How to Choose the Right Facebook Ad Objective for Your Goals

Facebook Ad objectives are the backbone of any Facebook campaign: the objective controls your bidding options, your ad unit options, and the way your campaigns are optimized.

There are 13 campaign objectives to choose from but not much supporting content to help make that selection.

Because of this, getting started with Facebook can be a little bit overwhelming.

I remember back when I was setting up my first Facebook Ads account – I searched for tips or guides that would help me to determine which objective was the best fit for my use-case.

Unfortunately, I came up empty-handed. What I found was:

  • Facebook’s own guide leaves a lot to be desired. It gives a short overview of each objective and loosely groups each objective into a single area of the funnel. If you’re a glutton for the type of punishment that requires you to try to extrapolate the next steps from next-to-no-information, you can find their guide here. Suffice to say, it hasn’t been updated in a long time – at least not in a meaningful way.
  • Any other guide that I found was just a repurposed version of Facebook’s guide. Sometimes with better graphic design but still not helpful.

Facebook groups separate their objectives into three parts of the funnel:

  • Awareness.
  • Consideration.
  • Conversion.

While they’re not wrong that the campaign objectives that they’ve grouped into each funnel stage could play a positive role in their respective sections, it’s also really oversimplified.

If you’ve run media before, it’s easy to overthink it – without much solid documentation, it’s hard to validate the decision.

If you’re here, you’re probably as I was – searching for more information about how to use each objective to your advantage without settling for what might seem most obvious.

It’s also really easy to under-think it. The conversion objective, from the accounts that I’ve audited and onboarded, appears to be the most popular by far.

It’s no surprise really – given that the objective is called “conversions” and that’s what we all want.

Don’t get me wrong – I love this objective – but using it in the wrong context can be a really expensive mistake.

A Guide to Each Facebook Ad Objective: When to Use Each & Your Bidding Options

1. Store Traffic Objective

The store traffic objective isn’t exactly as it sounds. This objective is really geared toward any business with multiple physical stores, restaurants, dealerships, or other places of business.

If you wanted to drive local awareness for multiple brick-and-mortar locations or to help people contact the right location, this objective could be a good option.

With the store traffic objective, you can create customized ads for each of your locations and deliver them to people nearby to theoretically increase store visits and sales.

Right now, store visits reporting is in testing which means that not all advertisers that have access to the Store Traffic objective have access to store visits reporting and optimization.

Instead, most Store Traffic campaigns will optimize for daily unique reach by default, which is what makes the objective name a bit misleading.

For those that have access to store visits reporting and optimization, Facebook uses a combination of data points to report on store traffic, including:

  • Information from people with location services enabled on their phone.
  • Satellite imagery and mapping data from third parties.

Facebook attempts to filter out people that they believe are employees. It admits that its methodology isn’t perfect, so they use the information to extrapolate results and then they attempt to verify it through polls to validate the accuracy of their measurement and extrapolation.

All that said, because the results are estimates, the more data that Facebook has, the better. For smaller retailers, this data is more likely to be less accurate.

If you have just one store location and want to try to drive in-store visits, Facebook suggests using the daily unique reach objective (that’s the default optimization KPI for the Store Traffic objective anyway).

Another option could be to use offline events to track in-store purchases, which could lend itself to other campaign objectives.

2. Reach Objective

The reach objective is going to try to maximize the number of people that see your ads and the number of times that they will see your ads.

Plain and simple, the goal of this objective is to try to maximize exposure.

One of the benefits of this campaign type is that you can set frequency controls, which is often not the case with Facebook campaigns. You can control the frequency by defining X number of impressions per X number of days.

With the Reach objective, you can pay per impression (CPM) or per “Reach” (CPM but based upon your defined frequency controls).

The Reach objective is often thought of as being top of funnel. This could potentially be a cheap way to get a lot of exposure for your brand but, it can be a little difficult to quantify – especially if you have a sales cycle that is long enough that Facebook may not accurately track view-through conversions.

Even top-of-funnel, I prefer to have a metric to quantify (beyond impressions) to ensure that we’re beginning to get some high-level traction with prospects and, more importantly, to begin to build audiences to use lower in the funnel.

That said, I’ve had success in using the Reach objective for remarketing, as you can define frequency, you know it’s a low funnel audience, and it can be cheaper than the conversion objective.

3. Brand Awareness Objective

The Brand Awareness objective is geared toward driving ad recall.

With many of the objectives, you can choose different options for how you bid. With this objective, you don’t get to choose – Facebook is going to serve your ads to the people that they believe will remember seeing them and you’ll be charged based upon CPM.

Facebook reserves the right to survey your audience to try to improve their delivery optimization.

As with the Reach objective, I don’t love to optimize for impressions. This isn’t an objective that I use often for that reason. That said, if you have a brand without much awareness, it could be worth testing.

Side Note: I realize I’ve now said that I don’t really like to use either of the two objectives that are in the “Awareness” bucket for the top of funnel initiatives. Am I saying that I don’t run top of funnel campaigns?

Not at all!

But this is exactly the purpose of this post: I think you’ll find there are better ways to use the objectives beyond just their suggested purposes.

4. Traffic Objective

The Traffic objective is most useful if your goal is to get people to your site or app.

I like the traffic objective for advertisers that have a long buyer journey and likely won’t convert prospects on the first interaction as it is often less expensive than the Conversion objective (not always – but we’ll get to that later) and it still gets people to the website.

This allows you to start educating prospects and build remarketing lists at the same time. This is especially valuable if you don’t have videos to use for a video view campaign.

With the Traffic objective, you have a few different bidding options. By default, the setting is to bid for “link clicks,” which means Facebook will deliver your ads to the people that it believes is most likely to click on them.

By default, it’s a CPM bid model, even though your target is link clicks, but you have the option to change it to pay per link clicks.

However, you don’t have the option to set the CPC – Facebook automatically optimizes for the lowest CPC or CPM, whichever bidding option you choose.

I highly recommend updating the bidding defaults – I’ll come back to that but first, the other options. You can alternatively opt to bid on:

  • Landing Page Views: Facebook will deliver your ads to people that it believes are most likely to click on your ad’s link and load the website or instant experience.
  • Impressions: Facebook will deliver your ads to people as many times as possible. (Note frequency will likely be high.)
  • Daily Unique Reach: Facebook will deliver your ads to people up to once per day (meaning: Facebook will try to reach as many people as possible).

The reason that I don’t like to bid on link clicks is that it doesn’t really mean that you are getting traffic.

If you review your “link click” stats versus your landing page views, you’ll find that the numbers are often vastly different.

There’s a variety of reasons for this – one being that people that click don’t always wait for the site to load. For this reason, link clicks are much less valuable to me than landing page views.

5. Engagement Objective

I find engagement campaigns to be underrated. (Hear me out!)

The goal of these campaigns is to drive engagement. I know it sounds like a vanity metric. Facebook will show your ads to the people in your audience that are most likely to engage.

Now – an engagement campaign likely isn’t going to convert people. It can – I’ve seen it – but it typically isn’t best suited for that.

Rather, the engagement campaign can serve as:

  • A cheap way to build a remarketing pool.
  • A way to build social proof.

I especially like it for the latter. Then, after we’ve built social proof on the ad, I take the same ad (using the ad ID) and I plug it into other campaigns.

The result is that we now have ads with a lot of engagement that are plugged into campaign objectives that are better for driving the funnel.

With the Post Engagement objective, you can choose to optimize for post engagement, impressions, or reach.

6. Lead Generation Objective

I’m a big fan of the lead generation campaign because it is really, really versatile.

Facebook suggests using this objective in the consideration stage but I find that it can really be used in any stage of the funnel – with the right content.

One of the best things about the Lead Generation objective is that you can capture email addresses to start to build up your email marketing efforts in tandem with your paid social efforts.

Here’s how I suggest using it:

  • Top of Funnel or Low Intent Prospecting Audiences: To drive downloads for awareness level content, all while building your email list.
  • Mid-funnel: To drive downloads in exchange for mid-funnel content.
  • Low Funnel or High Intent Audiences: To drive quote or pricing requests or to drive coupons or access to promotions.

I’ve also seen the Lead Generation objective work as a means to drive quote requests from low intent prospecting audiences but, they (unsurprisingly) seem to have lower close rates, so I don’t recommend using it for that.

If you have the content, I highly recommend testing out this objective. It can be incredibly cost-effective.

7. Video Views Objective

The Video Views campaign is another one of my favorites. Facebook recommends using it in the consideration stage.

I find that I typically like it best for Top-of-Funnel campaigns but, with the right content, it can also be useful for mid-funnel campaigns.

The beauty of the Video Views objective is that you optimize for video views and those are typically really inexpensive, comparative to other objectives.

With good creative, you can also see a decent click-through-rate, which then means that not only are you driving traffic, as you could do with many other objectives, but you’re first educating them with the video content so they are that much more informed before they even arrive on-site.

For one client, I compared a Video View objective campaign with a Traffic campaign, both having targeted the exact same audience.

I found that the number of landing page views was nearly the same but yet the cost per landing page view was cheaper with the Video View campaign.

So, to summarize: the cost per landing page view was cheaper and they also had the added benefit of having watched the video. Win-win!

You can also build audiences off of video views, so there are a ton of ways to use this objective to tee yourself up for lower funnel campaigns.

With video view campaigns, you can optimize for:

  • ThruPlay: Facebook will optimize for prospects that watch your whole video or up to 15 seconds, whichever is shorter.
  • 10-second Video Views: Facebook will optimize for prospects that will watch at least 10 seconds of your video.
  • 2-second Continuous Video Views: Facebook will optimize for 2 continuous seconds or more.

You can opt to be charged for impressions or for ThruPlays.

8. Messenger

Messenger campaigns are ideal for engagement. If your prospects are likely to require certain pieces of information before converting, then messenger campaigns may be ideal.

When creating your messenger ad within Facebook, you have a few options:

  • Create your own custom welcome message.
  • Use a standard welcome message from a template.
  • Use an automated chat.

With a welcome message, you have an option to pre-populate actions for your prospects, such as the option to select one of a few FAQ or other requests that they can click on to receive an automated response.

With an automated chat, you can collect information from prospects prior to routing them to the correct place for a response. For instance, you might ask their email or their ZIP code.

Where possible, Facebook can help pre-populate their answers to make for a better experience. You can also ask short answer questions or give them multiple choice answers to choose from.

There are a lot of different ways and reasons to use Messenger campaigns. In some cases, you may prefer to use a chatbot to help manage those campaigns instead. Check out this post for tips.

Messenger campaigns are automatically optimized for the people that are most likely to message you. You can set a bid cap.

9. Catalog Sales

The Catalog objective is meant for ecommerce advertisers that have a catalog connected to their business manager.

One of the most popular functions of this campaign objective is the ability to run dynamic remarketing. It can also be used for other purposes, though; such as cross-sell, upsell and even prospecting.

With this objective, Facebook makes it really easy to set parameters for:

  • Which product set should be used.
  • Which audience should see the ad.
  • Other basic preferences (such as cookie pool length; whether items were viewed, added to cart or neither; and exclusions) that the advertiser might want to define.

Product sets can be defined in a number of ways, including but not limited to:

  • Price.
  • Brand.
  • Product type.

If you’re an ecommerce marketer, I highly suggest giving this campaign objective a test, especially if you plan to run a remarketing campaign.

There’s quite a bit of flexibility in what you can optimize for conversion events, clicks, or impressions. Depending on what you choose to optimize for, you’ll have different bidding options.

If you choose to optimize for conversion events then you’re able to choose which one (Add to Cart, Purchase, etc.) You can then choose to optimize for the lowest cost conversion or set a target cost to optimize for.

If you choose to optimize for link clicks or impressions, Facebook will optimize for the lowest cost of each, respectively, and you can also choose to set a bid cap.

If eligible, you’ll be able to optimize for value which tells Facebook to optimize for a certain ROAS.

10. Conversions

Ah, the Conversion objective.

This is probably the most widely used objective because the name is synonymous with nearly everyone’s goals. I’m not bashing the Conversion objective – I love it – but it has a time and a place.

A Conversion objective campaign is going to do everything it can to optimize for as many conversions as it can.

So, the main pitfall is when clients try to use this campaign objective to convert high-funnel/low-intent prospects on a high-intent conversion type, especially with products that require a high degree of consideration.

The Conversion objective works best in scenarios where:

  • The audience is low-funnel and ready to convert. (Remarketing could be an example.)
  • The audience is high-funnel but the product or service requires little consideration. (Maybe the product has a low purchase price, for instance.)
  • The audience is high-funnel and the conversion we are optimizing toward is also high-funnel. (For instance, optimizing toward an informational micro-conversion, instead of a purchase.)

The conversion objective needs data in order to be able to best optimize itself, so it’s important that when using this objective:

  • You don’t segment audiences too far to the point that the algorithm doesn’t have enough data to learn from.
  • You don’t set such a lofty conversion type that it rarely happens within the audience targeted and the algorithm doesn’t have enough data to learn from. If you find your campaigns are struggling with this, consider creating a micro-conversion just one step up that you can optimize toward (e.g., test optimizing toward Add-to-Cart instead of Purchase). The additional data volume will help Facebook to make better decisions to get a better ROAS in the long run.

Don’t let any of this deter you from using the Conversion objective – just keep in mind that it will work best if you set it up for success.

With the Conversion objective, you’ll be able to set the conversion you’d like to optimize toward at the ad set level. You can choose to optimize for lowest cost conversions or for target cost (a target CPL that you’d like to achieve).

Ultimately, you’ll be charged a CPM but Facebook’s algorithms will work to optimize toward the bidding objective of your choice.

If eligible, you’ll be able to optimize for value, in place of lowest cost or target cost conversions.

Optimizing for value tells Facebook to optimize for a certain ROAS. If you prefer, you can optimize toward impressions, link clicks, or daily unique reach but it isn’t recommended.

11. Event Response Objective

This one is pretty self-explanatory and unique in its purpose. The Event Response objective is great for promoting an event that you’ve created on Facebook in an effort to try to drive awareness and attendance of an event.

With an Event Response objective, you can choose to optimize for event responses, impressions, post engagement, or daily unique reach.

12. Page Likes Objective

This objective is super straightforward. The Page Likes objective can be used to drive more… well, likes. This is only available for your Facebook page (it isn’t available for Instagram).

With this objective, you can only optimize for page likes but you can choose to bid per impression or per page like. You also have the option to set a bid cap.

13. App Install Objective

App install campaigns are great for driving people to install your app but also for driving app events.

You can choose to optimize for:

  • App installs.
  • Retention (which means Facebook is trying to identify the people that will be most likely to open your app on day 2 or 7 – your choice – after having installed the app).
  • App events (which means Facebook will try to identify people that are most likely to complete the selected event.).
  • Link clicks.

Note: you can optimize for app traffic and app conversions through other campaign objectives but this is the only campaign type that allows you to optimize for app installs.

Testing Different Objectives

I’m all for thinking outside of the Facebook Objective boxes.

No doubt the intention of creating these objectives was to try to make it simple and easy for advertisers to determine which objective to use at each stage of the funnel.

The reality, though, is that many of these objectives work in other areas of the funnel – even, at times, better than objectives designed for said parts of the funnel.

You won’t know unless you test.

For that reason, if you’re on the fence about which objective to use, pick out a few different campaign objectives to test against each other for a specified goal and determine which is more successful at achieving the predetermined goal.

Featured image credit: Paulo Bobita