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LinkedIn Advertising: The Beginner’s Guide (+ Free Matched Audiences E-book)

You’ve got a few social media profiles created, optimized, and firing on all cylinders. Maybe you’re even running targeted social ads on Facebook or Instagram. You’re feeling pretty good about your social marketing efforts.

But have you thought about LinkedIn ads?

Now, we know LinkedIn marketing and advertising isn’t for every business, but it has a lot to offer—especially for B2B companies. LinkedIn members have double the buying power of the average online audience, and 80% of members drive business decisions.

This is the part where you might be feeling overwhelmed. You’re already juggling several other social presences, on top of managing your email marketing campaigns and trying to figure out exactly what SEO involves. Is it really worth figuring out yet another advertising platform?

The answer just might be a resounding “YES.” If you’re a B2B marketer, targeting c-suite professionals, offering educational resources to marketers, or focused on building brand awareness, then LinkedIn ads are probably for you.

Naturally, before you start advertising, you will need your own LinkedIn Company Page and a solid foundation of organic LinkedIn marketing under your belt. Your LinkedIn ads will be connected to your company page, and your organic marketing efforts will provide a foundation of data, experimentation, and followers that will fuel a successful advertising campaign.

We’ll answer all your questions about the benefits of LinkedIn ads, why they’re more expensive than most social ads, and provide details descriptions of all 10 different advertising formats available on LinkedIn. As always, we’ll send you on your way to advertising success with 20 best practices to keep in mind.

Table of Contents:

  1. Top 5 Benefits of LinkedIn Ads
  2. How Much Do LinkedIn Ads Cost?
  3. LinkedIn Ad Formats
  4. Best Practices for LinkedIn Ads
  5. Download Your LinkedIn Matched Audiences E-book

Top 5 Benefits of LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn is unlike any other social network available today. It’s the largest digital platform to “talk business”, and LinkedIn members make up an extremely unique audience. This makes for some exciting, one-of-a-kind benefits; here’s our top 5.

  1.  Keep up with your audience as their careers (and lives) change.

    LinkedIn profiles are constantly changing. Members are highly motivated to continually update their profiles to reflect their latest achievements, job changes, and skills. This means that advertisers can reach members based on recent, user-generated data.Larger social advertising platforms are much more likely to target ads to irrelevant audiences, weakening your campaign and lowering ROI. In contrast, the unusual care that LinkedIn members invest into keeping their profiles accurate and up-to-date makes reaching the exact right audience easy.

  2. Reach people on the only true professional networking site.
    It’s true, LinkedIn’s 260 monthly active users (MAU) pale in comparison to sites like Facebook (2.5 billion) and Instagram (1+ billion). However, LinkedIn’s unique virtual environment creates its own opportunities. Members are actively looking to connect with peers, further their careers, and keep up with industry news. If you’re able to deliver advertisements that clearly show how your business can promote any of those goals, you’ve earned a high-quality lead. Plus, when you reach these high-quality leads on a professional, respectable platform such as LinkedIn, you’re more likely to be taken seriously.
  3. Enjoy creative flexibility with 10 different LinkedIn ad formats.

    As you’ll soon read, LinkedIn has a staggering variety of ad formats to choose from. Create nearly any type of ad you could imagine: native images, text ads, sponsored messages, native video ads, and more.
  4. Create more personalized, direct advertising messages with exclusive ad formats.

    Personalization is increasingly important to marketers and consumers alike. Statistica found that 90% of American consumers find marketing content personalization (very or somewhat) appealing. Marketers know this, which is why more than half (51%) of marketers list personalization as their top priority. LinkedIn allows you to send personalized advertising messages directly to your audience’s inbox— regardless of whether or not they’re following your company page.

    Dynamic ads (another exclusive ad format) let you add personal member information (like their profile photo, job title, and more) directly into your ad. LinkedIn ads empower businesses to deliver personalized messages that feel hand-crafted… at scale.

  5. Earn a higher ROI with LinkedIn’s targeting features.

    Although LinkedIn is generally more expensive than other social ads, it also has potential for a higher ROI. Your strategy and campaign design will always impact ROI, but LinkedIn’s consistent results certainly shows the platform’s power.

    • Message Ads have an average open rate of 52%
    • Cost per lead is 28% lower than Google Ads
    • 43% of B2B marketers attributed revenue increases to LinkedIn, far surpassing Facebook (24%) and Twitter (20%)

    So, if you’re willing to pay a little more upfront for the chance to generate a greater return, LinkedIn is for you. Keep reading to learn more about the cost of LinkedIn ads and how to make the most of your ad spend!

    Our tip: LinkedIn’s new Matched Audiences targeting features allows you to combine LinkedIn’s high-quality member data with your own audience data to reach highly qualified ad audiences. Unlock the secrets to success with our free LinkedIn Matched Audiences E-book.

How Much Do LinkedIn Ads Cost?

So, we’ve laid out why LinkedIn ads could boost your business. But you’re ready to get down to brass tacks: how much do they cost?

LinkedIn Ads: Minimum Bids and Average Costs

You might have heard that LinkedIn ads are expensive, and they certainly have higher costs than most social advertisers.

You can see how it compares to other social networking sites in this graph:


However, remember that LinkedIn ads are quite different from your typical social advertiser. Its users are more qualified, it offers a greater degree of personalization, and provides higher ROIs to savvy marketers.

Why Are LinkedIn Ads so Expensive?

LinkedIn often points to its unique benefits to justify their higher price points, especially the personalization and targeting functions that can’t be found anywhere else.

LinkedIn members are also focused on business, hold major buying power, and are looking to invest in new resources. It’s naturally going to cost more to reach these individuals than your average Facebook or Instagram user, who’s mostly there to socialize and be entertained.

Finally, LinkedIn ads primarily support B2B sales, which often have a higher total ticket price. Large companies frequently buy in bulk, generating a lot of revenue in one transaction.

The high price shouldn’t automatically take LinkedIn ads off your radar. The platform offers a great deal in exchange for those costs, and if it’s right for your business, it could just be the best marketing spend of the year.

The LinkedIn Ad Auction

Ultimately, ad costs will be determined by the ad auction, which is in turn affected by your audience targeting, bid, and the relevance score your ad receives. Let’s walk through each of these factors.

  • Your target audience: In the auction, you’ll bid against other advertisers hoping to reach the same LinkedIn members. The bid (cost) needed to win the auction depends on the desirability of that specific target audience.
  • Your bid: This is the maximum cost you're willing to pay per result. Auction winners pay 1 cent more than the next highest bid. If you prefer, you can take advantage of LinkedIn’s automated bidding, which uses historical campaign data to drive maximum results (often at a higher cost).
  • Ad relevance score: LinkedIn rewards ads it finds engaging and relevant to their target audience. Ads receive relevance scores based on factors such as CTR, comments, likes, and shares. The more relevant your ad, the lower your cost.

Strategic bidding, effective audience targeting, and thoughtful ad creation can help you control how your ads perform in the auction. If you’re looking for even more control over your overall costs, LinkedIn gives two budgeting options.

Managing Your Budget

Your bid is the first budget control measure, because you’ll never pay more than that price for clicks, impressions, or delivered messages.

Next, you can set either a daily budget or a total/lifetime budget. Set daily budgets for campaigns with no set end date to control your spending. For limited-time campaigns, set a total budget to decide how much you’re willing to spend on the entire campaign. Once you reach your budget, LinkedIn will stop serving your ads, so keep that in mind when setting your spending controls.

In summary, don’t be intimidated by the cost when deciding whether or not to run LinkedIn ads. Carefully weigh the cost against the benefits. If you can create well-targeted and compelling ads, there’s a good chance you’ll see those costs returned, and then some.

LinkedIn Ad Formats

LinkedIn ads are a category entirely their own— you’ll find that they’re quite a bit different from more traditional social advertising. LinkedIn offers a staggering array of content formats, and some of them can’t be found anywhere else. Read through the following detailed summaries to decide which format(s) suit you best.

Text Ads

LinkedIn text ads are the most basic format available. If you’re familiar with Google Ads, you’ll notice that LinkedIn text ads look very similar to Google’s PPC ad options.

Text ads are quick to create—they feature just a headline, description, and 50x50 pixel image. With the addition of the LinkedIn Insight Tag on desired webpages, you can enable conversion tracking to see the business impact of your LinkedIn ads.
What you need to know about LinkedIn text ads:

    • Payment: CPC (cost-per-click) or CPM (cost per impression)
    • Objectives supported: Drive traffic, generate leads
  • Appear in: right rail (desktop) and inline
  • Assets & specs:
    • Ad image (50 x 50 pixels)
    • Ad headline (up to 25 characters)
    • Ad description (up to 75 characters)
    • Destination URL (Send members to your website, a landing page, or your LinkedIn Company Page)

Dynamic Ads

Dynamic ads include personal LinkedIn data (such as profile photo, company name, and job title) and custom messaging that can’t be found on any other social advertising platform. These ads allow you to automate personalized campaigns at scale for amazing results.

Currently, LinkedIn offers two different dynamic ad formats to the general public: Follower Ads and Spotlight Ads. A third dynamic format—Content Ads—is only available to businesses running large-scale advertising through LinkedIn representatives.

Follower Ads

Follower Ads help you grow your audience and gain followers for your LinkedIn Company Page or Showcase Page. They feature your company logo and name alongside the member’s name and profile photo.


What you need to know about Follower Ads:

    • Payment: PPC (pay-per-click) or CPM (cost per impression)
    • Objectives supported: brand awareness, engagement
    • Appear in: the right rail (desktop)
    • Assets & specs:
      • Ad description (above images): 70 character maximum (including spaces), or choose from the suggested options
      • Ad headline (below images): 50 character maximum (including spaces), or choose from the suggested options
      • Company image: 100x100 pixels (JPG or PNG)
      • CTA button text: 18 character max (including spaces)
      • Custom background image (optional): 300x250 pixels, 2MB maximum
        *Adding a custom background image will remove the ad description and member profile image.

Job Ads

Job ads let you personalize ads to top talent, encouraging qualified candidates to apply with your company. Each member will see their personal information, such as profile photo, name, and job title.

Depending on how well a member matches your job listing, members will see one of three ad formats: “picture yourself”, job page ads, or “jobs you may be interested in.”

    • Payment: PPC (pay-per-click) or CPM (cost per impression)
    • Objectives supported: job applicants
    • Appear in: the right rail (desktop), “people” search results pages
    • Assets & specs:
      • Company name: 25 character maximum
      • Company logo: 100x100 pixels
      • Ad headline: 70 character maximum (including spaces), or select from the suggested options
      • CTA button text: Choose from a pre-set CTA or write your own (44 character maximum)

Spotlight Ads

Spotlight Ads allow businesses to showcase products, services, offers, events, content, and more. They’re a great option to reach prospects at the middle or bottom of the marketing funnel. Clicks direct members to the landing page of your choice.


What you need to know about Spotlight Ads:

    • Payment: PPC (pay-per-click) or CPM (cost per impression), depending on your objective
    • Objectives supported: website traffic, conversions, brand awareness, website visits, job applicants
    • Appear in: the right rail (desktop)
    • Assets & specs:
      • Ad description (above images): 70 character maximum (including spaces)
      • Ad headline (below images): 50 character maximum (including spaces)
      • Company image: 100x100 pixels (JPG or PNG)
      • CTA button text: 18 character maximum (including spaces)
      • Custom background image (optional): 300x250 pixels, 2MB maximum
        *Adding a custom background image will remove the ad description and member profile image.

Content Ads

These ads generate leads when members download your PDF content. Members can quickly register with LinkedIn’s pre-filled Lead Gen forms and download your content without leaving the ad. Content ads are currently only available to businesses with advertising accounts on LinkedIn, but we hope they’ll soon be available to the public.



What you need to know about Content Ads:

    • Payment: PPC (pay-per-click) or CPM (cost per impression), depending on your objective
    • Objectives supported: lead generation
    • Appear in: the right rail (desktop)
    • Assets & specs:
      • Primary CTA: write a custom CTA (75 characters) or choose from suggested options
      • Company logo (optional): 100x100 pixels
      • Downloadable document: PDFs, 10MB file size maximum
      • Document preview (optional): Up to 5 81x104 pixel preview pages
      • Privacy policy URL & terms
      • LinkedIn page follower count (optional): shows the number of LinkedIn Page followers

LinkedIn ads offer a rare opportunity to send direct, one-on-one messages to your audience’s InMail. Sponsored Messaging Ads include traditional LinkedIn Message Ads (formerly Sponsored InMail) and the new Conversation Ads.

Message Ads (Formerly Sponsored InMail)

Message Ads are sponsored messages you send directly to prospects, hoping to spark immediate action. They appear natively in members’ LinkedIn messaging inbox, and include a single CTA button. Users don’t need to follow your company page to receive Message Ads.

Businesses love these because you can communicate without character limits, add an optional Lead Gen form, and deliver messages in an environment that’s far less cluttered than the LinkedIn newsfeed or right rail. As another bonus, Message Ads are delivered when members are active on the platform, ensuring deliverability and improving the chances of message opens.



What you need to know about Message Ads:

    • Payment: CPS (cost-per-send)
    • Objectives supported: website visits, lead generation, website conversions
    • Appear in: LinkedIn Messaging inbox
    • Assets & specs:
      • Sender: Must be a first-degree connection. They must approve the request before your ad campaign launches.
      • Subject: 60 characters max
      • Message: 1,500 characters maximum (LinkedIn recommends 500 characters or less)
      • Footer (optional): Add a custom footer with disclaimer or terms and conditions.
      • CTA button text: 20 character maximum
      • Banner image (optional): 300x250 pixels (only displayed on desktop)

Conversation Ads

Conversation ads are the newest ad format released to the general public. They’re designed to capitalize on the increasing amount of time people are spending on messaging platforms.

These ads offer a “choose your own path” experience, allowing you to create full-funnel campaigns with several (customizable) call-to-action buttons. To encourage real-time engagement, Conversation Ads are only sent when prospects are active on LinkedIn.

These ads require careful planning to create, but LinkedIn has robust resources and templates to get you started.


What you need to know about Conversation Ads:

    • Payment: CPS (cost-per-send)
    • Objectives supported: website visits & lead generation
    • Appear in: LinkedIn Messaging inbox
    • Assets & specs:
      • Sender: Must be a first-degree connection. They must approve the request before your ad campaign launches.
      • Subject: 60 characters max
      • Banner creative (optional): Up to a 300x250 pixel banner creative (JPG or PNG, 2MB maximum). Visible on desktop only.
      • Custom footer & terms of conditions (optional): 2,500 character maximum
      • Intro message: 500 character maximum
      • CTA button text: 25 character maximum, 5 CTA button maximum per message
      • Message text: 500 character maximum
      • Destination URL: 2,000 character maximum

Whew, that’s a lot of ad formats. If you’re already struggling to remember what’s what, check out our handy infographic.

LinkedIn Ads for Beginners: Best Practices

With so many different ad formats, there’s a lot to cover concerning best advertising practices for LinkedIn. We’ll start with general advice, then provide specific tips for each ad format.

General LinkedIn Ads Tips:

    1. Only use a few targeting options at a time. The majority of successful campaigns have an audience range between 60K - 400K. LinkedIn recommends starting with 2-3 targeting parameters. Some examples of targeting criteria include:
      • Geography/Industry/Seniority: (e.g. USA / Education / Manager)
      • Geography/Skills (e.g. UK / JavaScript)
      • Geography/LinkedIn Group (e.g. USA/Marketing, Sales)
    1. Always add an image. High-quality, aspirational images capture attention and make your ad more engaging.
    1. Include a strong CTA. Always use a strong call-to-action to capitalize on the interest your ad has generated. Consider adding an element of urgency for better results (e.g. Register Today!).
    1. Use A/B testing to optimize ads and/or targeting settings. After creating your first campaign, duplicate it. Make small changes to the ad creative, copy, or targeting options. Run the campaigns simultaneously and watch to see which versions deliver the best results.
    2. Install the LinkedIn Insight Tag on your site to track conversions and enable demographic reporting on website visitors.
    3. Regularly pause lowest performing ads and replace it with a new creative. Over time, this process will optimize your ads and improve your ad relevance score. Higher ad relevance scores will increase your reach and can even lower costs.

LinkedIn Text Ads Tips:

    1. Speak to your audience directly. Let members know that you’re talking to them. Include relevant, industry-specific language your audience can relate to. You can also specifically address them by their job title, location, or industry in your headline (e.g. Attn: Freelance Journalists).


LinkedIn Sponsored Content Tips:

    1. Add larger images for higher CTR. LinkedIn recommends embedding larger images (1200x627 pixels) instead of standard thumbnails. Content with larger visuals can earn up to 38% higher CTR (click-through rates).
    2. Share your unique perspective. Rather than just sharing industry news, add your own insights and takeaways to keep your content feeling distinct and establish yourself as a thought leader.
    3. Tell human interest stories. Help your audience feel emotionally connected to your brand by sharing relevant, poignant human-interest stories.
    4. Carousel Tips
      • When telling a story through carousel ads, leave the main value add or CTA in the final card to encourage members to swipe through the whole ad.
      • Start with 3-5 cards, and then test adding more cards to find an optimal card number for your audience.
      • Experiment with arranging your cards in different orders to find the best structure.
    1. Video Tips
      • Capture attention from the start-- show your audience the most important things within the first 10 seconds (before viewer attention drops).
      • The most successful videos are about 15 seconds long.
      • Create videos that work without sound (consider adding subtitles or text overlays).
      • Match video length to campaign objectives: For brand awareness and consideration goals, keep videos under 30 seconds. Try telling a more detailed brand story in longer videos to earn clicks and views.

LinkedIn Dynamic Ad Tips:

    1. Take advantage of the unique visual personalization. Obviously, members are more likely to pay attention to ads that feature their image, name, and/or job title. Take advantage of the personalization features by choosing from the pre-made templates that will automatically fill the ad with each member’s personal information.
    2. For follower ads: Set your audience targeting to exclude existing followers. This can lower costs while improving results, since you’re only serving ads to new prospects.
    3. For spotlight ads: Consider adding a custom background image to make your ad more visually appealing.


Sponsored Messages Tips 

    1. Choose your sender thoughtfully. LinkedIn lets you choose who will appear as the sender in your sponsored message. This individual’s name and profile photo will appear at the top of your message ad. Senders should represent your brand and convey authority. Ads sent from an individual typically show stronger results than sponsored messages from a company.
    2. Personalize messages with simple macros. Greet your audience by name by adding simple macros to your greeting. It’s easy-- typing “Hi %FIRSTNAME% %LASTNAME%” will dynamically insert members’ first and last name, displaying like: “Hi Amanda Smith.” Other available macros include: job title, company name, and industry.
    3. Always include a banner image. Although the banner image is only visible on desktop, you should still consider it an essential part of your ad. It’s the only opportunity to add visual branding to your text-based message. More importantly, if you don’t provide a banner image, another brand’s image can appear there.
    4. Learn from your email marketing strategy In many ways, LinkedIn Sponsored Message Ads are the cousin of good-old-fashioned email marketing campaigns. Apply the insights you’ve gained from email marketing, and let high-performing email copy inspire your ad copy.
    5. Conversation Ads
      • Retarget website visitors. Since they’re already familiar with your brand, they’re more likely to open, read, and engage with your conversation ads.
      • Use multiple CTA buttons and messages. Take full advantage of this ad format by giving members multiple opportunities to engage with your message. LinkedIn recommends between 2-5 layers, each with at least two CTAs.
      • Don’t include not interested/ no thanks CTAs. It might feel polite to give members an opportunity to politely decline your invitation to engage, but adding these types of CTAs just weaken your message. Anyone not interested will exit the ad, so only include CTA buttons that drive conversations forward.

Are LinkedIn Ads Worth It?

If your audience is on LinkedIn and you commit to developing and optimizing a strategy using our tips above, LinkedIn ads are absolutely worth it. LinkedIn offers powerful advertising tools like Matched Audience targeting and sponsored messaging that shouldn’t be ignored. Don’t forget to download your free LinkedIn Matched Audiences E-book to drive incredible results at lower costs.

With a healthy amount of patience and strategy, we believe you’ll see a healthy return on your advertising investment. What are you waiting for?