United States flag

My US-Only Ads Experiment

I recently explained my strategy for choosing the 22 Spotify countries I typically promote to Now minus one evil empire, it’s 21.

Those countries were chosen with the express goal of growing my audience on Spotify. If I were planning a tour (I don’t perform, but hypothetically) I’d make different selections.

Similarly, if I wanted to maximize merch sales, I’d make yet another set of selections (US, UK, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Australia). Taking it a step further, shipping outside the US has become ridiculously expensive, which made me wonder…

What would happen if I targeted only the United States?

I tried it for the entire month of February, and the results will surprise you! (sorry, always wanted to say that (but they really will! (sorry)))

Facebook Ads US-Only Results

I’ve been running two Facebook campaigns for many months now, each at $10 per day. One is to grow my artist following on Spotify, the other my playlist following.

Here are my results for the 28 days prior to February (click to enlarge):

Facebook Ads to 22 Countries, Jan 4-31

And here are my results for the 28 days of February:

Facebook Ads to US-only, Feb 1-28

Mages is my latest album, and VSR is short for Vocal Synthwave Retrowave, my playlist.

Working from left to right, the first thing to note is that US-only ads cost me 7-10x more. For some reason, the playlist ads were more expensive than the album ads. You’d think they’d be hitting roughly the same audience.

Despite the difference in cost per impression, the cost per conversion (a click through to Spotify) was roughly 2x for my album ads and 3x for my playlist ads. In other words, US audiences were much more responsive to the ads than my typical mix of countries.

Here’s where things get really interesting…

In January I paid $0.88 per artist profile follower and $0.36 per playlist follower.

In February I paid $0.36 per artist profile follower and $1.10 per playlist follower.

That’s right, I’m getting US-only artist profile followers for less than half price! That’s a lower cost-per-follower than I’ve ever achieved since I started tracking.

Playlist followers are another story. US-only playlist followers cost me 3x as much.

I could come up with some theories as to why, but they’d only be wild guesses. Feel free to share your hypotheses in the comments!

As you could probably guess, at the beginning of March I kept my artist ads US-only, and switched my playlist ads back to the previous set of countries.

Google Ads US-Only Results

I tried the same experiment with my YouTube ads too. In January, I was testing out YouTube Growth Engine, so my account was a bit of a mess.

To keep things as clean and apples-to-apples as possible, let’s compare the last two weeks of February to the first two weeks of March.

Here are my results for the last two weeks of February (click to enlarge):

Google Ads to US-only, Feb 15-28

And here are my results for the first two weeks of March:

Google Ads to multiple countries, Mar 1-14

The US-only campaign (top) really wasn’t that much more expensive in terms of impressions, but I only got half as many views for roughly the same budget.

This time international audiences were more receptive, with a 4.3% view rate versus 2.53% for US-only.

Keep in mind that Discovery and In-Stream campaigns are entirely different beasts. View rate can’t be compared directly. My In-Stream view rates are terrible, which is why I devote so little budget to them.

Going international got me roughly the same number of subscribers, but double the likes and views of my other content.

US views should be worth slightly more in terms of ad revenue, but looking ad my AdSense account, I made about as much in January ($33.05) as I did in February ($35.18).

Taking all that into account, it seems like a no-brainer, right? Targeting multiple countries generated 2x views, likes, and earned views.

The only thing that could tip the scales is if I saw a boost in merch sales from US-only audiences. I didn’t.

Here are 16 of the 29 countries I hit in the first two weeks of March. I use bid adjustments to ensure that views are spread out across the countries I want to reach, with the biggest chunk of my budget still going to the US.

Google Ads locations, 3/1-3/14

Check out that view rate from Brazil!

US-Only Ads Conclusions

That was a worthwhile experiment, wouldn’t you say?

I’m still getting cheap Spotify followers by targeting US-only audiences with my album ads. Those US streams earn a higher royalty rate as well.

Should you try targeting just your home country? It depends.

If you live in a country with low ad rates, like Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, or India, then absolutely! France or Spain? Probably. Canada, UK, or Germany? Might be worth testing. Sweden? Too expensive!

Ultimately, it depends on your budget and goals.

Questions? Thoughts? Share your take in the comments!

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

16 Comments

  1. I wish you would’ve showed your Spotify results as well. There’s a lot of bot activity in America due to the fact American streams pay more so I’m curious to know if you actually saw a significant jump in your US streams on Spotify.

    1. Great point!

      As of today, March 17, I see 27K streams from the US. The graph looks pretty evenly split between February and March.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think my ads affect the overall numbers enough to draw meaningful conclusions. That’s why I chose cost per follower as the metric for comparison.

  2. I fell into a similar strategy (after several tests) a few months ago, though instead of US-only, I group US + Western Europe, Canada, and Australia. I target those countries w/ video ads that drive to our artist profile, with similar costs per click and follower. All the other countries get playlist ads — with our version of the scrolling playlist creative you shared in a post from last year — with, again, really similar results to yours. No idea why, but another data point to consider.

    The folks who follow our artist page tend to either listen from our artist page or from their own playlists (for 15% and 40% of our total streams), whereas the playlist followers tend to return to the playlists (about 35% of our total streams).

    1. Good stuff! I suppose I’d get results at least as good by adding in the rest of my Tier A countries. If Spotify were my sole interest, I’d try it out, but I’m still factoring in potential merch sales down the line.

      What strikes me as particularly interesting in your setup is the deliberate lack of overlap between the two campaigns. I’m still targeting the US in my playlist ads, though I suppose it amounts to the same thing in the end.

      Instead of sending people to your artist profile, have you tried sending them to an album or a “This Is” style playlist? I got both follows and playlist followers using the latter approach, but sending them to my latest album seems to generate more profile followers.

  3. Hey Brian, I stopped my ads months ago, because I wasn’t releasing any new music for a minute & my show schedule really picked back up to a per-apocalypse commitment. But now I’ve got a new album coming out, so I very recently started them back up using saved audiences, because all my conversion data was gone (plan to switch to Lookalike as soon as I can). I let ’em run for a bit & today tried to exclude people who had gone through the conversion event, but it won’t let me do that, because of the latest Apple update, yada, yada. SO my question is, who do you exclude, so your ads don’t just show to the same people over & over? I just excluded people who have visited my FB & IG profile, but I’m not sure that’s the best option? Also, how long does it take to populate a custom “ViewContent” audience to over 1,000, these days? I’ve had over 2k content views, says my ads manager, but still not over 1k in audience size. Sorry, that’s a lot… Thanks!

    1. Sorry for the delay Jared, and thanks again for the email reminder!

      I generally don’t bother excluding anyone. You can check how much Facebook is hitting the same people by adding a column for frequency. If it’s over 2, it’s probably time to change or expand your audience.

      As for how long it takes to populate a ViewContent audience, it depends (shocker!). You’re basically asking how long does it take to get 1000 conversions, and that’s going to vary based on how compelling your ad is, your targeting, and your budget, among other things.

      I believe I’ve mentioned it before, but I don’t use custom audiences or lookalikes anymore. I just target “Spotify” and that’s it.

      1. Hey Brian, thanks for replying to my comment. I was really hoping for more 202 level answers, if possible. I know all about the frequency & that I need 1000 conversions to populate my conversion audience. Before the Apple changes, if you excluded your conversion audience, it took the frequency far longer to hit 2.0. But now I can’t exclude that audience without excluding anyone with an Apple phone that opted out of being tracked. And apparently, that audience is too small to even deliver to. So I’m wondering if there is a group I can exclude to at least slow down the frequency. Am I wrong to think that if no one is excluded & there’s a group of people that will go through the conversion every time they see it, that the ad will just optimize to go to those people over & over? As for my conversion audience, I’ve put the time & budget in. According to my ad stats, I’ve had 3,428 conversions, but the audience is still under 1,000. Is it even possible, after the Apple updates, to populate that audience?

        1. I’m spotting two premises that I believe are false.

          The first is that there exists a group of people that will convert every time they see your ad, especially if you’ve set up your conversion event as a clickthrough to Spotify.

          The second is that Facebook will show your ad to the same group of people repeatedly, even if they respond positively to the ad.

          Even if both of those were true, how many people could we be talking about? In the context of your ads getting thousands or tens of thousands of impressions per day, I can’t imagine it would be enough to worry about.

          Furthermore, I don’t think that by excluding a custom audience of people who previously converted, you’d be excluding everyone who opted out of tracking. By definition if they weren’t tracked, they can’t be part of the audience. Correct me if I’m wrong – I definitely could be!

          I haven’t created a lookalike for awhile, but I never needed 1000 conversions to do it. Perhaps fewer than that will yield inferior results, but at least the last time I did it, it wasn’t a prerequisite.

          A custom audience doesn’t need to be over 1000 to deliver to, because otherwise my abandoned cart and post-sales audiences wouldn’t deliver. For example, an ad might go out to people who added an item to their cart in the past 7 days but didn’t purchase. There’s no way that’s ever been 1000 people in my case, but the ads deliver.

          Hope that adds a little more context at least!

    1. Great question Jordon!

      I have a spreadsheet where I log my follower count, conversions, and ad spend every day. There are screenshots of it in other articles.

  4. You are the man Brian! The value you share on here is next to none.

    I Appreciate what you do.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.