5 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Facebook Ads Cost for App Installs

Facebook Ads

May 11, 2016

I’m sure that you have seen the data out there about how effective Facebook ads are. Here’s a post that we shared on Twitter about how 95% of social media marketers in a survey said that Facebook gave them the best ROI, compared to other social media networks.

The bottom line is that Facebook should be the first platform that you consider when looking to do paid app promotion.

Even if you are pretty good at Facebook ads, there is usually room for some experimentation and improvement. Here are the best methods to find which ad creatives work best on Instagram and Facebook.

Regardless of how much experience you have with Facebook ads, in this post, we will take a look at some things that you can do to reduce your Facebook ads cost. We hope that it helps you get more installs for your money.

Just like most things in marketing, many times, you will need to do a lot of testing before you find something that works well. Until then, it’s all about testing your ideas cheaply.

…and Facebook is one of the best platforms for that.

It’s a Big World, Bigger Than You Might Realize

View of city from air

Sitting at our desks, the world may seem pretty small when we are connected to the internet. Since we learn about news events almost instantly, I think it can be easy to lose sight of how big the world really is.

..or even just one city.

So the next time you are on an airplane, take a couple of minutes to look down and get a real feel for how many people are in that tiny part of the world below you.

Are there hundreds of thousands of people? Millions?

This exercise will help you see how much money you could be wasting by targeting very broad demographics. For example, how many people in that one city block are a potential user of your app?

The answer is probably: a very small percentage.

So it is vital that you identify the very specific characteristics of someone who might be more likely to use your app. Here are 5 areas where you can start experimenting.

1. Target Very Specific Geographic Areas

Most of us have been there…

You create a Facebook ad and you think that targeting one country is “highly targeted.”

Psssh, you can do so much better!

For example, if you have an app that gives people vegan recipes, do you think you would be better off targeting:

San Francisco, California


Atlanta, Georgia?

Well, it might not be what you think.

Does City Targeting Really Reduce Facebook Ads Cost?

Sure, San Francisco will probably have more potential users of a vegan app, but there is also more competition. You will probably get cheaper app installs in Atlanta because people with vegan apps (or apps in general) are not targeting that city.

When I tried it in Facebook, that was certainly the case. I setup a generic fake ad for a real vegan app, just to get an idea of how much app install ads would cost.

Sure enough, in San Francisco, Facebook recommends bidding $2.22 per install.

SF Facebook Ads cost

In Atlanta, Facebook recommends bidding $1.72 for the exact same ad.

Atlanta Facebook Ads cost

Obviously, conversion is another story. But targeting the right city can result in a huge savings, in this case, 22.5%.

What Cities Should You Target with Facebook Ads?

There are a few places to find out where your users are coming from. The best places to start are usually your app analytics solution, Google Analytics and Facebook Insights.

For example, here is a sample of our Google Analytics website data for US traffic. Since we specialize in creating app marketing videos, our first inclination would be to go after people in California and New York, since that is where a lot of startups are located.

When we look at our data, sure enough, those are the biggest sources of traffic. So we would certainly drill down and target cities in those states.

US Traffic

But since that was our first thought, it is likely that our competitors are thinking the same thing. So where is another location that might still be a pretty big source of customers, but have much less Facebook advertising competition?

Well, Florida might be a good one.

Florida cities

Sure enough, Miami might be a good place to test our Facebook ads. From there, it is all about testing and refining the target audience even more…

2. Dial in Your Demographic

That brings us to demographic targeting. Again, you might be targeting too broad of an audience.

It’s kind of like ASO. If you have a racing game, targeting “racing” is way too broad. But target “muscle car street race” and you might be on to something.

Having a Custom or Lookalike Audience will help (see #5 below), but what if you don’t have one? Not to worry, you can still get some great demographic information from other sources.

Since we already talked about Google Analytics above, let’s focus on Facebook Insights. Here is what the demographics of a Facebook Page might look like.

Facebook fans

So assuming that you have enough fans to be statistically significant, you can get a very good idea of who you should be targeting. In this example, all targeting should probably be done at the 25-34 year old demographic and you should probably primarily target males, but females should certainly not be ignored.

In some industries, like finance, your audience will be up to 95% male, so in that case, you should probably ignore the female demographic altogether. The opposite is true in industries like beauty, where your demographic is going to be almost all female.

But that is just the first step, there are so many other things that your audience is interested in, that may not be intuitive. For example, here is some data from our site.

affinity categories

Since we make marketing videos for app developers, you might think that we should target mobile enthusiasts first. But no, it seems like targeting movie and TV lovers might be a good angle to experiment with. Even photographers might be a good demographic.

The less obvious your targeting, the higher your chance of lowering your ad costs.

3. Stay in Control of Bids

It can be tempting to let Facebook “optimize” your ads. But keep in mind that if you give Facebook that much freedom, they are going to take it.

After all, they are in business to make money…and you said it was OK. It will be your fault, if you don’t stay in control.

So try to control as much of the bidding process as possible.

It is like trading stocks. If you enter a trade on a market order, you essentially give the broker the license to steal from you.

A few cents here and there adds up. However, if you use a limit order, your entry price will not be higher than your limit price (usually) and you will pay what you want to pay.

Same thing with Facebook ads. If you don’t enter a maximum price, you give the Facebook free reign to do whatever they want.

Bid amount

In all fairness, their algorithm does try to get you the best price, but it does take a few days for it to “learn” your audience (which costs money) and then you will see your ad costs drop. But then again, you never know what is really going on behind the scenes, so it is best to stay in control.

4. Forget CPM (Cost Per Thousand Impressions)

As you have probably noticed from the sections above, it will take some work to dial in your ideal audience and ad messaging. While you are figuring that out, you don’t want to be paying money for ads that don’t convert.

So start off with cost per install (CPI) because it is the easiest (and cheapest) way to see what is really working. Once you get more advanced, you can start experimenting with CPC and CPM.

Facebook makes CPM the default because it makes them the most money. It is up to you to change it to what is in your best interest.

5. Use Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences


You do have a website for your app right? If not, we recommend setting one up as soon as you can. Read this post to learn how to get started.

A website is very important for Facebook ads. Installing a Facebook pixel on your website will allow you to retarget people who visit your website, with Facebook ads.

More importantly, Facebook can also build a larger audience, based on the overall profile of your current audience. This is great for websites that don’t get a ton of traffic.

You can also further refine a Lookalike Audience by country and determine the size of the audience.

Lookalike audience settings

This will make your targeting even more precise and usually lower the cost of your ads.

Sometimes drastically.

It also has the added benefit of being a business asset. You can target your Facebook audience with offers from affiliate partners or even related apps.

To see who is using a Facebook Pixel on their website, you can install the FB Pixel Helper for Chrome. It will also allow you to see if your pixel is working properly.

FB Pixel Helper for Chrome


So those are a few of the best ways to lower your Facebook ads cost. There is certainly a learning curve when it comes to Facebook ads, but if you can get over that initial hump, it can be very rewarding.

The key is to keep your costs as low as possible until you figure it out.

Got any other Facebook Ads tips? Let us know in the comments below…


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