Facebook Ads Learning Phase: The Initial Optimization Process

The Facebook Ads learning phase is an important and often overlooked aspect of setting up campaigns. It is a crucial part of the optimization process, and new advertisers are notorious for resetting the learning phase and interrupting optimization. 

What is the Facebook ads learning phase?

Facebook ads learning phase

The Facebook Ads learning phase is exactly what it sounds like – a period where Facebook determines who the best people to show your ads are. 

When you set up a campaign, there will be a window of time in the beginning where facebook experiments by showing your ads to different people in your audience. It gathers information based on how your ads perform with different groups of people, and optimizes accordingly. 

This is important for achieving a low cost per action (CPA). If you can show your ads to the best group of people, they will perform better, and you’ll see better metrics. At first, your results may be dismal. That’s because of the experimenting and learning Facebook is doing.

These poor early results can lead new advertisers to tinker with the campaign, but this is the worst thing you can do. As you can probably guess, doing this just gets in the way of optimization. We’ll explain all the ways you can reset the learning phase later on. 

How long is the learning phase for Facebook Ads?

The learning phase will last however long it takes for Facebook to optimize your campaign. This is usually 50 conversions. This can be whatever you set up your campaigns for – whether it be leads generated, sales, link clicks, etc.

How long is the learning phase for Facebook Ads?

If you are optimizing ads for sales conversions, there is a caveat you need to know.

The conversion window you select will affect how long your learning phase lasts. Let’s say you choose a 7 day conversion window. You need to hit 50 conversions in 7 days for the learning phase to run its course, and optimize effectively.

Now, this doesn’t mean that Facebook stops gathering data after the initial learning phase. Optimization is an ongoing process, and the longer your campaign runs, the more information Facebook will have about who responds best to your ads.

You don’t have to guess whether you are still in the learning phase or not, either. When you look at your ad sets, you can see whether the initial learning is complete.

Facebook ad initial learning complete

If your Facebook ad is stuck in learning, or you see the phrase “Learning Limited” in the delivery column, there could be a few issues.

  • Your bid control or cost control is too low and needs to be raised for learning to complete
  • Your budget is too low and facebook cannot optimize
  • Your audience is too narrow, and the sample size is too small
  • You have too many ad sets or ads competing with one another
  • Your optimization event (i.e. conversions) doesn’t occur often enough (you aren’t reaching the 50 conversions you need)

Resetting the Facebook ads learning phase

You really shouldn’t mess with anything in your campaign until the learning phase is complete. There are quite a few ways you can put your Facebook ads back in the learning phase, and you should avoid them. Here are some things you should avoid if you want to keep your campaign optimized:

  • Changing your ad set optimization
  • Changing the audience you are targeting
  • Pausing your ad set for more than 7 days
  • Adding a new ad to an existing ad set
  • Editing an ad

On top of these 5, there are two other ways you can put your ads back into the learning phase. However, they are a bit of a gray area. What I mean by this is that it takes a pretty significant change to reset your ads when you adjust these two aspects:

  • Changing the bid cap
  • Changing the budget amount

I can’t seem to find a definitive answer on what Facebook constitutes as a change significant enough to reset the learning phase. In a traditional ad set, I stick to $10-15 budget increases and have not seen a reset. When it comes to CBO campaigns, I have seen a lot more leeway. I personally have had CBO campaigns running with all the ad sets out of the learning phase with a 40% increase in budget with it resetting.

This isn’t to say that you can just increase your budget by 40% and get the exact same metrics. There will likely be fluctuations in performance, but the campaign retains all the data it collected from the initial learning phase.

Final thoughts on the learning phase

This initial learning phase is incredibly important for optimization. It leads to lower CPA’s, and higher performing ads.

Don’t make any changes during the learning phase, or you risk resetting it and losing any optimization you gained. This is an experimental process, and you need to be patient while Facebook does it’s job. I know this can be tough, but only tweak or kill ads after a few days if they are performing terribly.