Silent but deadly: the Frequency of your Facebook Ads

What is the most important metric that you monitor when managing your Facebook Ad campaigns?

I bet it’s Cost per Conversion (CPA) or Cost per Click. I don’t blame you; those are the metrics I check first every day and the ones I care most about.

But here’s the problem. CPA and CPC only tell you HOW your campaign is doing but nothing about WHY it’s doing well (or poorly).

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

Of course, you can abort all ads that cost a lot. That works but sooner or later you’ll have to abort all your ads and start from scratch with no clue what happened 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 the one I’ll focus on in this post.

What’s the Frequency of an ad and why does it matter?

First of all, let’s define the key terms:

Impressions: The number of times your ads were displayed.

Reach: The number of unique users your ads reached.

And this leads us to Frequency and Facebook’s own definition of it:

Frequency: The average number of times your ad was served to each person.

Let’s do the math: The frequency is nothing else than 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, this is not an exact metric and that’s why Facebook speaks about “average number”. For example, there’s no guarantee that everyone reached by your ads has seen them exactly 2 times. One user could have see 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? For two reasons, one is very scientific, the other strictly practical:

1) Banner Blindness

I recently wrote about Banner Blindness talking about the 6 worst errors I’ve made with Facebook Advertising and, in my opinion, it’s one of the key concepts you need to understand when advertising. Not just on Facebook, everywhere.

The average Internet user is exposed to 1,707 banners each month according to Comscore. That’s a lot of advertising… and after a while the brain develops a sort of self defense mechanism: it completely filters out banners from the content it’s viewing.

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 Piss Users Off

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 pissed off 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!

So 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 hundreds of users around the world manage more than $1.5M every month in Facebook Advertising through AdEspresso, we’re in the perfect position to do it!

We analyzed a sample of 500 campaigns created in the last few months to look for a correlation between the campaign’s performance and the frequency. The results are stunning.

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%

As you can see, the more the frequency increased, the more the CTR decreased and the average Cost Per Click increased. The 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. Personally, I start making changes to my 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. I’d say you should try never to go above 10 in any case.

Ok, How do I fight 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.

Find the right balance between your budget and your campaign’s audience size

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.

React quickly

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 timely when you need to take actions!

Exclude people that have already converted as a result of your targeting

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 piss off a user, you’ll piss off a customer! Using Custom Audiences excludes existing customers from your targeting (unless you want to upsell something new!).


Performance problem? Don’t stop at the CPC or CPA. Always remember to carefully check your Facebook Ad frequency. It could very well be the reason why your campaigns are starting to underperform as our data clearly shows.

But of course, frequency is not solely responsible for all the performance issues you might be having. We’ll soon publish a new post detailing other important metrics you should monitor and analyze. Sign up for our newsletter to be immediately be notified when the next post comes out!

And please, use the comments below to let me know your experience with frequency, how you dealt with it, and what you’d like me to cover in the next post!