Using Case Studies For Marketing

One of the things that people tell me is that when they run ads they get a lot of irrelevant traffic or leads although they are confident that their targeting is accurate. When you’re selecting a large interest with an audience size in millions, you’re obviously going to reach many irrelevant people just because of the sheer size of the audience.

One of the things that we do to improve this traffic quality as well as our conversion is to do case studies on the pain points and their solutions. For example, if you’re trying to sell a SaaS subscription, instead of trying to reach your potential customers directly with the ad of your product, you should do an ad of the case study.

If your product is an e-commerce product discovery tool, you should do a case study about “how a store owner made $37,000 with this product discovery strategy”. Once you run an ad for this case study, you’ll be able to collect very relevant clicks. You can then retarget this traffic with your product ad. You could also create a lookalike of this case study audience, and then run your product ad for them.

The more expensive your product is, the more number of case studies I recommend you to do.

Why Should You Always Duplicate Your Ads

If you’re familiar with Facebook advertising, you may have seen that some people always run multiple copies of the same ads in an ad-set. Those unfamiliar with this strategy always wonder, why would someone create 2 identical copies of the same ad and place them in an ad-set. Here’s the reason why.

When you target a large audience (for example 1 million to 100 million) which Facebook also encourages you to do so, not every person in your audience (interest/behavior) is going to be identical.

When you place two identical ads in an ad-set you’re hoping that your first copy will be seen by a small pocket of your large audience, and your second copy will be seen by a different small pocket. Based on the performance of the audience in those pockets, Facebook will continue to find similar audience using it’s machine learning capabilities.

It is obvious that one of the pockets of the audience would be superior to the other one and by having multiple copies you’re giving their machine learning a better chance of spending budget in your interest in a more optimal manner.

I found this difficult to convey over the text, but I hope that I’m able to do so. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in comments.

Here Are My Favorite Resources To Learn Facebook Advertising

I have profitably spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook ads. I have been doing this heavily since 2016. I could attribute most of my basic learning to Travis’s free resources that he put up on YouTube.

If you’re interested in Facebook advertising, I recommend that you complete these tutorials. You should also go through these.

Travis has been playing this game for over a decade so he’s pretty good at what he does. Much of his content may be dated although still very useful. This is still my favorite resource for getting the basics right.

For intermediate strategies, I’d recommend that you check out Verum. To understand what he’s saying, you need to be well aware of basics. If you’re well aware of the basics, you’d love his content and find it very easy to digest. Otherwise you probably wouldn’t understand much of what he’s saying.

The most advanced players, however, are the AdLeakers. I don’t think there’s any value for anyone here unless he’s already spending a lot of ad budget profitably and wants to further up his game by working on cost reduction strategies to achieve lower cost per acquisitions.

I don’t suggest that you invest in any course if you’re just starting. Investing in the actual ad budget might be a much better idea. But before you even do that, I strongly recommend that you consume Travis’s KingPinning tutorials.

Identifying The Optimal Manual Bid For Your Ads

I like to scale my Facebook ad campaigns with manual bids. One of the the tough decisions is to identify what is the optimal bid with regards to the best combination of number of sales and profit per sale. In short, getting the best return on ad spend (ROAS).

One manual way that I’ve used in the past is to start my ads by placing a bid that would result in 1.00 ROAS. For example, if the cost of goods sold is $10 and I’m selling the goods for $30, I’d start by placing a manual bid of $20. What this translates into is that I’m willing to break-even to initiate the learning phase for the ad-set.

Then I reduce this bid by 10% everyday until my ROAS keeps getting better and stop when the spend starts going down. This has helped me identify the right manual bid in the past. But there’s one drawback and that is the auctions change everyday and I only run the top down bid-identifying strategy once. So my manual bid may not be the most optimal manual bid everyday in the future.

However, since the launch of campaign budget optimization (CBO), there’s a simple solution to this problem. You can create multiple ad-sets with different manual bids and place them in a CBO. So if you’re selling that $10 product for $30, you can may be create 5 ad-sets in a CBO with a bid of $13, $14, $15, $16 and $17. The CBO will automatically choose the ad-set that’s likely to get the best results and each day a different ad-set with a different bidding may be getting the sales for you.

This Simple Trick Resulted In 800% Higher Traffic From Facebook

We have worked with many influencers for some of our content websites. The best part of running this operation between ’11 and ’16, in addition to generating revenue, was gaining extraordinary insights and knowledge.

It was a collaboration with over 200 marketers each running individual experiments in identifying the best of the best ways to leverage Facebook’s newsfeed. During the few years that we ran these websites, we collectively identified many ways to increase newsfeed visibility, but here’s my favorite one because this was the easiest to execute and had the highest reward.

We identified that Facebook distributes new domains on it’s platform with a much higher weight than domains with history. As the new domains receive some feedback in the next few days, their distribution is also limited. But there was no easy way to launch a new website everyday, with all sorts of advertising approved, and unique content in place. So as a quick fix, we resorted to using new domains but only as redirectors. This wasn’t a great solution to this problem, and obviously came with some caveats. So we looked further and eventually identified the perfect recipe to leverage this.

On running another experiment, we identified that sub-domains are also considered as fresh domains with no history as far as the Facebook’s algorithm is concerned. At the same time, subdomains do no require fresh approvals from the ad networks and exchanges. We also do not have to use redirectors, and Facebook referral headers stay intact.

Using this simple trick, we were able to boost our traffic by up-to 800% and were able to provide an environment that the influencers preferred due to extra-ordinary results and revenue-share.

How I Saved My Business With PHPMailer; But Eventually Still Lost It All

Two days ago, I wrote about the reason why I got introduced to PHPMailer. I finished my blog saying that I ended up using PHPMailer for a completely different reason. This blog is a continuation of that.

The Rocketship

In 2011, my music blog Koolmuzone was seeing growth faster than it had seen before. It was burning all the rocket fuel, breaking all its previous records. The kind of growth that made certain people uncomfortable.

One late February night became one of the most miserable nights for me. Days became weeks, and weeks became months, but the misery didn’t end. Someone clearly didn’t like me and so he found a way to take Koolmuzone’s Facebook page down.

The Crash

My page was taken down by a fake DMCA report. It took me many weeks to understand what happened, and I’m going to explain that below as clearly as I possibly can.

Most of the times when you get a DMCA report, it is for copyright infringement. But this one was different. It wasn’t a copyright report. You can see the copy of the claim below

Hello,

We have removed or disabled access to the following content that you have posted on Facebook because we received a notice from a third party that the content infringes or otherwise violates their rights:

[Page: www.koolmuzone.com]

We strongly encourage you to review the content you have posted to Facebook to make sure that you have not posted any other infringing content, as it is our policy to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers when appropriate.

If you believe that we have made a mistake in removing this content, then please visit http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=1108
for more information.

The Facebook Team

The fine line here was that the person who sent this report to Facebook didn’t say I was violating anyone’s copyrights. That there wasn’t any particular piece of content on my page that infringed someone else’s right. The report rather claimed that the ‘page name’ itself is infringing someone’s rights; a trademark claim.

I read that email everyday for many weeks until I found out what happened when I read the following line

[Page: www.koolmuzone.com]

This line made me realize that the content that infringes someone’s rights is the page name itself.

After I realized this is a bogus TM claim, I started seeking for the legal ways to acquire trademark for my brand which wasn’t trademarked at that time, neither by me nor by someone else. The TM didn’t exist in any country or jurisdiction. It was a bogus TM claim that Facebook asked me to resolve directly with the other party by providing his (fake) email address that no one responded to.

First Attempt of Recovery

So I went ahead and locally registered my company, acquired the relevant tax number for my business and obtained the relevant trademark. However, in the end I was still asked by Facebook that it doesn’t resolve any DMCA claims, instead I should directly resolve the matter with the claiming party or in a court of law. A party with a pseudonym and a fake email. I was stuck, and I was still devastated.

Second Attempt

After spending a few more weeks, sometime in April, I thought of something. I thought if Facebook can be as stupid as this with a fake trademark claim, it could be even more stupid than that.

I realized that there could be a potential solution to this problem and the solution could be PHPMailer. The thing about PHPMailer, or any mailer for that matter, is that you can send email “from” anyone’s email address “to” anyone’s email address. This might be difficult for some people to understand but the way the email protocol works is that you can send an email from an email address that you don’t own or have no access to.

The only thing different about such emails are the “email headers” that are commonly used to verify the real origin of such an email. The email headers mention the real domain name / server IP from where the email originated from and can be helpful in detecting spoof emails.

Because Facebook took a page down on a fake TM claim, I wondered if it would restore the page if the fake email address took the fake TM claim back, without verifying the email headers. And so I sent out that email.

The next morning, my page was restored.

I was hurt, very very hurt. I buckled up and got back to work. I had wasted over 2 months because someone wasn’t happy with the progress we were making.

Looking Back

Over the years, I’ve tried to understand the psychology of people who do that. They think there are two ways to win the race. The first way is to run faster, so you can really get ahead. This, in my opinion, is the only way to actually win and make progress. The second way, however, is to hurt your competition, so you can get ahead of him.

The problem with the second approach is that although you get ahead of your competition, you don’t really move farther in the true sense. You’re still standing right there, only with weapons. And if you think about it; what good does it do to you? If you win a race by eliminating your competition, how does that benefit you?

Sure, you’ll get the winner’s medal but without actually moving forward. You’re not going to have any more visitors coming in or you won’t be generating any more revenue. Why would you do all of this for a fucking medal. If, the person who hurt me, is reading this; think about it.

The Second & Third Crash

Two years later, in 2013, I lost access to my Facebook page again. This time through a completely different way. In the same year, a large part of my advertising revenue was also kept from me. And in the same year, I closed down Koolmuzone.

Closing Thoughts

Since then, in the past 7 years, I’ve never worked in the Pakistani industry. It was toxic and I wonder if anything has changed so far. Even if things have changed, I’ve never really mustered courage to ever work here again.

To all the people who have stood by me during this tough time, I owe everything to all of you. To everyone who were the reason for my pain, I forgive you, although I’ll be surprised if you were seeking forgiveness at all.

The Incentive To Be On A Platform

Platforms of all sorts incentivize businesses to depend on them. Most of my internet businesses were/are heavily dependent on Facebook, Instagram, Digg, Google etc. You got to drive traffic from somewhere, right?

The influencers making hundreds of thousands claiming to be indie artists are dependent on platforms like Instagram, Facebook & Youtube. It would take one bad email to snatch away their dreams, career, livelihood and fame. Platforms are risky, and the bigger your business is, the less dependent you need to be on a platform.

The list of causalities is too long for me to name. The list of my own business casualties isn’t short either.

It’s okay to be on a platform. We all need them. They are the power houses of the internet and fuel growth for all of our businesses. But it’s one thing to drive business from the platform and it’s another thing to build business on a platform. In an ideal scenario, we shouldn’t be building businesses on platforms. In some situations though the reward is so high that we and others embrace the risk that comes with the platforms.

When I started this blog, my father asked me that why am I self-hosting it. By self-hosting, I need to take care of some small bills, and also need to maintain it myself. In comparison, I could have started writing on Medium instead, which is what my father expected me to do. It can be easier to subscribe, higher email delivery and open rates, free recommendations and surfacing of my content on the platform to other medium users, no cost of hosting content, safe, higher up time, better SEO etc. Their could be many benefits.

But when I see content-locker on Medium that tells me that I like to read a lot and hence have reached my reading limit, it’s a sweet reminder of why I chose not to use a platform like Medium.

I’ve finally decided to share my life stories. It took a long while for me to agree to write and share and I can not leave my breadcrumbs on the mercy of Medium or others. I use platforms because there’s financial incentive. As there is no financial incentive with this blog, I decided to self host it even if it means lesser readership, lower email open rates and everything else that I’ll be missing out. In the long run, I think, I will miss out more on a platform.

My Ad Account Got Disabled, But I Live On Optimism

Today, an ad-account for one of our e-commerce stores got disabled. There was no violation. It was the same ads that we had been running for 4 weeks. Usually when the ad account gets deactivated, there’s an appeal link. The account is usually sorted in couple of hours. But today, there was no notification or appeal link.

I’ve still appealed through a different support channel, but its not going to resolve in couple of hours but would take longer than that.

Meanwhile, I’ve exported all campaigns to a different ad account. Theres a way to export CSV of campaigns and import to a different ad account. Here’s a walk-through video of how to do it. The process can still be very messy because of custom audiences, and lookalikes. When Facebook deactivates one ad account, it locks everything inside that ad account including all custom audiences and lookalikes. So its not possible to move those if they are owned by a disabled ad account.

I had a shitty day trying to do these manual, hateful tasks. I really had two options. Option # 1 was to basically feel angry at Facebook and stop advertising. Option # 2 was to start-over.

The option # 2 can be interesting because I may be able to make the 2nd ad account deliver profitable campaigns too. In the best case scenario, I may get the first ad account back as well. And in the super optimist world, I’ll have two ad-accounts burning twice the fuel, delivering twice the sales, making twice the profit. I want to think that this will happen. Because without this kind of optimism, it’s hard to want to run a business.

Why I Like Facebook’s CBO (Campaign Budget Optimization)

Facebook launched campaign level budgets in the mid of 2019. Initially, I was skeptical but I’ve started to like CBOs a lot. By using campaign level budget, I can now test 5-10 adsets in the same budget that I needed before to test 1 adset.

Facebook simply spends higher budget on the adsets within a CBO that are more worthy of my budget and spends lesser budget on adsets that are more likely to burn cash.

There is always a risk of missing out on a potentially winning adset but the reward overshadows the risk. In addition, you could still define minimum spend per adset within a CBO to ensure that each adset gets a bare minimum spotlight. Although, I generally advise against that.

My only problem with CBOs thus far is the organizational structure. Prior to CBOs, I only had to create 1 campaign per product. My campaign could then have hundreds of adsets.

Now I’ve to create multiple campaigns per product with each campaign grouping similar adsets together. Because of this, I’ve to create 10s of campaigns per product. The downside is I can’t group together data for 1 product without using filters which is just an added inconvenience

If Facebook introduces something which is above the campaigns level only for sake the of categorization, I’d really like that.

The Right Way to Talk to AI Support to Lift Limitations

A few days ago, I spoke about the visa restrictions on the internet. I also wrote a bit about how you can circumvent those. Today, I’m going to write about a certain kind of visa restriction that I often face.

Large platforms treat users from different countries differently. They do that to apparently keep their platform “safe”. To keep the platform safe, they look at the data they have on each country, the amount of spam/scam etc happening from each country or region and then develop rules to treat each user accordingly. In theory, this means it’s harder to use these platforms from Pakistan than it is from US even if all you’re trying to do is use the platform the right way.

One such restriction that I’ve always seen happen is completely losing access to account. For example in the past, I’ve lost access to my Facebook personal account and Facebook ad accounts. Google Adsense is also more likely to get disabled in Pakistan than in US. There’s always the option to appeal for both these platforms but appeal often results in nothing.

A friend of mine devised a strategy to deal with these appeals. His theory is that all account closures happen with no human intervention. The decisions are completely taken by the machines. He also believes, and I agree, that in most cases the appeal process also happens without any human intervention. So how can you convince a machine into accepting your appeal?

My friend uses emotional signals to deal with this. If you’re apologetic or regretful in your tone of appeal, your appeal is never going to get accepted. You’re guilty and you’re showing it in your tone. Instead, my friend is angry, distressed and disappointed when he’s appealing; and I’ve seen it first hand that the appeal is much more likely to work.