What Happened When I Gave Facebook Targeting Expansion a Try

by | Oct 7, 2019 | Facebook Ads | 2 comments

Like you, I’m looking for ways to improve my Facebook campaign results for my clients. One component of Facebook Ads that I hadn’t ever enabled was Expansion Targeting. I guess I figured that I had my audiences pretty nailed down and didn’t trust what Facebook would do to really improve my results if I had it enabled.  But, as we all know, you never know for sure until you test.

What Is Facebook Targeting Expansion?

Well, that’s hard to exactly define because Facebook doesn’t define it. Enabling this feature basically gives Facebook permission to show your ads outside of the audience(s) in your ad set to those Facebook “thinks” will give you either more or cheaper results.

If the feature is enabled and if Facebook thinks it can generate better results for you, then it’ll take a portion of your budget to show to its “expanded” audience.  As your campaign goes on, Facebook will automatically shift your budget to whichever audience is doing better (your original or its expanded). You can find this feature in your ad sets under Detailed Targeting:

Who Isn’t Included in Targeting Expansion?

With this enabled, Facebook will still respect anyone in any of your exclusions whether they are geography, interest or audience exclusions.

Additionally, your selections for location, age or gender targeting will always be honored.  This means that if you have just one geographical location, age and/or gender selected, Facebook won’t show your ads to anyone outside of the criteria you’ve selected.  For example, if you select to reach 18 to 22-year-old females in California, Facebook won’t show your ad to a 23-year-old male in California who seems like he’d still be a good fit.

When Wouldn’t You Want to Try Targeting Expansion?

You wouldn’t want to enable Targeting Expansion when you have very specific audiences. For example, for remarketing campaigns it doesn’t make sense to reach out to anyone who would be new to your brand. Or, if you are targeting all Lookalike audiences, there wouldn’t be a good reason to expand outside of those because Facebook is already trying to find people like your target.

Additionally, this feature isn’t available for campaigns with Brand Awareness or Reach objectives.

Testing Targeting Expansion

To determine if targeting expansion might be right for my client, I set up an experiment in Facebook Ads. I had to get a little creative here because this isn’t included as an option in the initial experiment ad set set-up.

To get around it, I created two ad sets that were very similar except for one additional interest. Once the campaign was launched, I went into that one ad set, removed the extra interest and enabled the targeting expansion setting.  Note: Targeting expansion is not enabled by default except for Conversions and App Install campaigns.  So, if your campaign objective is one of those, then you’d have to do the opposite and de-select the feature.

Test Specifics

Campaign Objective: Traffic

Geography: 10 US Major Cities

Targeting: Ages 18-55, All Genders

Duration: Sept 20, 2019 – Sept 30, 2019

Placements: Facebook & Instagram News Feed, All Stories, Search and Instagram Explore

Interests: {not including details here since they are pretty specific to my client}

Test Results


As you can see, the ad set with Expanded Interests turned on had a higher CTR and lower CPC, cost per result and cost per landing page view. Unfortunately, this client doesn’t measure any back end conversions or actions to know which ad set might have generated more qualified leads.

The other interesting thing to note is the marked difference in Impressions, Reach and Frequency between the two ad sets.

If you’re a graph person, Facebook experiments allows you to see the results a number of different ways. Here is one:



I realized that in the end, I trust Facebook’s Lookalike targeting, so why wouldn’t I trust their expanded targeting? Based on this test, I don’t have a reason not to trust it.

You’ll have to test for yourself to know for sure if Facebook Targeting Expansion is right for you. I’m testing this again since I’d prefer a confidence level higher than 85% (my preference is at least 90%). Since Traffic is the goal for this client, it seems like keeping this enabled is the right way to go.

Have you tried Targeting Expansion yet on Facebook? How did it work out for your campaigns? Comment below to share!