Facebook Ad Frequency - How It Works & What It Should Be

Facebook Ad Frequency is one of those metrics that most people shrug off as unimportant. The problem is, frequency is one of the most important metrics in your Facebook Ad campaign. The key is to understand how it's calculated, what it affects, and how to use it to your advantage.

Facebook defines frequency as:

"The average number of times each person saw your ad."

Let's look at a specific example. Brand "X" has a Facebook Pixel implemented, and have all their campaign funnels set up. As I'm scrolling through Facebook, I see an ad for "X" that piques my interest. Naturally, I click the ad and I am taken to their website. Maybe I look at a couple products but decide not to buy (yet).

Everything is normal up to this point. Just setting the stage.

Now I'm back scrolling through Facebook. Maybe it's been two days since I was last on. After a minute or two, I see an "X" ad roll by. This time around I don't feel like clicking. Two more days go by and another ad shows up in my feed. This time I click through to the website again.

Calculating Frequency

If you were keeping track, you would have counted a total of three ads shown to me during the course of that week. That means if you were looking at a 7-day window inside your Facebook Ads Manager, the frequency would be 3. If you were looking at a 30-day window, your frequency would be 12 (3 ads per week for 4 weeks).

Why does this matter?

Saturation. To put it simply, you don't want to show ads to people too much. There are two reasons you DO NOT want too high of a frequency score.

1. It wastes money.

If you're showing ads to people who don't have the intent to buy, you're wasting your money. In this case, intent to buy is measured by whether or not the person clicks the ad. Facebook charges you every time someone views your ad,* whether they decide to click or not.

*unless you have explicitly said to charge per click - that's a whole different story.

2. It bothers people.

Audiences are real people, and when real people see an ad from your brand too many times, they begin to get annoyed. Another way to look at it is that if a particular messaging tactic isn't resonating with a group of people, you don’t want to keep hitting them with that message. You'd want to get different messaging in front of them as soon as possible so that people don't get the wrong idea about what your business is/does.

The Ideal Frequency

Ok, you get why frequency is important. So how do you do it right? What's the secret sauce? The frequency number that we base all of our campaigns off of and that drives the highest ROI is...

No, it's not that simple. Like almost every metric relating to Facebook Ads, this number can vary from client to client, from campaign to campaign, and from ad set to ad set. For example, you'd want to have a lower frequency for people who have never heard of your brand, whereas you could show more ads to people who have added something to their cart but have yet to buy.

Here's a loose breakdown of what we recommend when it comes to frequency as it relates to different parts of the funnel, looking specifically at a 30-day window:

Disclaimer: These are not hard-set numbers. These are simply our suggestions gleaned from our experience working with differently-sized clients in various industries.

Top of Funnel: 8

Retargeting/Dynamic: 12

Past Purchasers: 4

What if my Frequency is high?

If your frequencies are hitting numbers that are over what we recommend, this means your audience is too small in relation to the budget you have set for it. I will often run into this problem with our niche ecommerce clients as I'm drilling down targeting to optimize every single dollar. There are two ways to fix this:

1. Lower your budget

This one is pretty simple. If you lower your budget, Facebook will serve less impressions to the audience you have specified, which will lower your frequency. Take the money that's spending extra for that audience and go put it into another one that's being underserved.

2. Broaden your audience

Facebook will only serve ads to the people you tell it to. Generally, when your frequency is too high, it often means you've targeted too specific of a demographic. Here are some ideas of how to open up your audience:

  • open age range

  • serve all genders

  • add another placement

  • create a new lookalike with a higher percentage

  • expand mile radius

What if my Frequency is low?

Low frequency is actually a beautiful thing. If Facebook is only serving to people just over one time, there's only one thing to do, scale. When you're reaching your KPI's with low frequency, you need to add more money ASAP. Otherwise, you're leaving money on the table.

Now that you have a better idea of what the frequency metric is, and how to properly implement it in your Facebook Ads strategy, you'll be able to better allocate spend, and preserve brand reputation.