This story was originally published on January 12, 2013, and comes in at No. 6 on our countdown of the 10 most popular ClickZ stories of 2013. As ClickZ looks back over the past year, we’re celebrating the best of 2013, as determined by you, our readers. Enjoy!
LinkedIn Advertising allows access to millions of users who drive business decisions. According to LinkedIn, as of September 30, 2012, it operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 187 million members in over 200 countries and territories. LinkedIn also claims four out of five members drive business decisions.
However, advertisers using the self-serve advertising platform have reported having issues with low leads and low click-through rates (CTRs) that result in their ads not being served.
There are several tips and tricks to know in order to get the best results on LinkedIn.
Bids and Budgets
The bottom line to the bidding system is having a high bid helps you gain impressions and thus clicks in an auction-based system like LinkedIn’s. Although the minimum cost-per-click (CPC) is $2 per click, LinkedIn also provides a “Suggested Range,” which may look something like this:
Your Bid: 3.00 USD
Suggested Bid Range: 2.14 USD – 2.26 USD Minimum Bid: 2.00 USD
For the purposes of serving the ad, the system will look at bidding above, within, and below the “Suggested Range.” Bids coming in below the “Suggested Range” will not put advertisers in the position to win, so don’t bother thinking you can score a cheap CPC on LinkedIn.
Instead, bid at the high range of the “Suggested Range” or above to hold your own competing with other advertisers for impressions.
The budgets are set daily per each campaign, representing the maximum amount you want to spend each day. LinkedIn will display ads at different rates during the day depending on when LinkedIn users are active on the website, rather than evenly throughout the day. The company gives the example of 50 percent of budget spend might occur in the morning when users are more active, and then only 30 percent in the afternoon, and 20 percent overnight. Once the daily budget is reached, the ads stop showing for that day.
Consider that your daily budget has to be enough to supports clicks you are looking to get. For example, a $10 per day budget can only support five clicks per day at the minimum CPC at $2. However, with the same budget, at $4 per click, your campaign can only support two clicks. Continuously review and adjust your budget to get the most out of it.
It’s important to note for budgeting and other purposes that Wednesday is the highest traffic day of the week, so it will make sense to have optimizations and budgets adjusted to leverage this higher traffic day.
Even though granular targeting is available, it’s not always best to use it. Adding more criteria to each campaign reduces the available audience. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true.
Create ad campaigns with a target audience size of 150,000 to 400,000 members. This gives your ad campaign the best chance of success because your ads will have a greater opportunity to receive impressions while maintaining clicks.
For example, say I want to target female IT professionals. I could target by IT skills and add several similar skill descriptions adding up to over 200,000 LinkedIn members in the U.S. Once I add one more targeting criteria, women, the audience plummets dramatically to 37,000 – too small to target successfully. We would need to be more creative on how to reach female IT professionals.
Once you determine your full targeting criteria, the best way to organize this in the platform is by creating several campaigns with only one or two criteria, carefully watching the estimated audience numbers to ensure you’re reaching the “recommended” number.
Your highest performing ads will be shown more often, and the poorer performing ads will begin to bring the overall campaign performance down. To keep the overall campaign performance strong, create several ad variations and be prepared to update this often – as much as once a week. A great tip is to start with three variations, making two live. Once they have been running, use the third ad to replace the poorest performing ad.
Ads for LinkedIn will follow the same best practices as other online advertising ads:
- Text should be written to capture attention and relate directly to the target audience.
- Include an offer that would resonate with LinkedIn users like a white paper, software trials, or other business value.
- Have a compelling call-to-action to incite a response to the message.
- Images are small (only 50 pixels wide by 50 pixels high), so make sure they fill up this space and are easy to read.
For LinkedIn ads, it’s all about the CTR. The system places a heavy emphasis on and “rewards” ads with a CTR over 0.025 percent. Running your campaigns for any amount of time with a lower CTR and no clicks is difficult to bounce back from. Once this dips too low, the ads will stop showing. Sometimes it will be necessary to deactivate your current ad campaigns and create new campaigns with new creative to “reset” the performance history and therefore get impressions again.
In summary, the top tips are:
- Bid at the high range of the “Suggested Range” or above it to hold your own competing with other advertisers for impressions.
- Continuously review and adjust your daily budget to get the most out of it.
- Target campaigns with only one or two criteria to keep an audience of 150,000 to 400,000 members.
- Follow the best practices for PPC ads, but keep several versions on hand to change out.
- CTR is the most important thing to watch, so unfortunately, you will have to optimize the CTR to keep the ads running on LinkedIn.