Is The LinkedIn Audience Network More Expensive Than the Google Display Network?

Posted by on Nov 20, 2013 in Advertising, Search, Social | 6 Comments
Is The LinkedIn Audience Network More Expensive Than the Google Display Network?

I read a thought-provoking statement about the LinkedIn Ads Audience Network this week:

“As you can see, you might end up on Google sites with this option checked… and at the CPCs LinkedIn is charging you’re probably overpaying. I recommend deselecting the box.” – Robert Brady, Clix Marketing PPC Blog.

This is a thought worth exploring…

What is the LinkedIn Audience Network?

The LinkedIn Audience Network is a collection of websites that have partnered with LinkedIn to display ads from LinkedIn advertisers on their pages. Every time you create a LinkedIn Ads campaign, you have the option to opt-out of the Audience Network which will limit your ads to displaying directly on LinkedIn alone.

linkedin ads audience network

Should you opt-out of the Audience Network?

Is it really an overpriced Google Display Network?

At issue is LinkedIn’s disclosure that some sites in their Audience Network may also be part of the Google DoubleClick Ad Exchange. If you’re running similar campaigns on both networks, you could potentially see overlap. Additionally, since LinkedIn has a minimum CPC bid of $2.00 while Google’s is only $0.01, you could be paying unnecessarily high rates to show your LinkedIn ads on the same website.

Does a higher cost per click mean a higher cost per conversion?

So is the Audience Network overpriced? Probably. But just because the minimum bid in LinkedIn is higher for the same inventory doesn’t mean you should write it off as an overpriced Google Display Network. The value of LinkedIn advertising is in its ability to target an audience by their professional identity. Because of this, for many advertisers (especially those in B2B), LinkedIn can result in a much more profitable campaign.

For many advertisers, especially those in B2B, LinkedIn can result in a much more profitable campaign.

Scenario A: Google Display Network

Let’s say you’re running ads for a business that sells payroll software. You put $1,000 towards a Google display campaign and target your audience by topics related to payroll. This campaign then earns 1,000 clicks at an average CPC of $1, from which you get 25 leads resulting in a cost per conversion of $40. As it turns out, many of the clicks from this campaign came from people that weren’t actually qualified to make purchasing decisions for new payroll software.

Scenario B: LinkedIn Audience Network

In the second scenario, you put the same $1,000 towards a LinkedIn Ads campaign with the Audience Network selected. This time, you target your campaign to senior level HR professionals. Your ads show up on some of the very same websites as those in the Google Display Network campaign, but only because your targeted audience visited those overlapping sites. This campaign has a higher average CPC of $2 and only earns 500 clicks, but because these are clicks from a qualified audience of HR directors and VPs, a much higher percentage of them convert and you earn a total of 25 leads for a cost per conversion of $40.

You can learn effective targeting strategies for LinkedIn Ads in this post.

More inventory and possibly lower cost per conversion

So while it’s true that there may be overlap between the Google Display Network and the more expensive LinkedIn Audience Network, it’s possible that the difference in targeting capabilities result in a higher conversion rate lower cost per conversion to justify the difference in price.

I should note that ads that display directly on LinkedIn could have higher conversion rates because context matters and people browsing LinkedIn have business on their mind. So if you’re B2B and are targeting professionals or businesses, your first choice may be to show your ads directly on LinkedIn. But you’ll likely have trouble racking up enough impressions if you opt out of the Audience Network and limit your ads to Although I personally waste more time LinkedIn stalking than I do Facebook stalking, I don’t think LinkedIn has the level of engagement Facebook does which means fewer ad impressions per user. If you’re not getting enough impressions and clicks for your LinkedIn campaign, enable the Audience Network.

If you’re not getting enough impressions and clicks for your LinkedIn campaign, enable the Audience Network.

Since impressions for your LinkedIn ads can be hard to come by, you’ll want to create a campaign that accesses the extra inventory available in the Audience Network. Your audience may not be thinking about work when your ad is shown, and the same ad slot may be available cheaper from Google, but you’ll know they’re the right person for your product and that could make all the difference.

For help getting familiar with advertising on LinkedIn, check out our Guide to LinkedIn Ads.

Sam Mazaheri

Sam is the Director of Online Marketing at InVision and former Director of Marketing at AdStage. Prior to AdStage, he was part of the AdWords product team at Google, serving as the in-house AdWords expert and advisor to product management, engineering, and UX. Prior to that, he personally managed and grew in-house digital marketing programs with over $300,000 in monthly ad spend.

View Sam Mazaheri's profile on LinkedIn

  • Great post. The key for a business is to know the value of a lead and know who they’re trying to reach. If going through the LinkedIn Audience Network puts you in front of ONLY the right people, then it will probably be worth it.

    If you can get in front of those people for a lower CPC via the GDN, then use Google. As usual, it depends on you and you should test it.

  • Ken Hillyer

    Agree w/ Robert & Sam.

    And to take it a step further, I would break it down like this:


    [in fact] the back-end ops behind LinkedIn’s Ad platform facilitate buying traffic based on known [cookied] LinkedIn users who happen to be reached via GDCAE (instead of programatic buying based on lower-level audience characteristics)


    [as Robert mentioned] your (or your client’s) leads sourced from LinkedIn are in-line with the overall/target campaign avg CPL$.


    take *great care* to not increase campaign avg CPC$ by blindly bidding for the “same” audience from two competing ad platforms/networks (esp. if one side of the network allows targeting using more relevant/precise/valuable criteria).

    Theoretically…the easiest/optimal bid strategy may be achieved through “stacking” [potentially] competitive audience buys.


    Google DoubleClick Ad Exchange
    Max CPC Bid: <=$1.99, or LinkedIn Max CPC$ Bid, minus $0.01

    LinkedIn Ads Campaign
    Max CPC Bid = $2.00++, or GDCAE Max CPC$ Bid, plus $0.01

    Of course, this method always assume that your LinkedIn Ads targeting criteria are more valuable….


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  • rajesh

    Very well explained. In other words if you are brand building among “Payroll community” use google, if you have call to action related to Payroll target Sr. HR using LKDN Auidance newtwork