LinkedIn ads: Why they’re great, who is a good fit & how to buy them

LinkedIn can be an expensive platform to learn lessons on, but over time if you fine tune your approach, it will deliver traffic and conversions. What I’ve shared here is based on my learning with client projects, along with some great tips I picked up while attending Social Media Marketing World last year.

How to access ad campaign management

LinkedIn Ads are available from a company LinkedIn page, not from a LinkedIn personal profile page, and you need to be a page manager in order to utilize the ad function in campaign manager.  When logged in as a manager on your company LinkedIn page, you can access ads under the “Admin tools” in the top right. Pull down to “sponsor your updates” and it will give you access to a campaign manager page. In campaign manager you can create an account for a single LinkedIn page, or for multiple accounts, if you manage more than one company page.

Why are they great?

1. Data is up to date. Because B2B data is often out of date, people change positions a lot but they update their LinkedIn. You won’t have wasted impressions

2. Targeting is incredible. It’s far better than anything else out there.

3. The business mentality. When you’re on LinkedIn, you’re in “business mode”, so when you give an offer on LinkedIn that correlates with what they want, the engagement and conversion is high for B2B.

4. Gatekeeper is not there. The executive assistant might control a senior person’s email account or phone calls, but it’s rare that they will control the LinkedIn account. Fortune 500 CEO is the one you’ll get

5. LinkedIn works for sales. Tests run for parallel ads on LinkedIn compared to Google ad words, Facebook, and Instagram, LinkedIn wins on the largest deal sales.

Some challenges

1. Sponsored content is $6-9/click. LinkedIn sells ads based on a bid process.

2. No device level bidding. If you run sponsored content, about 70% of clicks will come from mobile, but you don’t have the ability to choose if you show up in mobile or desktop, so you have to make sure you show up well in mobile by default.

3. No control of day part. Concept to control when ads are shown. In B2B makes sense to only show ads during business hours, but LinkedIn doesn’t allow you to control day parts. Must be done through a third-party tool Ad Stage)

4. Price you pay is based on relevancy score & demand. If you and another advertiser are bidding the same, they look at each advertiser’s relevancy score, and if one gets more click through generally in the past, that advertiser will win the bid for space at that price. You never know what your relevancy score is with LinkedIn other than the results you are getting. If you have to keep bidding up, your relevancy score is likely low. If you can bid lower and still get the space, you likely have a higher relevancy score.

Who is good fit?

High cost per click means it isn’t a good fit for everyone. For many business, Facebook, Instagram or Google ad words will be more cost effective.  However, if you fit the following criteria, you should consider LinkedIn ads.

If the lifetime value for the customer is over $15,000 LinkedIn is a great fit. Large enough pay out that you can make a mistakes before you achieve success. LinkedIn ads work well in these three verticals: B2B Services/Products, white collar recruiting, education

What kind of ads can I buy?

1. Text ads. Appear in the right rail of your feed, around since 2008. Low click though rate of 0.03%. Good for larger audiences. Is available on desktop only. 25-character headline, 75-character ad line. Appears as a 50 x 50 pixel image) Cheapest ad unit, good for very large audiences, can big down to $2/ad

2. Sponsored content. Great ad unit. Appear right in your news feed. Much higher click through rate of 0.4%. (4 people out of 1000 people are clicking through) 70% + are mobile users. More real estate, get a large image (1200 x 637 pixels), lots of room to talk, 128 character intro, 38 character title. If you have an audience of 10-20,000 people can do really well with this. This is the most popular.

3. Sponsored InMail. This is a new offering in the last year. It has great potential, but it’s expensive. Charge differently than first 2 options. Pay per send, ranging $0.35 – $0.85 per send. Can target by job title, seniority, skills, groups they belong to, company, industry, education, demographics (age, gender, geography). You can also exclude people – like competitors, so you can name competitors to exclude. There’s a 2 month frequency cap, so you own the ability to target. These are expensive, but also get a 50% open rate.

4. Video ads. This is relatively new. Videos under 30 seconds tend to perform the best. You can tell a company story, bring a product demonstration to life. You bid for ad cost by objective: Website visits – bid by cost per 1,000 impressions, collect leads – bid by cost per click, Video views – bid by cost per view. Audience targeting methods are similar to sponsored content options, since the video will show up right in the news feed. Costs are based on the bid process. It’s not cheap, but if it converts to a lead page with follow up, and a B2B decent sized sale, it might be worth it. Video is definitely the way of the future on other platforms. In many ways, LinkedIn is playing catch up, and you can still stand out.

The magic of retargeting

Retargeting, which is showing ads to people who have had previous contact with you – a website visit, previous ad click, given you an email address is most profitable for keeping you top of mind. However people don’t tend to spend a ton of time on LinkedIn like they do on other platforms. But they check in on Facebook – the average is 17 times a day. You can retarget on Facebook to your LinkedIn audience with an uploaded custom audience of email addresses. Matches are usually 40-50% with the email you have and what they used to register on Facebook. You can retarget with the same ad copy and offering on Facebook as what your campaign is on LinkedIn. By doing it that way, your costs are lower than on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn also offers matched audiences now. It’s just like uploading emails to Facebook to build a custom list. In an email match you can upload a list of 300 minimum to retarget, then create a campaign to target only owners of these email addresses.  Basically it will be more expensive on LinkedIn though, compared to Facebook, because of the ad bid process there.

There you have it. Let me know if you found this useful. And if you’ve had experience with ads on LinkedIn, leave a comment below. I’m particularly interested in case studies with InMail or Video ads, since video ads are relatively new, and InMail is a decent financial commitment to embark on.

Mary Charleson


  1. Hi. Hope you are good .such an informative article. Keep it up. After reading this article I would like to share my opinion. With tomorrow’s ads and Google ads, you can increase sales for your business by quickly and easily advertise your website in Google Search. You can create a thoughtful campaign with effective advertising. They will appear in Google search and attract the right people in time for your website.

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