Once upon a time, not so long ago, if a marketer wanted to access the “Premium” ad inventory for banner ads on LinkedIn.com, a salesperson would be more than happy to negotiate a minimum $25,000 purchase of guaranteed impressions over 90 days. Yes, that’s right—the ultimate B2B lead generation web property for business professionals was ad impression banner buys like it was a consumer channel where the tactic of bombarding people with ad views is the preferred method. And that is still the case if you go through LinkedIn to purchase ads.
But things have changed very quickly; approximately 58% of all of LinkedIn’s traffic now comes from mobile devices, and there are no banner ads on the mobile version of LinkedIn, only Sponsored Updates or Direct Sponsored Content ads. The impact on available ad impressions on desktop computers has been significant, so significant that LinkedIn has actually stopped reporting the year-over-year declines in its “Premium Display” ad revenues (last reported at around 30% lower YoY).
As a result, LinkedIn has stopped being so “exclusive” in how advertisers can get those premium banners on LinkedIn. LinkedIn opened up to programmatic ad buying platforms at the start of the year that has allowed advertisers using those platforms to buy ad impressions on LinkedIn. The results of which have been interesting, with the appearance of ads for consumer goods like sandwiches showing to B2B audiences. It’s our understanding that those programmatic media buys used none of the ad targeting features available on LinkedIn.
The New Way Forward From an Unexpected Place
It is now possible to get your banner ads on LinkedIn without talking to a LinkedIn Ads salesperson about an expensive media buy or dealing with a programmatic ad buyer of ad impressions. In fact, you can finally pay by the click and set daily ad budgets for as little or as much as you want, just like on Google AdWords. And the reason for that is very simple: You can now do display advertising on LinkedIn through Google AdWords.
That’s right—use Google to Advertise on LinkedIn. LinkedIn.com is now an available site placement that any Google AdWords advertiser can deliver ads to. You can set your cost per click, cost per impression and daily ad budgets there. You can also schedule your ads to run for the hours you want and can shut them off whenever you want as well.
There’s Always a Catch…
LinkedIn was right to emphasize the “premium” nature of those banners in the past, but it didn’t have as much to do with the ad unit as it did with the ad unit combined with LinkedIn’s incredible ad targeting capabilities. In case you are not already familiar, LinkedIn essentially gives its advertisers the ability to target ads to essentially every form field available on a LinkedIn member’s profile page—essentially their resume. The beauty of this is people are a little vain with their profiles. They need to be, because touting their skills and experiences can absolutely impact them professionally.
The bad news is that those ad targeting methods on LinkedIn are not available for Google advertisers using placement targeting to get banner ads on LinkedIn. That targeting is proprietary to LinkedIn, and, they understandably, it isn’t giving it away.
Don’t Despair—There Is Another Way (And It’s Cool!)
I would rather take LinkedIn’s ad targeting for these ads. But, there are some very cool possibilities for using the Google Display Network’s ad targeting features that all appear to be available for use on placement targeting on LinkedIn. Google has age, gender, parental status and geographic targeting down to the zip code., but there’s much more than that to offer if you get creative.
You can limit your display ads on LinkedIn to just your remarketing lists of site visitors. Those can be set for all site visitors, visitors of product/service pages—visitors in the last day up to visitors in the last 540 days. You can also use Similar Audiences that share identical characteristics with your remarketing audience to increase the scale of your audience size. Currently, there isn’t the ability to do remarketing with any of LinkedIn’s ad platforms right now, so this is unique.
Display Keyword Targeting
So you don’t have the option of using LinkedIn’s skills targeting, job title targeting or job function targeting. But, if there are skills you want to target, you could add the names of those skills that might be on a person’s profile page to keyword triggered display ad targeting. You could also list the job titles that you want to target ads to as keywords that trigger display ads. If you want to target people whose job function is marketing, you could add the word “marketing” to your list of keywords that could be on a page that could trigger a display ad to show.
Mimic LinkedIn Group Membership With Custom Affinity Audiences
AdWords Custom Affinity Audiences allow you to create audience interests based on lists of URLs that your ideal audience might visit. So if you like to use LinkedIn group membership as a targeting method with LinkedIn (by the way, it’s really great—those people are hardcore LinkedIn users), then you can put the URLs of all of those LinkedIn Groups into an AdWords Custom Affinity campaign and combine it with Placement targeting to just linkedin.com, and viola! You have simulated an approximation of LinkedIn group membership and can show ads on LinkedIn to just those audiences interested in those groups.
AdWords In-Market Audiences
Google AdWords “In-Market Audience” display ad targeting lets an advertiser circulate ads to people that have a recent search and browser history indicating that they are researching the purchase of a product or service (we have been told that this is a last 30 days kind of search history kind of behavior). If you want to target people with an in-market interest of IT or networking equipment, you can layer that targeting with placement targeting on LinkedIn very easily:
Hack LinkedIn Follower Ads Without a Media Buy
LinkedIn offers an ad unit that allows you to buy ad impressions to attract new followers of your company profile on LinkedIn.
You could potentially bypass contacting LinkedIn to inquire about buying these and try a do it yourself ad. It won’t have the personalization of a profile image that LinkedIn’s ads have, but you could easily create a banner that could deliver someone to either a landing page with links to a LinkedIn profile page or take them directly to your company LinkedIn Profile page. The point is: pay by the click, invest as much or as little as you like in it and ignore the huge media buy.
A good place to start would likely be your remarketing lists and viewer’s of your companies blog posts, which could help you extend the reach of future blog posts.
Bypass LinkedIn Talent Solutions Ads
I have to admit, I’m not up to speed on how LinkedIn Talent Solutions Ads are priced, but I do know that you could potentially side-step going through LinkedIn to actually use something similar to them now. Just combine Google Display Network Placement target for linkedin.com with AdWords In-market Interests for the applicable job seeker category you want to target. Again, Google users searcher and browser history over the last 30 days to identify the audience for that ad targeting:
It Shouldn’t Have Come to This
I understand LinkedIn’s need to try to stave off its year-over-year revenue losses from its Premium Display ads. Allowing Google AdWords to place ads on LinkedIn is a way to try to bridge those gaps.
But, I’ve been saying this for years. Every ad unit available for use on LinkedIn should be available for use on LinkedIn’s self-serve ad platforms. Including display banners, follower ads, talent solutions and even those weird text ads that show on the top of all LinkedIn pages. But LinkedIn has insisted on keeping those ads available for large media buys only.
By allowing Google AdWords to use Placement targeting, the need for an ad sales force, media buys, insertion orders, etc. is now a moot point. From the LinkedIn-stockholder’s perspective, it’s also pretty stupid. LinkedIn is now sharing ad revenue with Google on all of these display ads delivered through Google. If LinkedIn were to allow the use of them on its ad platform without the current restrictions, it would get 100% of the revenues from those ad clicks instead of sharing with Google.
Experienced LinkedIn advertisers would easily take LinkedIn’s ad targeting options over Google’s ad targeting options (although retargeting isn’t available on LinkedIn’s ad platforms yet). But, we will “hack” our way around LinkedIn to get what we need until the rules change.
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