The Ultimate Guide to Meta Ads Targeting

Which group of people should you target with your Meta ads? Targeting could be the difference between your ads succeeding and failing.

Of course, you can overthink this, too. You can spend a lot of time trying to find the perfect audience when, in reality, it may have been best to go as broad as possible.

You have a whole bunch of options available to you. Consider this your home base for all things targeting. Let’s walk through every possible lever you can pull to impact the people you reach with your ads…

Advantage+ Audience

Meta first introduced Advantage+ Audience in late 2023 as an advancement in machine learning and algorithmic targeting. This is default method of targeting for all manual campaigns.

The beauty of Advantage+ Audience is that any targeting inputs are purely optional. If you don’t provide an audience suggestion, Meta will prioritize things like conversion data, pixel history, and prior engagement with your ads.

Advantage+ Audience

Otherwise, Meta will prioritize your audience suggestion prior to going much broader.

Advantage+ Audience

Audience Controls are the few targeting constraints that you can provide. Meta will not deliver ads to people outside of designated locations, minimum age, excluded custom audiences, or languages determined here.

Advantage+ Audience

Otherwise, any other targeting inputs provided — including custom audiences, lookalike audiences, detailed targeting, gender, and age maximum — are considered suggestions.

Original Audiences

If you’d like to go back to the way we did prior to Advantage+ Audience, you can click the link to switch back to original audiences. But you’ll get a warning that doing so is unlikely to lead to better results.

Advantage+ Audience

Custom Audiences (General)

Custom Audience

This is the first area you can use to refine your targeting. If you have created a custom or lookalike audience, you can enter it here. We’ll discuss in a moment what these are.

Custom Audience

You can also choose to exclude a custom or lookalike audience from targeting. This is especially useful if you are promoting a product that cannot be purchased twice.

Custom Audience

Custom Audience Types

Custom Audiences are groups of people who are connected to you in some way — they’ve engaged with you, bought from you, are on you email list, or visited something you own.

Custom Audience

You can create a custom audience from the Audience section. Here are examples…

1. Website Custom Audience

Website Custom Audiences allow you to segment your website visitors for targeting. You can build these audiences because you utilize the Meta pixel or conversions API on your website. Here are some examples.

All website visitors…

Website Custom Audience

People who visited specific web pages

Website Custom Audience

Visitors by time spent

Website Custom Audience

And from your events (like a purchase)…

Website Custom Audience

2. Customer List Audience

You can upload your customer list of names, email addresses, phone numbers, and physical addresses and have Meta match up those people with users for targeting.

Facebook Custom Audience Data Email

3. App Activity Audience

Create an audience of people based on their engagement with your app…

App Activity Custom Audience

4. Catalog Audience

Segment people based on their engagement with your product catalog…

Catalog Custom Audience

5. Video Engagement Audience

Segment people based on the depth of engagement and specific Facebook video watched…

Video Engagement Custom Audience

6. Instagram Account Audience

Isolate those people who have engaged with your Instagram account, assuming it’s been connected to your Business Manager.

Instagram Account Custom Audience

7. Lead Form Audience

Isolate those who have opened, opened but didn’t submit, or opened and submitted your lead form.

Lead Form Custom Audience

8. Events Custom Audience

Create an audience of people who engaged with your Facebook event…

Facebook Event Custom Audience

9. Instant Experience Audience

Focus on those who opened or clicked on a link within your Instant Experience…

Instant Experience Custom Audience

10. Facebook Page Engagement Custom Audience

Isolate those who engaged with your Facebook page in some way…

Facebook Page Engagement Custom Audience

11. Shopping Custom Audience

Segment those who engaged with your Facebook or Instagram Shop…

Shopping Custom Audience

12. On-Facebook Listings Custom Audience

Create an audience of people who interacted with the on-Facebook listings from your Marketplace catalog…

On-Facebook Listing Custom Audience

13. AR Experience Custom Audience

Create an audience of people who opened your AR experience on Facebook or Instagram…

AR Experience Custom Audience

Advantage Custom Audience

One of the Advantage audience expansion products, this is only available with original audiences. When Advantage Custom Audience is turned on, Meta can choose to expand your targeting to reach people outside of your custom audience if it will lead to better results.

Advantage Custom Audience

When on, Meta will continue to honor your exclusions, locations, age, and gender selections.

Lookalike Audiences

When you create a Lookalike Audience, Meta will look for people who are similar to those who are already connected to you in some way.

Lookalike Audience

The source audience will be a custom audience. The Lookalike Audience will be created by country and using anywhere from the top 1 to 10% of those in that country who are similar to this group.

Lookalike Audiences are often used when your custom audience is small and ineffective because there aren’t enough people to target.

Advantage Lookalike

Advantage Lookalike is also one of the Advantage audience expansion products that is only available with original audiences.

Advantage Lookalike

When turned on, Meta will expand your audience beyond the selected lookalike percentage if it will lead to better results. In some cases, Advantage Lookalike is on and cannot be turned off.


You can select a location or multiple locations to filter your targeting. Only people living in or recently in that location, while also satisfying the other targeting requirements, will be considered.

Location Targeting

You can include locations by country, state/region, city, postal code, address, DMA, or congressional district.

Location Targeting

If you browse, you can select countries and regions manually or choose to go worldwide.

Location Targeting

You can also exclude locations.

Location Targeting


Age Targeting

The default, depending on your location, may be people 18 years and older. In some cases, you may be able to target people down to 13 years old. In others, the minimum age may be higher than 18. This will depend upon the laws and restrictions based on location and promotion.


Gender Targeting

By default, you will target all genders. You can choose to limit your targeting to men or women only, though that may be restricted if you are promoting a special ad category.

Detailed Targeting

Detailed Targeting

Detailed targeting allows you to reach people by demographics, interests, and behaviors. Most of this information is provided within user profiles or collected based on activities within the Meta family of apps.

Meta has removed many interests and behaviors from targeting during recent years, largely due to privacy laws and restrictions.

You can also exclude people based on this information.

Detailed Targeting

Advantage Detailed Targeting

Advantage Detailed Targeting is another of the Advantage expansion tools that are only available with original audiences.

Advantage Detailed Targeting

When turned on, Meta can expand your audience to reach people beyond the detailed targeting that you selected if it will improve ad performance. Your exclusions, locations, age, and gender will continue to be respected.

As is the case with Advantage Lookalike, there are cases when Advantage Detailed Targeting is automatically on and cannot be turned off.


Language targeting

This is set to All Languages by default, but you can specify specific languages if you choose. In most cases, Meta recommends that you keep this blank.

Language targeting


As I mentioned at the top, many advertisers have opted to go completely broad recently and forgo all other targeting considerations. You should at least experiment with that.

Others go with a mixture of Lookalike Audiences and Detailed Targeting for their cold targeting. While some swear by it, I’ve mostly abandoned this approach when prospecting.

I haven’t completely eliminated warm targeting from my mix, though. I will still use custom audiences for targeting in specific cases, especially for exclusions. In some cases, I’ll use custom audiences and turn Advantage Custom Audience on to give Meta the ability to go broader if necessary.

But again, not everyone believes in this approach. Some will tell you that remarketing is dead and is completely unnecessary. That if you go broad, the algorithm will naturally start with those who would be in your remarketing audience.

Find what works for you!

Your Turn

How do you approach targeting?

Let me know in the comments below!