Broad or Narrow Targeting? Which Works Better When Running Facebook Ads to Cold Traffic?

Broad or narrow targeting? It’s a hot debate I often find myself embroiled in with other Facebook advertisers. And this argument has reached fever pitch recently because:

1.Certain targeting strategies have lost some of their power since iOS14.5 (I’m looking at you, Look-a-Like audiences 👀)


2. Facebook has removed many of our favourite detailed interests, in a purge of potentially controversial target audiences  

So what does that mean for you? Should you even bother with narrower targeting strategies like interest-based or look-a-like audiences? Or should you stick with large, broad audiences – and let Facebook find the right audience for you? 

The Truth About ANY Type of Facebook Targeting

Here’s the thing with Facebook ads…

I have my views, which are based on my experiences and the mentors I’ve learned from. And you have your views, which are based on what you’ve seen in your ad account. 

Which is why I want to start by saying, “there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to targeting.”  It’s also why I approach every ad campaign with an open mind – and test all the options available to me and my clients.

(Plus, you should be wary of any ad gurus who say their one-size-fits-all targeting strategy is the only way to achieve success).

And so, when I work with my clients, we build separate cold traffic campaigns for each of the following audience types:

  • Interest-based 
  • Look-a-likes
  • Broad (wide age range, and geo-targeting only)
  • Warm (e.g. email subscribers, social followers, page/ad engagers)

We do this because you literally never know which one will perform best for a particular offer…even though experience may tell you that one of these audience types will massively out-perform the rest.

Which Type of Targeting Tends to

Outperform The Rest?

In the past, it was enough for you to write some so-so ad copy, with a call-out to your target customer. Then, Facebook and its magic AI would match your message to the right audience. 

But nowadays that no longer works so well. Which is why I don’t usually see the best results from broad target audiences. 

That’s because Facebook has lost a huge chunk of the data it used to rely on to find the right buyers. And so you need to give Facebook clues to help the algorithm narrow down its search for your perfect prospects.

Why You Need Niche Interest-Based Targeting

Despite the disappearance of a number of popular interest-based audiences, interest targeting still gives me and my clients the best results. Why?

Because, when you ask Facebook to show your ads to a hyper-targeted group of people, you give its algorithm a massive steer in the right direction. This massively improves Facebook’s chances of finding the perfect leads and buyers for you. 

And from there, Facebook’s AI can optimise and search for even more prospects who match this customer profile.

interest based targeting

A Word of Warning About Interest-Based Targeting

Facebook advertisers often complain that interest-based targeting does not lead to great conversion rates. And more often than not, it’s because they’re making two big mistakes:

1. They use CPM as a key success metric – CPM is a super important metric for telling you whether your targeting is on the right track. However, you should only look at it as a secondary metric. What do I mean by that? 

In 99% of cases, business owners should judge the success of their campaigns based on Cost Per Acquisition or ROAS. And if you’re hitting your targets in those areas, you can pretty much ignore your CPM (even if the number looks high).

It’s only if you’re not hitting your target CPA or ROAS that you should diagnose where the campaign has gone wrong, through other metrics (including CPM).

And this fact is crucial to your interest-based audience campaigns because it’s likely that your CPM will be much higher than CPM for broad targeting. In fact, you may find your CPM up to ten times higher when you target certain interests.

But that’s absolutely NOT a reason to panic or shut down your interest-based campaigns. It’s simply the price of putting your ads in front of the perfect prospects. And if these campaigns are hitting your conversion goals, there’s no need to sweat about your CPM.

2. They choose the most obvious and competitive interests – I hate to say this, but a lot of advertisers are super super lazy when it comes to finding interest-based audiences for their ad campaigns.

And it’s because of their attempts to save time and energy that they achieve poor results from interest-based campaigns. Let me give you an example. 

A while back, I did some work with a business coach. And the interests they chose were ones like:

Now, on the surface, there’s nothing wrong with these interests. In fact, I’m 99% certain that the business coach’s buyers were somewhere in these audiences. However, they’re also the same audiences that almost every other advertiser in this niche is targeting. 

This makes them ridiculously competitive, and therefore way more expensive than more niche interests. Plus, interest-based audiences like ‘Louis Vuitton’ contain many people who would NOT be interested in business coaching.

The Key to Success with Narrow, Interest-Based Audiences

So, as you can see, there’s definitely a wrong way to tap into interest-based audiences on Facebook. But what’s the right way?

The answer lies in really knowing your audience, and finding hyper-specific interests that most other advertisers won’t select for their campaigns. AND which are relevant ONLY to your target audience.

These can include interests like:

  • Niche influencers 
  • Niche books
  • Niche websites/blogs/podcasts/social media accounts 
  • Niche tools

The key is to think deeply about which interests appeal specifically and exclusively to your ideal prospect. And this takes time…which is why most advertisers don’t bother!

Broad or Narrow, In Short…

If, after reading this article, you want to go ahead and revise your targeting strategy, here’s my advice to you.

Step 1 – Start with hyper-targeted interest-based audiences 

Step 2 – Scale out to Look-a-like and broad audiences AFTER you’ve scaled your interests as far as you can 

But remember, always keep an open mind with your Facebook ads. What works one month, may not work the next. So you should always test all the options before leaping to conclusions. 

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