Facebook ads optimization hacks are a topic cherished by marketing blogs – they look highly practical and actionable.

Campaign optimizations hacks like “A/B test a lot of different ads” or “set up a custom ad delivery schedule” sound awesome in theory, but do they really work in practice?

As someone who has managed hundreds of Facebook ad campaigns, my answer is “no.”

Or rather, “not exactly.”

That’s where this article is coming from, intended as…

  1. A rant about micro-level ad optimization (from a previous advocate of such a practice)
  2. A comforting guide to any marketer thinking that they’re not optimizing their campaigns enough (success lies elsewhere than optimization)
  3. A warning sign to marketers who are overthinking their Facebook campaigns (to the extent that might ruin your campaign’s success)

But first, let’s make one thing clear…

I’m guilty as hell of promoting micro-level Facebook ad optimization.

I’ve written on this topic for a handful of business blogs, including Entrepreneur, Content Marketing Institute, AdEspresso, KlientBoost. The top Google Search results for “facebook ads optimization” are the cherries on top of my Facebook ads optimization articles cake.

facebook ads optimization

I’ve got a lengthy history with Facebook ad hacks

The logical question to follow is… Are all these articles BS?

That’s not true either.

There’s the right place and time for each and every of those Facebook ad hacks.

Thing is, all Facebook ad hacks are not relevant to ALL campaigns.

How over-optimization may damage your Facebook campaigns

To make things a bit clearer, here’s a list of popular Facebook ad optimization hacks that marketing blogs suggest:

  1. Set up a custom ad schedule, e.g. show your ads only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5pm to 10pm.
  2. Optimize your ad placement, e.g. let Facebook show your ads only on desktop or mobile, or remove the Audience Network placement.
  3. A/B test your ad ideas, e.g. first test 10 different ad variations and later use the best-performing one.
  4. Set up many different Custom Audiences, e.g. target people who are on your email lists.
  5. Create Lookalike Audiences who are similar to your existing clients.

There are so many more of those! These three I found from a Social Media Examiner article that’s also a top Google Search result on the topic.

  1. Set up a sales funnel and create a different campaign and messaging for prospects, clients, retargeting audiences, etc.
  2. Monitor your ad frequency and when you see the frequency exceed 1.7, you better be careful!
  3. Select the right bidding option, e.g. optimize for Link Clicks at the beginning of your campaign, then switch to Conversions.

Every time I read about such hacks I’m thinking “OMG I have to try them!”

optimizing facebook ads

Just take my money, I’ve got to try this new hack – Image source

And, well… I have tried them – tens of different optimization hacks.

Do they work?

Yes and no.

Sometimes, no optimization is better than over-optimization

Here’s the caveat – many Facebook ad optimization hacks are relevant only to high-volume campaigns.

In some respects, it would make sense that if you’re running a low-budget Facebook ad campaign, you need to save more money and optimize more.

That’s when over-optimization happens.

If you apply 10 different Facebook ad hacks to a campaign with a $100 – $1000 budget, you’re probably going to damage your campaign’s delivery and results.

Why?

Because you’re limiting your ad delivery to a way-too-small audience or ruling out potentially good ad placements.

Over-optimization

Over-optimization limits your ad campaign’s reach

Also, you’re likely to make frequent changes while optimizing your campaign (more than one change per every 24h) that are impairing the work of Facebook’s auto-optimization algorithms.

Not good.

So what is the silver bullet here?

A year ago, I would never have thought I’d come to saying this, but…

You should test running a campaign without using any optimization hacks.

Just test it for once.

Also, whenever you’re unsure what an optimization hack is meant for, don’t apply it to your campaign.

Just keep it simple gif

Just keep it simple – Image source

And while you’re not getting worked up about small things like which call-to-action buttons to test or which campaign placements to use, you’re going to save a lot of time!

The time you’re going to spare by not puzzling about campaign optimization, can be put into a lot better use.

Here are the two TRULY MAGICAL TRICKS that will make your ad campaign perform better than any micro-level optimization hack:

  1. Figure out your product’s unique selling proposition (USP)
  2. Create 2-3 (not 10) high-quality ad images

Believe me, both of these are easier said than done.

Figuring out your USP is a difficult task in today’s competition-heavy business world. The advertising legend David Ogilvy had some pretty good suggestions on this topic up his sleeve.

Regarding high-quality ad images, you can start by learning what’s working for other brands and gathering inspiration. Also, I suggest that you read this article about top Facebook ad design hacks. For inspiration, check out these Facebook and Instagram ad examples.

! No Facebook ad optimization hack is going to make your campaign succeed if you have boring ad messages and your images fail to catch attention.

Focus on initial campaign setup rather than optimization

The key to successful Facebook campaigns lies in well-done homework.

Before you go to the Facebook Ads Manager to set up your campaign, figure out what your campaign’s goals are.

Do you want to increase brand awareness or boost sales? Who is your most potential target audience? And so on…

Based on your campaign goals, you will know what kind of messaging and campaign objectives to use.

For example, if your goal is to get mobile app installs, you should use Facebook Mobile App Installs campaign objective.

I have explained my recommended Facebook campaign setup process in this article. Just a few key takeaways that you should keep in mind:

  1. Spend at least $100-$200 per every new campaign – for less, Facebook auto-optimization algorithms won’t be able to optimize your ad delivery.
  2. Set up a single ad campaign with a single ad set and 1-3 ads while resisting the urge to fragment your campaigns into scattered low-budget ad sets.
  3. Don’t A/B test too many elements at once – you won’t have enough results to conclude the test. Here’s my guide to Facebook ad A/B testing.
  4. Don’t worry too much about the ad placements, custom delivery schedule, and manual bidding. Use Facebook’s default settings for all these things.
  5. Set up Facebook Pixel to track your campaign’s results and set up Facebook retargeting campaigns. IT’S A MUST-HAVE!

Once you’ve hit the “Publish” button, let your Facebook campaign run for at least 6h before making any conclusions. (In the perfect world, you’d let it run for at least 24h, but you probably can’t make yourself wait that long)

Optimizing you Facebook ads based on results

When it comes to optimizing your Facebook ads after publishing your ad campaign, it’s a whole different story.

Naturally, you should keep your eye on campaign results and if you don’t like what you’re seeing, take action.

In addition to other ad metrics that you consider important, you should definitely measure the COST-PER-RESULT. This is the one KPI that will tell you if you campaign’s doing well or not.

(I am not going to explain in this article how to save a badly performing campaign. But it’s for sure a topic I’d like to cover in the future.)

Ok… But returning to the discussion over Facebook ads optimization, there’s one last question I’d like to answer.

What about third-party Facebook advertising tools?

Today, there’s a software tool for everything, especially in the profitable industry that is Facebook advertising.

These tools are meant to help you with campaign setup and ads optimization.

Facebook ads management tool – Image source

Should you use a third-party Facebook advertising tool such as AdEspresso or Smartly?

The answer is a big “no.”

If you come to think of it…

  • You don’t need a third-party tool for setting up your Facebook ad campaigns – Facebook has been adding new features to the Ads Manager and that it the fastest tool on the market for campaign setup (especially for small campaigns)
  • Third-party tools also offer you suggestions for optimizing your campaigns, e.g. “pause this ad as it has a lower CTR” or “automatically increase the best-performing ad set’s budget.” Facebook’s auto-optimization algorithms do the exact same thing for free and they have thousands of times more training data than any third-party algorithm.

So instead of paying for a third-party Facebook ad management tool and hoping it will improve your campaign results…

Pay this money to copywriters and designers who will help you improve your ads and landing pages. You will get a significantly higher ROI out of the process.

P.S. if you have other arguments that I’m not aware of that justify the use of third-party advertising tools, I’d love to have a discussion.

When to use Facebook ad optimization hacks?

Look I’m not overly grumpy about Facebook ads optimization.

As I said before, there’s the right place and time for different hacks.

Here’s a list of popular Facebook ad hacks together with potential use cases. I hope this will help to clear up the picture.

Set up a custom ad schedule

This hack is relevant to products that people generally use at specific times of day. For example, a pizza delivery service could schedule their ads to show on Friday and Saturday nights, when people are most likely to order a pizza. If your product is used by people on a daily basis, there’s no point in scheduling your ads.

Optimize your ad placement

I would say that there is really no need case for this hack. That’s because Facebook will automatically show your ad on the most effective channels, optimizing for best results. This might be handy when your desktop landing page has a lower conversion rate that your mobile landing page or vice versa. In this case, you could show your ads either only on desktop or only on mobile.

Set up A/B tests

Split testing new ad ideas is definitely something you should do in the long term. However, if your campaign budget is lower that $100, it is best to use a single ad variation, so that Facebook’s algorithms can focus on optimizing the ad delivery, not the visual.

Set up Custom & Lookalike Audiences

Advertising to a Custom Audience is worth the effort when there are at least 100 people in it. Also, do not create Lookalike Audiences from Custom Audiences smaller than 100 people – less is usually not enough data for Facebook to identify the key characteristics of your Custom Audience and make relevant matches.

Monitor your ad frequency

There are other ad metrics more important than ad frequency, e.g. your cost-per-result. Checking your ad frequency is relevant when targeting small audiences (less than 10k people) while having high budgets – you likely don’t want people to see your ads more than 5 times per week.

Select the right bidding option

There are campaigns where optimizing for Link Clicks at the beginning of your campaign, then switch to Conversions is a good option. Switch to Conversion-based optimization once you have at least 50 conversions per ad set. If you’re planning to run a long-term campaign with high budgets and many conversions, you can select “optimize for Conversions” option right from the start.

Conclusion?

To sum this all up, here’s the verdict:

Facebook ad optimization hacks can be of huge help when applied to correct use cases.

We just need to use them responsibly, not piling them up on a single campaign but using them as fairy dust that we sometimes sprinkle on campaigns in need.