facebook advertising

Facebook Ad Not Approved? How To Prevent It From Happening Again

thumbs down - tall - stockunlimitedRunning Facebook ads means at some point you’ll have ads that are not approved for one reason or another.

It’s not the end of the world, but sometimes it can be confusing for those of us who are genuinely trying to do the right thing.

If you’ve ever had an ad rejected with a fairly vague reason as to why, you know it can be difficult to figure out exactly which part of your ad caused the problem.

Even worse, it can sometimes take longer than 24 hours to get the ad reviewed in the first place. Get rejected and you might be waiting another 24 hours.

In this article you'll learn about some of the common causes for ad rejections that a lot of people aren’t aware of, and how to avoid them. The goal is to help you get more ads approved and stay on Facebook’s good side.

First, let’s talk about the Facebook ad review process.

The ad review process (how it works)

Before we get into what not to do with your ads, let’s take a quick look at how the Facebook ad approval process works.

First, you need to realise that the size of the actual ads team at Facebook is extremely small compared to the number of advertisers they have using the platform. In their Q4 2015 earnings report, Facebook announced that they have over 2.5 million advertisers using the platform.

Imaging how many individual ads are created each day by 2.5 million advertisers!

Assuming that there are only a few hundred people in the advertising team, that’s a tiny number of people to handle so many new ads each day.

Facebook don’t publicly discuss how the approval works behind the scenes, but based on my experience and the experiences of others, I believe it’s a mix of automated processes and humans checking our ads.

Here’s why I believe there’s some automation behind the process (algorithms scanning over ads and approving / rejecting them).

  • I regularly see ads get approved in under 10 minutes. That’s fast for a manual review!
  • I’ve also seen my own ads get approved in under 10 minutes and then change to ‘rejected’ 24 hours later. That gives me the impression that it was automatically approved the first time, and someone manually reviewed my ad afterwards and rejected it.
  • Some ads take up to 24 hours to get approved. That makes me think that they went straight to the queue for manual review rather than being auto-approved first.

So how long should you expect to wait for your ad to get approved?

The answer from Facebook is: “Typically most ads are reviewed within 24 hours, although in some cases it may take longer.”

The ads team will review your ad against the Facebook Advertising Policies to make sure your ads are 100% compliant. The best way to avoid getting your ads rejected is to understand these policies well and stick to them.

If your ad is still pending review after 24 hours, just be patient. Sometimes it does take longer. You just have to wait it out.

Now let’s talk about how you can avoid that waiting by getting more of your ads approved. We’ll start with a quick look at the mindset needed to create Facebook compliant ads on a consistent basis.

How to Stay on Facebook's Good Side

If you understand Facebook’s intentions behind their rules it will help save you from most of your ad approval problems.

The first thing you need to realise is that Facebook’s users are more important than us as advertisers.

If you and I both stopped advertising on Facebook tomorrow it wouldn’t matter because another 2 advertisers will fill that gap pretty quickly. As long as there are over 1 billion monthly active users, there will always be new advertisers.

But if the users went away there would be nobody to advertise to, meaning no one would keep running ads. That means a big hit to Facebook’s bottom line.

So it makes sense that Facebook’s priority is to protect the experience of their users. There needs to be a balance of advertisers being able to sell on the platform without ruining the experience for Facebook’s users.

That’s why there are ad policies. Without them, it’s almost guaranteed advertisers would simply ruin the platform completely.

Next time you’re creating a Facebook ad campaign, keep in mind that the user experience is priority #1. Getting into this mindset will not only help you get more Facebook ads approved, it will increase your conversion rate as well.

Put simply – annoying, deceitful ads might get people to click, but it’s a short game and will cost you in the long run.

For every person that clicks, you’re probably annoying 10 others. And for those 10 others you’ve damaged your brand, some to a point where they won’t ever become a customer.

And for every person that clicks and doesn’t get what they expect or feels like you duped them into clicking, you’ve definitely turned them off your brand for life.

You’ll see some more specific examples of the type of user experience Facebook wants to create & how that affects you as an advertiser later in this post.

For now, let’s talk about some common reasons why your Facebook ad might not get approved and what you should do instead.

 

Best Practices For Facebook Ad Images

Images used to be a very common reason for rejection because Facebook had a very strict rule that images had to contain less than 20% text.
That’s no longer the case, but you should still be aware of how text on images is currently treated by Facebook.

Ads With Lots of Text Won’t be Rejected, But They Will Cost More

If an ad contains too much text, Facebook will penalize you by restricting its reach. That means fewer people will actually see your ad.

There are now 4 different ‘levels’ of text in a Facebook ad
  1. OK
  2. Low
  3. Medium
  4. High

You want all of your images to fall into the ‘OK’ category.

That’s the only way to avoid being penalized with reduced reach.

We used to be able to divide an image into an even 5 x 5 grid, and only 5 of the squares could contain text. If more than 5 of those squares contain any text at all, even part of a letter, your ad would have been rejected.

Now you need to use the Facebook Text Overlay Tool to check all of your images.

It’s the only reliable way to know if Facebook will consider your image to contain too much text or not.

Text on images includes:

  • Logos and slogans.
    • Images with text overlay (ex: watermarks).
    • Images that are clearly edited to include text on the product as a loophole to policy.

Simply upload an image to the grid tool, highlight all boxes with text in them and if you end up with more than 5 highlighted squares it means you have too much text.

facebook text overlay

An example of an image that has a suitable amount of text

Don’t Include Prohibited Content

Prohibited content is defined clearly in the Facebook Advertising Policies.

My advice: Check the policies regularly (at least weekly if you’re running ads all the time).

I won’t re-write the entire list of things that are prohibited by Facebook and waste both of our time because by the time you read this it would be out of date anyway.

Instead, I’ll cover a few of the more common ones that people miss completely or just misunderstand (the policies can be a bit generic/vague, and I’m sure that’s by design).

No before & after shots

Facebook are really strict on this one. You simply can’t use before & after shots in your ad images.

You also can’t show “ideal body” or body part images. Meaning showing a person with a 6-pack to promote your weight-loss supplement is a not allowed.

facebook ad image before and after

Example from the Facebook ad policy

Images can’t be ‘overly sexual’

That means you can't do things like imply nudity, show too much skin or cleavage, or focus on unnecessary body parts. And yes, that counts even if it’s artistic or educational.

No content that infringes upon or violates rights

That includes copyrights, trademark, privacy, publicity, or other personal or proprietary rights. In short, you can only use content in your ads that you have the right to use.

This is a big one. Lots of people are surprised when they use a brand’s logo, characters etc. in an ad and it subsequently gets rejected.

Violent or scary images

That means no car wrecks, confronting images like someone pointing a gun at another person, or anything else that is violent, scary or disturbing.

Fake Buttons

Running a static image ad that takes people to a video after they click the ad? Just make sure you don’t have a play button on your Facebook image ad.

You aren’t allowed to use images that ‘portray non-existent functionality’. That means you can’t make a still image look like a video by adding a play button to it.

Why?

Because it deceives users. They click the image thinking it will play a video in Facebook, when it in fact takes them to your website.

facebook video ad example

Play buttons are ok on videos, but not on static image ads

Showing Age-Restricted Material to an Audience That’s Too Young

Advertising alcohol or other age restricted material is ok, with a few conditions.

  1. It can’t be on the list of prohibited content
  2. You need to respect the age restrictions in the countries you are advertising.

For example, in Australia the legal drinking age is 18. So you can run ads for alcohol to an audience aged 18+ in Australia. However to run those same ads in the US you will need to raise the minimum age of your ad set to 21.

Facebook Ad Copy

Copy is the text you use in your headline and body of your ad, and your ads won’t get approved if your copy isn’t compliant.

Let’s start by talking about what Facebook says are the most common copy-related reasons for ads being rejected by Facebook.

Mentioning Facebook in Your Ads

Yep, you can mention Facebook in your ads, but there are strict rules for doing so.

Here are the do’s and don'ts, directly from Facebook’s ad policies:

Do:

  • Write “Facebook” with a capital “F”
  • Display the word “Facebook” in the same font size and style as the content surrounding it

Don't:

  • Use the Facebook logo in place of the word “Facebook”
  • Make Facebook plural, use it as a verb or abbreviate it
  • Use an altered version of the Facebook logo in the image for your ad

You can’t assert or imply personal attributes in your ads

This applies to both your copy and your images, but it’s more common for people to get ads rejected for the copy.

What this means is you can’t say things like: “You’re an 18 year old male so you will want to check out our product”.

Think back to what I said about the user experience earlier and it will help you understand why Facebook doesn’t want you doing this.

Facebook has a TON of data about its users. That’s what makes it so effective as an advertising platform.

But by pointing out personal attributes it does a couple of things. First, it freaks people out. By pointing out just how much Facebook knows about you and how advertisers can use that data you make users uncomfortable.

Second, you risk breaking Facebook’s rule that says: “You must not use targeting options to discriminate against, harass, provoke, or disparage users or to engage in predatory advertising practices.”

Avoid using the words “your” and “other” as a general rule to keep out of trouble.

Here are some examples of what you can and can’t say:

fb ad personal attributes

 

Now it’s important to note that this isn’t about individual words. It’s about the context in which you use them.

For example, using the word “your” doesn’t mean your ad won’t get approved.

You could say “New car wash makes is easier to clean your car”, and that fine because you aren’t pointing out any personal attributes.

This is why you need to focus on the context and not just individual words.

Notice the example “Check out our product designed for men like you” doesn’t use the word “your” or “other” but it does imply personal attributes so you won’t get approved if you use that text.

Don’t make users feel bad about themselves

Your ads should not make users feel bad about themselves or their current situation. Making users sad and depressed isn’t a good user experience, so if you do that, your ads will be rejected.

If people are made to feel like crap every time they check the news feed because ads talk about how their weight is affecting their family, or how their life is bad because…. Then they won’t keep using Facebook for long.

Make sure your copy uses a positive tone wherever possible. Saying things like “Tired of being overweight?” Will be rejected as quickly as you can press the submit button.

You can change that message into a positive one by saying something like “Feel great by starting your day with a morning workout” instead (let’s assume this is an ad for a personal trainer).

Again, it’s all about context, but as a general rule try to use a positive tone in your ad copy.

Don't Make Unrealistic Claims

Writing ad copy that says “how to lose 50lbs in 1 week without exercising or eating less” is a great way to get your ad rejected.

It will probably get your ad account shut down as well.

I’m sure you’ll agree this claim is just a little bit unrealistic… and Facebook specifically states in its ad policies that you can't make unrealistic claims.

It doesn't have to be related to weight loss either. Crazy, outlandish claims, no matter what industry you're in will get your Facebook ad rejected.

The best way to avoid this is to look at what you're claiming and ask if what you’re claiming is achievable for 99% of people who see the ad.

If so, you're likely to be ok.

If not, it's time to rethink your copy.

Another way to avoid this is to avoid promising specific results in specific time frames.

For example:

“Get 3 new clients in 30 minutes” is an unrealistic result for most of your audience. Sure, it may be possible,  but not for the average Joe.

But if you change that to “Get 3 new clients, even if you're just starting out”, it removes the specified time frame and is much more realistic.

Display URL

One of the most common reasons for ads being rejected today is because the display URL doesn't match the domain that the ad is sending people to.

The ‘display URL’ is the URL that is displayed at the bottom of the ad.

url description

The reason Facebook will reject your ad if the link text doesn't match where you're sending people when they click the ad is simple. Facebook wants to protect the user experience. They don't want us deceiving users.

If a user sees a URL on an ad, but is sent to a different URL when they click, then they are likely to feel deceived.

The solution is to either leave the link text blank when you create your ad, or make sure your link text matches your domain.

Example where the Display URL does not match the linked domain

url description doesn't match

 

Example where the Display URL does match the linked domain

same domain url description

 

Be Clear On What You’re Selling

According to this presentation, if you’re selling a product or service, you need to be clear about that in your ad.

For example, your ad should not give users the impression that they will be getting free information, only for them to be sent to a product sales page when they click the ad.

If you are describing a product or a solution/fix in your ad, you should include an image of the product in your ad.

What to do if an ad is incorrectly rejected

As I mentioned earlier, sometimes ads get rejected when they should actually be approved.

If that happens to you, the good news is it’s fairly simple to appeal the rejection. If & when it happens, the first thing you need to do is be 100% sure that it is a mistake and your ad is actually compliant.

If that’s the case, you will see a link to appeal the decision in the rejection notice in your ad manager.

These are real people you are writing to. I shouldn’t have to say this, but always be polite, courteous and explain why you think your ad should have been approved clearly and succinctly.

Every time I have done this the ads team have been extremely helpful and approved my ads really quickly.

Summary

Avoid these common mistakes when you’re creating your Facebook ads from now on and I’m sure you’ll start seeing more of your ads get approved.

As I mentioned, these are a combination of the most common mistakes and things that I often see at the cause of rejections that aren’t specifically mentioned in ad policy.

Always keep a close eye on the Facebook ad policies. They change as often as a few times per week, so it’s not something you can check once and never look at again.

Remember, this is just for the ad creatives. Your landing page that you send users to also needs to be compliant with Facebook’s policies. Make sure you also read this post on how to create a Facebook landing page that won’t get your ad account shut down.

In case you would like a quick reference to keep nearby that you can check every time you set up new ads, I’ve put one together for you. It’s a condensed version of what we talked about in this post so you can go through it like a checklist before you submit new ads. Grab a copy using the link below.

Over to you. Have you had ads rejected in the past? And was it for any of the reasons I’ve just mentioned? Tell me about it in the comments below!