Does the 20% Text Rule Still Apply on Facebook Ads?

Sian Thomas

· Social Media

In a pretty significant move for advertisers, Facebook has removed the 20% text rule on images used for ads.

Facebook confirmed this themselves, stating:

“At Facebook, we are constantly improving and refining the best ways to improve the quality of ads on our platform. One of the ways is revisiting the effectiveness and impact of existing ad quality checks.

“As part of this review, we will no longer penalize ads with higher amounts of text in auctions and delivery.

“As of Sept 7th, we will begin gradually removing external material and sources that indicate that we enforce high levels of text in images.

“Please note, advertisers will still need to abide by our ad policies regarding the content of the text. Advertisers are still encouraged to reduce the amount of text with images, as we have found that images with less than 20% text generally perform better.”

What was the 20% text rule on Facebook?

Any seasoned Facebook marketer knows and either loved or hated the 20% rule. This meant never having more than 20% of your image covered by text, or it wouldn’t get approved.

Of course, there are always those ads that slip through the net. And even though we’ve always been mindful about sticking to the maximum 20% text guideline, there were ways to game the system such as aligning the text with grid lines, or using a wordy thumbnail on a video ad. 

We’ve never been fans of these workarounds though. The plain and simple truth is that Facebook limited the ratio of text to image size as they know what works best – they know how to get their own users engaging with ads, clicking through and converting, and wordy ads just aren’t that. Our news feeds are already totally saturated, and getting people to stop scrolling on your post, let alone your ad, is hard enough. An ad covered in words is likely to make users scroll on, and often just looks spammy. Facebook had to draw the line somewhere, and that somewhere was 20%.

Not to worry, we advertisers had the text overlay tool. You simply upload your image and it would determine whether your ad would run normally, whether your ad might have a lower reach due to the level of text, or whether it would simply not run at all. The tool had its faults, being based on a grid based system that, as we already mentioned, allowed people to play the system, but it was always useful to have.

The 20% rule does have its problems though: you might have the perfect ad that goes over the rule by just 1% and gets rejected. You might have a message that you need to get across quickly in an image format but the text goes over the limit.

What does this announcement mean for advertisers?

Now that the restriction on text has been lifted, that doesn’t mean that we should go crazy with text on images. In fact, it came straight from the horse’s mouth itself when Facebook stated: “We have found that images with less than 20% text generally perform better.”

Just because an ad that’s chock full of text is approved, it doesn’t mean that it will work. It simply means that Facebook will not manually (or using their checking tool) reject the ad. The reach of the ad will still likely be reduced as it will not perform well as the algorithm will do its job – due to the low quality and engagement rate, it won’t be shown to as many people. 

So does the 20% text rule still stand?

Rather than thinking of it as a rule, going forward, we’ll be thinking of this as a guideline. Ideally, you still want your image to have a ratio of less than 20% text, but going a little either side of this isn’t going to severely harm your results.

Here’s what we recommend

We’re not going to go for the total cop out “it depends” answer, but it does need to be highlighted that every industry, every individual audience, will have different responses to different styles of ads – what works for one will not work for everyone. But in general, here are our recommendations for your Facebook ad creative:

Use a logo rather than lots of text

Keep to text a core message

Use text to stand out rather than deliver a lot of information (slightly over 20% text ratio)

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