Common Ad Set Optimization Mistakes Advertisers Make

The path to successful Meta ads campaigns isn’t always a clear one. And if you struggle to get good results, it’s often because you’re tripped up by a common advertising mistake. Today’s focus: Ad set optimization-related mistakes.

When we talk about ad set optimization, the conversation is around how Meta optimizes to deliver your ads based on critical selections you’ve made in the ad set.

There are two common mistakes that I see advertisers make related to ad set optimization…

1. Confusing Objective for Ad Set Optimization

This is a big one.

Campaign Objective

Your campaign objective is important. It tells Meta what you’re trying to accomplish, and that selection will impact the options available to you in the ad set. But beyond that, the objective isn’t as powerful as many advertisers think.

By picking the Sales objective, Meta won’t necessarily optimize the delivery of your ads for purchases. The objective is the first step to assuring that happens, but it’s not the final step.

If you want sales and you want Meta to optimize ad delivery to get you sales, you need to do three things:

  1. Use the Sales objective
  2. Set Conversions as your performance goal
  3. Set Purchases as your conversion event
Performance Goal

Your performance goal is how Meta determines success — and the factor that drives changes to ad delivery.

When using the Sales objective, you have several options when selecting a performance goal…

Performance Goal

Don’t overlook how Meta defines each of these options.

Maximize number of conversions: We’ll try to show your ads to the people most likely to take a specific action on your website.

Maximize value of conversions: We’ll try to show your ads to the people most likely to make higher value purchases.

Maximize number of landing page views: We’ll try to show your ads to the people most likely to view the website or Instant Experience linked in your ad.

Maximize number of link clicks: We’ll try to show your ads to the people most likely to click on them.

Maximize daily unique reach: We’ll try to show your ads to people up to once per day.

Maximize number of impressions: We’ll try to show your ads to people as many times as possible.

Even though Sales is your objective, you don’t have to select a value-based conversion event (like “purchases”) when you “Maximize number of conversions.” You could select an event like Search instead, which isn’t value-based.

Performance Goal

Notice how the bottom four options don’t make any mention of conversions or purchases? That’s not a mistake. In fact, let’s change the objective to Traffic and see if these options change.

Performance Goal

Other than adding an option for Conversations (nope, not “conversions”), the performance goals for landing page views, link clicks, daily unique reach, and impressions are defined exactly the same.

Your objective matters to a point. But don’t make the mistake of assuming that it determines how your ads will be delivered. If your performance goal is to maximize number of landing page views, it doesn’t matter whether your objective is Sales, Traffic, or one of the other objectives where landing page views is available as an option.

Some advertisers believe that by selecting the Sales objective with a landing page views performance goal, the algorithm will prioritize clicks that lead to a purchase. There is no evidence that this is the case.

2. Optimizing for the Wrong Action

A phrase that you will hear and read from me often is this one: Optimization is literal.

I say this to help you understand how Meta optimizes to deliver your ads. The fact that it’s literal is both a benefit and a weakness.

If you optimize for a purchase, the algorithm’s primary focus will be on satisfying that goal. If you aren’t getting purchases, Meta will believe that something is wrong and changes need to be made. This is good!

Now, let’s consider how this can be a problem. Here’s an example where you could be led astray by making assumptions related to how ad traffic will behave…

Instead of optimizing for purchases, you decide to optimize for landing page views. You think this will be a cheap way to get purchases since you know that, historically, 5% of visitors to your landing page convert.

You know that you can get extremely cheap landing page views when that’s your performance goal. You do the math and figure out that if you can maintain a $.20 cost per landing page view, you can drive 100 people by spending only $20. And if your math holds up, you’ll get five purchases!

This is way cheaper than optimizing for a purchase, so you go this route instead. But then a weird thing happens. You don’t get any purchases from that first $20. In fact, out of $100 spent, you still haven’t generated any purchases!

The reason for this is simple: Meta is optimizing ad set delivery to give you the thing that you want. You said that you want landing page views. That’s the only focus — not what the person does after landing on your website.

You may get accidental clicks, people who seemingly click on everything, and a whole bunch of low-quality and irrelevant traffic. But, Meta thinks you’re happy because you didn’t say you wanted these people to do anything else. You just said that you wanted landing page views.

Of course, this is a huge weakness in optimization that Meta needs to address (there should be an option to optimize for quality traffic or engagement), but that’s beside the point. You should optimize for the specific action that you want.

While it’s not always easy to optimize for purchases, particularly when you’re working with lower budgets, you should still prioritize that approach. You may not exit the learning phase, but at least you’ll be aligned with Meta’s ad set optimization about what defines success.

Watch Video

I also recorded a video to walk through this. Watch it below…

Your Turn

These are the two primary mistakes that I see advertisers make related to ad set optimization. Anything you’d add?

Let me know in the comments below!