Show Resources

Enter the Contest!

Episode 02 – Targeting Strategies

Episode 06 – Bidding

Episode 26 – Why so expensive?

Episode 29 – Saturation

Episode 32 – Covid

Episode 37 – Seasonality

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:

You’re watching as your costs keep climbing and climbing on LinkedIn Ads. And you’re like, “Oh, come on!”. I’m going to tell you how to combat it and even reverse it. This is the LinkedIn Ads Show.

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

Hey there LinkedIn Ads fanatics. So you’re just advertising along minding your own business. And every month, you’re watching your efficiency decrease. You hate reporting to your boss, or your client that your performance is just declining month over month. The platform is definitely going to keep getting more and more competitive, so you’ve got to do something totally different to get off of that train of just declining performance. But there is hope. There are things that you can do to fight that drag on your performance and even reverse it. So that’s what we’ll be covering today. In the news, there are a lot of changes afoot, and I’m super excited. Eliot Shiner from Bind Media. He tagged me on LinkedIn, about LinkedIn releasing bulk tools, which is super cool. In the post that he shared, he was looking at an account that had these bulk ads features. And certainly not everyone has it yet. This is probably very early in the rollout. But watch for it, he said that you can do applying saved audiences across multiple campaigns. So that’s pretty cool. You can change campaign bids and budgets in bulk. You can download audience strings to build new audience combinations. And the last thing he shouted out was you can adjust campaign settings such as audience expansion or the audience network. How cool would that be to be able to go into an account and just bulk unassign audience expansion from every campaign and just instantly fix an account. Elliott, thanks so much for tagging me in that one. Another really cool improvement was brought to my attention by David Rosendahl from Southern California. And, David, I know you’re a listener. So thanks so much for bringing this to my attention. He found out that LinkedIn rolled out and a way message that you can set in your messaging on the app. And this is only available to premium users on LinkedIn, so you got to be paying for a profile to get this. And we definitely see more and more features rolling out like this. And they’re trying to dangle as bait to get someone to upgrade their profile. And of course, LinkedIn had to roll this out a week after I got back from vacation, so I didn’t even get a chance to use it. I have an out of office set on my email when I’m gone. But people on LinkedIn, just think I’m a jerk that doesn’t respond from what I can tell everyone with premium has this option in their app. So check it out and see, I can’t wait to go on vacation again and set an out of office on my LinkedIn messaging as well. This week, LinkedIn also released something really freaking cool. This is a feature that I’ve just been calling the ABM dashboard. But LinkedIn actually released this to a portion of accounts. And they’re calling it the company engagement report. Most don’t have it yet. But it’s like most rollouts, where it’s probably rolling out weekly, for a quarter or a sixth of the population every week. And we checked a bunch of our accounts that are running ABM, and we only had two accounts so far that had access to this. And you can read the official news about this release by just checking in the show notes down below, I have the link to the official release. But I had to hunt around a little bit to see if I even had it in my accounts. So here’s what you do. Inside of campaign manager, you go to account assets, and then matched audiences. And then from your list of matched audiences, any of your company match lists that have a hyperlink on them, click on it. If you don’t have access to this yet, it will just go into like an edit of the list itself. But if you do have it, it’ll take you right to the company engagement report. And this is so cool. What it shows is all of the companies who’ve engaged with your ads, they give a basic engagement level. So like from low to very high or unavailable if that account hasn’t interacted with you at all. There’s a column for the number of members that were targeted by your ads who belong to that company, a column for the number of campaigns, I’m guessing the number of campaigns that would target someone from one of these organizations, the impressions, the ad engagements, the organic engagement, and the website visits that resulted from each of these companies that you’re going after in your ABM list, the time range is stuck at the last 90 days. What I love is there is a company name search field. So let’s say that you have thousands of people on your ABM lists, and you’re curious just to see one like, hey, I want to see if JP Morgan visited our website or interacted with our ads. You could type in JP and then it automatically filters everything for you. You can also change the columns. So by default, it’s going to drop you into engagement. But you can change that to details. And then it gives you basically a rundown of each of these accounts. It’ll tell you their name, what industry they’re part of, what company size they are, and the date that they were added to this list. The report is paginated. And it looks like about 50 will fit on each page. So I’m curious if any of you have access to this. And let’s say you’ve uploaded a list that hits their maximum of 300,000 company names. If you have 50 at a time, are you going to have pagination out to, you know, the hundreds, it’ll be interesting to see if they have a limit on the number of companies they can give you feedback for. And Jay, one of the product managers at LinkedIn who actually was responsible for this rollout, he mentioned to me in a comment that much of this was driven by the insight tag. So this is really cool to see the combination of metrics that LinkedIn can see from campaigns you’re actively running, and accounts that they recognize how they’re interacting on your website. So if you don’t have this yet, watch for it over the next, let’s say four to six weeks until all of us have it. And you can get ready for this by uploading an ABM list whether or not you plan on advertising to them, because I think there’s still going to be value here organically. And then make sure that the LinkedIn insight tag is on your site.

In personal news, I’m doing a deep reorganization of my office right now, you guys all hear the stuff that comes out of my brain, but you hear it after I’ve spent three plus hours organizing it. So imagine how cluttered it is up there. My office organization mirrors the organization of my mind, I feel like the classic mad scientist, but instead of beakers all over my laboratory, I have 113 browser tabs open in Chrome and piles of stuff in my office that I keep below the sight line of my webcam. Okay, so AJ is telling you something about his organization? Why does that matter? Well, I’m redesigning my office to be a studio. And the reason why we have a YouTube channel, and I’ve put out some videos that I’m really proud of. But to create those videos, takes literally hundreds of hours. I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, and I hate putting something out there that I don’t love, and doesn’t have all the most amazing animations. When I go to create a video. The problem is I’m spending so many hours setting up cameras and setting up lighting equipment, and trying to make sure everything’s perfect that I run out of time, and I can’t create the content. So the thought here is that I’m going to be able to create video content very quickly, I have the lighting and camera set up in my office as a studio. And you guys, there is so much that I’m excited to share with you. But because it takes so long to create video content I haven’t been able to before. But I’m hoping now even if it’s like quick three or four minute YouTube videos where I show you something, I just want to get it out. And stay tuned, we’ll even try an episode or two of the LinkedIn ads show as a video podcast to see how that works.


And like we talked about last week, we’re running a contest. And thanks everyone who made suggestions about the kind of contest, you guys gave us some great ideas. Now this contest is live as of the release of this episode. So go and do this today. Scroll down to the show notes. Or if you don’t have show notes on your podcast player, you can just go to the URL, all lowercase. Okay, so I’ve told you how to get in. But I didn’t tell you what the contest is all about. So here’s the contest for now, when you’re listening to this, hopefully it’s not too much later for now until December 11, 2020 at midnight, Pacific time. And now I made it myself, I put it in Pacific time. But because we’re LinkedIn advertisers, I totally should have made it in the UTC timezone. So this is an ad performance contest, you can go on and submit a screenshot of an ad, a campaign, or a campaign group that has particularly great performance. We’re looking for either a ridiculously high click through rate, or a crazy low cost per click, or a mammoth conversion rate, you can submit multiple times. So if you have multiple clients you want to submit for, go for it. And the winner in each category will win something truly amazing. If you’re a LinkedIn advertiser, I know you’re gonna find this fascinating. I can’t tell you what it is just yet. I’m not going to spoil the surprise. But I can promise you, it’s something that no other advertiser has, you’ll be armed with something that your competitors do not have, you’ll have a major leg up on them. Okay, that’s all the hints I’m going to give. So get it on your to do list or your calendar or whatever it’s going to take to do this, but go and jump into your account or accounts and look for those high click through rates, high conversion rates, or low cost per click. So submit that now. And then I will have your gift to you before Christmas or New Year’s this year. Guys, I’m so excited about this, but I’m going to shut up about it now. The last little piece of news here. There are more changes in campaign manager coming and you probably don’t have them already. But watch for them in the coming weeks or months. There’s functionality coming like being able to share audiences between accounts, which is really cool. Especially for those large companies who have multiple ad accounts running, maybe different business units within. And a huge thanks to Mark Gustafson from for pointing that one out. And a huge thank you to Dominik Hemeli for this review, he left on the podcast, he says, “Just listened to the episode about LinkedIn campaign goals and I think I learned more about LinkedIn advertisement listening to that compared to any conference or workshop in all of 2020. Simply amazing, and I will test all of the recommended hacks, keep it up and stay safe -DOM. That’s what we’re going for Dominic, all value and no fluff. So thanks so much for getting value out of it and continuing to be a listener, keep the reviews coming, guys, I would love to feature you. Okay, with that being said, let’s hit it.

Costs are Rising on LinkedIn Ads

Costs are rising on LinkedIn Ads. And from the very beginning back in 2007, they started really high, they’ve always been high, but they’re going to keep getting higher. This is the nature of all ad platforms. They’re all based on competition. And at the beginning, when not everyone has adopted them, yet, competition is going to be lower. Like when I started advertising on Google, the floor bid was five cents. And that dates me a little bit. But what happened is people got on and tried it, the early adopters, and it worked so well and it produced a return on their investment. So they went and told their friends, and then they all tried it. And then as the cycle happens, adoption continues to roll out until prices go up. And those prices will rise until the platform starts pricing some people out of the market. Because I guarantee you, there are some law firms out there who are saying, Man, I’m just getting started on Google and I have to pay $320 for a click, ah, I’m gonna go and advertise elsewhere. With LinkedIn specifically, it’s always been a platform for the sophisticated advertiser. Costs per click are high, they started high. And so marketers who didn’t have visibility into the actual lead quality, the marketing qualified lead stage, the sales qualified lead stage, or whatever you call it, they see that their costs per lead are really high compared to other channels and then they quit. But sophisticated marketers, on the other hand, I’m guessing everyone listening here is one of these, you’re not just watching your cost per lead, but you understand that there is value in targeting only the most highly qualified prospects. And because the quality of the prospect on LinkedIn is so much higher than other channels, you guys find that it’s worth it to continue advertising, and then even scale up those efforts even if at the very top engagement level, it looks expensive. Back in 2011, when I was brand new to LinkedIn Ads, the majority of marketers didn’t rely on closing the loop with their CRM, we didn’t even have conversion tracking back then it was going to take a lot of years before we got that, but then synching with your CRM, this was technical, and in a lot of cases, it was prohibitively expensive. But now in 2020, it’s really rare to come across a B2B marketer who isn’t at least moderately armed with a tech stack and an understanding of lead quality. Marketers are getting more sophisticated, we’re catching up, which is amazing. And more people coming to the platform to advertise, it introduces additional competition. But this competition can be balanced out, as long as more LinkedIn members come and spend more time on the platform and that creates new inventory, it tends to balance out. And that’s really how it was from like 2014 to 2018, cost per click on the platform stayed about the same that whole time. But currently, we’re seeing that for most audiences. advertiser demand is outpacing the growth of LinkedIn audience and their usage. And just an idea here, maybe it’s because of all the mass organic outreach spam, it’s making people not want to spend as much time on LinkedIn. If you’re doing it, please stop, it’s hurting everyone. If you haven’t listened to Episode 26, on why LinkedIn Ads are so expensive, make that a high priority. Get that into your “to listen” list. So let’s say that you’re advertising on LinkedIn, minding your own business, and you start to notice your costs are continuing to rise. There could be a lot of reasons for this. Of course, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about competition, it could be competition on the platform. And you have to picture this competition as a force like inflation is. It’s going to keep going steadily, and you just have to plan ahead for it. And here in the US, we plan on inflation being a little over 3% per year in the US dollar. So what that means is if you have money today, and you hide it in your safe or in your mattress, that money is going to be worth 3% less every single year because of inflation. It’s the same principle with advertising. If you keep doing the same thing that you’ve always done, it’ll perform progressively worse as time goes on. But it might not all be about competition, there could be an element of saturation in there. Saturation is when your audience has already seen your ads or your offers before and so now they’re less likely to click on it. Check out Episode 29, where we went way deep into saturation and how to stop it. It could also be a lack of novelty, I guarantee the first person to ever advertise a free consultation was probably inundated with cheap leads. But after that caught on and everyone started offering a free consultation, it really lost its novelty. And now you just assume that everyone has a free consultation. So you stop acting on ads where that’s the call to action. So this just goes to show if you’re still using the exact same tactics, or offers or approach to ad creative that you were using last year, or even the year before, that could be the reason of rising costs and dropping performance.

And that dovetails nicely here into the next one, which is you’re probably getting lower performance, because you’re getting lower click through rates. For whatever reason, people are losing interest in your ads. What happens is they stop clicking on your ads or engaging with them. So your click through rate drops a little bit. And then LinkedIn sees that people are less interested and they then award you a lower relevancy score. So now you have a worse relevancy score, which means every auction for an impression that you go to approach, you’re at a disadvantage now. With the same bids, you’re going to win fewer auctions, so you’ll see less traffic, and you’ll also pay more for that traffic. But if your boss or your client is telling you that they want to see performance continue to increase. Well, now you have to bid higher to compete. Again, we go a lot more into depth about that on the Episode 26, Why is LinkedIn Ads so expensive? And like we talked about, just recently on the seasonality episode in Episode 29, if you’re advertising in the end of November, or during December, and you’re saying, man, why are these North American audiences performing so poorly? or why do I have to pay so much for them, there could be seasonality happening and then if you just wait and be patient until January, or even pull back and then reinvest the money that you would have spent in January, which is what I recommend, then just that knowledge will help you perform better. Something else that’s driving competition is that as you learned from Episode 32, where we talked about the COVID report, people are bidding wrong, and they’re bidding too high. And what that’s doing is it’s driving up competition for everyone at an exponential rate. This isn’t a problem with the listeners of this podcast, because you’ve heard me on so many episodes talk about bidding correctly. And that’s episode six. By the way, if you want to go back and learn deep on that. But in short, don’t use auto bidding unless there’s a good reason to like your click through rate is really high, or you need to force getting traffic, because auto bidding is really just max bidding, it’s giving LinkedIn your wallet and saying take whatever out of it you think you’ll need. And when you are using max CPC bidding, don’t follow LinkedIn’s bid recommendations unless you’ve tested lower and you need to increase in order to get enough traffic. 99% of the time, you should start bidding significantly below the range that they recommend. Okay, here’s a quick sponsor break. And then we’ll dive into what you can actually do about rising competition.

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What To Do About It

All right, let’s jump into what you can do to combat or even reverse this increasing competition that slowly and painfully killing your LinkedIn Ads channel. Keep in mind that sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference. So look for these small advantages that you can build and they’ll add up. For instance, something so simple as making ad copy improvements, we find through ad copy testing, that we can increase or decrease performance by five to 15%. So let’s say you spend some time testing ad copy, and you find that you can raise the click through rates by 15%. It may not be massive, but it’s going to do something for you. And those efforts will add up. For your ad cop, remember that people on LinkedIn are valuable people, and they’re in a hurry, and that this is interruptive advertising. You need to get right to the point and get to the value as fast as possible. Having your value right front loaded at the beginning of the ad is going to do wonders for you and you might be able to see your click through rates. increased by 30, 50, 100%. And a different example here, I once had an ad that was getting a 1.2% click through rate. And another one in the same campaign was getting a point 7%. So almost half. And this was the same offer, but radically different approach to messaging. I looked at that and said, Okay, I’m going to pause the lower performer, because obviously people don’t care about it. That is, until I saw that the lower performer was only costing $1 more per click, but was converting it over twice the rate. So I ended up reversing, I paused the better performer by click through rate, and ended up letting the poor performer go and take all of the impressions. So click through rates are certainly not the end all be all, and you’ll need to pay attention to how they affect conversions, but this can help. Generally, a higher click through rate is going to reduce your costs. And win you more impressions at those lower costs. We mentioned episode six about bidding more efficiently. If you’re bidding correctly, you’re bidding the right way to minimize your costs on LinkedIn, you can pay less for every click, or every impression, or every view, every send. You’ll naturally get more clicks and leads for your same budget. And like we mentioned, there are so many people who are bidding incorrectly, that they’re pushing costs up for everyone. So please tell your friends. Something else you could try, maybe you’re targeting mostly by one type of targeting, and you could test some additional alternative targeting. Maybe you’re testing by job title. Well, did you know that job title clicks are some of the most competitive on the platform and that campaign manager only understands about 30% of job titles. What this means is you may be able to use an alternative form of targeting going after this exact same audience. And you might find the ability to either scale or reduce costs by adding that in. If you’re only using job title, consider using some additional targeting like job function with seniority skills with seniority and groups, maybe Episode Two goes into our whole targeting strategy. So check that one out. And of course, if you can find additional targeting that gives you more reach for less money, that will give you a nice bump in your performance. And we’ve talked here before and especially in Episode 10, about how so much of your performance relies on how attractive your offer is. Now, I know that it’s significant effort for you as a marketer to create a new offer, but it can make all the difference in the performance of your ads. A good lead magnet will increase your click through rate and decrease your cost per click and increase your conversion rate. These are all three amazing things that will culminate in a much better report to your uppers or your clients. Honestly, the offer can make the difference between fighting to get leads, or having so many that you end up lowering your budget so the sales team can catch up. But because offers are so hard to create, sometimes it helps to know that you don’t even have to change the offer, you might be able to just change the title. For example, here, let’s say that you have a guide that’s really valuable. And I’ll make something up here. Like we’ll call it the buyer’s guide to more effective SAS software. And you’re targeting it towards IT managers. Your ads might be playing to the fact that it’s a buyers guide, and it’s going to help them make better decisions on the software that they decide to purchase. So you end up getting click through rates that are kind of ho hum, like, let’s say 0.5%. And maybe your conversion rate is okay at around 10%. So you as a sophisticated marketer, you dive into this guide, and you find a stat in there. And I’m totally making this up. So this is not a real stat. But it says 26% of companies replace their SAS software within three weeks after buying for a competitive product. So you say that’s interesting. And you go and change the title of this guide to 26% of SAS purchases end in regret. And then you change the copy on the ads to focus more on this interesting stat. And you’re focusing on a different motivation here, all you had to do was change the copy on the PDF, and maybe change some wording on an image in your ad. And that’s it. And these are small changes, but now your click through rates could be over 1%. And your conversion rate may spike to 15% or higher. So you’ll see why I love this strategy, so much. Simple changes to just repurpose the same piece of content in a different way or to a different motivation. Something else you can do is you can refresh your creative more often. And so much of the time we see that little creative refreshes here and there will give you a temporary bump for a few days. And I don’t know how to describe why this is. Maybe it’s just because there are more people who are interested in seeing something that they haven’t seen before, something that’s new and novel. And of course you can always cut inefficiently spending audiences offers or ads If you do if you cut the worst performers, this will, of course, leave more of your budget for the high performers and give you a nice performance bump that I’m sure you’ll appreciate come reporting time. And for the love of everything that is good and holy, please disable audience expansion on every campaign, you control. We’ve talked about this so many times over the last 40 episodes, but it’s poison, and you should avoid it like COVID-19 without a mask.

These next two suggestions are a little bit more strategic. But follow me on this. The first is get ahead of your competition, whatever they’re doing, try something different, and even drastically different. If you can get ahead of your competitors, you will easily outperform competition as it continues to rise. In fact, you will contribute to the competition getting harder, and their costs continuing to rise because your ads will have pushed them lower in the auction because you’re doing something innovative. And that dovetails nicely into my other suggestion here of push the envelope, try new things. I’ll never forget one of our first clients that had an image that was a comic strip. And I insisted to him that it was totally unprofessional, and it wouldn’t play well on LinkedIn. It’s not the right audience. Well, the client insisted that we should try it. And so I did it begrudgingly. And boy did that shut me up. It ended up being one of the best performing ads that I had ever seen to that point. I’ve seen similar things with ads that are maybe cartoons or other visuals that quote aren’t a fit for LinkedIn. And that’s really the point. If something stands out from the rest of the content on LinkedIn, it will get an outsized amount of attention. And as an advertiser, you are rewarded by increasing the attention you get on your ads. Alright, I’ve got the episode resources coming right up for you, so stick around.

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

First off in the show notes, you have to click that contest link. It’s, all lowercase. Go down, hit it, and submit those high performers, because I guarantee you’re gonna love the gift. There’s also links to the episode that we mentioned in here, Episode 29 about saturation, Episode 26 about why LinkedIn ads are so expensive, Episode 37 just a few ago, on the seasonality of LinkedIn, why some months cost more and perform less than others, Episode 32 about the effect of COVID on LinkedIn pricing, Episode Two on targeting better, and Episode Six all about pricing and how to bid right on LinkedIn and not increase competition for yourself. And of course, we’re very proud of this podcast. The B2Linked team works very hard to do this. But we also realize that a course might be interesting for someone who doesn’t want to binge listen to 41 episodes. So check out the link to our LinkedIn Learning course. It is by far the best and cheapest course out there for helping someone get up to speed quickly on LinkedIn Ads. Look down at your podcasting app right now and hit the subscribe button. Make sure that it’s lit up because I want you to hear us the next episode that comes out. And of course, please rate the podcast. I would love it if you give it five stars. But if you don’t, just tell me why. And please do leave a review on whatever podcast player or service you use. I would love to read those. My heart is just warm every time I read someone who’s getting value out of this. And of course I want to shout you out and return the favor. With any questions, suggestions, or even just to say hi, reach out to us at And with that being said, we’ll see you back here next week. Cheering you on in your LinkedIn Ads initiatives.