A couple of days ago I stumbled upon this post on Reddit, and it took me by surprise the amount of attention it had gotten. I was on the fence about whether I side with them or not.
It’s true that data attribution is hard, but not impossible and it’s true that most ad agencies run mindless A/B tests just to keep their clients happy. I’ve worked with quite a few agencies, that don’t really know what they’re doing but ace at sucking up to clients and making themselves look good. That being said, what do you do if you're stuck with such an agency?
Where do you draw the line between important tests and pointless people pleaser tests?
Well, I’ve drafted this post from what I’ve learned at ConversionXL with the hope that it gives you pointers when working with your agency. Using the Heuristic Analysis should ensure that you aren’t wasting time listening to these gurus about some mindless experiment they’ve conducted. Especially if you’re a medium to large business, capable of signing on large contracts.
What is Heuristic Analysis?
According to Wikipedia “ Heuristic analysis is an expert-based analysis that uses experience-based techniques for problem-solving, learning, and discovery. Its results are not guaranteed to be optimal.”
"Well if its results are not meant to be optimal, aren’t I wasting time again?"
While the common narrative that you hear is that we as advertisers have to be very data-driven, however, we’re still dealing with human begins. Not to mention, we are human begins ourselves. We have our biases, and often believe our thinking is a fact, not an opinion. This is why before conducting any tests on your ads start with a Heuristic analysis, and decide if the test is needed. It serves as an input to forming a hypothesis and then based on what we find, we look for data to confirm it.
However, as CXL likes to point out every now and then - there is no such thing as an objective point of view. Biases are everywhere, such as the bias blind spot or the confirmation bias. So whether you think a test is pointless or your agency thinks the test is what will make you the next unicorn, the heuristic analysis will help you both take a step back and reconsider.
We’re going to walk through your ads in a structured framework that will give us our starting point for refining your ads. Important to note that ConversionXL listed out their steps for their heuristic evaluation of websites, but we aren’t dealing with websites today, it’s just your social media ads. In order to keep things relevant, I will be editing a lot of what I learned to match our use case. If you’re someone that would like to take your marketing a step further and optimize your website for conversions (because ultimately, that’s where the sales/sing ups happen) do consider taking up the conversion optimization course by Peep Laja (no, I’m not an affiliate yet).
Steps The Ad Hatter Uses For Heuristic Analysis Of Facebook Ads:
1. Clarity: Is your ad perfectly clear and is it easy to understand what’s being offered and how it works? Would someone who is seeing your ad while scrolling through cat videos understand “why” someone should buy from you? If not, then there’s a problem. A 5-second test can be used to check how effective the creative or copy is at conveying your message clearly. While on social media 5 seconds of anyone’s attention is too much to ask for, this will definitely save you the cost of having to A/B test which message is clear.
2. Relevancy: This is a big one. Relevancy is a key factor determining your click-through rate and ultimately your conversion rate. It’s so important that it plays a huge role in your CPM. CXL has this beautiful article about increasing your advertising ROI by maintaining scent. The scent is a figure of speech for maintaining relevancy between your ads and landing page. It’s pretty obvious, right? But so often overlooked. Tests you can consider here are the types of messaging/ pain points addressed. Check the ‘make it better’ section of this article here.
3. Incentives to take action: Whether it’s adding a discount or creating a sense of urgency, is there anything in the creative or copy, that persuades people to take action? Why should someone buy now? Why would they give you their contact information? Being able to collect valuable information on this step could help you convert a visitor a lot faster. Tests you can consider here are different calls to action, offers, urgency tactics, and headlines.
4. Friction and Distracting elements: I CANNOT stress how many time times I’ve come across a story ad, that had text cut off on either end or carousel ads where the headline wasn’t fully visible. I get it, it’s time-consuming to make the same creative in different ratios, but the benefits of doing so are too great to avoid. The less friction you create for someone viewing your ads, the more likely they are to engage with it.
Additionally, are there any elements that would distract someone from the pain point you are trying to address? For example, if you’re running a video ad, does the text transition too fast or too slow? Both would cause someone to leave. In some ad placements, the headline is the only text visible until someone clicks on it – does your headline captivate people enough to click on the ad in their messenger inbox or during instream videos. Is the text in your video or creative even visible in banners and marketplace ads etc.
Tests you can consider here are placements, platforms, and types of ads.
5. The buying stage: Understand the buying stage your target audience is in and see if visitors are rushed into too big of a commitment too soon.
The typical buyer’s process consists of 3 stages:
Awareness – when a customer first becomes aware of your product or the point where a customer becomes aware of a need that they want to fulfill.
Consideration – when a customer starts evaluating solutions to their need, by looking at alternatives or seeking more information.
Purchase – when people are sure they want to give you their money.
There are other steps you could add or remove such as retention and referrals, depending on your product or service, but for our current case, we’ll stick to these three.
An example of the buyer’s process gone wrong:
This is the first ad for the company I’ve seen, and I immediately saved it (it’s a hobby). Apart from the friction and clarity issues stated above like the half headlines, the first problem is that the call to action is a direct shop now. All their ads in their ad library are 'shop now' at the time of writing this. Why is that a problem? because someone that’s not familiar with hydroponics would just skip the ad without taking any action because they'd assume it isn't for them.
The second problem is, that on clicking the ad, it takes me to a landing page that is generic which also speaks about their other products (confusing right?) well, it was a bit of a read, so I skipped it and went straight to the product page.
The cost of the product INR 9,999/- quite the commitment for someone who might not be familiar with hydroponics. To begin with, I’m not sure why I’m their target audience. Even if I had an extra 10K sitting around, I wouldn’t be purchasing a hydroponic system and adding to my responsibilities, I'm too young for that kind of commitment. Of course, I might be wrong and they might be doing great, but this won’t work in most cases.
If I were setting up their ads, here’s what I’d do differently:
Awareness – A nice video of the product with a call to action to learn more, the landing page could be the wordy confusing page they took me to, but it is a “learn more” ad for a reason.
Consideration – Retarget those who engaged with the ad or visited the landing page with a sign-up for a free trial offer. Products that no one has seen before and are also expensive and would require recurring investments, do need to be tried.
Assuming the brand is worried about people damaging their products in the free trial, they can be either a small fee for the free trial or a document that says “you break it, you buy it”. Bottom line a trial for this product is necessary. Chances are, someone would buy it solely for the look and feel it adds to their home, after all, the product is very well designed.
Purchase – Retarget those who signed up with you previously with ads or emailers with the CTA of “Shop now” with an offer or so.
Tests you can consider here are different ads for different stages of the funnels.
“But they’re paying you to only run their ads, it’s up to the client to decide whether a free trial is possible or not”
Yes, you’re right, but you’re the advertiser, your job isn’t to just switch on and switch off ads, your job is to make the brands that trusted you with their resources business. If a free trial isn’t possible, then maybe more video content, a youtube channel, UGC, etc, and if they as a client aren’t flexible or open to the fact that people are having trouble viewing their product as they do (I've had clients like these), then you should end the contract. Staying just because it’s another month’s paycheck will only hurt your reputation as an advertiser in the long run.
Take away: While experts tell you to always be testing your Facebook ads in order to be profitable, knowing to differentiate between necessary tests and random tests using the heuristic analysis could save you so much that you might just have been in a better position if you hadn't invested in those tests, to begin with. Especially when someone else is managing your ads, it's necessary that you be able to tell when someone is sweet-talking for a short-term paycheck.
If you found this article useful and would like to be notified when the next one goes live, do not forget to subscribe below.