What is the Learning Phase?
In digital advertising, the “Learning Phase” refers to the period of time during which platform algorithms gather data on how users are responding to an ad in order to optimize the ad delivery and targeting. During the learning phase, Facebook’s system is exploring the best way to deliver your ad — so performance is less stable and cost per result is usually worse. The learning phase occurs when you create a new ad or ad set or make a significant edit to an existing one. This period can last several days and an ad will typically exit the learning phase as soon as performance stabilizes, usually after around 50 optimization events (leads, purchases, etc). since its last significant edit.
The following are considered significant edits:
- Any change to targeting
- Any change to ad creative
- Any change to the optimization event
- Adding a new ad to your ad set
- Pausing your ad set for 7 days or longer (the ad set reenters the learning phase once you unpause the ad set)
- Changing bid strategy
- Ad set spending limit amount
- Bid control, cost per result goal or ROAS goal amount
- Budget amount
During the learning phase, ad sets are less stable and usually have higher costs. To avoid behaviors that prevent ad sets from exiting the learning phase, we recommend you:
- Wait to edit your ad set until its 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 the 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.
- Avoid running too many ads at the same time. 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 similar ad sets, you also combine learnings.
- Use realistic budgets. If you set a very small 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 learning phase is necessary to help the delivery system best optimize ads, so you shouldn’t try to avoid the learning phase completely. Testing new creative and marketing strategies is essential for improving your performance over time.
What does “Learning Limited” Mean?
If your ad set isn’t getting enough optimization events to exit the learning phase, the Delivery column reads Learning limited. Learning limited isn’t a penalty – it’s an indication that your campaigns were not able to generate 50 optimization events during the learning period, which can be attributed to a number of reasons. Common reasons include: low budget, limited audience size, limited geo-target (local campaigns are more likely to be learning limited than national for example), high competition, an infrequent optimization event, etc. There are a few tactics to try to get an account out of “learning limited.”
- Consolidate budget
- Increase budget
- Expand targeting
- Change optimization event to something that happens more frequently
Depending on the results and your goals, it may not even be necessary to get the campaign out of “learning limited.” Many accounts perform better than the industry average while being impacted by limited learning due to the nature of the business or their market.