This shit again? đź’©

Facebook is literally changing every day, bending and flexing to the conditions of the market. As such, advertisers like you and I must also contort themselves to the demands of the platform.

And right now this is my biggest challenge. Learning limited.

Accounts that were once scaling beautifully have become thorns in my side with that glaring yellow triangle.


What are the delivery phases of an ad set?

There are 7 ad set statuses in total, but the ones that really matter to me right now are learning and the dreaded learning limited.

Facebook describes Learning Limited as an ad set that is unable to exit the learning phase.

If 7 days have elapsed since a significant edit and your ad set still hasn’t exited the learning phase, the Delivery column status will read “Learning Limited”.

So what the hell do we do about it?

To find a solution, you must first understand why this is a problem.

The all-mighty pixel is powerful as hell, but only when it gets sufficient data — meaning a minimum of 50 conversions per week per ad set (audience).

If one of the audiences in your campaign doesn’t reach this goal, you’ll see the dreaded yellow triangle and know that the pixel wasn’t able to fully learn how to do it’s best work.

How to avoid the dreaded yellow triangle

This has been the focus for me, to keep campaigns afloat in such a competitive market. Here are the things I’ve been doing to manage this change.

Budgets should always keep the pixel in mind

When you set your budgets, do a little mental math.

How much is the average conversion?

If I need to get 50 conversions per audience, and I know that the average conversion costs X, my daily budget needs to be Y.

If you know that a typical lead costs $10, for a single audience to run optimizing for leads, your daily budget must be a minimum of $3.5K.

Sound like too much cheddah? 🧀 Try optimizing for the next goal down from the actual goal. If you’re optimizing for purchases, try add to carts. In the B2B world and optimizing for leads? Try landing page views instead.

Starting a brand new campaign without a benchmark? Compare to previous campaigns if available, otherwise try working from published benchmarks, like this great study from Wordstream.

Campaign budget optimization makes it more complicated 🚫

That sounds all fine and dandy, but with the impending removal of ad set budget management, we don’t actually get to decide how much each audience spends per day anymore.

Campaign budget optimization sets the daily spend at the campaign level, and Facebook decides how much money each audience gets.

Kind of annoying, but they swear it’s in our best interest so instead we TREK ON and use some of these best practices to make it work for even just one more day.

Audience Size

You may have seen this message in your travels.

Facebook is recommending that audiences be equally sized or else the budget will be skewed towards the largest.

That means you can have 3 killer audiences, with a daily campaign budget big enough to get 50 conversions per week for each, and only 1 ever getting enough spend to leave the learning phase. Infuriating, I know.

Structuring audiences based on size is essentially the only way to control how much budget each of them will get (and if they’ll meet the minimum number of conversions) since this is all decided at the campaign level now.

Ways around this? Group your campaigns by audience size.

It can be really hard getting all of your audiences to the same size.

Depesh Mandalia recently suggested to separate different “types” of audiences into their own campaigns to better group by size.

Since lookalikes tend to be around the same size when the same percentile (1% for example), these can be grouped into one and they will both receive equal shares of the daily budget.

Interest audiences can end up becoming really large, so again these audiences can be managed in one campaign.

The most important one to keep separate is remarketing, as these audiences are always the smallest. Group those in with interest audiences and they will never get any budget.

This will allow you to actually control the budget more accurately.

Pro tip: It can get pretty overwhelming managing multiple campaigns. Try using campaign tags and creating pre-saved filters to quickly get a campaign overview without a few less clicks.

  • Check mark the campaign you want to tag
  • Select the tag button
  • Type the name of the tag and select create tag
  • Apply tag and publish

  • Search for the campaign tag you just created
  • Save filter for future use

Don’t forget about blasted audience overlap

So you’ve calculated how much your daily spend must be in order to ensure each audience can reach 50 conversions.

You’ve grouped your audiences into separate campaigns, keeping sizes similar. You aren’t done yet!

Say your daily budget is big enough to support having 3 audiences. And still Facebook keeps throwing this glaring yellow triangle in your face. What gives?

If any of your audiences have a high overlap (meaning there are a lot of the same people in both), this can cause the plague that is auction overlap.

When more than one audience tries to enter the Facebook auction at the same time, Facebook decides which get to participate. The others are forced to warm the bench.

That means one less chance to get a conversion, which all contributes to whether or you can achieve 50 conversions in 7 days.

Seeing audiences with high overlap? You have two choices.

👉 Use exclusions (exclude one from the other)

👉 Or group audiences into one.

Fewer audiences is better if it means more opportunities in the auction.

Pre-vet your audiences beforehand

Maybe you’ve looked back at their online dating profile a few too many times before the first date. It’s natural to want to know ahead of time how something will go.

Unlike online dating, Facebook actually lets you pre-vet audiences before you waste precious time and money on them in your real campaign.

Run an A/B test to vet a few audiences, and decide which belongs in the campaign you’re trying to scale.

Nearing the end

There are a few other best practices for ensuring your audience is able to exit the learning phase that fall outside of what was already said.

  • Wait to edit your ad set until its out of the learning phase. During the learning phase, performance is less stable, so your results aren’t always indicative of future performance. By editing an ad, ad set or campaign during the learning phase, you reset learning and delay our delivery system’s ability to optimize.
  • Avoid unnecessary edits that cause ad sets to re-enter the learning phase. Edits that meaningfully change how your ad set might perform in the future can cause an ad set to re-enter the learning phase. Only edit your ads or ad set when you have reason to believe that doing so should improve performance.
  • Avoid high ad volumes. When you create many ads and ad sets, the delivery system learns less about each ad and ad set than when you create fewer ads and ad sets. By combining similar ad sets, you also combine learnings.

Le sigh. This is the nature of Facebook ads — always ebbing and flowing, keeping advertisers on their toes. If you ask me, I don’t mind a little challenge to keep my days interesting.

Hope this was of help to someone scratching their heads wondering why shit just keeps declining.

By Robyn Henke

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