The Complete Guide to LinkedIn Ads

With so many options on the Internet to occupy your viewing time, even in the LinkedIn website itself, it’s easy to wonder how you can capture a person’s attention. You can engage, present, and connect with other professionals in lots of ways, but sometimes, an extra strategy is needed to bring your message home. In LinkedIn’s case, you can create targeted messages to reach your community.

LinkedIn Ads allow businesses and entrepreneurs to create and manage their own self-service advertising and create a targeted, specialized message to reach a portion of the overall LinkedIn network.

With our guide to LinkedIn ads, you’ll discover the types of ads available and the kinds of goals they can help you achieve. You’ll also learn how to create an ad on LinkedIn as well as some of our best tips and tricks.

Why use LinkedIn ads?

LinkedIn ads enable you to drive qualified professionals to your business or LinkedIn landing page, because LinkedIn offers you a variety of targeting options to choose the right audience. 

You can control your ad budget and choose between two cost models: pay-per-click (PPC), where you pay every time a potential customer clicks the link in your ad, or cost-per-impression (CPM), where you are billed for every 1,000 times your ad is displayed on a potential customer’s screen (that display is also known as an impression), regardless of whether the link was clicked.

If your ad budget is more than $25,000 per month, you can have access to your own account manager and more advertising options. Visit the LinkedIn Business Solutions page for more information.

Elements of LinkedIn Ads that will seem familiar to anyone who is engaged in some online advertising, especially if you’ve used sites such as Google Ads or Facebook Advertising. 

Beyond the targeting filters, LinkedIn Ads also lets you 

  • control the bidding amount you’re willing to spend per click or impression
  • run multiple variations of ads to test for the highest conversion rate
  • design your ad through its website by choosing text, images, and destination URLs
  • budget your spending to control daily and total ad expenditures. 

You get to study the results of your ad campaign to help gauge measurable results, just as you do in other platforms.

Types of LinkedIn ads

When you look at your LinkedIn home page, you can see two of the three types of ads that LinkedIn promotes to its members:

Text (and image) ads

Just as they sound, text ads offer you the ability to create a basic ad message, which is typically displayed along the top of the screen or on the rightmost column of the home page or your message inbox, sometimes with a designated image. You can set a specific URL that, when clicked, takes the user to a specific destination or results website, either on or off LinkedIn.

Sponsored updates

These updates are included in the news feed of LinkedIn users, but are clearly labeled Sponsored or Promoted so that the users know it’s not coming from a connection. Sponsored updates typically contain a link to an article, a destination website, or a LinkedIn Company page, and give the user the ability to interact with your company through like and comment links connected to the update.

Sponsored InMail

The third type of advertisement, sponsored InMail, isn’t shown in the home page. These ads are sponsored email messages that you can write and send directly to members based on the demographic filters that you set. 

Only active members will receive these messages. LinkedIn has controls that prevent sponsored InMail from flooding its members’ LinkedIn inboxes, so members are more likely to open the messages they receive this way. 

Your messages are customized to display well on a desktop or a mobile screen, and you can include call-to-action buttons as part of your InMail.

LinkedIn ads targeting options

Other advertising networks allow you to filter your target audience by a few known attributes of the person who will see your ad — age, gender, and location of the audience member. LinkedIn allows you to go one step further by allowing you to search for specific criteria.

The best use of filters comes when you combine two or more elements to qualify the audience you need to reach. Although it may seem that targeting project managers, for example, is good enough, you may really need project managers with specific skills, or project managers who have done the job for five or more years. When deciding which filters to use, think carefully about your target audience.

Below are the targeting options you can use in LinkedIn ads to segment your audience by these factors:

Company name, industry, and size

Although you can make the argument that people’s employers doesn’t define who they are as people, employers may make a difference in whether your ad (and your product or service, by extension) would be relevant to them. 

You can specify a filter for a company name (let’s say you want only companies that include or exclude a particular word), the company’s industry (perhaps you want to target only transportation or high-tech companies), or the company’s size as defined by the number of employees (this means you could target companies with, say, fewer than 50 employees or 5,001 or more employees).

Job title and job function

If you’re trying to reach all the software developers or Six Sigma consultants out there, you can create a job title filter and look for specific titles you provide. Going up one level, the job function filter allows you to target an audience where their job falls under a specific function, such as information technology, marketing, operations, purchasing, or sales.

Job seniority

Okay, you’ve targeted your audience by job title, but is that enough information? After all, someone who’s been doing that specific job for 1 or 2 years will have different needs than someone who’s been a manager at that job for 10 to 15 years. 

You can specify someone’s job seniority (years of experience) by different levels, from training and entry (think entry level) to senior, manager, director, VP, and CXO (which is shorthand for any chief officer, such as CEO, CFO, or CTO).

Member schools, fields of study, and degrees

Let’s say you are a recruiter and are trying to reach people based on their higher education. You can target your audience by specifying one or more names of schools, as well as specific fields of study or degrees, to include or exclude. (For example, maybe you want to reach people with Electrical Engineering degrees but not people with Mechanical Engineering degrees.)

Member skills

You can specify one or more specific skills that members have identified in their profile.

Member groups

Someone once said that you’re judged by the company you keep, and LinkedIn ads is no exception to that concept. You can target your audience based on the group memberships that people have. This way, your ad can target people who belong to groups that match the goal of what you have to offer.

Years of experience

Instead of searching for job title or seniority, you can target your audience by years of experience they have in their LinkedIn profile.

Company followers

If you have a LinkedIn Company page, you can now target your LinkedIn ads two different ways. You can display your ad only to people who are following your LinkedIn Company page, or only to people how are not following your Company page.

Company connections

You can target the first-degree connections of employees at companies that you specify. If you’re trying to reach people who know someone at your target company, for example, this filter is for you.

LinkedIn ad formats

LinkedIn offers 10 different ad formats to help you meet your advertising objectives.

This section will explain each ad format and what goals each ad can help you achieve.

Single image ads

Single image ads are a Sponsored Content ad format. Whether on desktop or mobile, the ads appear directly in the LinkedIn feeds of the professionals you want to reach.

Single image ads support all levels of full funnel marketing. It can be used in several objective-based advertising campaigns, such as:

  • Brand Awareness
  • Website Visits
  • Engagement
  • Lead Generation
  • Website Conversions
  • Job Applicants

Carousel image ads

With carousel ads, you can display a series of images sequentially. You can customize carousel ads to include unique images, captions, and destination links to tell an interactive story on desktops and mobile devices.

Carousel ads support all levels of full funnel marketing. There are many objective-based advertising options that can be used with this ad format, including:

  • Brand Awareness
  • Website Visits
  • Engagement
  • Lead Generation
  • Website Conversions

Lead Gen Form ads include a call-to-action button in the image description. A standard carousel ad that links to a landing page does not.

Video ads

Video ads support all levels of full funnel marketing. In addition to objective-based advertising campaigns, this ad format may be used for:

  • Brand Awareness
  • Video Views
  • Website Visits
  • Engagement
  • Lead Generation
  • Website Conversions

Video is a Sponsored Content ad format. This type of ad promotes video content that was originally posted on your LinkedIn Showcase Page or your LinkedIn Page. If you’d like to create video ad creatives without posting them on a LinkedIn Page, you can upload them directly to Campaign Manager.

Event ads

With LinkedIn Event ads, you can target a defined audience with your events. Sponsored Content ads are displayed in LinkedIn feeds on desktop and mobile devices and optimized to highlight key event details.

In order to run event ads, you need to select one of the following campaign objectives:

  • Brand awareness
  • Website visits
  • Engagement

The event ads you add to your campaign can be created from scratch or browse existing content, which includes previously created event ads as well as posts from your LinkedIn Page.

Text ads

Text ads consist of a headline, brief text, and an image. To achieve the right mix of volume and precision, customize your text ad based on location, demographics, skills, and interests.

Text ads support all levels of full funnel marketing. You can use this ad format for a variety of objective-based advertising options, including:

  • Brand awareness
  • Website visits
  • Website conversions

Text Ads may be placed on the right rail of a variety of LinkedIn desktop pages, including:

  • Homepage
  • Profile page
  • Search results page
  • Groups pages
  • LinkedIn inbox
  • People You May Know page
  • Who’s Viewed My Profile page

Message ads

Sponsored Messaging ads are native message ads and conversation ads served through LinkedIn Messaging. When LinkedIn members are active anywhere on the site, these ads appear on desktop and mobile devices. 

Sponsored Messaging can only be sent to a member a certain number of times in a given timeframe. It’s a way to maintain the member experience and make sure your ads reach the members in your target audience quickly. 

Therefore, it’s unlikely the same member will see your ad twice in a short period of time. Both message ads and conversation ads are cost-per-send/cost-per-display.

Message ads support all levels of full-funnel marketing and can be used in conjunction with these objective-based advertising options:

  • Website visits
  • Lead generation
  • Website conversions

Conversation ads can be used with these objective-based advertising options:

  • Brand awareness
  • Website visits
  • Lead generation
  • Website conversions

Using the Conversation Ad Flowchart, you can compare how many button clicks your conversation ads received for each action. You can optimize the performance of your conversation ads by understanding engagement with each path. 

With engagement metrics, you can measure the effectiveness of your ad campaign and understand your audience better.

Follower ads

On desktop, follower ads encourage members to follow your LinkedIn or Showcase Page. The ads feature your company’s logo alongside your member’s profile photo. The ad copy also includes your company’s name plus your member’s first name.

Follower ads support the top and middle levels of funnel marketing. The following objective-based advertising options can use this ad format:

  • Brand awareness
  • Engagement

In ad campaigns with Engagement as the objective, a follow button is automatically added. Your ad can include a call-to-action for existing followers.

Spotlight ads

If members click on your spotlight ads, they will be taken directly to your website or landing page. On desktop devices, these dynamic ads are customized based on individual LinkedIn profiles, including profile photos, company names, and job titles.

Spotlight ads support all levels of full funnel marketing. Advertisers can use this format for a variety of objective-based advertising options, such as:

  • Brand Awareness
  • Website Visits
  • Job Applicants

Job ads

Job ads are dynamic ad formats that provide you with the ability to personalize ads to top talent, enticing them to apply to your company. By targeting LinkedIn members with job opportunities based on their skill set and experience, you can increase the number of qualified candidates who see your job postings.

There are three types of dynamic job ads. Profile data determines which format will be served to each member of the target audience.

  • A member of the target audience who qualifies for three or more positions at your organization will see your jobs ad with three of the available positions (shown in jobs of interest format).
  • They’ll see the jobs ad with one job suggestion if the member matches one or two of your current job openings.
  • Members without suitable job matches will see the jobs ad that directs them to your company’s job page to explore.

Document ads

A LinkedIn document ad is a type of Sponsored Content that allows advertisers to promote documents directly in LinkedIn feeds. The document content can be read and downloaded without leaving LinkedIn.

Among the types of documents are e-books, case studies, white papers, infographics, and presentations.

Members can download documents when they view them. No matter what format the document is in, it will download as a PDF.

The following objectives are available for document ads:

  • Brand awareness
  • Engagement
  • Lead generation

How to create a LinkedIn ad

When you are ready to create a new ad campaign, follow these steps:

Step 1: Create a LinkedIn page if you don’t already have one

It is required to create Sponsored Content and Sponsored Messaging Ads. Check out our guide to LinkedIn for business if you need help setting it up.

Step 2. Log in to Campaign Manager or create an account

Click the Work icon on the right side of the top navigation bar, and then click Advertise from the drop-down list that appears.

The advertising start page shown in Figure 1 (see below) appears. After you set up your account information, this page will describe the features and operation of the different ads available.

Figure 1: LinkedIn Advertising start page

If this is the first time you’re creating an ad, do the following:

  • Define your ad account name.
  • Select your currency.
  • (Optional) Specify whether you have a Company or Showcase page to associate to your account.
  • Click the Create Account button to start your ad account.

If this is your first ad campaign, click the Create Campaign Group button from your Campaign Manager page to continue.

You’re creating a new campaign, so select either Create a New Group or Create Campaign Group (if you see a list of existing campaign groups on your screen) to create a specific ad campaign group. 

You can use up to 90 characters to define the name of your campaign group, so try to create a name that summarizes the goals or target audience of your ad campaign. Add some detail in the name in case you decide to run multiple campaigns to test the effectiveness of your message (for example, Sample Campaign A, B, and C).

Draft is recommended only if you want to build out your ad campaign without the risk of ads running before you’re ready.

Decide when your ads will run. You have the following choices:

  • Run Continuously from a Start Date: Ads will start running on the date you assign in the next field and will keep running until you stop the campaign.
  • Set a Start and End date: Ads will start running on the designated start date and finish running on the designated end date, regardless of the ad budget.
  • Set a Start and End Date with a Budget: Ads will start running on the designated start date and finish running either on the designated end date or when the ad budget is depleted.

Step 3: Define your ad campaign objective

LinkedIn provides a number of options for setting up an ad campaign, such as building brand awareness, gaining user consideration (through website visits, engagement, or video views), and generating conversions (through lead generation, website conversions, or job applicants).

If you’re unsure what objective is for you, roll your cursor over each objective name, and you’ll see a pop-up window explaining that objective with more information and examples.

Step 4: Use the targeting filters to come up with your ideal target audience for your ad.

You can target potential ad viewers using the information LinkedIn has for their account. You can target based on location, job title, company name, company size, and other elements including field of study, skills, degrees, group affiliations, or demographic information such as gender or age.

LinkedIn separates their filters into two categories: location (‘Where is your target audience?’) and attributes (‘Who is your target audience?’). Click the pencil icon to the right of the Locations header, and use the Search box that appears to choose one or more locations where your target audience resides. Then click the Close link.

Next, scroll down to the “Who is your target audience?” section. You can use the Search box in that section to find attributes of your target audience, or click Audience Attributes to display a list of the most common attributes: Company, Demographics, Education, Job Experience, and Interests and Traits. 

Click any of those attributes to set your target audience criteria. As you add criteria, the target audience size is updated on the right side of the screen. Repeat the process until you’ve defined all your criteria.

Step 5: Select an ad format

Click the button for the ad format type you want to create. The ad options include single image ad, carousel image ad, video ad, Follower ad, and conversation ad. (The objective you select helps set your ad format options.) For this example, you walk through creating a single image ad. The conversation ad is basically a targeted email campaign that appears in the inbox of LinkedIn users; the rest of the ads show up in the users’ news feeds.

When LinkedIn asks for the targeted Company or Showcase page that the ad will promote, enter that information in the box provided.

Step 6: Set the budget and schedule for your campaign

You can set a daily budget, a lifetime budget, or a combination of both. LinkedIn asks you to define the budget(s) in the boxes provided.

As for schedule, depending on your budget choice, you can run the campaign continuously from a start date that you designate or you can choose a custom start date and end date. Then scroll down and set a manual bid amount that you want to spend. You’re bidding against other advertisers; LinkedIn gives the highest bidder the best opportunities to show his or her ad to LinkedIn users. 

Bid appropriately: Too low of an amount means very low visibility, but too high of an amount means your budget will be depleted too quickly. LinkedIn prompts you with suggested amounts based on what similar advertisers paid.

You can also install a tracking tag in your ad at this phase of the ad creation process to track conversions. Click the Add Conversions link and follow the prompts to measure your conversions, which you can analyze after your campaign runs on LinkedIn.

Step 7: Start building your ad

When the Ads page for your campaign appears, you can start designing the ad layout and copy for your campaign.

Afterwards, you can provide the details that make up the advertisement you plan to run.

You’ll be asked to define the following while seeing a preview of your ad as you write it:

  1. Enter the name of your ad. You are limited to a 255-character name, which is used only so you can keep track of your different ad creations. The ad name will never be visible to your ad customers.
  2. Enter the message copy in the Introductory text box. The recommended length is no more than 150 characters, to avoid a user’s device automatically truncating your ad. Therefore, choose your words carefully. LinkedIn will automatically shorten URLs for you to make the ad copy more efficient. You can write up to 600 characters if you need to, but just realize that not everything will be visible on some devices.
  3. Decide where the ad will take people. You can choose your LinkedIn page (and then define which specific page, such as a Company page) or an external website. For the latter, define the exact URL in the Destination URL text box provided.
  4. Provide an image with your ad. Click the Upload button to upload the image from your computer.
  5. Enter the headline of your ad. You are limited to a 200-character headline.
  6. Enter the ad description. You have 600 characters for the full description, which gives more information to users who will view your ad. The description may not be fully visible to all LinkedIn users, so the Introductory Text box should have the core message that any viewer needs to see. That said, having a full description can only help your ad conversion results.
  7. If you’re designing a call to action ad, choose a call to action. From the drop-down list, choose a call to action that matches your goals for the ad, such as lead generation, website conversion, or job applications.
  8. Click the Create button at the bottom right of the screen to save this ad to your campaign.

You can create up to 15 variations of the same ad to see which combination of text and image gets the most attention. 

Step 8: Provide payment information

If you are a first-time user, provide a credit card for LinkedIn to bill when your ad campaign is live.

LinkedIn provides a summary and asks you to enter a valid credit card so it can bill your card after people start clicking your ad or LinkedIn displays your ad with enough impressions to incur a charge on your ad campaign. 

After you enter your payment method, scroll down and click the Review Order button so LinkedIn can store that payment information. After your ad account is established with LinkedIn, you won’t see this step again when you build an ad.

How to review your LinkedIn ad campaign performance

After your ad campaign is approved and starts appearing on your audience’s LinkedIn web pages, the LinkedIn Campaign Manager will be able to start displaying relevant information about the performance of your ad campaign.

The Performance page summarizes the following aspects of your campaign:

  • Money spent
  • Number of impressions
  • Number of clicks
  • Number of leads (LinkedIn members who submit their information in response to your ad)
  • Number of social actions (likes, comments, shares, and follows)
  • Number of conversions (people who clicked your ad and performed your desired action)

You can also choose a metric, such as Clicks, Impressions, or Average CPC, by looking for the Show Graph For header and then clicking the drop-down arrow to its right to choose your metric. You’ll see a line graph showing the data as far back as the most recent day, week, or month of the campaign, or the life of the campaign.

LinkedIn also provides a Click Demographics screen, available by clicking the Demographics link under your LinkedIn Ad Account name on the Performance screen. This screen aggregates the data for each person who clicked on your ad in terms of job function, industry, title, seniority, and other factors. This way, you can see if your ad is appealing to a specific demographic. This data is especially useful if you decide to revise your campaign.

At any time, you can go back and edit your existing ad campaign by clicking the LinkedIn Campaign Manager logo at the top of the screen and scrolling down to your ad campaign list. 

Then change the ad elements (the image and text of your ad), the audience (the targeting filters you defined), the bid amount and budget for your ad, and more. After you save your changes, your ad campaign is updated with the newest choices you made.

LinkedIn ads best practices

1. Drop the worst performing variations

If you created multiple variations of your ad, go back and delete or disable the ones providing the lowest clickthrough rates. 

This will raise the effectiveness of your overall campaign and increase the impressions because LinkedIn’s algorithms will be more likely to serve up a higher-performing campaign so it earns more money for that advertising slot.

2. Identify your target audience

LinkedIn requires you to specify where you want your ads to appear. When setting up your ad campaign, only your desired location is mandatory. You can go broad by selecting only the country, state or province, or you can go granular by selecting the city or metropolitan area.

By adding company details (such as industry or size), demographics, education, employment experience, and interests, you will be able to refine your target audience further.

3. Consider using a face as your ad image

Other advertisers have mentioned that the best-performing ads they’ve experienced were ads that used a picture of someone’s face as opposed to a logo or product image. 

You’re limited to a 50 pixels-by-50 pixels image, so don’t use a complex or text-laden image. You can best connect to your audience with a visual image that’s inviting and personal, such as someone’s face.

4. Write an effective call to action

Although you’re limited to only 75 characters, you should specify for readers to click the link, not just describe what you’re offering. 

At a minimum, give readers a good idea of what they are receiving or how your offer can improve their life with a tangible benefit.

5. Test out new content

After you’ve been running a campaign for a while, try out new content in your ad. It’ll catch the attention of people who have already acted or dismissed your previous ad and raise interest and interaction.

6. Pay attention to the comments

If you run a sponsored update, pay attention to the comments it receives. If you want your sponsored update to perform better, be sure to like the update yourself, have your employees engage with the update, and answer any comments from customers. That interaction and involvement will raise the update’s visibility and, I hope, gain you further engagement and a positive brand image.

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