When you first get started with Facebook ads it can seem like people are speaking a completely different language to you. There are campaigns, pixels, conversions, placements, objectives, reach and frequency just to name a few things you want to get your head around. But once you do Facebook ads technically aren’t that complicated (creating ads that work and targeting the right audience is a whole other story).

One of the first things to get on top of is the hierarchy of Facebook ads. At different levels of the hierarchy you get to choose different options.

Now I know you are thinking why should I care about this! But you need to know the hierarchy to test different ads effectively and to read your ad results. I know only too well from when I first started using Facebook ads that I merrily thought I was testing things only to find Facebook had gone off and done its own thing and I had no idea what was working and what wasn’t.

So what is this hierarchy that Facebook uses?

Facebook ads hierarchy

There are 3 levels in a Facebook ad campaign, even if you are only developing one ad to be seen. They are:

  1. Campaign.
  2. Ad Set
  3. Ad

At each level you will need to choose options for your ad. This is what the hierarchy looks like:

The campaign is the top level of the hierarchy and within each campaign you have more than one ad set but one ad set can’t have more than one campaign. And then within each ad set you can have multiple ads but you can’t have more than one ad set per ad. In the example above I have had to duplicate ads 1 and 2 to pop them in a second ad set.

What you choose in each level
Campaign Level

The campaign is where you set the objective you want Facebook to optimise for, that is what action you want people to take when they see your ad.  The main objectives I use are:

  • Conversions (when I want people to join my list),
  • Traffic (if I want people to click on a link),
  • Engagement (if I want people to see a post I have written)
  • Video views (if I want people to watch a video I have made)

There are other options but these are the ones that most people will use.

Ad Set Level

There are some super important things you choose in the ad set:

  • Audience – who you want to show the ad to.
  • Placement – whether your ad should be shown on Facebook, Instagram, the Audience Network or Messenger and there are subsets in these options including newsfeed, right hand column and instant articles for Facebook, and stories and feed for Instagram.
  • Budget and Schedule – how much you want to spend and whether it should be a daily or lifetime budget, the period your ad should run for and what days your ad should run on.

There are other options in the ad set depending on which objective you choose at the campaign level. For example, if you choose conversions as your objective, you will then get to select which conversion you want to optimise for. Plus more advanced options such as bid amount.  For the more advanced options I recommend sticking with what Facebook recommends at least while you are getting to grips with Facebook ads

Ad Level:

This is where you get to do the fun stuff! First off is choosing the type of ad – single image, video, slideshow or carousel. As you can guess a single image ad has one image and a video ad has a video. A slideshow is a series of images that Facebook turns in to a slideshow and a carousel ad is an ad that has more than one static images (you have probably seen them for ads for physical products where there are a series of images for products.

You also enter the copy you want to use. Copy includes the text above your ad and then depending on the different objective you have chosen, you will also be able to add a headline and text below the headline (what Facebook calls the newsfeed in the ads manager)

The ad level is also where you upload the images or video you want to use. Or you can use the free stock photos that are available in the ads manager from Shutterstock.

The other two main options you select here are the website URL you want to promote (if appropriate to the campaign objective you chose) and the button you want on your ad. Again, the options vary depending on the objective you choose – so if you don’t have the option you chose last time it is a good chance it isn’t available with the objective you have selected.

There are more advanced options to choose such as whether you want to create a canvas ad but I would keep it simple while you are starting.

How this affects your testing

Once you understand what is picked where you can start to pull together a testing plan. Developing a testing plan is too big a topic to add to this post but some tips to get you started:

  • You can have multiple ad sets in a campaign and multiple ads in each ad set but you can’t have one ad set in two campaigns. So if you want to test out two different objectives – say traffic and conversions then you need to create two campaigns with two ad sets and each ad set has its own budget.
  • To split test different audiences you need to allocate them to their own ad sets with their own budgets. Otherwise they get lumped together in one ad set and you won’t be able to tell which one has worked best.
  • The individual ads don’t get their own budget and Facebook will choose which one it thinks is performing best to allocate the budget to. While this sounds good in theory in practice, Facebook chooses the winner pretty quickly and you won’t be doing a proper split test. To do a proper split test you need to put the copy and images in different ad sets where the audience is the same in both ad sets.

Understanding the structure is key to you testing out your different audiences, images and copy.


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