Oct 13, 2022

Avoid the “Adpocalypse”: Alternatives to Facebook Ads



“Yeah, it’s great! You only have to pay when someone clicks on your ad. Best thing ever.”

My friend was explaining to me back in 2005 how this whole “Pay-Per-Click” model worked, and I thought it was the greatest thing ever. “You pay just for results. How cool is that,” I thought. Back in the early days of Adwords (and Overture for the old school folks), things were quite different… In this post I share 3 alternatives to Facebook Ads and Search Ads you may not have considered. (Jordan Swanson – ReachFire Founder)

Cheap clicks were abundant… and wonderful!

At that time, if we were running a campaign for a somewhat competitive term, we would complain about how ridiculous a .50 CPC was. And a $1 a click?

Pure insanity… at least that’s what we thought at the time.

Now those same terms are running around $8 – $10 a click. So, what happened? In the wonderful world of ad auction bidding, the more people that bid, the higher the cost-per-click will be.

The World of Ad Auctions


Since Adwords uses an auction system, the more people that want those revenue generating keywords, the higher your cost will be. And just as competition raised click costs at Adwords, it does the same thing everywhere else, including Facebook.

But instead of bidding on keywords, with Facebook, you’re bidding on space in someone’s News Feed.

Facebook advertising has exploded in popularity because of its “simplicity” to use and its ability to target almost anyone. You want to go after men, age 30 – 50, that make between $75k – $250k a year, who enjoy Kanye West and purchase healthy organic products…

…they’ve got you covered.

Many companies are making a fortune running their ads on Facebook, and that’ll continue for a long time.

And, best of all, they forced the mighty Google to step up its game, which has benefited all advertisers.

Today, Facebook still stands as one of the best advertising platforms on the web.

Not All Is Lovely In The Land Of Facebook…


The Facebook News Feed is beginning to age… it launched nearly 11 years ago, and ads have been part of it for 5 years.

Now, I’m not saying age is a bad thing (I just turned 40, so I hope not). What I am saying is that age can be one of many indicators on how competitive a market has become. Let’s look at a few facts about Facebook ads:

  • Advertisements are shown to a fixed number of people (Facebook members) that match the demographics/interests
  • The News Feed has become (let’s face it) a hot, cluttered mess with ads, making it more and more difficult to stand out (even with Facebooks targeting methods)
  • Because Facebook has to continue to try and limit ads in the News Feed (or risk annoying the hell out of their users), they are forced to restrict the ad inventory
  • Facebook uses an auction type of system for ad placement
  • Limited space + Increase in advertisers = Higher CPC’s (which can lead to higher customer Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA) costs).

According to Steve Carbone, managing director and chief digital and analytics officer at MediaCom, Facebook…

“…has driven revenues based on three factors—growing the user base, increasing time spent and adding more ads to each page—but its ability to add more and more advertisements to each page is beginning to slow. If this source of revenue declines, Facebook will have to ramp up the other two and reassess pricing.”

Facebook is attempting to mitigate these concerns by testing different ad formats, such as expanding ad formats in the audience network, Messenger ads, Instagram stories, etc.

But, advertisers need to begin diversifying their ad spend, and stepping up their game on Facebook if they plan to stay profitable with paid media. Here are three things that can help.

3 Strategies To Increase Profitability With Paid Advertising


1. Begin Using Native Advertising.

Yes, I know. Native advertising is not a “secret.” But, for many people, using it successfully is.

If you’re curious about why you should start moving into Native Ads, allow me to share a few stats:

  • Consumers look at Native Ads 53% more than banner ads*
  • Native Ads have an average conversion rate of 4.5% and CTR of 0.2%*
  • Native Ads register an 18% higher lift in purchase intent & a 9% lift for brand affinity response*
  • You can get high-quality clicks for under $0.30

The Native Advertising concept is not new, it’s been around since the early 20th century. The reason it’s been around so long is it continues to work.

I remember as a kid finding these small “health magazines” around the house. My dad was big into learning about the latest and greatest health info, and these appeared to fit the bill.

However, these “magazines” were merely disguised advertisements… but there was a key difference…

They delivered real information…

…so my dad and millions of others enjoyed checking out the content. He knew they were selling something, but because they contained helpful ideas, he would read them.

These type of ads are a powerful means of not only getting your message out to the masses, but having them engage with it.

Native Digital Ads Reach Over A Billion Monthly Users Globally.


If you’re currently advertising on Facebook, then chances are, you’ve seen the fruits of native advertising.

Most people define “Native Advertising” as “content within a publication that resembles the publishers content, but advertisers pay for it.”

Again using Facebook as an example, their newsfeed ads are “Native Ads” because they match the surrounding content, look and feel.

But, there has been some criticism of this type of ad format.

Some have said that Native Advertising is deceptive because it resembles “real content.”

But, I have to say…

…they’re wrong (for the most part). Good Native Advertising is about “content discovery” and adding value to the web.

It should not just resemble “real content”, but be real content. Yes, there are Native Ad networks that allow for “deceitful” ads (pure clickbait)…

…but the quality networks are moving away from that, which is excellent news for most advertisers.

The key to successful Native Advertising is to contribute positively to the online discussion and provide valuable, informative content to your target audience. This isn’t about blasting the web with ads; it’s about giving potential customers what they want.

So, how do you give customers what they want from an advertising standpoint?

By providing valuable information, which most of the time comes through education.

The great marketer/sales trainer Chet Holmes once said,

“You will attract way more buyers if you are offering to teach them something of value to them than you will ever attract by simply trying to sell them your product or service.”

By driving traffic to an advertorial that delivers value, you not only set yourself far above the competition, but you will generate more sales.

To begin using Native Advertising, you’ll need to take your product and connect it with the right networks.

Not all products or offers work across the board, so make sure to do your homework.

The good news is you’ve got a lot of options to choose from… but to help you get started, here are 6 good networks (alternatives to Facebook ads) to take a look at:

Taboola, Outbrain, RevContent, Twitter, Google Display Network (yes, it can be done), and Yahoo Gemini. They cover 99% of the high-quality traffic available on the web.

Native Ads ≠ Banner Ads


One of the challenges some of our clients experienced, before coming to us, was identifying agencies that understood the Native Ad space. Many generalist-type of digital agencies try to apply the same principles they’ve used in search and banner ad campaigns to Native Ads.

And guess what, not surprisingly, their strategy doesn’t work…

Those agencies then say “Native Ads aren’t right for your business, let’s stick with Adwords search and Facebook ads”, which the client then believes and puts native to the side.

But, when done right, Native Advertising can be a game changer for your business.

Best Practices for Running Native Ads


Simply knowing what to do is a big factor that prevents people from taking a stab at Native Advertising. To help you get started, here are a few strategies to make your “Native Ad journey” a profitable one.

  • Images “stop the scroll,” headlines get the click.

Let’s first talk about the ad image. One important note to remember is each Native Advertising network has their particular image guidelines so take the time to read them and then, of course, stay compliant.

Images should be clean (not cluttered) and without text. Try to make the images “pop” with high-contrast. Also, photos of people tend to be the most engaging, but I’ve seen stylized images of objects pull just as well.

Also, make sure the image is relevant to the ad text…

A crazy image may get the click, but your bounce rate will be through the roof. Remember, you not only want a good CTR (shoot for 0.25% and higher) but quality clicks.

Below are two examples of good native ads. Both have relevant images that “stop the scroll”.

Native Advertising - Alternative to Facebook Ads
Native Advertising - Alternative to Facebook Ads

The Nugenix ad has an image of a man looking off to the side, which, not by coincidence, is where the headline is located. Data has shown we, humans, subconsciously follow where someone is looking… so this was a good choice.

The purple background on the Motley Fool ad works by creating contrast.

When working with ad text, remember the headline is what’s going to get the click-through, so it’s worth spending the time finding the right angle/hook. (Always keep in mind that the headline should match the landing page or risk high bounce rates.)

On what works for the headline…

Ask questions, be specific, use numbers, give it some urgency and make people feel there is something unique about what you’re offering.

To give you a better idea, here are some examples of effective Native Ad headlines taken from real-world success:

  • Top 8 Credit Cards For Those With Excellent Credit
  • Second Wave of Marijuana Wealth Has Already Begun
  • 1 Worst Carb that Causes Weight Gain
  • GNC’s #1 Testosterone Booster Baffles Men Over 50

As you can see, the headline doesn’t have to be crazy, it just needs to appeal to your target market.

When it comes time for creating your landing page, certain networks (such as Outbrain) will require an advertorial type of page.

However, many don’t and will allow you to send traffic directly to an offer.

But, if you can, I would recommend using an advertorial format for your pages whenever possible. Remember, it’s about providing real value to the market.

Also, by educating your audience, you’re eliminating sales resistance while providing a benefit at the same time.

If you’re having any trouble getting your Native Ad campaigns going and have questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @ReachFire or visit our contact us page.

2. Get Your Retargeting Pixels In Place From Multiple Networks Before Running Traffic.

Would you send people to an opt-in form that can’t capture the opt-in?

Of course not, that’d be ridiculous right? Well, when you’re sending traffic to a site without having a plethora of retargeting pixels in place, you’re doing the same type of thing.

A small part of our marketing methodology (Panoptic Stacking™) is to setup retargeting pixels across all the major advertising channels before we ever launch a campaign.

Most people will setup their retargeting pixel on the network in which they are currently advertising. But, they won’t setup their pixels from networks they are currently NOT advertising on.

It doesn’t matter if you are using a particular network right now or not, by following this strategy you’re creating a highly valuable audience for future targeting.

Retargeting is one of the most valuable things you can do online…

It allows you to create “personalized” advertising.

Once you begin building that audience, you can further segment it by creating sub-targets, such as showing ads to people who have or have not performed certain actions on your site within a specific timeframe. This is extremely powerful stuff not to be taken lightly.

You spend thousands of dollars on getting eyeballs on your page, so how about you multiply your efforts by placing pixels from channels like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Taboola, Yahoo, Outbrain, etc. on your site. Once you do that, you can begin rolling out retargeting campaigns to build “omnipresence” and generate more conversions.

By building audiences across the networks, you can then leverage something powerful called “lookalike or similar audiences.”

3. Use Lookalike Audiences With Layering.

The amount of data ad networks have on us is pretty incredible.

The tinfoil hat people are right… “they are watching us!” But the good news is it makes marketing to the right people so much easier.

Ad networks create what are called “lookalike” or “similar” audiences by evaluating who is coming to your site (all their characteristics, buying and clicking habits, purchase behavior, etc.) and compare that data to everyone else on the web.

When they see a match, ta-da! Your ad will then be shown.

This way of advertising can dramatically reduce costs and improve your overall CPA.

One common mistake people make is by not creating any filtering layers on top of the lookalike audience.

Keep in mind these audiences are not perfect, and because of that, you should place a filtering layer on that audience to “help” the networks find the right people. The filtering layer should match your ideal customer profile such as gender, demographic, income range, location, etc.

By building and layering a lookalike audience, you can generate some massive success online.

Concluding Thoughts

There are now quite a few options available to get eyeballs on your product/offer. Facebook advertising is still a great network to use (heck, we used it in this case study); however, it’s important to begin diversifying your ad spend and maximizing what you currently have while it’s still available.

Unfortunately, amateur hour is over. Too many large players with massive budgets are jumping in, and if you’re not careful and know what you’re doing, you could end up losing significantly.

However, the three strategies I shared can help lower your CPC and CPA, making your campaigns (or keeping them) lucrative.

If you are in the health, medical or finance industry and have a proven funnel that converts, ReachFire will bring you thousands of leads and sales at a lower CPA using Native Advertising.  ReachFire offers a unique guarantee for the advertising industry: if we don’t beat your current customer/lead acquisition cost, you won’t owe us a dime.

Schedule a consultation to see if we can help.

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