#029: Facebook Ad Targeting Strategies

On this episode of the Online Marketing Made Easy Podcast, we talked all about Facebook ad targeting. But before we get to that, I wanted to tell you about some changes coming your way related to my podcast.

First, starting in June I am going record one episode per week, rather than every other week like I have been doing. Look out for some extra podcast love coming your way!

Second, I am going to add an extra layer to my podcast and start recording an “Ask Amy” segment where you get to send me your questions and I will address them on my show. In full disclosure I took this idea from my good friend, Pat Flynn who now has a show called AskPat. I called Pat to ask if he minded, and in true Pat fashion, he encouraged me to go for it. Gotta love good friends like that.

So if you would like me to address any questions you might have about online marketing, Facebook marketing, list building, content creation, webinars – anything goes – so just go to www.amyporterfield.com/askamy and you can be one of the first to leave me a question.

OK, switching gears, let’s get back to our topic for today, Facebook ad targeting. I’ve invited my really good friend, Rick Mulready to come on the show with me so we could talk about what we both are seeing that’s working right now with ad targeting.

Rick has an extensive online marketing background and teaches Facebook advertising to entrepreneurs and small businesses. The cool thing is that he is in the trenches daily experimenting with ad campaigns and getting some pretty big results; the guy knows his stuff.

So Rick lives in San Diego and lately we’ve been meeting up at Starbucks and sharing insights about our experiences with Facebook ads. (Does that sound super geeky? We can’t help it – we love this ad stuff!) The discussions have been so good that I wanted to get Rick on the show and invite you all into one of the most valuable discussions we’ve had, which is focused on Facebook ad targeting.

In this episode, here’s what we’ll cover:

  • The most valuable Facebook ad targeting options, including Interests, Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences.
  • Which targeting option to choose when you are just starting out.
  • How to target your website visitors with your Facebook ads.
  • How to expand your targeting options if you feel you can’t seem to find a big enough target that is effective.
  • We’ll answer the question, “How many people should I target with my ad?
  • We will also discuss which ad metrics to pay close attention to so you know your ad is working.

To help you navigate your Facebook ad targeting, I’ve included additional details in this post so you can understand how each target works and where to locate.

I suggest you create your ads in the Power Editor.  Think of the Power Editor as a more robust “Facebook Ads Manager” dashboard. You can do more in the Power Editor and I highly recommend you test it out. (It’s a bit confusing at first, but I promise it gets easier once you understand where everything’s located!)

I can’t stress this enough:  The MOST important part of your Facebook ads campaign is targeting. Below I will walk you through some of the most important targeting features.

There are two different places where you will set up your ad targeting.  When you are totally new to ads, two of the easiest targeting features you can use are “Demographics” and “Interests.” To locate these two targeting features, go into the Power Editor, and under the “Ads” tab you will see  the “Audience” tab in blue.


Once inside the Power Editor, when you click on “Ads” you will see the “Audience” tab.


audience (2)

Under the “Audience” tab, if you scroll down a bit you will first see “Demographics” where you can set the age, gender and location for your ad targeting.  Scroll down some more and you will see: Interests, Behaviors and categories.  Let me briefly explain each to you.
3_Power_Editor_Interests (2)


The “Interest” field allows you to type in the name of the Facebook Pages you want to target. When you target a Facebook Page, you are asking Facebook to show your ad to the fans of that specific Facebook Page. Note that sometimes when you type in the name of the Facebook Page in the “Interest” field, it won’t show up. If you have this problem, be sure to first go to the actual Page and check the name of the Page and make sure you type in the exact name of that Page. However, sometimes that won’t even work.  Some Pages just won’t show up in the “Interest” field – it’s a Facebook glitch.  Frustrating, I know!

Hot tip: Brainstorm a list of people, publications, other groups in your industry, and even competitors whose fans you may want to target.

Hot tip #2: Use Graph Search, which is basically a search functionality inside of Facebook. It is a really long search bar across the top when you’re logged in to Facebook. You can conduct searches such as, “Pages liked by people who like __________” (insert the name of your page in the blank). This will give you a good idea of Pages you might want to target.

Here are some other searches you may want to try:

  • Favorite interest of people who like. . .
  • Groups of people who like. . .
  • Pages liked by people who like xyz Page and abc Page
  • You can get even more specific and search for things like, “Pages liked by women who live in Canada who like xyz page.”

Especially if you’re just starting out and don’t have a large email list or a large fan base, “Interests” is a great place to start.

There are two other targeting sections right below “Interests.” Let’s explore those briefly.


Behaviors is located right under interests. This is a more advanced targeting technique. The way this works is that Facebook partners with 3rd party data companies that track people’s purchasing behavior outside of Facebook.


Categories is the section located under Behaviors.

“Partner Categories” are similar to behaviors, where Facebook partners with other companies to get data.

There are also “Facebook Categories” you can explore. If someone likes a Page about cooking, you can target a broader category such as food and dining.

Neither Rick nor I use “Categories”  because it tends to be too general, so we don’t recommend them, but they are worth testing just to see if they might be a good fit for you.

Custom Audiences

Now switching gears here, let’s talk about a few other Facebook ad targeting strategies that are even more powerful than the targeting above.

Once of the ways both Rick and I set up our targeting is with “Custom Audiences” and “Lookalike Audiences.”  You can create a Custom Audience by taking a list of email addresses of those who have subscribed to your email list and uploading them to Facebook. Facebook will check it’s database against your email list and find matches. For example, out of 3,000 email addresses, there may be 1,500 matching email addresses on Facebook. Now you have a list of 1,500 quality lead you can target inside of Facebook. (Note: You need at least 100 matches for this to work.)

Lookalike Audiences

Now with Lookalike Audiences, this is where the magic happens! Once you have a Custom Audience, you can create a Lookalike Audience. Facebook can take your Custom Audience and create another targeted list that is very similar to the one you uploaded. Since Facebook knows so much about our likes, interests and behaviors, these Lookalike Audiences are pretty valuable to say the least!

Regardless of the size of your Custom Audience, your Lookalike Audience may be as large as a couple of million people. The ideal target audience size can vary. If you have a HIGHLY targeted list it can be as small as 1,000 people, but we suggest you keep your targeting groups to a maximum of 600,000 – 700,000 people. I usually try to aim for 500,000. (Note:  This does not apply for people targeting a very local audience. Your lists will be much smaller of course!).

Targeting Set Up

To set up your Custom and Lookalike Audiences, you will do this in the Power Editor a well.  When you log into the Power Editor, in the upper left you should see a drop down menu that says “Manage Ads.” Click there and then click “Audiences.”

5_set up in Power_Editor (2)

Once you are on the “Audience” page, you can click on “Custom Audience.”

6_find custome audience (2)

From there, the image below will pop up.  To upload your email list to Facebook, click the first option, “Data File Custom Audience.”

7_upload list (2)

In the “Data Type” you will see a few options for upload, choose “Emails.”

8_custom audeinces (2)

It may take a few hours for Facebook to check your email addresses against those in their system, so be patient and check back in a few hours. Come back to this exact same spot in the Power Editor and you will see the status of your new audience.

Retargeting with Facebook Ads

Another feature of Custom Audiences is the ability to create a target list from your website traffic.  This strategy is also known as retargeting.

Here’s how it works:

  • You generate a pixel code from Facebook and then place that pixel on your website.
  • Facebook begins collecting data from that pixel and creates a Custom Audience for you of your website traffic.
  • Now you can target that Custom Audience and show your ads to them OR you can create a Lookalike Audience so you can have an even larger, targeted group to use as well.

9_website (2)

Below I show you where to access the Facebook pixel that you will add to your website.  Click “View Custom Audience Pixel” to get the instructions you need to place this pixel in the correct spot on your website.

10_website2 (2)

Once you have your Custom Audience of website visitors in place, you can then create a Lookalike Audience to expand your targeting.

11_find lookalike (2)

In the “Source” field below you will type in the name of your website visitors Custom Audience and Facebook will create a Lookalike Audience for you. This is some pretty powerful targeting because it’s so much more focused that just targeting people who have liked a specific Page!

12_lookalike (2)

Now one more thing I will add to the mix.  As you might already know, you can target your existing fan base with your ads.  You would do that in the same section where you would target “Interests.”  But what you might now know is that you can also create a Lookalike Audience to target people SIMILAR to your existing fan base. In the “Source” field you will type in the name of your Facebook Page to generate your new target list.

13_Fan Page Lookalike (2)

Key Takeaways

  • Facebook targeting is one of the most important components to your Facebook ad success.
  • If you have not done so already, take a little time to experiment with Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences.
  • I am 99.9% sure that your audience is spending time on Facebook. My challenge to you is to create
    smart targeting options to go find them!

Items mentioned in this episode include: 

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Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield

  • Seth Fargher

    Thank you Amy! I remember you mentioning the Power editor in a webinar (maybe a year ago??) and I couldn’t for the life of me remember what it was called. I’ve had several friends begin running ads and NO one has heard of it. I just wasn’t sure if with all the changes to Facebook this year, if using the Power Editor is still the best option. Thanks for the info and step by step instructions!

  • faruk
  • http://lifesetchingsphotography.com Heather Owen

    I tried the askamy link but got a page not found error. Would love to leave a question :)

  • Carole@RusticArtistry.com

    me too

  • Guest

    As regards Graph Search, I’m based in Belgium, and I used to think that Graph Search was not available to me…until I changed my language settings to “English (US)”. Then Graph Search is active, but it is NOT is I select “English (UK)”

  • Cécile Chabot

    As regards Graph Search, I’m based in Belgium, and I used to think that Graph Search was not available to me… until I changed my language settings to “English (US)”. Then Graph Search is active, but it is NOT if I select “English (UK)”.

  • Rick Mulready

    It’s like our Starbucks conversations were recorded. So much fun…honored to be on the show again, thanks for having me back Amy.

  • http://www.evolveyourweddingbusiness.com/ Heidi Thompson

    I always recommend people setting their language to English (US) and not UK because for some reason that allows you to use Graph Search no matter where you are located

  • Alan Little

    Amy or Rick, what about creating Custom Audiences based on email addresses from an affiliate’s list? For instance, the ad they see could direct them to a landing page inside FB with an offer or giveaway that asks for an opt-in so they get added to my list.

    I don’t see anything unethical about this at first glance, it’s not so different from the way typical affiliate relationships work now. Have you guys done this, or any feedback on the idea?

    The information you provided here is extremely valuable, many thanks!

  • Alan Little

    I’m about to dive in with FB ads and have another question for you. What’s your opinion of external vs. embedded landing pages on FB? I’d heard someone say that the CPC cost is actually higher if the ad URL directs to a page outside FB, plus your ad is less likely to be approved in that case. Appreciate the benefit of your experience on this.

  • http://www.paleofitnessmama.com/ paleofitnessmama

    Excited for the extra episodes coming our way :)

  • http://www.ashleyhasna.com Ashley Hasna

    I’m taking the “place the tracking pixel on your website now” to heart, but I’m wondering if you need a certain amount of fans on your page to do that. I’m right at the beginning stages of launching both my site and my Facebook page. I understand that it might be better to wait to have a more targeted audience on Facebook, but I know site visitors is very important as well. Do you know if you have to have a certain amount of fans, or would you suggest I wait until my audience grows?

  • Marie Bengtsson

    Thanks for another great podcast Amy. Wonderful to hear that you will do the podcast every week. You and Rick make a wonderful team. :-D

  • Rick Mulready

    Hey Ashley! Thought I’d jump in and answer a few questions here. I recommend getting the website conversion tracking pixel on your site ASAP so it can start generating an audience for you sooner rather than later. The # of FB fans you have is irrelevant to placing that pixel. Love that you’re taking action on this!

  • Rick Mulready

    Hey Alan, good question. Love that you’re asking this question. My suggestion? Test both to see which one converts better. Yes, it will often be cheaper for an internal landing page but just because you might be using an external landing page doesn’t mean you’re unlikely to not get your ad approved. Try one to see how it performs then try it the other way. See which one is better and then run with that one.

  • Rick Mulready

    You have the good questions rolling here, Alan. If you have permission to use the list than I would give it a try. I have not done this personally. I HAVE heard of situations where Facebook has blocked the upload of email address lists before but I don’t know the particular circumstances around it. Just stay on the up and up and you should be fine.

  • Rick Mulready

    Hey Cecile, I just heard that Graph Search is out in Beta in the UK. :)

    But whatever you gotta do, go for it. Have a great weekend.

  • Pat Hepp

    Great podcast. I set up a “trial” FB page for my business under a different email address. But I can’t get back to it now. Do I have to log out of my personal page in order to get to it?

  • Alan Little

    Thanks Rick, I’ll test this and share my results with the group..

  • Alan Little

    I’ll for sure keep it within accepted practices of affiliate marketing.Thanks!

  • http://infobunny.com Dexter Roona

    Great article, just read one of your posts on Social Media Examiner i think it was, did you write for them or was that a syndication from one of your sites?
    regards Dexter Roona

  • http://www.wainassoc.com Keith Wainauski

    Alan thank you for asking this question – think it’s a great idea. It brings up another question that maybe you or Rick or Amy can answer – and that is if we create a landing page on FB (Possibly using Lead Pages) can people using mobile devices get to those pages?? I noticed that in the FB Ads I’ve been running that most of the activity has come from people on mobile devices – so it would be important that they could get to the landing page. I look forward to feedback on this – and thank you Rick and Amy for a GREAT podcast – some very solid information!!

  • Ian

    Hi Rick and Amy, another great show. These strategies seem great if you are promoting a service but what about a retail store? We have been online for twelve years and have a huge selection of product but these strategies always seem aimed at getting leads to buy some targeted information product.

    How do you recommend using these strategies when you sell 10k physical products instead of an information product?

  • Odell

    Amy – Thanks for giving us your words of wisdom weekly! As one of the few female “voices” out there, I appreciate your perspective, style and voice. I know it’s a lot of work but it’s greatly appreciated by us all.

  • Nadia

    Amy thanks for the insight, but my greatest concern is the fact that I don’t have a website. Do I need to have a website to target my audience? What are your views?

  • http://www.carolamato.com/ Carol Amato

    Hi Amy,

    What a fantastic resource – thanks so much. Will be going through this tomorrow step-by-step to take action as I scroll down your post. Thanks for the screen shots as I’m such a visual learner! :)

    Take Care,
    Carol Amato

  • Vinit Balani

    Hey Amy. The article is very resourceful and came at the right time as I am about to start a FB campaign. The screenshots will also be helpful when I go about navigating the power editor.

    Vinit Balani

  • Stephanie

    Thanks Rick and Amy! I just discovered your podcasts today :) They’ve been extremely helpful. I have a question regarding sharing other posts from pages. Is it better for my page engagement to click the “share” button or to download the image, upload it, then tag them in the description?

  • http://www.markwarner.me Mark Warner

    This is an amazing resource. Thank you both.

    I’ve just installed my conversion pixel and will set up some ads very soon!

  • http://www.themoneykitchen.com Seb Alexander

    Hi Amy, just picked up on your article as I was searching the same topic. Is Facebook Partner Catagories actually available on UK Facebook yet?

    I know we have some options to choose from when placing an ad but it seems to differ quite a bit from the options available in the states.
    Clicking on Behaviours brings up three options only whereas the US version brings up many sub categories.

    Even when directing an Ad campaign at the US market these options do not show.

    Let me know if you have an update on this and keep up the great work.Thanks.

    Seb Alexander

  • Jackson Mumey

    Very helpful. I’d like to see more on this topic.

  • http://FlourishandProsper.com/ Stan Dubin

    Just finished listening to the podcast. Yes, Amy, I’d love to hear more podcasts devoted to Facebook Ads.

    I’m not that person who would love to listen to you and Rick for ten hours every day…but I could go seven or eight!

    Kidding aside, this podcast was VERY helpful and cleared up a couple of FB ad subjects for me. So, by all means, more of these types of podcasts please!

  • http://www.antoniocalero.com/ Antonio Calero

    The more I try different things with Facebook ads, the more I get better results. The latest products (WCA, Video Ads, etc… ) are just the icing on the cake.

  • Guru Tim Norton

    Hi Amy,
    I’m loving your podcast but wish you could put them out more often :)

    I have been trying to target competitors pages in the interest group but it does not let me. I know you said it works with some pages and not others but I can’t get it to work with any.
    Am I missing something?

    So many new things to try but so little time…


  • http://www.laboundguide.com laboundguide

    This is happening to me as well! So frustrating! I’m wondering if it will only let you target a group with a minimum number of fans? Some of my competitors have smaller fan sizes, maybe that’s why i can’t target?

  • http://www.miastylemama.com Liliane Mia Khoury

    Thanks for the tips Amy and Rick! :)

  • 1
  • mrrobbo

    This is one of the best podcast episodes I have ever listened to…..EVER. Instantly added my mailchimp list and tracking fixel to create custom audiences. Wow

  • http://www.dadsdisappearingsalsa.com/ Steven Mena

    Amy…What a great podcast! Such helpful information. Can’t wait to implement.

    Just FYI…I noticed that the Graph Search bar is available for my personal profile, but not my business page. Maybe this answers the question you brought up about why it is available sometimes and not others. Hope this helps.


  • http://www.conduitcomms.com Katie McGregor

    With regard to adding Pages into interests – in the podcast you were discussing how this was so erratic and it would accept some Page names and not others. Well it has been driving me nuts so I SEARCHED and SEARCHED and found this – from Facebook Help Team and it sort of explains that you can’t in fact target Pages, but as it happens “…some Page names or topics may also be precise interests if they have a sizable audience or if they coincide with a common interest…” Read the full text at the link below. Thanks for the shows. They are great.

  • http://www.conduitcomms.com Katie McGregor

    Hi – see my post above and the answer is here at this link – It was driving me nuts too.https://www.facebook.com/help/community/question/?id=10100602317063585

  • http://www.laboundguide.com laboundguide

    Just read the Facebook link. Doesn’t that basically go against everything Amy has taught here? It basically says you can’t target Pages of a certain size (which confirms my assumption).

  • http://www.conduitcomms.com Katie McGregor

    Yes it does. But Amy is not the only one saying it – loads of experts are saying it but falling down at explaining why it is so erratic (and no discredit to Amy because I have learnt SOOO much from her). I posted the same query on a LInkedIn social media group and did get feedback that yes, because some Pages are so popular, the words of their name, eg ‘AC Milan’, are now an ‘interest’ but it’s not the page itself. That is just coincidence driven by their popularity. And if Facebook itself is saying it….

  • http://www.laboundguide.com laboundguide

    It’s sooooo frustrating!!!

    I still love Amy, though :) Thank you for your help!

  • http://www.conduitcomms.com Katie McGregor

    Yup. So now you don’t have to keep trying to do what cannot be done and do what can be done. It’s still a useful feature but now you know you are just looking for words, not actual Facebook pages. Just did one for recruitment for a client and put the biggest online recruitment company’s name into the interest. And some of the largest competitors’ names. Already seeing results…

  • http://www.laboundguide.com laboundguide

    That’s great! My audience is SUPER niche, so my 1-2 competitors have audiences under 2,000. Still wish I could target them!

  • sadran

    I’m curious ’bout this too!
    درب اتوماتیککرکره برقی

  • sadran
  • delsa

    You should charge for this one. So much content here!
    دوربین مدار بسته دستگاه حضور و غیاب

  • shiva

    I’m curious ’bout this too!
    köpek mamasıköpek cinsleri