Facebook Optimisation: Why it’s not all about Engagement Rate and CTR

Written by: Joey Dorrington

Let me start by admitting that I am a huge fan of data analysis and optimisation, and driving a client’s advertising dollar further.  And up until recently, I always believed that all ad units and posts on Facebook should be optimised with priority put onto creative executions with a higher Engagement Rate (ER), higher Click Through Rate (CTR) and ultimately, higher Conversion Rate (CR).  But some recent reading and research I’ve done into the topic of optimisation on Facebook has changed my position on this, slightly.  Let me explain.

Facebook’s massive reach, 11m people daily in Australia, coupled with its unprecedented targeting capabilities make it one of the best reach & frequency mediums in the world.  I’m not talking about the engagement related posts – great as these may be – I’m talking about pushing your advertising content out to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of targeted users who may, due to the demographic & psychographic targeting, be interested in your products.  Due to this reach, Facebook can now be used to not only drive lower funnel conversions through Direct Response (DR) ads, but it is a great tool to drive upper funnel awareness and consideration.

Awareness, Consideration and Purchase

When we plan out campaigns with a social component, we create content elements which drive users along the three key stages of the purchase funnel: Awareness, Consideration and Purchase. Awareness content is almost always video, and almost never has any retail elements like price.  The content focusses on the big idea, and aims for maximum cut through.  Consideration elements tend to expand on the awareness story, and have retail elements such as price or place, but are more subtle in nature.  And finally, as with any good campaign, sales are always a key focus, so there is a component which is a pure retail focus and mostly includes DR ads for customers already at the lower end of the funnel and are ready to purchase.

It is very easy for an analyst to want to optimise all three ads types based on CR or CTR.  It makes sense.  The more people that click through, and the more people that convert the better right?  Well, no, not really.  Let me explain why.

Research conducted by CommScore suggests that 8% of users account for 85% of clicks.  Now this doesn’t mean that the other 92% aren’t watching your content, it just means that they aren’t going to click on it.  This is increasingly important for Awareness-related ads at the top of the funnel.  The objective at this stage of the campaign is to increase brand awareness and favourability.  In basic media planning this is achieved by getting potential customer to view the ad a number of times over the campaign period.  We don’t need them to take action at this stage, just to remember the brand that is being advertised, and hopefully the advertising message we are trying to impress on them.

Don’t optimise for the minority

If we optimise Awareness-related video ads based on the CTR then we are optimising based on the minority (the 8% of people who click) and not the majority.  This can’t be a good thing.  A better approach is to optimise upper funnel video ads based on inferred metrics such as dwell time and video completion rate.  To illustrate this point, here are two awareness ads, and some key metrics. Which do you think would have more chance at lifting a brand’s awareness and favourability?


If you said Ad B, you’d be wrong. Yes, something amazing must have happened at the 4 second mark to drive a 9x higher CTR – or perhaps part of the audience was already brand loyal. But 95.5% of the audience didn’t click on that ad and it had only a 4 second average view time and 5% completion rate. This means if the objective was lifting the brand awareness and favourability, Ad A was more successful – Ad B must have surely failed.

The other important thing to note about awareness ads is that it isn’t always about completion rate either.  Again I will use two ads to show this example.


If you simply look at completion rate for the above two ads you would say Ad B is miles better, with 60% completion rate Vs only 20% for Ad A. However, when you look deeper at the results, Ad A had an average view time of 31 seconds vs only 11 seconds for Ad B.  There are some nuances here, and there isn’t a clear winner between A and B, but the key thing is that you shouldn’t just look at one metric when optimising ad spend.  Talk with your brand manager about which ad they prefer, some may prefer the longer ad view time, some completion time.

So there you have it

It’s time to look beyond Engagement Rate and Click Through Rate on Facebook, and start measuring and optimising content based on its objective. I’ve included a handy cheat sheet below which may help guide your optimisation choices on Facebook down the track.