Facebook’s official list of ad policies is complex to say the least. You have COVID-19 restrictions, election cycle restrictions, and official rules changing left and right. Still, Facebook is the place to be for marketers in the disruptive marketing space. When one of your ads gets rejected, it can put a real dent in your advertising timeline and keep you from your goals. Especially if you need to hit monthly budget benchmarks, finding that a campaign isn’t properly running and figuring out why your Facebook ad isn’t delivering is never a fun surprise. 

Here’s an explanation of how Facebook makes rejection decisions, and a few things you can check before hitting submit on ads to give your ad a better chance of being approved. 

How Facebook’s Review Process Works

Facebook keeps their specific ad approval process pretty secret, but digital marketers have a pretty good idea of what goes on behind the scenes. Essentially, it’s part manual approval, part automation. They’re looking at your ad as a whole—the image, the text, the positioning, and the targeting. 

Facebook has said most ads are reviewed within 24 hours, but in some cases it may take longer. Some ads get approved within minutes, and some get approved then get changed to rejected later on. Many ads get checked both by Facebook’s algorithm and a human. 

You can find a full list of Facebook’s current prohibited and restricted content on their ad policies page, but here are the three most common reasons Facebook prohibits ads. I’ll talk about each one of these in more depth:

  1. Your product isn’t allowed to be advertised on Facebook.
  2. Your ad is too personalized. Facebook doesn’t want to creep people out, and feel like they’re being watched. 
  3. Your ad copy is inappropriate. Your image or video is inappropriate or falls into the Adult content category. Overly sensational copy, poor grammar, or over-personalized copy will be rejected.

And while the red warning triangle can give you a bit more information about why your ad got rejected, it may take some trial and error (especially when you’re first starting to use Facebook Ads) to get a handle on all the small rules for what is allowed and what’s not. Here’s a more in depth explanation of the most common Facebook advertising infractions:

1- Your Product Isn’t Allowed To Be Advertised On Facebook.

As an overview: Facebook doesn’t like people selling products closely related to medication, supplements or anything of that nature. Because of so many rules and regulations that vary from country to country surrounding these markets, you can understand why Facebook would want to steer far away from getting in lawsuits with governments and disgruntled buyers. Additionally, counterfeit products, surveillance equipment, weapons, tobacco products and other controversial products are also banned. Of course there are a lot of gray lines regarding what is and what isn’t permitted, so it will be important to do your homework before you get excited about advertising a potentially questionable product. 

2- Your Ad Is Too Personalized.

Targeting specific demographics in your ads is okay—targeting individual people in your ads is not. You want to make sure that your ads are relatable and relevant to the people who see it, but that gray line into being creepy and stalker-esque is easy to step into. Understandably, users who are already a little apprehensive about giving their data to big tech feel further unnerved when they get served an ad that says “Find other attractive singles in your area!” 

Facebook enforces this by not allowing ad copy to target individuals (like rejecting ads that include using someone’s name). They also often reject ads that use the words “you”, “your”, and “other”. So even though copy with those words may catch the viewer’s attention easier, Facebook may not like it. Check your copy beforehand to make sure you’re keeping everything relatively general and away from personal attributes.

3- Your Ads Include Poor Grammar, Or Violent Or Sexually Explicit Content.

Along with keeping personal attributes out of your copy, there are other things you can do with your ad text to keep it from getting rejected. A good general rule of thumb is to keep your copy simple and straightforward. 

You may think that inflammatory or sensational phrases will get more clicks, and you may be right. But Facebook doesn’t like spammy. And most high-quality consumers don’t, either. Since Facebook at its core is a place for news and friendly updates, they’re trying to keep content as helpful and accurate as possible. Since they’ve recently come under fire about the ads surrounding the election and other controversial tops, keeping your copy as accurate as possible will keep your ads from being rejected. 

If you think your ad’s image or video might be towing the line of what Facebook deems inappropriate and adult content, it will most likely be flagged and rejected, even if it’s technically okay. Violent, scary, or sexual content will be quickly rejected, and can put your entire ad account in hot water. A lot of this may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people think they can sneak that content past moderators.

Stay On Top Of Facebook Updates

Facebook changes their ad rules all the time. Staying up-to-date on any updates to their rules is the easiest way to keep your ads from getting rejected, and save you time from having to recreate your ads. 

One of the most recent changes was taking away text limitations on ad images. Facebook used to have a rule that rejected images that were more than 20 percent text. Now, your ad with more than 20 percent text won’t necessarily be rejected, but it will be penalized by restricting your ad’s reach. Little changes to the rules like that are easy to miss and can significantly hurt your ad’s performance. So staying on top of their updates, as well as reading blogs (like this one) that discuss the Facebook ad industry will help you make your ads go further. 

The Bottom Line

If you think your ad shouldn’t have been rejected, you can request a manual review. It usually takes 24-48 hours for a decision to be made, but as long as you’re not exploiting a crisis (like COVID-19) or have an egregious problem, it’s likely the Facebook employee will approve it. 

At the end of the day, you need to remember that for Facebook, the user experience is their top priority. If you’re annoying, making false claims, or not aligned with their ads rules in the slightest, they won’t hesitate to reject an ad. 

Putting in the work of double checking your ads to make sure you’re following their rules will save you time in the long run. So instead of racking your brain trying to figure out why Facebook rejected your ad, you can get them approved quickly and start getting more eyes on your ads.

A marketer and a writer at heart, Ryan Cook loves to use hard data to guide his approach. His latest work has been with Epic Marketing, a marketing agency near Salt Lake City, Utah. He specializes in paid search media, content marketing, and SEO. He also loves working on his novel and going on hikes with his wife. @ryancook_cook

Facebook ads stock photo by pixinoo/Shutterstock