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Facebook Ads Learning Phase: What You Need To Know [2024 Update]

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Let’s talk about Facebook Ads learning phase! Over the years we heard a lot of advertisers say the learning phase negatively affects the cost-per-action (CPA) and overall ad performance. But hey, we don’t blame them or you for thinking so. Facebook actually tells you the same thing. 

“During the learning phase, the delivery system is exploring the best way to deliver your ad set – so performance is less stable and cost-per-action (CPA) is usually worse.”

But is that really the case?

Let’s go through the data and discuss everything you need to know…

What is the Facebook Ads learning phase?

Facebook ads learning phase is the period that starts when you launch a new ad set or make a significant edit to an existing one. 

During the learning phase, Facebook is essentially learning what is the best way of optimizing your ads based on your optimization goals, creative, audience, etc. So, as you start getting more and more conversions, Facebook is becoming better at knowing when and where someone is most likely to convert.

The question, though, is whether your CPA is becoming better (decreasing) as well?

How long does the Facebook Ads learning phase last?

Facebook usually needs around 30-50 conversion actions within 7 days to exit the learning phase.

So, if you’re optimizing for landing page views you’ll need 30-50 landing pages views. While, if you’re optimizing for purchases, you’ll need to generate 30-50 purchases to exit the learning phase. 

After those 7 days, your ad sets can either go from “learning” to “active” or “learning limited”. Later in the article, we’ll explain what “learning limited” means and whether you should be concerned about it. 

Since we mentioned optimization, we always recommend optimizing for conversions, as you want to find people who will purchase from you. Additionally, we’ve found that optimizing for conversions not only decreases your CPA but also significantly increases the conversion rate (CR).

When does the Facebook Ads learning phase restart?

According to Facebook, the learning phase restarts as soon as you make any changes to the following: 

CAMPAIGN

  • Budget (increasing it by more than 20%)
  • Bid amount
  • Bid strategy

AD SETS

  • Targeting
  • Placements
  • Optimization event 
  • Adding a new ad 
  • Bid strategy
  • Bid amount
  • Budget (increasing it more than 20%)
  • Pausing your ad set for over 7 days or longer

ADS

  • Any change to the ad creative (visual, ad copy, headline, description, call to action, landing page url)

What is Learning Limited?

Here’s what Facebook has to say about the “Learning Limited” situation:

So basically, if you don’t hit those 30-50 conversions within 7 days, your ad sets will go from “learning” to “learning limited”. 

Facebook recommends you take a couple of steps to go from learning limited to active, but we found that following any of those will decrease your performance even more.

For example, one of their tips includes changing your optimization event to an action that occurs more frequently. So basically, switching between the “purchase” and “add-to-cart” event. 

But why shouldn’t you do so? 

While you might get those 30-50 conversions much more quickly when optimizing for add-to-carts, the quality of this audience is not going to be as good as when you optimize for purchases.

Why?

By optimizing for add-to-carts, you’re telling Facebook to find people who are most likely to add an item to the cart, but not necessarily purchase from you – which is what you ultimately want. 

The bottom line is that the “Learning Limited” phase doesn’t change the way your ads are being optimized. If you want to target an audience that will convert, don’t blindly follow Facebook’s recommendations and always optimize for purchases.

Doing anything other than that will only decrease performance even more than if you were in learning limited. 

Lebesgue Recommendation for Learning Phase Exit

So, what we recommend for a faster exit from the learning phase is to simplify your ad account structure, have a realistic ad budget, and increase your audience size. Let’s see how you can do that.

Simplify your ad account structure

The golden rule for both Facebook and Google advertising is to avoid having an overly complicated ad account. Having 10 ad sets with tons of ads in it will neither help you nor Facebook.

Your account is going to be overloaded with data you can’t draw conclusions from, while Facebook will not truly know what to optimize for.

Additionally, exiting the learning phase will not be that easy and quick.

For example, if you have 10 completely different ads in one ad set, Facebook will need to test out all the 10 options to see which one will perform the best on your target audience.

So you’ll basically need 500 conversions (10 ad sets x 50 conversions) to know what is the best-performing ad set.

So yeah, having a simplified account structure is quite beneficial. What we found works best for the ad setup is having 3 to max 5 ad sets with 1 ad per ad set. In case you’d like to learn more about the best practices we recommend when setting up your account, check out this post.

Have a realistic ad budget

As we mentioned before, to exit the learning phase, you’ll need to generate 30-50 conversions within 7 days. Therefore, you’ll need to have a realistic daily ad budget. And when we say realistic, we mean, not too small.

Here’s why:

Say your daily budget is $15. To generate those 50 conversions and exit the learning phase, your CPA should be around $2.1. You might even hit those 50 conversions with that budget when optimizing for landing page views, but since we always want to optimize for purchases, you might need to increase your budget.

The point is you don’t want to start with just $10 or $20 a day. See how much money you can actually spend to acquire a new customer and multiply that by 50-60 conversions to get an idea of what should be your daily budget. 

Increase your audience size

Lastly, keep an eye on your audience size. When targeting a smaller audience, your frequency will go up much faster, resulting in ad fatigue. So, as a result of that, your chances of exiting the learning phase within those 7 days will not be that high. 

Most of our customers nowadays use broad targeting anyway, as it happens to give the best results. So if you’re still focusing on interest targeting or lookalikes, we’d definitely recommend expanding your audience and going as broad as possible. 

How to exit Learning Phase Faster

According to Facebook, you can exit the learning phase faster if you have the right ad structure, optimized budgets, and bids. Let’s see what they meant by right ad structure.

Learning phase structure of the ads

Regarding ad structure, we agree with Facebook. What they meant here is to broaden your targeting, use advantage+ placements, and choose the right optimization goal.

For Broad targeting, Facebook says that ads set with an audience size of at least 2 million often see better performance. However, the audience size may vary if your business has geographic limitations.

Next, Advantage+ placements (used to be Automatic placements). So, if you use Advantage+ placements Meta can serve your ads where they are most likely to perform.

The last optimization goal. So, here you need to know what is the campaign goal. For eCommerce businesses running Facebook ads the goal always needs to be purchases. So, for eCommerce sites and owners that want to drive sales, consider running a sales campaign optimized for purchases.

Budgets and bids for faster learning phase exit

So, if you optimize your budgets and bids you can exit the learning phase faster. What Facebook is saying here is to ensure that your budget is sufficient, try advantage campaign budget, and use the higher volume bid strategy. 

Ensure that your budget is sufficient and is similar to our advice. If your budget is too low, you may not be getting enough results for Meta’s system to learn who to show your ads to.

Next, they are recommending using the Advantage campaign budget.  For this one, we are not agreeing with Facebook, because the results are better if you have ABO optimization, not CBO.

More Tips for Exiting Facebook Learning Phase

Now, let’s talk about some helpful tips for dealing with the learning phase of Facebook ads. If you’ve already covered the steps we discussed earlier, you can consider the following:

  • Improve your ad creative
  • Wait before editing your campaigns
  • Ensure that you’re getting enough optimization events.

If everything in your campaign is set up properly, consider using new ad creative to see it your audience responds to it better. 

Also, it’s a good idea to wait for about a week after making changes to your campaign to check if you can leave the learning phase. Whenever you make changes, the learning process starts over, and the system has to learn everything again. So, it’s important not to make changes too often.

Lastly, Facebook suggests considering an optimization event that happens more often. But, if you have an eCommerce business, it’s usually best to stick with your goal of getting more people to purchase. 

Results During Facebook Ads Learning Phase vs. After

Now let’s look at the actual data to see if the CPA and overall results really improved once ad sets exited the learning phase.

Note: The table below includes aggregated data from multiple ad accounts and ad sets.

learning phase metrics

*CAC= customer acquisition cost (same as CPA)

Surprisingly, as we can see from the results, ad sets that were still in the learning phase had a 10% lower CAC

Similarly, looking at the example below (smaller sample size) we can see that the CAC was again much lower on ad sets that were still in the learning phase. 

learning phase performance

This just proves that, once you exit the learning phase, the CPA doesn’t magically become better – which is the exact opposite of what Facebook tells us. 

However, what you always want to measure is whether the conversion rate increase will be higher than the expected cost per click increase. More often than not, we see quite the opposite. Ads perform better during the learning phase due to a lower CPC and Facebook entering less competitive auctions.

Audience Saturation And The Learning Phase

The audience saturation graph is part of the Facebook Ad Inspect Tool that helps you understand the relationship between your ad frequency and CPA. 

Looking at the graph below, you can see that as ad sets exit the learning phase, the audience saturation starts to increase. This especially happens if you’re targeting a lookalike or interest-based audience that is generally small. 

What happens is that your frequency starts to increase faster than usual, resulting in ad fatigue and audience saturation. So in conclusion really, exiting the learning phase isn’t a necessity since sooner or later you’re going to need to expand your audience.

Note: the yellow area of the graph represents the learning phase.

Summing Up

Have you been seeing the same results across your campaigns? Have any questions or thoughts on this topic? Let us know in the comments below or drop us a line at [email protected]. We are always happy to help or discuss the best way of optimizing your ads.

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