LinkedIn Ads Exclusions: Here’s What You Need to Know

I’ve got some excellent news for all advertisers on LinkedIn Ads & Sponsored Updates. LinkedIn’s already-excellent targeting parameters just got better. How, you ask? We got exclusions! As near as I can tell, this functionality was released without fanfare, around the middle of April, 2014.

What is Exclusionary Targeting?

It’s a way of excluding a particular slice of your audience that you’re targeting. It can be as large or as small as you want. For instance, let’s say you didn’t want to waste impressions on anyone at your own company. You would set up your existing targeting, and then exclude your company by name. No more wasted impressions, and no more curious coworkers clicking away your dollars. You can get very creative with exclusions and use them in some really fun ways.

Pro-tip: You can also, in many cases, get cheaper clicks by using exclusions, because you’re targeting audience segments which are less competitive.

How Do I Start Using Exclusions?

Log into your account, and click on your desired campaign. Click ‘View Details’ in the upper left-hand of the screen, and then click ‘edit’ next to ‘Audience’. Now, below each method for targeting, you should see “Enter the [targeting method] you’d like to exclude.” For example, here is a screenshot of how it looks for Job Title targeting: LinkedIn Ads Exclusion Targeting

Give Me Some Examples of How to Exclude

OK, you twisted my arm. Some of the uses I’ve found are as follows:

  • Excluding your company from seeing your ads.
    • Simply add your company name to the “Companies You’d Like to Exclude” box
  • Excluding competitors from seeing your ads
    • Simply add your competitors’ names to the “Companies You’d Like to Exclude” box
  • Targeting companies that LinkedIn doesn’t have a company size for (larger piece of pie than you might think).
    • Set up your desired targeting, and then check every box in the “Exclude Company Size” category.
  • Targeting an audience who is less savvy (useful for classes or training)
    • Set up your desired targeting, and then exclude advanced skills in the “Skills You’d Like to Exclude” box.

Any additional ideas for exclusionary targeting that I may have missed? Leave a comment below, or contact me by any of the following means with any questions you might have:

LinkedIn Ads Help

So you are an advertiser on LinkedIn and you need help with something in your account. What do you do? Here’s how to get it.

1. FAQ

You are likely not the first to ask this question, so check the frequently asked questions:

http://help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1015

These aren’t just steps to keep you busy and hope you go away. They’re good and they’re accurate.

linkedin ads faq

2. Help Forum

If you can’t solve the issue by reading through those, then I recommend checking the help forum. You can search for similar questions or post one of your own. The link will take you to the LinkedIn Ads section where you can submit your question:

http://help.linkedin.com/app/ask

linkedin ads help forum

3. LinkedIn Ads Support

If you can’t solve the issue in the FAQ  or the forum, then you’ll need to reach out to someone on the LinkedIn Ads support team. In my experience, the response is timely, but getting help from steps 1 & 2 are usually faster than waiting for an email response. Here’s the link to the contact form:

http://help.linkedin.com/app/ask/f/c

linkedin ads help request image

Note: LinkedIn Ads does have dedicated support reps for those with large budgets, though I’m not certain what that threshold is. If you’re spending sizeably with them, it can’t hurt to ask if you’re eligible.

4.LinkedIn Ads LinkedIn Group

Maybe you have a question that warrants group participation? You are using LinkedIn, after all, so you do have access to Groups. Check out this group – LinkedIn Ads:

http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=4237328

The group is moderated by support members at LinkedIn, as well as other helpful advertisers having the opportunity to weigh in.

linkedin ads group

 5. Do you Twitter?

If so, then you might be able to fire your question off to @LinkedInHelp. Keep in mind that it doesn’t go right to the Ads team, so it may take a bit to get a response, but at least you know it will make its way to the proper channels.

linkedin twitter

LinkedIn is Listening

If there’s one thing you should take away from this post, it’s that LinkedIn is listening. You’ve got all the tools to get any help you need directly from the source.

As always, feel free to leave a comment below, or contact me by any of the following means with any questions you might have:

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Internet Marketing Terms Dictionary

I’m just as guilty as any other online advertiser of throwing around Internet marketing terms as if they’re ubiquitous. The fact of the matter is this industry has a lot of jargon and it seems commonplace to someone who’s been involved with it for 10+ years, but can be confusing for those just getting comfortable.

For that reason, here’s a dictionary of terms dealing with internet advertising, especially those I use on this website, to make it easy for the lay man to understand.

The following are a list of terms accompanied by a brief explanation as to their significance:

Auction The model under which most PPC ad platforms operate. There is a minimum CPC, and as more and more advertisers compete for that target audience, the higher the Bid price goes. The advertiser who has the highest Bids willing to pay the most for each click, and therefore wins the auction.
Banner A type of ad online which attempts to engage a site visitor with an offer that he/she is not specifically searching for. Usually in the form of an image. Also often called Display advertising.
Bid PPC platforms operate on an Auction basis wherein advertisers submit their Bids for how much they are willing to pay per click. All else held equal, your advertisement would show in a more prominent location if your bid is higher than a competitor’s.
Click When a visitor clicks on an advertisement, which attempts to take him to a the destination URL.
Click Through Rate (Abbreviated CTR) it is the rate at which Impressions convert to Clicks. It is calculated by Clicks/Impressions. For instance, if your advertisement has been viewed 100 times, and resulted in 4 clicks, that would be a 4% CTR).
Content Usually signifies the textual portion of an ad or a landing page.
Contextual Advertising which is triggered for a user based on the content they are consuming. For instance, if a web page contains the term ‘LinkedIn Ads’, then a contextual advertisement could display an ad about advertising on LinkedIn.
Conversion The completed goal that the advertiser has for a site visitor. For ecommerce, a conversion may be a product purchase. For leadgen companies, it may be a completed form fill. For a media site, it could be a site interaction, such as with an advertisement.
Conversion Rate The rate at which visitors on a website/webpage convert. This is calculated by Conversions/Clicks. The higher the conversion rate, the more economical your advertising efforts become.
Copy Usually signifies the textual portion of an ad or a landing page.
Cost per click (Abbreviated CPC) The rate at which PPC platforms charge the advertiser per recorded click. This is calculated by Cost/Clicks. Usually, the more demand there is for the audience you are targeting, the more expensive the cost per click will be. 
Cost per thousand impressions (Abbreviated CPM) The rate at which a platform charges online advertisers for Impressions. This is calculated by Cost/(Impressions*1000). Many question why the M if it’s thousand impressions, and that is because it stands for cost/mille, the Latin root for Thousand.
CPC (See Cost per click)
CPM (See Cost per thousand impressions)
Creative Creative is a noun that can reference both Content or design imagery.
CTR (See Click Through Rate)
Destination URL When paying for an online advertisement, you specify the webpagethat the visitor will visit after clicking the advertisement. This contains both the Landing Page and the Tracking Code.
Display Often called Banner ads, these are advertisements which are traditionally image based, and are generated Contextually instead of Keyword triggered.
Fold In old newspaper parlance, the fold is the area not visible until a page is turned. With webpages, the fold is the area where you would need to scroll down in order to see. Referencing a page element as being ‘above the fold’ means it’s visible immediately to anyone who visits the page. Saying something is ‘below the fold’ means that someone would need to scroll in order to see it. This line is made blurry by the advent of mobile and tablet browsing where various screen sizes make it impossible to judge what exactly will always be above or below the fold.
Impression When a webpage that contains an advertisement is seen by a visitor, that is called an Impression. It’s the recorded metric for having given a visitor an opportunity to Click an ad.
Keyword Terms that distill and describe a certain subject. Users will type keywords into a search engine in an attempt to find a webpage to give her more information about that keyword. Paid Search shows ads to searchers based on the keywords they type.
Landing Page These are usually specialized web pages created for traffic from paid ads. If your ad mentions ‘ice cream’, then ideally your landing page would be very specific about ice cream. Landing pages are created for the specific purpose of eliciting a Conversion.
Local Referencing paid or organic marketing intended to get traffic to a geographically-based business.
Organic Referencing the natural or free results of a search engine. Web pages featured in these results do not pay for placement or per click. The goal of SEO is to Rank better in SERPs for this free traffic.
Paid Any media/advertisement that you pay for.
Paid Search Advertising to visitors on a search engine based on the keywords they are actively searching for. Platforms like Google AdWords and Bing Ads allow advertisers to show ads about ice cream to users who are searching for ice cream-related keywords.
Pay-per-click (Abbreviated PPC) An advertising model where the advertiser only pays the platform when a visitor clicks the advertiser’s ad. LinkedIn Ads, Google AdWords, and Bing Ads are examples of advertising platforms which charge based on this cost model.
PPC (See Pay-per-click)
Quality Score Ad platforms reward advertisers who have strong history and performance with a metric called quality score. This is in place because an advertiser may have high Bids, but if her ads don’t get clicked, then the platform is losing money by showing ads and not getting paid. Quality Score is usually based heavily on historical CTR, which is the historical likelihood of the ad platform making money for showing your ad. Advertisers with poor quality scores are charged more per click than an advertiser with good quality scores in order to make up for the money the platform would have made off of an advertiser with higher CTRs)
Ranking Search engines place results in a ranking (usually from 1-10) of what they believe to be the most relevant results to a query. The higher the ranking, the better the real estate of a placement on the page.
Return On Investment (Abbreviated ROI) simply the profit from investing. It is calculated by Revenue/Cost of advertising. For instance, if you spent $1 on LinkedIn Ads, and made $4, you would have an ROI of 4, or a 4x return.
ROI (See Return On Investment)
Search A short form of Search Engine Marketing.
Search Engine Marketing (Abbreviated SEM) Traditionally it refers to paid advertisement on search engines in the industry, but in very definition, it should include all forms of marketing that can be done on a search engine, including Paid, Organic, Local, or Social.
Search Engine Optimization (Abbreviated SEO) It’s the process of making website content more relevant to keywords so that a search engine feels comfortable referring searchers to your webpages. Search Engines continually look for the highest quality resource to which to refer visitors, and they Rank links to webpages usually in a format with 10 results per page, which is sometimes referred to as the SERP.)
Search Engine Results Page (Abbreviated SERP) is the result of a Keyword search on a webpage where the results of the search query are Ranked for the user.
SEM (See Search Engine Marketing)
SEO (See Search Engine Optimization)
SERP (See Search Engine Results Page)
Social Referencing paid or organic marketing generated by the use of Social Media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Social Media Platforms which allow connecting and following of various people. Social media participation can be Paid or Organic.
Targeting Advertising which allows you to define the audience in terms of search intent, demographics, psychographics, interests, etc. Use targeting to reach your target audience.
Text Link Advertisements or Content that is hyperlinked to take a Visitor to another URL. Classified as a text link when an ad is text-based instead of image based.
Tracking Code When you place advertisements online, you can append the Destination URL with a tracking code which registers the origin of the traffic within your analytics platform. This can assist in attributing Conversions to the source, and therefore helping attribute ROI to ad spend.
URL The address of a web page. All web pages have an address which can be used to access it over the Internet.
Visit Any time a Visitor loads a webpage, it results in a visit. A visitor can create many visits, but a visit may only be created by a single visitor.
Visitor A user’s web browser registers within analytics platforms as a visitor. As that web browser interacts with a website, it generates Visitor pageviews. This is measured by the website placing a cookie in the visitor’s browser, and recognizing the cookie when that visitor returns, allowing it to recognize the visitor as having visited before.

 

Did I leave out any important terms? Any questions about definitions? Hit me up on:

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LinkedIn Advertising Options

LinkedIn has two completely separate ad platforms:

  1. Ads (Self-serve)
  2. Marketing Solutions (Managed)

Decide Which Avenue is Right for You

At first, you’ll need to decide which of the groups is right for your individual advertising needs. Deciding with which to engage is pretty straightforward.

Ads:

  • Self-serve pay-per-click (PPC) platform with access to all of LinkedIn’s audience
  • No monthly spend minimums
  • Clicks starting from $2 (CPM available as well)
  • Inventory is plentiful, but not guaranteed
  • Make changes to the account anytime
  • Cedes inventory to Marketing Solutions when MS demand is high

Marketing Solutions:

  • Commission-based sales team manages your campaign
  • $25k minimum commitment
  • CPM only, starting at $12 CPM
  • Inventory is guaranteed and your budget WILL be spent
  • Any changes to campaigns are dependent on sales rep
  • Takes inventory from Ads when demand is high

What Options Do I Have In Each Group?

Ads

Text Ads – These are the most basic of the ad formats. Design your ad however you like, staying within the character limits. Expect click through rates between .015% and .05%, with those above .035% being considered above average, and enjoying a quality score boost.

LinkedIn Ad Example

 

 

 

1×1 (Also called text link ads) – These are actually inventory reserved entirely for Marketing Solutions. When demand isn’t as high, high bidders from Ads inventory get featured. There is no option within the platform to show up exclusively in the 1×1 slot.

linkedin ads 1x1 text link example

 

Sponsored Updates – The only ad type to get access to mobile users (extremely important!). These ads are simply posts that you can sponsor to show up in the news feed timelines of those within your target audience.  The price tag on these are are high (I’ve experienced between $16-$24 CPM), but these carry a much higher CTR (between .2%-.8%), the cost per click ends up being quite reasonable (usually comparable or better than text ads).

linkedin ads sponsored updates example

Video – Video ads appear in the same inventory as text ads, but when clicked, a video takes over the entire 300×250 ad slot. After the 30 second video is complete, the user has the option to visit your landing page. Minimum bids are $4 on video, and are generally better for branding than direct response.

linkedin ads video ad example

Marketing Solutions

Banner Ad – This 3-block display places your custom 300×250 ad and overlays it over the position where 3 LinkedIn Ads self-serve text ads would go. It’s guaranteed inventory, but does come at a price. The CPM depends on the audience selected, but I’ve found it to be above $20 CPM, although if you are ok with remnant inventory (not guaranteed placements), you can get them for about $12 CPM.  Additional sizes besides the 300×250 offered are 160×600 and 728×90.

They also offer the capability of placing a poll in this space.

linkedin ads banner ad example

Sponsored Updates – Same as the Sponsored Updates above

Inmails – These show up in the LinkedIn inboxes of your target audience. Unfortunately, unlike Inmails from your connections where it sends your actual email an alert, Inmails do not trigger an alert. This means open rates are much lower than they could be. (LinkedIn quotes 20%-30% open rates, but I’ve experienced much lower). Of those who open, a 5-7% CTR is average. Keep in mind that Inmails place an extra 2+ steps in the conversion funnel (click inbox, click message, click link inside of message.) Costs on these are $3-$4 per recipient (Not per-open!). When considering trying out Inmails, transpose your own conversion averages and see if this is a worthwhile effort for your company.

linkedin ads inmail example ad

1×1 (Also called text link ads) – These are the most favorably-placed real estate on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, they’re expensive ($12+ CPM), and don’t carry the benefit of telling the member which company is sponsoring the ad. It contributes to less trust and contributes to a CTR lower than it should carry.

linkedin ads 1x1 text link example

Recommendations

If you have resources to manage your own campaigns, I highly recommend exhausting all of your avenues on Ads before testing out Marketing Solutions. From my experience, results tend to be about 5-10x more expensive on Marketing Solutions than on the less expensive Self-Serve Ads.

Have any questions about LinkedIn Ads? Hit me up on:

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Linkedin Advertising Costs

When making a foray into any type of ad, the first questions are naturally about cost/value of the ad platform. LinkedIn Ads holds a minimum bid of $2.00 per click, which is set to keep the platform free of low-quality ads (bellyfat ads, anyone?).

How much you actually will be paying is based on a variety of factors:

  • Maximum bid – if you bid at the $2 floor, there is a really good chance your ads will get sidelined. Bid higher so that your bids enter you into more auctions, and therefore, allows your ads to get more traffic.
  • Quality Score – it’s based on historical clickthrough rate, so if your ads have above-average CTRs (.03% or higher), your $2.50 bid may place you above your competitor’s $3 bid. Let it slip below, though, and you’re looking at paying more for poorer placements. Refresh your ad creative and change messaging every so often so it doesn’t become stale.
  • Amount of competition – Since LinkedIn Ads are run as an auction, your costs are driven up as more of your competition joins the auction. If you’re willing to pay $4 per click, and your competitors are willing to pay $5, you’ll see your impressions start to wane.

Bidding Strategies

Bidding Strategy

Pros

Cons

Bidding Low Low CPL, tightly controlled budget Low traffic volume, unpredictable drops in impressions
Bidding Medium Control over spend Limited traffic
Bidding High Near-unlimited traffic Difficult to predict spend, potential high CPLs

I’ve found that you can get a fair amount of traffic for $4 per click, and raising the ceiling will max you out somewhere between $7-$9 per click, depending on the desirability of your audience.

You should note, that LinkedIn Ads has a $10 minimum budget per day. Obviously, for a test, you’ll want to get enough data to make a sound decision, so I definitely recommend a higher budget, but that’s the floor.

 

Have any questions about LinkedIn Ads? Ask them in the comments below, or hit me up on:
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Linkedin Ads Character Limits

If you’ve used AdWords, the LinkedIn Ads format should look familiar to you.

LinkedIn Ads consist of a headline, one long adline (instead of AdWords’ two shorter ones), and an image. Each ad gets a destination URL for your landing page. See the table below for character limit specifications (AdWords is shown for comparison):

LinkedIn Ads Google AdWords
Headline (25 characters) Headline (25 characters)
Adline (75 characters) 2 Adlines (35 characters each
Image (50×50 pixel) No Image

Here are examples of how they look once published:

LinkedIn

LinkedIn Ad Example

 

 

AdWords

adwords ad example

 

 

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Why Are My LinkedIn Ads Not Getting Impressions?

So you’ve created ads on LinkedIn. They’re live, with available budget. Then you notice that the ads have stopped receiving impressions (and therefore, clicks). Why in the world would this happen?

The Quality Score Hammer

The reason this happens is LinkedIn Ads gets paid by the click. It has set the quality score to very quickly decide if an ad will be clicked (make them money) or not, and this happens within the first 1000-2000 impressions. If you ad is live and doesn’t get a few clicks in the first 2000 impressions, LinkedIn would rather have another advertiser’s ads that will make them money in that ad slot. The quality score hammer comes down hard, and basically sidelines an ad – resulting in your having budget available and the campaign/ad live, and you won’t be receiving traffic.

Great, so we know that LinkedIn Ads’ quality score algorithm is stronger than Thor’s hammer. How do you get around this?

Low Bidding

When a new advertiser is testing a platform, they tend to go in with the very minimum bids possible. On LinkedIn, that floor is just above $2. Unfortunately, if you launch an ad, and the bids are lower than other advertisers are bidding, your ad won’t get entered into very many auctions.

There’s also likely a time component to this too. If you aren’t getting entered into auctions fast enough, the algorithm may sideline your ad because it’s not getting impressions fast enough. This leaves many new advertisers frustrated.

Remedy this by bidding a bit higher. I know this is scary for someone evaluating the platform, but it’s how to play the game. Since your initial foray will be a bit more expensive, compensate by really narrowing your targeting on a very specific group of your target customer. If you’re trying to sell to Sales Managers, consider running your test on the titles of sales managers of companies that are above a certain size (more targeted) than simply showing the ads to anyone with a sales job function.

Low CTRs

Even if you’re bidding higher, sometimes your ads will get sidelined when you launch them. This is, again, because of the quality score hammer.

Remember that if your ad isn’t going to generate clicks, it won’t make the platform any money. They’d rather give that real estate to another advertiser who has a proven track record of getting clicks.

When you launch an ad, the algorithm looks for signs that it will get clicked, and that sign is the CTR (click through rate). If your ad gets less than about a .025% CTR, it’s likely to fall by the wayside.

The best way to get your ads out of this rut is to change the ad and give it another chance. You have two choices here:

1. Make a simple change – even if it’s just punctuation. This will reset the ad’s quality score, and give it another chance to succeed.

2. Try changing the ad entirely to make it more compelling. If it’s not compelling enough to get clicks, try changing the call to action, or the image.

Best Practice to Avoid the Quality Score Hammer

  • Bid high to get entered into more auctions.
  • Watch the ad immediately after launch to make sure it gets clicks.
  • If it’s not getting clicks, modify the ad.
  • Continue modifying the ad until it gets traction.

If you have any questions that haven’t been covered, shoot me a message, and I’m happy to respond.

Facebook Job Title Targeting a Threat to B2B?

Facebook announced today that it would allow users of Facebook Ads to target by job title. Many in the B2B marketing and LinkedIn Ads space have raised the question of whether that will intrude on LinkedIn Ads’ core competency. Here is why it won’t (at least in the current format):

Facebook is Personal

Facebook is all about your personal life, and doesn’t reliably translate to business. There is little motivation or social pressure to enter a job title. You will only be able to target those with job title information in their profiles, and that will likely be a very narrow audience.

LinkedIn is More than Job Titles

Those of you who use LinkedIn Ads heavily know that you don’t simply create a campaign around job titles. LinkedIn members, in general, have a huge issue with profile completeness, which means that if you only target by title, you’ll miss out on a large chunk of qualified traffic. Facebook may allow job title targeting, but without significantly more information from users, they will still lack in other forms of targeting at which LinkedIn excels, like job function, seniority, skills, or groups.

Careers Bring Social Pressure

If you’re building a career, or already established in one, you more than likely wear your title, company, and compensation as a badge of honor. These things are an affirmation of your value to society, and in a way they define us. When someone advances in his career, he’s often excited to display that accomplishment, and his LinkedIn profile changes become a first priority. Even with that social pressure to broadcast our accomplishments, LinkedIn battles poor profile completeness. That pressure is much less intense on Facebook where career is downplayed, and I don’t see Facebook being able to compete with that level of targeting depth as LinkedIn can.

I’m predicting that Facebook won’t be stealing much B2B ads market share from LinkedIn due to the three reasons I listed above. It’s possible that Facebook could be planning something bigger that I’m not anticipating, but given the current circumstances, I definitely think that LinkedIn Ads are still the horse to bet on.

I plan on testing out Facebook’s offering in the near future, and I’ll let you know what I find.