The Top 5 Takeaways from LinkedIn’s Ad Targeting Guide

Akvile DeFazio
October 6th, 2020
Akvile DeFazio

Two years ago LinkedIn completely overhauled Campaign Manager, its self-serve advertising platform. Since then the company has continued to update its ad targeting capabilities – adding features like retargeting by video or lead gen forms, brand awareness campaigns and audience engagement insights. With more than 700 million global users, the social network designed exclusively for professionals has become a primary platform for advertisers wanting to connect with B2B decision makers.

Recently, LinkedIn released its newly updated “How LinkedIn Targeting Works” guide, highlighting various ad targeting options and strategies. It’s a comprehensive report and well worth the read for any advertiser new to LinkedIn’s ad platform – but for those already familiar with LinkedIn’s ad offerings, AKvertise has put together a list of our top five takeaways.

LinkedIn’s “How Targeting Works” Guide: The Top 5 Takeaways

#1: Audience Expansion versus Lookalike Audiences versus Matched Audiences
LinkedIn offers advertisers multiple ad tools to broaden their reach on the platform, including Audience Expansion, Lookalike Audiences and Matched Audiences. The Audience Expansion and Lookalike Audience features are similar in function – both increasing the scale and reach of your campaign — but have distinct differences.

“When you already have a high-performing audience – either from people visiting your website, people who provided you their email or a tailored list of companies – Lookalike Audiences can find you more people who look like these individuals,” writes LinkedIn, “When you are using professional targeting, Audience Expansion can help reach similar audiences to your selected options.”

The Matched Audiences functionality offers an entirely different set of capabilities, allowing advertisers to target audiences based on existing customer data. Advertisers can use Matched Audiences to retarget website visitors, LinkedIn users who previously engaged with their ads on the platform or contacts curated from a third-party database or marketing automation platform that they upload to Campaign Manager.

#2: LinkedIn’s Retargeting Capabilities
As with other social platforms, retargeting campaigns can dramatically boost your ROI by serving up ads to people who have already shown interest in your company, product or the content you’re sharing. Retargeting tactics on LinkedIn include:

  • Website retargeting
  • Retargeting by Video Ads or Lead Gen Ads (The ability to target users who have previously engaged with your LinkedIn Video Ads or Lead Gen Ads.)
  • Company targeting (The ability to target multiple contacts at the same company for your account based marketing efforts.)
  • Contact Targeting (Building an audience based on a list of leads uploaded from a CRM or marketing automation platform.)

LinkedIn has partnered with a variety of third-party platforms – including Eloqua, Salesforce Ad Studio, HubSpot, LiveRamp, Adobe and more – to offer audience integration functionality when implementing retargeting campaigns.

#3: LinkedIn’s “Interest” targeting feature goes beyond LinkedIn
LinkedIn advertisers have the option to target users based on their interests. There are more than 200 interest categories, covering topics like artificial intelligence, business travel, customer experience, etc. But what’s most interesting about LinkedIn’s Interest targeting capability is that it is based not only on the content members engage with on LinkedIn but also professional topics they search for on Bing and inferred interests based on a member’s profile.

According to LinkedIn, Interest Targeting can, “Help you reach a unique set of audiences when other targeting options are too narrow,” and is most effective when used in campaigns with awareness or consideration objectives.

#4: Optimal Audience Sizes for LinkedIn’s Different Ad Types
One small but important tip LinkedIn offers in its guide is a primer for optimal audience sizes by ad types. For image ads, the site says you should aim for, at least, a target audience of 15,000. Text ads have a much wider range of audience sizes: Anywhere between 60,000 and 400,000.

Sponsored Content ads should have a campaign audience size of 300,000 or more and Message Ads (formerly known as Sponsored InMail ads – which allow advertisers to send direct messages to users) should target 100,000 members at most.

LinkedIn’s minimum audience requirement for all ad campaigns is 300. The “Forecasted Results” feature in Campaign Manager allows advertisers to see a campaign’s expected audience size, along with a segment breakdown of the audience and projected impressions, clicks and conversions.

#5: Should you target by age or gender demographics?
While LinkedIn allows advertisers to target campaigns based on demographic attributes like age and gender – details it infers from a member’s profile — it advises against it.

“We find that for most customers using professional targeting options like interests, member traits, skills or functions instead of age or gender leads to much stronger results for campaigns,” writes LinkedIn.

LinkedIn notes that it prohibits ads related to employment, housing, education or credit to be targeted based on a person’s age or gender – a policy aimed at fighting discrimination on the platform: “If an ad is flagged as discriminatory we will immediately take it down.”

You can download the full report on LinkedIn’s Marketing Solutions Blog: “Mastering Targeting on LinkedIn | How LinkedIn Targeting Works.”


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