Data-Based Best Practices for Successful Facebook Advertising Campaigns

Facebook is the biggest social media platform in the world, but thanks to its algorithm you won’t get very far without boosting your posts or running ads.

Data-Based Best Practices for Successful Facebook Advertising Campaigns. Source: HubSpot
Data-Based Best Practices for Successful Facebook Advertising Campaigns. Source: HubSpot

We analysed over 100,000 Facebook ads and then ran a series of tests to determine:

  • The most powerful ad type for customer acquisition
  • The approx. word count of the highest-performing ads
  • What types of images to use and how to test them
  • How to develop a process for building successful campaigns

Content Summary

The Typical Facebook Ad
The Most Popular Type of Ad
The Most Popular Headline Length
The Most Popular Text and Description Length
The Most Popular Words
The Most Popular Sentiment
The Most Popular Numbers
The Most Popular Links
The Most Popular Call to Actions

A successful Facebook Ad is made of 2 components: A great design, targeted to the right audience.

In this article we focus on that first part. By analyzing over 100,000 real world ads we’ll show you what’s trending right now and how you can create the perfect ad.

We analyzed the text, links, type, and CTAs of 111,018 Facebook ads that were created by 1,000s of companies over the past year and used live on Facebook. These ads were taken from the AdEspresso Facebook Ad Gallery, the largest database of Facebook ads available.

You can find 15,000 of these ads available totally free in the AdEspresso Facebook Ad Gallery.

The full Data Set is coming soon from AdEspresso University where you can find all these Facebook ads plus more Twitter Ads.

The Typical Facebook Ad

A Typical Facebook Ad - A Quick Overview. Source: HubSpot
A Typical Facebook Ad – A Quick Overview. Source: HubSpot

Headline: The main title of your Facebook ad that grabs people’s attention. Your headline can be a maximum of 250 characters.

Text: A short description about the product or site you’re promoting.

Description: A longer text available in the News Feed describing more about your product. Maximum of 250 characters.

Caption: The URL of your domain.

Call to Action (CTA): A button showing people where they should click.

Image: An enticing picture related to your product.

The Most Popular Type of Ad

The Data Shows: The most popular type of ad is the Page Post Link ad

The most popular type of ad is the Page Post Link ad. Source: HubSpot
The most popular type of ad is the Page Post Link ad. Source: HubSpot
  • The Page Post Link ad is the most popular (74.8%), and is ideal for promoting your external site.
  • Video ads, which currently make up 15.1% of ads, can drive high audience engagement.
  • Photo ads (8.2%) are good for generating comments and likes, but not good for traffic, and you can’t include a CTA.
  • Other ad types (1.9%) such as Events and Offers are good for highly specific aims, such as promoting a time-sensitive webinar or sale.

Doing it Right: VideoBlocks, a stock video provider.

Best practices:

  • Uses video to show their audience a short example of their work.
  • Embeds the video in an ad that promotes their limited time offer.
  • Includes a CTA to sign up for their limited time offer at the end.
VideoBlocks, a stock video provider. Source: HubSpot
VideoBlocks, a stock video provider. Source: HubSpot

Doing it Right: Snapwire, a royalty-free photo service.

Best practices:

  • Uses a link ad to advertise their current offer
  • Includes a proactive CTA (“Shop Now”), uses positive language (“Free”, “Love”), and a striking image.
  • Image contains all aspects of an eye-catching image
  • Contains a single face, with eye contact.
  • Shows a positive emotion.
  • A flash of red in the image is eye-catching.
  • All this combines to capture the reader’s attention and compels them to click.
Snapwire, a royalty-free photo service. Source: HubSpot
Snapwire, a royalty-free photo service. Source: HubSpot

The Most Popular Headline Length

The Data Shows: The most popular Facebook ad headline length is 4 words

The most popular Facebook ad headline length is 4 words. Source: HubSpot
The most popular Facebook ad headline length is 4 words. Source: HubSpot
  • The median headline length is just 5 words long.
  • These short headlines keep well within the character limit, using up just 10% of possible space on average.
  • The limited space and a short headline forces you to get to the point of the ad.
  • Short headlines grab attention and make customers click to find more information.

Doing it Right – Thinkful, an online mentorship service:

Best practices:

  • They keep the headline tight, only using 5 words.
  • The benefit-driven language in the headline catches your attention and appeals to their audience’s aspirations.
  • Clear language is tailored directly to the target audience.
Thinkful, an online mentorship service. Source: HubSpot
Thinkful, an online mentorship service. Source: HubSpot

The Most Popular Text and Description Length

The Data Shows: The median length for ad post text is just 15 words.

The median length for ad post text is just 15 words. Source: HubSpot
The median length for ad post text is just 15 words. Source: HubSpot
  • The median link description is slightly longer, at 17 words, just 35% of the character limit.
  • These limits mean you have to keep all your text tight and to the point.
  • Clear text attracts people to the ad and lets them click through to your site to learn more.

Doing it Right: Sidekick, an email management tool.

Best practices:

  • The post text is very short, showing the audience exactly what the ad is promoting (“email”).
  • The link description is longer and entices the reader to learn more about the service but still leaves them needing to click through the ad to find out more about the service.
  • The reader scans the title, then the post text, before landing on the link description for more detail.
  • This link description should close the deal and tempt the reader to click through.
Sidekick, an email management tool. Source: HubSpot
Sidekick, an email management tool. Source: HubSpot

Doing it Right: Salesforce, an enterprise cloud computing platform

Best practices:

  • The post text is longer, including more copy to help build trust for enterprise customers.
  • The link description still gives a concise description of the product, teasing the reader to learn more.
  • The ad gives enough information to entice the reader and build confidence, but stills requires the click-through or CTA click to learn more.
Salesforce, an enterprise cloud computing platform. Source: HubSpot
Salesforce, an enterprise cloud computing platform. Source: HubSpot

The Most Popular Words

The Data Shows: You/Your, Free, Now, and New are the Top Words.

You/Your, Free, Now, and New are the Top Words. Source: HubSpot
You/Your, Free, Now, and New are the Top Words. Source: HubSpot
  • You/Your: our brain is activated by hearing or thinking of our own name and ourselves.
  • Free: this is the ultimate word for any viewer of an ad. Include it in an ad and it’s almost guaranteed to catch the eye.
  • Now: this creates scarcity in the reader’s mind and urges them to action.
  • New: using this word is a great way to show you are offering something fresh.

Audiences are naturally drawn to these words. Using these words in ads means you have a natural advantage over all other advertisers.

Doing it Right: General Assembly, an online tutorial community.

Best practices:

  • Includes the word “Free” in the headline.
  • Includes the words “you” and “free” in the post text.
  • Includes the words “you” and “you’ll” in the link description.

By combining the use of these words in your ads with targeting to the right audience, you’ll be speaking directly to the right customers.

General Assembly, an online tutorial community. Source: HubSpot
General Assembly, an online tutorial community. Source: HubSpot

The Most Popular Sentiment

The Data Shows: Most ads are sentiment neutral.

Most ads are sentiment neutral. Source: HubSpot
Most ads are sentiment neutral. Source: HubSpot
  • Sentiment analysis studies the emotional content of text.
  • Most non-neutral Facebook ads show a slightly positive tone.
  • Positive ads use words such as ‘capable’ (+1), ’top’ (+2), or ’yummy’ (+3) to elicit good emotions in the audience.
  • Negative ads can work as well, and ads for news items or charities often emphasize negative emotions.

Doing it Right: DraftKings, a fantasy sports website.

Best practices:

  • Includes multiple positively valenced words: “Win” and “wins” are +4, and “top” is +2.
  • The ad also uses other signals to get positive attention with multiple $ signs and large numbers ($65K).
  • Uses other positive words such as “Fantasy”, “Cash”, and “Now”.
DraftKings, a fantasy sports website. Source: HubSpot
DraftKings, a fantasy sports website. Source: HubSpot

Doing it Right: Soi Dog, an animal welfare nonprofit.

Best practices:

  • Contains negatively valenced words: the word “cruelty”, a -3 valence word, and “torture”, which scores -4 in sentiment analysis.
  • The image shows negative emotion
  • Contains other negative words, such as “wiped”, “shocked”, and “stop”.
  • Ends telling the audience what they can do to stop this: “Click here to find out”
  • “Sign Up” CTA
Soi Dog, an animal welfare nonprofit. Source: HubSpot
Soi Dog, an animal welfare nonprofit. Source: HubSpot

The Most Popular Numbers

The Data Shows: 48.1% of all ads contained a number in the headline, description, or text.

  • Most numbers were rounded (1, 10, 100, 1,000, …)
  • Examples of numbers could be:
    • percentage (“20% off”)
    • monetary (“$10 discount”)
    • lists (“Top 10”)
    • boasts (“#1”)
    • social proof (“Join 100,000+ people”)
48.1% of all ads contained a number in the headline, description, or text. Source: HubSpot
48.1% of all ads contained a number in the headline, description, or text. Source: HubSpot

Doing it Right: Dropbox, a cloud storage service

Best practices:

  • Uses large numbers as social proof.
  • Shows you that 100,000+ businesses are already using Dropbox so you can have confidence in them as well.
  • Uses the positively-valenced word “Trust” (+1) to reinforce that confidence.
  • Uses large numbers along with strong language to boost your social proof.
Dropbox, a cloud storage service. Source: HubSpot
Dropbox, a cloud storage service. Source: HubSpot

Doing it Right: General Assembly, an online tutorial community.

Best practices:

  • Uses a highly specific number, 226,286, as social proof.
  • Exact number builds trust in the brand and is more likely to be taken as true.
  • The distinct number is more likely to catch the eye of a reader.
General Assembly, an online tutorial community. Source: HubSpot
General Assembly, an online tutorial community. Source: HubSpot

Tip: Use your actual user count, rather than a round number, to stand out from other ads.

The Data Shows: 65.7% of ads include their domain URL

65.7% of ads include their domain URL. Source: HubSpot
65.7% of ads include their domain URL. Source: HubSpot
  • 65.7% of ads use this opportunity to include their domain URL and drive further people to their site.
  • A further 11.8% of ads use this as a way to include further text or a tagline.
  • A whopping 22.5% miss out on this opportunity to advertise their domain and brand.

Doing it Right: Localytics, an analytics and marketing platform.

Best practices:

  • This ad sends the Localytics audience directly to a landing page where they can download the eBook.
  • A landing page is a great way to capture information (name, email, company) about your audience members.
  • The image and ad are designed specifically to promote the eBook, not just the brand.
  • Shows the audience what the eBook looks like and exactly what they’ll get.
  • Uses positive words (“More”), and popular words (“Free”).
Localytics, an analytics and marketing platform. Source: HubSpot
Localytics, an analytics and marketing platform. Source: HubSpot

Doing it Right: Moo.com, a business stationary service.

Best practices:

  • They take superb advantage of this opportunity to show both a URL (“moo.com”) and to add a slogan (“Design Works Wonders”), seperated by a pipe.
  • Includes both an extra link and extra text in small ad real estate.
  • The audience will know exactly where they are being directed to after they click through the ad.
Moo.com, a business stationary service. Source: HubSpot
Moo.com, a business stationary service. Source: HubSpot

The Most Popular Call to Actions

The Data Shows: The Top CTAs are ‘Learn More’, ‘Shop Now’, and ‘Sign Up

The Top CTAs are ‘Learn More’, ‘Shop Now’, and ‘Sign. Source: HubSpot
The Top CTAs are ‘Learn More’, ‘Shop Now’, and ‘Sign. Source: HubSpot
  • ‘Learn More’, ‘Shop Now’, and ‘Sign Up’ are all used significantly more than any other call-to-action,
  • 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.
  • A CTA shows your audience exactly where on the ad they should click to get the information.

Doing it Right: Kabbage, a small business loan platform.

Best practices:

  • Uses the ‘Learn More’ CTA so you can find out about their small business funding.
  • Could have used “Apply Now” for a more proactive CTA: “Learn More” is a more low-commitment next step.
  • Allows the audience to click through without worrying if they are going to be taken to an application page for a loan.
Kabbage, a small business loan platform. Source: HubSpot
Kabbage, a small business loan platform. Source: HubSpot

The Data Shows: ‘Contact Us’, ‘Buy Tickets’, and ‘Subscribe’ were the least popular CTAs.

  • ‘Contact Us’, ‘Buy Tickets’, and ‘Subscribe’ were all used less than 100 times each.
  • ‘Donate’, ‘Must Read’, and ‘Get Quote’ were all only used 1 time (the small dots in the wordcloud).
  • For more specific services and products, you can utilize these lesser-used CTAs.
  • Any CTA that is specific to your product or service is worth using.
‘Contact Us’, ‘Buy Tickets’, and ‘Subscribe’ were the least popular CTAs. Source: HubSpot
‘Contact Us’, ‘Buy Tickets’, and ‘Subscribe’ were the least popular CTAs. Source: HubSpot

Doing it Right: Ultra Music, a record label.

Best practices:

  • Only 13 out of 111,018 Facebook ads use the “Listen Now” CTA
  • This CTA fits in exactly with this brand so it is a great choice of CTA.
  • The CTA takes the user to the Supergirl track on Spotify so the audience can listen immediately.
Ultra Music, a record label. Source: HubSpot
Ultra Music, a record label. Source: HubSpot

Source: HubSpot