Should you optimize Facebook ads for link clicks or for conversions?

optimizing facebook ads

Are you getting tripped up by Facebook’s optimization types? Here is the low down.

When creating a Facebook ad campaign you may notice when editing the ad set you have an option to optimize Facebook ads  for a certain action.

Your choices are:

should you optimize for clicks or conversions

If you are running a Website Conversions campaign your default will be to have Facebook optimize the ad for conversions.

But what does this mean exactly?

What is Facebook actually optimizing and how is it doing that?

Well, Facebook knows a lot about it’s user base, it has many data points that create a very complex algorithmic view you who you are.

When Facebook is “optimizing” an ad it is cycling through it’s user base, and the target audience you have defined, to find users who are most likley to take the desired action your ad is designed for. For example it will find people, who - based on their profile are most likely to CONVERT when they land on your offer page.

If you optimize for website link clicks it will look for users in your target audience who are most likely to click on the link in your ad. When it finds these people it then shows your ad to people who match these criteria first.

Once your ad runs through all of the “top tier” matches it will move onto the next closest matches and start showing your ad to them, and so on.

But How Does Facebook Know Who To Show My Ad To?

Facebook has built a very powerful alogrithim, but it is not a mind reader (yet!). It is a comparative program. If finds matches by comparing actions of one user to the actions of another user.

Say someone clicks the link on your ad and you are optimized for “link clicks to website” Facebook will take the information from the person who clicked the ad and compare it to other users in your target audience.

Facebook cares about relevance on its platform. It has to run ads to support its business model, but its ad platform can only be successful if the user base stays on the platform. In order for advertisers and “civilians” to coexist on Facebook, the algorithm needs to do a good job of only showing ads that are relevant to the people viewing them.

Their ad set optimization option is one small piece of that puzzel.

Should you always use conversion optimization on a Website conversion ad?

Well this is tough, and there really is no right answer, but lets break it down a little.

When you are optimizing for clicks to website, it does not take long for Facebook to gather data on people who CLICK on your ad, as that is an easy action, and after a day or so you usually have a good amount of clicks for facebook to pull data from.

With conversions that is a little different. It is a much harder action for a user to take, they have to actually give up information into a form field or check out. When you start out a new campaign with a brand new conversion objective, it might take a little bit to  get your conversions going.

You may have an ad set that does not get a conversion in the first 24 hours, and all this time Facebook is trying to optimize your ad delivery based on people who have converted on your site, but there is no data to use in the optimization, so it is guessing. It is like trying to solve and equation when one of the main variables is always 0.

This can, but not always, effect your ads reach and impressions out of the gate. Facebook is trying to figure out who to show this ad to and it is having issues.

How to optimize a new website conversion Facebook ad campaign

Instead of having the algorithm guessing in the beginning of your new campaign, why not give it an easier metric to optimize on, website clicks.

Yes our objective is conversions, but at the start we want to get this ad in front of as many of our target audience that will click the link to our landing page. This will speed up the ad delivery a bit and hopefully start leading to conversions faster.

Once we start getting a good flow of the website visitors converting on our landing page, (around 10+ a day for 2-3 days is a good starting point) we will have given Facebook some conversion data to work with.

We can now switch from “clicks to website” optimization to “optimize for conversions”. Make sure to make your current ad set inactive and use a new ad set for your conversion optimized ad.

You can do this by duplicating the original ad set and creating a new ad set with the conversion optimization. Same goes for bidding, don’t, if you want to optimize or bid differently always duplicate the ad set first and make your changes in a NEW ad set.

duplicating an ad set

At this point our Facebook pixel has registered enough conversions that it can start comparing the people who converted to other users in our targeted audience and start showing our ad more to those matches.

Always test changes to your ad sets

Like any Facebook ads tactic you should always test it yourself before you make it a hard and fast rule. Recently I spoke with my new marketing account rep at Facebook and brought this question up to her.

She said that the optimization algorithms have gotten better and will not start trying to optimize for your chosen objective until it has enough data about your target audience.

However in my tests it still seems that I get results faster by optimizing for clicks to website in the beginning of a new conversion campaign, but ONLY if I am sending traffic to a brand new opt-in with no past conversions.

Again you have to test it for yourself and see how it works for you, but it is a tactic I have used over the past year and seems to get results faster than starting with conversion optimization.

What are your thoughts , have you tried this?

Jay Broyer

Hi I'm Jay the founder of , I been involved with small business web design and brick and mortar digital marketing since 2009. I cut my teeth in online marketing promoting my solo music career and brought those skills to my 9-5. Now I want to help other small businesses get ahead using paid traffic strategies.

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