You can see also just by changing the copy we increased the clarity of the offer.

The control is on the left. The treatment is on the right. We ran our AB split tests and the version on the right produced a 35.3 percent increase in the number of emails that we acquired through this offer.

The key takeaway here is that one of the most effective tools in your toolbox is clarity. We don’t necessarily have to be overly persuasive. Instead, what we need to do is help people understand exactly what our offer is. We must be clear.

By introducing different motivational elements like urgency, we can send much more motivated traffic to our website, inspire more clicks, and get more people to sign up for our offers. In this case, the conversion rate went from 28 percent to 38.7 percent.

Discovering the Right Motivation to Maximize the Value of Your Content Assets

Here’s another example using the Texas State Historical Association. They have this tremendous resource called the Texas Almanac. They publish it every 2 years and update it with everything you want to know about Texas; it’s a 742-page full color book. It’s amazing. It’s as big as a phone book.

Now they have this secondary product called the Texas Almanac on CD-ROM. We said, “What in the world are the CD-ROMs?” I don’t even know how many computers come with CD drives anymore. We said, “How much do you sell those CD-ROMs for?”

They said, “Oh, they sell for 19.95.”

We said, “How many of those have you sold?”

At the time, they had sold about 15 since they first released it and it had been about a year and a half. So, we said, “That’s about $300 in revenue, right? What if the best way to unlock the value of this offer is not to sell it but to give it away?”

We created a landing page with a PDF version of the almanac and allowed people to download it. We posted the offer “Get the Free Texas Almanac” all over their website. They had 74,000 people click in the first 45 days. They had a 29 percent conversion rate: 29 percent of those people that clicked actually went through, gave their name and all the contact information, and downloaded the eBook. That gave us 21,000 new email addresses.

That was a fantastic result because we know the size and quality of an email file is one of the leading indicators of an organization who’s going to raise money online. One of the things that all of us should be obsessed with is getting as many email addresses as we possibly can.

TSHA got 21,000 new email addresses, but we weren’t done there. After somebody signed up to get the free eBook, we said, “Hey, thanks for signing up. Why don’t you become a member?” We offered them an instant membership conversion opportunity.

That offer resulted in a 1.52 percent instant conversion rate from the 21,000 people that downloaded the eBook. This tactic produced 329 new members for the organization at an average gift of $53.31–which totaled $17,540 in new membership revenue.

If you want to weigh these 2 offers side by side, we could sell this eBook on CD-ROM for $19.95 and maybe get a few people to do it.

Or we can give it away while giving people an opportunity to go a little bit higher up in our conversion funnel and give them an opportunity to become a member.

Texas Almanac Ad Optimization

That all happened in a 45-day span. I think that this example stands as a compelling reason for you to rethink your content and how you can leverage those assets to get motivated people to take that ultimate action that you want them to take.

Iterative Experimentation

Let’s look at this almanac offer a bit deeper because we actually ran a series of different experiments around it. The control was working really well with 29 percent conversion rate on the page. Nonetheless, we said, “Let’s see if we can make it better.”

We created a treatment thinking, “Let’s go from this really busy page to something that is more simplistic, something just focused on the book. Let’s get rid of the distracting background and all the other stuff on the page and just make it a really simple, short form offer.”

We ran our A/B split tests and the treatment produced a 20.4 percent decrease in names acquired. Not good.

So, we regrouped and we thought, “Well, if less is not more, maybe more is more.” So we created a new treatment. We went back to our original design with the colored background, and we actually lifted out the entire table of contents of the eBook. From this, we created a list of all the different things that the reader will discover by downloading the book. Now we had created an even longer page than before.

We set up another A/B split test. The treatment page this time is not just longer, it’s way longer. We ran the experiment and treatment two resulted in a 6 percent decrease in number of names acquired. That’s not quite as bad as the previous treatment but we don’t want to see any drop.

Then we went back and we said, “Can we come up with some sort of in between?” We want to decrease the friction on the page by making it shorter, but without losing the force of the value proposition. Ultimately, we made the page shorter and compressed the value proposition into 4 checkmarks (the bullet points you see on the page in the image).

Texas Almanac Ad Conversion - Treatment 3

We set up our experiment with a split test against our original control (since it was yet to be bested by a treatment). This time, with treatment 3. We still had a 6 percent drop in names.

However and this is a big however, the number of people that went through this offer page converted to donors on the next page at a much, much higher rate. We had an 86 percent increase in the number of people that gave donations after signing up through this treatment.

Texas Almanac Ad Donations - Treatment 3

We traded a 6 percent drop in traffic—a 6 percent drop in that first step of the conversion funnel—to gain an 86 percent increase on the back-end for the much more important goal of giving a gift.

So, what did we learn from this? One of the big observations we made is that perhaps the control version and the other treatments we created were actually selling the value proposition of the eBook a bit too well. The data revealed what was happening: people would sign up to get the eBook but they would not pay attention to the next page that says, “By the way, why don’t you become a member.” Instead, they would go right to their inbox to get the eBook and start reading right away.

We wanted to promote the eBook just enough to get them to say yes to that first step but not so much that their motivation to receive the eBook would distract them from the ultimate goal of becoming a member of the organization. That was a big takeaway from this particular experiment.

Get more inspiration with your own Facebook ad optimization through our research study: Turning Likes Into Donors.

Published by Jeff Giddens

Jeff Giddens is President of NextAfter.