There’s a lot of advice online about what to do if your Facebook Ads campaigns aren’t working out, but if you’re new to running ad campaigns for your small business, the real question might be: how do you know if your Facebook Ads aren’t working? There are some tell-tale signs that it’s time to make some tweaks to your campaign, or even just scrap it altogether and start fresh. Read on to know what to look for.

1. Your Daily Budget Goes Unused

We all like to save a little money, but when it comes to your Facebook Ad spend, you should be spending most or all of your allocated budget each day. If you’re routinely spending less — the rule of thumb is less than 70% of your daily budget — there’s something amiss. 

Unfortunately, you might not even catch that this is happening if you’re not keeping a close eye on your Facebook Ad campaigns, and you especially might not notice if you have a lifetime budget vs. a daily budget. A daily budget is more straightforward in the sense that your daily spend will cap out at the level you set it at. For lifetime budgets, you’ll have to do the math and divide your total budget by the number of days, then compare this number to your average daily spend. If you’re having trouble deciding which budget is right for you, check out our article on the subject.

Potential causes of consistently coming in under budget include:

  • Your bids are set to manual instead of automatic and they’re too low.
  • One or more of your ad relevance diagnostics metrics is rated below average.
  • Billing issues, particularly if there’s a limit on new payment methods.
  • Your billing threshold is set too low.
  • You’ve reached the spending limit on your account and missed the notification.
  • Your ads can’t reach the optimization goal.
  • Your creative isn’t working to generate engagement.

2. Decreased Ad Reach

There are always some fluctuations from one day to the next in Facebook Ads, so what you want to look for are patterns. Fluctuations on a short-term basis are not something to worry about. However, if you look at your week-to-week or month-to-month analytics, and you notice that your ad reach has dropped, it may be time to diagnose the problem.

You’ll want to examine the nuts and bolts of your campaign. 

The audiences you use in your targeting options often dictate the potential reach of your ad sets. In some cases (if you’re operating in a very specific niche, for example), your target audience may be too small. 

When setting up targeting for your ad sets, pay attention to the tool on your right-hand panel. It will tell you the definition of your audience, and if the segment you’re attempting to target is too narrow to show ads to. If the meter looks something like this, your audience size is likely too small. Try expanding it by removing some “Narrow Audience” options or targeting a broader segment.

facebook ads audience definition

When your business is in a specific niche, Facebook’s default prospecting options like interest and demographic targeting may not be sufficient. Did you know that, if your customer list is at least 100 people, you can import it into Facebook and let its algorithm do the heavy lifting for you? This is a powerful feature, and we recommend trying it out to everyone. If your business is in a niche where interest-based prospecting is insufficient, though, algorithmic matching and lookalike audiences are your best friend. 

If you’re not in a highly focused niche, and you’ve segmented your campaigns into ad sets targeted to separate audiences, there’s a chance that you have a high degree of audience overlap, which is hurting the reach of your ads. Audience overlap occurs when the different audiences that you’re targeting with your ads have many of the same people in the same cohort. This decreases the amount of reach your ads can generate and can lead to other unintended consequences like ad fatigue, decreased clickthrough rates, and decreased ad quality measurements. 

Ideally, you want to minimize overlap as much as you can. In certain niches, many of your prospects share the same tendencies which cause them to be grouped into the same audiences. Use your best judgment and try to minimize the overlap where possible, but don’t lose your mind over slivers of it. To check if your audiences have overlap, you can use Facebook’s handy tool.

3. Click-Through Rate Has Suddenly Decreased

If you never get a decent click-through rate, you know your Facebook Ad has a problem right out of the gate—in these cases, your copy and creative are usually to blame. A high CTR reflects an audience’s interest and responsiveness to your ad. 

When analyzing suspected issues with clickthrough rate, ask yourself this tough question: are my ads boring? If the answer is yes, that’s likely to blame, and should be the area to overhaul. 

Some industries aren’t the most entertaining, but that doesn’t mean your ads have to be unengaging. Remember that interest is subjective, and if you’re targeting the right audience, you will find people interested in whatever industry you’re in. After that, it all comes down to the way you create your ad and how appealing it is.

We recommend making your Facebook Ads less sales-oriented and more focused on telling a story, at least in the top portion of the funnel. As humans, we subconsciously train ourselves to ignore loud, obnoxious ads that push to sell something. Of course, there is no way around your offer and conversion-focused part of your ad — you wouldn’t make any money without it! That part, however, can be saved for retargeting prospects already familiar with who you are and what you do. 

When you’re looking to first capture someone’s attention, try your best to make the ad look like part of the prospect’s organic news feed and tell an interesting story. Make sure you’re constantly A/B testing your ad creative and keeping it fresh. For your efforts, you’ll be rewarded with a smaller likelihood of falling victim to the brain’s pre-installed AdBlock. 

However, if your campaigns did well at one point and then your CTR took a cliff dive, it’s time to take a closer look at your campaign.

Navigate over to the ads you want to analyze and take a look at your frequency metric (you may have to adjust your viewable columns to see it.) The frequency metric tells you how often prospects see your ad. If the number is one, that means the average prospect sees your ad one time. If your ad frequency is higher than 2-4, chances are you’re running into some ad fatigue. 

Ad fatigue happens when the same people in your audience are getting your ad too often. They will likely stop responding to it, may leave negative comments on it, or even report it as spam/choose to hide it, all of which hurts your ad quality metric. 

Once your frequency gets too high, costs begin to creep up, and KPIs begin to slump. Luckily there are a few ways for you to control your ad frequency. Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t allow you to set a hard cap on campaigns not geared for Reach and Frequency, but there are a few ways to manage your ad frequency. 

For example, you can run shorter campaigns and make sure your budget fits the audience. The most important element, however, is consistently swapping out your creative. Don’t run the same ad to the same audience for six months — try new creative options and run A/B tests consistently. If you do this, even if your frequency is a bit high, at least prospects will be seeing fresh creative from you, reducing the likelihood of fatigue.

Sometimes small business owners have trouble making changes to ads and ad groups that have recently begun underperforming because they were successful at one point, but remember that metrics don’t lie. Your digital marketing is an investment, and you don’t want to keep holding onto an asset that is underperforming based on the notion that it once did well. Don’t let sunk cost bias keep you from making edits that will help your campaign in the long run!

For reference, here are some industry benchmark CTRs. A general rule of thumb is that if you’re outperforming industry averages, you’re on the right track. Conversely, if you’re underperforming them, it may be time for some changes.

facebook ads click through rate industry averages
Source: WordStream

4. Clicks Aren’t Driving Pageviews

Maybe your CTR is great — but all those visitors are disappearing into the ether. There’s something wrong here, but it’s not your ad. Instead, your website might need an overhaul.

Clicks that don’t land on your website likely mean that your website either isn’t loading at all or that it’s loading slowly. Most people don’t have the patience to wait more than a few seconds for a page to load. In fact, industry statistics tell us that the best practice is to keep page load speed under three seconds, with the ideal figure being 1-2 seconds. 

According to a recent study, 40% of consumers will wait no more than three seconds for a web page to render before abandoning the site, and 67% of consumers cite slow loading times as the main reason they would abandon an online purchase. 

You can see your average page load speed by performing a Google Lighthouse Audit. To do so, open up developer tools in Google Chrome’s settings menu, expand the navigation bar, open up Lighthouse, and generate a report for both desktop and mobile. 

lighthouse page speed metrics

In addition to telling you the amount of time it takes your page to load, Lighthouse will also tell you where your page speed problems lie. Make sure to save these reports to use as reference when you bring the issue up to your developer, or when you implement changes yourself. 

If your site isn’t loading at all, you likely have an issue with your hosting, while a slow-loading website could be either your host or your website design. For someone without a technology background, all of this may seem a bit overwhelming. If this is the case, our team of developers can audit your site, diagnose the problem, and fix it ASAP so your ads can start getting results.

5. You’re Not Getting the Type of Engagement You Want

You’ve set up a Facebook Ads campaign to get people to sign up for your mailing list, your ad spend and targeting are on point, but nothing is happening. If people are viewing your ad or even clicking over to your website, why isn’t your subscriber list growing?

First, make sure the campaign objective you set up in Ads Manager is congruent with your goal. In the example above, if you’ve set brand awareness as your objective, Facebook’s advertising algorithm isn’t showing your ad to the right audience. To get sign-ups for a mailing list, you should set your objective to either conversions (if your lead form is on your website) or lead generation (if you would like to use Facebook’s built-in lead forms). 

The campaign objective is a feature that you will be able to choose whenever you begin creating your campaign. Think about the action that you want your ad to prompt people to take, as you will not be able to change this once your ads go live. The campaign objective menu looks just like this:

facebook ads campaign objective

Facebook’s algorithm collects billions of signals every day and uses machine learning to aggregate them into extensive prospect profiles. From those profiles, groups of people (audiences) emerge who are most likely to take specific desired actions. Contrary to what some marketers may have you believe, the algorithm is smarter than they are. A professional will know how to direct and leverage Facebook’s artificial intelligence to produce the best possible results for your business, and, with a bit of practice, you can too.

Another potential problem is your landing page. This, too, should be congruent with your ad objective and copy. If you ask people to sign up for your newsletter, but you send them to your homepage and they have to scroll all the way to the bottom of it to enter their email address, you’re throwing away money on your ad. 

The more friction there is between your ad and your objective, the less likely your ad is to produce a conversion. There should be as few additional steps between your ad and the action you want as possible, seeing as every additional click or second spent scrolling will cause people to drop off.


We hope some of these tips will help you understand the inner workings of your Facebook Ads account, and where some potential issues can be coming from. When creating a new campaign, be sure to remember these steps:

  • Have a clear objective (“these are my goals and the results I want to achieve with Facebook Ads this month”)
  • Clearly communicate your value proposition (a good litmus test is asking a friend or family member to tell you what the ad is about; if they can’t, neither can your audience, and no, they won’t click to learn more if you’re intentionally mysterious)
  • Use the appropriate Facebook goal (an ad with an awareness goal won’t do much for your conversions and vice versa)
  • Use the appropriate Facebook ad format (think about consumer behavior — what sections of the Facebook network are my prospects most likely to spend time in?)
  • Optimize for all devices (make sure your landing page is mobile-friendly if you’re targeting mobile phones, desktop-friendly if you’re targeting computers, etc.)

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