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The Fallacy of Best Practices in Performance Marketing (And What Tactics To Try Instead!)

By Max Langlois, Digital Specialist, Metric Digital

“Best Practices” is a phrase that gets thrown out a lot in digital marketing.

If you google best practices digital marketing right now, you will be inundated with countless blog posts that claim to be a road map to achieving growth through certain online marketing efforts.

But more often than not, these so called best practices garner average results.

In my experience, best practices are a vital starting point for every account. They serve as an iteration tool, allowing marketers the ability to quickly find what works within a given account and optimize towards it.

In this post, I’ll offer a stark contrast to most articles on the topic. My goal is not to dissuade you from using best practices entirely, rather, to dissuade you from over relying on them. We’ll talk about how not to follow them blindly without considering the fact that iteration is the key to success in digital marketing.

Can challenging Facebook’s guidelines payoff?

For starters, here’s a case study from a recent client of ours, whose data we have anonymized:

Conventional wisdom says that a 1% lookalike will outperform a 5% lookalike with the same source audience. I decided to test this notion a couple weeks ago by implementing a 5% lookalike in the same CBO (Campaign Budget Optimization) campaign as the 1% lookalike.

The two ad sets were structured the same with equal bid caps of $35. Flying in the face of best practices, the 5% lookalike outperformed the 1% in terms of efficiency and volume.

Two of my colleagues, Hannah Theurer and Aaron Sagotsky both challenged Facebook’s guidelines of a recommended timeline to transitioning new accounts to conversion optimization.

As The Facebook Ads Help Center states: “We recommend getting about 50 optimization events within your conversion window per week.”

Neither Aaron nor Hannah’s accounts were near this recommended 50 conversions per week. Yet Hannah and Aaron both independently decided to challenge best practices. They tested whether their respective accounts would benefit by transitioning to a purchase event prior to hitting this recommended benchmark.

They both saw a rise in conversion volume at a more cost effective rate.They were rewarded for their curiosity, which questioned the validity of these guidelines, and saw exponentially better conversion results.

Engaging your curiosity to grow revenue

Now that you’ve seen the thinking behind challenging best practices, here are three to consider, along with reasons why they might not work, and what to try instead.

The following list of “Best Practices” have been pulled from several of the blog posts that I referenced before.

  1. Stick to one clear call to action. The call to action button on Facebook is a powerful lever for a digital marketer. Metric Digital often segments a call to action by prospecting and Remarketing. We recommend using Learn More as a CTA in prospecting and Shop Now in Remarketing.
  2. Schedule your Search Ads. Some claim that it is beneficial to only schedule your ads to run during business hours. This is not in your best interest. Buyers are likely to be searching for your business during their downtime, which coincidentally likely falls outside of your business’ hours of operation, assuming they themselves are employed. Search operates on a pay per click basis, and if your keywords are set up correctly, you should only be paying for relevant traffic. Don’t turn away traffic because a potential customer is looking for you outside of your hours of operation.
  3. Make sure your targeting is not too broad. This may have been the case a couple of years ago. But the Facebook algorithm has grown stronger and with it comes the ability to rely on it further. Recently I have been setting up ad sets with no targeting at all. It sounds like lunacy, but this allows the Facebook algorithm to optimize your targeting for you. I would highly recommend setting up a DPA with broad targeting for accounts that have a significant amount of pixel data.

In conclusion, we turn to David Ogilvy’s immortal words:

“If you ever have the good fortune to create a great advertising campaign, you will soon see another agency steal it. This is irritating, but don’t let it worry you; nobody has ever built a brand by imitating somebody else’s advertising.”

The legendary ad man is likely referring to creative and ad copy, however, the same principle holds true for performance marketing. Originality requires thoughtfulness, which is far more challenging than imitation, but it is far more rewarding as well.

Ultimately, best practices are helpful guidelines and great starting points especially for accounts that lack learnings. Best practices such as “creating lookalikes based off of site viewers prior to having a sufficient amount of conversion events to use past converters as a source audience” is an excellent starting point for a prospecting audience.

But every ad account is different, and any worthwhile digital marketer should use their curiosity to challenge those best practices from time to time.

Just because the performance marketing industry is using best practices, doesn’t mean your company can’t test those assumptions to find better ones.

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Max Langlois Digital Specialist The Metric Digital Blog A Blog on All Things Digital Marketing