We thought we'd give the PPC ads in LinkedIn a go to promote our B2B Marketing Manifesto. Here are our experiences...

LinkedIn DirectAds are the online community's approach to pay-per-click. At Velocity, we've done plenty of Google PPC ads for our clients and we've experimented a bit for our own agency promotion. So we thought we'd give the LinkedIn program a try and see how it works.

In most ways, the LinkedIn system is similar to the Google AdWords system that it's modeled on. The big difference is the ability to target by demographics instead of by keywords.

For B2B marketing, this is a huge difference. With Google, you have the advantage that the prospect is actively searching on a term that's relevant to your business. That's hard to beat. But demographic targeting gives it a run for its money.

In our test, we decided to promote the B2B Marketing Manifesto (our most recent eBook on the new challenges and opportunities in B2B). The demographics we selected looked like this:

LinkedIn DirectAd target

As you can see, we went pretty narrow. Senior marketers in large tech companies. LinkedIn tells you exactly how many of its members match this demographic. In this case, there were a little over 13,000, quite a tight group. That's good. We're getting lots of Manifesto downloads through unpaid media (search and social) so didn't need to throw the net too wide here.

We started with a maximum cost per click of $2.25 but upped it to $4.00 after prompting by the LinkedIn revenue robot.

We set the daily limit to $25. You can't set a total campaign spend limit but can cap each day and put a time stop on the campaign.

Then we created five ad variations to test:

LinkedIn DirectAd variations

After a week or so, we could see which ads were doing best, so we killed four, kept the winner (the top one: I know, it surprised me, too) and added a new contender.

We ran the new mix for another week or so and stopped to see how we got on:

LinkedIn Ad Results

As you can see, we spent $105 on 37 clicks, an average cost-per-click of $2.86. Since we tagged the URL used in the ad, we were able to trace these 37 clicks through Google Analytics. We discovered that the 37 hits to our Manifesto landing page resulted in 8 downloads (maybe the web form chased the other 29 away, but we ran an A/B test as part of our Project Open Kimono blog series and didn't see that much of a download inhibitor).

The web form data showed that these eight people were indeed from large companies, so the targeting seemed to work.

So, $105 for 8 downloads. That's $13.12 per download or £8.31 in old money. We won't continue the campaign unless we want to test more things but that's just because our need to generate new business through marketing is quite low. For many of our clients, this targeted cost per download would be attractive. If one piece of business resulted from a few hundred downloads, the campaign ROI would be quite good.

Next, we're going to run the same ads in Google AdWords just to compare the two campaigns.

Anyone else out there willing to share their experience with LinkedIn DirectAds?

Doug Kessler

Published 8 December, 2010 by Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler is a founder and Creative Director of B2B marketing agency Velocity and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (18)

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Adi Gaskell

We ran a similar experiment a fortnight ago and had very similar results to you.  Pretty underwhelming really.

over 7 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

Yeah -- but I wouldn't strike it out of the plan yet. This was only one test of one offer to one demographic. Hitting active searchers and getting the relevance of a keyword is pretty powerful in Google. But I can't help thinking such tight demographics will be good for some programs...

over 7 years ago



I've had mixed experiences using LinkedIn.  When I started I was getting decent conversions albeit at a higher cost than search engines but was happy that we were reaching a targeted and high quality audience which is v. important in my area (jobs).

I started off paying per 1000 impressions but soon switched to ppc as this worked out cheaper. However, about a month ago our impressions nosedived from 20,000 a day to 200!

I emailed LinkedIn (no customer service phone number) to ask why our ads had virtually stopped.  They replied (a week later) that they'd seen an increase in advertisers and with limited inventory some advertisers had seen decreased impressions. I'm not really buying this as the change wasn't gradual, it was overnight.

I suspect they've changed who gets inventory priority on the popular demographics because yes they do have more advertisers but those who choose to pay by impressions are much more profitable than those who pay per click.  I was paying $5+ per 1000 impressions at a CTR of about 0.09%, but $1.80-$2 a click when we changed to the ppc model.  It makes sense to give my impressions to someone who'll pay no matter how many clicks they get and increasing the ppc costs would jar too much with those of us accustomed to paying much less on Google etc. 

It's a shame as I do have money to spend with them. It's perfectly understandable, they're out to maximise profits but as Direct Ads grows I can't see how running both advertising models side-by-side can be sustainable. 

over 7 years ago



I'm very curious how this will compare to the new Facebook Ads. With their new change in appearance, the text is to the right of the ad image instead of underneath, very similar to this.

over 7 years ago


Amarjit Kapur

I have done similar tests. Although it appears more expensive than Google PPC. It is much more targeted specially for B2B audience. I am waiting to see your results for Google PPC. Keep me Posted. I wrote an article on linkedin about its new share button. Have a look. http://www.moreclientsbigprofits.com/linkedin-likes-to-share-as-well.html

over 7 years ago


Hugo Pickering

I ran a campaign recently to promote a public seminar with positive results. Using a fairly low maximum CPC and a tight target you can get pretty good results. My campaign certainly wiped its nose and secured one booking which led to further business, so on that basis alone it was successful.

Would I recommend LinkedIn DirectAds? Definitely, depending on the target audience.

over 7 years ago

alex avery

alex avery, Inbound Marketing Consultant at Alex Avery Inc

I'm curious. You ran an A/B test on web form but you wrote a bunch of randowm ads with no method, just madness. So you *get* testing and you just didn't extend it to your ads - the first thing the customer sees. Or are you telling porkies about A/B testing your webform, and you don't know the first thing about testing...? Either way, nice idea for a case study. Flawed from the outset unfortunately.

over 7 years ago


Peter Johnston

Unfortunately this story is half finished. It uses as its metric for successd the achievement of a download. But what happened with that download. Did it prompt the user to check out the web site? Did they sign up for further contact? What was the call to action on the download? Was it taken up?

Modern analytics mean you can go so much further. You can see whether the email address they gave you matches their company IP address. Who the key people are at that address. Whether it is HQ or a branch office.

You can see whether each page was read. Whether they subsequently visited your website. If they did, where did they go on the site and for how long. What else they downloaded.

And you can nurture them through email marketing or social media. Look up their profile and see what else interests them and tailor a programme around it.

This technology costs only £400 a month from LeadFormix. So why spend all that money on ads, without finishing the job?

over 7 years ago



We ran a similar campaign to test out LinkedIn ads against other platforms. Overall found it to be similar to most other models - as you mentioned - but my favourite part was the variations. Adding in the A/B testing is a really interesting touch. However, this being said, I've yet to see an ad on LinkedIn that has interested me enough to click. Has anyone else?

over 7 years ago

Matt Clark

Matt Clark, Analytics / CRO Consultant at Userflow

I did a similar test on LinkedIn running to ads with the same copy against one another with different images - one of my company logo, one of my profile photo.

Here was the result:

a) Company Logo - 0.012%

b)  Photo - 0.025%

I got over DOUBLE the amount of clicks from the ad with the photo!

 I put this down to the fact that LinkedIn is all about people rather than companies - so maybe notice images of people more because they're naturally scanning for them.

Would be interesting to see the results using your best copy with an image of a person.


over 7 years ago


Jonathan Smith

We ran a very similar test and found that the results gained through Linked In were less profitable than those through Adwords. We found that people's willingness to click within Linked In was reduced, which we attributed to people having a different purpose when they use Linked In compared to when they are searching on Google. The split testing is good to use for any advertising media if you have time and budget.

over 7 years ago


michael webster

Doug, while the numbers are moderately interesting, I find the comparison to Google completely in error.  

Google runs real time auction where bids/quality score determine your bid.  

LinkedIn doesn't do anything like this, and the pathetic quality of their analytics shows this.

Finally, $13.12 per conversion strikes me as very high as compared to what you will get from google adwords.

over 7 years ago


David Vogel

I recently ran comparison tests with LinkedIn Direct Ads and Adwords for two separate campaign. My findings:

  • Landing page conversion rates were much better for our LinkedIn Campaigns (14% and 18% versus ~4% for the Adwords campaigns).
  • While cost per click was double on LinkedIn, the cost per lead was much lower for the LinkedIn campaigns than the Adwords campaign (30-60% lower).
  • LinkedIn seems to get "tired" of running your CPC campaigns, as I noticed impressions drop to almost nothing after the ads were running for 3-5 days. I was able to re-start impressions for the ads by tweaking the bidding, targeting or image (enough to make it require review), but never got my impression flow as high as it was initially.

As the other new PPC outlets grow in popularity, I'm looking forward to seeing more comparative studies (especially for B2B!). Great article.

over 7 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

Nice one David. Thanks for sharing this one. Also to Jules, Hugo, Amarjit, Kayley and Jonathan for letting us know how you got on with LinkedIn DirectAds. It feels like the DirectAds program is just bedding down but that there will end up being some good value in it for the right campaign and offer. Like all PPC, the returns will diminish for the most popular targets (whether demographics or keywords) but if your conversion rates on site are good, these will still deliver.

over 7 years ago



Beware! Don't get caught out by the LinkedIn Ads promotions. - I recommend avoiding LinkedIn DirectAds.

Just before Christmas 2010 I got a $100 promotional coupon emailed to me by LinkedIn to try DirectAds. I had to register my credit card with them for a $5 initial charge to open the account. A few weeks later I checked to see how the ad trial was going and found that over $250 had been taken from my credit card account (in four separate transactions) as the $100 coupon amount had been used in just a few days! I had received no notification from LinkedIn of any of these charges to my credit card.

I have disputed this with LinkedIn and they say that the user agreement says they can charge the registered credit card for any amount at any time !

LinkedIn refuse to accept that the promotion was unclear about charging and they point blank refuse to refund any of the charges. In fact they took a final $48 more after I asked for my credit card to be removed from their system. I never had any trouble like this with Google Adwords or Yahoo Search Marketing.

Don't fall for the marketing hype - save your money and avoid LinkedIn Ads.

over 7 years ago



I ran 2 Linkedin Ad campaign last week with a minimum budget and got some interesting yet puzzling results. The 2 ads were set up to target at a specific demographics with:

approx 77K audience in one ad (A), and
approx 28K audience in the other ad (B).

Within the 2 days the following results were reported

Ad (A): 9 clicks out of 13495 impressions, click through rate of 0.067%

Ad (B): 10 clicks out of 3449 impressions, click through rate of 0.29%

However, the Google Analytics installed on my webpage reported only 12 visits referred via Linkedin. The same number of 12 referral visits were also reported in the Sitemeter log installed on my webpage.

I asked Linkedin Customer Support how the discrepencies came about but all that they could say is third party services may not track all the clicks received. It is hard to believe that 2 different tools like Sitemeter and Google Analytics would yield the same results which is about 2/3 of the clicks reported (and billed) by Linkedin.

I would like to know if anyone has faced the same situation over a longer campaign and larger number of clicks received?

Thanks for sharing.

over 7 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

Update, from Jan 26 2011 press release:

"LinkedIn Ads now offers ad targeting by exact job title, company name or LinkedIn Group, in addition to the previously available options of geography, job function, industry, company size, seniority, age and gender."

I haven't tried the new targeting yet but it sounds like a good idea.

[Bill, I don't know why your data doesn't match up with Google Analytics. It did for our small experiment.]

over 7 years ago


Lauren Jones

We've run some LinkedIn ads and found that the results are similar to some of what the guys here have commented on; with a reduction in impressions/clicks as we optimized the accounts...(which was strange to say the least). The feedback from LinkedIn was to monitor the ads to "see if anything changes", which I found to be a very obscure response. Facebook is similar but easier to manage than LinkedIn as its predominantly B2C. Ads that feature some sort of "display" quality (inc an image) need to use the image aspect to captivate the user, which is similar to what Matt Clark above tested. The problem is that some clients might be reluctant to go down this route... Another thing to take note of is how many times the same user might have seen your ads, which can also be a factor as LinkedIn don't have frequency cap settings. Anyway, I'm glad this post was written and interested to see that others are experiencing similar issues with LinkeIn ads...

almost 7 years ago

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