Facebook Ads: 3 Common Mistakes You’re Making with Website Custom Audience

3 Mistakes You Make with Website Custom Audience

Facebook rolled out Website Custom Audience (WCA) last month and gave website owners the unprecedented power to reach their visitors on Facebook. I think that his is one of the most powerful ad tools, so I set up mine recently. But in the process, I noticed 3 easy mistakes that any one who is unfamiliar with the platform may make; if you are not careful, you probably made at least one of these mistakes.

Jon Loomer wrote a very comprehensive tutorial on how you can use WCA and he also shared how to set it up. In short, you can go to Power Editor and click on “Ad Tools” at the top right hand corner. On the drop-down menu, you can click on “Audiences”.


You should see the following screen below. Click on “Create Audience” and then click on “Custom Audience”.


A pop-up should appear. Then click on “Custom Audience from your Website” to begin your 1-page setup.


Mistake #1: Typing “http://” in front of your domain

You make a mistake if you include “http://” in front of your domain. If you activated the “Test URL” function, you should see a red cross on the right hand side. This means all the visitors on your “Test URL” will not be recorded.

HTTP defines how messages are formatted and transmitted. They are not part of your domains. Domains are what you purchased, so Facebook is right to not recognise http as part of your domain.


Mistake #2: A single tick means that Facebook will track your website visitor.

Quite on the contrary, Facebook does not recognise any of your visitor if there is a red cross on the right hand side. To confirm this, I conducted an experiment.

I went ahead with the above setup and named it “Test Domain with http”. I also created a proper WCA at the same time. As you can see, Facebook did not populate the second WCA, and this proves my point above. To make sure that you don’t make this mistake, simply make sure that you have 2 green ticks on the right hand side before you create your WCA.


Mistake #3: Choosing “URL” instead of “Domain”

This problem is less obvious and I have yet to confirm the discrepancy. Basically, when you setup your WCA, you can choose between “URL” and “Domain”. If you chose “URL” as shown above,  you may not be able to track all of your website visitors.

I conducted a similar experiment as above and these were the results:

  1. WCA with correct setup was updated every hour.
  2. WCA with “URL” instead of “Domain” was not updated consistently
  3. But both WCA had the same audience size as of the time I was writing (Over 100)

I am still holding the experiment, but my gut feeling tells me that certain URLs are not being tracked if you choose “URL” over “Domain”. I will confirm this in an update another day.


The Correct Setup

Having shown you the ways that you may make mistakes while setting up your WCA, now is the time to show you what a correct setup looks like.

In short:

  1. Test URL should include “http://”
  2. Choose “Domain” over “URL”
  3. “http://” should be omitted in your domain
  4. You should see 2 green ticks on the right hand side


Bonus: 1 Last Thing You Need To Check or You’ll Regret It

If you don’t heed my advice, you’ll regret it. Because I made this mistake and wasted 2 days’ worth of traffic.

The most important step for you to do is to make sure that you created your WCA under the correct Ad Account. This is especially important for agencies and consultants who manage multiple Facebook Pages and client Ad Accounts. 

The reason is simple. Once you have created your WCA, you may NOT migrate it between Ad Accounts. If you created your WCA under a wrong account, the only way is to set it up again under the correct account. Doing so requires you to use the Ad Account’s WCA remarketing pixel. This means that you will lose all the website visitors that were tracked and populated under your original WCA. And that’s a HUGE LOSS.

Questions? Comment below!

Jason How

I help social media teams and small business owners eliminate Facebook ads and content that suck. Brands that I have worked with include household brands like Seoul Garden and International Volunteer Day, an initiative of the Ministry of Community, Culture, and Youth (MCCY). When I'm not busy with numbers, I can become a real glutton.

  • http://www.madsgormlarsen.dk Mads Gorm Larsen

    Hi Jason

    Great experiments you have conducted, and thanks for sharing. Could you tell us something more about what you think is the difference between url, path and domain? Jon Loomer writes that

    “This allows you to target keywords that only exist after the domain. I’ve yet to understand the benefit of using this over the URL option.”

    Have you made any experiments or have a guess at the differences?

    Tanks in advance
    /Mads Gorm

    • http://jasonhjh.com/ Jason HJH

      Thank you Mads Gorm Larsen for reminding me.

      I left my earlier setup to observe the differences between using url and domain.

      Here’s the result: http://cl.ly/image/1W3m0D102n1q/Screen%20Shot%202014-03-19%20at%205.50.04%20pm.png

      Basically, there is no difference in the people populated between using domain or URL. I have yet to understand why Facebook made it so.

      But what I noticed is that the domain setup usually updates first before the url setup. i.e. if you were to click on “Check Updates” consistently, you may find that the list with domain setup may be updated before the url setup. I have not found any obvious benefit of this though.

      As for path, I can’t give you a definitive answer because I only just set up the experiments today :)

      Hope this helps!

      • http://www.madsgormlarsen.dk Mads Gorm Larsen

        Hi Jason

        Thanks a lot for quick and informative reply. So it is basically quite unclear, why or when to use url vs. domain? And when to use url vs. path? etc. ?

        /Mads Gorm

        • http://jasonhjh.com/ Jason HJH

          Hi @madsgormlarsen:disqus, you’re right. There’s no distinctive advantage to use one over the other. Facebook might fix this in the next few months - or the usage purpose might become clearer.

          I will report on the difference between using url and path later on. For now, it seems like we should use path over domain (ha!). I will elaborate on this when the results become more concrete within the next few weeks.

          Do check back soon!


        • http://jasonhjh.com/ Jason HJH

          Hi @madsgormlarsen:disqus,

          An update here on Paths: Seems like Facebook, being a tech company, has adopted these jargons where they came from.

          Based on my experiment, when you use path, you only record traffic where visitors have visited that specific location.

          For example, if you set Path to /2014/03/ABC, the Website Custom Audience will only populate users who have visited this specific website. If you use Path instead of Domain, you will record only users who have visited your Homepage. Hope this clarifies.

  • http://crushsocial.net WeCrushSocial

    Wow - thank you so much. I’ve racked my brain for 2 days on this one. So good for the description.

    Looking forward to learning and exchanging ideas. Cheers Jason

    • http://jasonhjh.com/ Jason HJH

      So glad you found it useful! Do let me know if you face any other difficulties, and hope to speak to you soon!

  • http://jasonhjh.com/ Jason HJH

    Hey Jacek,

    Sorry for the late reply, I didn’t receive a notification for this.

    Facebook has updated its website custom audience (WCA) setup process so you will not see these choices anymore. Do you face any problem setting up WCA or is there something you hope to do but you are unable to?