Unpublished Page Post Ads – A Path to Riches?

Facebook’s Unpublished Page Post Ads have proven to be an effective way to promote your products and services to non-fans in the Facebook news feed. For some advertisers who have struggled in the past to get results from paid search (SEM), Facebook’s deep targeting can be a light at the end of the tunnel, turning Facebook into much more than just a social engagement platform.

Let’s say you sell a kids’ educational subscription service that only moms would buy. Sure, a few dads have purchased subscriptions over the years, but your customers are 95% moms. With paid search, how do you weed out the dads to focus only on moms? It turns out this is very hard to do because, in this case, moms don’t self-identify when they search.

But what if you could target moms age 30-45 who live in New York and California and already are interested kids’ educational software? With Facebook, this is a breeze. The real trick is in piquing enough interest to get a mom to click, which is where the unpublished page post comes into play.

Facebook reach

By unpublished, I mean “not visible” to your existing fans. These posts won’t clutter your page’s feed because you haven’t published them. You will, however, still receive comments, likes, shares and clicks – more on that later.

A well-formed page post consists of a big image, a simple, clear message with a call-to-action, and a link to an external URL (your website). The image needs to pop because you’re competing with all the other photos in the news feed; your message needs to make your brand likable; the call-to-action should be clear; and the link must lead to a landing page that reiterates everything in the ad (image, message and call-to-action).

As you can see, the Facebook page post is lot like a paid search ad where we combine search intent with a well-written ad followed by a super-relevant landing page to seal the deal. The main difference is we don’t have search intent on Facebook – instead we have behavioral targeting parameters. Add to that an eye-grabbing image and social proof (comments/likes) and we have a very compelling ad unit placed squarely where people spend most of their time online. Can you say “full-screen-takeover?!”

unpublished page post mobile

Track all the awesomeness

Good tracking is critical to understanding a page post campaign’s success. In the worst case, you haven’t tagged your URLs and instead will rely on analytics data from Facebook referrals. If you’re in this camp – I’ve been there, don’t worry – you’ll need to establish a baseline. Take a look at prior weeks where you have not advertised on Facebook to come up with baseline averages for the metrics that matter most. For me, these are usually conversions, transactions, and revenue. With a baseline you should be able to tell at a glance whether you’ve moved the needle. It isn’t perfect by any means, which is why you should take additional tracking measures.

The next best case is you’ve tagged your page post ads with optional URL parameters available. These are available in the power editor – so use them. Because I rely on Google Analytics, I set my tags to something like: utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=[your campaign name].

optional url tags

You now have a better picture of conversions coming from your page post ads, but you don’t have the full picture yet. For example, if someone clicked your page post ad, loved what they saw, waited a few days and came back directly to your website by typing your URL directly into the browser, guess which channel receives the conversion? The channel called Direct! That’s because Google Analytics is a last-click platform – only the last click gets the credit.

The best-case tracking scenario is where you’ve set your baseline and tagged your URLs and also installed the Facebook tracking pixel onto your thank-you page. Any clicks that result in a conversion will be tracked on Facebook, even if Direct receives credit in Google Analytics.

I find that for some luxury ecommerce brands, visitors like to shop around a bit to weigh their options. A week may go by before the visitor pulls the trigger and converts. Take a look at some actual conversion paths data from an ecommerce advertiser:

paths to conversion

Here is what’s happening in plain English for each of the 6 conversion paths above:

1. Facebook referrals are general visits from Facebook. This is why you need a baseline for this traffic.

2. Visitors clicked the page post and converted. Perfect!

3. Visitors clicked the page post, waited a while, returned by either typing in the URL or clicking a bookmark, and then converted.

4. General visit from Facebook but waited then converted through direct.

5. Visitors clicked the page post, waited, went back to Facebook and clicked a different link on Facebook that led them to your website. Perhaps they visited your fan page to learn more?

6. Visitors clicked the page post, went back to Facebook, typed your URL directly, saw a display ad (probably retargeting), typed your URL again and converted.

The paths above can be found in the Google Analytics Top Paths Conversions report. Get to know this report and learn the truth about your page post ads (and Facebook advertising in general).

Stay in the conversation

Earlier, I touched on the social proof elements inherent in a page post ad: comments, likes, and shares. Your campaign’s success absolutely depends on how well you are able to moderate your page posts. Take an active role in the discussion, which sometimes means you need to hide or even delete a post.

Facebook has guidelines on this and, for the most part, they recommend leaving comments in place so you can have an honest dialog with folks. However, now and then someone will have an axe to grind. Then one negative comment leads to three, which leads to 10, and before you know it your thread has been hijacked and your conversion rate plummets. That’s when you start over with a new page post – and hopefully nip these problems in the bud next time.

Joey Muller

About Joey Muller

Joey Muller manages Facebook Advertising at CPC Search, a San Francisco PPC agency. He also wrangles YouTube advertising and is Google AdWords-certified. Prior to CPC Search, Joey oversaw all marketing channels at INDI, an online denim retailer. Joey is also a lifelong musician, having shared the stage with Willie Nelson, The Doobie Brothers, Darren Hayes (Savage Garden), Counting Crows members, and many others. Joey received his BA in Cognitive Psychology from Dartmouth College.
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11 Responses to Unpublished Page Post Ads – A Path to Riches?

  1. Justin C says:

    I’m using the Power Editor and I continuously get this error:

    - Failed to create ad “LA Page Post Ad 1″: The targeting specified for this ad is not compatible with the story being boosted. Check the privacy and language/country targeting of the story you are trying to sponsor.

    I created an unpublished post, then a campaign, and now the Ad with the following settings:
    -Type: Ad
    Destination: my fan page
    Page Post: selected the unpublished one i Just created
    Placement – News Feed
    Audience – Targeted to Los Angeles + 50 mile radius

    I’m at a loss as to why this wouldn’t work?

    • Joey Muller says:

      Justin, this has happened to me before. When you created the unpublished page post, did you fill out the optional language and locations fields? Leave those blank next time, then create your ad unit. Let me know if that does the trick.

  2. Justin C says:

    Joey, thanks to your help, seeing some incredible CTRs with Page Post Ads. Great info here, but I’m unsure of what a “click” is defined as inside FB Ad Manager. Analytics shows me 18 uniques, FB shows me 168 clicks.

    The ad is a Picture Post w/ a link inside the text portion of the ad. Is that URL the only thing that counts as a “click” or is any click on the ad a “click.” Would the latter group include clicking on my page name, clicking to enlarge the photo, clicking Like/Comment/Share?

    Thanks!

  3. Joey Muller says:

    Hey Justin, glad you’re seeing nice results. Use the Actions by Impression Time report for a complete breakdown of actions, including link clicks, photo clicks, checkouts, etc.

    Analytics is another matter. Are you tracking those uniques by campaign? If so, keep in mind that if you are using the optional URL parameters provided during ad creation, these params are lost when the visitor clicks to view your photo and then clicks the link. In other words, Facebook inserts the params automatically when it serves the page post ad in the news feed, but when folks click on the photo itself, they are no longer looking at an ad but a photo. Any link clicks will not have tracking. To track these, you need to look at Facebook.com / referral data.

    A solution is to use bit.ly links in your page posts, where the shortened link contains all of your GA tracking params. You would skip the optional params in this case.

    Hope that helps!

  4. Lauren says:

    Hi:

    I’ve been using these unpublished posts quite successfully for a couple weeks, but I don’t see how to interact/monitor the comments and likes. How do I look at the unpublished post after it is out there? Is there a link to it, http://www.facebook.com/organization/posts/#ofpost didn’t work, what am I doing wrong?

    Thanks!
    Lauren

  5. Joey Muller says:

    Hi Lauren, this is a great question. Not long ago we were invited to Facebook HQ to contribute ideas for a future version of Power Editor. Well, that version is now here. You can preview all page posts using power editor — just view the ad in question and play around with the preview ad section on the right.

    Alternatively you can preview the page post after you first create it. Maintain a list of page posts each time you create them. Takes more discipline, but also works well.

    Hope this helps!

  6. Corentin says:

    Hi,

    I have created a dark page post without the “?” of the utm code so in my URL tags I have “utm_source=FB-Ads&utm_medium=cpc…”

    But when I go in me previews and click on the link of my ads I do not see the utm tracking code after the URL of my website. How can I be sure that it is working before launching my ads?

    Thanks,

  7. Joey Muller says:

    Hey Corentin,
    Unfortunately you will not see the params when you preview your post. This is a bummer. You just have to trust that FB will serve everything correctly. I suggest you go ahead and launch then check back in an hour or so for visits from “FB-Ads / cpc”.

  8. Adomas says:

    Hi Joey,
    thank you for a great guide.

    What really caught my attention is the conversion paths data example that you shared – could you shed some light on how you created it? Were you using Google Analytics or some other tracking tool?

    Thanks!
    Adomas

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