Katie Detrick

by Katie Detrick | Social Advertising

Whether you’ve spent years optimizing paid strategies on Facebook Ads or are just starting for the first time, we can all agree that there are countless tools available to use to your advantage. Almost so many, in fact, that it can be hard to know where to start. One of the most overlooked tools you can use to customize strategies by Facebook campaign objective is ad placements.

Each campaign in your strategy has a different objective and goal it’s trying to achieve, so why should you place all ads the same way across campaigns? Sure, saying that out loud makes a lot of sense, but knowing how to translate that into something actionable can be difficult if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Here you can find an all-inclusive guide of when to use manual placements on Facebook Ads and how and when to optimize.

Facebook Automatic Placements

If you’re just getting your footing in the realm of paid strategy or are unsure exactly how you want your audience to engage with the ads, leveraging Facebook automatic placements is a good way to build initial performance. By enabling auto placements, Facebook’s algorithm will place your ads where it thinks it will perform the strongest. While this may sound great, it doesn’t always happen and can result in a weaker ROI, leading to wasted dollars.

Let’s take a look at an example. We tested manual placements (mobile and desktop news feeds) vs. auto placements for a broad prospecting audience for about two months. The results showed stronger performance from manual placements. By selecting both mobile news feed and desktop news feed, we saw +16% more purchase volume at a -14% lower cost per purchase. Spend was also consistent, with only a five-cent difference between the two campaigns, truly holding the test to a reliable standard.

If you decide to leverage auto placements, it’s important to make a habit of either biweekly or monthly data analysis to make sure that Facebook is prioritizing strong performing placements. Usually, if the algorithm notices low returns on ad spend it will automatically diversify away from that placement, but that isn’t always the case. Eventually, the Facebook algorithm will have accumulated enough data where it’s clear which placements drive the performance you want, and you can shift to manual placements with your initial auto-placement data as validation.

Let’s look back at my earlier example of a broad audience only running on desktop and mobile news feeds. Knowing those are our strong performers within the account, the algorithm should have theoretically pushed the lion’s share of spend towards these placements to maximize return in the ad set using auto placement. That said, we were able to drive even stronger performance at a more efficient cost by using manual placements and sending all of the spend to desktop and mobile news feed placements.

Manual Placements

Manual placements allow you to tailor your dollars to only spend on placements aligned with how you want your audience to engage with your content. This typically results in the performance you’re working towards. You have more leverage for segmenting your audiences for really granular targeting, thus more validation that your dollars are helping get in front of the correct audience. I’ve also seen manual placements outperform auto-placements with lookalike audiences, in addition to the previously mentioned broad audience. Again, manually selecting desktop and mobile news feeds as placements, we saw +6% higher conversions with -6% lower cost per acquisition when running for two months. While these aren’t huge swings in comparison to auto placements, it still hits our goal of larger volume and enhanced efficiency.

For most campaign objectives, it’s almost always a safe option to leverage desktop and mobile news feed and Instagram feed placements. These are essentially the bread and butter of the Facebook/Instagram user experience, and although they’re typically the most competitive and expensive, they’re the most native and often tend to drive more conversions. News feed ads are great for all funnel stages, but are also a great resource for prospecting in particular since they give you a larger share of voice than some other placements. This increases the chance that your target audience members will stop scrolling and actually pay attention to your ad.

Additional placement options to consider include right-hand column (RHC) and Facebook Audience Network (FAN). Both placements offer additional coverage, providing opportunities for more brand awareness. These placements commonly drive lower engagement and typically are less expensive. If you are able to capture a user on one of these placements, post-click conversion rates can be even higher than for news feed placements.

Taking a look at Q2 ‘20 placement performance for one client, we saw that CPMs were -77% lower for RHC in comparison to news feed placements, with an -80% lower CTR. With a highly qualified audience, though, we saw a +211% higher conversion rate and +140% higher return on ad spend for RHC compared to traditional news feed placements over the quarter. For that reason, these placements are strong candidates for highly qualified remarketing audiences that prove a higher potential for conversion.

In Conclusion

Regardless of whether you’re using auto or manual placements, customizing your placements (like with Instagram stories) is going to result in stronger ad performance. You can, and if possible, should, customize all of your placements, whether it’s for stories, audience network, in-stream video, marketplace, RHC, or messenger, in order to provide the highest quality ad experience possible. Be sure to make a habit of analyzing placement performance whether you use auto or manual placements. Audience behaviors can shift, and the algorithm will continue to learn and optimize, so you should continue to do the same. Analyzing placement data and iterating off of it can ultimately help you improve performance and grow your campaigns. Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about how to drive strong Facebook Ads performance.