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Monday, 26 September 2016

We Analyzed 37,259 Facebook Ads and Here’s What We Learned

We’ve discussed plenty of times before what we think your Facebook ad should say, so we’ve analyzed the text from 37,259 ads from our Facebook ad examples gallery to find out exactly how the best Facebook advertisers are piecing together their ads.
Ads Analysis
We took the text, headline, and news feed link description from 37,259 ads, analyzing them for length, sentiment, and what type of words these ads were using. We also looked at the Call-To-Action they used and the links in these ads, and how Facebook advertisers were using these to generate as much interest in their products as possible.
Here’s what we found.

The Most Popular Headline Is Just 5 Words Long

You have three text fields for the copy in your Facebook ads: The headline, the main text, and the news feed link description:
When you’re putting together the copy for your ad, we have one piece of advice: keep your copy short and extremely clear.
It seems Facebook advertisers have taken this to heart. The median length for a headline is just 5 words long. This means that their ad is immediately clear and to the point each time.
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This example from Thinkful shows a great ad. Not only is the headline nice and tight, but all the text is to the point. It gets your attention and then makes you want to click through to the site to find out more:
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A few advertisers are making their headlines way longer than this and immediately losing the focus. This ad from Video Game Testers & Designers puts too much information into the headline — information that should be in the text. They even have an asterisk to explain more because they can’t fit it all in the headline:
Screenshot 2015-09-28 10.06.38

Post Text And Link Descriptions Are A Little Longer (But Not Much)

The median length for ad post text is just 14 words long, again keeping it short and to the point. The link description is a little longer, at 18 words.
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The post text for this ad from Gwynnie Bee has just the right amount of information in its 14 words:
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And this ad has the median number of words in the news feed link description, describing what Falcon Social is succinctly in 18 words, so the user doesn’t feel overwhelmed:
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We strongly suggest you keep your text tight and to the point. Facebook ads are expensive real estate, and aren’t there to tell your life story. Instead, use clear and catchy text to attract people to the ad, and then let them click through to your site to learn more about your service.

The Most Popular Word: You

Looking at the ad examples dataset this was one of my favorite things. It seems that Facebook Advertisers really are on their game. Recently I wrote about the best psychological tricks to make your ads unforgettable and included a list of the 5 words that you should always include in your ad if you want people to respond:


Why is you so powerful? Because it makes you think of you. If every ad could be hyper-personalized that would be even better, but in lieu of that, the word you will suffice. Our brain is activatedspecifically by hearing or thinking of our own name and ourselves.


We value free highly. Free is the ultimate word for any viewer of an ad. We are always on the lookout for free. Including it in an ad and it’s almost guaranteed to catch the eye.


We want answers. Humans are inquisitive souls. We are constantly questioning why? And because of that the word because means a lot to us.


We love now. We discount things drastically into the future, so instantly nearly always seems like the better option. This has been backed up by brain scans, showing that if you offer something instantly, our brains go crazy.


We are novelty-seeking animals, so using new is a great way to show you are something fresh, or re-invigorate an established brand and put it back into the customer’s mind.
Here is a word cloud of the text from these 37,259 ads, where the size of the word is proportional to how often it occurred in all the fields.
Screenshot 2015-09-26 18.26.14
OK, so ‘because’ isn’t there, but ‘you’, ‘free’, ‘now’ (instead of ‘instantly’), and ‘new’ are the words that you find most frequently in these ads.
Well done guys!
Here are a couple of examples of advertisers using these words well. First Hit the News using ‘You’ in their ad, making readers wonder if you are happy together:
Screenshot 2015-09-28 09.19.13
Then General Assembly using the awesome power of free to get people to learn to code:
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These words work. We are naturally drawn to these words as they signal something powerful to us. Using them in ads means you have a natural advantage over all other advertisers.

If You Want To Stand Out, Go Negative

Sentiment analysis is a way of analyzing text for how positive or negative it is. Certain words are assigned a valence score and you add up the scores for each word in a document to determine the text’s sentiment, either positive or negative.
Most ads are neutral, either because the words aren’t scored in the valence database (it only has scores for about 2000 words in the English language), or because positive and negative words in the ad have canceled each other out. Below you can see ads that were either positive or negative (0 scores have been removed).
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The graph is skewed towards positive valence, with most non-neutral ads showing a slightly positive tone. These ads might contain words like ‘capable’ (+1), ’top’ (+2), or ’yummy’ (+3).
This ad for Lays scores highly because it has the word ‘yummy’ (+3), and ‘win’ (+4):
Screenshot 2015-09-28 09.30.33
This DraftKings ad has high valence words such as ‘top’ and ‘win’ multiple times.
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The ads that are really positive in tone, with a sentiment score of 5 or more can either be made up of a few of these slightly positive words (super-yummy or win-win-win), or might have extremely high valence words like ‘breathtaking’ (+5), as this VideoBlocks ad includes:
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Not all the ads are positive though. Ads for news items or charities are often slanted slightly negatively. This Soi Dog ad contains the words ‘cruelty’ and ’torture’, scored as -3 and -4 respectively:
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It will definitely grab a user’s attention, especially with the image of Ricky Gervais as well. This PandoDaily ad scores slightly negatively because of the inclusion of the words ‘war’ and ‘hurting’:
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Of course, looking at this data it seems there is one way you can get your ad to stand out from the rest – go negative. If your ad is all the way off to the left of that chart, it will definitely stand out from the rest (though will people click on it?)

CTAs Aren’t Being Used Effectively

Including a call-to-action (CTA) button in your ad makes it easy for a user to click through to your site to learn more about your product, sign up to a service, or to download an eBook, app, or game. From the possible CTAs available to Facebook advertisers, our analysis showed that only a few are really used extensively:
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‘Learn More’, ‘Shop Now’, and ‘Sign Up’ are all used significantly more than any other call-to-action. Below is a word cloud of the CTAs, with the size of the words proportional to how often they appeared in the ad example gallery.
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The less-used ones, such as ‘Open Link’, or ‘Use App’ can barely be seen (they are the ones that look like an Umlaut above the ‘p’ of Shop).
Using a CTA makes it easy for a user to find out more about your product, and shows them exactly where on the ad they should click to get the information. Kabbage uses the ‘Learn More’ CTA so you can find out about their small business funding:
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Don’t be scared of using those lesser-used CTAs though, if they have relevance to your service. Here Angel Stone uses the ‘Play Now’ CTA exactly as it should be used — to get people to their gaming site:
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In total, only 56% of ads included a CTA, so this is an area where Facebook advertisers could really up their game, making it easier for users to click through to their sites to Learn More, Sign Up, or Donate Now.

69% of Ads Link To A Landing Page

Your Facebook ad should be advertising something specific, rather than just your site or whole service. Your Facebook ads should be targeted towards a specific audience, and you should offer them something that is unique to them. Your link from the ad should be pointed to a specific landing page for your service.
This is what most advertisers are doing:
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69% of Facebook ads point to a specific referral or landing page on the product site. 11% of ads miss out on this targeting by pointing to the home page instead, and a further 20% point to another page within Facebook instead of moving out of the site to a product or service. The Localytics ad does it right by sending the user to a specific landing page for their eBook:
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Why do we suggest have a specific landing page for your click-throughs? Because this is a great way to use Facebook ads for Lead Generation. You can then create a dedicated landing page for your lead magnet, using apps such as Welcome Mat from SumoMe, and capture information about your customers easily. If you are going straight to your home page, or to another page in Facebook, you’ll lose this information and lose customers.

Most Companies Only Have 1 Ad, But The Best Have 100s

Our final task was to look at how many ads each advertiser had in our gallery. Unfortunately, most advertisers had only 1 ad in the gallery. This is a massive mistake. It means they are only putting up 1 ad for their product. They’re not taking advantage of ways to optimize their campaigns, such as split testing different designs or text.
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We did find a few companies that were doing to awesomely though. Shopify has over 200 examples in the ad gallery, using different images and text in each, to attract a different type of user. Here are 3 different Shopify examples with the same headline, but different images and text for different personas:
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Awesome work, Shopify!
It seems that most Facebook advertisers really hit the mark. They keep the text nice and short, keep the ads positive, and even if they aren’t always using CTAs, they link to specific landing pages on their own sites so they can capture important user information.
Where they are letting themselves down is by not producing more ads, so they can’t optimize their campaigns effectively. If they did this, I’d expect there to be even better data in the other categories.
Are you playing by these rules? Or can you see ways of subverting these norms, such as going negative, to make your ads stand out even more? We’d love to hear about your strategies to optimize your ads and to get them to stand out from the rest!

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