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Who doesn’t love the honeymoon period of a social ad campaign? You’ve launched and things are fresh and exciting. Your audience can’t keep their thumbtips off your ads. Your click-through rate is soaring… 2.41%… 4.51%… 9.17%?! Nothing can stop us babe.

The honeymoon ends quickly

A well-targeted campaign with a strategic “ask” and great creative is going to start strong. You might even hit double-digit CTRs and celebrate. But don’t get too attached. About a week or two in, things can start to shift. Why? I’ve blamed one common phenomenon for years. I’ll talk about that first. But then, I want to talk about my new theory.

Ads have a really short shelf life

Advertisers often chalk up the click-through rate decline to banner blindness. By the time several impressions are served to any one user, that user is in one of two boats: they’ve clicked on the ad and done the thing you hoped they’d do, or they were never interested at all. Either way, they’re going to stop noticing your ad and keep scrolling.

Up go impressions. Down go clicks. Down goes CTR.

This happens to the best of campaigns. Don’t beat yourself up about it. But do:

  • Refresh your creative
  • Hone in on targeting that’s working
  • Re-evaluate your “ask”
  • Consider slashing your budget

Slash the budget?

In this relationship, bigger is not always better. Bigger can be great, but only if it’s used effectively. There’s a tricky balance to strike between audience size and budget size. A budget too small for your audience size will simply leave untapped audience. Harmless.

And my theory is, a budget too large can eventually hurt your campaign.

Not too big. Not too small. Just right.

Ad platforms want to 1) spend your whole budget 2) on the best clicks. In that order.

Impressions are best served to users that most closely match your target audience. Of course, they’re most likely to click. But what if your budget is so generous that there’s still money to spend after your ideal target audience is tapped? They’ll want to find a way to spend the budget, likely by pushing your ad out to less and less relevant users.

Way up go impressions. Down go clicks. Down, down, down goes CTR.

Did I just make all of that up?

Yes. But I’ve got a huge sample size. Lately my life has consisted of campaigns on campaigns on campaigns. The dreaded declining click-through rate is something I’ve been noodling on for a while. I’ve watched campaigns with budgets smaller than their audience justifies perform better, longer. Campaigns with overly generous budgets have declined as quickly as they spiked. And to round it all out, we were able to stabilize those campaigns by shrinking budgets.

Go burn that budget somewhere else!