Since the dawn of marketing, customers have mistrusted paid advertising. They know better than to believe that 3 out of 4 dentists choose one toothpaste over another, and they know better than to think that a bottle of beer will transport them to an island paradise.

That’s been true since the time when radio and TV reigned supreme, and it stands true today in the digital age, particularly as social media ads and sponsored content have become more and more prevalent.

But brands rely on paid social advertising to reach prospects at every step of the buyer journey. Advertising on sites like Facebook is key to your long-term growth, but with every ad you produce, you risk introducing negative feedback from your prospects.

Here’s how our pay-per-click agency avoids creating ads and sponsored content that do more harm than good.

Stay true to your branding

It’s not uncommon for companies to use click-bait type content to increase the conversions on their ads. Avoid this practice. A good rule of thumb when promoting any editorial-based content (like blogs) is not to try to “sell” to your reader. Don’t force conversions on them.

Instead, boost and promote content that will entertain your readers and give them something of actual value. We don’t mean to toot our own horn here, but one of our recent sponsored-content pieces is a good example:

cardinal facebook ad

Our goal here is to demonstrate our value to our audiences – we know how to help you protect your reputation, and here are a few tips you can do on your own.

When you follow this approach, your readers will walk away feeling like they just got their hands on some quality content from thought-leaders in the field. This, in turn, could lead toward a conversion – or at least the start of a brand-prospect relationship.

Deliver on your headline promises

The headline of your paid ads and sponsored content speak volumes to your readers. In our example above, our headline is 3 simple steps to help you analyze, respond to, and resolve negative tweets and reviews on Twitter.

We’re pretty confident our audiences know exactly what to expect when they click on that post. So, we better deliver on that promise!

Here’s a nifty trick you can do to ensure your headlines live up to your content: present your headline to someone who’s not directly affiliated with your business. Have that person write a brief synopsis of what they think the content will be, based on the headline alone.

If you find that their assumption is not in line with your content, then you should adjust your headline (or, if necessary, content) accordingly.

Blue Apron’s ad, below, is clear and to the point. Readers know exactly what to expect if they click on:

blue apron facebook ad

Never stop refining

Social advertising is all about test-and-learn. This will ensure that your ad dollars are spent wisely. Use each network’s analytics to analyze engagement signals and click-through-rate (CTR). You’ll want to replicate what works and refine what doesn’t.

Be on the lookout for what’s known as audience fatigue, which could come in the form of a decrease in CTR or an increase in cost-per-click (CPC).

Know what to optimize your ads toward

We’ve seen far too many businesses harp on vanity metrics like click-through-rate to determine the effectiveness of a social ad.

Steer away from this practice. Instead, establish measurement benchmarks that signal a qualified (and high quality) visitor to your site.

If you’re promoting editorial content, it’s a good idea to measure elements such as time on site and page views. For advertorial and direct response ads, you’re likely better off measuring the number of email signups, form completions, and purchases.

Take, for example, this ad:

psoriasis speaks facebook ad

Simple clicks on the ad won’t tell the full story. To truly know if your ad – and ensuring landing page (if applicable) – are working, you’ll want to measure how many people sign up from this ad.

That’s the number that matters most.

Work hard to make your ads less … adversarial

Just like it’s in a wolf’s nature to shy away from humans – after centuries of experience with them – it seems like people have the same relationship with ads. We’ve all been burned before; we didn’t ask for this ad to pop up in our face, so we block it out, ignore it, or associate the advertiser with negative connotations.

But follow the tips above and you should find yourself creating better user experiences for your viewers and the ads you produce.