Something we always get questions about is why Facebook ads get rejected.
You’ve worked really hard to get your Facebook ad just right. Your image is carefully curated, your copy is finely tuned, and your targeting is carefully calibrated. You submit it for review, and you end up receiving a notification that says that your ad has not been approved.
You know Facebook rejects ads that violate its policies. “But what are those policies?” you wonder.
It’s not always easy to figure it out.
While your ads are “pending review,” anything can happen. Sometimes good ads are rejected or bad ads are approved. And Facebook reserves the right to reject or approve an ad for any reason.
We’ve gone over the rules time and again, and we’re here to share the most recent updates on Facebook’s policies and demystify once and for all why ads do and don’t get approved.
Let’s try to shed some light on Facebook’s Ad rules and its review process to limit the chances of your ads being rejected and maybe even speed up the “pending review” period.
How Does Ad Review Work and How Long Does It Take?
“My ads have been in pending review forever!”
“How long does it takes for my Facebook Ads to be approved?”
“Can you help me speed up the review time of my ads?”
These are some of the most common complaints and questions our support team receives. Facebook’s ad review time can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 days. Once your ad is created, it ends up in a review queue where a team of highly trained Facebook employees will review it and then either approve or reject it.
Analyzing AdEspresso’s data on ad approval time, we see that you can usually expect a faster review if you publish your ads on business days from 8am – 8pm PST (Pacific Standard Time) with mornings tending to work even better.
Finally, remember that since the review process is human based, it’s also subjective. The same ad might be approved by someone and not approved by someone else. There’s not much you can do about it.
Takeaway: If you think your ad is fine, you can try to republish it. But too many rejected ads might raise red flags on your Facebook advertising account. If you want to try the same ad again, you can contact Facebook and ask for a review of your rejection here.
That’s it? Hundreds of thousands of servers and everything is manual?
There’s no way to know exactly how the review process works but we can make some educated guesses.
It’s extremely unlikely, with the huge number of ads that gets published every day, that the entire Facebook Ad review process is fully manual.
It’s likely a mix of algorithmic and manual analysis. Here are some factors that may greatly influence your approval time:
- Facebook Ad Account History: Every account probably has a “trust score.” The longer you’ve been advertising, the fewer ads you’ve had rejected, and the more you’ve spent, the faster you’ll get your ads approved.
- Keyword Analysis: Some keywords in the ad’s text will likely trigger more control. References to religion, ethnicity, profanities, and everything that might break any of the rules detailed below can slow down the review time.
- Domain Analysis: What are your ads linking to? If a domain has been advertised hundreds of times before, with no problems, the pending review period could be shorter. A new domain, never advertised before, could require more review.
- Image Analysis: While algorithmically checking images is still a tough task, Facebook is already very good at detecting our friends’ faces and so it might also recognize other patterns like copyrighted logos, nudity, and so on.
Takeaway: Again these are all speculations, but I think they’re pretty likely. Analyzing some random accounts on AdEspresso, we often saw that the review time decreased the longer you’ve been advertising on Facebook.
If you’ve been at this for a while, you may see some ads immediately approved and later disapproved. This suggests that ads might be automatically approved if none of the above checks are triggered and only later sent to a human for review. Check it out in Facebook Ad History:
Let’s check the rules: What Does Facebook Prohibit?
Facebook has a detailed list of “prohibited content,” all the illegal and otherwise questionable things that you couldn’t get through more traditional advertising channels in print, on the radio, or on TV. There might be specific limitations in some countries based on local laws.
Any kind of ‘adult’ product is not permitted on Facebook with the exception of family planning and contraception products and the latter still requires appropriate targeting.
Dating Ads on Facebook are a mixed bag. In no way can you promote adult dating sites that focus mainly on sex. Other dating sites can be promoted but still require prior authorization from Facebook. This means that, for affiliate marketers, it’s pretty tough to quickly promote these kinds of websites.
Gambling and Lottery promotion is usually allowed in countries where it’s legal but generally requires prior consent from Facebook and appropriate targeting (e.g.: you cannot promote online casinos to underage users). There’s a specific section of the Help Center to further clarify these rules.
Alcohol advertising is permitted in countries where it’s legal with appropriate targeting (more details here). On the other hand, tobacco, drugs, weapons, and pharmaceutical products cannot be promoted on Facebook with the exception of dietary and herbal supplements and certified pharmacies.
Tl;dr? Ok, here’s a quick list:
- Ads featuring or promoting tobacco, drugs and drug-related products (that includes pharmaceuticals)
- Sketchy and unsafe diet supplements (what counts as sketchy is up to Facebook and their discretion)
- Weapons, ammunition, and explosives
- Sensational, excessively violent content
- Ads that promise counterfeit or fake documents, such as degrees, passports, or immigration papers
- Malware and spyware, surveillance equipment (spy cams and cell phone trackers, for example)
- Unlikely or exaggerated “before-and-after” images to promote weight loss (ads for health and weight loss products must be targeted people over 18 years old)
- Any and all “adult” content
Facebook also singles out several different kinds of business practices in the “prohibited” category:
- Multilevel marketing businesses
- Payday or advance cash loan services
- Bidding fee or “penny” auctions
Think of this category as prohibiting any type of business practice that John Oliver would dedicate a show to.
Takeaway: There are certain kinds of content that will always be rejected or banned, such as violence or profanity. No matter what you do, they’re a surefire way to waste your time and have your ad be thrown out.
It’s Not Just What You Advertise, But How
Now that you know what can and cannot be advertised on Facebook, you should also be aware that there are rules on how you can advertise your products.
The first thing that you have to keep in mind is that Facebook cares most about the user experience. Facebook ads should fit nicely into every user’s newsfeed. They should try, of course, to attract the user’s attention in a positive way.
Another big thing that really scares users is thinking that their personal information has been exposed. This is not the case, of course, because Facebook Ad targeting is always anonymous. You can target people by ethnicity, age, etc. but you never have access to their personal information.
Since most Facebook users don’t know exactly how Facebook Advertising works, they can get easily concerned about privacy. Some examples:
|“Meet Black People”||“Are you Black?” or “Meet other black people”|
|“Meet Christian singles”||“Meet Christian singles like you”|
|“Services to clean up previous offences”||“Are you a Convicted Felon?”|
|“Get a customized T- Shirt with your name on it”||“Massimo, check out this T-Shirt with your name on it”|
|“Check out our financial services”||“Are you Broke? Bankrupt? Check this out”|
Takeaway: You don’t want to freak people out by suggesting you know too much about them (even when you don’t)! All the examples in the right column would be relegated to pending review status forever — and then being rejected. Focus on the produce and service you’re offering instead.
Updates to Facebook’s Discrimination Policy
Facebook has also begun to ban discrimination outright, both in content and in targeting. Their policy on “personal attributes” expands a little more on what constitutes discrimination. In your ad, you cannot make any direct or indirect assertions about a person’s:
- Race and/or ethnic origin
- Religion or beliefs
- Sexual orientation or practices, and gender identity
- Disability and/or medical condition (including physical or mental health)
- Financial status
- Membership in a trade union
- Criminal record
You also can’t ask people for this kind of information (as well as other personal data like Social Security and account numbers) in Lead Ads questions, without prior permission from Facebook.
Takeaway: What that all breaks down to is you can certainly promote and advertise your product to a targeted set of customers (that is what targeting is set up to do, after all). You cannot refer directly to the personal attributes of that targeted set of people. If that sounds subjective, Facebook has added very clear cut instruction: don’t use the word “other.”
Something that comes up a lot in Facebook’s advertising restrictions and guidelines are the Community Standards. These are Facebook’s policies about ensuring safety, security, and protecting intellectual property and personal information, for all users.
It’s worth going over Facebook’s Community Standards (and Instagram’s too, which are different) to get a sense of how Facebook is holding its users accountable.
The Grey Area — Restricted Content
If you know you’re advertising something that Facebook might take a second look at, the best way to avoid a long and frustrating review process is to shoot for neutrality. Besides everything we’ve talked about with prohibited content, Facebook has rules about restricted content.
For example, Facebook does allow ads that feature alcohol, but there are lots of restrictions on how you can feature it.
The trick is neutrality. Positively linking alcohol to social success, or portraying alcohol as healthy in any way is not allowed. On the flip side, associating alcohol with violent behavior, or misleading people about the effects of alcohol, will also get your ad rejected.
You don’t want an ad that says “Drink to get Drunk.” You definitely want to steer clear of appealing to an underage, or even just a young crowd. Instead, highlight a discount, wide selection of choices, or something else non-inflammatory.
Takeaway: You’re going to want to play it as straight as possible:
Watch Out With Your Targeting
On that note, even the most straightforward ad featuring alcohol would still get rejected if it was targeted to the wrong people.
Ads that feature alcohol are also subject to all applicable laws and regulations, which do vary in different countries. But even if you’re advertising in a country where the drinking at is 18 or 19, like Canada, targeting to 21+ may speed your review process up.
Ads that fall adjacent to the “adult” content category have similar restrictions. Facebook does allow ads for family planning and contraception, but you have to target them to users over 18. Dating sites are okay if they are pre-approved by Facebook and don’t focus mainly on sex.
Gambling and Lottery promotion is usually allowed in countries where it’s legal but generally requires prior consent from Facebook and appropriate targeting (again, you cannot promote online casinos to underage users). There’s a specific section of the Help Center to further clarify these rules.
Takeaway: Pay attention to age in your targeting so you don’t accidentally include underage groups, and always make sure that you’re aiming your content at an audience Facebook won’t flag as inappropriate.
Steer Clear of Big Promises (and Fraud)
One core principle that Facebook takes very seriously is that they don’t want you to defraud its users. They want all ads to be as clear and transparent as possible.
For example, Facebook not only checks the ads but also the landing pages they’ll send traffic to. The two must be consistent. If you promote a 54% discount, the same offer must be clearly visible in your landing page. Your Terms of Services and Privacy policies should always be present in your landing pages and you cannot promote software that installs spyware or could cause damage to the users’ computers.
Images should also not mimic site features. For example, if you’re linking to an external website, you cannot insert on top of your image a “Play” icon to trick the user into thinking that he’s clicking on a video.
Finally, images should also be consistent with the product sold. You cannot offer a Fiat 500 using an image representing a Ferrari, and you should not make unreasonable claims like “Subscribe to my online course and you’ll become a millionaire in a few weeks.” Claims such as “We’ll Make Your Debt Disappear,” in the ad below are also a no-no:
This ad would certainly get rejected.
Takeaway: With this rule, there can a lot of unintended consequences. We hear a lot from you about ads getting into the “false claims” category a little too hastily. Maybe you have a customer testimonial that illustrates how effective your product truly is? That’s fine, as long as your testimonial doesn’t claim vitamins can cure cancer.
Even still, to speed up the review process, you may try adding a disclaimer to your ad and your landing page that not everyone may get the same results. If you’re using customer testimony, don’t choose a quote that is so over the top it seems like it could be false — even if your product really is that good.
Check Your Spelling, Grammar, and Design
Sometimes you really just need a copyedit. Poor grammar actually falls under the “prohibited content” category, so make sure you have correct grammar and punctuation in the text of your ad, and leave out any weird symbols and “creative” workarounds for profanity (replacing vowels with asterisks and ampersands).
Facebook used to have a 20% text rule for all its ads. If 20% of an ad image’s area was text, that ad would be tipped into the reject pile. Facebook has done away with the hard and fast 20% rule, but it’s still a good idea to keep your text minimal.
With a few exceptions, ads with higher amounts of text will receive less or no delivery at all:
Not to mention, they look pretty cluttered. Move these to your reject pile.
Get Your Ad Out There
The Facebook guidelines may seem overwhelming at first, but once you understand the kinds of things that get automatically rejected, you’ll see where your own trouble spots are.
If you’re working with a designer, either freelance or in-house, make sure they know these rules too!
Even if you haven’t received a rejection, and you just really want to make sure things go through without a hitch, try running multiple versions of the same ad.
Split testing using AdEspresso, you can track multiple versions of the same ad and compare minor differences. For our financial services example, we made eight version of the ad, using two different headlines, ad texts, and images each.
Some versions would likely get rejected. “We’ll Make Your Debt Disappear” is a pretty lofty claim, and would probably be flagged for fraud concerns.
A more neutral version that focuses on the product, doesn’t single out users too directly, and keeps claims neutral is a much better bet:
Takeaway: Split testing on AdEspresso is always a great idea, but it can be a lifesaver to have a backup if one of your ads is rejected or takes too long to get approved. As a bonus, if multiple versions of your ad get approved, you’ll learn something valuable about how they each perform and you’ll be able to drill down on a winning campaign much faster.
… And If it Comes Back? Here Are Some Final Quick Fixes
- If your ad is rejected, and you sense that it’s due to something small, try running your text through a copyediting service like Grammarly. Something as minute as an extra exclamation point may be your problem. Remember — Facebook can be temperamental, and it’s always better to double check!
- Use Facebook’s own tool to determine how much text is actually in your image, if you see your ad isn’t getting the delivery you’d like.
- If your line of work, say the eCigarette business, means anything you try will be rejected, try boosted posts. Facebook bans all ads that have anything to do with eCigarettes, but they do allow you to post stories and articles, as long as it’s not too “sales.” Share a compelling story that will lead the user to a landing page, but make sure that landing page doesn’t advertise vape product or sales directly. It just directs them to where they can find out more.
Sometimes a rejected ad is just a rejected ad (though you can always appeal). If you keep these tips in mind, you’ll know which trouble spots are likely to come up, and how you can avoid them.
And Now Get Out There and Master Facebook Ads!
The best way to learn is by doing, so go ahead — start your own campaign! You have all the information you need to build a butt-kicking set of ads that will boost your revenue, generate leads, and drum up buzz for your brand.
And if you still have problems or questions, please let me know in the comments!