What is the learning phase?

Ask different people and you will probably get different answers.

Not understanding it leads to some of the most common mistakes I’ve seen Facebook advertisers make.

This is fundamental to a successful Facebook ads strategy.

In this article we will cover what it is and isn’t. Why it is important, and how to get out of it.

Let’s jump into it.

The learning phase is when your Facebook ads learn who and where best to serve your ads to

The Who is based on your audience targeting, creative, and copy.

The Where is based on your placements.

Your ads will always go through an initial learning phase whenever you launch them.

There’s no way to avoid this.

At this stage your ads data such as Cost Per Clicks and Click-through Rates etc are unstable. Hence unreliable to base your decisions on.

Such decisions are important as it points to your next steps – whether to stop, maintain, or scale the ad.

Getting out of this phase is key to better performance such as increased conversions and lowered costs.

Your ad set requires at least 50 optimisation events a week to exit the learning phase

First things first: Each ad set (not campaign) needs at least 50 optimisation events in a 7-day window (not in a 1 month window).

Next, optimisation events are based on your campaign and ad delivery optimisation.

Here’s what I mean:

If your campaign objective is Traffic optimising for Link Clicks

  • Your ad set will need at least 50 clicks in a week.

If your campaign objective is Conversion optimising for Purchases

  • Your ad set will need at least 50 purchases in a week.

This is the only way to get out of the learning phase.

Don’t believe if anyone tells you otherwise.

The bad news is that you have no direct control over when the ads exit the learning phase as an advertiser.

The good news is that there are certain actions you can take to make it happen.

Exiting the learning phase – Choose the proper campaign objective

Choosing the right campaign objective is key.

You want to select the campaign objective that you can get at least 50 optimisation events in a week.

If you sell a high cost item, it will most likely take you longer to get 50 purchases compared to a low cost item.

The reason is because customers tend to take a longer time before they buy something expensive, compared to something cheap(er).

If you do not see yourself getting at least 50 purchases a week, it is better to optimise for the step before that in the customer buying journey.

For instance if you own an E-commerce store, the step before purchases could be “Initiate checkout” or even “Add to Cart”.

Exiting the learning phase – Have enough budget

You need to give Facebook enough budget so that it can collect enough data and optimise.

Set a budget too low and your ads will not get out of the learning phase. Set a budget too high and Facebook does not have an accurate indicator to optimise your campaign.

To determine the smallest budget you need per ad set, you need to determine the average cost per optimisation event multiplied by 50.

Let me explain:

If your optimisation event is for purchases, and your average cost per purchase is $50.

You need to give Facebook at least $2,500 per week (50 purchases * $50 cost per purchase).

The more budget your ad sets have the faster it can exit the learning phase (assuming that you are getting purchases, and will get more with the budget increase).

Frequent changes resets the learning phase

When you edit your ads, Facebook categorises the changes in two buckets.

The first are non-significant edits, and do not affect the learning phase. You do not have to worry about them.

The second are significant edits, and do affect the learning phase. You need to pay attention to them.

“Significant edits” are defined by Facebook as:

  • Huge change in the budgets (regardless of increasing or decreasing them). A good rule of thumb is that a 10% – 20% change is safe.
  • Change to bid strategy (for example, from Lowest Cost to Cost Cap)
  • Change to campaign optimisation event (for example, from Link Clicks to Landing Page Views)
  • Change to audience targeting
  • Change to placement
  • Change to ad creatives
  • Pausing for over 7 days

Avoid making these changes during the learning phase so that it can properly optimise.

To sum it up, understanding the learning phase is key to a successful Facebook ads strategy with increased conversions and lowered costs.

It takes 50 optimisation events in a 7-day period for your ad set to exit the learning phase.

You can set up your campaigns for success by:

  • Choosing the right campaign objective and optimisation events, and
  • Having enough budget that allows you to get the 50 optimisations you need, and
  • Avoid making changes during the learning phase

Over to you:

Are your ad sets built to exit the learning phase?