Facebook ads are sold in an auction environment, which means the cost of Facebook advertising is largely determined by supply and demand.
When you set up a Facebook ad campaign, you have access to many tools and settings to help control your Facebook ad costs. You can look at the cost of Facebook ads in two ways: how much you want to spend on a campaign or by how much you want to spend per result.
You can directly control the amount you want to spend on a Facebook ad campaign, for example $5 per week or $5,000 per week, but you can’t directly control the cost of each result you get (for example a purchase, a download, or a click). Facebook has tools to help you control the cost per result to a degree, but there is no telling if you will consistently get results for your desired cost.
In addition to the auction, there are two other factors that make up the cost to advertise on Facebook, the value Facebook users get from your ad and estimated action rates.
Facebook’s goal is to increase the time their users spend on Facebook and too many bad ads in users’ news feeds will contribute to users leaving. So if you have an ad that doesn’t perform well because people don’t like it, you will have to pay more to Facebook for them to deliver it to their users. On the other hand, if you create an ad people like, you won’t have to pay as much for the ad because you’re helping make Facebook a better experience for their users. Facebook uses a number of different methods to measure user value, two of them being the ratio of negative to positive reactions to your ad and the number of users who hide or report your ad.
The other factor is the estimated action rate which is a measurement of expected advertiser value. Facebook mostly measures this based on how well your ad is achieving the objective you set for it. Typically, if an is performing well, it means the user likes the ad.
You can think of the parts that make up the cost of Facebook ads as a formula:
All this processing happens under the hood. As an advertiser, all you need to do is set the budget for your campaigns and keep your focus on finding the right audiences for your product and making the best ads you can. Doing these two things well will drive the cost of your Facebook ads down.
Granted that there are unique factors that determine your Facebook ad costs, we analyzed several hundreds of millions of dollars in Facebook ad spend to see how much Facebook ad costs on average.
Facebook advertising costs 2020
In 2020, the whole world has changed with the COVID-19 pandemic. The question that's relevant to us in this article is, how has this been affecting Facebook ad costs?
CPM impressions September 2020
For two months in a row, we saw CPM significantly increase again. In September, CPM rose by 10% to $12.59, another record high for 2020.
In nearly every type of campaign objective, CPM rose by a noticeable amount, including in reach, traffic, and conversion campaigns by 59%, 29%, and 9% respectively. This could be due to the latest changes in Facebook ads with the introduction of changes in how Facebook must gather data for iOS 14.
CPC September 2020
In addition to CPM, CPC also rose in September by 8% to $1.114.
When we break it down by campaign objective, CPC pretty much rose across every campaign objective, notably in traffic and conversion campaigns where CPC rose by 36% and 8% respectively.
Cost-per-engagement September 2020
Cost-per-engagement rose for the second time in a row to $0.10 from $0.09, another record high for 2020.
Cost-per-purchase September 2020
Cost-per-purchase in campaigns using the catalog sales objective rose considerably in September by 21% from August to $13.38. This is worrisome to see in September when we only expect costs to continually increase through Q4 when everyone is planning their Black Friday campaigns on Facebook.
Cost-per-conversion September 2020
When looking at purchases in campaigns using the conversion objective, we didn't see as much of a rise in costs as catalog sales campaigns. In fact, cost-per-purchase in catalog sales campaigns rose by $0.07 compared to August.
Cost-per-lead September 2020
Cost-per-lead increased from August by 8%, not too far off "normal" costs as seen in most months in 2020.
Cost-per-app-install September 2020
For a second month in a row, cost-per-app-install in September rose by 14% to $2.52 compared to August, the highest we've recorded in 2020. This is another worrying sign to see in September for app advertisers who will have to compete with the rise in Facebook ad costs in Q4 due to Black Friday and holiday spending.
CPM impressions August 2020
In August, we saw a sharp increase of 18.5% in Facebook ad costs by CPM compared to July. Notably, this is the highest recorded CPM in 2020.
The campaign objectives that saw the biggest increase in CPM costs in August from July were app install campaigns by 26%, traffic campaigns by 24%, conversion campaigns by 22%, and catalog sale campaigns by 18%. Reach campaigns which helps you get the most unique impressions remained mostly the same.
CPC August 2020
CPC in August increased slightly in August compared to July by 6%.
Among campaign objectives that are focused on generating outbound link clicks, there isn't a clear increase in costs across the board. While conversion campaigns saw a 10% jump in Facebook ad costs in terms of CPC, CPC in traffic campaign objectives virtually remained the same and catalog sales actually saw a decrease in CPC by 19%.
Cost-per-engagement August 2020
For the first time in 2020, we saw cost-per-engagement rise to $0.09, a $0.01 increase from last month, which is a 13% increase.
Cost-per-purchase August 2020
Another record for 2020 was set by the cost-per-purchase in catalog sales campaigns, which rose to $11.05, an increase of 6%.
Cost-per-conversion August 2020
As with catalog sales campaigns, regular conversion objective campaigns saw a 2% increase in cost-per-purchase.
Cost-per-lead August 2020
Last month, we saw a mysterious jump in cost-per-lead. Thankfully, we've returned to "normal" in August with a cost-per-lead of $4.99, which is similar to June, March, February, and January of this year.
Cost-per-app-install August 2020
Cost-per-app-install on Facebook in August 2020 increased by 13% compared to July, the highest it's been in 2020 since February.
CPM impressions July 2020
Three months in a row we're seeing a consistent CPM since the beginning of Covid-19. This is the most convincing signal that Facebook advertising costs have returned to normal.
When breaking down the CPM by campaign objective, we saw a mix of increases and decreases across objectives; however, cost-per-lead did have a slower return-to-normal than other objectives hence the more dramatic increase in cost from the previous month.
CPC July 2020
We saw the same consistently with CPC as we did with CPM; however, CPC hasn't just returned to normal since the beginning of Covid-19, it has increased quite a bit. This might be the "new normal" for Facebook ad CPC.
In conversion campaigns, where CPC probably matters most, we confirmed that CPC did remain relatively consistent as the past two months.
Cost-per-engagement July 2020
Cost-per-engagement did increase slightly from $0.07 to $0.08 in July compared to the past few months.
Cost-per-purchase July 2020
Cost-per-purchase in catalog sales campaigns is on the way to returning to pre-Covid-19 numbers at $10.44 compared to an average of $10.92 between January and February.
Cost-per-conversion July 2020
We also looked at the cost-per-conversion in campaigns with the conversion objective. This metric can be a bit misleading because the "conversion" event isn't standardized among all people using this campaign objective.
But by averaging it out, it can give us an idea if the cost-per-conversion is relatively increasing or decreasing over time. From our research, we saw a big increase in cost-per-conversion in May, but in July it has reduced a bit. However, it appears the Facebook cost-per-conversion is still higher than it was in January and February of this year.
Cost-per-lead July 2020
We did see a big increase in cost-per-lead in July compared to June and compared to pre-Covid-19 in January and February.
Cost-per-app-install July 2020
Cost-per-app-install is another metric that remained consistent over the past two months.
CPM impressions June 2020
Compared to May 2020, CPM didn't change much which could be a sign that things are leveling out from the uncertainty of Covid-19.
When looking at CPM by campaign objective by quarter, we can see that CPM increased by 8%. The biggest driver in this increase is due to the increase we saw in Conversion campaign which is the campaign type that Revealbot customers allocate the most spend to.
CPC June 2020
CPC also stayed relatively the same compared to May with a slight decrease of 3%. We see this as another sign of Facebook ad costs stabilizing after Covid-19.
When broken down by campaign type, we again see an overall increase in Q2 compared to Q1 with Conversion campaigns driving most of the increase. Although both these CPM and CPC costs in Q2 compared to Q1 look the same, it somewhat hides the volatility in pricing we saw at the end of Q1 and beginning of Q2.
Nevertheless, we are seeing a clear, steady increase in Facebook ad CPCs in 2020.
Cost-per-engagement June 2020
Continuing the same story as previous months, cost-per-engagement remains unchanged and the most steady Facebook ad cost metric.
Cost-per-purchase June 2020
In Catalog Sales campaigns, costs decreased nearly 10% in June 2020 compared to May despite a 50% increase in Catalog Sales CPC between Q2 and Q1 2020. Over $3M is spent on Catalog Sales campaigns through Revealbot, however it appears the high CPC we saw in May was an outlier compared to the 2020 average possibly due to high spend, low converting campaign.
Cost-per-lead June 2020
We saw a 37% increase in Facebook ad cost-per-lead in June 2020 despite and 18% decrease in CPM in lead gen campaigns in Q2 compared to Q1. We suspect that since April's lows, the demand for lead gen ads has increased driving up the price of lead gen ads toward the end of Q2.
Cost-per-app-install June 2020
Cost-per-app-install increased slightly by 6.5% in June 2020 compared to May. Although we saw a high in cost-per-app-install in February, it's appearing the cost is leveling out to the average in Q1 with advertiser and consumer activity returning closer to normal after Covid-19 uncertainty.
CPM impressions May 2020
In May, cost-per-impressions rose again by 8% from $8.86 per thousand impressions to $9.57. It seems Facebook ads are no longer "discounted" from Covid-19 like how we saw earlier this year in March now that many advertisers are back buying ads.
This is a great example of why we break down CPM further by campaign objective. Although CPM increased overall in May, it actually only increased in traffic campaigns and was less in April in all other campaign objectives. Why? A large majority of campaigns we're analyzing are traffic campaigns and therefore have a higher weight in the overall CPM calculation.
CPC May 2020
Interestingly, cost-per-click rose dramatically by 16% from $0.87 in April to $1.01 in May. We haven't yet recorded a cost-per-click this high for 2020 and it could be an indicator for a number of things, including an overall drop in user click-through-rates, higher competition from an increased number of advertisers, or overall increase in ad costs.
When breaking down CPC by campaigns objective, it's a different story than CPM. CPC overall rose dramatically and that's reflected when breaking it down by campaign objective. CPC increased in every type of campaign and especially in traffic and reach campaigns.
Cost-per-engagement May 2020
Cost-per-engagement continues to be reliably consistent in 2020 with hardly a difference month-to-month.
Cost-per-purchase May 2020
In May, cost-per-purchase in campaigns with the 'catalog sales' objective had a huge jump in May compared to April rising by 29%, but still not as high as we saw in February and January earlier in the year.
Although we know campaigns with the 'conversion' objective is the most popular type of campaign to generate purchases, not everyone who runs conversion campaigns are optimizing for a standard purchase event. This makes calculating the cost-per-purchase in conversion campaigns near impossible.
Cost-per-lead May 2020
Compared to April, cost-per-lead increased to $3.57 in May from $2.66. April's and May's cost-per-lead was lower than Q1 2020 due to a decrease in total spend in lead gen campaigns Revealbot is connected to. But because the spend in May and April is on the same level, it's fair to say there was an increase in CPL in May compared to April just like cost-per-purchase.
Cost-per-app-install May 2020
Another similar story here. Cost-per-app-install increased by 29% to $1.86 in May compared to $1.44 in April.
CPM impressions April 2020
Overall, we saw a 12% increase in CPM in April compared to March. This could be an indication that more advertisers are jumping back into Facebook ads driving up the costs.
The biggest increases in CPM came from Reach and app-install campaigns. On the other hand, we saw a decrease in CPM in traffic, conversions, engagement, and lead generation campaigns.
CPC April 2020
There was also a 21% increase in cost-per-link click in April compared to March, another indicator that more advertisers are jumping into Facebook ads again. However, it's interesting to see the increase is so much higher than even in January or February. This is something we'll keep an eye on when we compile May data.
We saw an 18% increase in CPC in Traffic campaigns and a 8% increase in catalog sales campaigns, which are the two types of campaigns that contain most of the link clicks.
Cost-per-engagement April 2020
We didn't see too much of a difference in cost-per-engagement in April compared to May, but is still something we'll continue to monitor as a Facebook ad cost indicator.
Cost-per-purchase April 2020
To measure cost-per-purchase, we isolate catalog sales campaigns and looks at the total amount spent divided by purchases. In April, we saw some surprising results.
Cost-per-purchases decreased 17% in April compared to March, continuing the trend we saw from February to March. Since January, cost-per-purchase decreased 35%. This is a very strong indicator to be running more catalog purchase campaigns. It might be a good idea to build a warm audience with auto post boosting rather than hitting cold audience with catalog sales. Like everything else, keep testing.
CPL April 2020
April saw a huge decrease in cost-per-lead from March. This might be due to a large decrease in the amount we saw spent in Revealbot on lead generation campaigns this month, which might be representative of the Facebook ad marketplace as a whole.
In any case, this is an excellent signal for campaigns that need to generate leads that can still operate at or close to full capacity because it means leads will be cheaper to acquire.
Cost-per-app-install April 2020
We see a similar story for cost-per-app-install in April compared to March, which decreased 5%.
Cost-per-thousand impressions 2020 Q1
In April, we compiled over $200M in ad spend data from Revealbot managed Facebook ad accounts from Q1 2020 - January, February, and March. Although you might experience something difference from your individual ad accounts you manage, this is what we saw. Also take note that most of our customers are in the United States and most likely targeting audiences in the US.
China first reported the rise of the outbreak in December and the first COVID-19 case in the US was confirmed on January 20, 2020. Because of COVID-19 or for other reasons, we saw a decrease in CPM of 18% in January and an 11% decline in February compared to 2019.
But the biggest difference comes in March when many states issued stay-at-home orders, which forced non-essential businesses to close or at the every least severely limit their operating capabilities. In March, CPM dropped by 34% compared to CPM costs in March 2019. This, without a doubt, is due to COVID-19, which is causing less businesses to spend on advertising.
Facebook warned last week that while usage of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp have sharply increased in the past couple of months, ad revenue has slumped, which is evidenced in what we're seeing in our data. Lower CPMs are likely due to less advertisers buying ads.
Cost-per-click (link) 2020 Q1
We continue to see the decrease in Facebook's ad costs when looking at CPC, too. In January, February, and March 2020, CPC dropped by 16%, 21%, and 27% respectively compared to 2019.
While CPMs dropping shows ads are getting cheaper to buy, CPCs dropping at the same time shows Facebook users are still likely to click on ads.
For many ecommerce advertisers on Facebook, we see this as a big opportunity. With many advertisers pulling back spend, that decreases the cost of Facebook ads in the auction. And if you're an ecommerce business with products that are attractive for home or indoor use, this is a great time to scale your Facebook ad campaigns.
CPM by campaign objective 2020 Q1
When looking at the differences in CPM by campaign objective, we see further evidence of declining CPM compared to the first quarter in 2019.
What's especially interesting here is the decrease in CPM for conversion and catalog sales campaigns. Before seeing this data, I would have guessed CPMs in Reach campaigns drop the sharpest as advertisers consolidate their budgets to campaigns with direct, high ROI.
Despite this, the data says CPMs in conversion and catalog sales dropped 26% and 23% respectively.
Rather than attributing the decrease in cost to advertisers consolidating budget to bottom-of-funnel campaigns, this could be explained by advertisers pulling their budget completely.
CPC by campaign objective 2020 Q1
Again, something peculiar is happening with Reach campaigns, and we're not completely sure why. Upon investigating the data, it's calculated correctly and we can only label this an outlier. As we continue to monitor Facebook advertising costs, we'll keep an eye on Reach campaigns.
But what we continue to see is again, CPC in both conversion and catalog sales dropped by 24% and 45% respectively.
This drop in CPC for both of these types of campaigns continues to show that although Facebook advertisers are buying less ads, Facebook users are still clicking on them. And if you have a product that people want during this time, this is an excellent opportunity to scale your campaigns.
Facebook advertising costs 2019
In 2019, Revealbot as a Facebook ad automation platform managed over $300 million in Facebook ad spend. We compiled and anonymized the data to see how much Facebook ad costs were month-to-month and quarter-to-quarter. Here’s what we found:
Cost-per-thousand impressions 2019 by month
We saw varying cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) throughout 2019 between $10.42 and $11.92. Naturally, CPM’s increased in the holiday season to $12.64 and $12.58 in November and December respectively.
The increase in CPM’s at the end of the year is expected when there are more advertisers increasing their budgets to capture holiday shoppers’ attention.
Cost-per-click (link) 2019 by month
Cost-per-click (CPC) for outbound links in 2019 had a different story than CPM. We saw CPC at its highest between February and June with costs about 13% lower during November and December.
While ad costs might be increasing during the holiday shopping season at the end of the year, Facebook users may be more likely to click an ad. This might also be caused by advertisers offering more appealing ad creatives and offers to capture holiday buyers.
Cost-per-post-engagement 2019 by month
Throughout 2019, there wasn’t much of a difference in costs-per-engagement with only a $0.02 range between $0.09 and $0.11.
Calculating cost-per-conversion for Facebook ads is difficult as Facebook’s API doesn’t offer a cost-per-result, result being the selected type of conversion the advertiser chose for the campaign. To rectify this problem to at least get some insight into the cost of conversions from Facebook ads, we looked at the cost-per-purchase from campaigns with the objective for catalog sales.
The cheapest cost-per-purchase came in the fourth quarter, which is expected with advertisers offering the best discounts and users buying more than usual at this time of the year.
The first quarter wasn’t that much more expensive than the fourth quarter, and quarters two and three ($8.78) were about 12% higher than the average of quarters one and four ($7.86). It’s important to note that the cost-per-purchase for each advertiser will be significantly different based on the products they’re selling. You might have a far lower cost-per-purchase or far higher based on the prices of the products you’re selling.
Don’t miss our guide on Facebook ads for ecommerce to make sure you’re not missing anything critical that could make your Facebook ads more expensive than they need to be.
Calculating the cost-per-lead (CPL) from Facebook ad campaigns with the objective of lead generation is much more straightforward.
We didn’t see a big difference in CPL in quarter four from other quarters showing that the holiday shopping season doesn’t affect lead generation campaigns.
Surprisingly, we did see a much lower CPL in the second quarter compared to others, and we will see in 2020 if this is a trend we can expect for lead generation campaigns.
Cost-per-app-install 2019 by quarter
Another straightforward insight we can calculate is the cost-per-app-install for Facebook ad campaigns with the objective of app installs.
In 2019, we saw the cost-per-app-install vary widely between the first and second quarter to the third and to the fourth. The cost-per-app-install was most expensive in the fourth quarter ($2.95), 123% more than the average of the first and second quarter.
This might be due to the increased ad auction competitiveness in the fourth quarter driving costs up for mobile app advertisers. This is another insight we will continue to monitor in 2020 to see if this a trend mobile advertisers should expect to see.
CPM by campaign objective 2019 by quarter
The best way to determine the cost of Facebook ads might be to look at CPM by campaign objective, which can give you a better idea of how much it costs for 1,000 Facebook users to see your ad based on your campaign type.
We looked at CPM costs by reach, traffic, conversions, engagement, catalog sales, app installs, and lead generation campaign objectives.
Naturally, reach campaigns have the cheapest CPM with the first and fourth quarters being the most expensive. Engagement campaigns, while seemingly not too far behind, are around twice as expensive.
Most facebook ad campaigns for ecommerce will be running conversion and catalog sales campaigns, which have significantly higher CPM’s than reach campaigns, but that isn’t at all surprising - it’s going to cost money to reach buyers. What is surprising is how much more expensive CPM’s were for catalog sales campaigns in quarter four. While catalog ads might be more expensive to deliver, advertisers are likely making up for the cost directly through sales.
CPC by campaign objective 2019 by quarter
Another metric to determine potential Facebook ad costs is looking at CPC by campaign objective. While reach campaigns had by far the cheapest CPM, it’s nice to see traffic campaigns have the cheapest CPC - a great example of Facebook’s algorithm finding the best audiences for your campaign objectives.
And as we saw high CPMs with catalog sales campaigns, we see very low CPCs, showing that advertisers are reserving catalog sales ads to small, bottom-of-the-funnel audiences that might be more expensive to deliver ads to (see above), but are much more effective in terms of cost per acquisition.
Cost-per-post-engagement by campaign objective 2019 by quarter
Cost-per-post-engagement has been incredibly low in 2019. In our post, how to hack social proof in Facebook ads, we recommend running ads under the engagement objective to create social proof and then reuse those ads in click or conversion campaigns. This shows this can be an inexpensive trick to get hundreds of reactions on your ad to make your ads not look so dead when going after conversions.
Interestingly, catalog ads require the most spend to get engagement, far higher than conversion campaigns. Unfortunately, you can’t run catalog ads in an engagement campaign so this low engagement on catalog ads is just something advertisers have to deal with.
However, you can still run eligible ads under engagement campaigns for a short time to build social proof and then use the ad’s post ID to run it in a conversion campaign, where cost-per-post-engagement is nearly 10x higher.
How to lower your Facebook ad costs
Starting around Halloween through Black Friday and peaking at Christmas, it’s the magical time of record high consumer activity — and skyrocketing ad costs.
In general and overall, CPMs increase by around 12% during this time period, but it's not uncommon for advertisers to see their CPMs double, which means you’re going to have to spend significantly more in November through December to take advantage of the shopping season.
Fortunately, there are ways to get cheaper CPMs and CPCs with Facebook ads.
Apart from making sure your ad creatives are scroll-stopping and get the message across effectively to the right audience, here's what you can do to prevent growing ad costs:
1. Go heavy on remarketing
Warm leads are a better use of ad budget because they’re way more receptive to brand communication and thus more likely to purchase or at least to engage with an ad (which seems to a factor all of its own in bringing down Facebook ad costs).
Practically all online users are getting so much cold messaging around holidays that it’s extremely tough to get through that noise. So showing them something that is so personalized that it shows you know their interest in you is your best bet.
During the end of quarter three and in October, you can run traffic campaigns to top-of-funnel audiences to blog posts. This will not only build brand awareness in preparation for the holiday season, but it will aso build the size of your retargeting audience.
2. Automate ad management routine
Automate as much as you can — because during holidays, your expertise is especially needed and you don’t want to waste your time on routine tasks. So it’s high time you set up automated rules via a specialized management tool like Revealbot.
Obviously, we recommend using Revealbot for more complete Facebook ads automation, but at the very least use Facebook’s native automated rules to help you automatically pause ads, adjust budgets/bids of an ad and more — all based on an ad’s performance.
We wrote the ultimate guide on Facebook ad automation to help you get started.
3. Use your Facebook Pixel data
You probably have a sizable chunk of audience that has visited your website. Even better: users that tried purchasing your products, subscribed to a newsletter, or just heavily engaged with the website.
During holidays, focus on retargeting them by creating a custom audience made up entirely of users that already know who you are:
The best event to choose is of course the one closest to (but just before) the final conversion event — as those users will probably be most interested in your product.
For instance, try users that have added your product to cart or at least viewed a product page. They will probably find an ad about your current offer or even just your brand in general quite appealing.
Using your Facebook pixel data intelligently is critical if you want to scale your Facebook ad campaigns.
4: Use content to grow warm audiences
Keep creating engaging content for your Facebook page and use its performance on Facebook as an engagement condition for remarketing.
What’s working with Facebook content now are short videos made specifically for social media, particularly low-budget and user generated appearing videos.
You can also try automated text-to-video production tools that will even take video creation off of your hands. Once posted, a 10-sec view of the video within Facebook is an achievable metric to grow your retargeting audience.
For images and text-based posts, now’s the time for truly irresistible creatives if you want to break through the usual clutter of holiday-themed discounts and free shipping offers. Use your best creatives and the most concise and single-minded messaging that just begs to be clicked on.
You can set up Auto Post Boosting that will automatically boost organic page posts if they receive a good level of organic engagement. Check out the guide we wrote on how to automatically promote Facebook posts.
5: Optimize spend via micro-targeting
For those cold audience campaigns where you’re not using remarketing, use these tips to refine targeting and shave off those inefficient users at the edges of your core audience.
- interests: on top of media they read and influencers they follow, include your competitors if they’re selectable
- demographics: based on current user data or even an informed guess, try and imagine what kind of life your users are living. A lot of users out there might be interested in your product, but what segments of them will actually be prepared to pay for it — with the reality of their work, family, and studies taken into account.
- behaviors: devices, purchase history (available in a few countries only), travels can all be good indicators of your users' income.
Use our guide on Facebook audience insights to fully explore opportunities to find your right cold audience.
More ideas on keeping Facebook advertising costs down
Be prepared that you will probably still have to increase your daily budgets (and bids, if you’re managing them manually) to get as many conversions as what you were getting before the holiday season.
But you can implement a few strategies to mitigate the costs:
- build retargeting audiences before the holiday season
- use pixel data to create micro audiences based around key events
- avoid ad fatigue by making and stocking up on new ad creatives before the holiday season
- use Auto Post Boosting to auto promote your best organic posts to further build your retargeting audiences
- use ad automation to seize opportunities and avoid underperformance
- if you need to brush up on your Facebook ad knowledge, check out our guide on how to study for and pass the Facebook Blueprint exam to learn the fundamentals