LinkedIn ads: the ultimate guide from zero to hero
LinkedIn ads are a powerful tool for all kinds of businesses. The platform has over 810 million users, with 65 million of them in decision-making positions.
While organic content is still the heart of any LinkedIn marketing strategy, running ads can help amplify your content’s reach and impact.
In this guide, we’ll dive into LinkedIn advertising, discussing everything from the different ad formats available, to creating a target audience, to measuring the success of your campaigns.
Table of contents
- How to get started advertising on LinkedIn
- Choosing the right LinkedIn ad types for your campaign
- The true cost of LinkedIn ads
- Measuring the success of your LinkedIn ad campaigns
- Best practices for LinkedIn advertising
- LinkedIn ad examples to inspire you
How to get started advertising on LinkedIn
Using the LinkedIn ads campaign manager
Start by signing into the LinkedIn Campaign Manager. The LinkedIn ads manager is where you can manage your LinkedIn advertising campaigns.
Before you get started with Campaign Manager, you need to create a LinkedIn account if you don’t have one yet; it takes just a few seconds to create one.
Enter your account name and select your currency. If you’re running ads on behalf of a business, link your campaign with a LinkedIn page.
Setting a relevant ad objective
Next, choose the objective for your ad campaign. Do you want more people to become aware about your business? Perhaps you want to attract more website visitors. Or maybe you want to capture more leads.
LinkedIn advertising gives you several objectives to choose from for three different stages of the sales funnel–awareness, consideration and conversions. At this stage, you can set the most relevant objective for a particular LinkedIn ads campaign.
If you’re an employer that’s advertising for an open position, you also have the option to set an objective to promote job opportunities.
Nailing your ad targeting
You can’t run a successful ad unless you’re targeting the right people. Make sure you have a clear idea of what kind of people you want your ad to reach. You have several targeting options for LinkedIn ads–whether you want to target people based on location, industry, company size, education, job function or skills.
You can even select multiple attributes at a time to further narrow down your targeting. You also have the option to exclude audiences with certain attributes that aren’t relevant to you.
Before you save your ad campaign, make sure you enable audience expansion so LinkedIn can expand and engage a new audience with your ad campaign. This option automatically includes people with similar attributes as the ones you’ve selected.
Choosing the right LinkedIn ad types for your campaign
LinkedIn offers several ad types and formats to help you promote your business in the best way possible. Let’s take a look at these ad types below:
LinkedIn sponsored content looks just like a regular post that you’d see on your feed except with a CTA button and a “promoted” label.
You can choose from five different formats of sponsored content — single image, carousel, video, event and document. It’s better to switch between the options every once in a while to compare their performances and see which one works best with your audience.
- Single image ads: These ads consist of a single image and are typically used to promote a product or service, increase brand awareness or drive website traffic.
- Video ads: These ads include video and are typically used to demonstrate how a product or service works, tell a brand story or increase engagement.
- Carousel ads: These ads include a series of images or videos that users can swipe through. Carousels are typically used to showcase multiple products, services or ideas, or tell a story in slideshow format.
- Event ads: These ads allow businesses to promote upcoming events like webinars, conferences and meetups. They include date, time and location details, and a call-to-action to register or attend the event.
- Document ads: These ads allow businesses to promote whitepapers, ebooks or case studies by displaying a preview of the document and linking to the full version. They’re typically used to generate leads and increase brand awareness.
Lead gen forms
LinkedIn’s lead gen forms let you easily capture leads without requiring users to leave the platform. You can add these forms to any sponsored content or message to collect names, emails and job titles.
The forms are pre-populated with users’ profile data, which encourages more people to sign up. You can also include custom questions in your forms to gather additional information about your prospects.
Once a user submits a form, their contact information is sent to your business and they’re also added as a new lead in LinkedIn’s CRM.
LinkedIn also lets you send paid direct messages to targeted users. In fact, using this ad tactic alongside sponsored content can boost your clickthrough rates by over 70%.
There are two sponsored message ad formats you can choose from:
- Message ads: This ad format lets you send personalized and targeted messages to users with a single call-to-action (CTA.) You can also add lead gen forms to your message ads to easily capture leads.
- Conversation ads: This ad format lets you add multiple CTAs to your messages to help prospects engage with your business and access targeted offers and links.
Quick tip: To improve your sponsored messages, you can personalize them with your audiences’ names and job titles using LinkedIn macros.
Text and dynamic ads
LinkedIn also offers special ad options that are a bit different from regular sponsored content. These include text, spotlight and follower ads. Let’s take a look at each one below.
- Text ads: Pay-per-click (PPC) text ads appear on the right-hand side of a desktop screen. They include a small image along with a short headline and blurb. They may be less prominent than sponsored content but can still be very effective depending on your campaign goal.
- Spotlight ads: These are dynamic ads that are personalized for each individual profile. Spotlight ads link back to your website or landing page, and are a great way to share insightful, thought leadership content.
- Follower ads: These dynamic ads are also personalized, but the goal is to get you more followers on your LinkedIn company page.
The true cost of LinkedIn ads
The average cost-per-click (CPC) on LinkedIn is between $5-6.
But the actual cost of LinkedIn ads depends on factors like the type of ad, targeting, budget and the campaign’s performance.
The pricing system for ads can also vary.
For example, sponsored content is generally priced on a CPC or cost-per-mille (CPM) basis, while sponsored messages are typically priced on a cost-per-send (CPS) basis.
Targeting options, such as demographic and job title targeting, can also affect the cost of LinkedIn ads. The more specific the targeting, the more expensive the ad will be.
Additionally, if your campaign is performing well and achieving the desired results, the cost-per-conversion may be lower, making the campaign more cost-effective.
Keeping this in mind, it’s important to set a budget and measure the ROI to ensure your ad costs don’t add up and jeopardize your financial goals.
Setting up your ad budget and schedule
A big part of running ads on LinkedIn is setting a budget for your campaigns. This helps you control the total cost of advertising on the platform.
LinkedIn offers three budget options to control your ad spend:
- Daily budget: This option lets you specify the average amount you want to spend on your ad per day. You can choose between a continuous schedule or a set schedule for your daily budget.
- Lifetime budget: This option lets you specify the total amount you want to spend on your campaign from start to finish. LinkedIn will then automatically adjust the daily budget to deliver optimal results. The daily spend can vary depending on factors like traffic, seasonality and bid type.
- Combination: You can also set both daily and lifetime budgets for your campaign. This will help you control the total cost as well as your daily spending. However, you can only select a continuous schedule for this type of budget strategy.
Once you’ve specified the budget for your ad, you also need to set the campaign schedule. The schedule will determine the lifetime of your ad and also help pace your spending.
The scheduling options you have will vary depending on your budget type.
- Continuous schedule: Run your campaign continuously from a start date. The campaign will end once your budget has been entirely consumed. You can use this option for all three budget types.
- Set schedule: Run your campaign from a specified start date to end date. You can use a set schedule for both lifetime and daily budget options, but not if you’re using a combination of the two.
Understanding LinkedIn bid types
LinkedIn advertising is based on an online auction system where your ad competes with other ads for placement. To win, you must place competitive bids for your ads.
You can choose from three bidding types in the Campaign Manager:
- Manual: This bidding strategy lets you set a specific bid amount for a key result. This option can charge by clicks, sends, impressions or views, depending on your ad format, objective and goal. Manual bidding gives you more control over the bid amount, but you need to track the performance of the campaign and adjust your bid as needed.
- Cost-cap: This bidding strategy lets you set a maximum cost per key result. This allows the system to automatically adjust your bids to achieve optimal results while staying within your campaign’s budget.
- Maximum delivery: This is a automated bidding strategy that uses machine learning to set and adjust bids while utilizing your entire budget. The goal is to maximize key results and use your total budget most efficiently.
Measuring the success of your LinkedIn ad campaigns
You don’t run LinkedIn ads no reason. You’d do so with the hope of getting some return on your investment. This makes it crucial to monitor and measure your ad success so you can see whether your investment is paying off.
Perhaps you might even notice that some types of LinkedIn ads are working better than others and you’ll want to shift your focus towards those. You might also find that some ads aren’t delivering any results at all, so you’d want to stop setting money toward something that doesn’t work.
The LinkedIn ads manager comes with a robust reporting feature that lets you track LinkedIn analytics and metrics to understand your ad performance. This includes metrics like clicks, impressions, cost per click, click-through rate, cost per impression, conversions, cost per conversion, leads and cost per lead.
You can even track your performance with different audience demographics in the ads manager. For instance, you can view how people performing a certain job function responded to your ads in terms of clicks, impressions and click-through rate.
Looking to dive deeper? Sprout Social’s LinkedIn management tool can help you dig into the good stuff, visualize key metrics and keep an eye on performance and trends data.
Best practices for LinkedIn advertising
Finally, let’s walk you through some LinkedIn best practices that will help you run successful ad campaigns on the platform.
Maintain the correct LinkedIn ad specs
Your LinkedIn ads need to instantly attract and draw in your target audience and you can’t do that without outstanding visuals. When creating visuals for your ads, make sure you follow the proper LinkedIn ad specs and sizes.
The specs vary for each LinkedIn ad type and ad format. Here are the basics:
Single image ads
- Should be in JPG or PNG format.
- File size should be 5MB or smaller.
- Keep headlines under 70 characters to avoid truncation.
- Keep descriptions under 100 characters to avoid truncation.
- Images display at 1200 x 627 pixels and should be at least 400x in width.
- Use 2-10 cards per ad.
- Individual cards should not be larger than 10MB.
- LinkedIn recommends using 1080 x 1080 pixels with an aspect ratio of 1:1 for individual images.
- Keep introductory text under 150 characters and two lines to avoid truncation.
- Character limits below ads are either 45 characters maximum, or 30 characters with a lead gen CTA button.
- Keep it under 15 seconds for better engagement (though LinkedIn allows up to 30 minutes of video ads).
- File size should be between 75KB and 200MB
- Your video should be in MP4 format running at less than 30 frames per second.
- Audio size should be less than 64KHz.
Multiple aspect ratios and quality options are available with varying requirements. Check out the full LinkedIn ad specs for video ads to learn more.
- Banner creative should be 300×250 pixels.
- It should be no larger than 40KB.
- It should be in JPG, non-animated GIF or PNG (without flash) format.
- Add up to three links using a maximum of 70 characters for anchor text.
- Message text should be no more than 1,500 characters.
- Subject should be no longer than 60 characters.
- Ad image should be 100×100 pixels
- It should be in JPG or PNG format
- File size cannot be larger than 2MB
- Keep headlines under 25 characters
- Keep descriptions under 75 characters
Note that there are five different sizes and ad specs for text ads. There’s also a whole bunch of LinkedIn ad size and specs for dynamic ads like follower and spotlight ads that are tailored to individual users depending on which format you choose.
For even better results in lead generation through your LinkedIn ads, some experts also recommend using colors that contrast with the platform’s blue and white colors in your visuals. This will give your ad an instant pop, allowing you to effectively draw in your target audience.
Support your ads with a strong organic brand
Running ads alone does not guarantee leads and conversions.
You also need a powerful organic strategy in place to pique your audiences’ interest, build trust and boost the impact of your paid campaigns.
Along with investing in ads, regularly share valuable and engaging content to establish your business as a thought leader. Create a well-designed company page and use consistent branding to look authentic and high-quality.
Don’t forget to engage with your audience — respond to comments and messages, and welcome both positive and negative feedback.
Finally, track analytics to understand the performance of your organic content. This will help guide your ad campaigns and set your future content up for success.
Keep testing and optimizing
Based on the insights collected from your performance tracking efforts, you’ll uncover some excellent opportunities and ideas to improve your ads.
Run A/B tests on different LinkedIn ad types, ad creatives, ad copy and CTAs. Find out what resonates with your audience and use that to further improve your ad performance.
Additionally, you might even want to use A/B testing to optimize your ad targeting. Make slight alterations to your targeting criteria to identify which audiences are most responsive to your ads. This will eventually help you perfect your LinkedIn ad targeting and get more out of your advertising efforts.
LinkedIn Ad examples to inspire you
Now that you know how to run ads on LinkedIn, let’s look at some interesting examples from real-life brands to get your creative juices flowing.
Asana is a cult-favorite project management tool used by businesses worldwide. This means they have some great numbers to show off and attract potential customers. This is exactly what they’re doing with this LinkedIn ad example, where they use their success in helping increase employee satisfaction as eye-catching copy.
Shopify does a brilliant job of addressing one of the biggest pain points of office-based employees — the long, monotonous commute. They do so by using powerful imagery and contextual copy, enough to grab the attention of anyone looking to transition to a more flexible work setting.
In this LinkedIn ad example, TikTok promotes its virtual event using an engaging video made with high-contrast, bold colors and trendy imagery — perfectly aligned with their brand identity. We also love how the copy speaks directly to the specific audience for this post — B2C startups.
Who says event ads are just for webinars? SaaS companies like Notion can also promote product demos on LinkedIn using multiple ad formats, including event ads. Make sure to throw in a lead gen form into the mix like Notion does to encourage more people to register.
This carousel ad by Canva is everything the online design tool stands for — colorful and versatile. Using this ad format allows Canva to highlight the many ways users can benefit from the software, visually showcase the tool’s interface and abilities, as well as look beautiful and eye-catching.
Grammarly’s LinkedIn ad is proof that you don’t need flashy colors and visuals to create an impactful advertisement. In the example above, the popular AI writing tool demonstrates its editing feature using a screenshot of the app itself as copy.
Does it work? You bet! And the clever bit about this ad is the sentence being edited in the screenshot resonates with the target audience (hint: freelancers and contractors.)
Grow faster with LinkedIn ads
With the right approach, LinkedIn advertising offers plenty of opportunities to connect with the right audience and grow your business. But it can get overwhelming when you’re just starting out.
Make the most of the steps above to build a winning LinkedIn advertising strategy and generate valuable leads. Interested in learning more? Check out our LinkedIn marketing guide to 10x your growth on the platform.
Or, find out how you can use LinkedIn for business beyond marketing.
LinkedIn Advertising FAQs
What’s the difference between boosted posts and sponsored ads?
Boosted posts involve promoting existing organic content to a wider audience by increasing its visibility and reach. On the other hand, sponsored ads are a form of LinkedIn advertising that allow businesses to create new content specifically for a campaign.
Are LinkedIn ads worth it for your business?
Whether LinkedIn ads are worth it for your business will depend on your specific business goals and target audience. LinkedIn is a professional social media platform, which means that its user base is primarily composed of business professionals and decision-makers.
If this sounds like your target audience, then LinkedIn ads can be a great way to reach them. However, if your target audience is not present on LinkedIn or is not a business professional, it might not be worth investing in LinkedIn ads.
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