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Show Transcript

You’ve got an 80 percent match rate on your LinkedIn Ads list upload. Not bad, right? Let’s talk about improving your match rates on this week’s episode of the LinkedIn Ads Show.

Welcome to the LinkedIn Ads Show. Here’s your host, AJ Wilcox.

Hey, there LinkedIn Ads fanatics. As he said, I’m AJ Wilcox, and I’m the host of the weekly podcast, the LinkedIn Ads Show. This is where we take you on a transformational journey towards mastering LinkedIn Ads and achieving true pro status. I’ve noticed a lot of advertisers giving feedback about list targeting, and this is such an underappreciated aspect to advertising on LinkedIn. So let’s spend some time talking about your lists and ways that you can get even better match rates than you’re getting already.

First off in the news, Happy New Year, Happy 2024. This episode should be the first one to go out in the beginning of 2024. So if all goes according to plan, I hope you had an incredible New Year’s with your family, friends, and those you hold most dear. And if you celebrated Christmas, I hope you felt the peace and love of Jesus Christ in your homes. And I hope you keep him in your mind and your heart all year round. I wish you the happiest of holidays, no matter what you observe and celebrate. On a serious note, at a time with so much contention in the world, I pray for peace in your homes, countries, and your hearts.

I want to read you an awesome review here on the show. This is from Shannon Caldwell. She left a review that said, The Way I Became a LinkedIn Ads Expert, Five Stars. “I’ve been listening to AJ’s B2Linked podcast for over three years. I’ve taken his LinkedIn Learning course and become a member of the LinkedIn Ads fanatics community. All this exposure has allowed me to take LinkedIn Ads to become the top pipeline producing channel for our marketing team. As my learning has advanced, this podcast has kept up with the topics that dig deeper into LinkedIn Ads success. It’s been a journey from newb to expert. When people ask me how I’ve learned so much about LinkedIn Ads, I point them to this podcast and all the classes AJ and his team have produced. I highly recommend.” And this came from Shannon Caldwell. She’s a Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Walters Kluwer in North Carolina. And as she mentioned, she is one of the awesome fanatics in the LinkedIn Ads fanatics community. So, if you’re not already a member, come join us. There’s some great stuff going on. And I want to say a huge shout out and thank you to Shannon for leaving an awesome review. Nothing warms my heart more than seeing a great review, but also watching what you guys are doing in your careers, and how the content that we come out with empowers you and turns you into pros. So thanks so much.

If you’re a regular listener of the show, please do consider leaving a review like this, and I’d love to shout you out. And then of course, if you have a question, a review or feedback for the show, and you don’t want to submit it written, well, message me on LinkedIn or email us at You can just include a little recording of your voice, a little file snippet, and I would love to play them here on the show and shout you out, or I can keep you anonymous as well. So record yourself asking a question, leaving a review, or commenting on something we’ve already covered because I do want to feature you. Alright, with that being said, let’s hit it.

So we are talking about uploading lists to LinkedIn, and this is one of the things that I think makes LinkedIn more special than any other ad platform out there. Of course, all the other ad platforms allow us to upload lists of contacts, but LinkedIn Ads is the only one I’m aware of that allows you to upload lists of companies in bulk. Some special things about the way that we can upload lists. We can either upload a list and run it as is, or we can do what I always recommend, which is layer on top of that list additional targeting that comes from LinkedIn’s native targeting. We can also use these lists not only to target, but we can also use them to exclude. This makes them great for account based marketing, or ABM as you might know it, where we can go and take a list of all of the top companies that you and your sales team are trying to reach, and then layer on top of that the roles that you might be trying to reach. It’s also great for including lists of, let’s say, your own company, your competitors, your current and past customers. This is also great for exclusions. If you take lists of, let’s say your competitors, companies, your current and past customers, even your own employees, you upload that to LinkedIn. And then you can use that as a bulk exclusion for all the campaigns in your account. This ensures you’re not wasting money on people that you already have access to, or people you don’t actually want to reach.

So, you guys are LinkedIn Ads pros, I get it. None of this is new information to you. Okay, cool. But what I do want to stress is the importance of those match rates. I see far too many marketers who are getting 50 – 70 percent match rates on their lists, and they’re just okay with that. It’s like whatever I upload, whatever LinkedIn sees, okay, I’ll move forward with. But what I want you to understand is that anything you can do to increase the match rate on these lists is well worth your time. It makes a huge difference in your audience sizes that you’re going to target.

When you’re targeting by lists, you’re already usually talking to very small audiences. Because it’s, it’s kind of rare when you’ll get a list that has hundreds of thousands of company names or Individuals on it. So if you’re already targeting a very small audience, it really does make sense to do whatever you can to get an additional, let’s say, 30 to 50 percent of that list to show up and be able to target on LinkedIn. This can make the difference between having a list that is big enough to target at all, to having an audience large enough that you can advertise to and not get gouged on the pricing. Even if you’re getting a 90 percent match rate, that’s still 10 percent of your audience that you want to be targeting that you’re not. So I’m going to teach you some tricks on how you can get 100 percent or at least near it as a match rate. So when you go to create a new company list, you’ll download the template from LinkedIn and you’ll see lots of different columns of data you can include. And honestly, the very first time you see this, it could be a little bit daunting. You see lots of columns and go, ooh, I don’t know if I have all that information. Or I could get it, but do I prioritize it? Which fields matter more than others, etc… Now when you upload a list of names of companies to LinkedIn, what LinkedIn is trying to do is look at those names and trying to decide. Is this the name that I have on file or not? Is it close enough, or is it too far away for me to feel comfortable saying, Yep, that’s the same company. So if you’re uploading a list of the names of the companies, that’s what LinkedIn’s doing is comparing them against the names of companies that it has in its database that are company pages. And if you’ve ever searched for company names on LinkedIn, you will see a lot of different results come back. So, for instance, if you type in IBM and you’re thinking, oh, IBM, it’s a really big company. It’s really well known. You can see all the different variations of IBM that LinkedIn has on file. Sure, of course, there’s IBM, but there’s also IBM Consulting, IBM IX, IBM Watson X, IBM Data AI and Automation. I’m just reading the first few results that have come up in my own search. So if you’re just uploading names of companies, yeah, you might find that you have a lower match rate, and you may want to include some other columns to help get a much higher match rate here.

The next field you might be looking at is company URL, because that makes a lot of sense if there’s 30 different things with IBM in it, but only one of those has a URL that is, if you just put in, you’re likely to match it. So, that used to be by far the best way to do it. But then a year or so ago, LinkedIn included a new column, and this one is an absolute godsend, and it is your LinkedIn company page URL. This is absolutely brilliant, because no matter what the company name or the URL is, LinkedIn knows the company, if they have the company page URL. So if you have access to this data, I wouldn’t even say mess with any of those other columns. I would just include LinkedIn company page URL. We’ve done a lot of tests with including certain columns, leaving others out, and by far the very best match rates we get are by including the LinkedIn company page URL, which makes perfect sense because this is data LinkedIn absolutely knows without a shadow of a doubt, this is the right company because that’s in their own database. But if you don’t have company page URL, I think website URL is probably your next best pick. It doesn’t hurt to include the company name that you’ve pulled from wherever. And if you’re going only after publicly traded companies, yeah, you can use the stock symbol. I don’t know very many companies who have that just right offhand. I wouldn’t even mess with industry, city, state, zip code. None of that really matters. You could do country if you’re trying to match and you don’t know anything else about the company, like their web address or their company page URL. But usually I just ignore all of that. So that works great with company lists that you might be uploading. But what if you’re working with contact lists? With every other ad platform when you upload data to it about users? Email is by far the most important field to map on, but this is especially problematic for us because we’re in B2B and most of the sales teams that we talk to require having a business email address. But most users don’t log in to their LinkedIn profiles with their business address. So the data that LinkedIn has is usually a free email, like a Gmail. So if all you do is take a list of email addresses and upload it to LinkedIn, you’re probably going to have a pretty low match rate. Which is exactly what you’d see if you upload the same list to Google, to Meta, to Quora, Twitter, all of that. But this is why I love lists on LinkedIn so much, is because here’s a dirty little secret, you don’t even need email address in order to match the right person. Because what LinkedIn is looking for is the right combination of features of a person, so they feel confident enough saying, yep, that’s the user you’re looking for.

Now, LinkedIn product team, I know you guys are listening. The biggest ask I have for you is please, please, please give us a LinkedIn public profile URL as a way of matching users. Just like when we’re matching a company list and being able to match by the company page URL has a hundred percent match rate. I would love to see the same thing for contacts. But because we don’t have that at least yet, here is our formula for getting the very highest match rates possible using a contact list upload. And this requires four fields. Number one, first name, it makes sense. Number two, last name, also makes sense. Number three, their company name. And Number four, their job title. Because if you include those four things, there are very few people with very similar names that have the same job title in the same company. So LinkedIn is going to match at an extremely high rate here, and you don’t even need to rely on having their emails. A couple hints here, you do want to make sure that the company name that you list is as close as possible to the name of the company page on LinkedIn. And another hint, when you’re going for job title, you might be tempted to grab their headline and paste that in there, but instead, realize that LinkedIn actually pulls job title from the experience section, that field that’s actually called job title.

So if you have those four fields, they are as close as possible to what LinkedIn has in its own database, you’re going to have an extremely high match rate. What about all the other fields? I say don’t even bother. Don’t worry about country unless you have maybe very common names you’re working with. And then you’ll also see a column for Apple IDFA and Google AID. And I’ve never to date had a client give us IDFAs or Google AIDs. So I did a little bit more research. There is a column for it, but I found an article from 2021 where LinkedIn mentioned that their app actually stopped collecting this data on members. So I went ahead and linked to that article in the show notes, so you can go and investigate if you’re interested in learning more about this. Same thing with the Google ID. Frankly, I’m not even sure who has access to this data in their lists. So I’d love it if you could write in or even record a little voice snippet with explaining how you got this data and how you use it and send it to us, and I’d love to include it on the show. But for me, I’ve never included this data in matching. I have no idea how great it really is. And so I’d love to hear from you.

Alright, here’s a quick sponsor break. And then we’ll dive into the best ways of collecting this data to make your lists match as highly as possible.

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All right, let’s jump back into how we actually collect this data to get it into a spreadsheet so that we can upload it to LinkedIn.

The first and obvious way to do this is to visit each profile manually and copy and paste the fields from it. Maybe you have an intern who needs tasks and maybe this is a great way to do that. Boy, it’s very manual, tons and tons of nuanced, busy work. And I wouldn’t suggest collecting this manually, unless you’re purposely working with very small datasets. But more than likely, you have some data source out there that you’re pulling from. And this can give you. a big, nice spreadsheet with columns already set for you, and you have very little work to upload it into LinkedIn. And I would say, huge bonus points, if wherever you’re pulling the data from, if they’ve partnered with LinkedIn, so that the company names match, everything matches perfectly. Remember, the purpose of these match lists is to get as close to the data that LinkedIn has as possible.

We do have some internal tools that we use for our clients, so I may end up doing an episode about this in the future, about how to get 100 percent match rates. Another way that you can get this data is by scraping. Now, I do have to give you a huge warning. LinkedIn hates scraping. So I don’t recommend this in any way because I’ll tell you exactly what happens. When LinkedIn catches you scraping, they will shut down your profile, the one that they find doing the scraping, and all ad accounts that are attached to that user will be put on hold and they’ll receive an email saying that this user is the reason why their ad account is on hold. Trust me, it’s ugly. You don’t want any part of it. So because so much of this creating lists is manual, unless you have some other data source, we have to ask, is it worth it to manually work with these lists? And I would say, yeah, depending on the size of your list, and the importance of the audiences that are featured in this list, because you were really strategic in how you decided who to put on this list, it’s probably very worth your efforts. Even if it is very manual. Think about it, if there’s some small tweak that you can do with the data, and maybe it takes two or three hours of monotonous work of your time, but you can use it to get 20 to 40 percent more people in your audience to match. Oh, it’s totally worth it in my opinion. Plus, if you do it a lot, you’ll get really good at Excel, and that is by far one of the skills that I think marketers are lacking most in. So get all ninja up in Excel.

What about if you’re uploading an individual list and it’s too small? We see this a lot. We know that an audience has to have at least 300 people in it for LinkedIn to let you target. Well, let’s say you have a list of 300 people and you upload it, but it has to be 300 people that LinkedIn recognizes. So what do you do? This happens all the time, and I’ve got a great hack for you. First of all, go into that contact list and see, and if you have company emails by chance, what you can do is with a very quick search and replace, you can say anything that comes before the @, in the email address, replace with nothing. So I’ll highlight all of the email addresses and do Ctrl F on PC. And I’ll do the asterisk with the at sign, which says grab anything before the at sign. And then I go down to the replace with. And then under replace with, I just leave it blank and tell it to replace. And what it does is it goes through and takes everything from the at sign to the left. Leaving you just with the company URL.

Now you’ve got a list that is almost ready to upload directly to LinkedIn as a company list, not a contact list. If you just are using a contact list, you’re only going to reach maybe that one person in the company. But if you turn that into a company list and then use some broader targeting, maybe from LinkedIn’s native targeting to layer on top of it, you will not only get that one individual, but you’ll also get their coworkers, their boss, their boss’s boss. You have a lot more control here. You can create much larger audiences that are easier to actually spend money. And you know, they’re still coming from the right organizations that you want to get in front of. I would highly suggest if you’re overlaying LinkedIn’s native targeting on top of a company list that you use broad targeting like job function and seniority on top and not things that are so tight, like job title, because we’ve talked on a previous episode. LinkedIn only understands, let’s say, 30 to 50 percent of job titles, so if you’re using just job titles for targeting, you’re omitting a large portion of your audience, which, if you’re dealing with lists, you’re already dealing with pretty small audiences to begin with. You don’t want to risk that. You could also consider using skills. I like skills plus seniority plus an ABM list. Generally gets you a really solid match rate of the types of people in the organization that you’re trying to hit.

Now here’s something awesome that LinkedIn improved in the last couple years for company lists. It used to be that if you uploaded a list of company names LinkedIn would say, oops, privacy concern if we tell you anything about these organizations. And so you’d upload a list and LinkedIn would tell you the total number of people represented by those companies, but they wouldn’t tell you actually what match rate you have. I’ve always said that this is not a privacy issue at all. If we’re dealing with company names, those are very public. Well, LinkedIn heard us loud and clear, and in the last couple years, when we upload a list of company names, LinkedIn will show a matched list, and they’ll also show a list of those that are unmatched. So, one thing I like to do is I’ll upload a company list that maybe I didn’t do a whole lot of work on. Maybe it’s just company name or company name and company URL. And then after I upload it, of course, you have to wait. LinkedIn says 24 to 48 hours later, but realistically most of the time we see it taking a full 72 hours. You can look at that list and in that tab called unmatched, you’ll see a list of the companies that you provided to LinkedIn that LinkedIn did not find a match with. And so then what you can do is take your original list and then add to it. And let’s say there’s only 20 companies who are unmatched. You don’t have to go and do all of this research on all the other company names that already matched. Instead, you just go and do the manual research on those 20 or so company names. And now you have a 100 percent match rate on your company names.

I do wish we could do the same thing on contact lists. But I do understand what LinkedIn is saying about there being a privacy concern. If we upload information about an individual, and then if LinkedIn came back and told us more about that individual, yeah, I could see there being a privacy concern there. How are you using list uploads? I’d absolutely love to hear it. So record yourself in a little snippet, send it to me, and I’ll include it in a future episode of the show.

Alright, I’ve got the episode resources for you coming right up. So stick around.

Thank you for listening to the LinkedIn Ads Show. Hungry for more? AJ Wilcox. Take it away.

Like I mentioned in the show, we included in the show notes, the article where LinkedIn was talking about including Apple IDs in the targeting. And that is still a field that LinkedIn allows us to insert into our contact list uploads. So it might be worth giving that article a read and see what you think about. Is it worth including or not?

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