Facebook Ads Frequency: 3 Techniques to Fight It in 2018

What do you do when your Facebook ads campaigns don’t perform? Let us guess. You check the Cost per Conversion (CPA) or Cost per Click. And you think you’re done.

What do you do if you still don’t get the results you want? You go back to the dashboard and look again at the… CPC or CPA. Then you think you’re cursed, or someone is boycotting you.

What if we told you that there is a silent but deadly enemy right there, hidden in plain sight in your analytics? It’s your Facebook ads Frequency.

Facebook ads frequency is often overlooked but, as our data clearly shows, it could very well be the reason why your campaigns are starting to underperform.

If you think Facebook’s native frequency algorithm is more than enough to give you peace of mind, we’ll show you that sometimes it’s simply not enough.

And those are exactly the times when Facebook ads frequency is damaging your advertising efforts.

With these 3 strategies in place, you can rest easy knowing that your frequency will never be too high, and your audience will see a refreshing blend of ads in their newsfeed.

Let’s step back to you monitoring the CPA or CPC of your Facebook ads.

We don’t blame you; those are the metrics we check first every day and the ones we care a lot about.


CPC, CPA & Beyond

Here’s the problem:

CPA and CPC only tell you HOW your campaign is doing but nothing about WHY it is doing well (or poorly).

Thus, when it comes to optimizing your campaigns CPA and CPC are not enough.

Of course, you can abolish all ads that cost a lot. That works, but not in the long term.

Sooner or later, in fact, you’ll end up having to pause all your ads and start from scratch, with no clue about what happened to the previous ones and no information to guide you with the new campaign.

To really understand why your ads are not performing as well as you want you’ll need to analyze more metrics.

Just to name a few: the Click-Through rate, the Conversion rate, and the Frequency.

The latter is probably the most ignored of the three. And we’re here to fix it!

While we like to think of the word frequent as being something positive, with Facebook ads that word does not have the same connotation.

As customers ourselves, most of us have experienced the same issue when we’ve visited a website and then been shown the same ad for 90 or even 180 consecutive days. 

Even worse, after you’ve purchased something from the website, you’re still retargeted with an ad to buy that same product.

Annoying, right? In our case, it’s both annoying for the customer and expensive for the business.

In this guide, we’ll not only break down the true meaning of Facebook ads Frequency, but we’ll also show you (with numbers) how its silent but deadly effect is damaging your Facebook ads campaigns.

Not enough? We will also give you 3 exclusive proven strategies you can use in 2018 to combat Facebook ads frequency and decrease Facebook ad fatigue.

Ready? Here we go!

What is Facebook Ads Frequency, Anyway?

Frequency, as defined by Facebook, is the average number of times your ad was served to each person. 

As your campaign spends more money and serves more impressions your frequency will increase – that’s just basic math.

Let’s do the math:

Impressions:# of times your ads were displayed

Reach# of unique users your ads reached

Frequency: # of times your ad was served to each person (average)

Frequency = Impressions/Reach

Here’s an example:

This campaign’s ads were viewed 16,190 times by 12,586 unique users. 16,190/12,586 = 1.29

Of course, Ad Frequency is not an exact metric and that’s why Facebook talks about an “average number”.

For example, there’s no guarantee that everyone reached by your ads has seen them exactly 2 times. One user could have seen your ad 3 times and another just once.

Luckily, you don’t need to be this exact. Once the numbers are large enough, these variations are irrelevant.

Ok, so that’s the theory, but why does this matter at all for your campaigns’ optimization?

Why Facebook Ads Frequency Matters

For two reasons, one is very scientific, the other strictly practical:

1) Banner Blindness

We explained a lot about Banner blindness and how to stop Facebook Ad CTR decline, and we shamelessly showed you that it played a big role in not one but two of the  Six worst errors we’ve made with Facebook Advertising.

Massimo Chieruzzi, an entrepreneur, inbound marketer, geek, blogger, journalist, and Facebook Ads Top expert that also happen to be the creator of AdEspresso (together with Armando Biondi and Carlo Forgheri), states:

In my opinion, Banner blindness is one of the key concepts you need to understand when advertising.

Not just on Facebook, everywhere.

Massimo Chieruzzi

The average Internet user is exposed to 1,707 banners each month according to Comscore. That’s a lot of advertising!

And what’s worse is that after a while the brain develops a sort of self-defense mechanism: it completely filters out banners from the content it’s viewing.

The scientific data is confirmed by Infolinks study (and great infographic), which revealed that only 2.8% of participants thought that ads on websites are relevant.

As soon as the brain starts to understand that there are banners in a specific position of a website or identifies a design as a banner, it filters it out, as if it never saw it. Ouch! That’s clearly bad for our Click-Through rate.

As your frequency goes up, your audience is being more and more exposed to your design and Banner Blindness will kick in reducing the effectiveness of your campaign, lowering your Click-Through rate, and increasing your CPC and CPA.

2) You’ll Just Irritate Users

The second reason you should care about Frequency is less scientific and far more practical.

Think about it. Once you’ve seen an ad 5, 6, 10 times, either you’re interested in it and you’ve clicked on it, or you don’t care about the product advertised and you’ll get really annoyed by seeing the ad every single day in your Facebook timeline.

The result is, of course, a decrease in performance that can quickly transform into a dislike of your brand.

Analyzing many campaigns, we saw that as the frequency went up, angry comments started to appear in the ads with angry users asking that they stop, if not outright insulting the advertiser.

You don’t want to get to this point!

Let’s Analyze Some Data!

If you follow this blog, you know that we like data! The internet is full of dull articles on Social Media topics, mostly written by self-proclaimed Social Media Gurus who often have never created a campaign in their lives.

When we write about something we provide you with valuable insights that are data-driven and, given the fact that thousands of marketers around the world manage almost 300 million dollars of ad spend every month in Facebook Advertising through AdEspresso, we’re in the perfect position to do it!

We analyzed a sample of 500 campaigns to look for a correlation between the campaign’s performance and the frequency.

The results are stunning.

As you can see, the more the frequency increased, the more the CTR decreased and the average Cost Per Click increased.

Frequency CTR Decrease CPC Increase
1  0 0
2 -8.91%  +49.82%
3  -16.92% +62.20%
4 -23.34% +68.02%
5 -29.72% +98.51%
6 -41.19% +127.32%
7 -41.38% +127.26%
8 -48.97% +138.31%
9 -49.87%  +161.15%

Numbers don’t lie, at a frequency of 9 the average cost per click increase by 161% compared to the beginning of the campaign.

Therefore, you need to constantly monitor your campaigns to understand how the frequency is impacting them!

This then begs the question that I get asked every day:

What’s the maximum frequency you should have?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It really depends on your industry and your margins.

At AdEspresso we start making changes to our campaigns when the frequency is near 5.

There are some industries, however, where the margins are very good and it could make sense to reach a higher frequency first.

We’d say you should try never to go above 10 in any case.

How Do You Fight Facebook Ads Frequency?

Given that no matter what you do, as your campaigns keep spending money your frequency will increase, there are a few tactics that will come in handy.

If you have a $10 daily budget, even with a small audience size it’ll take time before the frequency becomes a problem. If you have a budget of thousands of dollars per day you’ll need to target a much bigger audience: hundreds of thousands of people.

When the frequency of your campaign gets above 5, start monitoring it closely. If the performance becomes too low you have two options: refresh the design of your ads, maybe trying a different value proposition to fight banner blindness. Or stop the campaign and target a totally different audience. In a month, you can try targeting the original audience again and the results should be better. If you’re using AdEspresso we’ll inform you any time you need to take actions!

There’s one thing that’s worse than displaying ads to someone who’s not interested: displaying ads to someone after he has already bought your product.
You won’t just upset a user, you’ll piss off a customer! Using Custom Audiences excludes existing customers from your targeting (unless you want to upsell something new!).

Isn’t Facebook’s Frequency Cap Enough?

A little-known fact is that Facebook does have their own built-in frequency cap to help address this issue.

You can find a mention of this in their support documents.

While this built-in cap is a great start, our campaign still can reach a high frequency very quickly, especially with smaller audiences.

Let’s put it in a real-life context.

Let’s say we have 2 rooms – Room A with 10 people and Room B with 1,000. If we randomly select a group of 3 from each room every six hours, we can be sure that we will reach everyone in Room A, with the same names being chosen over and over again. Even though we’re only drawing names every 6 hours, it doesn’t prevent the same person from being selected again and again.

Room B, on the other hand, would be a different story. Sure, we may have some names repeated, but we have a much higher pool of people who would have never been picked before.

This situation is exactly the one we’refacing with our audience size, and our ads being served to that audience. With this in mind,  we know that need to take drastic action.

If you want to ensure you’re keeping your frequency down, then you need to implement these 3 strategies right now.

How To Fight Facebook Ads Frequency in 2018 Strategy #1:
Use Evergreen Retargeting Techniques

A common frequency issue arises with retargeting campaigns –  it’s very common to see advertisers put all their warm audiences into the same campaign with the same ads over and over.

Thankfully, we can use an evergreen retargeting technique to prevent this problem. If you’re not familiar with the term “evergreen”, it means something fresh and new for the audience’s eyes – which is our goal here.

The main benefit of this setup is that the audience will dynamically update and move through a sequence of different campaigns, ensuring they will see new ads over time.

Not only that, but you can even leave this sequence on for months or even years, with some tiny maintenance touches from time to time.

Here’s how to do it in just 2 steps!

Step 1 – Create Your Audience 

The first thing we need to do is to set up our audience into those segments that were just mentioned. There are several ways to do this depending on if you’re working with lead generation or eCommerce goals, but the example I will show you is with people who have visited your website within a specific time frame.

To start, we need to create 3 custom audiences.

Not sure how to create these audiences? You can refer to our guide here.

Step 2 – Create Your Campaigns 

The next step is to set up our 3 campaigns that will house our ads for these audiences.

In each campaign, you will be excluding the other audience segments from the targeting.

Now, our ultimate goal here is to ensure people see different ads but don’t make the mistake of pitching the exact same offer in each campaign.

Try spicing up your sequence with different value-based offers like free shipping, coupons/discounts, or even a free item with a purchase or subscription.

With this setup, we can ensure that as the time that has passed since our users have visited our website increases, they will move into a new campaign and see new ads as a result.

If you want a step-by-step guide on how to create this sequence as well as some real-life case studies, you can check out our webinar below.

(NOTE: AdEspresso customers have access to join all of our  monthly webinars live, and view the recordings on demand through the AdEspresso University – for only $19/month!)

How To Fight Facebook Ads Frequency Strategy #2: 
Automatic Post Promotion to the Rescue

Are you relying on boosting the same old posts instead of swapping them around to keep things fresh? Perhaps you don’t have the time to keep rotating your ads if the frequency gets too high?

This can be solved with a “set it and forget it” Automatic Post Promotion campaign.

With Automatic Post Promotion, we can set a campaign that will boost posts to hyper-specific audiences by utilizing post link, social proof, or even #hashtags.

To get started, log into AdEspresso and from the What Do You Want to Promote section, select Page/Place Post.

On the next step, we can choose from 2 different ways to boost posts  – but what we want for this example is the ‘automatically promote latest posts’ option.

Now, you can determine exactly what criteria you want to use to trigger the post to be promoted to the audience you specify on the next step.

There are several ideas you can use for this, such as:

If you’re looking for a guide to All Things Boosted, check out our latest post which includes detailed setup instructions and 3 boosting strategies that can be applied to any business model.

How To Fight Facebook Ads Frequency Strategy #3:
Use Custom Rules

The last strategy is to fight frequency head-on with optimization rules.

Facebook does us a favor by including the natural frequency cap in the algorithm but we can take it one step farther and stop any ads from going over our favored frequency limit.

To do this, we’ll use the Optimization Rules located in AdEspresso.

The first step is deciding what your ideal frequency is.

We recommend that once an ad has a frequency six or higher, chances are you’re starting to hit ad fatigue and it’s best to take some action. Our rule will be to pause any ad with a frequency of over six.

To start, head over to the Tools tab and choose Optimization Rules at the top of the menu.

Now we can create our rules!

We’re going to limit the frequency of the ad itself, so we can set a rule that says if an ad has a frequency greater than 5, we’ll pause it.

The setup will look like this:

That’s it! Now once our frequency hits 6 or higher, it will be paused.

I’ve set this rule to check every day for ads that meet the frequency criteria, but you can just as easily change that if needed.

Aside from fighting frequency, there are a ton of other ways to use these rules – we can increase the budget of ads that perform well, decrease the budget of those that don’t, and even pause or start other campaigns!

If you’re looking for more advanced rules, you can read our guide to automation rules here.

One Last Piece of Friendly Advice

If you’ve followed us until this point, we’re confident that you will never neglect to monitor your Facebook ads frequency again! Kudos to you!

But, remember, Ad Frequency is not solely responsible for all the performance issues your Facebook ads might be having.

If you want to bulletproof all your next advertising campaigns and learn to track down and isolate any other enemy that might put at stake your advertising efforts, check out the 2018 update of our Simple Guide to Understand Facebook Ads Metrics and download The Evergreen Guide To Facebook Ad Optimization. 

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Have more questions? Do you want to share your experience with Facebook ads Frequency and how do you deal with it? Or just thank us for the golden info in this post? Use the comments below 😉