Paid Ad Pro

How to Find Out Why You See Certain Facebook Ads

Understand why Facebook knows you so well

Image credit: Geralt on Pixabay

Open your Facebook feed, scroll it down, and check how often do you see the posts marked “Sponsored.” Is it every second post? Or maybe every third one? A lot of advertisers compete for your attention and try to catch you with their ads.

Almost every second post I see is sponsored on Facebook. Even though I visit this platform for fun, I keep seeing advertised jobs, sponsored blog posts, marketing tools, and business-related ads. Advertisers are ready to pay a higher fee to follow users online wherever they go. This might be annoying, we might think ads are not relevant, we might want to completely get rid of sponsored content, but the truth is, we will get to see even more ads eventually.

Social media platforms generate most of their revenue from advertisements. In 2018, Facebook reported 98.5 % of its revenue comes from advertisements.

Image for post
Image for post
Facebook revenue breakdown. Source

The latest functionality and design changes do serve the same need, provide more ad placements for advertisers, and generate higher revenue. Messenger ads, ads in the right sidebar of the Facebook desktop version, ads in stories adversely affect usability and confuse users. However, business is business.

If the advertisement demand steadily grows, Facebook will come up with a solution to ensure equal opportunity for all advertisers. If you are a Facebook user, you should not necessarily consume all the sponsored content. There is a way to control and limit the ads Facebook shows you.

How to Check Why You See Certain Facebook Ads

As a marketer, I see dozens of sponsored content every day. I do not necessarily engage with all posts. However, if the advertised content is irrelevant, I usually check the settings to figure out why I am targeted. And you can do it too.

Here is an ad that’s been haunting me for a while even though I do not know this brand and I did not search for mentors online. Navigate to “Why am I seeing this ad?” to check the advertiser settings and why you ended up in the target audience pool.

Image for post
Image for post
Image courtesy of the author

Due to recent data leakage and scandals, Facebook has implemented new functionality that allows users to see what kind of data is stored and how it is used. The process seems to be transparent and if you do not want to see ads about certain topics or from specific advertisers, you can set it as well.

Once you open “Why am I seeing this ad?” you see the advertiser settings that triggered the algorithms and show you ads. Let’s see my particular example. I do like, comment and sometimes share content about business. Thus, Facebook defines “business” as my interest. My browser default language is English, I fit their age range and I live in Hungary. I fall under all the criteria, thus I keep seeing this ad for a lot. If you do not want to see ads from a certain advertiser, you can click “Hide” and you won’t see their ads any longer.

Image for post
Image for post
Image courtesy of the author

As a marketer, I see rather general settings here. Regardless of me being interested in “business,” I might be 100% indifferent to the advertised offer. What’s the solution here? The advertiser should narrow down the audience to target suitable users, or I can change my Facebook settings to see fewer ads. Here is how you can do it.

How to Control and Limit the Ads

You can make changes to your ad preferences in the same ad panel. I encourage you to at least have a look at what Facebook knows about you. You will be surprised how much data is stored and used to help advertisers easily reach you.

Image for post
Image for post
Image courtesy of the author

This is your ad preferences page. You can learn what influences the ads you see and take control over your ad experience.

Image courtesy of the author

In this panel you can:

  • Check, change, and remove the interests defined by Facebook based on your behavior, when you like, comment, share anything on social media.
  • You can see businesses that use your contact information for remarketing purposes. You can also see who shows you the ad because you’ve interacted or visited their app, website.
  • By default, Facebook is allowed to collect your personal information, such as your employer, marital status, job, education, etc. However, these settings can be changes.

Follow These Steps to Limit Facebook Ads

There are three basic settings that you can control in the Facebook ad panel.

  • “Ads based on data from partners:” It controls ads based on data Facebook receives from partners and advertisers about your activity besides Facebook products, which also include Instagram, WhatsApp, Messanger, etc. Tap to change it to “not allowed.”
  • “Ads based on your activity on Facebook:” Facebook records your online activity across all Facebook Company Products. This data helps to show you more relevant ads, but you can turn it off to limit the ads you see on Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.
  • “Ads that include your social actions:” Users want to know what their friends like. If this option is allowed, your friends will see the ads based on the actions you take. For instance, liking a page or sharing a post. If you are under 18, your social actions are not shown alongside ads.

You can restrict this setting to “No one can see my social activity” in the ad settings.”


It’s a pain to control the ads Facebook shows you. The algorithms continuously evolve, but users are not always aware of how it works and what information is shared.

As an advertiser on Facebook, I’ve seen how many targeting opportunities are available for marketers whenever you set an ad. Businesses can reach an audience based on location, interest, consumer behavior, connections demographics, or they can even set up their custom “Lookalike” audience. Having you as a Facebook user, advertisers can easily define and reach thousands of people who “look like you.”

For now, the ad preferences tool is your best bet. It’s powerful, you just need to know where to look.

Written by

Marketer and blogger. Making dull marketing stuff funny and simple. Meanwhile, inspiring with personal stories.

Sign up for The Better Marketing Newsletter

By Better Marketing

Our map to the marketing world. An occasional newsletter highlighting the best stories, tips, and tools to become a better marketer.  Take a look

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Thanks to Niklas Göke

Marketing advice and case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and effectively.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store