The Facebook Ads Learning Phase - What You Need to Know
The Facebook Learning Phase is an enigma that advertisers have to deal with. Every ad campaign goes through it, yet there is no defined rulebook on how the process works. As a result, many advertisers wait and hope for the best.
But is that really the best approach?
This guide will unravel the mystery behind the Facebook Learning Phase and why it matters. We'll also explain how you can effectively navigate through it to drive better results for your ad campaigns.
What is The Facebook Learning Phase?
The Facebook Ad Learning Phase begins after you create a new ad set or make major edits to an existing one. During this phase, Meta's algorithm tests a variety of your ad’s creatives, placements, and even bidding strategies, analyzing its performance to optimize ad delivery. In simple terms, it's a trial and error period where Facebook experiments to find the most effective ways to reach and engage your target audience.
If you notice fluctuations in your ad set's performance, don't worry. It’s common during the initial phase and can really impact your analytics. However, these fluctuations are part of the process, and don’t usually indicate your ad's future performance.
To find out if your ad sets are in the learning phase, go to the Facebook Ads Manager. You'll then see the status 'Learning' underneath the ads delivery column.
How Long is the Learning Phase?
Your ad set's learning phase depends on how your audience responds to your ad. Meta requires an ad set to get at least 50 optimization events during a 7-day period before exiting the Learning Phase. Optimization events are actions that align with your campaign goal, such as clicks, landing page views or conversions.
Typically, campaigns focused on higher-funnel objectives, such as brand awareness or post-engagement exit the Learning Phase quicker than sales conversion campaigns. This is because getting an ad click is generally easier than having a viewer make a purchase.
One factor that affects your ad’s learning phase duration is your attribution window setting. This window is when an action is credited to the ad after someone sees, plays, or clicks on it.
Generally, choosing a 7-day attribution window allows ample time for your ad to reach its audience and let Meta’s algorithm do its thing. Shorter windows, such as 1-day, are ideal if you need immediate results, focusing on immediate actions for faster data and quick adjustments.
Breaking Down The ‘Learning Limited’ Problem
Facebook's ‘Learning limited’ message is displayed when your ad set hasn't reached 50 optimization/conversion events. As a result, Meta’s algorithm hasn’t “learned” enough from your audience, and can’t optimize your ad’s delivery.
It sucks, and more often than not, a strong indication that your ad set isn't going to skyrocket in performance any time soon.
A lot of the time, ad campaigns with relatively small budgets and target audiences get hit with this Learning limited status. Think about it: if your budget is small and you're targeting a narrow audience, you're less likely to get 50 optimization actions in 7 days.
However, don't ditch your campaigns just yet. If your ad metrics performance looks positive i.e., conversions, click-throughs, etc, let Meta's in-between phase play out. Additionally, if your optimization events number is close to 50, i.e. 46, you can wait it out and see if your results improve.
To transition from 'Learning limited' to active, Facebook suggests the following:
- Combine ad sets and campaigns to speed up optimization events and Facebook’s data collection process.
- Increase your budget to enhance your ad sets performance and reach a wider audience.
- Expand your audience targeting, ensuring they remain relevant to your ad and product.
- Shift your optimization event to a result, viewers are likelier to take, like adding an item to their cart, instead of making a purchase.
- Raise your bid or cost control to boost competitiveness in ad auctions, enhancing visibility and optimization event chances.
Remember, not every tip above will suit every campaign. For instance, further expansion may be counterproductive if your audience is already broad. Instead, you could look at changing your campaign objective or increasing your budget.
Should You Stay or Try to Leave Your Ads Learning Phase
Facebook advises advertisers to allow the Learning Phase to run its course. This is generally sound advice, particularly for new ad campaigns or when experimenting with new strategies. The key is that Meta requires substantial data to optimize effectively, which the Learning Phase is designed to provide.
However, if your ad set is struggling, it won't perform any better once it's active. Ad sets with optimization events miles away from the required 50 mark should be addressed. Similarly, if your KPIs, i.e. sales, leads, etc., are way below your breakeven number, it’s time to make changes.
How to Exit the Facebook Ads Learning Phase
Despite Meta's fantastic ability to optimize ads, sometimes we just need to intervene and make things right.
Follow these steps to exit the learning phase finally:
Optimize Your Ad Sets for Learning Phase Efficiency
Cut your ad sets down: When you have fewer ad sets, each receives a larger budget share and is more likely to reach the 50-event threshold. It also reduces the data points Meta has to work with, helping to find your ideal audience for optimization. However, ensure that the number of ad sets still aligns with the diversity of your campaign objectives.
Consolidate your ad sets: Alternatively, merging similar ad sets can be an effective strategy. This consolidation allows Facebook to pool data from your ads, leading to more efficient optimization. It also ensures that your budget is focused on a specific target audience, potentially increasing your campaign’s success rate.
Opt for a Larger Audience: When combining ad sets, you can adjust those targeting smaller audiences by expanding their geographic reach and demographic targeting. This helps widen your potential customer base while remaining relevant to your campaign's goals.
Use ‘Advantage+’: If you're using multiple ad placements, such as Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Audience Network, use Facebook's Advantage+ feature. This tool automatically optimizes your ad placements across these platforms, ensuring your ads are shown where they're most likely to perform well.
Increase Your Campaign or Ad Set Budget
Ad sets with small budgets have fewer opportunities to reach their target audience, thus making it harder to reach 50 result actions. Combine this with a conversion objective like purchases, and it’s even tougher to leave the learning phase.
But instead of simply bumping up your budget arbitrarily, you can calculate the precise amount you need.
Let's say your current cost per lead is $10.
To exit the learning phase successfully, you need to secure 50 leads. So, you should allocate a budget of $10 x 50, which equals $500. To hit this target within 7 days, your daily ad set budget should be $500 divided by 7, which equals approximately $71.43 daily.
Refrain from Making Unnecessary Edits
It's tempting to look at your out of whack analytics, panic and change our ads. But remember, the learning phase might not be over yet.
If you make substantial ad edits i.e change its CTA, image or video, you may reset the learning phase. Instead, you should only make small tweaks based on incremental testing and data analysis. This can help improve your ad’s performance while allowing the learning phase to continue.
Other Actions that Could Reset Your Learning Phase Progress
Besides radically editing your ad, there are few other actions that could reset the learning phase. These include:
- Increasing or decreasing your bid amount, bid strategy, or budget by more than 20%. Significant changes can reset many of your ad sets when using the Advantage Campaign Budget (formerly known as CBO). This is because ads in CBO pull budget from the same source, so any changes to one ad set will affect others.
- Switching your ad set audiences, automatic placements, campaign objectives, or adding or removing ads.
- Pausing your ad set for more than seven consecutive days.
Remember that Facebook's Ad learning phase is just that - a learning phase. It simply gauges your conversion rate and gathers data to optimize your ad.
But if your ads are achieving their KPIs, just let the learning phase run its course. Having a stable performing ad is better than constantly resetting the learning phase. By maintaining patience and trust in the optimization process, you can effectively maximize the chances of achieving your advertising goals.