Facebook’s New Targeting Expansion Option – Should You Try It?

Facebook's New Targeting Expansion Option – Should You Try It? | Disruptive Advertising
August 9, 2016 By PPC, Social Media

Facebook recently started testing a new targeting feature called Targeting Expansion in some accounts.

To be honest, this new option rolled out so quietly that I almost missed it. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the following checkbox started showing up in about half of my accounts:

New Facebook Targeting | Disruptive Advertising

Out of curiosity, I did a little research about this new option.

Basically, according to Facebook:

“[Targeting Expansion] allows us to add or remove interests to reach more people who may convert, but wouldn’t otherwise have been in your target audience.

“If we decide to expand your target audience, it can help increase the number of conversions at a lower cost per conversion.”

In a lot of ways, the idea is very similar to Facebook’s lookalike audiences—with one key difference.

With lookalike audiences, Facebook takes a list of people who have already expressed an interest in your business—liking your page, visiting your site, giving you their email address—and then finds people who have similar demographics and interests to the people on your list.

In other words, lookalike lists are based on people. Targeting Expansion, on the other hand, is based on interests.

Understanding Targeting Expansion

Now, I don’t know exactly how Facebook determines which interests are a good fit for your ads, but my guess is that they look at the interests of people who interact with your ads or the ads of other businesses in your industry and change your targeting to focus on the “right” mix of interests.

If this is the case, Targeting Expansion uses Facebook’s internal data to actually target your ads to interests that you may never have otherwise considered.

For example, if I was running ads for a flight training program, I might pick Aviation as a target interest.

Facebook Targeting Expansion – Aviation Interest | Disruptive Advertising

However, I may not know it, but maybe most people with an interest in aviation love building airplane models. They don’t convert regularly on ads in my industry.

Instead, maybe most people with a love for ballet also have aspirations to become pilots (they soar through the air on stage, so they want to soar through the air in a plane…work with me here, it’s just an example).

Obscure as it might be, I should be targeting people with an interest in Ballet.

Facebook Targeting Expansion – Ballet Interest | Disruptive Advertising

Of course, since I don’t know that my “ideal” audience is dominated by ballet lovers, I’m not going to target them. I’m going to make the logical choice, Aviation.

As a result, I’m going to end up targeting the wrong audience and I won’t get the conversions I’m after.

With Targeting Expansion, however, Facebook will expand my targeting to include interests that are more likely to produce the results I need.

In the case of our aviation school example, Facebook knows that ballet aficionados are always on the lookout for flight training programs, so they automatically expand my interest selections to cover people with an interest in ballet.

My ads end up in front of the right audience and I get lots of signups!

Case Study

Now, on the surface, this sounds like an interesting option, but I often find that putting an algorithm in charge of my ads doesn’t produce great results.

However, I was curious to see how Targeting Expansion would affect my campaigns, so I went ahead and tested it!

For my test, I set up two identical ad sets with the same targeting. The only difference between the ad sets was targeting: one was using the Facebook Targeting Expansion, one was not.

Simple enough, right?

I let the ads run for about a month and then pulled the results. Here’s what I discovered:

Facebook Targeting Expansion – Test Results | Disruptive Advertising

To my surprise, Targeting Expansion actually produced 43.8% more conversions at a 28.2% low cost-per-conversion than my normal targeting.

So, maybe high-flying ballet dancers isn’t such a far-fetched idea…

What’s particularly interesting here is the fact that the clickthrough rate for my expanded targeting ads was actually lower.

My expanded ads received more impressions, but actually drove 7 fewer clicks (134 vs 141). However, the conversion rate for my expanded ads was 68.7%—over 50% higher than the conversion rate of my standard ads!

That means I was paying for fewer clicks and getting a lot more conversions.

Obviously, this wasn’t a particularly massive test, but the results were statistically significant (ρ = 0.01).

With these results in hand, I feel fairly confident that Facebook’s interest targeting was delivering higher quality traffic to my landing pages than my normal targeting—at least, for this campaign.


To be honest, while I’m excited by the potential of Targeting Expansion, I’m curious to see how expanded ads perform in additional campaigns and accounts.

The idea seems sound enough, but it will be interesting to see how effective Facebook’s algorithm really is—I’ll update later when I have additional results!

By the way, if you’re curious about trying Targeting Expansion or would like me to take a look at your Facebook account and offer some suggestions, let me know here or in the comments. I’d love to help!

Have you tried Targeting Expansion? What did you think? Do you think this new targeting option will be useful?

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Kevin Manning

Marketing Consultant
Kevin is an outdoor man, with a love of marketing. He loves baseball ALMOST as much as he loves working on PPC campaigns. His goal is to visit every MLB stadium in the U.S.


  • Oliver Williams says:

    Very interesting can this be applied for me to get more customers for my landscaping business?

    • Kevin Manning says:

      Hi Oliver,

      Thanks for commenting! It would certainly be worth a try. If you’re already advertising on FB I would test out the feature. If it’s not available in your account yet, it will probably be rolled out in the near future. I’d love to hear how your test goes.

  • Mike Mardi says:

    Hi there, I’d like to know your results. So it’s been a few months now…do you find more success using expansion targeting with your other campaigns or did you stick with your normal targeting?

    • Kevin says:

      Hi Mike,

      My best performing audiences still use the expanded targeting. I’m always testing against other audiences and it’s still winning. So I’d definitely test it out.

      • Rami says:

        Hey Kevin,

        Great article! I just modified one of my campaigns to use expanded targeting (literally just made the change yesterday), and saw a spike in CPC (from $0.463 to $.963)….Is this type of jump typical in the beginning stages? Curious if you’ve ever switched a running campaign to use expanded targeting (rather than starting with expanded interests in the first place).


        • Hi Rami,

          When I have tested these audiences I had always done so with a fresh ad set. It may be worth creating two fresh ad sets one with expanded and one without and seeing how they behave then. If you still see the big spike in CPC then it may not be for you. But also keep in mind that it’s not optimizing for CPC but conversions. It may be that your CPC increases but you’re able to get conversions cheaper so keep an eye on that as well.

  • Janay says:

    Hey, you’re the goto exepert. Thanks for hanging out here.

  • Hi Kevin, thanks for the eye-opener.
    For now, I have a reverse question. Apparently , my Audience by default (somehow) has been expanded from 940K to 201M. I am told by friends that there is a check-box where I can remove the’ v’ for expansion and then my original audience reach will return. But where is this checkbox? I don’t know how to get to it.Could you please tell me? Thanks

  • Richard says:

    Everybody: When I ticked the expanded audience in my campaigns the audienc eincreased from 7.7 million to 39 million just for Android.
    I got more installs at a better CPI however. Will these installs perform, will they monetise? Am I getti g less quality installs less interested in the product because the audience has been so expanded?

    • Kevin Manning says:

      Since we first tested this, FB has started showing the audience increase when the expanded audience box is ticked, I like the added transparency but it has startled some people for sure. Keep us posted on the leads you’re getting, I’m interested to see if they monetize.

  • Joe says:

    Thanks for writing this article. I didn’t notice that facebook had checked this button until I had spent hundreds of dollars. I always put it down to a refresh error on the audience size while creating audiences using older ad sets since I hadn’t changed anything at all so I assumed my audience size was still correct. Glancing over the numbers in the audiences section not noticing it was thousands and not millions (I know, silly me). My conversions disappeared almost completely and my CPM/CPLC/CPConv. costs hit the roof and I just couldn’t explain it e.g. CPM=$45. This is really frustrating to have a saved audience on an ad set that converted well then duplicate the ad set and refine the audience for the “winning” age groups etc. only to have facebook secretly expand the audience to hundreds of millions of people. When testing interest groups etc. for buyers using separate ad sets this really messes the test results up if you are new to FB advertising and didn’t know about this. Interesting to hear that your conversion costs are down but then you are leaving more to “facebook/chance” which I suppose is the way facebook would like it to be.
    Anyway enough moaning :-). I now duplicate the ad set and create a new audience manually but uncheck the interest expansion box first. Thanks for informing me about this !

  • Brit says:

    Hi Kevin: Could you take a look and offer some suggestions for my FB ad campaigns?

  • Hoang Do Duc says:

    Hi Kevin, I am very curious how you calculated whether the results are significant or not. Could you please provide me with the formula you used? Feel free to email me :). Thanks in advance, Hoang.

  • glenda meyer says:

    i just did an ad with a new audience and expanded targeting. My normal cost per lead is $2.50 ish, with expanded targeting , it went to $8.50. You can’t change it so i have to duplicate the audience. Not happy. This was for a real estate home for sale with FB lead forms.

  • Cristina says:

    Thanks for sharing results. Was there any audience overlap or did you use A/B split testing? Thanks.

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