Linkedin advertising guide for beginners

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Advertising on LinkedIn

LinkedIn has become a premium location for advertising, particularly if you’re looking to sell a B2B or SaaS product. The platform has more than 675 million users, which means your LinkedIn ads can reach as much as 12% of the world’s population. And what’s more, you’ll be getting your offer in front of a self-selected audience in a professional context—not 16-year-olds who wanna see their friends do the Toosie Slide.

Bottom line: If it’s not already a part of your marketing plan, LinkedIn is super fertile ground to seed some of your ad budget—but it can be a harsh and expensive channel if you don’t do things right. To make LinkedIn advertising worth your while, you’ve gotta understand the basics. That’s where a guide like this one can help.

Let’s take a look at the steps you’ll need to take to successfully advertise on LinkedIn.

Why Should You Advertise on LinkedIn?

You might think your money is better spent running a Google Ads campaign or on promoted Facebook posts, but LinkedIn offers a special kind of opportunity. The feed hasn’t been overrun by digital marketers and people don’t yet harbor the same suspicion of LinkedIn ads. That means the platform tends to be pretty effective and cost-efficient for advertisers.

LinkedIn is best suited to B2B products or services because you’re reaching people in a professional atmosphere. Where Facebook users are browsing to pass the time or catch up with friends, users that see your LinkedIn ads are already in a mindset to take action on behalf of their business. If you hit ’em with the right offer, there’s a way better chance they convert here than on Instagram or Twitter.

One more great thing about LinkedIn: You can advertise to almost any segment you can dream up. Target people by their company, years of experience, industry, education, title, age—whatever. You can ensure your advertisements are only seen by the users who are most likely to want what you’re sellin’.

Sounds great, right? Well, how about we get started with our first LinkedIn advertising campaign?

Running Your First LinkedIn Advertising Campaign

Step 1: Get a LinkedIn Advertising Account

You’ve probably already got a LinkedIn account, but if not, go ahead and create one. It just takes a minute or two and it’s totally free.

Next, head to the LinkedIn Campaign Manager. You’ll have a chance to link your account to your company’s business page, plus choose the currency you want to run your advertising campaigns with.

Step 2: Create Your New Campaign

If you’re a new user, LinkedIn should automatically put you into the campaign creation flow. Otherwise, from the Campaign Manager dashboard, click “Create Campaign.” You wanna end up here:

One of the most important parts of creating a new campaign is ensuring that the name is super descriptive. As you build your LinkedIn ad portfolio, you’ll find that consistent name formatting is key to organizing your campaigns and measuring their success.

Consider including some of the following info in your campaign title to help you identify it more easily later on:

  • Reference to the marketing campaign title
  • Business line or product description
  • Type of campaign (e.g., webinar, ebook)
  • Geographic location you’re targeting
  • Date range when the campaign’ll run

For example, you might use a naming convention along the lines of PRODUCT_CAMPAIGNTYPE_GEOGRAPHY. Whatever you decide, make sure to establish a formula from the get-go so you can stay organized and execute the most successful campaigns possible.

Step 3: Set Your Campaign Objective

Right away, LinkedIn will ask you to choose the objective of your new advertising campaign. There are three categories:

  • Awareness: You want to create a campaign that improves the recognition or opinion of your brand.
  • Consideration: Your campaign goal is to drive visits to your website, engagement on your posts, or views of a particular video.
  • Conversions: You’re hoping to generate leads, get job applicants, or have people perform an action on your website.

Your chosen objective will influence the rest of your campaign, so make sure it accurately reflects what you wanna achieve. That said, you can always come back and change your goals depending on the outcome of your campaign.

If you’re a performance marketer (or just someone who doesn’t wanna blow a budget without measurable action), I’d suggest choosing one of the objectives under “Conversions.”

Step 4: Establish Your Targeting Criteria

LinkedIn lets you choose from more than 20 different audience attribute categories, including location, language, education, skills, and so much more.

Accurate targeting is absolutely crucial to the success of your campaign, so think hard about how to best reach your ideal audience. On the other hand, you don’t want your targeting parameters to be too strict—then, you could seriously limit how many people your ads hit.

For example, if I was an American startup selling a software tool for healthcare providers, I’d limit my audience down to product managers (“Job Title”) at healthcare companies with less than 100 employees (“Employee Count”) in the United States (“Location”). It’s specific, but my ads should still be seen by a good number of people.

Here’s another one. Let’s say I run a marketing agency that’s looking for new clients. I’d consider targeting CEOs and VPs of Marketing (“Job Title”) at technology companies (“Industry”) in San Francisco, New York, and Boston (“Location”). That way, I’d be reaching decision-makers at companies that’re likely to have venture capital funding. (And money to spend on my agency!)

You can also enable “Audience Expansion” so that your ads reach other people with similar attributes. (Sorta like an easy-button version of setting up Facebook lookalike audiences.) Or, you could add a “Matched Audience” and generate a target population just by uploading a list of your website visitors or email subscribers.

Step 5: Choose the Type of Ads You’ll Run

You need to pick which type of LinkedIn ads you’ll be running. There’s are a few different kinds (with corresponding ad formats), and the one you use will largely depend on your business needs.

  • Sponsored Content: These are really just promoted LinkedIn posts. They can perform either as native news feed ads or as lead gen forms. If you’re looking to focus on your engagement metrics, this type of ad is a pretty good bet. (Choose “Single Image Ad,” “Carousel Image Ad,” or “Video Ad.”)
  • Direct Sponsored Content: Like sponsored content, except that they’re not published on your business’s LinkedIn page feed. This means you can tailor your messaging to specific audiences and test different iterations without cloggin’ up your own page. (Choose “Single Image Ad,” “Carousel Image Ad,” or “Video Ad.”)
  • Sponsored InMail: This delivers a message straight to the inboxes of LinkedIn users. (And if you’ve been on the platform for any amount of time, you’ve probably received some yourself.) One thing to note: people can opt out of these messages, so your reach can be limited. (Choose “Conversation Ad.”)
  • Text Ads: These advertisements appear in the right rail or top banner of LinkedIn’s desktop view. They include a short headline, subhead, and small square image. (Choose “Text Ad.”)
  • Dynamic Ads: Also appear on the right rail, but these ads have the ability to directly target users with personalized content. (Choose “Spotlight Ad” or “Follower Ad.”)

It might seem overwhelming to choose between all these options, but if you try one and decide it’s not working like you’d hoped, you can always switch to another.

My recommendation? I’ve found that sponsored InMail messages are the most cost-effective, as they let you connect directly with target prospects in a more personalized way. On the other hand, regular sponsored content is the most expensive on a cost-per-lead basis, since people need to click on your ad and then click through to your website. That’s a lot of friction between a user and your desired action.

Step 6: Determine Your Campaign Budget & Schedule

You can set a lifetime budget, a daily budget, or a combination of the two for your LinkedIn campaign. With a lifetime budget, your campaign will keep running until you’ve spent your allotted amount. A daily budget will limit your advertising spend to a certain amount each day.

Next is bidding. Depending on the campaign objective you selected at the top, your “Optimization Goal” will be automatically set to maximize impressions, clicks, or leads. You’ll also have the option to set a “Bidding Strategy,” although LinkedIn can automatically manage your bidding to help maximize your budget.

Once you’ve handled the financials, you can choose to run your campaign continuously or set a start and end date. Of course, you can always cancel your LinkedIn advertising campaign early if you feel like it’s not getting results.

And with that, there’s just one thing left to do before you launch.

Step 7: Build a Campaign-Specific Landing Page

If you’ve done any advertising on social media, you already know how important it is to have a dedicated landing page for each campaign. Landing pages help you reinforce the messaging of the ad that visitors just clicked, letting ’em know they’re in the right place and increasing their likelihood to convert.

But the performance of your page can have a big impact on the overall success of your campaign. Based on an analysis from Unbounce’s Conversion Benchmark Report, the average landing page conversion rate is just under 10%, but lots of pages convert way better. How do you make sure you’ve got one of those?

All of the landing page best practices apply on LinkedIn, too—but there are some specific things you’ll want to consider when creating pages for this platform:

  • You’re reaching your audience in a professional context, so think about the way you frame your offer. Try using more formal language, results-oriented messaging, and cite real business examples where you can.
  • LinkedIn is great for B2B advertising—but as with all things B2B, decisions take time. The people who see your ads will probably want to do some research as they consider your offer. Make it easy for them with lead magnets like white papers and webinars that’ll accelerate their journey through the funnel.
  • Use loads of proof points. If you have customer testimonials or press logos you can include, use them. Any savvy potential buyer will want to know that your product or service is trusted in the industry.

And if you’re looking for an easier way to create landing pages for your LinkedIn campaigns, check out Unbounce’s library of 100+ templates and get started fast.

You’re Ready to Launch Your LinkedIn Advertising Campaign

And that’s it! You’ve created your ads, defined your targeting criteria, set your budget and schedule, and tied it all together with a high-converting landing page. Now you’re ready to let ‘er rip.

Once you’ve launched your campaign, LinkedIn lets you measure campaign performance by tracking things like impressions, clicks, and social actions. Using that data, you can optimize as you go. Refine your messaging, edit your targeting, try new ad formats—keep experimenting and figure out what works best for you.

Trust me—you’ll be a LinkedIn advertising expert in no time. 💪

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About Mark Spera
Mark Spera started Growth Marketing Pro after working at Silicon Valley technology companies. He's been able to grow it into a 6-figure business by providing actionable tips to entrepreneurs and growth marketers. His writing and work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc, Entrepreneur Magazine, and over 100 other publications.
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