LinkedIn Ads

The Complete Beginner's Guide to LinkedIn Advertising

This guide is Part 1 of a 3-part series on how to be successful on LinkedIn Advertising. My intention is for you to be able to follow this guide, and then subsequently Part 2 and Part 3 in order to fully master the platform.

First Things First

LinkedIn advertising is a very different beast within the ad campaign jungle. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve already figured this out. As the Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising  industry goes, LinkedIn Ads is the angsty teenager – it’s immature and difficult to work with at times, but the targeting is hands-down the best for reaching business-facing customers, and it exposes your ads to the most qualified traffic from any source. In short, it’s a gold mine if you can figure it out.

Play the game right; find the gold mine. I’m here to teach you that game.

1. Targeting Your Audience

There are many blog posts out there on the fundamentals of creating a campaign. I’m not going to bore you with this basic information, because it’s not going to show you how to win this game. Instead, let’s start by identifying your audience.

Once you know who you’re trying to target, the rest falls into place quite nicely. For instance, if you’re looking to target sales managers, there are 4 or more ways to go after this audience, and that dictates the structure of your campaigns.

There are 4 ways traditionally to target any given role:

1. Job Title Targeting (i.e. ‘Sales Manager’ title)

Linkedin Ads Targeting Job Title

2. Job Function + Seniority (i.e. ‘Sales’ Job Function plus ‘Manager’ seniority)

Linkedin Ads Targeting Job Function

3. Skills + Seniority (i.e. ‘cold calling’ skill plus ‘Manager’ seniority)

Linkedin Ads Targeting

4. Groups + Seniority (i.e. ‘Sales Management Executives’ group plus ‘Manager’ seniority)

Linkedin Ads Targeting Sales Manager

Ideally, if you create a campaign targeting with any of these types, you’d be hitting the same group; but largely due to the infinite ways in which professionals complete their profile, incorporating 2 or more of the above does much to expand your reach.

See this Venn diagram to better understand:

linkedin ads targeting venn diagram

While the larger circle represents all possible sales managers on LinkedIn, the smaller circles show how much of the audience a certain type of targeting will hit. Layering targeting allows you to capture more audience.

You’ll also notice that some of each targeting method bleeds a little outside of the audience. Those areas represent outdated profiles, broad targeting elements or other such events.

I recommend starting a test with one targeting method. Then, as you are seeing success, continue layering the additional methods on top until you’re meeting your budget or traffic goals.

2. Choosing Your Ad Type

LinkedIn offers 2 main ad types:

1. Text Ads

Linkedin Ads Targeting Text Ads

2. Sponsored Updates

Linkedin Ads Sponsored Updates

They both have very different personalities, so here is a bit of insight into their differences and similarities:

LinkedIn Text Ads

  • 50x50 image
  • Shown in the right rail of internal pages
  • CTRs in the range of .03% (from my experience)
  • 25 character headline
  • 75 character description
  • Shown only to desktop users

LinkedIn Sponsored Updates

  • Large landscape image (downscales gracefully, depending on device)
  • Shown in the news feed for LinkedIn members
  • CTRs in the range of .3% (from my experience)
  • ~160 character intro
  • ~230 character title
  • ~160 character description
  • Shown to both desktop & mobile users

I recommend starting with Sponsored Updates for the simple reason that the price per click is similar, but you get more real estate, and the response rate is higher. Targeting is identical between them, so feel free to test one or the other, or try both concurrently.

3. Campaign Structure

If you’re like me and come from an AdWords background, you’re probably comfortable with a campaign naming structure built around keyword themes. With LinkedIn Ads, you are targeting business characteristics rather than keywords, so best practice dictates that you name your campaigns after your audience.

Say, for instance, that you had two campaigns targeting sales managers for different sizes of companies. In this situation, it would make sense to name those two campaigns as follows:

  • Sales Manager Titles – Size 1-500
  • Sales Manager Titles – Size 501+

Also, unlike other PPC platforms, LinkedIn doesn’t have an ‘Ad group’ equivalent, so your ads sit directly inside of campaigns.

4. Evaluation & Reporting

As of right now, LinkedIn does not have native conversion tracking, which is unfortunate. That means you’ll need to get scrappy when it comes to evaluating your performance. The measure that is furthest down the funnel that you can see from your dashboard is CTR, which LinkedIn gives a lot of weight to (more on that later), but just because an ad gets clicked more often does not mean that it’s better at generating revenue and leads.

You’ll want to implement conversion tracking (unless you're using AdStage, in which case conversion tracking can be automatically implemented). I’m guessing the vast majority of you are using Google Analytics; here is the best guide I’ve found for setting up conversion tracking in Google Analytics. The gist is that you’ll be inserting parameters into each of your ad’s destination URLs, which tell your analytics package from where the traffic came.

Now you’ll have performance data on each of your ads within LinkedIn’s ads dashboard, as well as conversion and traffic data in Google Analytics. Combine them for direction on which ad copy and image combinations produce the lowest cost per lead.

5. Common Issues

- Relevancy Score

The most common issue I hear from new advertisers is that their ads have a hard time getting traction. All of the auction-based advertising platforms that I know have an algorithm that rewards strong performance with cheaper clicks. AdWords has Quality Score, Facebook has EdgeRank, and LinkedIn has Relevancy Score.

The idea behind its algorithm is this– LinkedIn has a choice; it has a single ad slot, but 2 advertisers who are willing to fill it. LinkedIn knows that Advertiser A is willing to pay $3 per click, and averages a .6% CTR. It knows that Advertiser B is willing to pay $4 per click and averages a .3% CTR. Although advertiser B is willing to pay $1 more per click, that inventory is better utilized to maximize LinkedIn’s revenue by showing Advertiser A’s ads. Here’s that math:

linkedin ads performance data table

So from the table above, you can see that given 1000 impressions for that same ad slot, LinkedIn makes $18 from advertiser A; while it would only make $16 from Advertiser B, despite B being willing to pay more per click.

From my experience, LinkedIn’s Relevancy Score (RS) has an effect that is much more noticeable than in other platforms. While with other algorithms, a poor score may increase the amount you need to pay for clicks, on LinkedIn, it’s not uncommon to see whole campaigns just stop receiving impressions.

The best guide for overcoming this issue that I’ve read is over at about why an ad would stop showing impressions.

- Pricing & Bidding

One of the largest issues I hear from new advertisers is that LinkedIn ads are pricey. Minimum bids are set at $2, but competition has most advertisers paying between $4-$6 per click.

While in some industries, those may be high CPCs, remember that the platform was specifically created for B2B targeting, where deal sizes and contracts are larger in size. There are also plenty of industries on AdWords where clicks are going for $50-$90, so $4-$6 to reach a business’s decision maker doesn’t sound so bad.

Also, as Robert Brady put it:

“They’re in a business mindset. They don’t dawdle around LinkedIn watching Ice Bucket Challenge videos or looking at cat pictures. They’re there to make connections, research a company… they’re focused."

6. You Deserve a Raise

You began reading as a beginner, and now you’re all ready for the big leagues. You have all the knowledge necessary to reach business professionals and decision makers in a very targeted, very powerful way with LinkedIn Ads.

Don’t forget to inform your boss of this fact and come back for Part 2: Experienced Guide to LinkedIn Advertising and Part 3: Advanced Guide to LinkedIn Advertising in the series that will take you from dabbler, to heavy user in the time it takes you to finish your morning joe.


AdStage Team