When it comes to pay-per-click (PPC) ads, Google is the undisputed heavyweight champion. In Q2 2012, Google racked up a 42% year-over-year increase in paid clicks.
But if you’re not Google -- so, pretty much all of us -- the odds of your PPC ad being seen and clicked on via a search just got 42% harder. Maybe more. That number doesn’t include the skyrocketing cost of PPC ads on Google, or the increased spending by big companies for whom bidding higher is easier than the typical small or mid-size business.
Still, all eyes are on the web. So to attract new business, especially if you’re a B2B player, you need alternative ways to reach customers. For B2B companies, increasingly, that means shifting some ad dollars to LinkedIn, the networking site for professionals that has garnered 175 million users (40 million in the U.S.) since 2002. Let's break down some of the benefits of using LinkedIn PPC ads, and dive into how you can use them effectively.
Why You Might Benefit From Using LinkedIn Ads
There are several benefits to moving some of your PPC marketing dollars to LinkedIn:
- The PPC ad program at LinkedIn is relatively new. That means fewer advertisers competing for users’ eyeballs, so your ads have a better chance of being seen.
- Better yet, LinkedIn’s PPC ads let you target specific job titles, job functions, industries, or company size, to name a few options -- you know, the people who are more likely to need what you sell. Whether you sell uniforms or janitorial services, LinkedIn lets you more narrowly target the people who buy those things. That’s powerful stuff compared to Google’s increasingly crowded, more expensive PPC landscape.
- As your inbound marketing initiatives gain traction and the percentage of new business you get from organic search results increases, doubling down by placing costly PPC ads alongside your free organic links makes less and less sense. When it’s the same set of eyes seeing your ad and your organic search result, there’s at least a 50-50 chance that users will click on the ad first, costing you money you may not have needed to spend. If your PPC ad is on LinkedIn, your reach is expanded.
How LinkedIn Ads Work
The general principle behind LinkedIn PPC ads works much the same as PPC ads on Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc. You target a demographic and location, then set a budget for individual clicks and total expenditure. Your ad then competes on LinkedIn pages with like-minded advertisers. LinkedIn also offers a program where you pay for ad impressions -- how many people are exposed to your ad.
LinkedIn requires a minimum budget of $10 per day and $2 per click (Google has no such minimums). There is also a one-time $5 activation fee to get your PPC account set up.
As with any marketing initiative, you’re going to want to closely monitor which ad campaigns and keywords are most effective. As a benchmark, LinkedIn says clickthrough rates above 0.025% are good.
Still, return on investment matters more than CTR, so even if your CTR is double that rate, unless you’re seeing more sales as a result of your investment, figure out what might be lacking -- the ads themselves, the cost-per-click, or some other factor adversely affecting your efforts.
Your LinkedIn Ad Choices (Lots), and What to Do With Them
Unlike search engines, LinkedIn offers several unique PPC advertising opportunities -- poll ads, social ads, 'Join Group' ads, and video ads. Since much of inbound marketing revolves around deepening the relationship between you and your leads and customers, these alternatives are worth considering. Here's a breakdown of what you could do in terms of paid LinkedIn ads:
- Poll Ads - As the name suggests, these let you conduct market research while creating awareness for your brand. You can uncover customer preferences, change perceptions about your company's thought leadership, and, because the poll results page is exclusively yours, your brand is all users see there.
- Join Group Ads - These help you deepen the connection between customers and your brand, position your brand as a thought leader, and provide an ongoing channel -- the LinkedIn Group -- through which you can keep the conversation going.
- Social Ads - With social ads, you can target buyers by using what LinkedIn knows about your social network and integrating them into their ads, a la Facebook. The ads integrate member activities and information into advertising. Highly controversial when first introduced in June 2011 because they co-opted users’ names and photos into the ads (implying their endorsement), LinkedIn quickly opted out of that practice for these ads.
- Video Ads - These are the latest offering from the LinkedIn advertising platform. The interface lets you use your YouTube videos or ads you create (in 300x250 format) in 30 second spots that bill and place the same as any of the other ads you place on LinkedIn.
Regardless of which type of PPC ads you place on LinkedIn, remember that all these usual best practices still apply:
Target the Right Audience
When building your ad campaigns, make your ads specific. Target by job function, seniority, geography, or group interests. After all, is your offer really applicable to everyone? Most likely not. Identify which offers are more identifiable with a CMO versus a CTO, for instance, to see higher returns on your ad spend.
Keep Your Messaging Consistent
With LinkedIn, you typically only pay on a cost-per-click basis, which means that you won't be charged for impressions. This is a great feature, because it means that users who clicked your ad saw something in your ad that sparked their interest. This also means, however, that they have a high expectation for your user experience So make it a good one! If your ad promises a free 30-day trial, don't have a free 7-day trial on your landing page. Whatever you say in your ad, be sure to have identical promises and offers on your landing page. Just do what you say you will. Good advice in general, really.
Identify and Provide Solutions to Customers’ Problems
LinkedIn ads are a form of display advertising. Even though they are highly targeted, they are still display. Users didn't "search" for anything about you on LinkedIn or ask to see your ad. This doesn't mean that they are opposed to seeing ads ... if they help them solve problems that are sticking in their craw. Doing that will help you increase your CTR significantly. For instance, if your product helps make sales teams more efficient, then make sure you target a sales director, call out the job title in the ad, and illuminate a problem that they most likely have, such as "how can you work your most qualified leads faster?"
Test & Track Results With Unique Landing Pages
Test, re-test, and test some more. Try different hero images, headlines, and copy on your landing pages. Also, be sure to use tracking software to ensure you can measure the success of your efforts. After all, if LinkedIn is working well for you, you'll want to know that, report on it, and then scale to the best of your ability.
Have you experimented with LinkedIn ads yet? How do they compare to Google PPC?