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.
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 LinkedIn.com. 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.