Show Resources:

Here’s the full Data from the study

(Little Easter Egg hack – the last Google Data Studio chart is an embed and you can flip through the charts within it. There’s an extra I didn’t publish.)

LinkedIn Learning course about LinkedIn Ads by AJ Wilcox: LinkedIn Advertising Course

Contact us at with ideas for what you’d like AJ to cover.

Show Transcript:

What happened to LinkedIn Ads during the COVID-19 pandemic? Is there an opportunity for you as an advertiser? Spoiler alert, yes.

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

Hey there LinkedIn Ads fanatics. So I’ve gotten lots of questions from advertisers during the COVID pandemic, asking about what’s changed. We definitely noticed the impact. So I’ve been telling people kind of shooting from the hip, like, oh, 5 to 10% drop in cost per click.

Well, I decided to actually dig into the data. And what I found is there’s much more to the story, and I’m super excited to tell you all about the impact, but especially the opportunity for you as advertisers. In the news, not a ton has changed recently on LinkedIn Ads, but in personal news, it’s the summer and our air conditioner went out. We spent three days in the dark with all the windows shut. No one allowed to open a window or a door just to keep the house from getting to the 80 degrees or 27 Celsius like it got on the first day we realized that it wasn’t working. You know, there’s something wrong when your butter is a pool rather than a cube. And of course, everyone’s excited about spending a bunch of money on a new air conditioner during a pandemic. That was sarcasm. A review to highlight here thatch_o said “best marketing podcast”. “This is the best marketing podcast hands down. As a PPC marketer, I want to improve upon my LinkedIn ad skills. AJ is not only very knowledgeable on the topic, he’s an engaging speaker and makes learning more about LinkedIn ads entertaining, easy and fast. This podcast has become one of my very favorites, and is a must listen.” thatch_o, thank you so much for submitting that. That warms my little ginger heart. I’ve said this in the past but the way I approach this podcast is thinking of all of you as listeners like you are a member of my team. And it really is a masterclass on LinkedIn ads. I don’t hold anything back and I train you just as if I would train the members of my team. It makes me so happy when I find that people like you are getting a lot out of this. And it is helpful information. So thank you, and everyone else I want to feature you. So please, whatever podcast player you are using, write a view, and I’d love to feature you here. Okay, without further ado, let’s hit it.

COVID-19 has had a strong influence on most of the major ad platforms. I’ve heard from multiple large Facebook advertisers that cost per click and cpms have fallen by like 30 or 40%. And one big advertiser even told me that YouTube ad inventory for them decreased by 80% at one point. So we analyzed the data from $1.5 million worth of spend across almost 2,900 campaigns. So it’s a large data set. But certainly, if LinkedIn released something like this, it could tell a more complete story. Or of course, if any of you listening have access to a much larger data set, let me know we can collaborate. But here’s how the analysis went. We ingested the 1.5 million in advertising spend and segmented them out by ad format and bid type. And we analyzed the differences in both average cost and average click through rate for every day from February 1 to August 28. And the goal of this was just to find insights. When were engagement rates high and low, when we’re costs high and low. And what we saw was especially interesting around the costs because we saw average costs decline from February to April, and then have rebounded and some even fully recovered.


So now we’re going to go into the results and I’m going to share with you what we found, which I found really interesting. And if you’re like me, and you listen to podcasts really sped up, I listened to podcasts at two and a half times speed, then this might be a part where you want to slow it down just so you can get a feel for the metrics because we’re going to throw out some percentages. Overall we found cost per click to drop about 2.9% from February to March. And then they dropped another 25.2% from March until April. So looking at the platform, overall, it drops 28.1%. And those are costs per click. If you click on the link down in the show notes, it’ll take you to the post where you can see charts. And you can see what this drop looks like and then what the recovery looks like. And I’ll do my best to describe it to you over words, even though I’m not what I would call wordsmith. And then in May, we noticed a recovery of about 11.5%. And then that recovery, even though there was a little bit of a drop in July, kept going all the way through August the end of our data set. And the net result of this is that we’re currently as advertisers paying 13.4% less than when we started before the pandemic. So to me, this spells opportunity. I love buying ads at a 13% discount. But then the story goes deeper here because we started breaking it out by individual ad type and what we found when we were looking at just sponsored content ads, we noticed a similar very large drop, 27.7%. But they’ve only recovered about 6% since that drop. So what I’m telling you is the most competitive inventory on LinkedIn is currently running at a 21.7% discount. And of course, since the platform overall is at a 13% discount, and sponsored content is at a 21.7% discount, that means that the other ad formats are either dragging that down or reversing it. And this is true when we broke out the other ad formats and looked at their data. Text ads are currently costing almost 18.5% more now than they did in February. Dynamic ads currently cost 17% more than in February, and the sponsored messaging ad formats, which are message ads and conversation ads, are now costing almost a 38% premium compared to that of February and granted the majority of our data set is sponsored content, that’s the majority of what we run. But we’re still talking 10+% of the data being dedicated to each of these ad formats. So it sure looks solid to me. And I’m not exactly sure what would cause sponsored content to get abandoned so much. But text ads and dynamic ads and sponsored messaging to get adopted so quickly. I would have guessed that text ads and dynamic ads because they’re only on desktop would actually get more inventory, because so many people working from home on their computers all day and not using their mobile devices because they don’t have to worry about their boss seeing them on LinkedIn or a social network. But the data is telling us that these ad formats are actually more expensive, which is crazy.

Okay, here’s a quick sponsor break, and then we’ll dive into what we found by each individual bid type.

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All right, let’s jump into the differences that we saw by bid type because this was really fascinating. And again, refer to the charts that you can see here in the post that I linked to in the show notes. If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you know that there is a significant difference in the costs on LinkedIn, depending on your bid type. So if you look at these charts, you see pretty much exact opposite charts for those who are bidding CPC versus those who are bidding CPM. And what we’ve done is based off of the bid type, we looked at your effective cost per click. So no matter how you were bidding, what your cost per click ended up being. And advertisers paying my cost per click are currently still buying LinkedIn Ads at a 14.3% discount. While advertisers who are paying CPM are currently paying 49.4%, more than before the pandemic. So, the lesson here is that the majority of advertisers should be bidding CPC and not using auto bidding or CPM. They’re being way overused, and it’s causing them to pay significantly more per action. As you know, from listening to Episode 06 about bidding and budgeting, a low CPC bid strategy is cheaper than auto bidding about 90% of the time. And I think the simple reason why so many advertisers are using these inefficient bid types is that auto bidding is the default bid type when you build most campaigns. So advertisers who don’t know better will oftentimes just go with the default. So when did we see these costs start to drop. Well, what’s so interesting is that I was expecting a precipitous drop right in the middle of March, when advertisers were starting to come to grips with the reality of impending business closures and potential global recession. But check out this heat map picture that I’ve got in the post showing daily performance for all of March. And what we see is that costs really didn’t start to drop until the 23rd of March. We see cost per click, we’re definitely in the eights. And you’ll see them in red because this is a scale of red are the highest CPCs and green are the lowest. And it starts to go yellow around the 23rd and 24th of March and goes green for the rest of the month. And I think this makes sense because B2B companies tend to move a little bit slower. So it looks like companies waited a little bit to cut their budgets back and actually made those cuts later in March, and certainly early April, as we definitely saw costs really drop in April. So takeaways for you, I think LinkedIn advertisers are buying at a 13.4% discount right now. So if you’re on the fence about investing or increasing budget, this is just a great time to do that. And surprisingly, the less competitive ad formats have actually increased in cost. So they’re not as advantageous a buy, but sponsored content being still down by 21.7%. That seems like a great discount. So any of you who want permission to run sponsored content, you’ve got it from me, that’s for sure. Another takeaway here is that too many advertisers are bidding using either auto bidding or CPM rather than cost per click, which is less efficient the majority of the time, and it looks like most advertisers really held steady through most of March, and then the big budget withdrawals happened during April. I want to ask a favor of you. If you know anyone who manages LinkedIn ads, or has an extreme interest in them, please share this post with them or share this episode, or both. I would absolutely love to see this information get into the hands of all those who are advertising. And with that being said, I’ve got the episode resources for you coming up. So stick around.

Thank you for listening to the LinkedIn Ads show. Hungry for more? AJ Wilcox, take it away.

Okay, so of course, the big resource here is going to be the link to the study that I did. So you’ll see that it’s Don’t try to do that from memory. Just go to the show notes, or just navigate to the blog and click on one of the latest posts. And there is a little easter egg hack for those of you who are sticking around. I embedded these charts into the post through Google Data Studio. And I just realized that in Data Studio, you’re not limited to just the individual page. And there were some extra charts that I didn’t publish, but created. So if you’re interested, just flip through there on any of them and just check that additional info out. If you’re new to LinkedIn ads or have a colleague that you’re trying to train, definitely check out the course that I did with LinkedIn Learning. The link is, of course down below as well. And it is either free or $25, depending on your LinkedIn subscription. And it is by far the best training resource that I’ve seen out there for LinkedIn ads. And it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than hiring me to train your team individually. Look down at your podcast player right now and make sure that you’ve nailed that subscribe button, and then please rate the podcast. Obviously, I’d appreciate five star,s but whatever. And do leave a review because I would love to shout you out here on the show. And of course, if you have any feedback, any questions, any topics you’d like us to cover here on the show, email us at And with that being said, I’ll see you back here next week. Cheering you on in your LinkedIn Ads initiatives!