One year into freelance marketing consulting, I’ve noticed that one of the key areas where the companies need help is auditing and improving online ad accounts. (The others are strategy, tracking and measurement.)
Many of the Facebook ad audits I’ve done happened during a 1h AMA (Ask Me Anything)-style call. This means that we managed to discuss all other marketing-related questions and do a quick audit.
Usually, a Facebook ad account audit can be done fast, almost at a glance – in most cases, in 15-30 minutes.
So… How? How to audit a Facebook advertising account? What to check? How will you know what to improve?
Is your ad strategy 100% correct? – Image source
This article will teach you just that: how to conduct a Facebook ad audit. Bookmark it for later or open up your Facebook Ads Manager right away to follow along and audit your ads in 15-30 minutes.
10 questions for Facebook ad audit:
Here’s a quick overview of the 10 questions that I always ask/check/review when auditing a Facebook advertising account. They’re based on my 5+ years of Facebook ads management experience and what I’ve seen working.
Ad campaign level:
- Are the ad campaigns set up with the correct structure?
- Does the ad account have remarketing and re-engagement campaigns?
Ad set level:
- Are all ad sets optimized on correct goals? Is Facebook Pixel set up?
- Do all ad sets collect enough conversions for algorithms to learn?
- Which target audiences are being used? Are they optimal?
- Does the account use Lookalike audiences and Custom audiences?
- Are there static ads in all correct sizes?
- Do your Facebook ads look overall attractive?
- Do your video ads follow all of the best practices?
- Is your ads’ post-click experience converting?
One of the questions – Do the ads look attractive? – can sound subjective. We’ll take a look at some 👍 v.s. 👎 examples to clarify what works and what doesn’t.
As you read further, I suggest that you open up your Facebook Ads Manager and follow along as we walk through each point. I wrote this guide with specifically small businesses and non-marketers in mind, and will try to share as much guidance as possible – so that even a person who hasn’t opened the Facebook Ads Manager once in their life can navigate through.
Ready to audit? 🕵️ If you don’t know how to access your Facebook Ads Manager, try this link: Open your Facebook Ads Manager.
You should land in a view that shows all your company’s ad campaigns. If you’re added to multiple Facebook ad accounts, you can navigate between them using the dropdown menu.
Find your company’s Facebook ads account
Alternatively, if you don’t find your company’s ad account, you can ask your in-house marketer or agency to give you the access – it is possible that you’re not currently allowed to access the advertising account.
In case you made it, you should now see your company’s Facebook ad account. Let’s begin with the audit!
1. Are the campaigns set up with the correct structure?
The first thing that I always check during a Facebook ad audit is the campaign structure:
- Does the ad account have an optimal number of campaigns?
- Are the campaigns set up using the correct objectives and campaign types?
- Are the campaigns set up to run long-term or are they often paused and replaced with new campaigns?
The main mistake that I usually see is that the companies have too many or too few ad campaigns.
A good amount is one prospecting, one remarketing, and one re-engagement campaign per country (or per region/globally if you work with small budgets).
Also, many companies make the mistake of launching a new ad campaign every time they change their ad creatives or launch a new marketing campaign.
You should rather always keep on the same campaigns and ad sets (just change the ad creatives inside them), so that Facebook algorithms learn based on accumulating conversions.
Accumulate results under one campaign and ad set – Image source
I’m not going to get too much into detail, but I’ve written extensively on Facebook ad structure best practices before, so check out that article if you want to learn more.
Just to quickly illustrate a good example: here’s the general Facebook prospecting campaign structure that I always use with my clients.
Example Facebook prospecting campaign structure
- There is one campaign with two ad sets: one with a broad audience and another with 1% or 5% Lookalike audience.
- Both ad sets have the exact same ad creatives inside them.
- Sometimes, I also add ad sets with special interest-based audiences (if I want to show these audiences different more targeted ad creatives).
Here are the top 3 questions to answer when reviewing your account on ad campaign level:
- Do you have separate ad campaigns for different countries? – YES is correct, you should have separate campaigns for markets with different income levels.
- Have you launched a new ad campaign for every new marketing campaign? – NO is correct, you should reuse old campaigns whenever possible.
- Do your ad campaigns have less than 3 active ad sets per campaign? YES is correct, it is better to have fewer ad sets, especially if you’re working with small budgets.
P.S. Here’s something interesting that I learned over the past 12 months: Most of the recommendations I was given by Facebook’s official account managers (all big advertisers get a special support person from Facebook) to improve my clients’ Facebook ad accounts led to worse results v.s. what we were already doing with my clients. So maybe, even if your agency is telling you that “we do it like this because it is the best practice,” ask them to at least A/B test your other hypotheses too.
2. Does the ad account have remarketing and re-engagement campaigns?
Remarketing campaigns are a must-have for any brand, especially for any B2C company with an online store.
It is such a given that I wouldn’t even think about including it under the 10 points of this auditing guide if I hadn’t seen many ad accounts with no remarketing.
So… Are you running remarketing campaigns to reach past website visitors, landing page & blog viewers, last-minute shopping cart abandoners, repeat purchasers?
If you can’t see any remarketing happening on your Facebook ad account, ask your agency or ad specialist what’s up.
Hold on, where’s the remarketing campaign? – GIF source
Another thing to review is how much are you spending on remarketing and is the budget split optimal?
With the brands that I’m working with, we usually spend ca 20-30% of the total advertising budget on remarketing.
Here’s the full-funnel breakdown:
- Prospecting campaigns: 60-80%
- Remarketing campaigns: 20-30%
- Brand awareness campaigns (optional, I usually mix these with prospecting): 0-10%
- Re-engagement campaigns (optional, I recommend to use these): 0-10%
Your account should have a mix of different campaigns
The re-engagement campaigns target people who were active customers in the past, but haven’t used your product (or purchased from your store) for a while. If you want to reach those users via Facebook ads, make sure that these campaigns are set up as well.
In this phase of your audit, ask these questions:
- Do you have remarketing and re-engagement ad campaigns set up and actively delivering? – The answer, of course, should be YES.
- Are the remarketing ad campaigns reaching all the correct audiences? Are some audiences left out of remarketing? Are you targeting web visitors, shopping cart abandoners, past purchasers, etc.?
- Are your remarketing and re-engagement campaigns spending the optimal part of your total budget? It should be around 20-30% of the total spend.
3. Are the ad sets optimized on the correct goals? Is Facebook Pixel set up?
Assuming that the Facebook ad account that we’re auditing has both prospecting and remarketing campaigns set up, we can move on to the ad set level and continue the investigation.
To navigate to the ad set level, either click on a campaign (blue markup) or tick the box before a campaign and select “Ad Sets for 1 Campaign” in the navigation bar (red markup).
You will end up seeing all the ad sets under that specific ad campaign. To see how each ad set is set up, click on the tiny “Edit” text under its name.
Click on “Edit” to see how each ad set is structured
On the ad set level, you will be able to see who is the target audience + how the ad delivery is optimized.
Right now, we’re interested in making sure that your ad delivery is optimized on conversions (instead of Clicks or Impressions).
Scroll down in the editing popup window until you reach the “Optimization & Delivery” section. Make sure that you see “Conversions” here.
Ad delivery should be optimized on conversions
There are a few cases where ad sets do not need to be optimized on conversions. For example, if your campaign’s goal is to reach the maximum number of people.
However, if your ad campaign’s goal is to drive sales and bring you new customers (which is true for 95% of advertisers), your ad campaigns (and ad sets) should be optimized on those purchase events.
Another quick way to review all your ad sets’ optimization goals is to check what is counted as a result in the Results column.
Check the Results column
Ideally, you should see down-the-funnel events here (such as purchases and registrations).
If your ad sets are not optimized on those events, there are two possible reasons for this:
- It is actually smarter to optimize on top-of-the-funnel goals like clicks or impressions as you only want to raise brand awareness instead of increasing sales.
- You don’t have the Facebook Pixel set up and you’re unable to optimize on Purchase or Registration events because Facebook isn’t tracking them.
Is Facebook Pixel tracking all the important conversions?
To make sure that all your important online events are tracked by Facebook, visit the Facebook Events Manager. You can access it under the 9-dot menu icon at the top left corner of your Ads Manager).
Review your conversion tracking in Events Manager
If your Pixel isn’t set up at all, you will see something like this. 👇 It means that you yet have to set up Facebook Pixel on your website / online product / mobile app (or all of them).
Facebook Pixel is not set up
If your Facebook Pixel is properly set up, you should see a list of all the tracked events and the time when each was last received by Facebook.
Facebook Pixel is correctly set up
I have yet to see a business that wouldn’t benefit from Facebook Pixel setup, This means that you should definitely have your Pixel set up and tracking all the main events. If it’s not doing that, your ad account has a big deficiency.
So, to sum up, here are the 3 questions to ask in this audit stage:
- Are your ad sets optimized on events such as Purchases or Registrations (v.s. link clicks or reach)? You should be answering this one with a YES.
- Is Facebook Pixel set up for your advertising account? It better be!
- Are all your important marketing conversion events being tracked via the Facebook Pixel?
4. Do all ad sets collect enough conversions for algorithms to learn?
Facebook algorithms have a learning phase – a specific amount of clicks and conversions that are needed for the algorithms to understand who’s the best target audience for you.
Usually, new ad campaigns have worse results (higher cost-per-result) during the learning phase. So it is important that your ads pass the learning phase.
If your ad campaigns never pass the learning phase, you will never reach the full potential of your Facebook ads.
You get better results after the learning phase
The main mistake I see on the audited Facebook ad accounts is that they have too many campaigns, and none of these reach the end of the learning phase.
Either the campaign is paused and a new one started or there are simply too many different campaigns with too low budgets.
To check whether your ad campaigns get enough conversions, set the reporting timeframe of the past 30 days. Then review how many results each ad campaign and ad set has collected.
What is a good number of results that a Facebook ad campaign should collect in 30 days? Ideally, each of your ad sets should collect at least 50 conversions over 30 days. Usually, I expect to see even higher numbers.
This ad account looks healthy
Is the ad account using a correct attribution window?
Always check what’s the attribution window of your ad account.
The attribution window is the number of days between when a person viewed or clicked your ad and subsequently took an action. Having a different attribution window changes what results you see in your Ads Manager reports.
Facebook tracks conversions both via clicks and ad views:
- Click-through attribution: A person clicked your ad and took an action.
- View-through attribution: A person saw your ad, didn’t click it, but took an action within the attribution window.
By default, each Facebook ad account’s attribution window is set to 1-day view and 28-day click. However, it should usually be changed to 1-day click or 7-day click as you don’t want to give Facebook credit for conversions that actually happened without its help.
You can review your attributtion window under the Ad Account Settings.
Review your Facebook attribution window
Summing it up again, here are the 3 questions to ask in this audit stage:
- How many results did each campaign and ad set collect in the past 30 days? If it’s lower than 50 results per ad set, you may need to increase your budget or lower the number of separate campaigns and ad sets.
- Are the ad campaigns turned off and new ones added frequently? That’s not good, reuse old campaigns whenever possible.
- Are you using the optimal attribution window? E.g. 28-day click-through window is usually way too long and Facebook will attribute to ads the conversions that actually happened via other channels.
5. Which target audiences are being targeted? Are they broad enough?
The success of your Facebook ad campaigns largely depends on your target audience. You need to catch the attention of the right people.
As part of your audit, take a look at all of your campaigns’ target audiences.
Whose attention are you after? – GIF source
Assuming that your ad account has both prospecting and remarketing campaigns, we’ll need to review both of them.
Let’s start with prospecting campaigns – the campaigns target a broad audience that haven’t yet heard about your product.
Your Facebook ad campaigns’ targeting is set up on the ad set level. To see which audience each campaign is targeting, navigate to its ad sets and click on the “Edit” icon under each ad set to see who’s targeted.
Click on a campaign name, then review all ad sets
Here’s a list of the main Facebook ad targeting mistakes that I’ve seen companies making in their prospecting stage campaigns:
👎 Targeting very narrow audiences of fewer than 50,000 people. You want to keep some room for Facebook algorithms to do the optimization for you.
👎 Targeting multiple countries with very different purchasing power or language in the same ad set.
👎 Targeting the same audience in multiple ad campaigns, creating a large-scale audience overlap (we’ll discuss this in greater detail soon).
👎 Not targeting some of the most efficient audiences such as Lookalike audiences of top purchasers.
The last mistake leads us to the next question in our Facebook ads audit…
6. Does the account use Lookalike audiences and Custom audiences?
In addition to interest-based and location-based audiences, Facebook also allows you to create Custom and Lookalike audiences.
Every properly set up Facebook ad account should make use of all three audience types.
Here’s a quick explanation:
- Custom Audiences let you target existing audiences (people who visited your website, past purchasers, etc.)
- Lookalike Audiences expand your ads’ reach to people who are similar to your existing customers.
Using these two additional audience types helps to reach more relevant audiences and drive up your Return on Ad Spend (ROI).
Remarketing audiences help to get higher ROI
To review whether your Facebook ad campaigns are targeting Custom and Lookalike audiences, review the ad-set level audience targeting, just like under the previous point.
Also, you should make sure that there is no huge overlap between the audiences targeted in various campaigns.
Audience overlap makes your campaigns bid against each other and amplify your Facebook ads cost.
How to audit if your Facebook audiences overlap:
- Check which audiences your live campaigns are targeting
- Navigate to the Audience Manager and select up to 5 audiences that you suspect might overlap
- Select the “Show Overlap”
Review if your audiences overlap
Usually, Facebook ad accounts using a mix of Saved, Lookalike, and Custom audiences tend to have a higher risk of audience overlap.
Audience overlap of 20-30% is acceptable
If you encounter a high audience overlap, you can either pause one of the competing ad sets or use the “Exclude” feature to exclude an audience from any ad set.
In the example below, we excluded a Lookalike audience from an ad set targeting another Lookalike audience because they overlapped by 60%. And naturally, we don’t want to target people who already purchased, so we also excluded the Custom audience of past 60 days’ purchasers.
Use the exclude feature to reduce audience overlap
To wrap up this stage of our Facebook ad campaign audit, here are the 5 top mistakes to look out for:
- Missing remarketing audience – You should always target Custom audiences of past website visitors, shopping cart abandoners, etc. with remarketing ads.
- Missing Lookalike audiences – You should always test out 1% and 2% Lookalike audiences of top purchasers and later try more different options.
- High audience overlap between ongoing ad campaigns – Make sure that different ad sets’ audiences don’t overlap.
- Not excluding converted users – You shouldn’t keep showing sales-oriented ads to people who recently purchased or have an ongoing subscription
- Not testing new audiences – When auditing a Facebook ad account that has been used for a while, it’s easy to see if the marketers are testing new audiences on a regular basis.
Here’s some good news: We’ve more or less covered the technical aspects of your Facebook ads audit and can now move forward to an arguably more engaging part: the visuals.
Let’s see how your ad visuals are doing – GIF source
To view the ad visuals of a specific Facebook ad campaign, click on a campaign name, then click on an ad set name, and you can see all the Facebook ads inside that ad campaign. You can see the full visual by clicking the “Edit” icon.
How to see your Facebook ad creatives
7. Are there static ads in all correct sizes?
In the example above, the ad visual only exists in one size: the landscape format. In our Facebook ad audit, that’s a red flag.
This ad only has one size: landscape
For your Facebook campaigns to perform well across the feed and stories placements, you need to have each one of your ad visuals in all three main formats:
- Newsfeed: 1080 x 1080 pixels
- Stories: 1080 x 1920 pixels
- Landscape: 1200 x 628 pixels
Why do you need three different sizes per ad? Mainly in order for your ads to look great and attractive across the entire Facebook ad network.
Different Facebook ad layouts – Image source
As you can see, missing a visual that’s optimized for Instagram Story placement can result in a very ugly ad creative.
This story ad looks fairly ugly
Regularly, you also shouldn’t leave exclude any of the ad placements. It is a best practice to use automatic placements (this is set up on ad set level) and let Facebook algorithms optimize the best placements for you.
Use the Automatic Placements to scale your campaigns’ reach
Here’s a more detailed guide on Facebook ad specs and size.
If your ad creatives are set up correctly in all three sizes, you should see different (and good-looking!) ad visuals for feed, story, and instant article placements.
Your feed and story ads should look different
In my experience, 7/10 of the Facebook ad accounts that I’ve audited did not have all the correct ad sizes for each placement. And in 10/10 of cases the results have improved significantly after we fixed the mistake and added the ad creatives in all correct sizes.
8. Do your Facebook ads look overall attractive?
Based on all the Facebook ad audits that I have done, the most frequent reason for dismal Facebook advertising results are ugly ad creatives.
The most common mistakes include not having text in ad visuals, using stock photos, or design solutions that look like they’re straight outta 2000s.
Such a wasted opportunity and yet such a great opportunity to fix the campaign performance
If your Facebook ads make one of the above-mentioned mistakes, rest assured that it can be quickly fixed with some help from an experienced designer or Facebook marketing expert.
For example, the below ads by Cos and Klarna are not painstakingly difficult to create – you just need someone with a good eye + experience in what works for Facebook ads.
To better understand how some top brands’ Facebook ads look like, check out the following articles:
- 180 Best Facebook Ad Examples
- 40 Instagram Story Ad Examples
- New Facebook Ads that Beat the Competition in 2020
9. Do your video ads follow all of the best practices?
Before we make sure your Facebook video ads follow all the best practices, there is one even more urgent question:
Do you even have any video ads in your ad campaigns?
No video ads? – GIF source
Truth is, video ads aren’t always the best-performing ad creatives. But every advertiser should at least test videos to see how well they work.
Here’s rule number one of this Facebook advertising audit stage: Your Facebook ad campaigns should have either live or paused video ads.
If they’re paused, there’s a good reason to assume that they just weren’t performing too well.
Rule number two? Your video ads should follow these best practices:
- Clearly showcase your product.
- Be short (15s maximum) and immediately engaging.
- Feature written text and your brand’s logo.
Here’s a nice example by TransferWise: Their video ad is eye-catching, explains the product’s benefits, and doesn’t drag along for too long.
A good Facebook video ad example
Your video ads do not have to be complex in order to work. They just have to be optimized for being shown on Facebook and Instagram.
Using TV-ad like videos usually doesn’t work because the videos are too long and slow.
Rather, you should use flashy colorful video ads. Such ads can be created as a simple combination of animated image content and colorful text captions. Like the Delliveroo ad below…
This ad is simple and effective
When conducting a Facebook advertising audit, I usually evaluate video ads based on my gut feeling which comes from having seen videos that worked and didn’t work.
Not to lose hope! If you haven’t seen many Facebook ads before, a good way to understand if your ad creatives are good is to compare them against your competitors’ ads. 😉
To see the Facebook ads that your competitors are running, go to the Facebook Ad Library and type in your competitors’ brand name. Et voila! You can see a selection of their active Facebook ads. How do your ad visuals compare to what you see?
If your ad account is missing video creatives, give them a try. Or if you see that your current video ads more or less suck, create new ones that look better.
To learn more about creating highly effective video ads, check out how brands like Bolt, Spotify, Netflix, Starbucks, and Klarna are doing them. Or view the collection of 21 Facebook Video Ad Examples.
10. Is your ads’ post-click experience converting?
Sometimes, the reason for low Facebook ad results is not a poorly set up ad campaign or ad visuals. The problem might also hide in the post-click experience ( your website or App Store listing).
I’ve come across several cases where a company’s Facebook ads looked great and had a high click-through rate. However, there weren’t that many Purchase conversions. In a number of such cases, the problem laid either in a bad post-click experience or a mismatch between the messaging in the Facebook ads v.s. their landing page.
To see where your Facebook ads are leading people after they click, review the URLs in your ad-level setup.
See where your ads will take you
Landing pages are an important gateway between your Facebook ads and product. And the messaging + style of your Facebook ads should match with what your potential customer will see on the landing page.
For example, you don’t want to promise people a 50% discount and then take them to a landing page with no information about the discount. Or you don’t want to advertise a mobile app that provides Instagram filters and then take people to a website that promotes a product for Instagram Business account management.
Here are a few more questions for auditing your Facebook ad landing page:
- Is your post-click experience simple and clear? You want the user to stay focused on your offer and not get too carried away.
- Does your landing page mention a clear next step? – Is there a call-to-action on the landing page (e.g. “sign up” or “add to cart”)?
- Is your promoted product visible on your landing page? People want to see what they’re buying, especially if they already saw it in your Facebook ads.
For example, this landing page by Doordash is in many ways the perfect ad landing page: it’s brief, the design aligns with Doordash’s’ CVI, the text mentions a clear benefit, and it is obvious that the next step would be to sign up.
Efficient landing pages are usually short
P.S. If it looks like your Facebook ads and website pages look completely off, it is sometimes easier to start from scratch and redo both of them, so that you’ll get new better-looking ads together with a matching landing page that converts more visitors.
Alright, that’s it! Hope we managed to beat the 30 minute mark. If you found out that your Facebook ad account is not 100% perfectly set up, don’t feel down – look at it as an opportunity to improve your results.
If you have any comments or questions about the Facebook ad audit, reach out via LinkedIn.