What’s the PPC Learning Phase on Google Ads & Facebook Ads?

What’s going on, guys!

A question we get asked quite often is what is the PPC learning phase on Google and Facebook? Before I go into it, I want to tell you this is not something your PPC made up because he’s doing a poor job. It’s actually a real thing and is in relation to the machine learning algorithms that the platforms have. Generally speaking, it’s with any kind of automated bid strategy on Google.

On Facebook, it’s a little bit different and pretty much every ad strategy that you put together has to go through this learning phase. What I want to do is take a second here to read you the actual definition from Google and Facebook, because I think they’re pretty relevant. I know it’s rude to have your phone out in a video, I apologize (sorry mom).

I just want to read this to you really quick. So, Google’s definition:

“After you make a change to your bid strategy, it takes time for Google Ads to gather the performance data it needs to optimize your bids.” So that’s why it would go through learning strength phase there.

According to Facebook…

“After you create a new ad set or make a significant edit to an existing one, our system starts learning who to show ads to. This learning isn’t a change to the way our system works, but we’re showing the status to let you know when performance is still stabilizing.” That’s the key. You’re not going to see great results during the learning phase. Your cost per acquisition is going to be higher. Your conversion rates are probably going to be lower. Generally speaking, all your metrics aren’t going to be great.

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The Learning Phase

In short, the learning phase is the time period that it takes for the system to learn essentially which patterns are working best. (I’ll put my phone away)

I want to talk to you a little bit about how this works on each platform because as I said with Google, it’s only with automated bidding strategies that you have to worry about this learning phase.

Those are Target CPA, Target return on ad spend (ROAS), Maximize Conversions and Enhanced cost per click (enhanced CPC).
Those are the automated bidding strategies that Google allows right now and are the ones that will have to go through this learning phase when you implement the campaigns.

So, don’t implement a campaign with an automated strategy and expect to get great in the first week—It’s not happening. It would be very unlikely. With that said, if you get great results in the first week, you’re second, third, fourth, fifth weeks are going be excellent most likely.

So that is something to take into account.

With Facebook, it does happen with pretty much every single ad campaign that you put in place and lasts until you have 50 events completed within a seven-day period.

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So what does that mean?

You can set events on Facebook. You have to do that to figure out this learning phase. This could be a forum fill if you’re using a Facebook pixel on your site. That event gets completed. If you get 50 forum fills in seven days, it can figure out how to optimize towards those forum fills.

What it’s doing is figuring out the characteristics of the people that are more likely to fill out a form for you. So it’ll bid upon those people a little bit lower on the people that are unlikely to do. So some of those characteristics—if you’re looking at Facebook—might be age, gender, it might be interesting, pages they follow it, user behavior, mobile versus desktop—all those things are factoring in.

And Facebook is then choosing on your end out of all your ad creative which ad creative works best for this type of person, which ad sets works best for this type of person, which ad set, which landing page. You can maybe test all different kinds of things and Facebook’s gonna optimize towards those.

Now in the Google Ad…that’s a little bit different. Google doesn’t have all those data inputs that Facebook does right. It’s not going to know what pages you follow, what your friends have tagged you in recently. It doesn’t have that, but what it does have— since pretty much everyone is pretty logged into Google in some sort of way—it knows your past search behavior.

It knows if you’re in the market for different things. Anything that you log into using Google, it’s going to know all that data on you as well. It’s going to know your age, it’s going to know your device, it’s going know your browser, it’s going to know your patterns of behavior too.

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Google’s optimizing towards all those

Then on your ad end, Google’s taking the different—you’ve probably got between three to five ads in your ad set—Google’s figuring out which ad to show you. Google’s then figuring out which extensions to show you as well and based on the time of day and all those other factors, that’s how it’s figuring out how much to bid for any particular person.

Google’s learning phase lasts about seven days and on Facebook, it’s going to be those 50 events within a seven day period.
Now, those are going to happen anytime you set up any of these campaigns but they can happen again down the road if you make any significant changes.

That’s the biggest thing.

You want to make minor changes over time, so you don’t re-enter the learning phase because then you’re going to see that dip and performance again and that kind of sucks, right. One way to do that is to avoid making any budget changes that are over 20 percent of your budget. Stay within 20 percent mark anytime you change your budget and let that ride out for a few days before you make another tweak to it.

Never just take your budget and double it unless you absolutely need to. Never take your budget and cut it in half unless you absolutely need to because you’re going end up in a learning phase again and it’s got to go through this whole thing.

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So there’s one really good video that I will link to you guys. This shows Google’s DeepMind’s AI, which is the same thing that powers the machine learning algorithms on AdWords, but they were teaching it how to play Atari pong. At first, you can see this thing going back and forth and it sucks really bad. Then after a hundred and twenty hours of this thing playing pong, it’s an absolute expert! It’s got it nailed down. That’s the same kind of thing. That’s a pretty good analogy for how it works on google ads as well you can put everything in place.

You put all the greatest stuff in place but if you’re relying on those automated algorithms, which you probably should, then you’re going to have to go through. You’re just going to have to endure the learning phase. That’s how it is.

That’s the learning phase explained.

If you’ve got any questions, let me know!

Thank you. Happy Wednesday!

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