LinkedIn Ads - Are They a Good Choice?

by Valerie McCord on November 26, 2012

What is LinkedIn?

One way of thinking of LinkedIn is as the Facebook for professionals. Like Facebook, LinkedIn is a social networking platform for people to connect and engage with others. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn is focused only on professional connections, groups and interests. LinkedIn has more than 175 million registered users in more than 200 countries and territories.

LinkedIn users create profiles which include their occupation, current and previous employment, education, skills and more. Users then connect with others on LinkedIn, join groups and specify their interests. This information provides a wealth of data to LinkedIn for various uses; advertising is certainly one of them.

As with Google, Bing and Facebook, LinkedIn offers a Cost-Per-Click (aka Pay-Per-Click) advertising service called LinkedIn Ads. The information provided in profiles is used by LinkedIn Ads to target specific types of professionals. This offers a unique advertising opportunity for businesses with an identifiable professional audience.

How Does Advertising on LinkedIn Differ?

While all the Cost-Per-Click (CPC) services allow you to specify your target audience, there are major distinctions in how the audience is determined. Recall that LinkedIn knows a lot about the professionals in its system and it’s that information that makes advertising on LinkedIn unique. Consider the following:

Google AdWords and Bing Ads are search driven marketing platforms. These platforms let you target ads to an audience based on the keywords (search terms) entered into Google, Bing or Yahoo. These are very well suited for generating leads, conversions or sales for almost any type of product or service.

Facebook Ads are not search-based. Facebook allows you to target ads to an audience based on their location, demographics and interests. These ads are good for creating awareness, building a fan-base and reaching audiences engaged in social media.

LinkedIn Ads are extremely targeted when it comes to selecting who you want to reach within the professional space. It allows you to select your target audience based on location, vertical markets, company size, job functions, decision making levels, groups and more. LinkedIn Ads are most effective for business to business (B2B) advertising and help generate higher margin business and conversions.

Which CPC Service Should You Use?

To determine which Cost-Per-Click advertising platform is best for your business, you need to consider the audience that you are trying to reach. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Can you identify the demographics of the people most likely interested in what you offer? For instance, are they college students, men over 50, single women, soccer moms? Do they live in a certain part of country or world? Does their income matter?
  • Is your audience likely to be using social networking? If so, which platforms – Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest or something else?
  • Is your audience specific to an industry like Computer Software, Mechanical Engineering, Hospitality, Real Estate or Retail?
  • Are there search terms highly relevant to your product or service? Can your audience find your website in the search results on Google, Bing or Yahoo?
  • What is your audience interested in? Outdoor recreation, art, selling online, politics, reading, business solutions, internet marketing and so much more.

If you can narrow an audience down by the type of company, industry, job function, professional interests, et al. then LinkedIn can prove to be a good platform for advertising.

For example, a local gift shop or restaurant is probably not a good example for LinkedIn since the audience is too general and localized. Products intended for the general worldwide public probably wouldn’t be appropriate either given the breadth of the audience.

However, if you sell a tool that increases the productivity of Web Developers, then you can target LinkedIn ads to professionals in the web development field. Likewise, a company providing commercial services to engineers can target by related LinkedIn Groups, industries and job function, like chemical engineers.

LinkedIn Ads Basics

As mentioned, the unique benefit to advertising on LinkedIn is the targeting options. It offers very specific targeting options to zero-in on the professional audience most likely to be interested in your services, products or organization. You can target your ads to specific companies, industries, company size, job titles, job function, seniority, group, gender and more. Ads will be shown to users on LinkedIn that meet the targeting criteria. Below are some LinkedIn Ads key points:

  • Ads are shown to users on their LinkedIn Profile Page, Home Page, Inbox, Search Results and Groups pages.
  • You can have up to 15 ad variations per campaign which will rotate.
  • Ads need to be refreshed frequently so that the audience does not see the same ad over and over again and become blind to it.
  • Ads allow for a 25 character headline, a 75 character description, destination URL and a small image (50 pixels by 50 pixels).
  • Minimum cost-per-click is $2.00.
  • Minimum Daily Budget is $10.00.
  • A cost per thousand impressions (CPM) option is available at a minimum of $2.00.
  • By using separate campaigns, different ads can be created targeted to unique audiences.
  • Costs per click rise as click-through-rate on ads decline. Campaigns need to be monitored and new ads swapped in at least monthly.

The Proof is in the Return

Whether you are using LinkedIn Ads, Google AdWords, Facebook Ads or Bing Ads, it is imperative that you target your best audience and you measure the value of the return you are getting. Setting up conversion tracking will help you identify which source is bringing you the best value. Using multiple paid ad platforms will also extend your reach and allow you to test different systems. Getting on board with re-marketing will also extend ad frequency, but that's a topic for a future article. Whichever platform you choose, make sure to monitor and optimize performance, test different ads and targeting options, and have some patience as the kinks are worked out.