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What You Need to Know About Facebook’s Exclusion Targeting to Earn Your Best Advertising ROI

As a kid, you were probably taught to never exclude your classmates. Remember birthday parties? Trying to include everyone was stressful even for children! On one hand, you didn’t want the kid who was going to break the piñata on the first turn. On the other hand, you don’t want to exclude anyone! So what do you do?

Things are different now (at least they are for those in the marketing field): If you’re advertising on Facebook, excluding people from seeing your ads is a borderline mandatory strategy to succeed.

When you advertise on Facebook, Facebook’s systems do an awesome job of finding Facebook users who might be interested in your product or service. Facebook is SO good at this, that they might show your ads to people who are ALREADY customers. What if you’re running a sale for a 15% off the thing they JUST bought at full price?

In the same way that you could run campaigns to JUST your current customers, you can exclude them from campaigns that are meant to turn new audiences into new customers.

Exclusion tactics like this can help you save money by avoiding clicks from customers who have already made purchases. That means excluding folks lets more of your money reach more potential leads to convert into lifelong customers.

If you’re not convinced of the huge potential for customization and highly targeted ads with exclusion targeting, don’t worry, this post is jam-packed with ideas, strategies, and tutorials on how to implement this for your business.

Here’s how it works:

Exclusion Targeting on Facebook: A Brief Overview

Imagine that we’re launching a Facebook campaign with a traffic objective. Traffic campaigns will show ads to those in your audience who are likely to click – usually audience members who’ve clicked previously but didn’t convert.

This method is effective in getting conversions because many customers need some time to think about a purchase beyond the first time they land on your page. Think about your own decision-making process when you’re buying something (even marketers are consumers, too):

The first time around, you can usually convince yourself out of buying your fourth novelty phone case or another pair of boots. But each time you’re reminded of the product and all it has to offer, it gets harder and harder to resist.

So where does exclusion marketing come in?

Let’s imagine that you’re targeting nearly-identical twins with the same Facebook ad. Twin A loves what you’re selling, and clicks the ad immediately. Though they resist purchasing the first time you show another ad to them, they give in after the second time and convert.

Twin B, however, is a bit harder to convince. Their attention is piqued by the same item, but even after a few gentle reminders with retargeting, they don’t make the purchase.

Further Reads: How to set up remarketing in 6 easy steps

This is when you want to start excluding.

Brands should use the tool to distinguish between consumers. You want to continue to target those who clicked and converted, and stop wasting your money on audiences that clicked but took no action after a certain amount of effort. That means keep showing ads to Twin A, but remove Twin B from your marketing list.

Only three easy steps stand between you and optimizing your Facebook ad ROI with exclusion marketing!

Step 1: Add a Facebook Pixel to Your Site

If you’re already familiar with Facebook Pixels, and have one on your site, scroll straight to step two. If you have no idea what we’re talking about, read on.


You may be wondering, “What is a pixel and why do I need to add one to my site?” A Facebook Pixel is a tool that allows you to directly see how your advertising efforts are influencing your audience. Essentially, it’s a tool that tracks user actions so you can determine the effectiveness of your ads.

When you install one on your website, the pixel will report any completed action to you. It’s in this way that you’re able to keep track of the customers that have already converted, or those that you should retarget.


You can take advantage of this tool by accessing the Facebook ad account to create your own custom pixel. Select ‘all tools’ from the hamburger menu and select Pixels from the Assets menu. Click the option that says ‘create a pixel,’ and come up with a unique name for it (we recommend using your company name). All that’s left to do is approve the terms and conditions, click create, and set it up!


When you click ‘set up,’ a window with three options should appear:

  1. Integration or tab manager: you should use this if you’re on BigCommerce, Google Tag Manager, Magento, or a similar platform
  2. Manually install the pixel code yourself
  3. Email instructions to a developer

This is kind of a ‘choose your own adventure’ situation in that any one of these three options can lead to pixeled success! That is, unless you’re trying to install through WordPress. Unfortunately, those users have to install the code themselves.

Here’s how you can put your semester of Computer Science to the test for manual installation:


Find your unique Facebook Pixel ID by selecting option three from the set-up window. Copy this ID and use a WordPress plugin to install. Luckily, there’s a wide range available, like PixelYourSite, PixelCat, and Pixel Caffeine. And remember: if things start to go wrong, you can try and troubleshoot (but don’t worry–if you’re worried your computer is going to explode, it’s never too late to hire a developer…).

If you’re still a bit confused about what a Facebook Pixel is, and how it can help you with your exclusion targeting, consider downloading this helpful free guide on the process.

Step 2: Build Your Audience

Welcome to step two: creating a Custom Audience in your Facebook ad account. This is what will allow you to track who’s become a lead or made a purchase. These are the people you will be excluding from your target audience.

Go to the Audiences tab. Under ‘Create Audience,’ select ‘Custom Audience.’ Many options appear, but to stay consistent with our example, select ‘website traffic.’


First, change ‘all site visitors’ to ‘people who visited specific web pages.’ This will trigger ‘URL contains’ to change to ‘URL equals,’ and the window of time will increase from 30 to 180 days.


Next, insert your ‘thank you’ page URL that pops up after a customer makes a purchase. The last step here is to name your new audience and hit ‘create. It may take a bit to fill the audience, but you’ll be able to see the information soon.

Step 3: Exclude Your Custom Audience From Your Next Ad Campaign

Here comes the fun part. While setting up for the process may be tough at first, the more often you exclude a Custom Audience from a Facebook ad campaign, the faster (and easier) it will be for you.


Under Ads Manager, select the campaign you want to exclude from your Custom Audience and navigate to the ‘ad set’ level. Under Audience, click on the ‘exclude’ button that appears below ‘Custom Audiences.’ A second text field will appear, which is where you type in the name of your newest Custom Audience. Make sure to save your changes!


Anyone included in your Custom Audience will not see ads from that campaign. This is where the savings come in: by targeting only those that are motivated to purchase, you can lower your CPC or CPA and reduce wasted clicks.

You also save some extra cash by excluding any customers that have already converted, so you’re not paying to continue targeting them.

Exclusion Tactics are Superior to a Conversions Campaign Objective

If you’re familiar with Facebook and its Ad Manager, you may be wondering why you can’t just use the service’s Conversions Campaign Objective. You might think that using this tool will take care of all this work for you.

Don’t use this tactic if you don’t already get a lot of conversions. Facebook says you should be making at least 50 conversions a week (per ad set!) to utilize their software, which can automatically optimize your ad campaign for your goal.

Look at this as extra incentive to set up a strong exclusion targeting campaign. The more successful your efforts are, the sooner you can just let Facebook do the work for you.

What Happens Next

Facebook provides an intuitive platform for ad management and has many tools that can help you become an ad-master.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite fine-tuned enough to avoid wasting your money by targeting prior customers. That’s why you need to use exclusion marketing: it’s as easy to implement as Step 1, 2, 3! Save money and have fun doing it–use an exclusionary marketing tactic to boost your overall ROI.

Further reads:

  1. How to set up the Facebook Pixel [Free ebook included]
  2. How to set up Remarketing
  3. Facebook tools you can’t ignore

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About the Author

Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.