Facebook Ads Frequency Guide: How Companies Determine the Optimal Frequency Caps to Maximize Results on Each Retargeting Campaign
The two words that send shivers down the spine of most Facebook advertisers.
And what causes this action is typically one of two things – your prospect has zero interest in what you’re offering, or they’ve seen your ad one time too many, and it’s starting to annoy them.
Today, we’ll talk about the latter, or to be specific, Facebook ad frequency.
There’s a lot of talk about it online, but not a lot of actionable advice that can help you determine the optimal frequency.
Ideally, you should find the sweet spot between “this ad is starting to annoy me” and the user not seeing it enough to become a customer.
However, unless it’s having a disastrous impact on your conversions, you shouldn’t worry about it too much.
We talked to 70 professionals from several industries and asked them how they determine the optimal ad frequency for their campaigns.
To be specific, shy of 50% of our respondents are marketing agencies, while the rest belong to approximately 10 industries.
About 12% of respondents stated they do not advertise on Facebook.
- What Is Facebook Ad Frequency?
- Facebook Ads Buying Types: Auction vs. Reach & Frequency
- How to Find Your Facebook Ads Frequency?
- How to Change Your Facebook Ads Frequency?
- What Facebook Ad Frequency Should You Aim for?
- Controlling Your Facebook Ads Frequency: 5 Best Practices
What Is Facebook Ad Frequency?
Simply put, Facebook Ad Frequency is the average number of times the same person sees your ad in their newsfeed within a specific period.
Although it’s an estimated metric, it’s useful for understanding your reach as well as the overall relevance of your ad campaigns.
Facebook calculates frequency by dividing the total number of impressions by the total number of unique users who saw the ad.
So, if an ad has been displayed to 1,000 people and has recorded 2,000 impressions, the ad frequency would be 2. This means that each person saw the ad 2 times (on average).
It’s important to keep an eye on this metric because if you’re flashing your ad to the same person too much, it can lead to ad fatigue – the user gets tired of seeing the same ad and is less likely to take action. Or worse, he’ll hide it and tell Facebook that he doesn’t find it relevant.
However, if you’re not showing it enough, it could lead to it being less effective because not enough people have seen it.
You can check out ad frequency details in the Facebook Ads Manager. There, you can set up a target ad frequency for your campaigns and track it to make sure it falls within your desired range.
Facebook Ads Buying Types: Auction vs. Reach & Frequency
These are the two buying types that Facebook offers on a campaign level — auction buying and reach and frequency buying.
To understand which one better aligns with your business goal, you have to know more about them.
Auction is the most common Facebook ad buying type and it refers to ad space bidding.
In other words, if both you and your competitor want to show your ad to the same audience, the one who pays more will get to do so in most cases.
We say in most cases because there are other factors that Facebook also considers, including quality ranking and response rates.
While this model does offer more choices and flexibility to advertisers, the results are less predictable compared to reach and frequency buying.
Reach and Frequency Buying
With this buying type, there’s a lot less uncertainty involved. Advertisers can make a deal with Facebook to show their ad to a specific number of people for a specific price.
You’re essentially booking your ad space in advance and have a lot more control over your frequency settings.
Reach and frequency buying is best for advertisers that run high-level precision campaigns (e.g. campaigns with a long sales cycle).
How to Find Your Facebook Ads Frequency?
Here are the steps you can follow to find your Facebook ads frequency:
Open Facebook Ads Manager and click on the “Column” tab.
In the drop-down menu, select “Customize Columns”.
Lastly, select “Frequency”. Now, it will appear in your main Facebook Ads Manager interface.
How to Change Your Facebook Ads Frequency?
Before you set out to change your campaign frequency, you first need to establish whether it’s an issue or not.
You can do this by checking the quality score.
Go to Columns > Customize Columns.
There, you’ll find the Ad Relevance Diagnostics tab, in which the quality score is presented.
Now, you should be able to tell (based on data) whether you need to change your Facebook Ads Frequency. More specifically, whether you need to increase or decrease it.
To increase the frequency, you should open the “Reach & Frequency Balance” and click on “Custom”. Here, you’ll see an “Increase Average Frequency” option (alongside “Higher Frequency”, “Higher Reach”, etc.).
While there isn’t any specific option to decrease your frequency, there are several ways you can control it.
For instance, you can select the “Higher Reach” option from the above picture to tell Facebook not to show your ad to the same user more than once per 7 days.
You can also set up automated rules. This way, when a specific frequency is met, Facebook will either turn off the ad entirely or lower the budget.
The “Automated Rules” option can be found in the main Business Manager interface.
This is how the tab will look and what you’ll need to modify.
What Facebook Ad Frequency Should You Aim for?
There’s no set-in-stone ideal target that you should aim for when it comes to frequency, it all depends on your current situation and performance.
If your quality score is good and the results aren’t taking any hits, then even a higher frequency will work.
There’s an article from 2016 that Facebook covered on this topic, based on their research and methodology, and it’s still very relevant today.
With that said, we wanted to check out what our respondents think about this and pulled out some useful data from our new Benchmark Groups.
Here’s what we found out.
- What’s the Optimal Facebook Ad Frequency?
- When Should You Choose Lower Ad Frequency
- When Should You Choose Higher Ad Frequency
Facebook Ad Frequency Benchmarks for B2B and B2C
According to Databox’s own Benchmark data, the median value for Facebook Ads frequency for B2B companies is 2.51.
This benchmark was calculated from anonymized data from 663 companies. Are you a B2B company and want to benchmark your Facebook Ads performance, including CPM, CPC, Impressions, and more, against other companies like yours? Join the Benchmark Group for free.
*Important note: Databox Benchmark Groups show median values. The median is calculated by taking the “middle” value, the value for which half of the observations are larger and half are smaller. The average is calculated by adding up all of the individual values and dividing this total by the number of observations. While both are measures of central tendency, when there is a possibility of extreme values, the median is generally the better measure to use.
For B2C companies, the median value is very similar – 2.43.
This benchmark was calculated from anonymized data from 631 companies. Are you a B2C company and want to benchmark your Facebook Ads performance against hundreds of other companies like yours? Join the Benchmark Group for free.
We also polled the Facebook marketing professionals in our survey and asked them what the ideal frequency for FB ads is, in their opinion.
About 40% of respondents stated that the optimal Facebook ad frequency (monthly cap) for their business’ retargeting campaigns is between 5 and 10 impressions.
We asked them to elaborate on when we should go with lower frequencies and when could be the right time for higher frequencies.
Benchmark Your Performance Against Hundreds of Companies Just Like Yours
Viewing benchmark data can be enlightening, but seeing where your company’s efforts rank against those benchmarks can be game-changing.
Browse Databox’s open Benchmark Groups and join ones relevant to your business to get free and instant performance benchmarks.
When Should You Choose Lower Ad Frequency (Less Than 10 Impressions per Month) in a Retargeting Campaign
Lower ad frequencies (below 10 monthly impressions) are the most popular choice among our marketers and here’s why they believe this frequency is ideal.
According to our research, brand awareness is still the top-ranked FB ads objective for respondents who identified themselves as entrepreneurs, SMBs or SMEs. This was proven again in our latest extensive research on Facebook ads performance where conversion ranked top for agencies and brand awareness ranked high among SMBs.
If your primary campaign goal is to generate brand awareness and not sell any specific products or services, it might be best to opt for a lower frequency.
As Aristide Basque of K6 Agency explains, you’re not “pushing people to take action but rather get people to engage and discover the existence of your brand. There’s no need to go for any higher numbers.”
Another reason could be if you want to give off an “exclusivity vibe” with your brand.
Sinoun Chea of ShiftWeb says that this can be seen in luxury brands that “want to communicate prestige and rarity by displaying their product ads less often than other brands.”
TOFU (Top of the Funnel) Audience
At which stage of the sales funnel is the audience you’re targeting with your current Facebook Ads campaign?
The answer to this question should also be taken into consideration when setting up your ad frequency.
For example, Chris Gadek of AdQuick explains that “new visitors who are still in the awareness stage need more time before that big push to conversion, as opposed to someone who left something in their shopping cart. So for these folks, we’ll limit the number of times they see our ad on their newsfeeds to about three views a month to help them become familiar with our brand and offering.”
He says this is because “overexposing an ad campaign to top-of-funnel leads can decrease campaign performance.”
Lastly, the price of your product will also play a role in the decision.
Generally speaking, lower-end products can be displayed a bit more since the audience tends to buy them on a “whim”, which isn’t the case with pricier products.
Abhi Bavishi of Growthfox gave us a specific guideline we can follow when setting the frequency based on price:
“If the product is between $100-$500, I’d keep the frequency cap between 5-7x/30 days, across all platforms. I recommend a slightly lower frequency because these purchase decisions are not “impulsive”, and if a user has decided not to purchase your product or service, even after seeing the ad 5-7 times, increasing the frequency won’t make them change their mind.
Now, if you’re selling something that’s greater than $500, I’d recommend a maximum frequency of 2x-4x/30 days. That way, you won’t tire your audience, and you can slowly spend your budget (lower frequency, higher duration).”
When Should You Choose Higher Ad Frequency (20+ Impressions per Month) in a Retargeting Campaign
While most marketers tend to avoid higher ad frequencies, there are some situations in which they can work in your favor.
Brands with Strong Online Presence
Brands that already have some sort of following on social media and a target audience that knows who they are could benefit from setting a higher ad frequency.
This is the case with Matthew Martinez of Diamond Real Estate Group, he says that he is able to “attract more motivated leads with higher frequency since our brand already has a strong online presence and brand recognition.”
David Zhang of Kate Backdrop adds that this can be beneficial if “the customer has previously interacted with your products and you want to remind them about it, which may lead to a conversion.”
If you’re running a limited-time offer, increasing the ad frequency for those who haven’t taken action yet can help remind them about the offer and encourage them to act before it expires.
PRO TIP: What’s the overall engagement of your ad campaigns?
Want to make sure your Facebook ads are performing and trending in the right direction? There are several types of metrics you should track, from costs to campaign engagement to ad-level engagement, and so on.
Here are a few we’d recommend focusing on.
- Cost per click (CPC): How much are you paying for each click from your ad campaign? CPC is one of the most commonly tracked metrics, and for good reason, as if this is high, it’s more likely your overall return on investment will be lower.
- Cost per thousand impressions (CPM): If your ad impressions are low, it’s a good bet everything else (CPC, overall costs, etc.) will be higher. Also, if your impressions are low, your targeting could be too narrow. Either way, it’s important to track and make adjustments when needed.
- Ad frequency: How often are people seeing your ads in their news feed? Again, this could signal larger issues with targeting, competition, ad quality, and more. So keep a close eye on it.
- Impressions: A high number of impressions indicates that your ad is well optimized for the platform and your audience.
- Amount spent: Tracking the estimated amount of money you’ve spent on your campaigns, ad set or individual ad will show you if you staying within your budget and which campaigns are the most cost-effective.
Tracking these metrics in Facebook Ads Manager can be overwhelming since the tool is not easy to navigate and the visualizations are quite limiting. It’s also a bit time-consuming to combine all the metrics you need in one view.
We’ve made this easier by building a plug-and-play Facebook Ads dashboard that takes your data and automatically visualizes the right metrics to give you an in-depth analysis of your ad performance.
With this Facebook Ads dashboard, you can quickly discover your most popular ads and see which campaigns have the highest ROI, including details such as:
- What are your highest performance Facebook Ad campaigns? (impressions by campaign)
- How many clicks do your ads receive? (click-through rate)
- Are your ad campaigns under or over budget? (cost per thousand impressions)
- What are your most cost-efficient ad campaigns? (amount spent by campaign)
- How often are people seeing your ads in their news feed? (ad frequency)
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your Facebook Ads account with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
Controlling Your Facebook Ads Frequency: 5 Best Practices
Next up, we asked our respondents if there are any Facebook Ads frequency best practices that can be somewhat universally applied, regardless of company size and industry.
Here’s what we collected:
- Set Up Frequency Rules
- Create Custom Audiences
- Exclude Irrelevant Audiences
- Pick the Right Placement
- Manage Your Ad Variations
Set Up Frequency Rules
One great method to avoid over-displaying your ads to the same people is to use Facebook’s frequency caps.
This option lets you set the maximum number of times your ad will be shown to an individual user.
James Pollard of The Advisor Coach uses this feature and says that he “set up a rule to stop showing the ad when the frequency hits two. In almost every ad I’ve ever run, costs begin to creep up once the frequency hits two.”
“My thinking is: if someone hasn’t clicked your ad after being shown it multiple times, will they click it if you keep showing it? I don’t think so, which is why I would much rather turn off the ad and create a new one.”
But if you don’t want to turn your ads completely off, RUNNER Agency’s Brad Ehney says you can also “set up rules to notify you when your ad hits the frequency you’re looking to achieve.” That way, you can review the ad’s performance and make a decision as to whether to turn it off or not.
Related: Cost Cap vs. Bid Cap: Which One Will Supercharge Your Facebook Ad Campaign?
Create Custom Audiences
Custom audiences are one of the most powerful Facebook targeting options because you can use them to reach those who are already familiar with your business.
This means you should be able to go with a higher ad frequency than you would with a completely new audience.
Kurt Uhlir of Showcase IDX recommends creating “multiple custom audiences and map when you add a potential customer to each. Do the same when you remove them and then work that process.”
“As prospects choose to discover more about your offering, you need to meet them where they are with a message that helps them be more of who they are.”
Exclude Irrelevant Audiences
Are you paying enough attention to which message is reaching which prospect?
If you’re not, you might be stepping on existing customers’ toes without even knowing it.
Andrea Popa of Search Scientists warns us that “one of the most common frequency mistakes is targeting people who have already accomplished your campaign’s goal. Make sure to exclude people who no longer need to receive that particular message.”
“For example, if you’re advertising a content promotion with the goal of reaching new readers, exclude people who have already visited your website or blog. If you’re advertising a bottom-of-the-funnel message with the goal of converting people, exclude people who have already bought from you.”
Related: What Is a Good Audience Size For Facebook Ads?
Pick the Right Placement
Picking the placement of your ad shouldn’t be done on a whim, it’s one of the key elements that will affect your conversion rate.
In regards to frequency, you should make sure that your ad is shown in a noticeable spot, but not right in the audience’s face.
Andrew Rudister of MAXBURT shared a few useful ad placement tips:
“If your ad is shown in the middle of a user’s news feed, then it might get a negative response. These ads tend to annoy the user as it interferes with scrolling. Showing your ad on the side will get a more positive response. This is because the user can still notice the ad and respond if interested, but it will not interfere with the user’s routine.”
Manage Your Ad Variations
How many ad variations do you have?
You should have (at least) one for each type of user based on their stage of awareness. Ideally, you should create a few options for each stage.
Srish Agrawal of A1 Future Technologies warns that “if you have just one ad in place, more people will see that same ad more often, which will result in lower click rates and conversions and higher CPM costs. By running a wide range of ad copy and campaigns, you should be able to better manage your Facebook Ad frequency.”
Yvonne Hall of HIVE Digital Strategy agrees and adds that “by monitoring your Facebook ad campaigns frequently, you will begin to see which ad variations are working and which ads people are seeing too frequently. Then, you can adjust and create similar or new ads in order to stay fresh while reaching your target market.”
“Creating a campaign and just sticking with your original ads throughout the campaign will likely result in the same people seeing your ads too frequently and not engaging with them. People will start to tune your ads out if you don’t keep them fresh,” Hall says.
Related: Facebook A/B Testing Tips: 12 Tips for Improving Your Tests
Take Control Over Facebook Advertising with Databox
Even if you manage to find that sweet spot with frequency, that’s still just one element in the Facebook Advertising (big) picture.
And this picture is not only big, but it can also be quite complex if you’re looking at it only through Facebook Ads Manager’s goggles… quite similar to looking at a Picasso painting.
Databox can help you out here.
Instead of manually going through each metric in the Facebook Ads Manager report and losing valuable hours each month, you can connect your account to Databox and simplify the entire process.
Once you connect your account, you can simply drag and drop your most important Facebook Ads metrics onto a single dashboard. Then, you can turn those dry numbers into neat visualizations, in just a few clicks.
Monitoring your campaign’s performance doesn’t get much easier than this. Whether you’re looking for campaign leaks or boosting your top performers, you’ll be able to spot them instantly.
Furthermore, Databox can cut your monthly reporting hours. Stop wasting time frankensteining your data together and spending days crafting the perfect report.
Our reports have easy-to-understand metrics that are backed up by visuals and since data is updated in real-time, you only need to create and set up your dashboard just once.
Lastly, we have Benchmark Groups that tell you how your company’s performance stacks up to your competitors in the same niche and use that data to set new targets and optimize your strategies.
To us, this is the Holy Grail needed for continuous performance improvement.
And the best thing is… it’s just a free trial away.