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LinkedIn Ads: Best Practices to Maximize Performance


January 21, 2022


January 21, 2022

Right Side Up recently hosted a webinar on LinkedIn ads best practices to maximize the performance of your ad campaigns, led by Trey Buchanan, VP of B2B Advertising at Right Percent, a Right Side Up venture specializing in paid advertising for B2B companies. Trey offered insights he’s gained while working with Fortune 500 companies and high-growth brands like DoorDash, Zenefits, and ServiceMax. For more details about LinkedIn ads, watch the full webinar.

Why Advertise on LinkedIn?

As the top business-focused social network, LinkedIn is no longer only a job-hunting and recruiting platform; it’s now an incredibly powerful tool for B2B advertising. Revenue from the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions ad business topped $3B last year, outpacing both Snap and Pinterest. And while LinkedIn offers a massive opportunity for B2B advertisers to get in front of their ideal customers, knowing how to properly use LinkedIn ads best practices on the platform is crucial for avoiding poor performance and wasted ad spend in your LinkedIn ad campaigns.

Is LinkedIn Advertising Right for Your Company?

Unlike other social platforms, LinkedIn offers up a robust amount of professional information about its users, which can help you build a more focused and effective campaign.

“I particularly love LinkedIn because it gives you the ability to target your ideal customers with access to information like their role at the company, seniority level, and everything in between all in one place,” said Trey Buchanan, VP of B2B Advertising at Right Percent.

But before you invest in advertising on LinkedIn, it’s important to understand LinkedIn ads best practices and to consider whether it’s the right match for your business and target audience.

“The challenge with LinkedIn is that it is a little bit more expensive than Facebook so it typically works better for businesses with an ARR [annual recurring revenue] of $5K or more,” Buchanan said. “As a frame of reference, a standard LinkedIn click can range anywhere between $8–25, depending on the audience you’re targeting.”

Because there’s a higher cost per click, companies with larger (and recurring) revenues tend to see the most success with LinkedIn ads. SaaS firms are often a great match for this platform since the initial contracts are expensive, the payment model is usually recurring, and they have opportunities to receive additional revenue from cross-selling customers into larger deals.

Another important factor is whether or not you’ve narrowed in on your ideal customer. LinkedIn is not the place for trial and error target audience exploration—that can be an expensive process so it’s better to already have your ideal customer sorted out.

“LinkedIn typically works best when you already have an ideal customer profile,” Buchanan said. “That lets you build a campaign based on that information and get things live and delivering results almost immediately.”

Who should avoid LinkedIn advertising?

Although LinkedIn advertising tends to be successful for high-revenue B2B companies, there are several factors that could signal that this is not the right platform for you. If any of the following apply to your business, we recommend exploring other channels and steering clear of costly mistakes on LinkedIn:

  • Revenue comes from small purchases or contracts worth less than $2K per year
  • Most sales are individual products that don’t have MRR or ARR (like ecommerce)
  • Ideal customer is not defined or is shifting

When to Bring LinkedIn into Your Marketing Mix

If you’re confident that LinkedIn is a good match for your company, the next step is to determine whether you’re ready to start a campaign. Ask yourself these questions to determine if it’s the right time to launch:

  • Do you have the upper funnel content? If you don’t have the right content to advertise (white papers, ebooks, case studies, analyst reports, etc.) you will likely see poor performance.
  • Are you ready to invest in upper funnel lead generation? If you’re seeing diminishing returns from non-brand search then LinkedIn could fit nicely into your mix.
  • Do you have a clean attribution and marketing automation setup? LinkedIn tends to rely on first-touch attribution, and with upper funnel content, it’s crucial that your leads go to the right outbound team and nurture sequences. 

Solid attribution is particularly important for proving that the high cost of advertising on LinkedIn is paying off, especially when you need to make your case to stakeholders like your CMO or board of directors.

What is a good budget for a LinkedIn ads test campaign?

Leads on LinkedIn are expensive, so you need a large enough budget to gain meaningful insights and results. We recommend a minimum of $20K monthly spend for six months to start off. 

“I recommend that amount because the more you spend the faster you end up learning,” Buchanan said. “Having a large enough budget allows you to get enough information and make better decisions about whether you’re getting the best quality leads or if you need to make changes.”

For example, if leads are $500 you’ll only get 40 leads per month with a $20K budget, meaning it will take a bit of time to gather enough information to make a decision on the quality of those leads. And that’s why it’s so important to invest enough money over a longer period of time.

LinkedIn Ad Targeting: Selecting Your Audience

The biggest strength of LinkedIn as an ad platform is its audience targeting options. But having such a robust array of choices can be overwhelming if you don’t know LinkedIn ads best practices for selecting the right ones.

LinkedIn ads allow for targeted audience selection, based on company, job experience, education, and interests.

“All of these are really important for understanding how to find your target ideal customer and they all have different upsides and downsides,” Buchanan said. “Some of them are more specific, which lets you find a really specific ideal customer profile, but some of them can be too specific to the point where you might not be able to achieve a certain scale if the focus is too narrow.”

LinkedIn ads best practices for audience selection

When crafting your campaign audience, think about your ideal customer profile. Who are the influencers and decision makers that can make your deal happen?

Let’s imagine you’re a financial SaaS company selling a software product. You’ll most likely want to target people that are in finance or an accounting job function. Then you can narrow that audience down by seniority, based on who will be influencing and signing the deals—while someone at the manager level might have some sway, chances are you’ll need someone at the director level to actually make things happen. 

Next, think about what size company you want to go after. And finally, when it comes to industries, we recommend using industry exclusions (e.g. you don’t want to sell to governments) rather than inclusions.

Focus in on job titles targeting

Using job titles, you can create a hyper specific audience of the exact job titles of your deal influencers and decision makers. And while building an audience this way can be a great addition to any LinkedIn strategy, there are more obscure titles that job titles targeting won’t catch.

“There needs to be enough people within your target job title for it to populate within LinkedIn’s title options,” Buchanan said. “If you have a very niche title that you know is super specific to your company but might not pop up on LinkedIn, you might try a more general title that will still get you in front of quality leads.”

Create target audiences for your LinkedIn campaign with job title and company size filters.

Think of this situation like a fishing net with holes—you’ll get a good amount of your audience, but it won’t be full coverage.

Filtering by job function and seniority

Narrowing your audience by job function and seniority is a broader option that works well if you can target specific functions within an organization. You’ll typically see larger audience sizes than with job titles targeting. If we revisit the fishing net idea, this approach patches the holes in the net, allowing you to pull in more of those obscure titles by catching them through functions.

But be sure to keep in mind that job seniority can vary across companies of different sizes. In some cases, it can be worth it to split campaigns by mid-market and enterprise, since “director” can mean something different at each type of organization.

LinkedIn Groups offer engaged audiences

Another method for targeting your audience is through LinkedIn Groups, which are similar to Facebook Groups and allow people to join based on specific topic focuses. 

“I like using LinkedIn Groups because people are self-selected into that ideal customer profile,” Buchanan said. “They tend to be more engaged on LinkedIn, leading to higher click-through rates on your standard ads.”

Although Groups often drive great performance, they also tend to be a much smaller audience than what you’ll find with standard job titles or functions, so they shouldn’t be your only filter.

Importing external audiences with third-party integrations

Over the past few years, LinkedIn has added several third-party integrations, which allow you to pass data directly to the platform from audience sources like:

  • 6Sense
  • Bombora
  • G2 Crowd
  • Marketo
  • Salesforce
  • Hubspot
  • Engagio
  • DemandBase

“There’s a ton of different use cases and lots of different options for using third-party audiences to create expanded inclusions and exclusions in your campaign,” Buchanan said.

LinkedIn Ad Creative Best Practices

After relying on rectangular ad visuals for years, LinkedIn recently released square ads and they’ve quickly become the standard for successful campaigns because they:

  • Take up more space than rectangular ads
  • Are mobile optimized
  • Can increase CTR by 30–80%
  • Can be repurposed from your Facebook ad campaigns

In our experience, square ads also tend to cost about the same as rectangular ads, despite giving you nearly double the visual space in your feed. Here are a couple of examples of square LinkedIn ads:

Square LinkedIn ads offer nearly double the visual space of rectangular ads, while still costing the same.

As with other social ad platforms, visual headlines are the most important part of your LinkedIn ad creative. The visual headline helps to pull attention to your ad and describe your offer. It impacts everything from initial CTR all the way to post-click intent on landing pages and forms. 

The best LinkedIn ads have visual headlines that:

  • Keep it concise
  • Keep it clear
  • Provide value

“If you’re looking at a LinkedIn ad, you’re most likely going to see the image itself first,” Buchanan said. “If that image doesn’t pull you in, you’re not going to look at the copy above or below; you’re probably just going to keep scrolling.”

When it comes to design concepts for LinkedIn, don’t be afraid to experiment with a range of approaches. We’ve found success with many types, including:

  • Plain background with text and logo
  • Switching color palettes
  • Illustration-type imagery
  • Real people
  • Graphs
  • Charts
  • Whitepaper covers

Just be sure that you know what you’re testing and why you’re testing it so you can make a case for a specific design approach for future campaigns.

Account and Campaign Settings

In addition to building your audience and figuring out which design concepts work for you, using the correct account and campaign settings can have a big impact on the success of your LinkedIn ads. 

Enhanced conversion tracking

Be sure to enable “enhanced conversion tracking” in your Insights tag settings. To do this, go to Account assets > Insights tag > Manage Insights tag > Settings > Check enhanced conversion tracking box. This feature allows for more accurate conversion tracking if you’re doing URL-based LinkedIn events and is particularly important in the post-iOS 14 world.

Enabling enhanced conversion tracking delivers useful insights.

“If you don’t have this enabled, you’ll lose a lot of the volume that you may have seen previously, before iOS 14.5,” Buchanan said. “Without it, you’re undercounting your conversion volume and won’t get enough data for your algorithm to work correctly.”

Audience expansion

As we mentioned earlier, there’s a fine line between going too niche and too broad with your campaign audience. To avoid getting results way outside your target, leave the “enable audience expansion” box unchecked when selecting your audience during campaign setup.

If you don’t leave it unchecked, this option will expand your target audience beyond your target audience, which can lead to:

  • Job functions that are not related to your specific targeting
  • Delivery to intern and entry-level positions
  • Overall quality issues

“You’re building an ideal customer profile and you know exactly who you want to get in front of,” Buchanan said. “If you add in audience expansion, it allows LinkedIn to go past those parameters and pull in additional people, which can lead to massive wasted ad spend on leads that don’t apply to your needs.”

Is using the LinkedIn Ad Network worth it?

Quick answer—it’s not worth it (yet). LinkedIn’s Ad Network is similar to the Facebook Ad Network, in that it delivers your ads to websites outside of LinkedIn. But because of issues with delivery control between the LinkedIn feed and Ad Network, lack of delivery insights, and huge decreases in post-click conversion rates, we don’t recommend it at this time.

However, if LinkedIn decides to offer delivery where you can dedicate specific budgets to the options in the future, it could become a valuable tool.

Basics of bidding and budgeting

Efficiently managing bidding and budgeting on LinkedIn isn’t as intuitive as what you might have experienced on Facebook. Instead of automatically applying your budget consistently throughout the day, LinkedIn often requires you to do the manual work of finding the sweet spot of bid to budget level. Generally, we recommend the following approach:

  • Unless you’re doing flighted campaigns, don’t set start and end dates.
  • Choose daily instead of lifetime budgets to control daily delivery.
  • Your optimization goal should be the goal you’re trying to achieve (i.e. Leads for lead generation forms, Conversions for on-site conversions, Web clicks for web clicks, etc.).

And if you’re hitting your daily budgets, you’re either bidding too much or need to expand your budget. Remember, algorithmic delivery doesn’t pace like Facebook does.

Finding success with LinkedIn ads boils down to knowing if your business is the right fit for the platform, identifying your audience, using good creative, and setting up your campaign correctly. With those aspects taken care of, you’re on your way to connecting with lucrative professional leads to help your company grow.

Interested in scaling your B2B business with LinkedIn ads? Get in touch with us at hello@rightsideup.co to chat with one of our experts.

Trey Buchanan is a B2B advertising leader with experience managing LinkedIn ad campaigns for early stage startups all the way to Fortune 500 firms. He has a deep expertise in paid social and B2B advertising, having managed more than $60M in LinkedIn ad spend. Before joining Right Percent as their VP of B2B Advertising, Trey was the Head of B2B Paid Social at Metric Theory where he managed a team of B2B-focused social marketers who specialized in driving LinkedIn ad performance for their clients.

Jes Parker is a writer and content marketer with experience creating B2B and consumer-facing assets that build brands and make complex concepts more human. She has worked with companies and nonprofits like Highstead Foundation, Trust for Public Land, Harvard University, the Museum of the City of New York, and Times Square Alliance to craft accessible and engaging content strategies.

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