How to set up frequency capping on Google AdWords
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Google AdWords

AdWords Frequency Capping Guide: Set Up and Best Practices

Everything has its limits – like how much ice cream you can possibly gulf down your throat.

One or two scoops is good. If it’s Ben and Jerry’s maaaaaybe I’ll push it to three, but as soon as someone offers a 4th or 5th scoop, I’ll never want to look at ice cream ever again.


In similar fashion, showing a person the same ad over and over again may overfill their ‘ad stomach’, make them irritated, and cause them to not only ignore the ad, but potentially instill a negative perception toward your brand… So you might be asking, “When is enough enough?”

That’s a great question – let’s dig right in.

What is Frequency Capping?

Frequency capping is putting a limit on the number of times an ad is shown to an individual. In Google AdWords, you can enter a maximum ‘cap’ on how many times someone can potentially see a display campaign.

You can set these caps at the campaign, ad group, and ad level and further segment them by day, week, or month.

Why Use Frequency Capping?

Ads are like cilantro: some people love ‘em, some people hate ‘em, and others need some convincing. Everybody responds to ad creatives differently, so it’s another factor to test out. You want your ads to hit the sweet spot between “dude, stop following me around!” and “I’ve never heard of you guys.”

When you set a high ad frequency cap on a low performing ad, your ad will show up more often, which can drive down conversion rates over time with diminishing returns. This will bring down your quality or relevancy score. That means less bang for your $$.

This is especially important when you’re running a remarketing campaign.

What is Remarketing?

Remarketing is a tactic where an advertiser repeatedly targets a particular audience. If you don’t set an optimized frequency cap, your audience may feel annoyed or creeped out after a certain threshold.

But if you remarket to the right audience with the right message, you have the opportunity to reach the right audience who might’ve missed your ads the first few times. You can do this in both Facebook Ads and Google AdWords by creating a custom audience or importing a remarketing list respectively.

Then you have dynamic remarketing, which is remarketing to people who’ve visited your website before. It’s dynamic, because the targeted ads are tailored to their visit. For example, if you abandon a cart on Amazon after looking for a pair of AudioTechnica m50x headphones, Jeff Bezos will send you a sea of ads of those exact headphones on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

What is Ad Fatigue?

Ad fatigue occurs when someone sees your ad too often and becomes disinterested, which hurts your ROI in the long run.

So the more times someone sees an ad, the less likely they are going to convert…right?

Well, Larry Kim refutes that claim and writes “ad fatigue is overblown.” He backs it up with a study advocating remarketing, which concludes consumers are 2-3 times more likely to purchase if they’ve heard of you before.

So What’s the Optimal Ad Frequency Cap?

There’s no rule of thumb. The best indicator of future performance is looking at your historical ad frequency data. You can do exactly that by setting up and digging into you ad frequency reports (below).

How to Find Your Frequency Reports

Before you get started, you have to make sure you have two things:

  1. You’re running display campaigns
  2. Your AdWords account is Linked to Google Analytics

Here’s how to set it up:

  1. Open Google Analytics
  2. Click AdWords Linking
  3. Select Linked AdWords Account
  4. Select Link Configuration
  5. Check the box that says ‘Enable Google Network Impression Reporting’
  6. Head over to reports
  7. Select the drop down menu labeled ‘interaction type’
  8. Check impressions box only
  9. Look at the number of impressions vs conversions
  10. See where your conversions are dropping off and use this number to act as the upper limit benchmark

Note: Ideally you want to cut off your ads from showing where your Cost-per-Acquisition significantly drives down your overall return on ad spend. Be sure to run a few tests before taking this benchmark as gospel.

How to Set Up Frequency Capping in AdWords

Since we figured you’re probably getting a bit of blog-post fatigue, we’ve put together this video to help you get all set up. Here’s how:

  1. Open AdWords
  2. Open up a Display campaign
  3. Click the Settings tab
  4. Click on All Settings
  5. Scroll down and click + Ad Delivery: Ad rotation, frequency capping
  6. Next to Frequency Capping, click edit
  7. Input your viewable impressions per day, per month, per campaign or per ad

Thanks for Reading!

Congratulations – you’ve tackled yet another difficult topic. Join us again next week for a fresh article or scour through our existing library for more of the best PPC guides and tutorials. If you’d like to read about a particular subject, be sure to drop a comment or tweet at us @AdHawk, we read every tweet!

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About the Author

Journeyman of the wild wild west of Digital Advertising. Also doubling as an unofficial Taco Bell ambassador. Tweet at me @JonJmPark