The 5 Minute Guide to Facebook's New 'Time-On-Site' Targeting Options

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Using Facebook's advertising platform, you can run ads that target people who have interacted with your business already. For example, customers and website visitors. When you create a group of website visitors or customers to target on Facebook, it's called a Custom Audience.

Earlier this year, Facebook updated its Custom Audience feature to help brands create Custom Audiences based on the amount of time visitors spend on their websites, and the days they visited. These audiences can be created from in the Audiences tool in Ads Manager or directly within ad creation.

Note: If you're new to Facebook advertising, you may want to read The Beginner's Guide to Facebook Custom Audiences first.

Targeting someone based on the amount of time spent on your website is another powerful tool for creating targeted ads. Let’s discuss how to set these audiences up and the best ways to use them to optimize your ads.

How to set up time-on-site audiences

Before we start exploring tactics, it’s important to set up a Custom Audience based on the time users spent on your website. Head to the Audiences section of your Ads Manager.

Click on Create Audience and select Custom Audience.

Screenshot of creating a Website Custom Audience in Facebook

From the list of options select Website traffic.

Screenshot of selecting website traffic for a Custom Audience source in Facebook

Click on the Website Traffic drop-down list and at the bottom you'll see the option to pick “Based on time spent on your website.”

You'll now see the drop-down option to target the top 5%, 10%, or 25% of active users on your website in the last 180 days:

 Screenshot of selecting time-on-site for a Website Custom Audience on Facebook

Give your audience a name and click save.

Let's say you selected the top 10% of website visitors to segment over a 30-day period. If over the last 30 days, roughly 100,000 people visited your website, the most active 10% are placed in a Custom Audience of roughly 10,000 visitors.

How to use time-on-site audiences to optimize your ad campaigns

Now that you know how to set these audiences up, let’s delve into the best ways to use them.

1. Use audience insights to discover what separates browsers from buyers

Knowledge is power, so use Facebook’s Audience Insights tool to learn more about who your browsers are and who your buyers are. Audience Insights will show you data about your audience such as demographics, income, and interest information.

Here's how to use it.

First, create two Custom Audiences: one made up of everyone who has purchased from you (you can upload their email addresses) and one via the time-on-site audience feature. For the time-on-site audience, you can use any of the three settings, but we’d recommend using Top 25%

Now, check the Audience Insights data for the two audiences. The data may initially look similar because people who have purchased from you are more likely to spend more time on your website. The key is to look for the differences.

For example, the time-on-site audience might have a pretty even split between men and women, while the purchasing audience has a 70-30 split. That could be a sign at that your product appeals for to men and you should adjust you targeting accordingly. Or, if you want to increase the number of women that buy you product, you could optimize your website to appeal more to women so that more of them checkout. 

2. Narrow your existing retargeting audiences

Retargeting audiences are great, but they're not perfect. A broad retargeting audience will group everyone who has been to your website together—whether they came to your website once and bounced off immediately or they come every day. But trying to make them more effective by specifying certain pages is arduous and difficult to scale.

Time-on-site audiences make this issue a thing of the past. All you need to do is change the audience targeting on your retargeting campaigns from targeting all website traffic within a specific time period to one of the new time-on-site audiences. Just make sure to continue excluding purchasers.

3. Test segmented time-on-site retargeting audiences with different messaging

The amount of time someone spends on your site is often a good indicator of where they are in the process of making a purchase. Someone new to your brand will likely spend less time on your website, while someone who knows your brand a bit better will likely spend more time on your website.

Users at different stages of the buyer's journey will also respond positively to different messaging. Someone earlier in the journey likely needs more information or convincing, so branding messages, videos, and informative content fit well. Someone later in the journey might just need an extra nudge to convince him or her to make a purchase, so a well-timed offer or discount is the right move.

Setting this up in Facebook is easy. Create separate campaigns for each of the two audiences and create ads with the unique messaging and creative you want to use for each group. The key condition is the audience targeting.

For the audience earlier in the buyer's journey, set the audience targeting to EXCLUDE anyone who is in the top 25% of users for time-on-site in a given time period. For the audience later in the buyer's journey, set the audience targeting to INCLUDE the top 5%, 10%, or 25% of visitors for time-on-site. You can also test this to see what works best for you.

4. Create lookalike audiences based on your time-on-site audiences

Building lookalike audiences of high-quality users is the cornerstone of a good prospecting strategy on Facebook. Finding the best lookalike audiences involves testing to see which gets the best balance of cost per acquisition (CPA) and and ability to scale.

Depending on how much data you have, or what that data says, the audiences most closely reflecting your “ideal customer” may not end up producing the best lookalike audiences...that’s why it’s important to test!

A time-on-site audience are great for building lookalike audiences off of. If you’re looking for high-value prospects, how could you not include the people who spend the most time on your site? With this feature now available, the lookalike audiences I recommend every ecommerce business should start with are:

  • People who have purchased
  • People who have purchase three or more times in the last 12 months
  • People in the top 5%, 10%, or 25% time-on-site audience

Use these lookalike audiences to run campaigns geared towards attracting new people to your brand and bringing them into your marketing funnel. When you’ve tested your lookalike audiences and want to further lower the CPA, you should move to step 5.

5. Layer interest and demographic targeting on top of your time-on-site lookalike audiences

Now that you've built lookalike audiences off of your time-on-site audiences, you can use interest and demographic filters to focus them even more. This tactic isn’t exclusive to time-on-site-based audiences—it’s useful for all kinds of lookalike audiences. Filtering lookalike audiences with other factors makes them less broad, resulting in a lower cost per acquisition.

When you do this, you are telling Facebook “I don’t want to target everyone in this Lookalike Audience—just the people who also match these other characteristics.”

You can, of course, do this from the start, but it’s generally better to figure out if a lookalike audience is working at all before refining it. Basic factors, like age or gender, however, can always be used from the beginning if your products are age or gender specific.

So, which of Facebook’s available data points should you select?

The best ones will either show a demonstrated interest or need in the products you sell or match data that you have on your existing buyer profile. These can include:

  • Interest in your product’s topic or category
    • For example, if you sell a video game accessory, target only people interested in video games
  •  Annual income
    • For example, if your product has a higher-than-average price point (or is considered a “premium” option in its category), restrict the audience to only individuals in higher income brackets
  • Interest in a subject you’re going to feature in certain ad campaigns
    • For example, you sell a sports nutrition product and market to four different types of athletes: runners, cyclists, weightlifters, and swimmers. If you want to create an ad campaign featuring content related to running, restrict the audience targeting to only show the ads to members of the lookalike audience who are also interested in running.

That's it! Using these five tactics to explain time-on-site targeting options will put you on a great path. How do you plan on using this new feature?

shopify-author Steve Weiss

About The Author

Steve Weiss is an internet entrepreneur and CEO of of MuteSix, a performance marketing agency focused on customer acquisition for ecommerce and media companies. Steve's team specializes in Facebook advertising, having earned six case studies in Facebook's "Success Stories" program.