LinkedIn Advertising: A Start-to-Finish Guide

If you're a B2B or lead gen marketer, and you haven't been advertising on LinkedIn, you're leaving customers on the table. Download our free guide to get started with this fast-growing channel.

Want a pdf copy to take on the go? Fill out the simple form on the right, and we’ll instantly email you a copy of our complete guide to LinkedIn advertising, including a thorough run-down of targeting options. If you have any questions, on this or any other digital marketing topics, you can always reach us at info@3QDigital.com or by filling out our handy Contact Us form.

If you’ve dabbled in LinkedIn as an advertising platform, you’ve probably noticed that the targeting options are a pretty different proposition than you’d find on AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, and display.

So can LinkedIn ads work? Sure they can. Particularly in a B2B context, LinkedIn ads can be extraordinarily powerful – if you follow best practices, of course.

What follows is a LinkedIn ads primer in three parts: account setup and mechanics, a deep dive into the targeting that gives LinkedIn a different – and potentially high-ROI – reach, and other nuts and bolts you’ll need to know to get started.

Let’s dive in.

LinkedIn Ads Account Setup

Note: You must have a Company Page to create a Business Account to advertise through.
If you need to create one, go to the Add a Company page at linkedin.com/company/add/show.

Step 1: Go to linkedin.com/advertising

Step 2: Click “Start Now” button

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Step 3: Sign in with your LinkedIn user credentials

Step 4: Create a Business Account using your Company Page

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Step 5: Start typing your company name in the text box below Company, enter a Nickname or account name you will use when accessing the LinkedIn dashboard, choose Currency, and click Create.

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Adding Users or Changing User Roles

Step 1: From the Campaign Manager Dashboard, click Users

Step 2: Click Add User

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Step 3: Type the person’s name in the User text box.

Note: The new user must be a first connection in order to add them as a user on the account

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Step 4: Select User’s Role (see User Permissions table below for de- tailed information on user roles)

User Permissions

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Building Your Account:

1. CREATE CAMPAIGN

• AD CAMPAIGN OR SPONSORED UPDATE CAMPAIGN

• NEW CAMPAIGN OR DUPLICATE EXISTING CAMPAIGN

2. TARGETING

• CHOOSE YOUR AUDIENCE

3. CAMPAIGN OPTIONS

• CHOOSE PAYMENT METHOD, DAILY BUDGET, LEAD COLLECTION, CAMPAIGN SCHEDULING OPTIONS

4. CHECKOUT

• ENTER BILLING INFORMATION

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Create Ad Campaign

LinkedIn Ad: Banner ad that will appear on prominent, high traffic LinkedIn.com pages and on the LinkedIn Audience Network to people within your target audience. Up to 3 LinkedIn ads are shown in each ad placement on the site.

1. ENTER CAMPAIGN NAME

• CAN PUT A FILLER AND RENAME AFTER TARGETING IS CHOSEN

• CHOOSE A NAME THAT MAKES SENSE TO YOU

• I.E. GEOTARGETTYPE-SPECIFICTARGET

2. CHOOSE LANGUAGE AND MEDIA TYPE (BASIC OR VIDEO)

3. CREATE YOUR ADS

• HEADLINE – CALL TO YOUR AUDIENCE (25-CHARACTER LIMIT)

• AD COPY – INCLUDE CLEAR AND RESONATING CALL TO ACTION, KEEP IT RELEVANT (75-CHARACTER LIMIT)

• EITHER DIRECT TRAFFIC TO YOUR COMPANY PROFILE ON LINKEDIN OR SEND IT TO A DESTINATION THAT MAKES SENSE TO YOUR AD/CALL TO ACTION

• IMAGES—USE THEM!

• 20% HIGHER CTR

• SIZE: 50 X 50 PIXELS

• MAKE SURE IT’S READABLE

• BETTER TO HAVE 2-3 ADS RUNNING PER CAMPAIGN

CREATE AD CAMPAIGN VIEW

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CREATE SPONSORED UPDATE CAMPAIGN

LinkedIn Sponsored Update: Updates from your Company Page on LinkedIn that you can promote. They will be shown in the feed on desktop, smartphone, and tablet devices.

1. ENTER CAMPAIGN NAME

• CAN PUT A FILLER AND RENAME AFTER TARGETING IS CHOSEN

• CHOOSE A NAME THAT MAKES SENSE TO YOU

• I.E. SPONSOREDUPDATETOPIC_SPECIFICTARGET

2. CHOOSE LANGUAGE

3. SELECT UPDATE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SPONSOR

• THE UPDATE WILL BE FROM YOUR COMPANY PAGE – YOU MUST CREATE IT IN ORDER TO CHOOSE IT FROM THE CONTENT LIST

• INCLUDE A LINK TO THE DESTINATION THAT MAKES SENSE TO YOUR AD/CALL TO ACTION

• USE SHORTENED LINKS TO KEEP THE AD CLEANER AND EASIER TO READ

• IMAGES—AGAIN, USE THEM!

• SIZE: CAN BE MUCH LARGER THAN LINKEDIN ADS – LINKEDIN DOES NOT SPECIFY SIZE LIMIT

• LINKEDIN RESIZES THE IMAGE SO IT IS VIEWABLE IN THE FEED

CREATE SPONSORED UPDATE CAMPAIGN VIEW

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A NOTE ON AD MESSAGING

Don’t write search ads for LinkedIn!

With Search advertising, we use keywords (and user intent inferred from queries) to help us craft our ads.

With LinkedIn, we are targeting a specific audience, and we want to craft messaging that speaks to our audience.

Unlike a lot of search advertising, LinkedIn users are not looking for a particular product or solution. Ads should be useful and informational. Think less “free trial” and more “white paper.”

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Targeting

Once you’ve created your account and your campaign, you’ll be directed to the Targeting View.

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THE CATEGORY BREAKDOWN

The categories on the left-hand side of the page (e.g. Location, Company) are where you’ll be doing most of your targeting work. A quick breakdown of the categories and how to whittle them down:

1. LOCATION

Select the geographic area you’d like your campaign to target

Levels: Continent, Country, State, Region (note that State and Region aren’t available for all geos)

Example: North America -> United States -> Illinois -> Chicago

2. COMPANY TARGETING TYPES

Select companies by name to specifically target employees of those companies.

Example: If you’re selling medical software, look up a big regional hospital and target the chief office administrator.

Note that you can also select categories of companies — this is to target people of various job functions within an industry.

Example: Sticking with the medical software example, you’d target “health care” and look for all administrators at the buying-decision level.

Last, you can target by company size, which can be very ROI-friendly if your product or service is more costly than most SMBs can afford (for example).

3. JOB TITLE TARGETING TYPES

Job Title — Type in specific job titles you would like to target (works for a person’s current title only).

Example: real estate broker

Job Function and/or Seniority

Example: real estate – director

Note that this target limits your ads to people in one of 20 broad job functions

4. SCHOOL — TYPE IN SPECIFIC SCHOOLS THAT MEMBERS ATTEND(ED)

5. SKILLS — TYPE IN RELEVANT SKILLS THAT MEMBERS MAY LIST ON THEIR PROFILE

6. GROUP — TYPE IN GROUP NAMES THAT ARE RELEVANT FOR YOUR TARGETING

7. GENDER — SELECT MALE OR FEMALE (TIP: THIS ACTUALLY WORKS; IT MAKES YOUR ADS SEEM MORE PERSONAL TO THE PEOPLE WHO SEE THEM)

8. AGE — SELECT ONE OF THE RANGES: 18-24, 25-34, 35-54, 55+

Note that many people do not include their age on their profile, so this targeting is not as precise.

Some Tips and Tricks

1. RULE OF THUMB: A GOOD AUDIENCE SIZE IS AT LEAST 100K (100K – 400K IS RECOMMENDED).

2. ALWAYS CHOOSE 1 OR MORE LOCATIONS.

3. I HAVE NOT SEEN MUCH SUCCESS TARGETING SPECIFIC COMPANIES, SO TEST THIS BEFORE TOSSING A LOT OF MONEY INTO IT.

4. TARGETING BY INDUSTRY: AUDIENCE SIZES ARE USUALLY PRETTY SUBSTANTIAL HERE, SO TARGETING 1 OR 2 WILL USUALLY WORK.

5. TARGETING BY JOB FUNCTION: IF YOU CHOOSE MULTIPLE JOB FUNCTIONS PER CAMPAIGN, TRY TO MAKE THEM SIMILAR SO CUSTOM AD COPY STILL WORKS. YOU CAN ALWAYS OVERLAY SENIORITY DEPENDING ON YOUR DESIRED AUDIENCE.

6. USE JOB TITLE ONLY IF YOU’D LIKE TO GET MORE GRANULAR THAN OVERALL JOB FUNCTION. WORKS BETTER IN SOME INDUSTRIES THAN OTHERS (E.G. PROFESSOR VS. TEACHER).

7. THERE AREN’T ACTUALLY MANY USE CASES FOR TARGETING BY SCHOOL, UNLESS YOU’RE TRYING TO REACH ALUMNI FOR AN EVENT OR TO PROMOTE A GRADUATE DEGREE, FOR EXAMPLE.

8. TARGETING BY SKILL WAS INTRODUCED IN SEPTEMBER 2012 AND IS THE NEWEST TARGETING OPTION. SKILLS CAN BE

GENERAL (PROBLEM-SOLVING!) OR HIGHLY SPECIFIC (ADWORDS EDITOR 10.0.1!), SO GET CREATIVE. NOTE THAT AUDIENCES SIZES VARY GREATLY; YOU MAY NEED A HIGHER NUMBER OF SKILL TARGETS TO BUILD A DECENTLY SIZED AUDIENCE.

9. FOR “GROUP” TARGETING, YOU MAY NOT KNOW MANY GROUP NAMES OFFHAND, BUT IF YOU THINK YOUR AUDIENCE HAS CERTAIN SKILLS AND INTERESTS, START TYPING AND SEE

WHAT FILLS IN! (NOTE: YOU CAN ALSO RESEARCH GROUPS USING THE LINKEDIN GROUPS DIRECTORY.)

10. NOTE THAT LINKEDIN TARGETING OPERATES UNDER

THE INCLUSION METHOD, SO EACH LAYER OF TARGETING YOU ADD TO YOUR CAMPAIGN WILL CAUSE YOUR AUDIENCE TO GET SMALLER AND MORE GRANULAR (NOT NECESSARILY A BAD THING!).

11. FOR ALL MANUALLY ENTERED TARGETS, LINKEDIN WILL PROVIDE SUGGESTIONS OF SIMILAR TARGETS (USE THEM!).

12. YOU CAN CHOOSE UP TO:

- 10 targets per campaign for Geography, Industry, Job Function

- 100 targets per campaign for Company, Job Title, School, Skill, Group

CAMPAIGN OPTIONS

1. PAYMENT METHOD

• CPC OR CPM (CPC RECOMMENDED)

• BID MINIMUM IS $2.00 (SUGGESTED $_.__ – $_.__ USD)

• NOTE: BIDS BELOW THE “SUGGESTED RANGE” WILL NOT WIN IN THE LINKEDIN AD AUCTION

• BETTER TO START HIGH—HAVING A HIGHER BID HELPS YOU GAIN IMPRESSIONS AND THUS CLICKS IN AN AUCTION-BASED SYSTEM

2. DAILY BUDGET

• IN ORDER TO SEE HOW WELL YOUR CAMPAIGNS CAN PERFORM, SET BUDGET HIGH AT FIRST AND DEPENDING ON OVERALL BUDGET, REIGN IN LATER

• ADJUSTING BIDS FREQUENTLY CAN MESS WITH THE AD AUCTION, SO USING DAILY BUDGET CAPS TO MANAGE SPEND IS ADVISED

3. LEAD COLLECTION – NOT RECOMMENDED (LIMITED FUNCTIONALITY)

4. SHOW MY CAMPAIGN

• CONTINUOUSLY (YOU CAN TURN OFF YOUR CAMPAIGN AT ANY TIME) –RECOMMENDED

• UNTIL A SPECIFIC DATE – USE FOR EVENTS OR TIME-SENSITIVE CAMPAIGNS

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THINGS TO KNOW

1. LINKEDIN REPORTING USES UNIVERSAL TIME (UTC) AKA GMT

2. THE SYSTEM “REWARDS” ADS WITH A CTR > 0.025%

• ONCE CTR DIPS TOO LOW, YOUR ADS WILL STOP SHOWING

3. ADS MAY CONTINUE TO DISPLAY A SHORT TIME AFTER THE DAILY BUDGET IS REACHED. YOU WILL BE CHARGED FOR LICKS OR IMPRESSIONS THAT ARE DELIVERED DURING THAT TIME, BUT ONLY UP TO 20% BEYOND THE DAILY BUDGET

4. REFRESH YOUR ADS AT LEAST ONCE A MONTH TESTING NEW VARIATIONS—SWITCH OUT IMAGE, HEADLINE, COPY OR CREATE A NEW AD

5. ADS APPEAR ON VARIOUS LINKEDIN.COM PAGES AND ON THE LINKEDIN AUDIENCE NETWORK TO PEOPLE WITHIN YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE.

• LINKEDIN AUDIENCE NETWORK IS “A COLLECTION OF PARTNER WEBSITES THAT DISPLAY LINKEDIN ADS ON THEIR PAGES. THIS ALLOWS YOU TO REACH THE LINKEDIN MEMBERS YOU ARE TARGETING, EVEN WHEN THEY ARE VISITING OTHER WEBSITES. PARTNER WEBSITES MAY INCLUDE THOSE IN THE GOOGLE DOUBLE CLICK AD EXCHANGE.” HTTP://HELP.LINKEDIN.COM/APP/ANSWERS/DETAIL/AID/2363

6. UP TO 3 LINKEDIN ADS ARE SHOWN IN EACH AD PLACEMENT ON THE WEBSITE. ADS ARE PLACED ON:

• PROFILE PAGE – THE PROFILES OF LINKEDIN MEMBERS

• HOME PAGE – WHEN THEY SIGN IN TO LINKEDIN

• INBOX – WHERE MESSAGES AND INVITATIONS ARE VIEWED

• SEARCH RESULTS PAGE – AFTER YOU SEARCH WITHIN LINKEDIN

• GROUPS – WHEN MEMBERS VIEW PAGES IN THEIR GROUP

• ADS CAN ALSO BE SHOWN IN A TEXT LINK AD AT THE TOP OF THE HOME PAGE. IMAGES MAY BE OMITTED IN THIS SITUATION. THESE ARE THE MOST UNCOMMON PLACEMENTS

So…is your head full yet? If it is, take a deep breath. LinkedIn is actually a very intuitive platform once you dive in and get going. As with any platform, be sure to test (and test again) before investing heavily in any campaigns. Good luck!

About the Author

Alicia Antoniolli joined the 3Q Digital team in July 2012. Prior to joining 3Q Digital, she held various sales and marketing positions, most recently as an account executive for the Chicago Sun-Times. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Communication and a minor in International Studies. Alicia enjoys spending time with her large family at their lake house in Michigan, traveling (especially to Italy), and bladin’ down the Chicago lakefront with her boyfriend.

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