LinkedIn is a powerful place to market to a business audience. Every B2B persona should include job titles and professional skills, which happens to perfectly match LinkedIn’s targeting options. And even though it’s tedious in its current state, you can even do account-based marketing on LinkedIn. It’s a must-have marketing channel for B2B marketers.
In fact, the question we ask ourselves isn’t whether we should be using LinkedIn ads at all; rather, it’s how do we find more ways to advertise on LinkedIn (while maintaining effectiveness)?
When B2B marketers run paid media campaigns, the content they promote is typically gated. If you’re going to pay for clicks, you want to convert them into a lead, which is most directly done through gated content.
However, we’ve found that we can also generate high quality leads that, more importantly, turn into real business value (revenue) with ungated content on LinkedIn. It’s been a huge boon for the business because we generate far more ungated content than gated content, mostly because of our active blog.
Here’s how we do it:
1) Write high quality blog posts for your target personas
As usual, successful paid media campaigns start with creating high quality content. With a deep understanding of our target audience, we’re able to write valuable blog posts that educate our audience.
Without good content, it doesn’t really matter what else you do -- it’s the foundation for driving high quality leads.
Here’s some information on how to create great B2B personas with LinkedIn.
2) Create campaigns targeting each persona
Next, create campaigns for your various personas. At Bizible, we have four personas, so we’ve created four different campaigns, as well as an additional campaign for our general audience which we define as B2B marketing professionals at mid-market companies in the US. In addition to marketing job titles, location, and company size, the audience targeting also includes many B2B-specific job skills (one of the many features that makes LinkedIn an effective B2B marketing channel).
When blog posts are applicable to one persona, but not the others, we only promote it to the persona-specific campaign to ensure that we’re hitting the right audience with the right content.
3) Decide on your bidding strategy
We know blog posts are going to have a lower conversion rate compared to ebooks and whitepapers because with ungated content, the conversion opportunity is less direct. Therefore, we are willing to pay less per click compared to ads for gated content.
When it comes to CPC vs. CPM, we typically start with CPC-based bidding because for us, we care more about clicks than impressions, but more on that later.
4) Focus on images and test them
The next step is to choose the right image. On LinkedIn, we’ve found that images have a big impact on CTR. More than just getting our audience to click, the data we get from testing images on LinkedIn informs our future image choices for the blog, whether it’s charts, people, infographics, or something else.
5) Test ad copy, too
We take advantage of the opportunity to quickly test and modify different kinds of ad copy on LinkedIn. Unlike billboards or TV ads, it’s easy to change ad copy and have the change take effect nearly instantaneously.
Usually we’ll run several versions of an ad for the same blog post -- one with short and concise ad copy, one with a featured statistic (if applicable), and one with longer and more descriptive copy. It’s typically pretty easy to tell early on which one performs better, so we only continue to run that version of the ad. For us, the more successful ad copy has been case by case. Just be sure to monitor and turn off versions that aren’t working.
6) Monitor performance and experiment with CPC vs. CPM bidding
At the most basic, when we monitor LinkedIn ad performance, we leave content that is performing well, and refresh content that is underperforming. Because we publish new blog posts frequently, it’s easy to replace content that isn’t performing well on LinkedIn.
However, we closely monitor our CTR because it also allows us to experiment and optimize using other factors. One of those optimizations is that when our ad’s CTR is high (usually above 0.9%), we test switching to CPM bidding.
There are, of course, a ton of factors that go into LinkedIn’s ad placement -- many of which LinkedIn keeps a secret. For example, we want to stay in the first position in our auction because that will affect the ad’s CTR, but how to get and stay in first position is a bit of a guessing game, since it’s up to LinkedIn’s algorithm. We do know, however, that the bid and historical CTR definitely play a part.
Despite the complications of those unknown factors, it is possible to do some math to help inform when we switch from CPC to CPM and to figure out whether the switch was effective.
Here’s a simplified example to demonstrate the basic math of bidding in CPC versus CPM:
There are three numbers you need to look at: CPC, CPM, and CTR (click-through rate). Let’s say that your ad is getting a high CTR of 1%, so you are considering switching from a competitive CPC bid of $4 to an equally competitive CPM bid of $20.
If you can maintain a 1% CTR with a $20 CPM bid, you are able to generate the same amount of clicks for a lower effective CPC. The $20 ad spend would generate 1,000 impressions and 10 clicks -- an effective CPC of $2. You have just achieved the same outcome for half the cost!
In summary, if your CTR is high enough, you’ll be able to set a competitive CPM bid that results in a lower effective CPC compared to if you had gone with a competitive CPC bid. The exact threshold CTR varies from ad to ad, so it is something that you have to test every time.
It’s important to note that when we’ve switched from CPC to CPM, we’ve noticed that our number of impressions increases and our CTR sometimes decreases. That’s because when you bid based on CPMs, LinkedIn will optimize for impressions rather than clicks.
Whether you bid in CPC or CPM, LinkedIn’s ad analytics fortunately gives you both the effective CPC and CPM, making it a bit easier to monitor closely.
This test is something that you need to keep an eye on, but if you do it right, it can make your marketing budget go a lot farther.
7) Use UTM parameters to measure performance with your back-end data
LinkedIn measurement will only go as far as CTR -- but, as revenue-driven marketers, that’s not the best way to optimize. It is best to measure performance using full-funnel metrics, and that requires back-end/sales data. To measure true performance, we use UTM parameters so that our advanced marketing attribution solution can connect our marketing data (LinkedIn ad data) to sales data (revenue).
Measuring ad performance all the way to revenue is key for marketers to gain influence and legitimacy within the organization.
AJ Wilcox, founder and LinkedIn Advertising Consultant at B2Linked, says that when marketers focus on driving real business value, “the results are that companies are more profitable, marketers are more sophisticated, and less time is wasted between sales and marketing teams engagement in political maneuvering... What's the point in even testing/optimizing if you can't ensure that they will move business goals forward?”
8) Optimize your landing page
The last step is getting the landing page right. In this case, the landing page is the blog post. Over the last few months, we’ve made a lot of blog conversion optimization changes, from designing more effective CTAs to replacing sidebar banner CTAs with smart ebook download forms.
The changes have worked, too. Our blog conversion rate for visitors from LinkedIn has improved 40% since September.
Using these eight steps, we’re able to drive real business value by promoting ungated content with Linkedin ads. Here are our results for the month of November.
In November, we spent about $13,000 to promote ungated content with Linkedin ads. Looking at the top of the pipeline, we were able to convert 3.5% of clicks from those LinkedIn ads into marketing qualified leads (MQLs).
And using our advanced W-shaped attribution model, we’re able to demonstrate the true business value of the ads and blog content. The data shows that our LinkedIn ads for blog content generated nearly $200,000 in pipeline revenue, which is a potential ROI of about 1500%. That’s a tremendous amount of business value.
Attribution Model: W-Shaped Attribution -- 30% to first touch, 30% to lead-created touch, 30% to opportunity-created touch, 10% split to other touches
MQL Conversion Rate (all blog): 3.5%
Pipeline Generated: $199,725
Potential ROI: ~1500%
If you have good content to share, follow these steps, and generate real value from ungated content on LinkedIn. And finally, be sure to have a B2B attribution solution in place to measure and optimize it all, otherwise you’ll be underreporting your efforts.