Facebook Ads Reach vs Impressions, Frequency Explained

When people start out with Facebook ads one of the confusion they seem to have is understanding the difference between Facebook Ads Reach and Facebook Ads Impressions, and related to these Facebook ads frequency. 

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In this article, we will make sure to kill this confusion and provide you with clear definitions of these fundamental Facebook ads metrics and also explain further concepts and metrics related to them.

At the end of the blog post, we will also answer some of the most frequently asked questions related to Facebook ads reach and impressions, CPM.

Facebook Ads Reach vs Impressions

Facebook Ads reach, impressions, CPM, Frequency

To give a short answer, Facebook Ads Reach is the number of people who have seen a Facebook ad at least one time whereas Facebook Impressions is the number of times a Facebook ad was seen. 

So if you see a Facebook ad and right after you refresh your Facebook Newsfeed and see the same Facebook ad one more time, the Impressions of the ad will increase by two while the Ad Reach will increase by one.

If you want to have a deeper understanding, please keep reading, or you can also check out this quick video where it is explained clearly what the difference between Facebook Ad Reach and Impressions is:

Facebook Ads Impressions

Per Facebook’s official definition “An impression is counted as the number of times an instance of an ad is on screen for the first time”. 

This means that if you scroll on your Facebook or Instagram feed, see an ad, and in the same minute without refreshing your page you scroll back and see the same ad one more time, the number of impressions of the ad will only increase by one, not two.

If you refresh the page and see the same ad one more time, the number of impressions will be two.

Facebook Ads Impressions metric is similar to the Ad View (AV) metric used frequently in other online advertising niches.

Cost per Thousand Impressions (Facebook CPM)

Cost Per Thousand Impression or as you can see in Facebook ads reporting, CPM (which stands for Cost per Mille), is the price you have to pay for displaying a Facebook advert for 1000 times. It basically shows how cost-effective a specific Facebook campaign or ad is.

You can calculate your CPM also if you divide the metrics ‘Amount Spent’ and the number of ‘Impressions’ and then multiply that number with 1000.

Just because a Facebook ad, campaign or an ad set has a high CPM relative to other Facebook campaigns it doesn’t mean that you should stop that campaign. 

When an audience is more likely to convert on your website (as they are in a high-earning demographic group, and they are frequent online buyers), it is going to be significantly more expensive to reach them on Facebook (a.k.a. high CPM) than a group of people who rarely buy online.

Facebook Ads Reach

As Facebook’s official definition says Facebook Reach is the number of people who saw your ads at least once. Reach is different from impressions, which may include multiple views of your ads by the same people.

How many people you can reach in a given campaign will be capped by your audience targeting. You cannot reach more people than you define in your audience targeting, but it doesn’t mean you will reach all the people which Facebook estimates that you can reach as it also depends on your budget and on the advertisers’ bid.

Although advertisers usually focus on CPM, you can also calculate cost per thousand people reached which shows how much money you spent on average to reach 1000 users.

Facebook Ads Frequency

Frequency on Facebook ads is the average number of times each person saw your ad. It is calculated by dividing Impressions with the Reach metric.

A Frequency of 2 means that an average person has seen an ad two times in a specific period.

Facebook Ads Frequency Considerations

There is no such thing as good or bad frequency as you can only analyze this metric in context. When you increase the time period in which the performance data is shown in the Facebook ads reporting area, the frequency of the ads will obviously increase as well. 

The important thing you have to pay attention to is you don’t want your frequency to climb too high in a short period of time as that would mean that your ad gets shown to Facebook and Instagram users too many times that can lead to ad fatigue and declining performance in the long term. You especially have to pay attention to this when the audience size is too small such as in a retargeting campaign.

On the other hand, your goal should not be to minimize the ad frequency of a campaign. When a person sees an ad only once, it is less likely that he or she will perform the action you would like him to do. 

So to sum up, you have to find a balance with Facebook ad frequency that will make sure that your message will get through to the audience you want to target while also not bombarding them with the same ad too many times.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you retarget Facebook impressions?

No, you can only retarget people who clicked through your Facebook or Instagram ad if you have placed the Facebook Pixel on your website. The only difference is with video ads where you can retarget people who watched at least 25% or 3 seconds from your video. (But even in that case, that is not the same as an ad impression.)

Why aren’t my Facebook Ads getting impressions?

There can be many reasons why Facebook is not serving your ads. Make sure you wait a couple of minutes, sometime 1-2 hours after they approved your ads as Facebook won’t always start to deliver your ads immediately.

If the campaign still hasn’t received any impression under a day, a good hack you can try is to duplicate the campaign and see if they will start to deliver the duplicated campaign for the users.

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