What is the ‘Learning Phase’?
Have you noticed the “Learning Limited” symbol appearing on your Ads? ⚠️ While the symbol may be something new, the concept isn’t. The learning phase occurs when you create a new Ad or Ad set or make a significant edit to an existing one.
Every time that Ad is shown in someone’s newsfeed, the Facebook Ads delivery system learns more about the best people and places to show the Ad to. Of course, the more it is shown, the better the delivery system becomes at optimizing the Ad’s performance.
The learning phase is the period of time when the delivery system still has a lot to learn about an Ad set. During this time, while the delivery system is exploring the best way to deliver your Ad set, you’ll find performance is less stable and cost per action (CPA) is not that great.
Generally speaking, you can expect your Ad set to exit the learning phase after about 50 event triggers are registered. Failing this, you’ll receive the “Learning Limited” warning.
Why wouldn’t your Ads exit the learning phase?
Generally, an Ad set becomes Learning Limited when it is limited by:
- Small audience size
- Low budget
- Low bid or cost control
- An infrequent optimization event
- Running too many Ads at the same time
If an Ad set is limited by a low bid or cost control, a tooltip will appear when you hover over the Learning Limited status.
How do you know which issue is causing the ‘Learning Limited’ ⚠ warning?
I’ll walk you through the steps I would take if I saw this warning:
Step 1: The first thing to check is the number of Ads turned on within one Campaign. Yes, Ads actually ‘blue toggle on’, even those in an Ad set that may be turned off, complete or scheduled to run in the future. Also check the number of active Ads within active Ad sets. Use 6 or fewer active creatives per Ad set if possible. The delivery system favours Ads with more delivery because conversion predictions are more accurate.
Don’t be caught out thinking that your Ad sets are independent of each other – they are all using the Ad budget set at the Campaign level, so they are all linked!
Wait a few hours. If your Ads are still in the learning phase or there were not any Ads to turn off in the first place, go to step two.
Step 2: If you are getting the warning on your retargeting campaigns, then there is a very real possibility that your audience size is the issue. Facebook likes BIG audiences and your Ads will optimise quickly and accurately the bigger your audience is. If your audience is too small, your Ads may not feed out at all or will never exit the learning phase.
If you’re using a customer list, ensure the audience is marked as ‘ready’ under Audiences and ensure you’ve Added enough information for Facebook to get accurate matches. Go and check your pixel to ensure that enough traffic is coming through to your website to populate your custom audiences to warrant retargeting.
What you should do if your audience is too small: Make this audience bigger… before you eye roll at me, let me explain how. You can do this by increasing the number of people you are sending to your retargeting Ads, by either increasing your budget on your prospecting (cold) Ads, or you can increase your retargeted audience by increasing the length of time your audience is defined by (target 30 days instead of 7 days).
Step 3: Your active Ad amount is good, your audience is big enough and you’re still getting the warning? Next step is to check your results and compare them to your budget. As an example: If you’re running a Traffic campaign and your Cost-Per-Landing Page is $3.00 but you’re only spending $5 a day… there simply isn’t enough budget to ensure that your Ad set is going to get out of the learning phase for quite some time. Remember you need 50 events triggered to get out of this phase. Solution: increase budget or decrease your cost per landing page view.
Step 4: Check your optimisation. If you’re running a conversion campaign and you’re optimising for ‘Purchases’… are you actually receiving enough purchases (through these Ads) to hit the 50 events? If not, you may want to duplicate your Ad set and change your optimisation to the earlier event i.e.: optimise for ‘Add to Cart’ or ‘Initiate Payment’ instead. But what if you’re already on the earliest event? Should you switch from a conversion campaign to a traffic campaign? Generally speaking, no. A partially optimised conversion campaign will usually always perform better than a traffic campaign (audience size pending).
During the learning phase, Ad sets are less stable and usually have a higher CPA. To avoid behaviours that prevent Ad sets from exiting the learning phase, Facebook recommends you:
- Wait to edit your Ad set until it’s 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. (Handy Hint) InsteAd of editing your Ads within your Ad set, duplicate your Ad set and make the changes there.
- 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 Ad sets, you also combine learnings.
- Use realistic budgets. If you set a very small or inflated budget, the delivery system has an inaccurate indicator of the people for whom the delivery system should optimize. Set a budget large enough to get at least 50 total optimization events and avoid frequent budget changes (which can cause an Ad set to re-enter the learning phase).
The most important rule of thumb in FB Advertising = DON’T TOUCH WHAT’S NOT BROKEN!
If you are getting a decent amount of leads and have healthy ROAs, it’s best to just continue managing your campaign as you were. By all means duplicate Ad sets and make Adjustments to these – but never change or edit your current converting Ads. If your Adjustments don’t give you the results you are hoping for, you can always turn them off and turn on the original Ads and keep going as is.