Horizontal scaling in META ADS | Guide

Published at May 8, 2024

Horizontal scaling in META ADS | Guide

Horizontal scaling in Facebook/Meta ads refers to the strategy of duplicating and expanding existing successful ad campaigns or ad sets to reach larger audiences, rather than just increasing the budget of a single campaign (vertical scaling).

The key points about horizontal scaling of Facebook/Meta ads are:

  • It involves creating new ad sets that target different, but similar audiences to the original successful ad set. This could include trying different lookalike audiences, interest-based audiences, or expanding location targeting.

  • The goal is to test new audience variations to find additional high-performing audiences, rather than just increasing the budget on a single ad set.

  • Horizontal scaling is considered a safer approach compared to vertical scaling, as it minimizes the risk of performance drops when significantly increasing budgets.

  • It can be a slower process than vertical scaling if keeping the same ad set budgets, so some recommend increasing the budget on the new ad sets as well to speed up the scaling.

  • The key is to avoid audience overlap between the duplicated ad sets to prevent them from competing against each other

Benefits

The key benefits of horizontal scaling in Facebook/Meta ads are:

  1. Minimizes risk compared to vertical scaling:[1][4]

    • Horizontal scaling involves testing new audiences and variations, rather than just increasing the budget on a single successful campaign. This reduces the risk of performance drops when significantly increasing budgets.
  2. Enables testing and finding new high-performing audiences:[1][3][4]

    • By duplicating successful ad sets and targeting different but similar audiences, you can identify additional strong-performing audiences to scale.
    • This includes trying variations like different lookalike audiences, interest-based audiences, or expanding location targeting.
  3. Provides a more sustainable scaling approach:[1][4]

    • Horizontal scaling is considered a safer and more sustainable way to scale ads, compared to the potentially riskier vertical scaling approach.
  4. Allows for controlled, incremental expansion:

    • The gradual nature of horizontal scaling, by testing new audiences one-by-one, provides more control over the scaling process.
    • This is preferable to rapidly increasing budgets on a single campaign, which can disrupt performance.
  5. Beneficial for small businesses and niche markets:

    • Horizontal scaling is especially recommended for small businesses and those in niche markets with limited targeting options, as it helps maximize the potential of lookalike audiences.

Drawbacks

The key drawbacks of horizontal scaling in Facebook/Meta ads are:

  1. Potential for audience overlap:

    • When duplicating ad sets to target new audiences, there is a risk of the new ad sets overlapping with the original audience. This can cause the ad sets to compete against each other.
    • To avoid this, you need to carefully select new, distinct audiences when horizontally scaling.
  2. Slower scaling process compared to vertical scaling:

    • Horizontal scaling by testing new audiences one-by-one can be a slower process for scaling ad spend, compared to simply increasing the budget on a successful ad set (vertical scaling).
    • To speed up horizontal scaling, some recommend increasing the budget on the new duplicated ad sets as well.
  3. Potential performance fluctuations when testing new audiences:

    • When expanding to new audiences through horizontal scaling, the ad performance (e.g. CPA, ROAS) may fluctuate as you test different targeting options.
    • This can make it more challenging to maintain consistent results compared to vertical scaling of a proven campaign.
  4. Suitability limited for larger budgets and audiences:

    • Horizontal scaling works best for smaller businesses or niche markets with limited targeting options.
    • For larger budgets and audiences, vertical scaling may be more suitable once you’ve identified your top-performing campaigns.
  5. Requires more management and monitoring:

    • Horizontal scaling involves creating and managing multiple ad sets, which requires more ongoing monitoring and optimization compared to a single scaled campaign.

Is horizontal scaling the best approach for my account?

The key factors to consider when determining if horizontal scaling is the right approach for your Facebook/Meta ad campaign:

  1. Audience size and targeting options:

    • Horizontal scaling works best when you have limited targeting options, such as for small businesses or niche markets.
    • If you’ve already exhausted your core audience through vertical scaling, horizontal scaling can help you find new high-performing audiences.
  2. Profit margins and cost per acquisition:

    • Horizontal scaling is recommended if you have healthy profit margins that can accommodate slightly higher costs per acquisition when testing new audiences.
    • It’s a safer approach compared to rapidly increasing budgets through vertical scaling, which can disrupt performance.
  3. Time and resource constraints:

    • Horizontal scaling can be a slower process of testing new audiences one-by-one, compared to the faster vertical scaling approach.
    • However, it requires less management and monitoring compared to juggling multiple scaled ad sets.
  4. Audience overlap and competition:

    • When horizontally scaling, you need to be careful to avoid audience overlap between your ad sets, which can cause them to compete against each other.
    • Proper audience segmentation and exclusions are crucial for successful horizontal scaling.
  5. Performance fluctuations:

    • Expect some performance fluctuations when testing new audiences through horizontal scaling, as the ad performance may vary.
    • This can make it more challenging to maintain consistent results compared to vertical scaling of a proven campaign.

Challenges

Some common challenges when implementing horizontal scaling in Facebook/Meta ads include:

  1. Audience overlap and competition between ad sets:

    • When duplicating ad sets to target new audiences, there is a risk of the new ad sets overlapping with the original audience. This can cause the ad sets to compete against each other, negatively impacting performance.
    • Careful audience segmentation and exclusions are crucial to avoid this issue.
  2. Slower scaling process compared to vertical scaling:

    • Horizontal scaling by testing new audiences one-by-one can be a slower process for scaling ad spend, compared to simply increasing the budget on a successful ad set (vertical scaling).
    • To speed up horizontal scaling, some recommend increasing the budget on the new duplicated ad sets as well.
  3. Potential performance fluctuations when testing new audiences:

    • When expanding to new audiences through horizontal scaling, the ad performance (e.g. CPA, ROAS) may fluctuate as you test different targeting options.
    • This can make it more challenging to maintain consistent results compared to vertical scaling of a proven campaign.
  4. Suitability limitations for larger budgets and audiences:

    • Horizontal scaling works best for smaller businesses or niche markets with limited targeting options.
    • For larger budgets and audiences, vertical scaling may be more suitable once you’ve identified your top-performing campaigns.
  5. Increased management and monitoring requirements:

    • Horizontal scaling involves creating and managing multiple ad sets, which requires more ongoing monitoring and optimization compared to a single scaled campaign.

Best practices

The best practices for horizontal scaling in Meta (Facebook) ads are as follows:

  1. Avoiding Audience Overlap:

    • To mitigate the challenge of audience overlap when cloning campaigns, it is crucial to target distinct audiences with each ad set. Using lookalike audiences is a common technique in horizontal scaling.
  2. Testing New Audiences:

    • Horizontal scaling involves expanding the reach of your advertising by duplicating ad sets and campaigns to reach new segments, demographics, and audiences. It allows you to test new audiences for improved performance and potentially discover new high-converting audiences.
  3. Duplicating Ad Sets:

    • The first step in implementing a horizontal scaling strategy is to make copies of your existing ad sets. This includes replicating the original ad set’s targeting, creative assets, and settings while allowing for targeting variations to reach new audiences.
  4. Budget Allocation:

    • When scaling horizontally, dedicating 15%-30% of your budget ensures sufficient exposure and reach for new audience and creative tests while leaving the majority of the budget towards validated audiences. This allocation helps in testing new audiences effectively.
  5. Hybrid Approach:

    • Consider a hybrid approach that combines the benefits of both horizontal and vertical scaling strategies. This approach involves increasing the budget of the new ad set while creating a new audience, providing a balance between the two scaling methods.

In brief, horizontal scaling in Facebook/Meta ads involves controlled expansion to new audiences, aiming for safer ad performance growth. Its benefits include reduced risk, identification of new high-performing audiences, and suitability for small businesses and niche markets.

However, challenges include audience overlap, slower scaling, potential performance fluctuations, and increased management requirements. Horizontal scaling is recommended for businesses with limited targeting options and healthy profit margins, offering risk minimization despite potential slower growth and heightened audience management needs compared to vertical scaling strategies.

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