How To Create Effective Linkedin Ads To Grow Your Business

Brand new to Linkedin? Unsure of how you can leverage Linkedin ads to grow your business? How to create a Linkedin ad?  

We’ve all been there. 

No matter what others say, learning a new social media advertising skill is no easy feat. That’s why we created this step-by-step, no-nonsense, and actionable beginner’s guide. 

By the end of this guide, you will

  • Learn how to get your first Linkedin ad account
  • See how to select the right Linkedin ad objective for your business
  • Understand what content works best on Linkedin
  • Get an overview of Linkedin’s ad targeting
  • Learn what are the different ad formats
  • Understand different bidding strategies
  • Learn how to measure, report and optimize

Related: How to run a Linkedin Ads in 2021 – A Definitive Guide to Advertising on Linkedin

How to create a Linkedin ad account

After advertising across Facebook, Instagram, Google and Twitter, i must say that Linkedin campaigns are the easiest to create. 

This is a double-edged sword. 

Although it’s easy to create, Linkedin’s capabilities are not as comprehensive as social media platforms. Their strength mainly is with professionals. 

To get started, you’ll need a Linkedin Company Page. 

Linkedin company page image

Linkedin company pages are free. So make full use of it.

This is your brand in the professional world. 

To create a Linkedin company page, you’ll need: 

  1. A Linkedin account
  2. A verified email address 

That’s it! 

Once you’ve created your Linkedin company page, you’ll need to make your company page look professional. 

Here are the 6 basic criteria to create a good company page. 

  1. Upload your company logo
  2. Add a tagline – Use 1 to 2 sentences. 
  3. Fill out a description of your organization in the “Overview” tab
  4. Add your organization’s website URL, industry, company size, and company type. 
  5. Add a cover image – 1536 x 768 px recommended by Linkedin
  6. Post content daily if possible. If not, weekly at the minimum. 

Following these criteria will help your brand be more searchable to Linkedin members who are looking for your products/services. 

Check out these award-winning Linkedin company pages to get more inspiration: 

Next, you’ll need to create a Linkedin Campaign Manager account. 

Campaign manager tool

You’ll need these to get started. 

  1. A Linkedin Account
  2. A Credit Card 

The campaign manager tool allows you to launch campaigns, control your budget, and set-up different ad accounts. 

Done? That’s it. Before you create your first sponsored content on Linkedin, here are some definitions you need to know.

  • Sponsored Content
    • Linkedin refers to this as the organic posts that you do on your company page. Not paid. In Facebook, this is called a boosted post.
  • Direct Sponsored Content
    • This refers to the paid posts. These posts will not appear in your company page feed. It’s what marketers call, dark posting. For most advertising campaigns on Linkedin, you’ll be using this option.

Alright, with the basic set-up and understanding out of the way, let’s start creating your campaigns.

How to select the right objective for your campaign

The biggest mistake you can make in your sponsored content is selecting the wrong objective at the start. 

Linkedin Objective Based Advertising View

Why is selecting the right objective important? 

  1. Linkedin optimizes your ads towards audiences who will most likely take the action on your desired objective. (For example: To visit your website, To fill out your form, To view your video, etc). 
  2. Ad products will differ by objective
  3. The chargeable clicks for each objective are different. 

Selecting the wrong objective might cause your ad to optimize to the wrong audience. You likely will pay more for irrelevant clicks. 

ObjectiveOptimization
AwarenessBrand awarenessImpressions (CPM Bidding Only)
ConsiderationWebsite VisitsLanding Page URL Clicks
EngagementAll Clicks (Landing Page Clicks, Company page clicks/follow, Social actions)
Video ViewsVideo Views*
ConversionsLead GenerationLead Gen Form Submissions
Website ConversionsConversions
Optimization by Objectives

* Video views objectives can be optimized in 2 ways

  1. CPM bidding which optimizes towards getting more people to see your ad
  2. Alternatively, bidding by video views optimizes video views (Audiences who will likely have +2 continuous second views at 50% of the screen). 

A Linkedin rep sent me this recently to explain how an advertiser’s clicks are being charged now. 

Chargable clicks table

What this says is that Linkedin is going to be fairer and only charge advertisers if their objectives were achieved. 

If your goal is to drive traffic for a website site, you won’t be charged for social actions, social pills, and other irrelevant actions. 

That is great news! 

The downside here: The clicks will cost more. 

Linkedin has increased their pricing (As if they aren’t already expensive). Their reason is that the clicks are of higher quality. 

Now that it’s clear the importance of choosing the right objective, here’s how to select the objective that will work for you. 

Ask yourself, which part of the marketing funnel does your campaign fall under? 

Which Objectives to Choose

If it’s in the awareness stage, select the “Brand Awareness” objective. Your campaign will optimise for impressions which is excellent for top of the funnel objectives. 

For the consideration stage, you have 3 options: 

  1. Website visits – Where you want to drive traffic from relevant audience to your site
  2. Engagement – Getting your audience to react and interact with your brand through social actions, follows or even click to your website. 
  3. Video Views – Getting your audience to view your campaign’s video. 

In the Conversions stage, you have 2 options

  1. Lead generation – Where your campaigns are optimised towards audiences who will complete a Linkedin auto-populated form (pre-filled data contains member’s information). 
  2. Website Conversion – Optimising towards audiences who will take action on your site. Whether it’s downloading a whitepaper or registering for a webinar.  

As you can imagine, the cost for a lead generation objective is going to be expensive due to high demand. 

Think creatively on how you could use other cheaper objectives like Engagement objectives to still drive interest for your brand. 

Here’s a summary of which ad formats work best for various objectives. There is no definite answer, so keep testing. 

Aligning Ad Formats to the right objectives

Choosing the right ad format is not enough, you’ll also need the right offer to entice your audience in. 

What content works best for your advertising campaign on Linkedin

An in-depth research by Content Marketing Institute revealed which types of content are most effective at various stages. 

Type of B2B Content that works

The biggest thing that stands out for me is “Case Studies”. 

It is the highest performing content for late stages. 

What’s surprising is that it’s effective for middle stages too. 

In my experience, if you position the case study as more informational rather than narcissistic, then it could even be a good early-stage asset. Be clear with the value proposition and what users are going to learn.

Remember, Linkedin is a social media platform to find about new ways to succeed in their jobs. 

If your case study tells a compelling story without the “I’m the best company in the world” message, it could make your brand stand out. 

Start with informational case studies first, if possible. 

Overview of Linkedin’s ad targeting

You’ll be able to narrow in on your target audience with Linkedin’s ad targeting tools.

Even if you don’t know who your target audience is, you could use the campaign manager tool as a research platform. Smart marketers also use the tool to get an estimate of the size of your target audience and budget needed to reach them.

Start by selecting the location you want to target at the “Locations” drop down. 

Campaign manager location targeting

Choose from either “Permanent” or “Recent and Permanent” location. 

I recommend that you use Permanent all the time unless you ar targeting outside the chosen locations. 

The only reason i can think of to use the “Recent and permanent” option is when you have a brand awareness objective. 

Permanent vs Recent or Permanent Location

Linkedin tracks a member’s location through

  • User’s IP Address
  • User’s input into their Linkedin profile. 

The next thing an advertiser needs to select is the profile language. By default, it is in English. 

Linkedin continues to update the profile languages available for targeting. 

Very important note: Your landing page, creative and text has to follow the same profile language that you select. Linkedin is strict on this and will reject any ads that do not comply. The only concession is when you use Chinese ads on English profiles outside China. That's fine for now. 
Profile Language Step 2

The key reason here is for member’s experience. If you’re targeting a Japanese language profile, the expectation is that they see a Japanese language ad and landing page. 

Take note that certain languages like Thai and Vietnamese for APAC market is not ready. 

For the latest updates on supported languages, check out the Linkedin help center here

If you are advertising to China and would like to use “Chinese” language profiles, then you’ll need to get approval with Linkedin China. (The social media landscape in China is different but Linkedin is one of the only western platforms allowed in China).

Next, you’ll need to select the professional targeting for your business. 

This is where Linkedin’s true targeting power is. 

Professional Demographic Targeting

These are the professional attributes that are available for targeting. 

If you’re a brand new at Linkedin sponsored content, i recommend using the following: 

  • Job Function (Or Member Skills)
  • Company Size
  • Job Seniority
Professional Job Function Targeting

This should cover most businesses. However, do explore the targeting yourself. 

If you have a certain industry you’d like to target, that’s possible too. 

Alternatively, you may retarget your website visitors or reach known customers/accounts. You can do this through Matched Audiences.

You’ll have 3 options for matched audiences. 

  • Contact List Upload
  • Account List Upload
  • Website Retargeting
Matched Audiences

Uncheck the “Enable Audience Expansion”, if it’s a new campaign. 

Keep the audiences as accurate as possible during this early phase. 

Turn on audience expansion only when you have ran a campaign for some time and it’s performing well. 

Another reason would be that you’re running a brand awareness campaign. Other than that, there really isn’t a need to enable audience expansion. 

Exclusions are just as important as inclusions in your targeting. 

Exclusions Example

The common exclusions would be your own employees, companies and also competitors. 

If you’re unsure about what other exclusions to include, you can still run the campaign.

Use the campaign demographic report/data during the live campaign to exclude irrelevant targeting (more on this in “measuring ROI” later)

We’ve broken down into greater detail the definition of each targeting facet in this guide. Check it out

Data integration

Advertisers can also build audience segments in Linkedin from their own contact list in their CRM. You may find all the available integrations that Linkedin offers at the moment here.

An important note is that you need to have at least 300 matched audiences for your audience to be selectable. It typically takes 24-48 hours for the list to be built. For context, facebook requires at least 1000 matched audiences. So this is great news if you’re looking at targeting niched professionals.

Of course, if your list is literally this small, you’ll have delivery issues and should move your budget to campaigns with larger audiences.

Data integration is also great if you have marketing automation plans. You can seamlessly integrate your lead generation campaigns with your marketing automation tool.

Say bye to manual download of the leads from Linkedin and then uploading into your marketing automation tool – Nobody’s got time for that!

Here’s a more comprehensive guide to the targeting options on Linkedin.

What are the different Ad formats available? 

Keep in mind that you might not have all these options depending on the objective you choosen. 

Ad Formats on Linkedin

These are promoted posts that appear on a user’s Linkedin homepage feed. 

This is the most used & effective ad unit. The feed is probably the first thing users see. 

As you can imagine, it’s prime spaces that your ads will appear in. 

It is also the most expensive because most advertisers would choose this ad unit. Expect higher CPC. 

Sponsored Content Example

The best way to learn what ads to create is to learn from current successful ads. 

We’ve collated over 200+ ad examples for you. Check it out! 

This also appears in Linkedin’s user homepage feed. 

The difference here is that you can add multiple images (or as they call it, Carousel cards) to bring your brand story to life. 

Carousel Ad Example

This appears on the Linkedin newsfeed. Videos make your brand and offer more dynamic. Brands can also use videos to show interesting stats, facts, and figures. It doesn’t always have to be about emotional stories. 

There are plenty of opportunities to get creative with videos. 

Video Ad Image

Message ads (Also known as Inmails)

Message ads are delivered directly to your audience’s Linkedin inbox. That’s a personal space and usually gets high open rates. Keep it short, concise, and always remember to be direct with your offer. Follow the “What’s in it for me” mantra when you design your message copy. 

The big differentiator of message ads is the frequency cap. Linkedin has a 45 day frequency cap which means a user can only receive one marketing inmail in 45 days. 

Update 21st May 2020: The frequency cap has changed to 30 days.

This means that you have blocked your audience’s inbox from your competitor as well. Keep in mind that the same can be done to you, where you are blocked out. 

Bid aggressively when you’re using message ads. Get into your audience’s inbox as soon as you can. 

Linkedin inbox example

Text Ads

Text ads are the lowest cost inventory on Linkedin. It shows only to desktop users. 

You can find text ads at the top of your linkedin page or on the side rails. 

Text ads isn’t effective alone. It probably won’t move the needle if you are running a lead generation campaign. 

It is a better brand awareness tool because it could drive impressions at a much lower cost. 

If you’re starting out on Linkedin ads, don’t use this. You won’t see immediate results, get discouraged and quit 🙂

linkedin text ad image

Bidding strategies: An overview

Your advertising cost on Linkedin is based on a bidding auction model. 

You’ll have to bid aggressively against other advertisers who are targeting the same audience. 

As you can imagine, your competitors in the auction are not just from the same industry. 

They could come from anywhere and any industry. So bidding smartly and competitively is key

In the bidding section, you’ll see 3 options available.

Automated bid image

When to use Autobid? 

When you select automated bidding, Linkedin aims to get you your objectives at the lowest cost. 

Linkedin will take full control of the bidding. 

That might sound great, but this model is based on machine learning and if LinkedIn doesn’t have enough historical data, the system wouldn’t be able to optimize well.

This means if you’re starting a new campaign or if your ad account lacks data, I wouldn’t recommend this option.

Use automated bidding if you’re not sure what you’re willing to pay for per click. 

Auto bidding is also good when you are running an awareness type of campaign or just trying to get a higher reach. 

Take note that Autobid operates on a Cost-per-impression (CPM) model. 

When to use CPC: 

Almost 90% of the time, I recommend you use this on Linkedin especially if it’s a new campaign. CPC means Cost Per Click. This means you only pay when someone clicks. 

Of course, the type of chargeable click differs based on the objective you’ve chosen as covered in the previous section. 

This option gives you max control of your bids. Great for budget control. 

The biggest mistake I observed is that advertisers get carried away and bid extremely low. 

It doesn’t work that way. If you bid too low, your ads won’t deliver. If your ads are not delivering, you won’t get data or results in early. 

Then you might think Linkedin doesn’t work when it because you used the wrong bidding strategy. 

If it’s a new campaign, front load your ads and bid 20% above the recommended bid. 

Once you have enough eyeballs and data at 15,000 impressions, you can start lowering the bid if you notice you’re paying lesser. 

Likely, you’ll end up paying lesser than your bid to the second price auction. 

Bidding high at the start gives you a sense of what you can optimize early. 

Your daily budget plays a big role too. Aim for at least 10 clicks a day. So if the bid is $10, you’ll need a daily budget of $100. 

Usually, you’ll need to aim for 10 clicks and above. If you get too little clicks a day, it defeats the purpose of advertising. 

When to use CPM:

The only time I use this is for brand awareness. CPM means Cost Per Mile. Which means how much an advertiser pays for 1,000 views on their ads. 

Brand awareness campaigns alone for B2B will get you fired from your job. In most B2B companies, lead generation is the main KPI. 

So where does brand awareness fit in? 

It might be counter-intuitive but running brand awareness does lower the Cost Per Lead (CPL). The trick here is running it in conjunction with a lead generation campaign. 

Many brands have seen great results if they split their total marketing budget by 60:40 where 60% goes towards lead generation and 40% goes to brand awareness. 

There is no hard rule on this. I personally would recommend you go 90% lead generation and 10% brand awareness if you are just starting out. 

You’ll need to get quick wins by generating leads so you can secure more budget. Which is why the percentage is skewed more to lead generation. 

Tweak this according to where your business is now. 

Measuring, Reporting, and Analytics on Linkedin

How would you know if your Linkedin ad campaign was a success? 

That’s where measurements and analytics come in. We live in a world where there’s plenty of data. It tells you the health of your campaigns. 

You’ll know exactly what’s not working and what needs improvement. 

The very first thing you’ll need is to identify what you need to measure. Measuring the right metrics that align with the objective is key. 

Here’s a quick guide on what you could measure based on your objectives. 

Awareness

  • Reach
  • Impressions
  • Video Views
  • CPM/CPV
  • Number followers
  • Number of posts
  • Social Engagements (Likes, Shares, and Comments)
  • Video Views
  • Clicks
  • % Account Engagement

Consideration

  • Number of website visits (driving web traffic)
  • Conversions on site
  • CTR
  • Lead gen form open rates
  • Video completion rates

Conversion

  • Number of leads
  • Quality of leads
  • Cost per lead
  • Cost per conversion
  • Transaction Value
  • Churn %
  • Renewals

The common performance metrics that you’ll track daily/weekly are:

  • Clicks
  • Impressions
  • CTR%
  • Spend
  • CPL
  • Lead gen form open rates (Conversion objectives)
  • Lead gen form completion rates (Conversion objectives)

Use your Linkedin campaign dashboard as your source of truth. Their most recent update has made it extremely easy for advertisers to get the metrics they need. 

Campaign Dashboard Column

Click on “Columns” and select the right view. All the metrics you need to care about will appear based on the objective you’ve chosen. 

You can also view these metrics at different classifications. If you’re viewing on a campaign group, it will show you the consolidated results of all the campaigns within that campaign group. 

The same applies for the ads within each campaign. 

So it really depends on how macro or micro you need your data to be. 

If you need the raw data, you can also export it through the “Export” button on the right. 

which level of reporting

Most of the time, you’ll usually use the campaign-level reporting. 

For more advanced tracking and integrations, you can use Google Campaign Manager. 

Important: You’ll need to install the Linkedin insight tag to track conversions. It is a lightweight javascript tag that helps you track conversions, retargeting, and provides many other free web analytics. The keyword here is “Free”. So why not install it. 

Another big differentiator for Linkedin analytics is their ability to tell you which professionals and companies are visiting your site and engaging with your ads. 

Website Campaign Demographics

You can find both your campaign demographics and your website demographics in the illustration above. 

Why are these demographics important? 

It’ll show you the full story of your audience. You will know which audiences are performing well and double down on it. Alternatively, you may start excluding audiences that are not performing well. 

To complete your evaluation of your ads, you’ll also need to get the latest ad benchmarks on Linkedin

Final thoughts: Mastering Linkedin Ads

While the majority of Digital marketers are obsessed with Facebook, Instagram, and other channels, they are missing out on this huge opportunity on Linkedin. If you’re in a B2B or a high-value B2C business, Linkedin is the place for you. 

If you’re looking to grow your expertise as Marketers, being an expert in Linkedin ads will make you stand-out. There’s an oversaturation of Facebook marketers. If you want to leapfrog others, you’ll need a unique yet useful skill. That can be Linkedin advertising as there aren’t enough real experts yet. 

Linkedin is one of the most expensive social media platforms in the world. That said, you pay for what you get. It is a goldmine of affluent professionals. Mastering Linkedin won’t be easy but definitely worth it. 

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