Facebook Ad Targeting: The Definitive Guide

Facebook ad targeting has changed a lot recently. What worked 2 years ago no longer cuts it in a post iOS 14 world.

Tapping into the right audiences is can be the difference between profit and loss.

Unfortunately most people get audience targeting wrong.

In this guide, you’re going to find the best audiences on Facebook.

Let’s dive in.

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Table Of Contents

Chapter 1

Targeting Fundamentals

Chapter 2

Targeting Your Best Customers 

Chapter 3

What A Successful Facebook Ad Looks Like

Chapter 4

Discover Hidden Audiences

Chapter 5

Advanced Targeting Strategies

Chapter 6

Successful Retargeting

Chapter 7

Facebook Targeting Tips You Don’t Know About

Chapter 1:

Facebook Ad Targeting 101

In this chapter you’re going to learn about all the different targeting options you can use to test and find lucrative audiences on Facebook.

This chapter walks you through each targeting option and when to use them to get the most out of your advertising campaigns.
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Option 1 - Core Audience Targeting

Core Audiences is a powerful audience selection tool that lets you target people based on a number of different factors from their age, location, things they’re interested in plus lots more.

Important: There’s a trick to core audience targeting that a lot of advertisers miss which I’ll cover in chapter 4 of this post.

If you already know who you want to target on Facebook then the core audience selection tool lets you quickly narrow down who you want to target so you can start delivering laser-focused ads right away.

Detailed Targeting

One of the most flexible features of core audience is the ‘Detailed Targeting’ tool which gives you a lot of targeting options. You should use this tool to refine your audience or exclude certain groups from seeing your ads.

Detailed targeting is separated into 3 different categories as follows:

1. Demographics: This is where you can target people based on traits such as age, gender, relationship status, education, job title and more.

Quick example: You might want to target only women if you sell women’s shoes.

2. Interests: Interest-based targeting is where you target people interested in specific topics closely related to your offering. Things such as hobbies, favourite entertainment, activities and more.

Quick example: If you sell high-end real-estate then you might want to target people interested in property investment or high-end fashion brands.

3. Behaviours: Behavioural targeting lets you find people based on things like purchase history, mobile vs desktop users and travel history.

Quick example:  If you want to target Business owners, you can target people who manage business pages on Facebook using behavioural targeting.

Option 2 - Custom Audiences

What is a Facebook Custom Audience?

A Custom audience is a group of people on Facebook who’ve engaged with your company in some way (signed up to your email list, visited your website, existing customers etc..). 

Here’s the thing about custom audiences…

When you do it right, they work exceptionally well.

In fact, you should always be looking to create custom audiences for any Facebook campaign.

Here’s why:

Facebook collects thousands of data points about its almost 3 billion active users. All of this data allows Facebook to map out detailed buyer personas for its entire user base.

It’s crazy…

Not only is Facebook collecting data when you’re on Facebook, but it also tracks interactions with other websites, apps and purchases from 3rd parties. 

With Facebook having so much data about its users, you can use this information to target highly interested ‘custom audiences’ with surgical-like precision.

How to Create a Custom Audience on Facebook

Option A: Use Existing Customer Data

If you collect any kind of customer data (email lists, phone numbers, names etc..) then this method is one of the best Facebook targeting options in your arsenal.

You can upload the customer data directly into Facebook and create a new custom audience. The more data points you can supply Facebook, the higher quality this audience will be.

But what if you don’t have a good-sized email list…or any customer data to use?

Option B: Use Your Websites Traffic

This method lets you target people based on how they’ve interacted with your site.

For example:

Let’s say you want to target ‘hesitant buyers’ who’ve visited your order page or spent a significant amount of time on your site but haven’t made a purchase yet.

You can create a custom audience that includes people who visit specific pages or spend X amount of time on a page and exclude anyone who’s already purchased (for example, visited your thankyou page).

Creating a custom audience based on your most likely buyers can generate some great results, once you’ve figured this part out, it’s time to scale your Facebook ad targeting with lookalike audiences.

More info: For an in-depth guide on preparing and uploading your custom audiences into Facebook, check out their official guide here.

Pillar 3: Facebook Lookalike Audiences

What is a Lookalike Audience?

A lookalike audience is a collection of people who share similar qualities (or look like) the people currently engaging with your business.

For example: You might have an email list of 500 customers (this would be used to create a custom audience on Facebook). You could then get Facebook to create a lookalike audience of 100,000 people who ‘look like’ your current customers.

If you’re ready to grow, creating lookalike audiences is an incredibly powerful tool for targeting potential customers at scale.

3 Simple Steps to Create a Lookalike Audience on Facebook

You don’t have to be a marketing genius to create high-quality lookalike audiences.

Follow the following steps to quickly tap into a highly targeted group of potential customers for your business.

Please note: The steps listed already assume you have a Facebook Ad account set up and the Facebook pixel installed on your site. If you haven’t set this up yet, you can find instructions for ad account set-up and for connecting the Facebook pixel.

Step 1: Log into your Facebook Ads Manager and select Audiences

You’ll find audiences in the drop-down menu when you click on Business Manager at the top left-hand side of the screen.

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Step 2: Click on Create Audience and Select Lookalike Audience

You’ll find create audience in the top left hand corner of your screen. Select lookalike audience, which will allow us to set up a campaign that reaches people who ‘look like’ your custom audience.

Step 3: Create Your Lookalike Audience (Lookalike Targeting)

You have some options here, but for this lookalike audience, we’re going to focus on website traffic so that we’re reaching the people who visit your site.

Additionally, choose a geographic location you want to target and an audience size with 1 representing those who most closely represent my website visitors.

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Congrats! You’ve just created your targeted lookalike audience!

Chapter 2:

Finding Your Buyers

It’s exciting to start running ads on Facebook.

But…unfortunately the fun ends quickly when you don’t make any money from your hard work.

Here’s the deal.

If you want Facebook ads to work, you need to know how to target people ready to buy your product or service.

In this chapter I’ll show you how to find your buyers on Facebook.

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The Problem With Finding Buyers on Facebook

First off, when I say ‘buyers’ I’m talking about people who’ll actually buy from you, putting money into your bank account.

We’re not interested in getting more likes or social shares at this stage. It’s all about targeting individuals who buy.

The truth is…

Finding buyers on Facebook is easier said than done and that’s because most businesses have more than ONE type of buyer.

Think about it…

Let’s say you own a fitness gym and you want to sell more gym memberships through Facebook advertising.

Who are your buyers?

At this point, most people sit down and map out a semi-fictional ‘customer avatar’ that says something like:

“Fitness fanatic Felicity is a 24-year-old single female who enjoys keeping fit. She’s busy balancing work, family and her social life.”

Now: The problem with this is you’re limiting yourself to a narrow segment of Facebook’s massive audience.

Yes, it’s true your buyer could be fitness fanatical Felicity but…it might also be Ben the 25-year-old bachelor who wants to get in shape for summer or…Susan, the 63-year-old retiree, wishing to lead a more active lifestyle.

The bottom line is this:

You want to create Facebook ads that appeal to ALL of your buyers, not just a narrow segment based on a fictitious customer avatar. 

So: How do you appeal to ALL your buyers on Facebook in one go?

To do this you need to appeal to your Facebook audiences values first.

Value Based Facebook Ad Targeting

When you build Facebook targeted advertising campaigns, it can be tempting to focus on the largest audiences who seem interested in your offering.

Now, this isn’t a bad strategy but…there’s a better way.

The key to appealing to your Facebook target market is to focus on their shared values.

I’ll explain.

Take any business and look closely at their customer base. You’ll notice they’re a diverse bunch of people, but they do share some common values.

And it’s these values you want to identify and build your entire Facebook ad targeting around.

Here’s a real life example: 

I run an Ecommerce marketing agency that helps ecommerce businesses scale their business.

Ecommerce businesses come in all shapes and sizes so for me, creating a ‘made up’ customer avatar doesn’t cut it.

I need to identify what ecommerce owners (my buyers) value.

The short answer is they want to grow their business, they want more sales, have more freedom and they like to keep updated with the latest ecommerce news and technology trends.

So, ask yourself this: 

“What are the common values that your customers share?” 

And don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be perfect. Just list out the top 3-5 common values your customers share. Doing this already puts you ahead of most marketers trying to target their buyers on Facebook.

Now that you’ve identified what your buyers value, it’s time to write killer ad copy that appeals directly to them. 

That’s what the next chapter is all about.

Keep reading.

Chapter 3:

Creating Winning Facebook Ads

Marketers can spend days (even weeks) trying to create the perfect Facebook Ad without any success.

I’ve personally tested hundreds of different Ads and finally cracked the code.

In this chapter I’m going to show you what type of Facebook ads actually work.

Let’s get started.

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Re-purpose For The Win

Imagine if you knew which Facebook Ads have already proven successful in your industry.

You can and it’s easy to find out.

One of my favourite tools for doing this is AdEspresso’s ad example tool which helps you find Facebook ads in your niche that have already proven successful. Their tool shows you the engagement level (comments, likes and shares) of each ad so you can quickly identify which Ads have proven successful.

Here’s how:

The ads with the most comments, likes and shares have resonated with the target audience giving you a good indication of what type of Ads perform well. 

Now, all you need to do is select the high engagement ads and re-purpose (don’t copy word-for-word) them to fit your brand and offer.

This step alone will save you a ton of time creating ads and removes a lot of the guesswork wondering if an ad works.

Bonus Tip: Facebook Ads can take a long time to create, especially if you want them to look professional! There are some great tools like Facebook ads maker that makes it super easy to create effective video ads for your Facebook campaigns.

Spy on Your Competitors Ads

Facebook lets you see which ads your competitors are actively running on Facebook.

And Chances are any ads your competitors have active on Facebook, it means they’re working and you there is a simple way to find them.

Here’s how:

Visit your competitors Facebook page and you will see the “info and ads tab” You can quickly see what kind of ads are working in your industry and skip a lot of costs involved with testing and research

If your competitors running these ads it’s because they’re working.

Pro tip: To get even more insight, don’t be afraid to step outside the box on this. I’m talking about also checking out what thought leaders in your industry are doing and closely related industries. You might be surprised just how many great ideas you can pick up from other industries.

Facebook competitor ads

Chapter 4:

Hidden Audiences

Did you Facebook hides thousands of potentially lucrative audiences from you?

Let me explain.

You might already be aware that Facebook limits your targeting to only 25 different audiences.

Worse still…Facebook shows the same 25 audiences to everyone else!


  1. You’re fighting over the same crowded audiences as your competitors.
  2. It costs you more money bidding for competitive ad space.

So why not avoid this problem all together?

That’s where hidden audiences come in…

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The Problem With Facebook Ads

Back in the good old days, Facebook had a lot more targeting options available for marketers to use. 


Over-time, and as Facebook grew in popularity as an advertising platform it’s had to ‘dummy-proof’ itself for everybody to easily run ads on Facebook.

And as a result, the ads manager became more simplified so instead of seeing hundreds of similar audiences, you now see just 25 or less.

facebook cold audience targeting

Why it’s a problem for marketers:

Because Facebook shows the SAME 25 audiences to every marketer, theses audiences have become extremely competitive and over-crowded.

So: You have to spend more money to get your ads in front of potential customers.

Here’s how to easily overcome this problem:

How to Discover Hidden Audiences

You now understand the big problem with targeting new audiences on Facebook.

Time to level up your Facebook Ad Targeting using a unique tool I’ve built for you.

And don’t worry, it’s 100% FREE to use 🙂

It’s called Facebook Ad Interest Hunter and what it does is find highly relevant, hidden audiences that your competitors don’t know about.

In other words…it’gives you an unfair advantage for targeting audiences on Facebook.

Here’s how it works: 

Imagine you run an online camping store selling all kinds of camping equipment.

You decide to advertise your products on Facebook to get more sales.

You’ll probably want to target people interested in things like “Camping” or “Outdoor recreation” as a starting point.

And 9 times out of 10 you’ll use the detailed targeting tool inside the Facebook ads manager to do this.

As you now know…

Facebook only shows you 25 similar interests related to the keyword “camping” meaning you’ll be fighting for the same ad space as everybody else in the camping niche.

Time to avoid this BIG problem using Facebook Ad Interest Hunter…

Facebook ad interest hunter example

Look at the image above.

Facebook Ad Interest Hunter gives you 237 potential audiences to target in the camping niche!

That’s a bit better than the 25 Facebook offers…right?

Let’s take it one step further:

Under the Camping interest I quickly found an audience of 75,000 people interested in Gold Canyon, Arizona.

A quick search on Google for ‘Gold Canyon Arizona’ brought up lots of articles and I was able confirm that Gold Canyon is a hotspot for campers…Bingo!

If I was selling camping and outdoor gear, this could make a great target audience to go after with Facebook ads plus MOST marketers don’t even know this audience exists.

With that said…there are even more ninja tactics you can use to target highly interested audiences on Facebook.

I’ll cover them in the next chapter.

Chapter 5:

Advanced Targeting Tactics

What separates success from failure when advertising on Facebook?

Your ability to target the right audience with surgical like precision.

Get this right and your ad spend will go down, conversions up…and you’ll be one happy camper.

Here are some advanced targeting tips you can use right away:

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Use Google Trends For Facebook Geotargeting

Google Trends: One of my favourite Facebook targeting tips is to use Google Trends for finding new audiences and locations to target.

Just like Facebook, Google has an incredible amount of data on its users and you can tap into this information to learn more about your audiences behaviours, interests and motivations.

For example: 

Let’s say you sell protein powder and you know a large percentage of your customers are interested in ‘Weight Training’.

  • Open up Google trends and type in the keyword ‘Weight Training’.
  • Take a look at the section called ‘interests by sub-region’ and filter the results by either ‘city’ or ‘metro’. You can now see cities and metro areas most interested in weightlifting.
  • Use this information to help you identify specific locations for improved Facebook geotargeting.

Not only is Google trends great for geotargeting but…you can also use it to find new audiences because it shows you related topics to your keyword. 

For example, the image below shows your related topics to the search term ‘weightlifting’.

Improve Your Targeting with Google Analytics

Google Analytics is an amazing marketing tool and you can use it to improve your targeting on Facebook.

The data collected from Google Analytics gives you incredible insights into the demographics, interests and geographic locations of your audience.

And best of all…

This information is based on your actual website visitors (your warmest targets). These people have already interacted with your brand so you can quickly see what other topics they’re interested in.

I like to use Google analytics data to get a deeper insight into WHO my audience is, identify trends…and correlate any similar interests they might share. I then use this data to narrow my Facebook audience for improved Facebook ad targeting.   

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Combine Hidden and Lookalike Audiences

If you’ve already read chapter 1 of this guide, you’ll know a high-quality lookalike audience gets results.

With a lookalike audience, you’re able to target hundreds of thousands of people who ‘look like’ your existing customers. But…you can take this a step further by combining hidden audiences (see Chapter 4) with lookalike audiences. 

Now it’s just a matter of split testing different interests to see which combinations yield the best results.

For example: If you ran a fitness gym and had access to 500 customer emails, you could:

  1. Use this source to create an exceptional lookalike audience.
  2. Search ‘Fitness’ in the Facebook ad interest hunter tool to find hidden audiences related to ‘Fitness’.
  3. Combine any relevant hidden audiences with your lookalike audience.

This is a simple, yet advanced strategy for targeting your potential customers on Facebook and it works super well.

Ready for another ninja tactic successful businesses are using to make thousands of sales every single day?

Read the next chapter.

Chapter 6:

Facebook Re-targeting Secrets

Facebook retargeting isn’t hard.

The truth is…

You don’t need to be a marketing guru to pull off a successful retargeting campaign.

And since Facebook retargeting is one of the BEST ways to get sales, I’ll walk you through how to set one up (Quickly and Successfully).

Let’s get started. 

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How to Retarget on Facebook

Please note: The steps listed already assume you have a Facebook Ad account set up and the Facebook pixel installed on your site. If you haven’t set this up yet, here’s the instructions for ad account set-up and for connecting the Facebook pixel.

1. Log Into Your Facebook Ads Manager account and open the Audience tab

You can see the audience tab by opening the menu found in the top left-hand corner of your Ads manager account. 

It will be under Assets -> Audiences.

2. Click the ‘Create Audience’ button and select Custom Audience

The custom audience option lets you create a specific audience to target. It could be based on past customers or people who’ve spent time on your website.

3. Select Website Traffic

You have a few options to choose from when setting up a custom audience which I explain in detail here. For this example, we’re going to focus on retargeting people who have visited your website.

custom audience website traffic

4. Choose Which Website Visitors To Target

When you select a custom audience based on your website’s traffic, Facebook gives you some helpful options so you can segment your traffic like so:

  1. All website visitors
  2. People who visited a specific webpage
  3. How much time people spend on your site (Top 25%, Top 10% etc..)
Pro tip: A lot of people assume their website visitors are the same and treat them accordingly.
You don’t want to make the same mistake. Focus on your most engaged visitors, people who spend time on your website and those that visit multiple pages.

You can see from the image above I’m targeting website visitors who’ve visited my blog AND my Facebook tool. I know that these people are highly engaged with my site’s content.

3 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Retargeting Campaigns

It’s no secret companies are spending millions of dollars retargeting people on Facebook. It’s because retartgeting works exceptionally well for increasing sales in a cost-effective way.

To get the most out of your retargeting campaign, I’ve listed some of my favourite tips here:

1. Focus on Hesitant Buyers

Hesitant buyers are people who’ve spent time browsing your site but haven’t committed to purchasing from you yet. A good percentage of these people only require a small push to get them to buy.

To target hesitant buyers, create retargeting campaigns aimed at people spending a lot of time on your site and also people who’ve visited your FAQ, pricing, cart and checkout pages but did not purchase. 

2. Avoid Ad Fatigue

Ad fatigue is a part of Facebook’s algorithm that works to reduce your ads performance over time. No matter how great your retargeting campaign performs, eventually it will succumb to Ad fatigue. Here are some useful tips to avoid Ad fatigue:

  • Rotate your ads by switching different ones on and off. 
  • Change the creative of each ad (images, ad copy, offer)
  • Adjust the targeting and campaign objective.
Facebook ad fatigue graph

3. Offer a discount or a Flash Sale

Remember: Your retargeted audience is already aware of your company. They just need a little incentive to buy from you. 

For example: If you run an e-commerce store use a carousel ad to feature specific items and highlight the fact they’re on sale for a limited time.


If you sell a service run a carousel ad and feature some client testimonials.  

Chapter 7:

3 Little-Known Targeting Tips

Here are 3 little-known Facebook ad targeting tips you can quickly apply to boost your customer conversions.

These tips are what the Facebook marketing experts don’t want you to know!

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Quickly Raise Your Ads Social Proof Without Blowing the Budget

It’s no secret that social proof is one of the key success factors for influencing your customer’s purchase behaviour.

In other words…

If your Facebook Ad has more comments, likes and shares then it will perform better compared to ads with little to no social proof.

For example: Look closely at the 2 Facebook ads below…what do you notice?

Both ads are similar in terms of their images and messaging of trying to get you to sign up for a gym membership.

But with one key difference

The second ad has social proof so when buyers see it they stop and think: “Wait, look how many people like this gym! I’m going to check them out and see what all the fuss is about.” 

It gets better…

Social proof eases the minds of hesitant buyers. Hesitant buyers make a large slice of your potential market so you want to make sure your Facebook ads capture this lucrative group who wouldn’t look twice at an ad with no social proof. 

Here’s how to generate social proof for your Facebook Ads quickly!

Run your ad in cheaper countries to build up their social proof before targeting your actual market. 

This tip alone will save you money because it costs WAY less money to run ads and once you’ve built up a good amount of social proof, simply move the ad into your actual target market and watch it’s performance sky-rocket.

Look: Here’s a comparison of an ad with a $10 budget and with the same targeting set-up, just different locations.

This price difference is crazy!

You can see how Brazil and Mexico offer a much higher reach for the same price.

Split Test Ads Overseas Before Marketing to Your Audience

It’s always a smart idea to run multiple versions of the same ad.

Here’s a simple example:

Let’s say you run a Gym and you want to encourage new people to sign up as members.

You might set up the same 2 ads but have them target different interests, say…one targets bodybuilding and the other targets people interested in Arnold Schwarzenegger. You’d would then run the ads on a small budget to see which one gets the most attention.

You can only imagine just how many different test possibilities happen…different images, ad copy, targeting, the list goes on…

But…even though you’re running these ‘test’ ads on a small budget, chances are you’ll have lots of them and the costs start to add up.

Run your test ads in countries like South Africa, India and Brazil can be a lot more cost effective while you’re figuring out which targeting works best. Once you’ve figured it out, you can then run your ad back in your target country knowing that it will yield the best performance.

Targeting less competitive audiences overseas also has the bonus of getting you a few extra social shares to start building up your social proof.

Run Google Ads and then re-target on Facebook.

One thing I like to do to increase conversions on Facebook is to build a simple landing page with my offer and use Google Ads to drive traffic to it.

I then create a custom audience on Facebook based on people who visited the landing page but didn’t convert and re-target these people again on Facebook.

When you get this right, it can be highly effective as you’re now targeting people who you know are interested in your offering.

Over To You

So that’s my ultimate guide to Facebook ad targeting.

What did you think about the guide…
…or did I miss something important?

Let me know by leaving a comment below. 

11 Responses

  1. wow you explained a great way to target from facebook targeting to google trends and in easy manner everyone can understand. finally you cracked the solution for successful targeting and lower ad costs. thanks

  2. Your content is one of the best content I have ever seen on the web
    I wish to read more of this
    You deserve a tip honestly

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