What’s REALLY Going on with Facebook Ads in 2021 (Can Advertisers still profit from cold traffic campaigns?)

how to make money using facebook ads

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve probably noticed something wonky about your Facebook Ads. That’s because 2021 was the year that Facebook lost its audience-targeting superpower thanks to iOS14.5.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that there’s been a lot of chatter about the future of Facebook advertisering. Most of it is pretty darn negative. But should it be? Really?

Or are media buyers, agencies, freelancers and business owners all just grumbling about nothing? Well, last week Smart Marketer hosted a 4-hour session on the state of paid advertising in 2021. 

If you don’t know Smart Marketer, they’re a VERY reliable source of information on all things paid traffic. Which is why I tuned in for the entire Facebook Ads marathon. I wanted to see if my 2021 experience matches what’s really going on in the market as a whole…

…and I wanted to share the key takeaways with you – in case you don’t nerd out on Facebook ads to the same extent that I do…but you’d like to know if it’s still worth investing in cold traffic campaigns.

how to make money using facebook ads

First, some context…

Smart Marketer spent months collating and analysing front-end traffic data, gathered from:

  • their own paid traffic campaigns
  • their affiliated companies’ paid traffic campaigns, including Zipify and Boom Cosmetics 
  • unconnected online businesses who volunteered their ad data to create this amazing industry report  

In short, Smart Marketer collected data from 30+ separate ad accounts and over $52 million in ad spend – across all types of business (that’s bricks and mortar…EComm…service businesses and infoproduct sellers).

They analysed data from paid advertising in 2019, 2020 and 2021 – to give us a ton of valuable insight into what’s working and what’s bombing right now in Facebookland.

And yes, this includes data collected AFTER iOS14.5 ripped everyone’s ad accounts to shreds!

Let’s dive into the key lessons every Facebook advertiser

needs to know in 2021 - to run profitable front-end campaigns

  1. CPMs increased by over 100% between 2020 and June 2021 – CPM is a measure of how much it costs for your Facebook Ads to be seen 1,000 times in the newsfeed. It’s a useful measure because it gives you a macro picture of demand for advertising space on the platform.

Now, if you think a 100% rise in overall advertising costs sounds scary, you’re correct. But it’s not all because of iOS14.5.

That’s because the increase is relative to advertising costs in 2020. And 2020 was actually a very cheap year to advertise on Facebook – largely because of COVID.

2. CTR (Click-through Rates) remained relatively stable from 2019 to 2021 – This is awesome news! Why? Because it means consumer’s engagement with our Facebook Ads hasn’t changed over time.

People are no more likely to ignore Facebook ads than they were several years ago, despite noise levels in the newsfeed.

It also means that copy and creative best practices from 2019 are working just as well today as they were two years ago. So there’s no need to try anything new and crazy to get your prospects’ attention.

3. ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) tanked after iOS14.5 – Plummeting ROAS might sound scary, but it’s not as bad as it seems.

That’s because we know customers are still clicking links (see point no.2). Which means there’s a good chance they’re still spending money on the same products they always were – despite iOS14.5 stealing your data.

So, Ad performance isn’t necessarily getting worse. We’ve simply lost track of it through Facebook Ads manager.

What does that mean for you? It simply means you need to find another source of truth that tells you how many sales you made, and where those sales came from. You also need to take a more holistic, longer-term view of your marketing efforts – instead of spying on Facebook every 5 minutes to see if you’re making sales.

4. Copy is more important than EVER! Copywriters rejoice! The Facebook ad accounts seeing the most success are those with super strong creatives (that’s images, videos and copy).

No surprises there, right? Actually there was one surprise, which might disappoint the graphic designers out there.

It was that weak images didn’t always produce weak results – IF the copy was solid. That tells us that copy is actually more important than visual creative when it comes to boosting sales conversions on Facebook (but we knew that already, didn’t we).

5. Offers matter (A LOT) – Businesses who run a broad range of campaign types, including pre-sells, lead gen, giveaways, direct to sales page, and content marketing saw the best overall results from Facebook Advertising.

There was also a big correlation between ROAS and strength of offer. What do I mean by that? In short, it means people have to actually WANT what you’re selling (or giving away) at the price you’re giving it to them.

This might sound obvious but you’d be amazed how many people struggle to craft offers which are truly irresistible. 


6. Interest-based targeting is where it’s at – For cold traffic campaigns, lookalike audiences have been struggling since iOS14.5. It means interest-based targeting is making a HYUUUUGE comeback.

The most successful accounts are lumping together groups of related interests, to create large audiences of at least 5 million people.   


7. Re-targeting still works – Now, this insight surprised me. I didn’t expect Smart Marketer to have anything positive to say about retargeting campaigns. But, according to their data…the most successful accounts were still running MOFU (middle of funnel) and BOFU (bottom of funnel) re-targeting ads.

So I asked around, and here’s what people told me…

“Re-targeting still works, if you build audiences around on-platform actions like video views, likes, comments, shares, and button clicks – plus engagement with Instant Experiences. It also works if you lump together MOFU and BOFU audiences, instead of separating them into individual audiences and ads”  


8. It’s all about the funnel – And last but not least is this wonderful insight. Why is it wonderful? Well, it’s more good news for copywriters! 

Gone are the days when Facebook Advertisers could rely on crappy, cheap advertising to generate hundreds of conversions within budget. 

In 2021, sales conversions only happen when you understand the entire customer journey – and launch strategic funnels with awesome sales copy. That means opt-in pages, sales pages, webinar scripts and back-end email campaigns are more important than ever.

So there you have it! The most important insights shared by Smart Marketer, based on data from millions of dollars in ad spend. And if I had to summarise the No.1 thing you can learn from these 8 key takeaways, it’s this…

Cold traffic advertising in 2021 IS more expensive than 2020. However, that’s largely down to macro advertising trends and NOT because of a worsening in consumer behaviour towards Facebook ads or iOS14.5.

People are still buying from the newsfeed. Which means it’s still totally worth running cold traffic ad campaigns on Facebook. With this important caveat.

It’s no longer enough to rely on laser-sharp audience targeting. It’s up to you to run better ad creative and offers to cold audiences to your prospects. That’s the only way to succeed with Facebook ads in 2021 and beyond. 

Want the secret to cranking out profitable Facebook Ad Copy in minutes

…even if you’ve never written a Facebook ad before?

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