A blog about Facebook marketing

“I just want ads for my website in the Facebook News feed...”

Monday, December 16, 2013 Sven Hamberg

If you’re promoting your website on Facebook, chances are you’ve stumbled across the terms News feed ads, Unpublished Page posts, Domain ads, Dark posts, Grey posts, Hidden posts... and it goes on. Also, chances are you never really cared about what it was called.

And to be fair, as long as you don’t get too serious about your Facebook advertising you don’t really need to care.

But, if you have the needs of a professional advertiser you’ll most likely find that Facebook’s proprietary tools don’t quite meet your demands, and you’ll start using something a bit more sophisticated, and voilà - you’ll also start caring about what kinds of ads you are actually running.

Let me try and help clear up this mess.

The area of ads for websites in Facebook’s News feed is an area of semantic confusion if I’ve ever seen one, and it hurts me to see advertisers having to make sense of all this.

I’ll try to keep this article as short as I can (you’ll find it’s mostly images), because it really isn’t that complicated - just too many names for essentially the same thing.

Two types of Facebook ads for websites. Just two.

Although there are lots of names and ways to describe ads for websites on Facebook, there really are just two designed for this purpose. There are Domain ads and Page post link ads.

And that’s it.

Sure, there are more ways of driving paid traffic to websites using Facebook (sponsored stories anyone?), but from my experience Domain ads and Page post link ads are in all but a few cases the ones causing all the confusion. This is due to them being the far most popular when it comes to acquiring website visitors, and that they sometimes appear to be the exact same ad type.

Domain ads - “the Original”

Let’s start with the Domain ad, which is the classic advert that can only show on the right hand side of Facebook. It looks like this:

If you have a Facebook Page, and that Facebook Page has indicated that it is related to the website you’re promoting, you can choose to show social context in your Domain ad - i.e., people liking the related Facebook Page:

To indicate that a Facebook Page is related to a website, fill out the Website field in the Page admin interface. You’ll find it under Update Page info:

Domain ads can be thought of as the “purest” ad type on Facebook in that it’s easiest to understand. Among all Facebook’s ad types it has most in common with “regular” display ads you find everywhere else on the Internet.

What you need to remember about Domain ads:

  1. They can only show on the right hand side of Facebook
  2. Right hand side of Facebook is the only place they can show

Do I realise I wrote that twice? Yes. Why? Because it’s the one single thing I see advertisers get confused by the most.

If you want ads for your website to run in News feed (which I bet you want!), you should be looking elsewhere than Domain ads.

Page post link ads - Advertisers’ new pet

Albeit one of the worst product names of all times, Page post link ads have become advertisers’ number 1 ad type on Facebook. They are a form of Page post ad, and come with a bit more complexity than Domain ads.

The complexity is due to two things:

  1. Page post ads can show on different places
  2. Page post ads can be in different states

These two things combined lead up to A LOT of confusion regarding what Page post link ads are and are not. Although you can configure a Page post link ad differently depending on your objective and needs, at the end of the day it’s still the same ad type.

1. They can show in different places

I’m referring to Placements here, which is the setting you use when deciding where on the Facebook platform your ads should run. If your Page post link ad runs on mobile it will for natural reasons look different compared to if it runs on desktop, and if it runs on the right hand side on desktop it will look different compared to if it runs in the News feed.

Let me show you:

In the News feed on desktop:

On the Right-hand column on desktop:

In the news feed on mobile:

Notice how the right-hand column on desktop placement looks exactly like a Domain ad in terms of its format? It’s because they essentially are the same thing. They are an ad that sits on the right hand side of Facebook leading traffic to an external website (i.e., off from Facebook).

They are however not the same ad type, which for natural reasons creates a fair bit of confusion.

When you create an ad for your website using the Facebook Ad Creation Tool, Facebook gives you the option to have it run in both News feed and in the Right-hand column.

Most advertisers I come across think of this as if they’re creating a “News feed ad for their website”, but in fact they’re creating

  • One Domain ad
  • One Page post link ad with placement set to News feed

Facebook hides this though, making it seem like there’s just one ad created.

Being able to run in News feed aside, one big way in which Page post link ads differ from Domain ads is the need for a Facebook Page in order to create them (clue is in the name!).

As you can see from the images above, when the Page post link ad shows in News feed it has a clear sender of the message - in this case Qwaya - just like when a regular Facebook user (a.k.a. person) shares something.

You therefore need a Facebook Page to run ads for your website in the News feed.

Why? Because without a Facebook Page you have no entity to act as sender of the sponsored message, and Page post link ads can’t exist without a sender.

Furthermore, the Page post link ad that’s created via the Facebook Ad Creation Tool also happens to be in a special state, which leads me to the second reason for confusion:

2. They can be in different states

I wrote a piece a few weeks back called Facebook Posts – Unpublished, Scheduled, Promoted? on this topic, and while I’m not going to repeat everything in that post now I’ll share a mapping of the different states a Page post can be in:

The “News feed ad” you’re creating when using the Facebook Ad Creation Tool actually is an Sponsored Unpublished Link Page post (with Placement set to News feed).

Unpublished posts are sometimes referred to as “Grey posts”, “Dark posts” or “Hidden posts” - in fact, when they were first launched Facebook called them Dark posts. Their name have since changed however and they’re now called Unpublished posts.

The nice thing about the “News feed ad” being unpublished as opposed to being published is that it won’t show on your Facebook Page’s Timeline (formerly known as “Wall”).

This means that you can try out a few different messages before publishing it on your Page, as well as run more direct-response like content in the News feed without having it as part of your brand profile on Facebook. I cover all this in greater detail in the aforementioned blog post.

Sponsored Unpublished Link Page post with Placement: News feed = Ad for website in News feed

So, if you’re using a more advanced solution than the Facebook Ad Creation Tool (i.e., Power Editor, Qwaya or other PMD), and you want to create a News feed ad for your website, you want to

  1. Choose a Facebook Page to act as sender of your message (if you have more than one)
  2. Create a Link Page post (preferably Unpublished)
  3. Sponsor it (making it a Page post link ad)
  4. Set its Placement to News feed (you can decide whether you want it to run both on desktop and mobile)

And there you have an ad for your website that’ll run in the Facebook News feed. You can of course apply all the regular targeting capabilities on top of this.

I really hope this article didn’t just make things worse, if so please let me know in the comments and I’ll try to clarify.


Connect with Sven on Twitter: @svenhamberg

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