How to advertise on LinkedIn: A complete guide

So you have a team of salespeople hungry for more leads.

You already have a few channels that help you acquire leads, but such efforts aren’t scalable and the lead quality isn’t high.

What do you do?

If you want to start generating more leads and avoid any of the problems you currently face, then you’ve got to try LinkedIn ads.

In contrast with two of its most popular counterparts, Facebook Ads or Google Adwords, LinkedIn ads represent a unique opportunity for B2B marketers. eMarketer found that B2B marketers named LinkedIn advertising to be as effective as Facebook.

Last year LinkedIn generated over $2 billion in revenue from its advertising platform. While a small fraction of Facebook or Google’s revenues, increasing numbers of marketers are shifting budgets to LinkedIn, with 42% of media buyers planning to increase their spend in 2019.

Driven by this stellar growth LinkedIn updated it’s ad platform in mid-2019 focussing on what it calls objective based advertising. In this guide you’ll learn everything you need to know about the new experience, so you can understand how to advertise on LinkedIn today.

  1. Campaign objectives
  2. Audience targeting
  3. Ad types and formats
  4. Costs, bids and budgets
  5. Creating a winning ad
  6. Analysis and optimization

Get the Basics Right

“The devil is in the detail” or so the saying goes, so before we get started with the nitty-gritty of creating a LinkedIn advertising campaign, let’s cover the basics.

In order to start a LinkedIn ads campaign, you need to have a company page.

A LinkedIn company page is needed for advertising

You likely already have one opened.

If you don’t, then this handy guide that will show you the steps you need to take to open it.

Another important basic is to install LinkedIn’s Insight Tag. This is a small Javascript tag that will help you set up conversion tracking (so you can measure how many people convert from your ads), website audiences, and uncover your visitor’s demographic data. You can find it under the Account Assets menu in your Campaign Manager.

LinkedIn Campaign Manager Insight Tag

What’s more, the Insight Tag will help you run retargeted advertising campaigns, which as you will see, are incredibly effective and powerful.

While you install the tag, you also want to set up conversion tracking, which will help you see the actual conversions of your campaigns.

With the basics covered, let’s start with the actual LinkedIn ad campaign creation process.

LinkedIn Ad Campaign Objectives

Step 1: How to pick a winning objective

The first step in any successful LinkedIn ads campaign starts with picking the right objective.

The objective will impact on your entire campaign—from the ad type to the budget to the ad format.

Each objective corresponds to a different part of the marketing funnel, as LinkedIn shows:

LinkedIn ad campaign objectives

These three steps correspond to the typical marketing funnel, where each step focuses on a different objective:

  • Awareness focuses on reaching as many people as possible
  • Consideration focuses on engaging and persuading visitors to take action and find out more about your business
  • Conversion focuses on generating leads and converting people in your site

These new objective based advertising campaigns will focus on delivering your ad to the person most likely to take your desired action—let’s take a look at each of these three steps and which objective works best for your campaign goal.

Awareness Objectives

Awareness is all about showing your brand to everyone with whom you can connect. You don’t focus so much on clicks or conversions; what matters most is that people see your ads, that they get to know your brand through mere exposure, and to get them familiarized with it.

In this step, your key metric is the number of impressions you generate—the point at which an ad is displayed in front of a visitor, regardless of whether they actually see your ad or read its content.

Brand Awareness

LinkedIn offers only one objective for this stage of the funnel, one that’s appropriately called “brand awareness.”

LinkedIn Brand Awareness campaign objective

One of the beautiful aspects of online advertising is that you can track the effectiveness of a campaign down to the click. Awareness, however, is all about getting people to see your ad, not act on it, so why would anyone choose this ad?

Simply put, because this objective can help you increase your reach (if that’s what you care about), get more followers to your page, and engage with a new audience.

For example, if you’re running an account-based marketing (ABM) campaign, and you have a specific audience you want to connect with, the awareness objective will help you reach them before you start a sales conversation.

Consideration Objectives

Here’s where the advertising gets scientific. At this stage of the funnel, you want people to click on your ads; you want visits, views, and actions (albeit in a non-commercial way).

There are three objectives you can use in this stage:

Website Visits

The name is self-explanatory: with this objective, you get people to visit your site.

LinkedIn website visits campaign objective

Clear, simple, and awesome—who wouldn’t want more visitors to their company’s site?

What you do with people once they do so is a different game.

You can get people to check a new post of yours (which is great if you’re retargeting them from a previous article they read), to sign up for your latest webinar, or to sign up for a trial.

Because the volume of data needed to optimize your bidding is much lower than with the lead generation objective (as you will see later), this objective is a great start for any action you want people to take in your site.

Engagement

When you’re getting started with LinkedIn advertising, you may want to increase the quantity and quality of your following.

LinkedIn engagement campaign objective

That is, you want people to follow you, and you want them to like you; you want to develop a relationship, and as you know, that takes time.

The engagement objective is the perfect fit if you want to get more people to follow your business page and to like or comment on your posts.

The more people that follow you and the more engaged they are, the cheaper it will be to promote your content to them. What’s more, your messaging will be more effective, a goal worthy to any advertiser.

Video Views

Video has become a staple of the marketer toolkit, especially on LinkedIn. So far, several studies have shown that using video ads drive high engagement rates and higher quality of leads generated.

LinkedIn video views campaign objective

If your business goal is tightly connected with developing thought leadership, brand awareness, and traffic acquisition, then using videos, and the video views objective in LinkedIn, will help you increase the distribution of your content.

Conversion Objectives

This is the stage where the rubber meets the road. This stage is all about getting people with whom you’ve engaged before to take a specific action.

More specifically, that action could be an information exchange for lead generation, a download, a signup, or a job application.

Similarly to Facebook advertising, these objectives tend to have a higher CPC and the focus needs to be on your cost per conversion, but they are highly effective once you get the whole system working.

In the case of LinkedIn, there are three objectives available, which you’ll see in greater depth below.

Lead Generation

The beautiful aspect of LinkedIn is that it’s a perfect match for those marketers are looking for strategies to generate leads. Just think that 80% of their users are decision makers, and because of that, as Hubspot found, their lead conversion rates are 3x higher than other major ad platforms.

LinkedIn lead generation campaign objective

You can acquire leads with a network like Facebook, but you’d need to do a lot of pre-qualification before you can attract professionals to your site. There’s a lot of people who simply aren’t interested in registering for a webinar when they’re relaxing in their homes.

With LinkedIn, you know who’s who—you want a director of marketing to sign up for a demo for your enterprise software? You got it; your entire campaign can be built only for that specific audience.

To make things even better, LinkedIn lets you generate leads right from their site without having prospects go to your site.

Enter lead gen forms, which pre-fills their information and gets them to sign up to your offer right away.

Website Conversions

If you want to target specific conversions on your site, then this objective is perfect for you.

LinkedIn website conversions campaign objective

Thanks to the Insight Tag, which by this point you should have installed, you can optimize for any type of conversion—from a product purchase to a demo request to software sign up.

Once you have set up the campaign with the conversions objective, LinkedIn will then optimize towards the people most likely to complete a conversion. That is, the more data LinkedIn gathers on the types of people that complete your on-site conversion, the better it will get at optimizing your ads to show to people with similar profiles.

If you’re a marketer who’s conversion-driven, then this objective is perfect for you.

Job Applicants

The last objective is perfect for those companies who are competing for the best talent and need an extra boost to their job application listing.

LinkedIn job applicants campaign objective

As with the previous objective, LinkedIn optimizes your ads for the users who they’ve found to be more likely to click on your job post. Not only do you get more applicants to your job listing; you bid for the right ones.

LinkedIn Ads Targeting

Step 2: How to target the right audience

When it comes to B2B sales and marketing, LinkedIn advertising has a unique advantage over competing ad platforms. Due to the detailed employment information that LinkedIn’s 630M members upload to their profiles, you can target people based on extremely accurate employee and company data.

If you want to target the VP of Engineering at tech companies with more than 500 employees, then guess what? You can do that with LinkedIn; it’s the perfect matchmaker for your brand.

The targeting options LinkedIn provides allow you to develop incredibly precise B2B marketing campaigns which you can use to attract the right accounts.

Alongside basic data such as Location and Language there are five targeting options you can choose from:

  • Company: Which include company connections, followers, industry, name, and size
  • Demographics: Which include age and gender of the specific people to whom you want to contact
  • Education: Which include degrees, fields of study, and member schools
  • Job Experience: Which include job function, seniority, job title, skills, and years of experience
  • Interests: Which include groups the user is part of and its interests

LinkedIn ads targeting options

One of the most interesting ways you can create unique targeting options is to use the “exclude,” “include,” or “narrow by” options. With these options, you can potentially target someone who doesn’t traditionally fit within a certain audience (like chief executives with not more than 10 years of experience) or that’s highly targeted (like vice presidents who are under 40 years old).

LinkedIn ads targeting narrow and exclude

What’s more, you can utilize LinkedIn’s own internal data to grow your reach, a feature that LinkedIn calls “audience expansion,” or your own data to retarget users and prospects who often already know you, a feature which LinkedIn calls “matched audience.”

Use Audience Expansion for Lower Costs and Increased Reach

Once you’ve found an audience that works for your advertising campaigns, you can create a new campaign that targets other similar audiences.

That’s where the “audience expansion” feature comes into play. Audience expansion uses LinkedIn’s algorithms to find and reach people that have similar attributes to your tested target audience.

LinkedIn ads targeting audience expansion options

For example, if you’re getting high conversion rates with a campaign that targets VPs of Marketing, then LinkedIn may find that a campaign with the same message that targets Directors of Marketing works equally well.

Use Matched Audiences for Retargeting

If you’re constantly targeting new people who don’t know your brand, you’re wasting a lot of opportunities.

There’s nothing wrong with generating new demand for your offers, but since your company already generates traffic in your website, that traffic is a potential goldmine for new business opportunities.

Matched audiences help you target people who have visited your site, signed up for a gated piece of content (think a webinar or white paper), or who have done any type of business with you (think a demo trial or a proposal).

Two of the most common uses of matched audiences is to retarget website visitors based on your pixel’s data, or target your email list.

LinkedIn advertising matched audience targeting

You can even mix and match these matched audiences with audience expansion to expand your audience from your email list.

Use Matched Audiences for Account-Based Marketing

What’s more, you can upload account lists to your matched audiences. That means, you can upload a list of company names and site URLs, and then target anyone who works at those companies.

One of the easiest ways to get started with this is to upload a list of high-intent accounts and advertise to your key buyer persona job titles at these companies. If you’re into ABM, then this is a game-changer.

How do you find high-intent accounts? A great way to get started is to use a platform like Leadfeeder. This enables you to identify the companies visiting your website by connecting with your Google Analytics. You can then export lists of companies visiting your website, upload to LinkedIn as an account list in your matched audiences, and use this data to power your LinkedIn ABM ad campaign.

Take a no-obligation 14-day free trial of Leadfeeder today, identify the companies visiting your website and try running some LinkedIn ABM campaigns with this data.

Forecasted Results

Once you’ve selected your audience targeting, LinkedIn will show the forecasted reach and expected volume of traffic for your campaign. These numbers will be affected by your daily budgets and bids—which you’ll select shortly—and they provide a great way to benchmark the actual performance of your campaign versus LinkedIn’s predictions.

LinkedIn campaign manager forecasted results

LinkedIn Ad Types

Step 3: How to choose the right ad for your business

LinkedIn offers a wide format of ads, which vary in cost and complexity of implementation.

LinkedIn ad types options

Such a wide range of options will raise an immediate question: which ad type should you use?

As always happens with anything related to marketing, the answer will depend on your needs, budget, and expertise.

Without a deep look at your company, no one can tell you which LinkedIn ad type to choose from. The best way to make the right decision is to take a look at each ad type with more detail.

Fortunately, that’s exactly what we’ll do next.

If you’ve ever been browsing through LinkedIn and you saw an ad right in your news feed midway through your scrolling, then that was a sponsored content ad.

Or, guess what? If a post has a small piece of text that says “Sponsored Post,” then that’s sponsored content.

Simply put, a sponsored content ad promotes content. If this sounds too basic and obvious, it’s because it is.

You’ve got content—a blog post, a white paper, a webinar—and you just want more people to see it. What do you do? You get this ad working.

There are many ways you can feature your content in the news feed, and next I will show you how they look.

Single Image Ads

Single image ads are the standard type of sponsored content. They promote any post you publish to a broader audience, with a single landscape image to capture your audience’s attention.

LinkedIn sponsored content ad example

Video Ads

Video ads are the same as single image ads with the exception that the ad creative is a video instead of a static image. Similarly to Facebook, the video will auto-play as a person scrolls over it in their feed. The sound will be set to mute by default—so it’s a good idea to include subtitle captions in your video.

LinkedIn video ads example

There will be cases where you will have multiple images to show within a given post. Carousel ads allow you to showcase those images and maximize the impact of your ad.

Carousel ads are especially useful when you want to tell a story within your carousel images, so you can command your audience’s attention and connect through the power of storytelling.

Lead Generation Ads

As explained before, lead gen forms allow you to pre-fill your ads with your prospect’s information so you can acquire a lead right from the ad.

It goes without saying that the effectiveness of lead gen form ads lays in the ease to convert a LinkedIn user into a lead. If you have a piece of content, like an ebook, a report, or a specs sheet, then lead gen forms will be the best investment you can make.

LinkedIn lead generation ad example

Dynamic Ads

The dream of sending personalized ads on scale is starting to become a reality. Dynamic ads allow you to create an ad that targets a specific audience.

For example, if you want to show an ad to chief executives, dynamic ads deliver targeted messages that speak to that audience specifically.

Currently, you can only access dynamic ads if you spend at least $25,000 per quarter on LinkedIn advertising.

Text Ads

Text ads promote a message in the right column of the newsfeed. These ads are smaller and less intrusive than sponsored content, and tend to have a lower CTR.

You can show these ads within a user’s inbox or on the side of the LinkedIn homepage. The text snippet is accompanied by a thumbnail to call the attention of your audience.

These ads look more similar to the traditional Google Ads, where you have a headline, a small description, and a CTA (plus the image, which the former doesn’t show).

LinkedIn text ads example

If you’ve ever received a message from someone you don’t know and who’s trying to promote a piece of content or push some time of offer, that was a sponsored InMail.

LinkedIn sponsored InMail example

LinkedIn allows users to message people who are within their network. If you’re promoting a piece of content and you have hundreds of relevant connections, you may get some good results. But if you want to message thousands of potential leads, you can’t do it unless you use InMail.

InMail is a premium feature that allows you to send a message to anyone you want, regardless of the fact you lack any connection with that person.

Sponsored InMail takes this feature even further, allowing you to promote a message so it shows up at the top of the recipient’s inbox. Such promotion can be useful when matched with a retargeting campaign.

LinkedIn Ads Costs, Bids and Budgets

Step 4: How to pick an ROI-friendly bid

In order to make your LinkedIn ads cost-effective, you must bid to the point where you get the most exposure—whether that’s measured in impressions, clicks, or actions—and the least amount of money spent.

Such balance is hard to get, especially when you’re first getting started and LinkedIn’s algorithms don’t have enough data to optimize your ads correctly.

There are two types of bids you can choose from that vary slightly dependent on your campaign objective:

  1. Maximum cost bid: With this option, you select the maximum amount of money you’re willing to bid for, by providing a CPC, CPM or CPV.
  2. Automated bid: With this option, LinkedIn uses historical campaign data and user information to automatically set and adjust your bid, optimizing towards your chosen campaign objective.

LinkedIn ads costs, bids and budgets

To define which bid strategy you want to take, think on what’s your ultimate goal behind your campaigns.

If you want the most amount of impressions, clicks, or conversions, then the automated bid is the best option for you. Since LinkedIn optimizes your bids with the intention of maximizing your objective, they will make sure you get the results, albeit by overspending.

If you want to control your costs, then the maximum cost bid is your best choice. The problem with this strategy is that you may underbid—that is, you’ll bid for less than the amount you need to get any exposure whatsoever. For that reason, it’s a smart idea to start with an automated bid—letting LinkedIn gather data for you—and pair this with a daily budget cap to ensure your spend is limited.

Once you know how much each bid really costs, you can then optimize your campaigns based on this data.

You can optimize your bids around different metrics, depending on your objective. LinkedIn offers a handy table with all the information available around this topic:

Guide to LinkedIn ads bidding and budgeting

(Image Source)

LinkedIn Ad Examples

Step 5: How to create a high-performing ad

The ad you create will depend on your LinkedIn ad type and format. Since there are three ad types and eight ad formats, we’ve got 24 different variations from where to create an ad. That’s a lot of combinations.

But to simplify everything, here are the basics for creating the best sponsored ads, the best sponsored inmail, and the best text ads.

Creating a high-converting LinkedIn Sponsored Ad

Sponsored ads are native advertising—that is, the content fits naturally within the LinkedIn feed amongst non-sponsored content your target audience is browsing.

The key to creating sponsored ads then is to make them look natural.

You want people to feel as if they’re not seeing an ad, but reading a useful and relevant piece of content.

Your headline should be under 70 characters, and your main copy should be under 150 characters, both of which act as the leverage that stops people in their tracks and makes them read your ad. You can create ads with longer text, but the copy will likely be truncated.

The image is another important element, which often magnifies the idea of the piece. You can use a text-free image, which should illustrate the idea of the ad, or one with text to cement the message of the ad even further.

LinkedIn sponsored content ad example

You can play with video as well, which is a type of media that has shown more engaging than images or text.

The IAB has found that video ads have much higher CTRs than native, banner, and interstitial (i.e., full-screen) ads.

IAB video ads statistics

While it’s time-consuming and more expensive to produce than written content, video ads are part of the new wave of media content that you need to try to differentiate your ads from the competition.

Creating a high-converting LinkedIn Sponsored InMail

No one likes to get unsolicited mail. Such is the fact of anyone who tries to get someone to act upon an offer when sent by mail or LinkedIn’s InMail, but it shouldn’t demotivate you.

LinkedIn has reported that the sponsored InMail campaigns have open rates between 35 to 50%, and they go as high as over 70%, comparing very favourably with email campaigns.

Such results make a sponsored InMail campaign pretty enticing.

Think of your sponsored InMail campaign as if you were writing the recipient an email. Therefore, the rules that apply to effective email outreach apply as well to a sponsored InMail campaign.

To start, your InMail should be clear and concise to get your target to pay attention to your message. Your offer should be clear right away so the recipient doesn’t have to guess what you’re trying to do.

LinkedIn Sponsored InMail Ad Example

Related to the clarity of your InMail comes relevancy. To increase the relevancy of your message, consider using a list of your website visitors or target accounts you’d like to work with as a potential target list for a sponsored InMail campaign.

Finally, given the upfront and cold nature of the contact, you want to align your offer with your recipient. Think on a high-value offer that doesn’t demand much time or effort for your recipient to act upon, especially if this recipient knows you.

Download our guide for more help on getting started with social selling.

Creating a high-converting LinkedIn Text Ad

As I’ve said before, text ads have more in common with the traditional Google Ads than with the other ads seen in this guide.

You have much less ad real estate to play with, so your job is to maximize the words you use to engage with your audience.

Text ads are made up of four elements:

  • Headline
  • Ad Copy
  • Ad Destination
  • Image

There’s not a lot of space for creativity with text ads. It’s all about positioning your ads the right way with the right words and expressions.

Given the constraints imposed with text ads, you want to follow the advice from Upworthy and write a number of variations of each headline and ad copy so you can pick the right combination based on performance.

In contrast with sponsored content, text ads look like ads. There’s no way you can convince people that what you have isn’t an offer. Your text ad thus won’t be competing with other feed content, but with other ads.

The text ads that get all the clicks are the ones that best speak to the end user.

If your audience is made up of directors of marketing, then your headline can say something like:

  • Are You a Director of Marketing?
  • To All Directors of Marketing
  • Director of Marketing: Check This Out

LinkedIn Text Ads example

Source

Your images, while small, can also help make your ad stand out. Something that’s a bit surprising or shocking can work wonders as long as it’s not offensive or misleading.

To find the right text ad combination, there’s a lot of testing you can do. As a marketer, you never know what people like or what will connect with them. Test every element until you find the best-converting ad.

LinkedIn Ads Optimization

Step 6: Analyze, improve, rinse and repeat

One of the wonders of online marketing is that you can track and measure everything you do. LinkedIn Ads are no exception.

Earlier in this guide you saw how the Insight tag allows you to track and measure your conversions, including your content downloads, sign-ups, purchases, and more.

This information is easily accessible in the LinkedIn Ads Dashboard, where you can see all the basic data expected from paid media — like impressions, clicks, CTR, conversions, among other metrics — as well as a performance chart which displays a graph of the results of your campaigns.

LinkedIn Campaign Manager Analytics Dashboard

Beyond this standard analytics dashboard, LinkedIn offers a unique demographics chart which breaks down your campaign engagement by your audience’s job function, job title, industry and much more.

LinkedIn analytics demographic breakdown

The data provided in the demographics chart is another fantastic feature which B2B sales and marketing professionals won’t get with another ad platform—it goes beyond basic numbers to show you much more detail about who is actually engaging with your campaigns.

Conclusion

If you have read this far, then you must be thinking “where do I get started?

The answer is easy: pick one objective; the one that’s most pressing.

From there, define a target audience—if you have an email list or target account list, then upload this as a matched audience, and use it to engage and educate these targets.

Finally, choose your ad type—sponsored content is the safest bet to start with—and the ad creative.

Let LinkedIn optimize the bidding for you, and wait until you start to see results. Rinse and repeat.

Like any new marketing channel, LinkedIn ads will take some time for you to master. But if you keep refining your audience targeting, bidding strategies, and your ad creatives, you will start to see an increased return on your investment.

Want to get started with LinkedIn Account Based Marketing ad campaigns? Sign up to Leadfeeder to generate lists of high-intent accounts that have visited your website and use them to power your LinkedIn ad campaigns. Get started with a 14 day free trial today.

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