How to Optimize Facebook Ads and Increase Conversions

Facebook advertising is one of the leading PPC platforms for digital marketing. You can advertise on not only Facebook itself, but also partner platforms such as Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Facebook Audience Network. Facebook offers a wide range of advertising objectives and remarketing, and with proper targeting and setup, businesses can quickly increase their sales and lead generation programs. There is no upfront cost or commitment required, so if you’re hesitant about launching Facebook ads, you can start with a small budget and scale up or down as needed.

To understand all of the available options for ad formats, I recommend checking the Facebook Business Help Center. This post is more targeted towards digital advertising professionals who are already experienced in Facebook ads.

To reap the full benefits of Facebook ads, you’ll need to set up your campaigns for success. In this post, I will share how to optimize Facebook ads and increase conversions, and address common questions that don’t always have a clear answer. I've personally struggled and worked through a lot of the questions below, so I hope this post is helpful for other Facebook campaign managers who are experiencing similar issues.

Detailed Targeting Expansion

Let's start with the target audience. Similar to other PPC platforms, Facebook offers options for uploading your customer list and creating lookalikes, using Facebook pixel tag to target your website visitors, and targeting Facebook users by specifying their characteristics and interests.


Facebook recommends audience size between 1,000 and 50,000 people, but I've had successful campaigns with audience sizes in the millions too. There is also an option to add detailed targeting expansion. As the name suggests, detailed targeting expansion means that when Facebook's algorithm finds opportunities to serve your ads to additional people outside your targeting, it will do so. One thing about this feature that frustrates me, along with other digital advertisers, is that there isn't a lot of public information about the analytics or audience characteristics.

A common question is, should I use detailed targeting expansion? Like most things, I think detailed targeting expansion is worth testing against your existing campaigns. It's important to keep testing and optimizing, and detailed targeting expansion should at least help increase the freshness of audiences and reduce ad fatigue.

However, there are some situations where you should be cautious about detailed targeting expansion. For example, if you are a BtoB company using Facebook ads for lead generation, then not all leads are worth the same to your business.

Buying Types

Next, I will address buying types for Facebook ads. First, there is the traditional auction buying type that you will be familiar with if you've worked on SEM or other social media campaigns. You can bid for CPM, CPC, or CPA, and choose bidding methods such as lowest cost or cost cap. The available options will depend on other factors such as your ad format.


Campaign Budget Optimization (CBO)

Campaign budget optimization (CBO) is an automation feature available within auction type buying. Facebook previously planned to pursue mandatory migration to CBO for all ad accounts, but this was rolled back in April 2020. CBO can increase overall conversions and performance, but some accounts consistently get better results with controlled bidding at the ad set level. Now, we still have the option to use CBO or traditional bidding at the ad set level. So, when should you use CBO?


CBO works best when you have at least 2 ad sets that are around the same size. If the ad sets are different sizes, Facebook will lean toward spending more on the larger audience. Ideally, you'll also have at least 1-2 months of past conversion data before switching to CBO.

Reach and Frequency Buying

Generally speaking, users need to see your ads 5-7 times before making an action. Reach and frequency is an alternative buying type that lets you book campaigns in advance with set reach, frequency, and budget. You can use it to minimize ad fatigue or maximize retention.

If you are used to auction buying, please note that there are some different settings for reach and frequency. For example, you can only use the default location type, and you can't use detailed target expansion (explained in the previous section above).

Since you are reserving your campaigns in advance, it's not always possible to pause them once they are active. Otherwise, the only way to cancel your campaigns is to pause them and recreate if needed.

According to Facebook, You can cancel your reach and frequency campaign at any time, but keep in mind that the reach and frequency tool can affect the price of ads across Facebook. Advertisers who regularly reserve campaigns that don't run may have their access to the reach and frequency buying type limited in the future.

Once your Facebook ad campaigns are launched, you'll want to set up an efficient method for analyzing the results. Basic results such as CPC, CPA, and results filtered by device or placement, as well as Pixel analysis, are available in ads manager. If you’d like to go a step above, you can the Facebook Marketing API for query data and ad management.


There are several third party tools and integrations that are compatible with Facebook ads. Zapier is popular for connecting Facebook ads to CRMs such as HubSpot or Pardot, or moving the conversion data to Google Sheets for doing your own analysis there. I personally like to use Google Data Studio, again via a third party tool called Supermetrics. There's a free version that you can go ahead and try without entering your payment details.


If based on your analysis, you decide to make some major changes, you can do that in bulk in ads manager. You can also manage campaigns in Excel, which then allows custom scripts and variables to modify data efficiently. As a more hands-off approach, Facebook has automated rules similar to Google Ads, where you can get notifications or automatically adjust bids or pause campaigns when certain conditions are met.

In this next section, I will answer some common questions about managing Facebook ads.


Ad Set May Get Zero Leads

You might see an alert that says "ad set may get zero leads (or purchases)" when you're setting up the audience for your ad set. This is probably because your audience is smaller than Facebook would like to see, or your pixel doesn't have enough data yet. In many cases, you can ignore the alert and still get some conversions, especially if you aren't willing to change your budget or audience for whatever reason.


Sometimes it's fine to ignore the alert initially, but your ads stop converting after awhile. At that point, you should reevaluate the ads based on other points addressed in this article (targeting, budget, ad creative, etc.)


Facebook Ads Not (Under) Delivering

Another classic question is, why is my campaign not (under) delivering? Here are some possible reasons.


Ad Disapproved

The most obvious reason for non-delivery is if Facebook disapproved your ads. In this case, Facebook will send you an email, including the reason for disapproval. If this happens, you can appeal the disapproval or simply make the requested changes and resubmit your ad for further review and (hopefully) approval.

Low Budget

Another fairly straightforward reason for ads not (under) delivering is low budget. Depending on your buying type, this could mean low cost cap, daily or lifetime budget. The easiest way to fix this issue is obviously by increasing your budget, but that's not always possible. You can also try combining your ad sets or campaigns if it makes sense to do so.


If you're working with a limited or low budget ($500 daily or less) I would recommend consolidating your ad campaigns as much as possible, instead of creating multiple ad sets that each have low budgets. This makes you exit the learning phase as fast as possible. After collecting conversion data for 1-2 months, you could also try cost-cap bidding.


Unless your ad campaigns are time-sensitive (for example if you're advertising for an event that's coming up in a few days) you should spread your budget out over multiple days or weeks. The same $1,000 budget will likely be used more effectively if spread out over five days for example, than spending it all in one day. The additional time gives Facebook's algorithm time to learn and optimize.

Audience Overlap

If you're targeting the same audiences simultaneously for different ad sets or campaigns, you could have a problem with audience overlap. Facebook generally functions on interests targeting, which can sometimes cause bidding "against yourself" when testing multiple ads for similar audiences. When audience overlap is combined with low budget, it can cause the ads to get zero traction.

As a general rule, if your audience overlap is under 20% or the audience size is large enough (1 million+) then you probably don't need to worry, especially if you are targeting the audiences for different goals or creatives. For more information about how to fix audience overlap, please see the section below titled Bidding "against yourself."

Bidding "against yourself"

How to avoid bidding "against yourself" is another common question for digital advertisers who run multiple campaigns. Audience overlap is not always a problem, but if it is negatively affecting your campaigns, there are several solutions to try.

  • Space out the timing of your campaigns or ad sets that target the same audiences

  • Exclude the similar audiences from each other

  • Slightly increase the budget for the ad(s) that you would like to be shown more. Please note that this might not work depending on other factors such as ad relevance and past conversion data.

  • Organize your campaign structure based on objectives (conversions, clicks, etc.) - not audiences.

  • Put all of your competing ads in the same ad set. Campaigns and ad sets compete against each other, but ads within the same ad set do not. Facebook will optimize for the ad that is more likely to get conversions to be shown more. If you'd like all of the ads to be shown, use split testing.

  • Use reach and frequency buying type

20% Text Rule

If you work on other display ad networks like GDN, you are probably familiar with the 20% text rule. Facebook previously had this rule too, but it was removed in September 2020. Now, Facebook has removed the text overlay, and instead cautions the 20% metric as a best practice. You can see Facebook's updated page about ad images here.


April 2021 Update: App Tracking Transparency

Apple’s iOS 14.5 was released last month. The update included a lot of new features, but the one that’s been discussed and debated for months is privacy.


With iOS 14.5, users have more transparency and control over apps that track them for advertising. As part of the new App Tracking Transparency (ATT) Framework, app developers will be required to get users consent before accessing their IFDA for tracking and personalization. As a user, when you open an app that wants to access your unique ID for advertising purposes, you’ll get a pop-up message that briefly states why the app wants you to opt-in. For example, it might say that tracking will give you a better ad experience. You can then choose to opt in or out form tracking.


Facebook has spoken against App Tracking Transparency since it was announced in September 2020, as it could limit ad performance.


Implications

A few weeks after iOS 14.5 was released, engadget reported that only 4% of US iPhone users opted in to app tracking. Basically, we will have less data to work with because Facebook can't access the data from users who opt out. This affects the most important aspects of Facebook ads - target audiences, conversions, pixel, apps, and optimization.


Remarketing and Lookalikes

Users who visited your website via iOS 14 devices and opted out won't be tracked, so they won't be included in your retargeting or lookalike audiences. As a result, we might see a decrease in the size of pixel-based remarketing lists.


Reporting Delay and Limitations

Apple's PCM (Private Click Measurement) can restrict and delay data access. We might experience up to a three-day delay on reported conversions. As for the limitations, we might not see all reported conversions in Facebook ad manager, and data will be aggregated in some cases - meaning that Facebook cannot measure ad results at the user level.


New Facebook Ads Features and Settings

As a consequence of iOS 14.5, Facebook has updated the following features and settings in account manager.


Aggregated Event Measurement

With iOS 14.,5 there is an eight pixel cap per domain for optimization. This means that you can only optimize towards a maximum of eight conversion events per domain. The events are ranked in order of priority, so if multiple events are completed by a user, only the highest ranked one will be reported. Please note that this only limits the number of events that you can optimize towards. You can still track more events for reporting and audience creation purposes.


Attribution Setting

28 day clicks, 28 day views, and 7 day views attribution windows are no longer supported. If you were previously using these settings, historical data is still accessible via the Ad Insights API. You can select 7 day clicks instead for the new setting.


Customer Support

If you're still looking for additional support, you can visit the Facebook Business Help Center for more information. Some accounts will have access to live chat support, but it is not available for everyone. If your question is still unanswered and you cannot use the live chat support, you can submit your question through Facebook's contact form.