If you use any kind of automation in your Google Ads or Facebook Ads account, you may have asked yourself recently: What does it mean when Google or Facebook says it’s “Learning,” and how can you avoid it?
Trust me, I get it – and I was searching the same thing just a few months ago. After extensive research and sifting through support docs, we’ve built up a strong understanding of what the learning period is, why it exists, when it occurs, and how you can navigate the negative implications that come with it.
So, with this blog post, I hope I can answer your questions and save you some time on your quest to navigate the learning period.
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.”
Facebook’s definition: “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.”
In short: The learning period is the time it takes for the platform’s algorithm to learn from recent, significant changes.
Google Ads: While on Facebook you will incur a learning period across any bid strategy, on Google, you will only provoke a learning period for an automated, smart bidding strategy. These bid strategies include: Target CPA, Target ROAS, Maximize Conversions, and Enhanced CPC (eCPC). The learning period will be noticeable in the status column at your campaign level.
NOTE: As of April 2021, Target CPA and Target ROAS are being retired. Learn more here.
Facebook: Since budget and settings are created at the ad set level (aside from the new feature campaign budget optimization), you will see the learning status in the delivery column of your ad set.
Google: On Google Ads, the learning period typically lasts 7 days since the last significant edit to that campaign.
Facebook: The learning period will last until your ad set reaches 50 optimization events within a 7-day period since the last significant edit.
The difference? Facebook’s algorithm requires a threshold of data to re-learn, while Google requires a set timeframe for the learning process.
On Google Ads:
Typically, changes to keywords, ad groups, or ads will not trigger a learning period. However, if you introduce bulk changes to several of these components, you may incur the learning period to your campaign.
For both Facebook and Google Ads, you should expect delivery and efficiency to go down throughout the learning period. Yes, this means that you are likely to see the campaign’s daily spend decrease while the CPA (cost per acquisition) increases and conversion rate decreases.
Yup, I get it, it’s not the ideal scenario. However, you can’t just sit on your hands and avoid optimizing your campaigns in fear of the learning period. Instead, you need to learn how to control the implications and allow your campaign the time to re-learn and improve with the changes you’ve made.
As we know, the ad auction systems on Facebook and Google Ads are dependent upon the platforms’ algorithms, which are built from machine learning technology. Just as Google needs your Quality Score and bid to determine when you show up in the ad auction, Google also needs to understand what delivers the results (conversions) you’re asking it to optimize for. In summary, the algorithm needs the time to work with the signal and understand what is proven to work and drive results.
Google’s DeepMind video offers the perfect analogy for the learning period. In the video you’ll watch machine learning technology play its first game of Atari, with zero training or understanding of how to play. After several failures and just about 240 minutes of training, the technology finds the fastest and most effective way to beat the game.
This is exactly what the algorithm is doing while your campaign is in a learning period. It’s digesting the new information and learning how it can drive the results you’ve optimized it towards. During this time, the algorithm learns from each delivery. And as the impressions build up, the algorithm gathers the significant data it needs to make decisions and understand how it can more effectively deliver to the goals you’ve selected.
Fear the learning period no more! Just follow these guidelines:
Kristina Simonson is a digital marketing specialist at WordStream and is in charge of managing our own paid search and paid social accounts. When she’s not busy driving leads, she enjoys traveling, running, and adventuring for the best margarita in town.
See other posts by Kristina Simonson
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