Emergency home services such as plumbing and appliance repair are the bread and butter of search PPC for one obvious reason: intent. When faced with a burst pipe gushing near-freezing water, most of us aren’t hopping on Facebook for help. Nope, it’s straight to Google with a “plumber [city]” style search. As a service provider, you want to be at (or near) the top of the results for your service area, which — let’s face it — is gonna require paid search ads. But, holy wow, have you seen what it’ll cost? If the CPC is too damn high, consider social ads.
In this edition of Targeting Hot House, we’ll lay out a strategy for how to drive down the cost of paid search via branding and predictive campaigns in social. We’ll use plumbing as our example and focus on Facebook. Ready? Let’s dive in.
Wait, why not search?
A typical desktop result for a location-specific service provider search looks like this:
NOTHING above the fold is organic. If you wanna play ball, you NEED to be among those ads. Then reality sets in:
For small companies or independent contractors, it might not be feasible to compete, at least in the non-brand keyword space. Branded keywords are a different story, and yes, you WILL want to bid on your brand terms. Want a search for your company name resulting in a click on a competitor?
Your ad SHOULD appear at the top of that SERP, using call extensions to make it easy for potential customers. There’s just one itty bitty hurdle to get over first: People have to know your company name to search for it. Enter Facebook.
Facebook branding campaigns for home service providers
To get your name out there, run a branding campaign in Facebook. Set up a base audience to get started. Below are the parameters to play with:
Location: Change the dropdown setting to “People who live in this location” and specify the city in which your business is located plus the distance you’re willing to travel for a job. The minimum radius is 10 miles using this method. Got a smaller service area? Use the “Drop Pin” button, which allows you to target a radius as small as one mile.
Language: Unless you plan on running ads in another language, or are promoting the fact that you habla español, limit the audience to English.
Homeowners: Within Detailed Targeting, select Homeowners (Demographics > Home > Home Ownership > Homeowners).
Decision makers: Facebook describes its homeowners segment as “people in households that own their home.” With the default age setting 18-65+, this could mean adult children living at home are included. We advise raising the minimum age range to avoid targeting this group.
Home type: Narrow your audience to single-family dwellings, if it makes sense (Demographics > Home > Home Type > Single). Those living in condos and multi-family complexes often aren’t responsible for emergency repairs.
Home age: Facebook allows you to target decades in which a home was built (Demographics > Home > Home Type > Year home built). Because newer homes generally have fewer plumbing problems, you may want to limit your audience to older homes. We’ll go with homes built from 1900-1999.
Our resulting audience looks like this:
Creative that captivates
In terms of ad types, there are five options:
You might be inclined to use the single-image ad, given its simplicity. However, don’t write off other options, particularly the single video and carousel formats.
Video ads tend to garner more attention than a static ad. They also allow you to demonstrate your expertise by offering advice related to your business (how to fix a leaky faucet or remove hair from a shower drain, for example). A couple tips for video ads:
Don’t worry about production value — short, simple and low-tech is just fine
The first few seconds are critical for capturing attention, so don’t waste time showing your logo — let your branded profile image do the job or place your logo in the corner or at the end of the video
Since audio doesn’t automatically play in mobile, start with text telling the viewer what they’re watching and include captions throughout
Keep it short
Carousel ads are ideal for companies with multiple products/services and decent images. Try creating a card (image/text combo) for each service you offer. Facebook will determine which one performs the best and position it first. You could use this data to create single-image ads for top performers or even a new carousel dedicated to that service.
Keep in mind, these ads aren’t going to result in emergency service calls. The power lies in branding your company to residents of your service area, such that they’ll search for your company should something go awry and come across your click-to-call search ads.
Not enough immediacy? Want more out of your campaign? Include a call to action within the ad creative and/or landing page encouraging users to:
Add you to their phone contacts (Aimclear did this for a criminal defense attorney based in Hollywood)
Download a coupon (or “mention this ad”) for their next service call
Sign up for your email list, which could offer home maintenance tips, special offers, etc. (Bonus: This keeps your company top-of-mind without further expenditure.) Alternatively, develop a resource section on your website containing helpful articles on such topics
There’s power in sending clicks to your website, even for a branding campaign. It allows you to cookie and add the user to a remarketing list for search ads (RLSA). You can also cookie users via Facebook video ads in mobile, even if the viewer DOESN’T click through to your site. Should you decide to bid on non-brand keywords in search, RLSAs make it possible to serve ads ONLY to those who’ve visited your website and are actively searching for services you provide, using a target-and-bid strategy. Note that if you expand your non-brand campaign down the road, you can target everyone at a comfortable CPC while raising your bid to target users in the RLSA audience using a bid-only strategy.
Facebook predictive campaigns flag a future fix
Predictive campaigns allow you to sell specific products or services by identifying an issue before it becomes a problem. Think about the emergency services you provide:
Is there a certain time of year the service is in demand?
What type of customer generally requires the service?
What’s the typical lifespan for appliances or devices you repair or replace?
Let’s look at a couple examples. Ad creative geared toward frozen pipe repair turned on just before a bitter cold spell could be an interesting test. People who cook a lot might put food scraps, grease and oil down the drain, so try narrowing your audience by cooking-related interests and serving clogged-drain creative.
Furnaces your thing? Target homeowners living in your service area whose homes were built between 1990 and 1999. Furnaces typically last 20-30 years, so this is a sweet spot of folks who’ll need a replacement soon, if they haven’t already bought one. Check out how focused your audience could be:
A variety of services may be required or recommended with larger home renovation projects. Galvanized pipe, for example, is common in older homes, but only lasts about 50 years. Contractors generally recommend replacing such piping during a major renovation. To target those who could be embarking on such a project, alter your base audience by:
Excluding newer homes
Adding home improvement/home renovation purchase behaviors as a qualifier
Adding income as a qualifier
Pro tip: If you tend to work in high-end homes or your bids are often higher than competitors, you might be tempted to target home values above a certain threshold (Demographics > Home > Home Type > Home value). Be careful, marketers. This could exclude people who purchased fixer-uppers or lower value homes, but have the money for renovation. Use income as the qualifier instead (Demographics > Financial > Income).
Here’s what our renovation-focused audience looks like:
Facebook power segments for home services
There’s a number of interesting Facebook segments ripe for home service providers’ picking. Think about branding to first-time homebuyers (Demographics > Home > Home Ownership > First time homebuyer). These folks probably don’t have preferred service providers in their contacts — yet. Offer some kind of new-home service? Even better.
Home size (Demographics > Home > Home Type > Square footage): 13 size ranges are available, from less than 750 sq. ft. to 6,000-6,999 sq. ft.
Property size (Demographics > Home > Home Type > Property size): Facebook offers 11 options for property size targets, from 0.01-0.59 acres to 40+ acres
Length of residence (Behaviors > Residential profiles > Length of residence): There’s four options here, ranging from less than one year to six years or longer
To sum things up, direct response paid search could cost a boatload in highly competitive spaces. If you can’t (or don’t want) to pony up, circumvent by running branding and predictive campaigns in Facebook, paid search campaigns on brand terms and, for previous site visitors, non-brand terms via RLSA.
Have you had luck with predictive campaigns? Got a tip for skirting the high cost of paid search? Share it below for karma points!
“I don’t care how many people like my ads, we need to sell stuff.”
This kind of myopic viewpoint regularly guts paid social campaigns that would otherwise become hugely successful.
I know what you’re thinking (and on the surface, seems accurate): “My goal isn’t social interaction, I need sales.”
Why assume one has nothing to do with the other?
Capitalizing on Consumer Sentiment
Historically, the siloed view of “this ad set generated x conversions/CPA/ROAS” was really all we had, unless you did some serious number crunching to extract deeper correlation.
Facebook Analytics now laughs in the face of such single-lane swimming. The days of reporting on “x likes” and “x sales” are passing as Facebook continues to roll out new tools and features that marketers can (and should) pay attention to. It’s separating one-trick ponies from actual Swiss Army knife marketers, and those who see the whole journey vs. the step right before the destination is reached.
A client that gets a lot of social interaction begs the question: Is it of ANY value?
Uncovering actual value is where the potential of Facebook Analytics resides.
Analytics has this wonderful feature called “Funnels,” which allows marketers to see conversion funneled behavior journeys. If you’re a brand that sparks a lot of sentiment (good or bad), this feature yields a fascinating subset of data.
You find it on the left margin within Analytics:
Next, click the drop down for “Add Funnel Step” to start adding the steps in the funnel you want to evaluate. Be sure to add them in the order you want to evaluate.
Do Emotions = Events?
For one particular client, we wanted to analyze if emotional engagement has any weight. Facebook makes this somewhat easy to do with video, because you can segment by engagement (how long someone watched), and if those users convert at some future date. Unfortunately, you’re limited on what you can see natively in Ads Manager.
Most marketers strive to evoke emotion via provocative messaging. With Facebook Analytics, we can start to analyze success in driving emotion as a user cohort.
One option in creating a Funnel is “Reactions” (in other words, users who hit an emotion reaction to your post), which can be refined even further into the TYPE of reaction. Woo hoo!
Once you refine the audience that way, you will see their size:
Now add the subsequent steps in the user journey to see what this specific audience did, and in what time frame. In this case, we want to see who searched and then booked travel:
We now know users with positive sentiment convert to booking travel at ~3.3%.
The best part? They convert at a higher rate and faster than the average user.
Yay! So what?
Let’s make a list of them. Lookalike those bad boys! Go go g–
Facebook, alas, does not allow us to create custom audiences based on these users, forcing many marketers to stop there and declare this data worthless. It would seem, on the surface, Facebook works against itself here, a la Genie in Aladdin: “PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWAAHHHS!….itty bitty living space.”
In other words, you have this amazing data that’s locked in a box.
With creativity, however, you can utilize all of this newfound insight. Stop moping. Start innovating.
Though previously used as a desperate flail to get content shown to users who liked pages, Engagement campaigns can be a great top-of-funnel tactic when done right. The big mistake many people make is running Engagement and just waiting for things to happen. If you know that positive-sentiment users are desirable buyers, then you need more of those users, right?
(Side note: this same method also works if you want to specifically target “haha” emotions, angry ones, etc…yes, we have seen angry-emoji-givers be good converters!)
Fill The Funnel Freaky-Fast
Capable marketers are the ones who know what goes in is what comes out. If you aren’t focusing on getting stuff in, sales will drop. Finding insights like these are your bread crumb trail to what you need to do on Facebook.
Added bonus? It’s a cheap funnel-filler.
The easy answer is to run an Engagement campaign and create a remarketing audience based off users who have engaged:
There are flaws in this system you have to account for: Half the problem is Facebook, and the other half is the marketer.
Edict #1: Remember it’s All or Nothing
You cannot specify WHICH post or ad the user interacted with. This presents unique challenges for many advertisers, particularly if they carry a lot of different product categories.
A super-sneaky way to get around that, if you have the time, budget, inclination and a whip-smart content strategy, is to create a passion page around the different areas your company sells for, or your products address. Think of a site focused on hunting. Beyond having a company page, smart brands also have an enthusiast page for duck hunters vs. bow hunting or other affinity-based pages to engage audiences at a deeply personal, emotional level.
There will be some crossover in the target groups, but it helps you better categorize the content audiences react to!
Edict #2: You Want RELEVANT Reactions
Too many businesses post funny memes that have nothing to do with their business, then wonder why the process went off the rails.
We recently audited a client who had done a ton of engagement, but was frustrated it went nowhere. Digging into the content, we found a mix of product news, corporate and PR messaging, and then funny political posts. In other words, it was attracting reactions from all over the place, and only a fraction of them would be things that would filter for desirable customer personas.
Curate your content carefully to avoid missteps. When remarketing to users who engaged with content – and you know specifically ones who like or love your posts – you have the opportunity to speak directly to them. Help them self-select as someone likely to be interested in the product you offer, versus a user who thinks a pointless cat video is absolutely hysterical.
Adapt & Move Forward
Let everyone else whine about Facebook Ads sucking and their conversion campaigns not working. Be the innovator taking the Mario Andretti spot in the driver’s seat. Peel out of the starting line whose location keeps changing (thanks, FB!) and use some of the other data in Facebook Analytics to get that funnel filled with the right people.
Obsess a lot less over conversion campaigns that refuse to work, and kick your feet up as you 4x the amount of remarketing audiences you made on the cheap.
I am fresh off an amazing opportunity speaking to smart marketers in Vermont’s idyllic wooded wonderland. With trees on my mind for that event, my content marketing workshop session used trees as the metaphor for great content strategies.
I love trees (not as much as I love birds, but still, trees are awesome possum). Trees produce oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide emissions, and are a catalyst for fighting climate change. In addition, research has shown they can communicate with one another to warn fellow trees of threats over decades. Research shows that adding one tree to an open field can increase bird biodiversity by up to 80% (giddy-up birds).
Like trees, content marketing requires strong roots (research), a healthy trunk (strategy & website), and plenty of sunlight (paid investment, audiences, website development) to achieve a desired outcome.
We’ll break this discussion into two sequential blog posts. In this installment, we’ll have some fun connecting beautiful trees with great content – showing how science and art combine to inform strategy. In the second installment next week, we’ll apply more science to help make content that can flourish and endure (akin to a California Redwood).
Let’s start at the roots of our content “tree.”
Content Marketing Roots: Research
Research is vital to any website and content strategy. Numerous powerful tools on the market can provide deep insight across critical aspects of content: Keyword research, competitive research, who’s talking about your brand, what are they saying, and when are they saying it. For the purpose of this discussion, we’ll focus on two examples of the many competitive intel tools on the marketplace.
With so many tools available to deconstruct competitive strategies, none are perfect and used universally. One tool we use to deconstruct competitive strategy is SpyFu. SpyFu is particularly interesting because it has a capability devoted solely to competitive intel.
SpyFu data can provide quick, deep insight. It’s easy to see the number of paid / organic keywords, how many keywords top competitors also rank for, percentage of traffic from paid versus organic, Google Ads history, ranking history, highlighted ad copy, and much more.
SpyFu Kombat allows marketers to dig deep into competitive analysis. A venn diagram of overlapping keywords quickly distills keyword market share across three competing websites, keywords that all domains rank for, keywords exclusive to individual sites, and the keywords both competitors rank for, but your site does not.
Another example of a powerful competitive intel tool is Ahrefs, boasting data topping 3 billion keywords across 100 countries. The tool provides local and global search volume, which can be used to compare against search volumes viewed in Google’s keyword planner.
Ahrefs provides a clear breakdown of paid versus organic traffic, challenges with a given keyword, and an estimated number of backlinks required to compete (shown in image below).
Scrolling down the Ahrefs overview page, marketers can get info quickly on the parent topic – traffic potential, volume, and additional suggestions to expand keywords within the same topic.
Neither data source is perfect nor should be viewed as the gospel, but using both together (or combined with Spyfu) can provide a more comprehensive narrative of potentiality desired keyword targets.
Here’s a novel idea: Your research can include simply asking the audience (or ethically eavesdrop on them) to discover what people are talking about. One-on-one conversations with stakeholders can create a powerful foundation for effective messaging and storytelling. It’s not rocket science:
Interview internal stakeholders: Whether product development, sales, marketing or others, talk to all internal stakeholders to understand the challenges a product or service actually solves. Dig in with questions like: “How does that affect the client’s challenge?” “How difficult is that challenge?” and “What happens to the business or individual if it’s not solved?”
Discover the emotional connection between product/service and the customer, because emotion makes the story resonate.
Interview clients: Sometimes this can be a “hard look in the mirror” moment for brands. They expect your product or service to meet their needs, and they won’t be shy about telling the truth – good or bad.
Internal site search: With your newfound knowledge of customer needs, analyze current content inventory. Heavy focus on features and functionality without context to audience pain points can be a useful canary in the coal mine, warning you the content is likely falling short of audience needs. Products solve real-world problems. Make those solutions the cornerstones of a content strategy.
Ethical eavesdropping: Listening tools, such as Sysomos, Meltwater or others uncover who is talking about the brand – and where they are talking. Observe the words, phrases, and hashtags in play. Create word clouds based on tweets, social posts or other content arenas. Visualizing key terms in such a manner helps you tap the language that matters most.
Trunk: Website and Strategy
Content is the core of everything in your communication channels. The output itself is typically the visible component of the effort. Behind-the-scenes contributors (designers, developers, editors, optimizers) are often overlooked. Understand the importance of their role in the process.
Communication in the digital landscape is often disparate and consumed in short soundbites, particularly in social. In addition, only a small portion of your audiences will likely receive your message, particularly if you skimped on audience research to understand where people hang out online. Message consistency is essential to cut through the noise and deliver content that resonates with audiences.
Enticing audiences to consume content is only part of the engagement. Eyeballs are great, but an effective content program needs actionable engagement – a click to the site, a like of the ad, or even better, a share.
With content at the center of all website efforts, every team member in an organization is a stakeholder to some degree. The paid search team wants content that includes a call-to-action aligned with the targeted audience to push prospects down the conversion path. A compelling message journey – even a short one – leads to the conversion.
On the organic side, strategists expect content to have sound crawlability and answer questions users type into the search bar. Everything comes down to data, such as page engagement, word count, keyword density, time on page, pages per session, take rate. Lead gen campaigns will mature faster when optimizers and creators alike align on how data informs planning and measurement.
It’s important that organic content dovetails with paid. Message consistency, words and phrases used, searchability, relevance – a cohesive content strategy grows from well-thought, audience-focused storytelling and problem solving.
Deep content, such as blogs, contributed articles, videos and other media should be priorities in an integrated content program. Ensure you are saying the same things in the right tone and length, based on channel, audience needs, and desired outcomes.
Great content takes time. Countless hours are invested crafting content. Once the work is done, eager marketers too often expect the tree to immediately grow into a glorious redwood and all of the world will come visit it and stare at it in wonder. Unfortunately, in many instances, nobody shows up. Now it’s a tree, alone in a prairie.
Without amplification, content may continue to be isolated and unnoticed.
Content amplification is not a singular strategy. Running videos in Facebook to targeted audiences to generate awareness or build lists for a retargeting campaign – that’s amplification. Paid search campaigns that drive leads directly to Salesforce team via ebook downloads – content amplification. Running a display campaign to folks who visited two pages within your site – content amplification. EVERYTHING done to drive people to the content is amplification.
Content amplification puts the control in marketers’ hands – allowing choice of when and where people see the content. Also, amplification provides the opportunity to shape how people view the content you’ve worked so hard to deliver.
Here are a few quick and easy tools to keep in your amplification toolbox:
Here are some key considerations when deciding on channels and strategies for posting content:
Facebook: While it’s true Facebook organic is generally all but dead for brands, it is important to post to ensure audiences know someone is home. Real success on Facebook requires ad investment on top off a basic organic presence.
Share 2x – 3x per week at minimum, but daily at a maximum.
Think mobile first (lion’s share of audience is using Facebook on a mobile device).
Video works very well (both audiences and Facebook’s algorithm respond well to video content).
Respond to messages quickly.
Tweet daily, or multiple times per day (exceptions can be made, but try not to exceed 5x per day). It is possible to oversaturate the channel and/or hit a point of diminishing returns on tweets.
Include photos / videos to boost engagement rates.
Analyze engagement, then tweet during times that tend to secure retweets (may be during business hours if your audience is engaged in the 9 – 5, or could be after hours if your audience is watching TV shows while tweeting).
Utilize lists. With a little research, you can find lists that help you source new followers.
Respond to tweets quickly (in real time if possible).
Pin daily (1 – 3x per day).
Pin highly visual imagery.
Post images of your products, how-to information, blog headlines, etc.
Use paid search or SEO research to inform your keyword strategy.
Use content about your business and industry, case studies, tips, and business experiences.
Get involved in LinkedIn Groups.
Each tool in that amplification toolbox has a different purpose and their own areas of strength and weakness. Start working with them and understand how each tool can be put to best use for your organization.
Leaves: Creative & Messaging
Leaves are what people really notice about a tree. They can attract the eye. They have a definitive lifecycle.
Promoting your content – what the audience sees – across different channels to different audiences can be hard work for content marketers. Messaging can quickly become disparate and miss the point of your overarching strategy. Engagement, conversion, and purchase are dependent on trust. Customers who do not trust you will not engage more deeply with you or buy from you. Consistent messaging increases:
Perception of brand dependability
Before deciding where to publish, consider the various stages of the audience you are targeting:
Awareness: Make sure your audience knows who you are and what you do. Focus on channels that reach a broader audience and drive increased frequency (paid social, PR, organic, video, influencer marketing).
Consideration: Choose channels that generate clicks to the site (paid social, paid search, ebooks, reports, how-to’s).
Decision: Select channels and tactics that align your audience with your sales team or result in online conversion / purchase (paid search, retargeting, email, physical events etc).
Coming up in the second installment of this timber-inspired discussion about great content, we’ll call in a tree doctor to examine our content tree to see how to make it an enduring mark on the landscape.
A high profile – and potentially high stakes – lawsuit put a spotlight on potential discrimination challenges confronting social media marketers. The ACLU launched a formal complaint this week with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), claiming Facebook allows bias against women and other groups in relation to marketing for jobs. This lawsuit may likely have some real teeth to it, far beyond just marketing for jobs. It extends to marketing for housing, services and potentially many other arenas.
Reaching deep into the corners of psychographic targeting, marketers must grasp the challenge to avoid big trouble.
Not all that long ago, marketers grappled with blatant, horrific discrimination in advertising.
Hard to believe, but job postings and related marketing efforts would outright remove groups based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and other personal attributes. Blatant examples have still persisted in recent decades.
We have all seen the images of job postings crying out “Help Wanted – White Only” or” “No Irish Need Apply.” Our collective stomachs clench at the audacity of such discrimination. Based on the ACLU lawsuit, is Facebook the new discrimination platform? What is the tipping point between really great targeting and potentially discriminatory marketing?
Overall, keeping clean may not be as complicated as it appears on the surface. Federal law, and the laws of many states, strictly prohibit advertising based on protected classes for employment, housing, financial services, public accommodations (think hotels), and education. Aimclear has long warned of this marketing landmine.
Regulated industries, such as the ones noted above, are prohibited from discriminating based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, color, and national origin. In many states the concept of “protected classes” extend to classes such as sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, criminal background, and whether someone has been a recipient of public assistance.
Consider the example of a construction company marketing to attract workers. The person in charge of marketing may think “we need to target able bodied men” for the jobs. Without any context, it may seem natural to take advantage of audience tools and exclude women from the targeting list. In context, though, what a crock! Women make amazing carpenters – just as they make amazing police officers, firefighters, coaches – you know…all of those “man” jobs (note our intense sarcasm about outdated 1960s thinking). You cannot exclude based on gender or other class status noted earlier. Just DON’T do it.
So…what the heck is Facebook ANYWAY?
Courts have long found that newspapers, TV stations, radio, and other traditional media are responsible for the content of the ads placed in their publications. Are the social platforms analogous in this context to a newspaper? Facebook recently argued in court it is a publisher.
Some contend further that Facebook and other social platforms should, in fact, be considered recruiters or employment agencies. Such entities are also subject to discrimination laws and could be a source of liability for the platforms.
The ACLU used the new transparency Facebook has created in advertising to file a complaint against Facebook for illegally targeting employment ads – perhaps an ironic twist on ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’ Missing from all of this intense discussion is the fact social media platforms could be used to INCREASE diversity. What if an employer wanted to be sure that less represented demographic populations see the ad? It’s conceivable that removal of targeting options, as is anticipated, could actually make it harder once again to improve diversity, exacerbating the digital divide in recruitment. Ironic.
Clearly, targeting made possible in social channels requires marketers to take their power seriously and act in a manner above reproach.
We need to think intently as an industry clearly define the right side of history relating to the delicate issue of discrimination. Think about differentiating between negative targeting (exclusions) and outreach — specifically targeting less represented populations to increase diversity. In the “old days”…you know…the 1990s and before, career fairs often aimed to increase diversity. They were held in areas where targeted populations could have better access to recruitment or advertising focused on reaching diverse populations, by geography at the very least.
Facebook and other social channels can be that digital career and housing fair. As an industry, we need to lead this discussion and use the tools for good. IIt would be a shame if the ACLU claim unintentionally strips our ability to improve diversity in recruiting, marketing for housing and the countless other aspects of our society that could use a little more of everyone.