Text, or No Text (or Maybe Some Text)
Traditional advertising layout practices tend to involve a highly noticeable headline, bold imagery, catchy call to action, compelling offer and ad copy. However, native advertising follows other principles. When developing Facebook ads, often less is more. Users reading their Newsfeed can quickly determine what content is an ad and what is generated by friends and family, etc. Ads that are too “ad-like,” run the risk of being ignored leading to lower conversion and relevancy scores.
Facebook states that “images with less than 20% text perform better.” Whether or not this is true in your case, Facebook limits the amount of text that may appear on ads that run on Facebook, Instagram and their Audience Network. Ad images are reviewed by Facebook as part of the ad creation process. Images with too much text will either be disallowed or shown only to a reduced portion of the potential target audience.
Some ad images that naturally contain text may qualify for an exception. For example, book covers, album covers, full product images, game depictions and event posts commonly may be given a pass. Furthermore, charts and graphs, magazine and newspaper covers, and movie and TV show posters may also be exempted.
Still the 20% Rule? Not really.
Previously Facebook enforced a rule that no more than 20% of the ad image could include text. This was determined largely by dividing the image into a grid and determining if text overlapped any of the grid squares.
Currently, Facebook provides a text overlay tool that provides feedback on any uploaded image.
An image with text can meet Facebook’s criteria to various degrees ranging from OK to Low, Medium or High.
|Image Text Rating
|Your Ad Will Run Normally
|Your Ad’s Reach May Be Slightly Lower
|Your Ad’s Reach May Be Much Lower
|Your Ad May Not Run
A Few Examples
So how much text is too much? Consider the following examples and their respective ratings provided by the tool:
As a “Medium” this image would have a “much lower reach.”
This “Low” image would have a “slightly lower” reach.
This image is perfectly fine according to the tool.
How Much Text is Okay Then?
If we calculate the area of the above images that contain text, we find that the “Medium” image is approximately 13.1% covered by text, while the “Low” image is 8.16% covered and finally the last image is “OK” at 6.3% text coverage.
|Image Text Rating
|Percent Text Coverage
However, Facebook is very inconsistent with its calculations. Not only do images graded “OK” by the text overlay tool sometime fail to pass when added to actual ads, but images with more text often pass when images with lower amounts of text fail to pass in both testing and ad production. See the following example:
This image was graded as “OK” even though it clearly contains more text than the above example graded “Low.” The machine learning algorithms employed here are fallible.
I will leave you with three main points to consider:
1) While Facebook claims that ad images without text may perform better overall, this may or may not be the case for any given ad. Always test. Consider simple metrics like clicks per impression, or if you have good tracking further into your sales funnel as you should, conversions per impression.
2) Make sure all images pass with an “OK” grade so Facebook will not restrict the ad’s potential reach. Remember “OK” means under a given amount of text, not necessarily zero text.
3) Ad images are a major component of both your Facebook ad’s message and its on screen real estate. Plain, textless images may fail to convey what is compelling about your offer or motivate the viewer. Yet, too much ad copy on your accompanying image will make them too “ad like” and thus trigger “ad blindness.” Always test for the right middle ground. After all the best ad version is the one that converts.