The Guide To LinkedIn Ads – Part I: The Basics

So your AdWords program is humming, Bing is kicking out a smattering of leads and you’re running Facebook ads. Good stuff.

Have you tested LinkedIn Ads yet?

Like AdWords, Bing or Facebook, LinkedIn advertising has its idiosyncrasies. It’s quite different from SEM or display buying. It’s a unique ad buying and ad management experience that deserves a handbook of its own. In this post, I’ll lay down the basics, explain how it works, and share with you some tricks and best practices to get the most from your LinkedIn CPC investment.

Who Should Advertise On LinkedIn?

Before you decide whether this is truly a channel worth testing for your business, you should ask yourself:

“What affinity is a professional, in a day-job mindset, likely to have for my product, service or offer?”

Business-to-business marketing is usually a snug fit here. If you sell something that benefits business owners or working professionals and you can, in one short sentence, clearly delineate why, the answer is probably yes.

People are on this site to better their careers, find a new job, network, connect with business contacts, and to get a few minutes of mindless get-away-from-work time. Your offer should speak to someone in that head space.

If you make educational games for children, maybe LinkedIn Ads aren’t your hottest new marketing channel.

Who Sees LinkedIn Ads?

Nearly everyone surfing LinkedIn and some of their partner sites. The partner sites, called the LinkedIn Audience Network, are mostly high-end media sites, some of which are also part of the Doubleclick exchange and the ad network Collective Media. Some of their partners are:

  • New York Times
  • BusinessWeek
  • CNBC

People in your network and outside of it. Here’s where they show up and what they look like:

what linkedin ads look like

Who Can I Target?

You can get pretty smart about targeting your customer. Company size, title, industry and geographic targeting are available.

linkedin targeting options

Perhaps you’re marketing a recruiting firm focused on executive search for tech companies in Silicon Valley. Your targeting profile might look like this:

  • VPs of Human Resources
  • Companies of 501+ employees
  • High Tech & Semiconductor industries
  • In and around the San Francisco Bay Area

Anatomy Of The LinkedIn Ad

Anatomy of a Linkedin Ad

LinkedIn Ads are a hair different than your standard AdWords ad, because they have a photo.

Hot tip: According to LinkedIn’s own optimization team, choosing a photo of a woman typically drives the best clickthrough rates. Only use your business logo if you’re trying to build brand awareness. Don’t have too much going on in your photo — remember, it’s a small thumbnail and you have a lighting-quick opportunity to draw the eye to your ad before, poof, it’s gone.

  1. Headline. It’s got to be short, so use something punchy. Using the title of the people you’re targeting can be very effective.
  2. Ad copy. You know how this works!
  3. Destination URL. You want a landing page tailored for LinkedIn members, if necessary.  Don’t just take visitors to your homepage. Think about why people spend time on LinkedIn and dream up something relevant to the LinkedIn audience.
  4. Photo. Like I said: pick something that draws the eye. Photos of people are better.

How Much Do LinkedIn Ads Cost?

As with any contextual CPC ads, it depends on your targeting criteria and your competition, but we’ve seen CPCs start at around $2 and run up to $4 or $5 per click, with the higher end typically coming into play when your clickthrough rates aren’t fantastic.

Clickthrough rates vary. LinkedIn pegs a good clickthrough rate at 0.025%, but you can do better with laser-targeted ads featuring compelling copy and a vibrant photo.

A good rule of thumb is to shoot for a number that would make a pleasant blood alcohol content after a good night out: if you can achieve better than .08% to 0.10% you’re in very good shape.

Hot tip: Switch up your ads often, at least once a month. New ads get a boost in terms of impressions and have a chance of scoring a higher CTR than your previous ads. Don’t run more than 2 ads at a time. Test early and test often.

How Should I Capture The Leads?

You have two ways to collect leads from LinkedIn Ads, and I recommend you use both simultaneously.

The first is obvious: your landing page. Consider giving away something for free — like great content relevant to your audience — or running some kind of promotion. People jump at free stuff, and their engaging with your offer puts them into your lead nurture funnel and opens the door to a relationship.

You can try to run ads selling your product directly, but our experience with Clever Zebo clients has been that you’ll see low interest that way unless you’re really selling something awesome and relevant.

So what’s the second way? It’s a feature LinkedIn cleverly calls “lead collection” and it looks like this:

Linkedin Lead Collection

When someone requests to contact you about your ad, you’ll get an email and have a chance to reach out immediately — and conveniently for the user, they never have to divert their browsing experience to get in touch with you.

The key shortcoming of this feature, at the time of writing, is that you can’t have email alerts about collected leads go to more than one recipient, so choose wisely.

Tracking Your Ads

At the time of writing, LinkedIn didn’t yet offer conversion tracking, so, to state the obvious, you need to track conversions specific to LinkedIn Ads using your analytics solution.

Why should you track your ads? The biggest reason: so you can make an educated decision about whether the channel is ROI-positive for your business, and so you have clear visibility into which optimizations you choose to make will ultimately impact your bottom line (not just your traffic).

Here’s what you want to look for in Google Analytics to ensure you can track conversions from these ads:

1. Set up Goals.

Click on Settings | Profiles | Goals, and add a goal in the screen below.

linkedin google analytics goal setup

You’ll likely want a “URL destination” goal, meaning that the goal will be triggered when your user hits a specific page after converting. Usually this is a “thank you” page or an order confirmation page.

You don’t need your domain name in the URL. If your confirm page URL were, it can simply look like this: /thank-you.

linkedin thank you page setup

2. Look at your Traffic Sources and cross-reference against the goal(s).

google analytics linkedin source goals

You can also create unique URLs for each ad you’re running, in order to get ad-level conversion data. Why do this? Let’s say you’re trying to determine whether you should explicitly show pricing in your ad copy. You might find that fewer people click the ad, deterred by the dollar signs — but the only way to learn that, for example, those who do click the ad with pricing are converting better and spending more time on the site, is to set up tracking at the ad level.

You can add the appropriate ‘utm’ parameters to make sure Google Analytics picks up the data.

A sample ad URL might be:

You should also check analytics for engagement metrics (time on site, pageviews, bounce rate, etc.) to understand how long LinkedIn ad visitors are staying on your site. If you’re consistently seeing a time on site of under 5 seconds, your offer isn’t compelling, your landing page needs work, or your ad copy is a little “too attractive” for the effort required to convert.

Look at the pages these users are visiting to get a sense for the quality of the visits. Are they reading up on your company at all, or are they just hitting the landing page and bouncing?

Facebook ads vs Linkedin

Just like any paid media channel, what happens on the other end of the click matters most. Study your conversion funnel and make sure it contains none of the all-too-common user experience pitfalls that tend to annoy prospects.

Hot tip: If you’re a marketer or business owner on a shoestring budget, find a way to nab one of those $50 LinkedIn Ads gift cards. Some online marketing agencies will hook you up with them, or you can try contacting the LinkedIn team for one.

Ultimately, LinkedIn Ads can be an expensive promotion channel in terms of CPCs, aimed at an elite audience; you have to be crafty to extract ROI from it, but it’s worth testing. Needless to say, paid advertising is just one way to get leads via LinkedIn; you can also get strategic about using LinkedIn groups to source leads.

In the second part of this series, we’ll explore more advanced techniques and load you up with juicy nuggets and tricks to derive maximum ROI. Now go test up a storm!

About the Author: Igor Belogolovsky is Cofounder of Clever Zebo, a group of online marketing strategy experts specializing in SEM, SEO and conversion funnel optimization. He also happens to like craft beer and snowboarding.