Apr 22, 2021

How to optimize your Facebook ad campaigns: The ultimate guide

20-MINUTE READ | By Sophie Michaud

FacebookPerformance Marketing Analytics

[ Updated Apr 2, 2024 ]

Facebook is the most popular social network, so if you’re looking to reach the highest number of people for your business, it’s probably a good place to be. A good place to start would be to optimize your Facebook Ads.

Most popular social networks worldwide as of January 2021 - Facebook 2.7 million

Most ad platforms are pretty good at optimizing your campaigns based on user behavior.

So is it still worth optimizing your ads yourself? Absolutely! As long as you’re not blindly changing things and hoping for the best, optimizing your Facebook Ads can work wonders.

Let’s dive in first on building your campaigns, and if you’ve been running Facebook Ads already, feel free to move on.

Skip ahead ?

1. Building your Facebook ad campaigns

2. Key success metrics for Facebook ad campaigns

3. Optimize your Facebook Ads

4. Top tips from experts

5. Facebook Ads reporting

1. Building your Facebook ad campaigns

The first thing you need to decide is your ad campaign objective. This setting dictates the rest of your settings later on as not all settings are available for all objectives.

Facebook Ads campaign objectives - brand awareness

1. Campaign objective

Facebook defines each objective like this:

Brand awareness: Show your ads to people who are most likely to remember them.

Reach: Show your ads to the maximum number of people.

Traffic: Send people to a destination, like a website, app, Facebook event, or Messenger conversation.

Engagement: Get more page likes, event responses, post reacts, comments, or shares.

Conversions: Show your ads to people most likely to take valuable actions, like making a purchase or adding payment info, on your website, app, or in Messenger.

App installs, and video views are pretty self-explanatory.

Note that if you’re choosing conversions, you need to install the Facebook pixel on your website to keep track of user behavior after leaving Facebook.

In our example, we’ll go with the awareness objective.

Next, you should decide which account you want to run ads on.

2. Page and account

Facebook Ads - page and and instagram account selection

Remember that Facebook owns Instagram. So if you have an audience there too, this is the platform to use to run those ads.

You’ll want to split your campaigns by platform even if you want to run the same creative and audience. Otherwise, Facebook will optimize your budget for the platform performing the best as it sees it as just one of several ‘placements’.

3. Schedule

Then you get into the main ad settings. You can choose when Facebook shows your ad in the schedule section. You can probably run your campaigns continuously in most cases, but in B2B ads, you might want to limit your views to ‘working time’ in your target market. Keep in mind Facebook takes into account the user’s local time, so no need to calculate time zones. To make it a bit easier, most Facebook publishing tools also help you find out the best time to schedule your ads for maximum return.

4. Audience

The next setting you need to choose is your audience. This is an extensive one, which we go into at several points later on. Although you want to keep a wide enough audience so Facebook can optimize for user behavior, you should still have a basic idea of who your ideal customer is — this is where to put those demographics.

You can choose location, age, gender, languages, as well as detailed targeting based on interests and behavior, connections, and even create custom audiences.

Pro tip. Exclude people that have converted already, unless you’re aiming for retention or re-purchase.

Now you’ve made it to the creative part.

5. Creative, format, and placement

You’ll have many ad format options, whether for video or still images, but your options don’t end there. Depending on the placement you want, you’ll have to provide some specific sizes.

Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Facebook’s Audience Network all have different requirements. Have a look at all the options before producing any creative content, as you might find yourself without the right format when it’s time to launch your ad.

Pro tip. Use the dynamic creative and dynamic product ads to let Facebook optimize different ad sets for you using a combination of creative settings, like text, headline, image, etc.

6. Optimization and delivery

The last setting left to decide is your optimization and delivery. This helps Facebook decide who to show your ads to, for example, who would most likely click on your ad based on their previous behavior.

7. Budget and estimates

Note that your budget is now on the right-hand side of your settings, just above your estimated reach and frequency.

Facebook Ads - Budget, reach, frequency estimates

And now your ad is good to go!

Let’s dive deeper into how to optimize your ads and what to measure.

2. Key success metrics for Facebook Ad campaigns

Facebook offers advertisers comprehensive analytics capabilities but can also be a source of confusion if you don’t know where to focus.

Our friend Erin Corn from Shorebird Media analyzes her campaigns by objective.

To determine your success metrics, start by identifying your objectives: brand awareness, engagement, website traffic, and conversions.

Facebook Ads - key success metrics table by campaign objective

Depending on what objective you’re trying to reach, she suggests tracking a few key metrics. Let’s look at which ones are the most important.

Brand awareness 

Ad recall: Brand recall has been used for a long time in marketing to evaluate whether your brand, product, ad is memorable. Facebook does this by looking at user behavior and polling. You might have been asked whether you remember a certain ad — like the example below. This information is used in the ad recall metrics. Follow this metric to see if your creatives are resonating with your audience.

Facebook Ads - advertiser poll

Reach: Reach helps you determine how many unique people viewed your ad.  This is important at every stage of your campaign but particularly the awareness stage when you’re trying to maximize the number of people you’re getting in front of with your message.

Frequency: Frequency is the average number of times someone sees your ad.  While it’s important to expose your audience to your message multiple times, there can be a point where each new time your ad is shown starts to lose its impact, especially for smaller audiences like past website visitors. If your frequency is going up and your engagement is going down, maybe it’s time to rotate your creatives.


Video views: Facebook defines a video view as a view of three seconds or more.  Advertisers can break down views by percentage viewed and ‘completes’ to garner more insight into their video performance and audience’s viewing behavior.  Why does this matter? If you’re producing videos that are 30 seconds long and, on average, your audience is only watching the first 10 seconds — you might need to adjust your videos and messaging.

Engagement rate: Engagement is a sign that your audience actually likes your content. Another reason engagement is so valuable is it may give your posts more exposure to your audience.  Facebook favors content with a high engagement rate. Its algorithm will serve content to more people if the algorithm is receiving information that content received positive feedback.

Website traffic

CPC (cost per link click): The amount you’re paying for clicks to your website.  This is important to track to make sure you’re not paying too much to drive traffic to your site. If you’re seeing your CPC rise without seeing a rise in conversions, you may be sending the wrong type of traffic to your site.

CTR (click-through rate): You should track ‘link’ CTR rather than ‘overall’ CTR if your goal is to drive conversions on your website or app.  This is the average number of clicks over impressions and shows your audience’s interest in your ad messaging and creative. If you’re targeting your audience with relevant messaging, your CTR should be higher.

Landing page views: This is the number of people that visit your website after clicking on your ad.  Landing page views helps you determine the volume of traffic on your website and can also be used to calculate conversion rates.

Conversions (purchases, leads, sign-ups)

Cost per action: Cost per action is the amount of advertising spend it takes to drive a specific action. This can be defined as a sign-up, lead, purchase, app install, etc.

Return on ad spend: Just like the name says, it’s the return (revenue) on your ad spend. For example, if your campaign has resulted in a 1 ROAS, you’re making $1 for every $1 you spend and breaking even.  Each business has its own definition of success, but your ROAS should be higher than 1.0 ROAS to be profitable.

Average order value: For ecommerce businesses, this is the average revenue driven by a customer. As your brand scales on Facebook and Instagram, you start looking at metrics beyond ROAS to determine success, including increasing average order value.

Conversion rate: This is the percentage of website visitors that convert (take an action). Conversion rate is a key indicator of the success of your Facebook campaigns as it directly impacts revenue.

3. Optimize your Facebook ad campaigns

If you’re just starting to run your first Facebook Ads, you should probably start with a broad audience and analyze your campaign data. Many tips you’ll find online, and even here are tips that worked for that person, that business, and at that moment. They might not even apply to you. The best thing to do is gather some general tips depending on your industry or product and start testing.

Pro tip. If you want to find out if something specific works well for your audience, try an A/B test. What’s an A/B test, you ask? It’s simply running two identical campaigns while only changing one variable. Keep it simple and small. Keep on reading — we’ll give you the fundamentals in a minute.

When I want to validate an idea, I use a basic testing cycle. This method can be used to optimize your Facebook Ads at any point.

The growth hacking testing loop

1. Analysis

You should probably start your cycle with an analysis. This means you need some data to analyze. Start by installing the Facebook pixel to your website if you haven’t already. This way, you can track your audience’s behavior after they’ve landed on your website. 

If you don’t have any campaigns running, simply start running broad campaigns and let Facebook optimize them for you for a little bit. Gather some data, and analyze how your audience is interacting with your ads.

If you already have an idea you want to test out, you can start in the hypothesis phase. But remember, it’s a cycle! You’ll end up back at analysis once you’ve run your test.

If you already have campaigns running, start by analyzing those. Not sure what to analyze? Use some of the key metrics mentioned above depending on your goal, or simply plug in your account to one of our reporting templates and use the metrics we’ve included for you.

Once you’ve run your first test, you’ll be back here analyzing your data. Remember your testing goal and see if your hypothesis was right.

The best way to keep track of what you’re testing is to document your process. You can even combine your testing cycle process with your test results by pulling your data directly into Google Sheets into one neat report.

Pro tip. If you want to make sure you only track your test campaign and nothing else, set up unique UTM tags. You can then filter your data appropriately.

2. Hypothesis

Once you have an idea of what you would like to find out, form a hypothesis. Determine your main goal and go from there.

Do you think your audience on Facebook would like to see a product video? Or maybe a testimonial? Come up with ideas and keep track of them — you can use them later. Formulate your hypothesis in an action/consequence format: If [we do this action], then [our audience will behave this way].

3. Prioritization

You have a bunch of hypotheses. Congrats! Now pick one. Easier said than done. You can decide by combining scores for how much effort an idea can take, how likely it is to be successful, and the possible results this idea can generate.

Of course, if you have the resources, you can run more than one test at a time. But make sure to separate your campaigns and analyze them independently.

4. Testing

It’s time to run your test! ?

Did you want to validate a specific idea? Remember the A/B tests from earlier? This is the time to set those up.

Facebook will offer you the option to A/B optimize your campaign for you. And this can work, but I don’t suggest it if you want your test to run for the whole amount of time you allocated for it, since Facebook will start running the version that is performing best very soon after it starts —impressions and budget won’t run equally.

You can run two different images but keep the same text, audience, CTA. Or try two different target locations, but keep everything else exactly the same. You can also use one campaign as your ‘control group’ to keep that one unchanging and test your ideas against that base one. A good ‘control’ campaign would be to use a broad Facebook optimized audience and test one idea at a time.

Pro tip. Choose one success metric for your test and identify if your test was successful based on that metric.

No matter what you test, always go back and analyze the results. This is key to optimizing your campaigns.

The thing is, what works in one situation might not work in another. This means you should always test even if you found the perfectly optimized campaign through previous tests.

Is there a perfect timeframe to run a test? It depends on the platform and how big your sample group is. With a normal audience on Facebook, you should have good enough results to decide on how to go forward within a week.

This is also the advantage of testing using Facebook Ads — the audience pool is large, and you can almost guarantee that someone will see your ad since you’re paying for it. These tests are tough to run for organic campaigns.

Now that you have your testing process set up, let’s see what the experts have to say about what works for them when they’ve optimized their Facebook Ads. You can start with some of those tips for your own campaigns or find ideas on what to try in your next test.

4. Top tips from experts for optimizing your Facebook Ads

Ad creative

Erin’s advice is to optimize your creative first. Here are a few tips to get the best out of your ads by focusing on the creative elements you have control over.

Mobile-first: Over 90% of users will access your ad on their mobile device. Focusing on mobile-first creative will enable you to drive more users into your marketing funnels at a more cost-effective rate.

Branding: Make sure your brand is front and center — i.e., logo/color scheme — so your audience is more likely to recall the brand later on.  

Add movement: As more and more advertisers compete for attention on the platform, your video not only has to stand out but has to be relevant. Videos should stay within the 30-second timeframe, and your call to action should be within the first 5 seconds.

Focal point: Have a clear message and focal point when using images. Product-focused creative drives business results more efficiently, with more content views versus creatives without a clear product focus.

Structure your ads by audience type

Our friend Théo Lion at Coudac breaks up his campaigns depending on where the audience is in the engagement/conversion funnel — from acquisition to re-engagement to retargeting and retention.

By splitting your audience up into different groups, you can customize your budget and creative to suit what each group is interested in. And besides, this makes your campaigns much easier to analyze as you have a different goal for each group.

His approach is similar to Savannah’s, who we heard from in our episode of the Marketing Analytics Show on Facebook Ads for ecommerce.

Let’s look at what audience you should include in each group.

Broad acquisition: Use a lookalike audience, interest targeting, and a broad audience.

Test acquisition: Use a lookalike audience and interest targeting, but make sure to have something specific you want to test.

Re-engagement: Use your audience’s interaction with your page, your product, or your previous ads as a base for this audience. Remember that Instagram can be taken into account here.

Retargeting: Use people who visited your website in this audience. Remember to have your Facebook pixel set up beforehand —otherwise, this audience won’t work.

You should use the timeframe relevant to your sales cycle. If your product falls into the impulse category, target using the 30-day audience. If your potential customers need more time to consider, use the 60 or 180-day website visit audience.

Retention: This is especially relevant for B2C as you can target customers that have bought from you already. Use the buyers’ retargeting 180 days for this audience.

“Your ads in each ad set are like toppings on a pizza. You might like goat cheese on a 4-cheese pizza — but it might not be great on its own. Well, it’s the same with your ads. It’s not because one ad or one campaign isn’t converting as well as your best performing one that you should automatically stop it. You need to go beyond ROAS — cause some ads will feed conversions on other ad types, which might convert on retargeting. So think twice before dismissing an ad!”

Facebook’s algorithm and ad setup

Sofie, our Performance Marketing Lead here at Supermetrics, has this to say about optimizing her past clients’ ads as well as our own:

“The setup should be such that the algorithms have a clear target and with a big enough audience and budget to reach the targets.

For direct response campaigns, that means having a conversion tracking setup in Facebook that tracks actually valuable actions on your website (sales, leads, sign-ups, etc.) and setting up the campaign around a conversion target that happens often enough.”

In case you haven’t heard of the Facebook Power5 yet, they’re basically the main optimization techniques Facebook suggests to get the most out of your ads without having to do extensive testing.

It includes dynamic ads, auto-advance matching, account simplification, campaign budget optimization, and automatic placement. Learn more about how to use these techniques from Facebook themselves. Because, after all, they do know the platform the best.

Mari Luukkainen, Head of Growth at Icebreaker, who specializes in startup growth, has this to say about Facebook’s algorithm.

Setup: The bigger, the better — the algorithm works in the most optimized way if the campaigns don’t change often. Make good, broad campaigns and trust the automation.

Metrics: It depends on your goal.

Optimization: Build a broad campaign and let the algorithm do the rest.

Reporting: Report whatever is relevant for your decision-makers. What is the information they need to make good business decisions (sales, conversions).

The fundamentals of the logic haven’t changed during the last five years I’ve been doing Facebook Ads.

Optimizing Facebook Ads for B2B

Sofie also has her fair share of experience in the B2B space and has these suggestions if you’re selling to other businesses:

“In my experience, the more complex the buying process is, the harder it is to get conversion tracking working on a sufficient level.

In B2B, the buying processes are longer with more steps —i.e., leads, offers, projects, or ongoing deals — and the volumes tend to be smaller, which isn’t ideal for this approach. But if you have a solution for these hurdles, it should work for B2B as well.“

Most common Facebook ad mistakes

It turns out, many advertisers are making the same mistakes over and over with their Facebook Ads. Steve Bruce, Facebook Ads expert, shared with us the mistakes he’s encountered, especially for early-stage campaigns:

1. Multiple interests and/or behaviors in one ad set (aka stacked audiences)

2. Using CBO (campaign budget optimization) too early

3. Creating lookalike audiences with low-quality data

4. Spreading too little per ad set and running multiple ad sets (I’ve seen as little as $3/day budgets)

5. Interests narrowing and exclusions

6. Trying to target only high-income people

7. Targeting interests that are too obvious

8. Focusing on cheap link clicks instead of purchases

9. Not testing ads/audiences long enough

10. Hanging on to an audience that stopped working

11. Setting up a funnel that is filled with low-quality data

12. Thinking the cost per purchase that they got on their own is what they’ll continue to see

So most issues come up because of hyper-targeting and attempting to scale too early. By starting broad and trusting the testing cycle we mentioned earlier, these mistakes can be avoided.

5. Facebook Ads reporting

Now that you’ve set up your ads and have some tests in mind, it might be a good idea to set up a report. It’ll make your analysis much easier, and you can spend time actually getting the most out of your ads instead of manually creating a report for yourself every time you want to analyze data.

No matter which tool you’re currently using to visualize and report your ad campaigns, we’ve got a free template for you.

Google Sheets – Facebook Ads monthly reporting template

Google Data Studio – Facebook Ads dashboard template

Excel – Facebook Ads reporting template

Google Sheets

1. Facebook Ads high-level monthly reporting template

Facebook Ads - Google Sheets template

Whether you want to look at specific demographics, detailed figures, or a campaign overview, this template covers it all.

You’ll find:

  • A sheet with all your raw data
  • A high-level month-over-month view
  • A detailed campaign performance view
  • A detailed monthly performance view
  • A summary of your performance by user device
  • A demographic view

Get started with the Facebook Ads monthly reporting template.

Google Data Studio

2. Facebook Ads dashboard template

Facebook Ads dashboard template

Want to see all your Facebook Ads reporting in a cool dashboard? This template has all the metrics you need to analyze your ad campaigns quickly.

On the overview page, you’ll find:

  • Cost, impressions, clicks, conversions/actions
  • Top campaigns and metrics per campaign
  • Country breakdown by conversions

If you want to see a more detailed view, go over to the breakdown page to see breakdowns by:

  • Device
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Campaign objective

Whether you’re using Facebook for lead generation or ecommerce, just plug your data into this dashboard and see your campaign performance at a quick glance.

Get started with the Facebook Ads dashboard template.


3. Facebook Ads reporting template

Facebook Ads reporting template

For those of you using Excel to create your marketing reports, this report template is for you. You’ll find all the metrics you need to analyze your Facebook campaigns. 

The overview shows you:

  • Cost, impressions, CPM (cost per mille)
  • Clicks, CTR (click-through rate), CPC (cost per click)
  • Conversions and actions
  • Clicks by country

You’ll also find a detailed table for your campaign breakdown.

Get started with the Facebook Ads reporting template.

Over to you

Have you tried — or are you planning on trying — any tips shared in this article? Let us know on Twitter by tagging us ? @Supermetrics.

author profile image

Sophie Michaud

About the author:

Sophie Michaud is a Marketing Strategist with a passion for explaining complex things in simple ways. She’s a data-driven, content nerd who hates nonsensical marketing jargon and actively fights fluff content.

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