Facebook Text Overlay: How to Use the 20% Rule to Improve Your Ads

Facebook Text Overlay in 2024: The Ultimate Guide to Maximizing Ad Impact

As a digital advertiser, you know that compelling visuals are key to capturing your audience‘s attention on Facebook. But in the pursuit of eye-catching images, it‘s easy to go overboard with text – and that can actually hurt your ad performance.

Facebook has long recommended keeping text to a minimum on ad images, with the famous "20% rule" that stated text should cover no more than a fifth of the image. While this is no longer an official requirement, understanding how to use text overlays effectively is critical for maximizing engagement and ROAS on your Facebook ads in 2024 and beyond.

In this complete guide, we‘ll dive deep into Facebook‘s text overlay guidelines and share the most up-to-date best practices for using text in your ad images. Plus, discover the tools, templates and tips you need to design ads that drive more clicks and conversions for your business.

What Is the Facebook Text Overlay Rule?

The Facebook text overlay rule (also known as the "20% rule") was a guideline put in place to enhance the user experience and aesthetic appeal of the Facebook platform. It stated that images in News Feed ads should contain no more than 20% text, as Facebook found that images with less than 20% text performed better.

While this is no longer a strict requirement as of 2024, Facebook still recommends advertisers aim for a low text-to-image ratio to improve ad delivery and performance. Ads with minimal text tend to fit more seamlessly into the user‘s feed and grab attention more effectively than images crowded with text.

It‘s important to note that the text overlay rule only applied to the text actually within the ad image, not the ad headline, body copy, CTA button or link description. Certain images like book covers, album covers, event posters and some product images were exempt.

Examples of Facebook Ads With Acceptable, Borderline and High Text Overlay

To help you visualize what an ideal text-to-image ratio looks like, let‘s examine some example Facebook ads with varying levels of text overlay:

  1. Ad With Acceptable Text Overlay (5% or less)
[Insert example ad image with minimal/no text]

This ad uses just a small branded text overlay in the corner and no other copy on the image. The text-to-image ratio is well under 5%, creating a clean, simple visual that will integrate smoothly into users‘ feeds. The lack of excessive text also adds an element of curiosity that can drive users to stop and read the full ad copy.

  1. Ad With Borderline Text Overlay (around 20%)
[Insert example ad image with text just under 20%]

In this example, the text overlay consists of a short headline and one line of body copy, covering roughly 20% of the total image area. While still within the recommended range, advertisers should be cautious about relying too heavily on text here, as it starts to detract focus from the core visual. When possible, shift that extra text to your post copy instead to streamline the image.

  1. Ad With High Text Overlay (more than 20%)
[Insert example ad image with excessive text well over 20%]

This ad attempts to cram far too much text into the image, with a text-to-image ratio exceeding 40%. Not only does this create a cluttered, visually unappealing aesthetic, but it risks having the ad penalized or rejected by Facebook‘s system. The detailed copy explaining the offer would be much better placed in the standard ad text fields, allowing the image to shine with just a short, punchy text overlay.

Best Practices to Optimize Text Overlay in Facebook Ads

Now that you have a clearer idea of what an optimal text overlay looks like, here are some key strategies to follow when incorporating text into your ad visuals:

  1. Consider copy placement carefully

With limited space to work with, be intentional about where you place text on the image. The most critical message (like a headline, offer or CTA) should be large and centered, while supplementary copy is best kept small or placed in the margins. Avoid obscuring key parts of the image or making the text difficult to read.

  1. Choose fonts for readability and brand identity

Opt for clear, easy-to-read fonts that align with your visual branding. Decorative or script fonts may look nice but can be tough to decipher at a glance. Bold, high-contrast typography tends to work best, especially on mobile screens. Limit yourself to 1-2 fonts to keep the design cohesive.

  1. Proofread and check specs

Since you have limited room for text, a spelling mistake or formatting issue will be glaringly obvious. Triple check all copy for accuracy and ensure it fits the designated space. Review Facebook‘s full text overlay guidelines and ad specs to confirm your text and overall design are compliant.

  1. Prioritize short, impactful copy

In general, less is more when it comes to ad image copy. Stick to a few attention-grabbing words that complement the visual and incentivize users to engage further. Think action-oriented CTAs, enticing offers, branded slogans, or product/event names – not dense blocks of explanatory text.

  1. Use a grid and ruler for balanced design

Overlaying a grid and guidelines will help you position text neatly on the image and gauge your text-to-image ratio. Many free design tools like Canva offer built-in layout grids and Facebook ad templates you can adapt. Aim to keep text contained to just 2-3 grid squares.

  1. Apply a semi-transparent overlay to text

If you‘re struggling to make text stand out over a busy image, try adding a semi-transparent shape or linear overlay behind the copy. This creates contrast for readability while keeping more of the image visible. Just keep any overlays thin and subtle to avoid overpowering the visual.

  1. Test variations for optimization

Can‘t decide between two headline options or text placements? Run an A/B test to see which ad scores better for engagement and conversion rate. Vary just one element at a time (like font color or size) to determine what resonates most with your specific audience. Over time, you can define your own unique best practices for text overlay.

How Text Overlay Impacts Facebook Ad Performance

When used strategically, text overlay can enhance your ad‘s message and effectiveness, but too much text can have the opposite effect. Here‘s how an overly text-heavy image can undermine your Facebook ad performance:

Lower engagement and click-through rate: Facebook users prefer ad images that tell a story or elicit an emotional response at a glance. If your visual is obscured by an overwhelming amount of text, users are more likely to scroll past it, hurting your CTR and engagement rate.

Reduced ad delivery and reach: Facebook‘s ad system is designed to show users the most relevant, high-quality ads. Ads with poor text-to-image ratio (especially those exceeding the 20% guideline) tend to have a lower relevance score and may see reduced impressions as a result.

Higher costs per action: Since text-heavy images earn fewer engagements and have lower relevance scores, you may end up paying more for each click or conversion they generate compared to a cleaner, more visual ad.

Diminished brand perception: Cluttered, hard-to-read ad visuals reflect poorly on your brand‘s design skills and attention to detail. Users may assume your landing page and overall user experience will be similarly confusing or unprofessional.

Overlooked CTA and offer details: The more extraneous text on your ad image, the easier it is for users to miss the key details that would drive them to take action, like your value proposition, promotion dates, discount code, etc.

Tools to Check Text-to-Image Ratio for Facebook Ads

While Facebook has retired its own text overlay checking tool, there are still several free, third-party alternatives you can use to evaluate your images before publishing an ad:

ADJelly Text Overlay Tool
Facebook Text Check Tool by Yoke
Text on Image Checker for Social Media Ads by Socialear

These tools operate very similarly to Facebook‘s original overlay checker. Simply upload your ad image and the tool will lay a 5×5 grid over it. It will then calculate the number of grid squares that contain text and return a text density percentage to indicate if you‘re within the 20% threshold. Some even allow you to click individual grid squares on/off to adjust the text area.

Though not expressly endorsed by Facebook, these tools are handy for double checking your ratios and ensuring a light touch with text.

Design Tips for High-performing Facebook Ad Visuals

Perfecting your text overlays is just one piece of the puzzle. To create Facebook ads that stop the scroll and inspire action, apply these visual best practices:

  1. Aim for cohesive branding: Incorporate brand colors, fonts and graphic elements to make your ads instantly recognizable, but avoid heavy-handed logos or watermarks that scream "advertisement."

  2. Prioritize clean, simple layouts: A single bold image with ample negative space works better than a cluttered collage. Give each visual element room to breathe for maximum impact.

  3. Favor engaging, original visuals: Skip generic stock photos in favor of eye-catching images and videos that relate directly to your brand and offer. Hire a photographer, use UGC or create custom graphics.

  4. Showcase your product or service: If relevant, include shots of your actual product or teammembers/customers using it. This builds trust and helps users envision the experience.

  5. Include a clear CTA: Use action-oriented text and an enticing CTA button to drive users to click through to your site. Your ad image and copy should work together to reinforce the desired action.

  6. Optimize image specs for placement: Facebook offers a range of ad formats across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and its Audience Network. Familiarize yourself with the image size and ratio specs for each placement to ensure your visuals look great everywhere.

  7. Design for mobile-first: Over 98% of Facebook‘s active users access the platform via mobile devices. Prioritize vertical or square image formats and use large, legible text and buttons that work on small screens.

The Takeaway

While Facebook‘s 20% text overlay rule may no longer be a firm requirement, the principle behind it still holds true: Ad images with minimal text tend to be more engaging, memorable and effective than ones riddled with copy.

Before launching your next Facebook ad campaign, audit your ad images and aim to pare down text to just the essentials – then make those 1-2 lines of copy as concise and compelling as possible. Coupled with strong, clean visuals and a clear CTA, your ads will be well positioned to grab attention and get results.

However, also remember that the 20% guideline is just that – a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. The optimal text-to-image ratio will vary depending on your unique creative, audience and objectives. Use the tools and tips outlined here as a starting point, but don‘t be afraid to test and iterate to find what works best for your brand.

At the end of the day, your ad images should be an extension of your visual identity and brand voice. Approach them with the same care and craftsmanship you bring to your organic social content, website and other touchpoints. The more cohesive, differentiated and delightful your ad experiences, the more likely users will be to stop, look and convert.