linkedin ads guide

How to Advertise on LinkedIn: A Complete Guide

28 January 2021 by

Lead generation is a PIA. 

You likely have a few channels that sorta work. But if you're here, I am guessing they aren't working as well as you'd like. 

Maybe they aren’t scalable, the ROI is terrible, or the lead quality sucks. 

agreement expression

So, what do you do?

If you want to start generating more leads (and avoid filling your pipeline with crap leads),  you’ve got to try LinkedIn ads.

Here's why:  LinkedIn ads present a unique opportunity for B2B marketers. 

eMarketer reported that B2B marketers named LinkedIn advertising to be as effective as Facebook. (I'd argue they are even more effective.) They also say that LinkedIn is the primary driver of growth in the B2B ad market

Put simply: LinkedIn ads work for B2B. 

Plus, more marketers are shifting their ad budgets to LinkedIn, with 42% of media buyers increasing their LinkedIn ad spend in 2019.

And if you are already using visitor tracking software like Leadfeeder — LinkedIn can help you make the most of the data you get. 

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about 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. Optimization

Note: Want to get started with LinkedIn 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.

What are LinkedIn Ads & why do they matter for B2B? 

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

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

linkedin company page

You likely already have one. 

If you don’t, this handy guide will show you how. 

You'll also want 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

The Insight Tag will also help you run retargeted ad campaigns, which, as you likely know, are incredibly effective. 

Make sure to set up conversion tracking so that you can see the actual conversions of your campaigns.

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

Here’s how to create a LinkedIn ad campaign

Step 1: How to pick a winning LinkedIn ad objective

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

After all, if you don't know where you are going, how will you know when you get there? 

read map for directions

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

Start by using a website analytics tool to figure out who your target audience is, what they want, and where you are losing them. 

In LinkedIn, each objective corresponds to a different part of the marketing funnel: 

linkedin marketing funnel

These three steps correspond to the typical marketing funnel, where each stage 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 to your site

These objective-based advertising campaigns 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. You don’t focus so much on clicks or conversions; what matters most is that people see your ads and get familiar with your brand. (Which helps reduce the number of cold connects you have to do.  🎉🎉) 

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, appropriately called “brand awareness.” 

Clever, I know. 

brand awareness

One of the beautiful aspects of online advertising is that you can track a campaign's effectiveness down to the click. 

However, awareness is all about getting people to see your ad, not act on it, so why would anyone choose this ad?

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

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

Or, if you are running an outbound prospecting campaign, you can use awareness to warm up prospects before reach out. 

Consideration Objectives

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 pretty self-explanatory — you want to get people to your website. 

website visits

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

What you do with people once they get there is a different thing altogether. 

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 an excellent start for any action you want people to take on your site.

Engagement

What if you want to increase the quantity and quality of your following? That's where engagement comes in. 

engagement

You want people to follow you, interact with your posts, you want to develop a relationship. 

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

Video Views

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

video views

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

Conversion objectives

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

dribbling rubber wheel

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

Like Facebook advertising, these objectives tend to have a higher CPC, 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

LinkedIn is a perfect match for those marketers looking for strategies to generate leads. Nearly 80% of their users are decision-makers, and as a result, their lead conversion rates are 277% higher than other major ad platforms.

lead generation

Facebook can help you gather a lot of leads,  but you’d need to do a lot of pre-qualification before you can attract professionals to your site. Many people simply aren’t interested in registering for a webinar when they’re chilling on their couch in their underwear. 

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 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 for your offer right away.

Website conversions

Leads are great and all, but sometimes you want people to actually do something, which is where website conversions come in. 

website conversions

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

Once you set up the campaign with the conversions objective, LinkedIn will optimize for people most likely to complete a conversion. The more data LinkedIn gathers on the types of people that complete your on-site conversion, the better it will optimize your ads to show to people with similar profiles.

Job applicants

Need an extra boost to find the right applicant? Use the job application objective. 

As with the previous objectives, LinkedIn optimizes your ads for users who are 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.

Step 2: LinkedIn ads targeting

When it comes to B2B sales and marketing, LinkedIn advertising has a unique advantage over other ad platforms. Due to the detailed employment information LinkedIn’s 722 million 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. 

Essentially, LinkedIn is the perfect matchmaker for your brand.

LinkedIn's targeting options allow you to develop exact B2B marketing campaigns that you can use to attract the right accounts.

Alongside basic data such as Location and Language there are five other targeting options: 

  • Company: Company connections, followers, industry, name, and size

  • Demographics: Age and gender of the specific people to whom you want to contact

  • Education: Degrees, fields of study, and member schools

  • Job Experience: Job function, seniority, job title, skills, and years of experience

  • Interests: Groups the user is part of and their interests

You can create incredibly unique targeting options using the “exclude,” “include,” or “narrow by” options. 

For example, you can target someone who doesn’t traditionally fit within a certain audience (like chief executives with less than ten years of experience) or highly targeted (like vice presidents under 40 years old).

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 to increase reach (and spend less) 

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

Like Facebook's Lookalike Audience, audience expansion uses LinkedIn’s algorithms to find and reach people with similar attributes to your tested target audience.

For example, if you’re getting high conversion rates with a campaign that targets VPs of Marketing, then 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.

Matched audiences let 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).

They already know you, so you come back around and say "hi" with a new ad. 

wave hi reaction

Two of the most common uses of matched audiences are retargeting website visitors based on your pixel’s data, or targeting your email list

You can also mix and match matched audiences with audience expansion to reach a much wider, but still targeted, audience. 

Use matched audiences for account based marketing

You can also 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 our Leadfeeder Tracker. 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.

As an added bonus, we also integrate with LinkedIn via Zapier so you can start tracking new leads and even create triggers to automate notifications. 

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 traffic volume for your campaign. 

These numbers will be affected by your daily budgets and bids—which you’ll select shortly—and are a great way to benchmark your campaign's performance versus LinkedIn’s predictions.

Step 3: How to choose the right LinkedIn ad type  

There are a ton of LinkedIn ad options. So, which one should you use? 

eyes closed pointing finger

Well, 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. The best way to make the right decision is to look at each ad type in more detail.

Lucky for you, that’s exactly what we’ll do next.

Sponsored content

I am going to blow your mind here — a sponsored content ad promotes content. 

Who woulda thunk it? 

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.

Slightly less obvious are the ad formats. Let's take a 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. Not exciting, but they do work. 

single image ad

Video ads

Video ads are the same as single image ads, except the ad creative is a video instead of a static image. 

Similar 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.

video ad

Carousel ads

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 to tell a story so you can command your audience’s attention and connect through the power of storytelling.

Lead generation ads

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.

By making it easier for people to convert, you can drastically improve your conversion rates. 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.

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 specifically speak to that audience.

dynamic ads

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. A thumbnail accompanies the text snippet to call the attention of your audience.

text ads

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).

Sponsored InMail

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 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 whether you have a connection with that person.

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

Step 4: LinkedIn Ad costs, bids, & budgets 

To make sure your LinkedIn ads cost-effective, you must bid high enough to get exposure—whether that’s measured in impressions, clicks, or actions—but not so high that you are spending more than you need to. 

burn money furnace

Striking the right balance is hard, especially when you’re just 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 depending on your campaign objective:

  1. Maximum cost bid: Select the maximum amount of money you’re willing to bid for, by providing a CPC, CPM, or CPV.

  2. Automated bid: LinkedIn uses historical campaign data and user information to automatically set and adjust your bid, optimizing towards your chosen campaign objective.

To figure out which bid strategy to use, think about your ultimate goal. 

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'll make sure you get the results. There's one drawback — they might overspend. 

If you want to control your costs, then the maximum cost bid is your best choice. The problem is that you may underbid—that is, you’ll bid for less than the amount you need to get any exposure. 

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 optimize your campaigns based on this data.

Step 5: How to create a high-performing LinkedIn 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 in the LinkedIn feed among the non-sponsored content your target audience is browsing.

among us character dancing

The key to successful sponsored ads then is to make them look natural

You want people to feel like they are reading a useful and relevant piece of content — not looking at an ad. 

Your headline should be under 70 characters, and your main copy should be under 150 characters. If you want to be a renegade, you can create ads with longer text, but the copy will likely be truncated.

The image should magnify the idea of the content. You can use a text-free image, or use text to cement the message of the ad further.

You can play with video as well, which tends to be 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.

While it’s more expensive to produce a video, video ads are an easy way to differentiate your ads from the competition.

Creating a high-converting LinkedIn Sponsored InMail

No one likes to get unsolicited mail. 

So, should you bother with Sponsored InMail? 

LinkedIn reported that the sponsored InMail campaigns have open rates between 35 to 50%, and they go as high 70%, which is pretty close to email conversion rates. 

agreement nod reaction

Those response rates make sponsored InMail campaigns pretty enticing.

Think of your sponsored InMail campaign like email marketing. The same rules apply. 

To start, your offer should be clear right away so the recipient doesn’t have to guess what you’re trying to do. Keep it short and get to the point. 

Increase the relevancy of your message by targeting website visitors or target accounts you’d like to work with. 

Finally, given the cold nature of the contact, align your offer with your recipient. Use a high-value offer that doesn’t demand much time or effort from your recipient. 

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

Creating a high-converting LinkedIn text ad

Text ads 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 have 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 to convince people that what you have isn’t an offer. (And you shouldn't try!) 

Your text ad won’t be competing with 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

Your images, while small, can also help make your ad stand out. Something a bit surprising or shocking can work wonders. (Just don't be weird or offensive.) 

To find the right text ad combination, you gotta test. You never know what people like or what will resonate. Test every element until you find the best-converting ad.

Step 6: Optimize, optimize, optimize   

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

In the LinkedIn Ads Dashboard, 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 that displays a graph of the results of your campaigns.

linkedin ads dashboard

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

linkedin ad engagement

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.

There are also a ton of LinkedIn tools you can use to gather more data, connect other software systems, and generate more leads. 

LinkedIn ads is a powerful tool to reach your audience

If you have read this far, then you are ready to get started. Here's the TL;DR version: 

  1. Start by picking one objective — the most important one to your business. 

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

Note: Want to get started with LinkedIn 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.


Dáire Summerville
By Dáire Summerville

Digital Growth Manager at Leadfeeder


Now that you're here

Leadfeeder is a tool that shows you companies that visit your website. Leadfeeder generates new leads, offers insight on your customers and can help you increase your marketing ROI.

If you liked this blog post, you'll probably love Leadfeeder, too.

Sign up

Leadfeeder knows the companies visiting your website

Install today to start identifying new business opportunities.

See for yourself

Free trial. No credit card required.

As seen in

  • Forbes
  • Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Fox
  • Mashable
  • Social Media Examiner