LinkedIn is a highly valuable tool to network with like-minded professionals. But here's something we don't talk about as much as we should: LinkedIn is also a highly useful inbound marketing platform.
It might seem a little bit intimidating. You have enough on your plate … do you really need to figure out another way to create targeted content? Actually, yes. You have more power at your disposal with LinkedIn than you might realize.
That's because LinkedIn has a powerful ads platform. If you're already using pay-per-click (PPC) techniques to power your presence on Facebook, Twitter, or Google, consider yourself lucky — you can add LinkedIn to that list, too. This is especially easy to do if you're using the HubSpot ads tool.
But if you're new to LinkedIn ads, fear not — we've put together a step-by-step guide to setting up your first LinkedIn ad campaign. Bookmark this post and refer to it when you're ready to get started.
How to Advertise on LinkedIn
- Create your LinkedIn ad campaign.
- Set your LinkedIn ad campaign objective.
- Designate your LinkedIn ad audience.
- Decide on your LinkedIn ad format.
- Choose your LinkedIn ad placement.
- Set your ad budget and schedule.
- Don't forget conversion tracking.
- Build your LinkedIn ad.
Advertising on LinkedIn is a two-step process: 1) setting up your LinkedIn campaign, and 2) creating your LinkedIn ad(s).
In this section, we walk through how to set up a campaign and build your ad(s) — plus some best practices and tips for each.
1. Create your LinkedIn ad campaign.
Your LinkedIn advertising campaigns will live on a platform separate from the LinkedIn you see every day — the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions platform. Visit this page to get started with your campaign, and select Create Ad.
From there, you'll be prompted to create a LinkedIn Campaign Manager account (if you haven’t yet). Make sure you enter your associated LinkedIn Company Page if you have one.
Next, you’ll be taken to your member dashboard. If you haven’t entered your billing information, you’ll need to do so to unlock your account. (Don't worry — you won't be charged until your campaign is live, and from there, you'll be charged periodically for ad clicks and other engagements.)
On your dashboard — or "Campaign Manager," as it's formally called — you'll see a call-to-action (CTA) to Create Campaign. Click that button, and you'll be redirected to a page where you can start setting up your campaign.
Note: As of 2019, LinkedIn introduced a “new objective-based campaign creation experience”. We’ll be covering that new process in this article — to learn more, check out this page.
First, indicate a Campaign Group and name your campaign. Campaign Groups help you organize your campaign. You can leave the Default Campaign Group as-is or create a new Group.
As for the campaign name, these are only visible internally, so we recommend you choose a highly informative name — especially if you have a few different folks working on the campaign.
For example, if I was doing a test to determine the best type of demographic targeting, I might use the title, "Unicorn Food Ad Test — North America, 18 to 24, Female." That name describes exactly who I'm targeting, without having to view its details. Compare this to something like "Unicorn Food Test 1," which doesn't indicate anything about who the ad is targeting.
Once you choose your Campaign Group and name, you can start setting up your LinkedIn campaign.
2. Set your LinkedIn ad campaign objective.
First, choose your campaign objective. Your objective is what you want people to do when they see your ads. According to LinkedIn, choosing an objective helps them “customize your campaign creation, deliver the best ROI for your stated goal, and show you relevant reporting.”
There are three overarching campaign themes: Awareness, Consideration, and Conversions. Under those themes, some available campaign objectives are:
Website visits will drive traffic to your website and landing pages. According to LinkedIn, this type of campaign will also boost brand awareness (at least while that objective option remains unavailable).
Engagement will increase engagement on your content and boost followers on your LinkedIn Company Page.
Video views will increase exposure of your videos to people who are likely to engage with them.
Lead generation will show a LinkedIn lead generation form with pre-filled LinkedIn profile data to those LinkedIn users most likely to engage with the form.
3. Designate your LinkedIn ad audience.
Next, choose the parameters of your target audience. Targeting who sees your ad can help it fulfill its campaign objective — the more specific and relevant it is to your audience, the better it’ll perform. LinkedIn allows you to target according to a few different categories, which we've outlined below.
You don't have to use all of these options, but the more specific your targeting criteria, the more relevant it's likely to be to the audience you select — and, therefore, the more likely you are to have a better ROI.
First, answer a few basic questions, like the language in which you'd like your ad to appear. It can be written in any of the 20 languages LinkedIn supports, including Spanish, French, and German.
You must also select at least one location for your ads. Depending on your business, more specific targeting may be helpful. You can select a location as broad as North America, or as specific as the San Francisco Bay Area. Consider excluding any nearby locations from your campaign so your budget isn’t wasted on locations where your ad isn’t relevant.
Next, click + Add new targeting criteria.
If your target audience has a certain employer, you can target it directly — even by name. You don't need to have specific names in mind, though; LinkedIn allows you to also target companies based on the industry (like Legal, Non-Profit, or Finance) and company size.
If your audience is heavily skewed toward one gender and/or age group, target your ad toward them.
If you are looking to target people who have a particular educational background, you can target your ads based on schools. For example, perhaps you're trying to target a certain alumni association — you can reach out to it through a LinkedIn ad. You can also customize the targeting according to the field of study and degree.
If your product or service is best for CFOs, targeting only people with "CFO" in their titles will increase your conversions, and, ultimately, save you money. You can choose specific job titles or choose from job functions, seniority, and years of experience. From the CEO of manufacturing companies to the entry-level associates at an accounting firm, you can target a specific group of people for your ads.
Your target audience may also have a certain skill set, such as email marketing, financial planning, or risk management. Think about what your target audience does well or where it aspires to excel. Then, use the ad to target people with similar capabilities.
One of LinkedIn's best attributes is the ability to join groups with like-minded professionals in which you can discuss industry trends and topics. If your audience is very vocal on a topic, or you're trying to gain thought leadership in a certain area, this type of targeting might be a good option for you.
Once you establish your ad targeting criteria, you can save it as a template for future campaigns. You can also enable LinkedIn to expand your audience to include people similar to your target audience.
4. Decide on your LinkedIn ad format.
Next, choose your ad format. In the next section, we unpack the different types of LinkedIn ads you can create as part of your campaign.
When you toggle between the ad types, you’ll see that the Forecasted Results box on the right-hand side will change. This feature analyzes your campaign parameters (bid, budget, targeting, start/end dates, etc.) and takes into account similar campaigns and advertisers. It also simulates the ad auction to generate the numbers displayed.
Keep an eye on this box as you choose your LinkedIn ad type. If you're first starting out, deciding what ad type to choose might come down to your budget. Outline your priorities, and then you can decide which type works best for you.
Additionally, some ad types require you to link your LinkedIn Company Page, and some tap into LinkedIn translation services.
5. Choose your LinkedIn ad placement.
Next, decide whether you want your ad to be displayed on the LinkedIn Audience Network, which gives your campaign more reach and exposure among LinkedIn’s third-party platforms and sites. Note: This option isn’t available for every ad type.
You can also choose to exclude or block certain categories, applications, and sites in the Network if you so choose.
6. Set your ad budget and schedule.
Next, set up the budget, scheduling, and bidding options that work best for you.
Set a daily budget for what works best for your company's marketing spending. Before investing a lot into one campaign, test and measure the success of each campaign and ad variation. You don't want to put thousands of dollars, for example, into an ad that doesn't resonate with your target audience.
Let's say you're the VP of Marketing at a high-end floral company. You assume that most of your target market is made up of soon-to-be brides, so you direct your LinkedIn ads to bridal groups. But after spending thousands of dollars, you only generate 10% of the leads you were hoping for.
Your subsequent research shows this was the wrong move, and you later learn that people near your store who are on LinkedIn are actually looking for flowers for corporate events. It would have been nice to know that before spending a large amount of your budget on LinkedIn ads, right?
That said, because of its extensive targeting opportunities, LinkedIn ads can successfully target niche markets. But the cautionary experimentation is crucial to do early on — if you observe a campaign performing well, then you can put a larger budget toward it.
Choose a date for your campaign to start. You can indicate for your campaign to be shown continuously or ‘til an end date.
In this section, the three options you have are:
Automated bid, which allows LinkedIn to determine what amount will maximize your campaign objective and whatever option you choose (Clicks, Impressions, or Conversions).
Maximum cost-per-click (CPC) bid, where you'll be charged each time someone clicks on your ad. LinkedIn will suggest a bid range depending on your budget and the competition for your ads — the more advertisers bidding on a similar campaign, the higher your bid will need to be. This bid is the maximum you will be charged. If the current rate is lower than your max bid, you will only be charged the current rate.
Maximum pay-per-1,000 Impressions (CPM) bid, where you’ll be charged a certain amount each time your ad is viewed by every 1,000 people on LinkedIn. This option is unavailable if you’re using the LinkedIn Audience Network option.
Deciding on the best maximum bid can be tricky. When deciding between CPC and CPM, think about your end goal. Are you trying to get as many people as possible to see your ad to help with something like a branding campaign? If so, CPM might be your best option.
On the other hand, if you want more people to click on your ads to drive traffic to your website or generate new leads, CPC might be better for you.
As for your optimal maximum bid, some trial and error might be necessary. LinkedIn will give you a suggested bid, which is a good place to start. Then, think about when your audience is most likely online. You'll want to bid higher during that particular time to be sure that your ads are the ones being seen.
And make sure LinkedIn is actually the best place to reach them, too — different populations use different types of social media. Play around with your bids and see when you get the most return for your dollars spent.
7. Don't forget conversion tracking.
Lastly, you have the option to set up conversion tracking for your LinkedIn campaign, which will track and measure the actions people take after clicking on your ads.
Conversion tracking is an optional part of setting up your LinkedIn advertising campaign but is highly valuable for your business.
If you choose to set up conversion tracking, click + Add conversions.
A new window will pop up, where you’ll name your conversion, choose your conversion settings, and decide how you’ll track the conversions. Note: The information on the right-hand side of the window is super helpful — it’ll answer any questions you have and walk you through the process.
For more help on implementing and managing your LinkedIn Conversions, visit their help page here.
Bravo! You’ll officially set up your LinkedIn advertising campaign … but you’re not done yet. When you’re ready to move on, click “Save.” Beware: Your objective and ad format cannot be changed once you save, so be sure about your choices before moving forward.
8. Build your LinkedIn ad.
This section corresponds to what type of LinkedIn ad you chose for your campaign. Once you establish the basic parameters for your ad in step one, you'll be prompted to start building it and choose how LinkedIn will display and rotate your ad variations — if you create more than one.
To get started, click Create new ad.
A screen will pop up with the title “Create a new [Your chosen ad type] for this campaign” on which you'll create the copy for your ad, pair it with an image, and preview the different layout options.
Of course, there are a few guidelines around the copy that we suggest:
Ad image, which is the artwork or graphic that your audience will see for your ad. It must be 100x100 pixels and uploaded as a .jpg or .png file that is 2MB or smaller.
Ad headline, which is the main message your audience will see. It cannot be more than 25 characters.
Ad description, which is the body of your ad. It can be up to 75 characters long and should be relevant both to the person viewing the ad and the offer or page to which you're sending them.
Destination URL, which is where your audience will go when they click your ad. Double check that the URL is accurate.
Once you input this information, you’ll see it reflected in the Preview box to the right.
Once you click Create, you’ll be directed back to the previous Campaign Manager screen. From there, you can create more ads and, eventually, review and submit your order. Note: LinkedIn does review every submitted campaign order, so don’t expect to see your ads published right away.
To see the best results for your ads, consider creating a different ad for each of your buyer personas and tweak the copy accordingly. For example, when promoting a book to college professors, leading the title with the words "College Professor's Guide to …” may generate a higher CTR than generic, un-targeted headlines and copy.
Here are a few of our best copywriting tips for LinkedIn ads.
Including an actionable CTA within your ad copy will also help you improve your ad's click-through rate (CTR). Consider asking people to "Download your e-book now," or "Click now for free samples" instead of writing copy that's devoid of actionable next steps.
Incorporate your value proposition into your ad copy — this can make people more likely to click on your ad. By boasting something like "20% off your first purchase" or "Clearance sale ends today — Shop now," you're sending a clear signal of what someone will specifically gain when he or she clicks your ad.
Don't be afraid to test your ad copy. You can create multiple variations of your ad in each campaign, which allow you to test different images and copy within ads to find what works best for your audience.
Types of LinkedIn Ads
- Sponsored Content
- Message Ads
- Dynamic Ads
- Text Ads
As we said above, deciding on what type of LinkedIn ad is best for your campaign can come down to many factors: budget, audience, campaign objective — just to name a few.
When building your LinkedIn ads, you have four main types from which to choose. Within those formats, you can choose different formats based on your ad content and purpose.
Sponsored Content shows up in your audience's news feed among organic LinkedIn content.
These ads are similar to promoted posts that blend into social media feeds. Sponsored Content is available in three formats:
Single image ads, which feature one image
Carousel ads, which feature two or more images
Video ads, which feature one video
This type of LinkedIn ad typically has the highest average cost-per-click (CPC).
Learn more about the advertising specifications for Sponsored Content according to LinkedIn.
Message ads are delivered to your target audience’s LinkedIn inbox.
With this type of LinkedIn ad, you can send content directly to your audience from a personal account and better measure engagement based on recipient response and action.
Learn more about the advertising specifications for Message Ads according to LinkedIn.
Dynamic Ads are personalized ads that change content based on which audience member is viewing them. This type of LinkedIn ad uses member personal data to tailor its creative content.
(Each LinkedIn member sees his or her own personal data; data isn't shared with other members.)
Dynamic Ads are available in three formats, which are only available on the LinkedIn desktop platform:
Follower ads, which promote your LinkedIn Company Page
Spotlight ads, which promote a special offering
Job ads, which promote open jobs
Learn more about advertising specifications for Dynamic Ads according to LinkedIn.
4. Text Ads
Text Ads show up on the right column or top of the page on LinkedIn.
They're the simplest type of LinkedIn ad but are still effective for boosting awareness and reaching your audience. Pay per click or per impression for Text Ads.
Learn more about advertising specifications for Text Ads according to LinkedIn.
LinkedIn Ads Best Practices
- Analyze your LinkedIn ad campaign.
- Look at each campaign click-through rate.
- Tweak one variable at a time.
- Get familiar with your audience.
- Qualify LinkedIn ad leads with post-click reporting.
Social ad campaigns can always be improved. Remember, your audience and content are always changing — as well as the platform itself. Here are some best practices to optimize your LinkedIn ad campaign.
Tip: Set a reminder for yourself to analyze and optimize your campaigns each month.
1. Analyze your LinkedIn ad campaign.
LinkedIn makes it easy to track your progress in the Campaign Manager dashboard (under “Campaign Performance”), where you'll see various charts that measure performance like clicks, expenditures, and CTR. You can also keep track of conversions in the graphs toward the bottom of the dashboard.
When you finish setting up your first campaign, you'll see a lot of "0"s at first. Don’t worry, that's only because your campaign is new (and don’t forget that LinkedIn usually has to approve your ads before they go live).
LinkedIn Ads is available within all HubSpot Marketing Hub Professional and Enterprise accounts! Track visitor and contact engagement, run reports on closed-loop marketing, sync leads from LinkedIn lead generation forms, and MORE — all within your HubSpot account.
2. Look at each campaign click-through rate.
Is one campaign outperforming the other(s)? If so, you may want to pause the less successful campaign(s).
LinkedIn will automatically display less successful campaigns with lower frequency, so it makes sense to minimize any resources spent on them. Instead, putting more resources into successful ad variations and campaigns is more likely to accomplish your marketing goals.
3. Tweak one variable at a time.
Just because your LinkedIn ad is under-performing doesn’t mean you need to scrap the whole thing. Test different variations of the same ad to see what factor is contributing to or hindering its success.
Edit the copy in your headline, change your feature image, tweak the target audience attributes, or update your bids — just don’t do these all at the same time or you won’t know which one is the fix.
4. Get — and stay — familiar with your audience.
Take a refresher on your target audience every month. Check out your buyer persona and conduct new research on the audience attributes that might need to be tweaked on your campaign.
Update these attributes regularly so the very best people are always seeing — and hopefully engaging — with your ads.
5. Qualify LinkedIn ad leads with post-click reporting.
Once your ads are running and people begin clicking on them, it's time to determine if they're actually driving qualified traffic to your website. That isn't something LinkedIn can tell you, so you’ll need to do some closed-loop reporting on these campaigns to get more details on the makeup of this traffic.
How can you figure that out? It's all about "gated" offers and forms — when someone clicks on your ad and lands on your website, “gating” the content you are offering with a lead form will help you collect data that qualifies that person as a good lead (or not). Connect that lead capture form to your customer relationship management (CRM) software, so that once the information is imported, your sales team can act upon them.
But don’t neglect your LinkedIn ad campaigns in favor of the landing page form data in your CRM. Is the traffic to your website generated by LinkedIn ads qualified? Is it generating customers? If not, you might need to further optimize your campaigns.
For example, if your LinkedIn ads are targeting people in companies with 1 to 10 people, but you find that the majority of your closed deals are from leads with companies with 100 to 200 — stop paying to target those smaller companies on LinkedIn.
The targeting options we covered above allow you to change any of your criteria, so use it to your advantage.
Ready to Try a New Ad Strategy?
With the right amount of patience and strategy, LinkedIn ad campaigns can be a huge factor in your company's marketing success. LinkedIn has a very powerful advertising platform; don’t leave this off your social campaign marketing list.
A well-researched, optimized campaign has the potential to bring in thousands of new leads — and sales.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Originally published May 3, 2020 7:30:00 AM, updated January 19 2021