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You’ve just had your ads rejected by Facebook. They don’t give you much of a reason why. Just that you have probably violated their ads policies or community standards or something like that.

What’s next? We’re going to take a look at three main reasons why ads get rejected:

  1. There’s something outside of your ads that is causing an issue
  2. There’s something you didn’t know was restricted
  3. It’s too easy for an algorithm to get confused about what you’re advertising

Let’s drill down a bit.

It’s not just your ads that are reviewed

When you set up your ads on Facebook and Instagram, a few things are triggered.

First, an automated process scans the text and creative assets in your ad. It’s looking for anything that might violate Facebook’s Community Standards and Ad Policies.

It then scans for the same thing across your Business Page. This is the first unexpected thing for some advertisers. Usually, on your Business Page, you can get away with a lot. You can make claims about results that can’t be backed up. You can make broad statements that might be considered discriminatory or even exclusionary.

Whether your business page is flagged or your posts are submitted for review comes down to whether anyone reading your stuff has reported it. That means you can go for years without anything going wrong.

But the second you submit an ad for your page to be reviewed, your content is being reviewed. And what they find in your content could be enough to see your ads rejected, even if your ads have nothing to do with the content on your page.

Suppose you’re in an industry that is prone to making claims about medical, therapeutic, financial or job-finding claims. In that case, you’re particularly at risk, given that you are either in or running alongside quite regulated environments.

What you need to do

Run back through your last 50 or so posts and see if any of them are making claims that, while they might seem reasonable to you, might read as a little scammy to others. Approach your reviews like a robot looking for medical claims, before and after shots, expected results and anything that could be read as a little suspicious. Once you’re sure your photos, videos and text don’t make any claims that they probably shouldn’t be, read the Community Standards and Ad Policies. It’s incredible how few advertisers never have. You’ll be surprised what things are mentioned there.

You had no idea that your ad was a restricted topic

To ensure that ads on its platform aren’t discriminatory, Facebook has a few ad categories that it pays additional attention to.

The first one is housing.

If you are a real estate agent running ads selling or renting homes – or even promoting your service that does those things, you’re in a special category.

A special category requires a couple of extra steps to ensure you’re doing the right thing.

In the case of housing, the algorithm will look for indications that your creative, text, or targeting are not excluding certain kinds of people from accessing your ads or your service – even if you know that specific demographics are not your target.

Next, you will be required to verify your company or organisation to provide an additional check and balance against this special category. You’ll need to provide your Australian Business Number (ABN) and a few more easy-to-find details so that you can show that you are in the right place to be advertising this stuff.

Another special category is employment.

If you’re advertising job vacancies, job finding services, recruitment, etc., you will need to go through the same process as above. In addition, the automated review process will be on the lookout for any indication of potential discrimination in who you’re advertising to and who you’re allowing to apply for your jobs.

A third category is political.

But don’t be misled into thinking this is just for political parties or candidates.

This category also applies to anyone discussing a potentially political topic in their ads.

Examples that you may not be aware of include:

  • Fundraisers for women’s shelters or services for vulnerable people
  • Businesses selling alternative products in response to environmental concerns (like reducing plastic waste or the use of harmful chemicals)
  • Ads mentioning anything to do with climate change
  • Ads critical of changes brought about by government or authorities

It’s important to note that the ads themselves won’t necessarily be banned. It’s just that you need to verify your account and business before these kinds of ads will be approved.

It’s too easy for an algorithm to get confused

Contrary to popular belief, algorithms are pretty dumb.

While they are very effective at what they are written to do, they are terrible at thinking outside the box. The kind of AI we see today is not good at actual thinking. It’s also terrible at reading context.

For example, a sentence like the following will cause an algorithm to flag your ad:

Healing the world begins with a significantly changed climate of peace. A true therapeutic approach to solving mental, spiritual and physical problems starts with a mindset shift. We like to call it “Medicine of the Heart.”

At first read, you would think any of that seems too suspicious. But when you look at it like an algorithm, it looks more like this.

Healing the world begins with a significantly changed climate of peace. A true therapeutic approach to solving mental, spiritual and physical problems starts with a mindset shift. We like to call it “Medicine of the Heart.”

Each of those words on their own seems harmless. But the algorithm doesn’t understand “New Age Speak” and therefore doesn’t read all those words in their true context.

It sees a link between Healing, Therapeutics, Mental, Physical, Problems, Medicine and Heart” as possibly having something to do with a restricted topic – medical claims. Even though the post has nothing to do with anything medical.

You can see how this can cause problems with all kinds of posts and ads. Here’s another seemingly innocent example:

We don’t just sell dog food. We sell the idea of healthy, happy dogs. Whatever the breed, and whatever the age, from puppies to older animals, you can trust what we sell, as it’s been trusted by more dog breeders than any other brands.

Now let’s look at this the same way an algorithm would see it:

We don’t just sell dog food. We sell the idea of healthy, happy dogs. Whatever the breed, and whatever the age, from puppies to older animals, you can trust what we sell, as it’s been trusted by more dog breeders than any other brands.

You would think that the ad is about dog food. But the algorithm thinks you’re a dog breeder trying to sell live dogs on Facebook. And that’s not permitted.

Again, you can see how some people would have no idea that their writing is setting off alarm bells.

The idea then is to write more clearly and concisely.

The following are examples in both cases that would not raise any red flags:

You want a better world. Peace of mind. Better physical wellness. Spiritual enlightenment. You know that starts with your own mindset shift. We’re ready to share our new program with you.

Happier dogs start with better nutrition. Whatever the age, you can make sure your best friend is healthier, happier and with you for longer.

 No red flags there. Just a clear message that an algorithm will easily understand.

The Bottom Line

Facebook is not in the business of making life more challenging for you. But they still have to follow specific rules across a vast global network. And that means having automated processes that can read and understand what you’re saying and ensure that it doesn’t set off any alerts against their Community Standards, Special Ad Categories and Ad Policies.

For all the advice I can give you, perhaps the best is to spend about 40 minutes actually reading their Community Standards and Ad Policies before submitting your ad for review. You’ll reduce the risk of having your ad account disabled and make the process of advertising on Facebook much less troublesome.


Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter, a Meta Certified Lead Trainer, a Community Trainer with Meta Australia, a digital advisor with Business Station, an accredited Digital Solutions advisor and presenter, and the editor at The Small Marketer. You can watch free 1-hour webinars and grow your digital skills at Dante’s YouTube Channel.

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