Facebook has an average of 1.49 billion daily active users—from consumers to businesses to C-level executives—which makes advertising there a potential gold mine where marketers can reach almost any target audience.
So how you do make the most of your Facebook ad dollars? By making sure your ads are optimized for conversions.
When it comes to Facebook ad optimization, several things make ads effective, including appropriate targeting, compelling copy and engaging visuals. But one of the most important things is often overlooked: placement.
In fact, where you place your ads can change the click-through rates (CTRs) by as much as 400% or more, and, according to our research, can more than double the cost of running your ads!
And since higher CTRs are tied to higher conversion rates, the potential difference in conversions can be big for various Facebook ad placements.
Here’s an overview of Facebook ad placements, their pros and cons, and how they impact conversions, along with case studies of brands that have successfully used different placements to their advantage (and how you can, too).
Facebook Ad Placement: What are your Choices?
News Feed Ads
A highly sought-after ad placement because they easily attract attention by occupying the largest piece of real estate on Facebook, your ads are shown in the News Feed of your target users while they browse Facebook on desktop computers, laptops, and Macs.
News Feed ads come with the added advantage of reaching more conversion-friendly desktop users who follow-through more often than their mobile counterparts. Feed ads have a higher click-through rate and lower cost-per-conversion than right column ads, and they’re better for enticing people who are not yet familiar with your brand or company.
Right Column Ads
Since design changes that left the Facebook platform with far less right column ads than News Feed ads, fewer people overall see right column ads, but they get up to three times more engagement when used in tandem with News Feed ads.
The problem with right column ads, however, is that they are often more expensive than News Feed ads. They are also small placements that don’t stand out and can’t include CTA buttons.
Right column ads convert on a lower basis in general. However, if you aren’t looking to convert people for the first time, they can be a very cost-effective method of reaching an audience, since targets won’t need to get to know you first: they only need to see your logo on an image they associate with your brand, and they’ll click away. For example, say you’ve identified people who’ve interacted with you in the past, simply retarget them with ads (or run them for the custom audience already familiar with you). This is why retargeting is a tactic used by nine out of 10 U.S. marketers.
Mobile feeds are standard News Feed ads that appear only on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
Mobile News Feed ads have high relative CTRs relevant to desktop, but CPCs are lower. And these mobile ads can be a highly effective way to create awareness and encourage conversions down the road, despite the fact that mobile News Feed ads tend to have lower conversion rates than their desktop counterparts.
Mobile News Feed ads are a commonly used ad placement due to the continuing rise of mobile, and many advertisers find their ads on mobile News Feeds to be more effective than desktop, especially when optimized for a specific audience. These placements are ideal if you’re seeking to boost engagement, get “likes” or encourage mobile app installs or sell e-commerce products (many Facebook users who discover products while on the go later buy when they return to their desktops).
Instant Articles are presented in a large, mobile-only format (essentially an entire web page) featuring fast-loading articles with images and video.
Despite generally low conversion rates, these placements can be useful since they display directly in mobile News Feeds, allowing content to be shown without taking users to an external website or app.
Instant Articles are good remarketing tools that are less expensive than most other placements, offering the opportunity to affordably add another touchpoint to users in the Facebook sales funnel. Ads displayed in Instant Articles load 10 times faster than regular web ads, giving marketers the opportunity to earn more from impressions and clicks. They also allow media like YouTube videos, tweets and images to be embedded while providing an immersive full-screen experience that gives users the option of engaging with likes, comments and other emotions allowed with standard Facebook posts.
In-stream videos are mobile-only ads that run between two other videos.
Available for both desktop and mobile, in-stream video ads are pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll video placements that can be served on third-party sites and apps linked to Facebook’s Audience Network, allowing for greater reach than just advertising on Facebook’s site.
The cons are generally low conversion rates and small inventory compared with other placements.
Most commonly used to deliver 5-15 second mid-roll video ads to users watching videos on the social network, over 70% of these placements are viewed to completion, according to Facebook. The platform also says in-stream videos have 10% more incremental reach than mobile News Feed alone. They also offer a lower cost per impression and are best (though at a slightly higher budget) for enticing people who haven’t yet heard of your brand.
Suggested Videos are mobile-only videos that run within a feed of suggested videos.
Suggested Videos play automatically after users watch a video of their choice, making them ideal mediums for growing brand awareness by providing more opportunities to get videos in front of users.
Being mobile-only placements, these ads’ targeted users are typically on the go (translation: lower attention spans and follow-through, which leads to lower conversion rates).
Reaching audiences by inserting video ads between suggested videos, these placements can be an effective way for you to increase brand awareness, post engagement, mobile app installs and video views. Why? Because they target audiences by inserting video ads between Suggested Videos (which, in theory, means still paying attention to their screens).
Marketplace ads are standard Facebook ads on the Marketplace in the Facebook app.
Placements on this intent-based ad platform are more affordable than Google and are a great way to target people who are actively looking for something instead of targeting people who might have an interest in something.
The negative is Facebook Marketplace does not yet yield as many interested users as more established rivals like Amazon and eBay, which means fewer impressions.
Placements here benefit from targeting users with purchase intent — those actually seeking to buy something — rather than those who just have a general interest in a product or service. Marketplace allows marketers to reach people where they shop, with ads featured side-by-side with products and services. Since most of the products listed in Marketplace are bought and sold locally, it’s an ideal ad placement for locally focused services and brick-and-mortar businesses, especially anything related to home and garden, furniture, vehicles, and rental properties.
Case study: How Sephora Rocked It With News Feed Video Ad
The global luxury beauty brand successfully used News Feed video ad placements to net a 32% higher return on ad spend, 41% higher CTR and 30% increase in reach.
Why It Worked:
Sephora decided to use tabs to create visually appealing video ads on desktop and mobile News Feeds that stood out from placements by the competition. Ideal for e-commerce sites and brands that have catalogs, the ad unit uses algorithms that are set up to show the most relevant products to the right people. Opening in the collection ad format, the placement showed an engaging video with four product images below it. Tapping on the video opened a full-screen Canvas with multiple tabs showing different groups of relevant products in the catalog. Tapping on individual products took people to that product’s detail page on Sephora’s website for more information and/or to make a purchase. Sephora successfully showcased multiple products and promotions to reach a broad range of potential buyers with targeted interests in beauty products, makeup trends, and skin and hair care, and also used Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences to zero in on potential customers.
Instagram Ad Placements: What are your Choices?
Feed ads are mobile-only placements that look like standard Instagram posts.
Instagram drives more qualified traffic, especially for advertisers with visually attractive products. And feeds are a popular way to generate brand awareness and get click-throughs from Instagram’s huge audience, which now tops 1 billion monthly active users who actively engage more than Facebook users.
The only real downsides to Instagram are their feed offers fewer advanced ad features than Facebook, and the site’s younger, more tech-savvy user base means fewer opportunities to reach an older demographic.
Instagram feed ads provide a non-intrusive way to reach your target audience because your ad looks like a normal Instagram post, but it will show up in feeds of targeted audience segments and includes a customizable CTA button. These placements also provide the best results in terms of cost, ROI and engagement—brands’ average engagement rates are 10X higher on Instagram than on Facebook.
Instagram Stories are mobile ads that appear between user stories that vanish after 24 hours.
With a high level of disposable income, Instagram users tend to spend more (higher average order value) on eCommerce than Facebook users. Stories are an especially effective way to retarget people who have already liked you on Facebook, taking advantage of their existing interest with highly relevant messaging and multiple options for CTA buttons.
Cons include CPCs that tend to be higher than other placements and CTRs that trend lower.
With one-third of Instagram users watching Stories every day and 20% of Stories posted by businesses that result in a direct interaction with users, these placements have been shown to be especially effective for promoting fitness, fashion, retail, technology, automotive, travel and food and drink. Instagram stories are discoverable, meaning people don’t have to be followers to see your posts, and hashtags can be added to help increase the likelihood that your ad will be found. And, if you have more than 10,000 followers, there’s a ‘swipe up’ for your Instagram Stories to include an outbound link to your website, product page, blog or elsewhere.
Case Study: Instagram + Facebook + Tv = Stouffer’s Winning Formula
The consumer foods company leveraged Instagram ads (in addition to Facebook) to increase its reach by 4.6X on both platforms, gaining a 14-point increase in purchase intent and a 13-point uptick in brand awareness.
Why It Worked:
Keeping its visuals and messaging consistently aligned with its broadcast TV campaign, Stouffer’s created short video ads (15 seconds or less) targeting a broad demographic of American men and women aged 25–49, as well as people with an interest in food, grocery shopping, health and fitness who the brand’s “Fit Kitchen Bowls” were more likely to appeal to.
Audience Network: What are your Choices?
Native Ads, Banner Ads, Interstitial Ads
Native, banner and interstitial ads are mobile-only standard placement ads that run on sites outside Facebook’s platform.
They give you the ability to seriously amplify your reach beyond Facebook, allowing your brand to connect with audiences through ads with premium publishers on mobile apps, websites, Instant Articles and videos.
Conversion rates are lower due to driving unqualified traffic, which leads to higher CPAs.
These placements offer a low cost per click (CPC), cost per lead (CPL) and cost per mille (CPM), or per thousand impressions, relative to other placements. These placements allow you to affordably engage target audiences across the web, reaching up to 16% percent more people than on Facebook or Instagram alone, with ads in a variety of formats.
In-stream placements are mid-roll video ads that run between two other videos.
Taking advantage of the ever-growing popularity of online video, in-stream videos allow you to add an effective format to your digital advertising strategy that provides superior performance in terms of brand awareness and recall.
The flipside is many users are annoyed by in-stream videos, don’t watch the full video or use ad blockers to stop them altogether.
In-stream video viewers tend to be captive audiences since they are already engaged and invested in what they’re watching. Executed properly — with quality ads that are relevant and optimized — these placements provide the opportunity to increase brand awareness, expand reach and boost engagement (due to less competition). And brands now have the option of In-Stream Reserve, premium placement in videos from high-quality publishers delivered to Nielsen-verified in-target audiences.
Rewarded videos are full-screen, mobile-only, opt-in ads with CTAs that gamers are rewarded for watching.
Rewarded videos allow advertisers to give targeted players the option of watching a full-screen, immersive video ad in exchange for a reward within whatever game they are playing.
But these targeted ads tend to provide lower user engagement, low-quality traffic and lower lifetime value.
Rewarded videos outperform any other in-game ad format, with higher completion rates, better audience targeting and more viewer satisfaction. Their audience targeting is better because users have chosen to watch ads and are more likely to completely view ads (since there is no reward if videos are skipped or cut short). Plus, those who watch these placements tend to view the advertiser in a more positive light, given the opt-in and non-intrusive nature of ads.
Case Study: How PeopleFun used Rewarded Videos to Entice Gaming Enthusiasts
Soon after activating ads, the network began accounting for up to 40% of their rewarded video. Ultimately, the mobile game designer reached its goal of filling 98% of their ad requests with quality placements that yielded competitive Cost Per Milles, realizing 50% higher CPMs.
Why It Worked:
To get out of the trap of having its players (users) see the same videos from multiples sources, which led to lower CPMs, PeopleFun employed Facebook Audience Network placements to give its gaming users access to a broader range of videos, which ultimately drove revenue and pushed up user retention. And since the company already used Audience Network banners and interstitials, they easily implemented rewarded videos to entice gaming enthusiasts. To counter the fact that casual word games have a low percentage of paid gamers, PeopleFun used opt-in rewarded videos to generate additional revenue and encourage non-spenders to earn virtual coins that they can use to buy hints for challenge levels to keep the game moving forward.
Facebook Messenger Ads Placements: What are your Choices?
Messenger Home ads are standard placements that appear within Facebook Messenger. They give you the ability to reach customers instantly and have a track record of increasing both conversions and response rates.
Through Home ads you can engage customers without making a hard sell and scaring off cold, non-brand-aware users.
They come with a price: some users say Messenger Home ads interrupt their user experience.
Home ads allow you to choose destinations for your CTAs, including website URLs, links to apps or even destinations within Facebook Messenger; they also give you the power to engage in direct conversations that build meaningful relationships while executing relevant retargeting.
Sponsored messages are highly targeted ads that are sent directly to the people who have engaged with your business via Messenger. That’s why they are a great way to retarget Facebook users who have already interacted with your brand.
Taking up two-thirds of screen space, some users find sponsored messages too large and intrusive.
Sponsored messages allow you to deliver customized messages directly to a user’s inbox, which makes it a great tool for driving engagements and actions while keeping a user on the platform and reducing bounce. The great advantage of sponsored ads is a powerful one: the ability to send promotional messages anytime, even beyond the usual 24-hour window after a user has engaged with your chatbot.
Unlike the previous two options, these ads appear in the regular Facebook Newsfeed or on Instagram. However, they display a CTA labeled “Send Message” that will open a Messenger chat with the advertiser when clicked.
Showing up directly in the home dashboard of your messaging app, these placements let you generate real, organic conversations with your customers and prospects. In addition to being easy to set up, these placements appear in the regular Facebook News Feed or on Instagram (unlike the previous two options). They display a CTA labeled “Send Message” that will open a Messenger chat with the advertiser when clicked.
Like all related placements, click-to-Messenger ads rely on chatbots, which is a turn-off for consumers who prefer personal communication.
The perk of these placements is the capability of directly interacting with users in a more personal way, so they feel like more than just a number. After making initial contact, you’ll have the opportunity to customize the customer service experience for each individual user. Click-to-Messenger ads have the potential to significantly reduce cost per lead (CPL), drive potential customers to an engaging, mobile-friendly conversion funnel, and make every interaction a named contact.
Case Study: LEGO’ Messenger Bot, Your Virtual Personal Toy Shopper
The world’s largest toy manufacturer saw a 3.4X higher return on ad spend (compared to ads that linked to LEGO’s website), 71% lower cost-per-purchase and 1.9X higher value.
Why It Worked:
With the goal of enhancing the customer experience as virtual personal toy shoppers, LEGO presented ads to people over 25 in the U.S., UK, France and Germany, targeting people with an interest in the LEGO brand, toys and shopping, as well potential customers who visited the LEGO website in the past 14 days but didn’t make a purchase in the previous week. LEGO’S friendly Messenger bot stressed the idea that LEGO toys can unlock creativity and a sense of fun and exploration in children. The campaign’s welcoming words showcased the colorful toys and block sets in the toymaker’s vast catalog.
How To Pick the Best Facebook Ad Placement for Your Goals
When deciding where to place ads based on the goal of your campaign, consider these general rules of thumb, but always remember they aren’t set in stone.
For brand awareness, any placement can be effective. Generally speaking, frequency is the name of the game. Simply push ads to your desired target group and track how they respond.
If your goal is expanding your reach, use as many different placements as you like, being sure to put frequency capping in place (so you don’t waste your budget inundating the same people).
Traffic campaigns tend to work well with all placements, with the exception of the Audience Network, so long as you work to analyze performance to optimize placements based on content type.
Consider automatic placements to increase engagement and generate trust, fostering long-term relationship-building, then optimize ads over time.
- Lead generation:
Aside from the Audience Network (in most situations), every placement can be effective for getting users to submit information, whether through a Facebook lead ad or a website landing page. But News Feeds will likely deliver the best cost per lead (CPL).
While virtually every placement outside of the Audience Network can boost conversions, right column ads tend to offer less expensive conversions.
- Mobile apps installs:
When focusing on mobile app installations, it’s a good idea to treat these mobile-only placements as lower funnel conversions and try different placement options. One caveat: Forget the Audience Network unless you’re sure of the apps’ relevancy to your target audience.
- Video views:
If you’re shooting for video views, all placements can be effective, except for Messenger, so consider going with automatic placements.
- Direct message (DM) contacts:
Messenger placements are the only available option for increasing message interactions, and it happens to be very effective at it.
- E-commerce sales:
Automatic placements are a good idea but make sure to keep a close eye on them to keep CPAs in check.
- Brick-and-mortar visits:
If you’re promoting a retail store, set up automatic placements and regularly review results, removing any pricey placements that pop up.
Last Wise Words: Don’t Forget To A/B Testing
To make the most of your ads, Facebook’s Split Test Feature can be used to independently test up to five placement variations at a time with no audience overlap to see which ads have the highest click-through and conversion rates.
For more details on split testing, including step-by-step instructions, check out AdEspresso’s guide to A/B testing Facebook ads.
Use testing as a starting point to determine which ads resonate with your target audience and to deliver the best results for your brand or business.
Remember that although some placements appear, at first glance, to be better than others, there is no single ad position that is best for every situation.
Each Facebook ad placement has different upsides and downsides that should be considered based on your overall digital marketing goals.
A well-thought-out placement strategy can be just as important as, if not more than, other Facebook ad optimization tactics. And with careful planning and some old-fashioned trial-and-error, you can be well on your way to Facebook advertising success.