Facebook Ads

The Complete Guide to Getting Started with Facebook Ads

Erika Cole
By Erika Cole
By Erika Cole,
Mar 29, 2022
Enlarged Facebook logo on mobile phone being held next to a cup full of coffee

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, yes, you need to be on Facebook and Instagram - especially if you’re just starting out. 

Getting started with Facebook ads can be a daunting task, so we put together this guide to help you get it all sorted from top to bottom. We’ll cover it all, the initial set-up, optimizations, and everything in between. 

To create Facebook campaigns you need to:

  • Have the proper ad tech set up (implement pixel, verify your domain, set up Aggregated Event Measurement (AEM), enable auto-advanced matching, and finally enable Faceboook’s conversion API (CAPI) (if you’re on Shopify, because it’s easy)
  • Define and create audiences 
  • Create a working campaign structure
  • Build your ads. You’ll need assets, either pictures or video (ideally a bit of both), copy, headlines, and descriptions
  • Measure, optimize, and experiment with your results

And we’re here to walk you through each step. 

Ad Tech you need to be successful

Before you begin creating ads, you need to make sure you have all the tools you need to properly run them. While we go in depth with all of the different tools and services we recommend for marketing here, the below are the bare essentials for need for Facebook ads. 

The first thing you need to do is install a Facebook pixel. If you’re a non-ecom, or non-Shopify site, this might be a little more difficult, but this is arguably the most important step.  

A Facebook pixel is a piece of code that you embed into your store or site, that tracks who’s been on your site and what actions they’ve taken and feeds it back to Facebook. From there, you can optimize towards a specific event - such as a purchase event - as well as build and target audiences based on actions taken.  

Without a pixel installed, there’s no way for Facebook to know what events are happening on your site or who is doing them. Running any ads without a conversion point that is passing signals back to Facebook means you’re basically setting money on fire. 

While the introduction of iOS 14.5 and beyond has made tracking with a Facebook pixel less reliable than it has been in the past, it’s still crucial to have it set up and implemented. To help mitigate the post iOS 14.5 fallout, Facebook recently launched Aggregated Event Measurement (AEM). With AEM you can track up to 8 events, and in our opinion, the best ones to have included in the mix are: Purchase, Add to Cart, View Content, Initiate Checkout, and Add Payment Info. The order in which you rank these events is very important, so make sure you put the event furthest down your funnel as your top selection. Most likely it’s purchase, followed by add to cart, view content, etc. You can watch our how-to video on it here

Additionally, make sure you verify your domain, and enable auto-advanced matching and Facebook’s conversion API (CAPI).

All that said, a pixel without data is essentially useless. This means you’re going to need to start driving traffic to your site to collect this data, and one of the best ways to do so is to set up an ad account and start running ads. If you do have traffic on your site, we recommend installing pixels and tags for any platforms you may want to use in the future. The sooner you start passing back data to a paid platform, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

Defining Your Audiences

Before creating your Facebook campaigns, it’s important to understand who you want to show your ads to, and how much you’re able/willing to spend to get in front of them. 


The most common prospecting (i.e. looking for new customers) audience is a Lookalike Audience. A lookalike audience is an audience Facebook generates based on a source or seed list (generally past customers, or a pixel event) that Facebook can then match and use to find, well, lookalikes of the audience you provide.

You can create a lookalike audience based on customer lists, email lists, or using your pixel, it’s important to note you need at least 100 matched emails in order to do this, but the more you have, the better. The biggest thing here, is that you want to make sure whatever source you’re drawing from is high-value. This could mean creating value-based lookalikes that layer on other parameters such as repeat purchasers, or your Average Order Value (AOV) for ecom brands. If you’re an app or SAAS product, you can try adding lifetime value (LTV). If you can (and have a list large enough to do so), try to segment whatever your seed list is into high value, like only including repeat customers, or using only customers that have an AOV of over $100 in order to create lookalikes from only the best.

To create lookalike audiences, follow these steps:

  1. From Ads Manager, click on Audiences 
  2. Click on “Create a Lookalike Audience”
  3. Import your Source Data (CSV of your customer list) or search for a pixel event (For value-based lookalikes, select the value event you care about)
  4. Select the location (country or countries) of your preferred audience 
  5. Select your percentage of that country or countries population you’d like to include. We recommend starting with a 0-4% or 0-5%. 
  6. Create your audience!

Note that you need at least 100 people from the same country in your source (list or pixel) in order to create a lookalike audience. Facebook recommends sourcing audiences between 1,000  - 50,000 people for the best results, so if you’re just starting out and you don’t quite have that, don’t fret, there are other audiences that can help get you some initial great results - such as Broad and Interest Based Audiences.

Broad and Interest Based Audiences

A broad audience is essentially exactly what it sounds like. With broad targeting, you might select some form of demographic data (such as age), but otherwise, leave it up to Facebook to show your ads to the best people possible. This audience will rely solely on your pixel in order to find customers that are most likely to take that action across Facebook’s entire network.

An interest based audience is essentially layering interests on top of Facebook’s entire (broad) audience. 

For example, if you’re an outdoor brand, chances are you’ll want to target people who have interests in hiking, camping, or skiing. Although it’s important to note that although you need to have already 1,000 people in an audience for an ad to run, the largest the audience gets, the broader your targeting becomes, and the more likely that your ads will be bidding against thousands of other brands competing for their attention. That said, the more specific and niche (small) your audience, the more expensive it is to run - it’s all about finding that balance. We would recommend having an audience size of at least 1 million when you start out, and larger than that is probably better.

Retargeting (Custom Audiences)

While the above audiences are meant to find new people to bring to your site, you need to ensure you have proper retargeting set up for people who find you, but may not take your desired action. This is a large part of why you need to have a pixel and Aggregated Event Measurement (AEM) set up, your domain verified, and auto-advanced matching to make sure you can properly retarget.

In the past, marketers were able to segment by every action an individual may have taken on their site, these days it’s a little different. Site retargeting, i.e. view contents, add to carts, etc. are becoming trickier with the absence of 3rd party data. The key to retargeting now is all about layering different audiences together. 

Some key audiences to go after are social engagers (if you’re pushing organic content and have a robust social media presence), video viewers (if you’re actively sharing videos), page views and view content events. You can retarget those who add to cart, but we would suggest that if you’ve captured a potential customer’s email at that stage, that you leverage email marketing so you don’t have to pay to reach them again. As well, make sure to exclude any purchasers for at least the last 30 days, the last thing you want to do is annoy your customers with ads for items they’ve already bought.

Getting Set up

If you haven’t already, you’ll need to go in and create a business manager for Facebook. Facebook can often times skip this step to decrease the steps between you and getting your campaigns created, but having a business manager (and ads manager) set up correctly is your first step to success. After you create it (because you should never let anyone else own your business manager!) add others as admins or partners. Never have anyone run ads through an account you don’t own! 

This includes making sure you:

  1. Connect your Facebook page and Instagram account
  2. Create an ad account through your new business manager (or connect an old/current one)

You can have multiple ad accounts for your business (though you’ll only need one) and this will be the place where you actually do all the work.

Facebook ads hierarchy

The Overall Structure

When we’re talking about campaign structure, we’re talking about the overall structure of the ads, your audiences, and your objectives within your ad account. While there can feel like there are endless ways to set up your ad account, we generally recommend a structure like this for getting started: 

Bare bones structure
More advanced beginner structure


  • One Campaign
  • Four Ad Sets 
  • Two-Four Ads per Ad Set

Now let’s dive into what’s involved in each of these. 

The Campaign

The campaign is the overarching parent of your ad structure. The campaign level is where you tell Facebook what your objectives are, your budget, and how you want that budget distributed. 

There are 11 different objectives you can choose from, and depending on what you chose, Facebook will do its best to generate the least expensive results. It’s also the place you tell Facebook if you want your budget set at the Campaign level, where you give Facebook a total control over how they allocate your budget (known as “CBO” or Campaign Budget Optimization) or on the Ad Set level, where you dictate the amount you want to spend per Ad Set (known as “ABO” or Ad Set Budget Optimization).

The long and short of it though, is that creating a basic Campaign is simple, within your Ad Account:

  1. Click ‘Create Ad
  2. Select your Objective (we recommend Conversions when getting started)
  3. Give your Campaign a Name
  4. Turn on Campaign Budget Optimization (better for starting out)
  5. Input your total Daily Budget for all your future ads combined
  6. Move on to your Ad Set

Ad Sets

In short, ad sets are essentially sub-groups of ads within a single campaign that share settings. Things like what audiences you’re targeting, their location, where the ad will run on the internet (aka placements), etc. These settings will then be applied to every ad within said ad set.

To start off, we recommend having an Ad Set for a 0-4% Value Based Lookalike Audience, an Interest Based Audience, a Video Viewers and Social Engagers, and potentially, a retargeting audience for anyone who has visited your site (depending on your traffic and pixel data). 

For now, here are the steps we recommend for setting up your ad set:

  1. Create an audience, or use a saved audience you want to show your ads to (Make sure to exclude Purchases or Customers in the Last 30 Days - or even 180 days depending on your sales cycle - to prevent overlapping and paying to show ads to people who have already purchased from you recently.)
  2. Leave Additional Targeting as is (unless you ONLY sell in specific locations, have age restrictions, or your product is only applicable to a certain gender.)
  3. Select Automatic Placements (the ones Facebook believes will give you the best results.)
  4. Select 7-day click attribution, or 7 day click and 1 day view. (there is a lot of debate around which of these to use, with some experts even advising 1 day click only. Your attribution settings can greatly change how your ads are served and how many get tracked correctly in other platforms like Google Analytics or on Shopify.) 
  5. Go on to create your ads!


This is the fun part! Ads are where you choose the creative you use (such as image or video), your ad copy, its headline, and call-to-action. You can have multiple ads within a single ad set to test different ad formats to help get a better idea of what ads resonate with what audiences. 

Since we recommend using CBO, it’s important to have several ads running in each ad set to really get a better understanding of where Facebook is allocating your budget and what’s working vs what isn’t. 

  1. Select your ad format - we recommend the single image format to start
  2. Select the image or video you want to use  (1,200 x 1,200 pixels)
  3. Add your copy to the Primary Text Field (~125 characters) a Description, and Headline (if you have multiple versions of Primary text, we recommend adding those here and Facebook will dynamically select the line that converts the best.)  
  4. Link the ad directly to your website or product page.
  5. Select the ‘Shop Now’ call to action button.
  6. Apply UTMs for tracking. We’ve provided a basic template here: utm_campaign={{adset.name}}&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpm
  7. Hit Publish!

Still feeling a little overwhelmed? We’ve also put together a CSV template that you can upload directly to your ad account to help you get started. Simply follow Facebook’s instructions to do so here:

Measure, optimize, and experiment 

Getting your campaign and ads up and running is only half the battle. You need to understand how to measure your success, how to optimize if things aren’t performing, and be willing to experiment (correctly). 

Before we dive into anything too specific, it’s important to note that there is a full 72-hour delay on data getting pulled into Facebook Ads Manager - so don’t jump the gun. Obsessively checking your results every few hours won’t do you any good. 

That said, the way you should be reading your results can be broken into two parts:

  • The quality of your audience, ad(s), and landing page and
  • The effectiveness of your ad 

The number one thing you should be keeping an eye on right now is your cost per acquisition (CPA). Metrics such as Cost per thousand impression (CPM), clickthrough rate (CTR), cost per click (CPC), and cost per landing page view (CPLPV) can help you understand the the quality of your audience, ads (copy, creative), and/or landing pages. Understanding the effectiveness of your ad means watching more actioned things such as cost per: content view, add-to-cart, and actual purchase (revenue). Remember, return on ad spend (ROAS), especially at a channel level isn’t the end-all-be-all metric it used to be, and you should be looking at your results more holistically and judging performance through calculating your marketing efficiency ratio (MER).  

When optimizing your campaigns, we live by the rule that less is more, aka, consolidation is key. Too many ad sets, campaigns, or ads will spread your budget and audiences too thin, not giving you the results you need to make an informed decision. 

If your ads aren’t getting many clicks despite reaching thousands of people, try tweaking the ad copy or testing a new creative. If people are clicking through on your ads but not taking the desired action on your site, it means your landing page could probably use a little work (check out these 3 key ways you can optimize your your product page here!). That said, if you’ve done both of these things, it could be time to refine or change your audience. Ask yourself, is this really the correct group to go after? Are they really as qualified as I thought? You could have the most compelling ad on the planet, and an enticing landing page, but if the product isn’t a fit, they simply won’t buy it. 

It’s also important not to make too many changes at once. Try adjusting one thing at a time and letting the ad run before changing anything else. By adding too many variables to the mix, it’ll be difficult to pinpoint exactly what boosted the ads performance so you can easily replicate it with your other campaign(s).

We typically recommend using 5% to 20% of your overall budget on test campaigns and experimentation. These tests can include things such as campaign structure, new audiences, creatives that might be a little out-of-the-norm for your brand, or different landing pages. 

That’s because, long and short of it is, you should always be testing. The Facebook landscape changes all the time, what works today might tank tomorrow. As long as you’re willing to continuously learn and stay on top of Facebook’s updates, you should have a successful (and fun!) time getting your campaigns up and running smoothly.

Happy advertising!

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