When your Facebook campaign isn’t performing to standards, it’s easy to look at metrics like CPC, reach, and chalk it up to bad creative or targeting.
The truth is, though, your campaign could be suffering from a less obvious issue: A problem with Facebook ad frequency.
What is Facebook ad frequency?
Facebook Ad Frequency is a metric that estimates the average number of times a user saw your ad. It’s calculated by dividing the number of impressions (the number of times your ad was on screen) by the reach of the ad.
If your Facebook ad frequency is 3, that means, on average, each unique user has seen your ad three times. Again, this calculation is an estimate, not exact. In reality, a unique user could have seen your ad more or less than three times.
Why is Facebook ad frequency important?
There are a lot of reasons a Facebook ad campaign can go wrong: insufficient budget, too small or too broad an audience, bad creative, etc. And when bottom-line goals aren’t being reached, these usual suspects often bare the blame.
But the autopsy of an ad campaign calls for a more comprehensive evaluation. Underneath the indicators, we consider likely culprits are ones like Facebook ad frequency, which can have a major effect on all those metrics you consider most important, like CPC, CPA, etc. Here’s how:
When your Facebook ad frequency is too high
Most problems with frequency occur when an audience has seen an ad too many times. As both a creator and consumer of advertisements, it’s easy to understand why:
You’re scrolling through your Facebook feed and you see an ad for a course on Facebook advertising. You think, OK, thanks but no thanks. I’m here to see updates from friends.
A few hours later, you see it again. And again. And again. It’s in the sidebar, and in your feed, and now it’s interrupting a video your friend tagged you in.
Constant bombardment like this, from one particular ad, can lead to what’s called “Ad fatigue.” It means exactly what it sounds like: “I’ve been bombarded with this ad too often in too in too short a span of time.”
Banner blindness is a phenomenon like ad fatigue, but it’s not quite the same. While ad fatigue refers to exhaustion related to one ad, banner blindness is a term used to describe the “tuning out” of information presented in ad-like formats.
Native formats attempt to beat this phenomenon, but users keep evolving. Their ability to sniff out an ad, even without the help of a “sponsored” label, has been steadily improving.
So, if this is something that affects all advertisers, and all ads, how does Facebook ad frequency impact it?
There are ways to beat banner blindness, and none of them involve serving the same ad over and over again to the same audience. When your Facebook ad frequency is high, it’s possible you’re making your ads that much easier for people to ignore.
When your Facebook ad frequency is too low
While you might not associate any problems with too low an ad frequency, there is such a thing. Here are a few issues you might encounter if you’re not showing your visitors your ad enough.
Lack of awareness
If you’re purposely limiting your Facebook ad frequency, and your ad isn’t being clicked, you may find yourself with an awareness problem. Simply, this means that users haven’t had a chance to see it.
When you’re running ads on Facebook, you’re doing so in an environment that is highly cluttered with trending topics in a sidebar, a module for stories, autoplay video, etc. There’s a lot to see. And when something catches a user’s attention, surrounding content suffers.
When awareness isn’t the problem, context can be. With a low frequency and high reach, it’s possible your audience was aware of your ad, yet the context for consuming it was wrong.
For example, let’s say you’re running an ad for an expensive digital marketing course. It’s delivered to your prospect in the morning as they’re scrolling through Facebook while eating breakfast.
Knowing a course is something that would take a lot of evaluation before purchase, your prospect “likes” the post with the intention of returning to it later. At the day’s end though, they forget, and because your ad frequency is low, they may or may not see it again.
So, these issues beg the question:
What is the best Facebook ad frequency?
Like any question involving the “best” metric or measure or number to hit, the answer isn’t straightforward. Every business is different, as is every campaign.
Ben Heath of Lead Guru says:
Most of the time, I start to see a drop off in results when Facebook ad frequency reaches 2.0-2.5.
In a blog post for SEMrush, Kristopher Jones says:
We recently ran a Facebook ad campaign for a client and found that over a five-month period we had potentially reached the highest ad group frequency we had ever seen, 95.68. With a small niche audience between 400 and 1000 people, we had served the same ad to the same people about 95 times and were still driving conversions.
To find out whether your frequency is too high, it’s best to ask yourself a few questions:
- How long is my campaign? If your average user has seen your ad 15 times in a week, that may be too high. What about 15 times in two months, though? That’s unlikely to cause ad fatigue.
- Who am I targeting? People who trust you are less likely to be annoyed with seeing your ads at a higher frequency.
- Where are my ads being seen? Showing your ads many times in the news feed is more invasive than showing them in the sidebar. If your campaign is less invasive, it’s less likely to frustrate your audience.
Of course, it’s important to remember that obsessing over frequency is just as bad as obsessing over any other metric. Ultimately, if your campaign is still profitable and you’re achieving realistic goals, then your time optimizing is likely better spent elsewhere. If you’re having issues with Facebook ad frequency, here are a few potential solutions:
Fixing problems with high Facebook ad frequency
- Refresh your ad creative. Ad fatigue is a problem that arises from showing the same ad to the same people too often. If your ad has been shown to your audience 3, 4, 5 times, it may be time to update the headline, description, image, or copy.
- Try a new approach. Sometimes you need more than a little refresh of creative. You need a total overhaul. Consider different ways to reach your audience: with different media, messages, and even offers. This can revive a campaign that seems destined for failure.
- Adjust your budget. If your audience is too small relative to your budget, your ad will be shown until spending is exhausted. That may mean a small number of users sees your ad way more than you’d like them to. Jon Loomer offers an example:
Consider that when targeting an audience of 100,000 people, for example, you won’t reach all 100,000 people. If optimizing for an action, Facebook may only show your ad to 10-25% of that audience.
Let’s assume a CPM of $10, which would mean $10 per 1,000 impressions. Spend $100 per day, and you will get 10,000 impressions in a single day. That increases to 70,000 impressions in a week. If you are only reaching 10,000 people in all, you’re looking at an average frequency of 7.0 in seven days.
If this looks like a situation you might be in, try adjusting your budget or audience so that your ad dollars are equally spread around.
- Turn on frequency cap. Perhaps the most effective way for keeping ad frequencies from climbing too high is a tool Facebook offers. It’s called Frequency cap. With Frequency Cap, you can choose the maximum amount of times your audience sees a particular ad. You can also choose when they see it, and how often they see it, too.
- Advertise to a more relevant audience. Audiences unfamiliar with your brand are less likely to be receptive to overzealous attempts to win them over. If you’re trying to expand your presence to a new audience, consider targeting a Lookalike or Custom Audience that may be more receptive to your messaging.
Fixing problems with low ad frequency
- Raise budget/tighten audience. When your audience is broad, and your budget is low, your ad is likely to be seen less by all. Tightening audience targeting parameters can restrict your budget to a smaller group, thereby allowing Facebook to fulfill your spend by showing your ad multiple times to the same people. If you don’t want to adjust your targeting, raising your budget can also solve this issue.
- Remove frequency cap. Obviously, if you’ve capped the frequency at which your ads are being seen, removing that cap can allow for the ads to be shown more times to the same people.
- Be more selective with placements. The same way spreading your ad across placements can lower frequency, being more selective can raise it. If you’re paying for ads on the sidebar, the news feed, articles, and stories, you might try narrowing those to your most effective placement.
How to run ads based on Facebook reach and ad frequency
If you believe Facebook ad frequency to be central to your campaign success, now, you can run your campaign based on the metric. It’s called the “Reach and Frequency Buying Type.”
With this buying option, you know that you’ll reach the audience you want while keeping ad fatigue to a minimum. Control how many times your audience sees your ad, which order they see them in, and the days and times they see them.
According to Facebook, here’s how to set up a campaign with the ad and frequency buying type. To start, navigate to your Ads Manager.
At your buying type at the campaign level, select “Reach and Frequency.” According to Facebook, this option is still being released to advertisers globally, so if you don’t see it, that may mean you don’t have access to it yet.
From the dropdown, pick your objective from awareness, consideration, or conversion. Which you choose will depend on the goals of your campaign.
Now set your lifetime budget. This is the maximum you’ll pay throughout the length of your campaign. At the Ad Set level is where you’ll be able to input this number:
From here, you can adjust your budget to the number of people you want to reach by dragging and dropping the vertical line on the Reach & Budget graph.
When you’re through, ensure you select the Facebook Page for the business you want to run. If you’re running ads for Instagram, you can also connect your account under “Instagram Account.”
Next, choose when you want your ads to run by setting your schedule. Set a period of time. You can also select what times of day you’d like people to see your ads. Then, define who you want your audience to be by picking “Edit Audience” at the ad set level.
Next, choose your placements. Remember: More placements will spread your ad among more people. As long as your budget is high enough, you won’t suffer from low Facebook ad frequency. The opposite is also true: Fewer placements and higher budget means possible ad fatigue and banner blindness. Facebook recommends a maximum of three placements per campaign.
Next, you’ll choose the frequency at which you want your audience to see your ads. Select from Facebook’s options, or even specify your own using the “Custom” selection.
Next, all you have to do is design your ad and review it once you’ve finished. Then, click “Confirm” to book your reach and frequency campaign.
The best Facebook ad frequency is subjective
There are two important takeaways from today’s notes on Facebook ad frequency. First, “the best” Facebook ad frequency is subjective. Has a frequency of 95 worked before? Apparently. Is it likely to work for you? Probably not.
Secondly, obsessing over frequency isn’t the answer. Consider other options before you focus primarily on this metric. There are many other issues your campaign could be suffering from. And if you haven’t determined which is the most pressing to address, you’re probably not ready to use the frequency and reach buying type.
Looking for other potential ways to improve your campaign? Get the Instapage Marketing Optimization Opportunities Guide, and see where in the funnel you could be leaving money on the table.