How to Build a Smart B2B LinkedIn Ads Campaign

  |  July 8, 2013   |  Comments

LinkedIn Ads is far from perfect, but the potential for B2B advertisers to lock on to potential customers with laser-focused targeting is a big deal.

There are so many channels available to digital advertisers these days. SEM, display advertising, retargeting, social media advertising, and more. Many B2B advertisers are using some or all of these to generate leads for their businesses. That being said, LinkedIn Ads quickly rises to the top of the conversation for B2B advertisers because of the very nature of the audience (business people networking online) and the detailed targeting options.

So, if it is that amazing, why isn't every B2B advertiser on the LinkedIn bandwagon already? Well, LinkedIn Ads is notorious (at least in some circles) for having an inefficient management interface, less-than-adequate customer support, and either poor performance or low traffic volume.

While I can't argue with the management interface or support issues, often performance and volume concerns are simply the by-product of mismanaged campaigns. When managed properly, LinkedIn Ads results can be quite impressive. Here are some tips for building a smart LinkedIn Ads campaign.

Understand Your Audience

Before you even touch the LinkedIn Ads management interface, you need to first take stock of your overall marketing strategy and understand your target audience.

  • Create personas. Who is your target audience? Age, gender, location, interests.
  • Because this is for LinkedIn, go deeper. What industry are they in? Where did they go to school? What skills do they have? What specific companies do they work for? What is their job title? What professional interests do they have?
  • If you can pin down the "who" within a thoughtful persona, then creating the "what" - LinkedIn Ads campaigns - will be that much easier!

Leverage Persona Data to Research LinkedIn Targeting

LinkedIn has a massive database of information available for targeting purposes: companies, industries, job titles, groups, etc. However, much like Facebook, there is no simple tool or method for mining this data (who wants to create that tool? C'mon, I know you want to!). Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

  • Create a new campaign in LinkedIn Ads so that you can access the "Targeting" screen.
  • Using the root ideas in your persona documentation, begin pinging these various targeting options. LinkedIn provides suggestions based on its database.
  • Create a list from these suggestions to flesh out your targeting parameters for each option: company (by name, by industry/category), job title (specific title, job function), school, skills, group, gender, and age.

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Build Segmented Campaigns

Like any online advertising channel, segmentation is still important for LinkedIn Ads. But LinkedIn is certainly unique in this regard.

  • For LinkedIn Ads campaigns, keep in mind that the budgets, bids, and ads are set at the campaign level. So, if you create a flat campaign structure (lumping all options together in one campaign) you will have very little control over performance and could limit the number of available LinkedIn members (estimated target audience). Layering targeting options will zero in on individuals who meet all of those criteria.
  • A strong starting point is to create campaigns that contain the higher level targeting options (company, industry, job title, skills) layered with more detailed targets (location, age, gender, school).
  • As you see performance statistics build, you can decide where you want to either "zoom in" or "zoom out" with regards to targeting specificity. Test different combinations of targeting layers and even break out individual targets (e.g., by specific companies or job titles) to see what converts best.
  • Another consideration is that the LinkedIn Ads management interface is clunky and tedious. There is not a desktop tool for managing campaigns (à la AdWords Editor or Facebook Power Editor). So, if you go crazy with hyper-targeting, just be aware that your time investment in management will grow.
  • Create ads that are relevant to your targets, but still adhere to ad writing best practices: be engaging with copy and image (these ads are much like display ads, they must distract from all of the other information on LinkedIn). Describe the benefits of your services. Include a call-to-action. Keep it all in 100 characters or less - 25 headline, 75 body.

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For Your Consideration

As previously stated, the LinkedIn Ads platform is a bit unique. Therefore, there are a few additional tips for your consideration.

  • Click-through rate (CTR) is of extreme importance for LinkedIn Ads. There is a CTR minimum threshold - around 0.025 percent. If your ad CTR falls below this threshold, the ad will begin to fall out of rotation, eventually not showing at all. So, be on your best ad writing behavior and be vigilant about testing.
  • Not that strange I suppose, but make sure you tag your ad URLs. Whether it is UTM parameters for Google Analytics or tags for any number of other platforms, make sure they are in place so that you can track conversion performance. Aside from the "Lead Collection" feature (gives option for LinkedIn users to contact you directly without leaving the social networking site), there is not a method for tracking conversions in LinkedIn Ads.
  • When launching your campaign, you will be instructed to enter a CPC or CPM bid. LinkedIn provides a suggested bid, but take this with a grain of salt. Heck, even LinkedIn warns you by saying, "Tip: To ensure you receive impressions, make sure your bid is within or above the suggested bid range." In my experience, you must set your bid three to four times higher than the suggested bid. Yes, CPCs are high on LinkedIn Ads, but bidding high to launch not only ensures your ad will show, but it will also ensure better position to hit with as strong a CTR as possible right out of the gate (remember that minimum CTR threshold I mentioned?). As performance data builds, you can begin to lower CPCs to find your campaign's "sweet spot."

LinkedIn Ads is far from perfect. It's clunky. It can be pricier than other channels (on a CPC basis). Customer support is only so-so. But the potential for B2B advertisers to lock on to potential customers with laser-focused targeting is a big deal. And when a smart B2B campaign is built, LinkedIn Ads can generate quality leads!


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John A. Lee

John A. Lee is an Internet marketing jack-of-all-trades with experience managing PPC, SEO, and social media campaigns. He is a Managing Partner for Clix Marketing, a marketing agency specializing in PPC, display, and social media advertising. Before joining Clix Marketing, John worked as Paid Search Manager for Wordstream and was a Senior Search Marketing Consultant for Hanapin Marketing in Bloomington, Indiana, where he was instrumental in the success of Hanapin's two search marketing blogs: and John's writing has also appeared on, Acquisio's Blog, Wordstream's Blog, and within Website Magazine.

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