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Episode on saturation

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Show Transcript

Today, you’re going to learn way more about frequency caps on LinkedIn Ads than you ever thought you wanted to know. We’re talking about frequency 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, there’s a lot of confusion around the frequency caps on LinkedIn. If you talk to your LinkedIn rep, they’ll tell you, but it’s not published anywhere in the LinkedIn Help section, at least that I’ve found. Plus, many of you advertisers won’t have a dedicated rep. So I wanted to create a resource where we could clear up some of the questions about it, and make sure you stick around to the end, because I’m going to be sharing a hack that you can use to break the LinkedIn frequency caps, you won’t want to miss that. In the news, make sure you’re subscribed to our YouTube channel, because we published this week, a video walkthrough all about whether you should bid by cost per click or cost per impression. And we showed all of the math behind it. So if you’re a total math nerd, or really want to understand LinkedIn’s auction, you won’t want to miss that it’s about a 10 minute video. I want to thank those of you who have been leaving reviews on the show. A huge thank you because as you know, reviews are a huge part about what gets the show picked up and shared and featured a shout out to “Mad” Matt N. Who said, “Highly recommended if you’re advertising on LinkedIn. AJ drops tons of knowledge in every episode, I was very fortunate to discover his show before I actually started advertising on LinkedIn. He really helped set expectations regarding what to expect from a management standpoint, and saved me countless hours of banging my head against the wall asking questions like, Why doesn’t the platform do insert missing feature we take for granted after advertising on Facebook. Because of his show, I was able to set up my tracking properly out of the gate and have a very low stress launch with no surprises.” Matt, that makes me extremely happy to hear that you found out about the show before you started advertising and that we were able to help you iron out some of the kinks before they even got introduced to your accounts. So great work on your part. We also had sweet.tvb. And she mentioned, “Great resource for marketers. I’ve been running LinkedIn Ads for the past three years and this show gives a wealth of in depth information to push performance further. Love the helpful insight presented.” Thanks so much sweet. And for everyone else out there, make sure you leave a review. I’d love to shout you out. So let’s go ahead and jump into frequency. Let’s hit it.

First, I think we need to understand what frequency actually is. Frequency is basically the number of times that an ad is served to an entity of some kind. It’s measured as the total number of impressions divided by the unique people who saw those ads. The unique users or unique visitors, those are called reach as well. So if your ad gets 10 impressions, but it was only served to five unique people, that means the, on average, each member of your audience saw that ad two times. And of course, it’s not total science, it’s totally possible that one of those five people saw your ad three times, while another one of them only saw it once. It is after all an average. And frequency can be measured by the individual ad, meaning how many times has that audience member seen this one ad, or you can measure at the campaign level, how many times each audience member has been exposed to any of the ads in this campaign. You can view your frequency numbers inside of campaign manager. You first go to columns that are right above your list of campaigns, and select the drop down called Delivery. That’s going to show you your frequency and reach and all of the numbers that deal with that. If you remember, LinkedIn kind of took these numbers away or averaged them together for a certain amount of time. It appears that this has been reverted, but I think in the future, we can expect some of these numbers to be a little bit obscured for privacy reasons, which I do not get. But hey, make hay while the sun shines. So that’s frequency. But then let’s talk about frequency caps. The lack of frequency caps is what makes live TV so annoying. Because TV advertisers don’t get feedback on which households have seen which ad, they have to make sure that everyone in that audience has been exposed to their ad a certain number of times. So they showed over multiple ad breaks of the same show. And then you find yourself hating a brand because you’ve already seen these ads 1000 times and they’re so annoying. If live TV, were able to have a frequency cap, the station would then get feedback on which ads were viewed by which households. And then once they’d seen it a time or two or three or whatever it is, they’d serve a different ad in its place. And that would keep the audience from saturating against the ads and that brand. And obviously live TV can’t do this yet. Although streaming services, I’m looking at you, you could do this a heck of a lot better. It’s a technology limitation of broadcast television. But digital services should be able to account for this. And maybe they do to some degree. Digital ad platforms build in frequency caps and this is to help have individual users from getting bombarded from the same ads over and over. And that would cause them to have a negative experience on the platform. Or you’ve got Facebook, which decided to punish its users and advertisers with no control over frequency caps for 10 plus years, it’s certainly a choice. But in LinkedIn’s case, they decided early on to have a more conservative frequency cap on ads, because they cared so much about the user experience. So here in just a moment, we’ll go into the individual frequency caps for the ad formats. But first, I think we need to talk about how frequency affects behavior. I’m sure everyone’s heard the maxim that it takes seven touches with a brand before someone will consider purchasing from that brand. So obviously, you want to make sure that you are getting some sort of a frequency with each individual user. But it is a fine line because too many touches will result in annoying and saturating an audience. So over time, as you serve ads, you can expect to be warming this audience over time. And that audience should then come to know like and trust you. And you should see conversion rates of your ads improve over time. But how do you know if this is working, or if you’re just annoying your audience members with repeated touches. This is a very difficult analysis, but here’s how I would approach it. First, track your trends of your click through rates over time, and especially pay attention to what happens when you refresh your ads. And when I talk about an ad refresh, I’m mostly talking about when you’re advertising the same offer, but you’re switching up the ad to just describe the offer in a different way to keep things fresh. But you’ll also want to pay attention to what happens to your click through rates when you launch radically different creative. This could be whole new offers. This could be offer against offer tests. This could even be very different imagery. But whatever it is, pay attention because as you launch your ads, you’ll get a certain click through rate. And then over time, you’ll see that click through rate fall. It might take weeks, a month, several months, who knows. But over time those click through rates will settle. And then as you do a light refresh, you’ll probably see your click through rates pop back to about where they started. And if this is the case, chances are you’re just seeing normal saturation in your ads. These are people who have already seen this ad and have decided they’ve already taken the action or they’re not going to take the action. But let’s say you see that your click through rates don’t pop back up on light refreshes, but maybe they do after a radical refresh. Chances are you’re now seeing saturation in your offer itself. But there could be even brand saturation built in there as well. But this is where you don’t want to be. If your click through rates don’t pop back at all, no matter how many refreshes you try, no matter how radical those refreshes Are. Chances are now that your audience is fully saturated of your brand. And you’ve probably got a lot of negative sentiment to fix. We do have a whole episode on saturation. So if you haven’t already listened to it, go back and listen to episode 29. So like we mentioned, LinkedIn really takes its frequency cap seriously. Each ad format has its own frequency cap rules.

So let’s tackle each of these by ad type. I think we have to start with sponsored content. And this has evolved over time with even somewhat recent changes. So I’m going to do my best to describe what I believe the current standard is here. But feel free to reach out and correct me if you know better. This is all based on the number of creatives that you have in any given campaign. If you have one or two creatives in a campaign, the most that that campaign can serve its ads to an individual user on LinkedIn is one every 24 hours. But as soon as you start including more creatives in a campaign, let’s say, three, four or five different ads in a campaign, it changes our frequency caps a little bit. It moves to a rule that LinkedIn calls 5 and 48. That rule is that in a 48 hour period, your ads are eligible to be shown to the same person, the number of times as the number of creatives you have in a campaign. It sounds a little bit complex, but it works like this. If you had three creatives in a campaign, that campaign would be eligible to show an individual user three ads from that campaign in a 48 hour period. If the campaign had four ads in it, you’d be able to show to that same member four times in a 48 hour period or two times per day. And it caps out at five, where you have five ads shown from that campaign to the same person in a 48 hour period, averaging out to two and a half times per day. What I don’t know about this is if you had two duplicate campaigns targeting the same audience, where one of them had two ads, and one had three, would it still show to that member up to five times in 48 hour period? Or is it only per campaign? If you know reach out to me over LinkedIn or through our email address that will say here at the end of the show.

So that’s sponsored con attend, then we have sponsored messaging like message ads and conversation ads. And currently, they have a very strict frequency cap of one in 30 days. But this is special as a frequency cap. It’s not that only you are allowed to show one of these ads to someone every 30 days, it’s if you send one, they don’t get yours or anyone elses for 30 more days. They are reserved for 30 days. Early on, the sponsored messaging frequency cap used to be one every 60 days. And then over time, as they realized that their users weren’t being annoyed, they lowered it down to one every 45 days. And now they’ve settled at one in 30 days. And over the last few years, I have heard rumors that LinkedIn could change it to one every 15 days, which I’m certainly not against. Because like we’ve talked about before, I think Sales Navigator inmails are way more constant and annoying than sponsored messaging ads. Okay, here’s the quick sponsor break. And then we’ll dive into the other ad formats, as well as that hack I told you about where you can use this to start breaking the frequency caps.

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All right, let’s jump into text ads. So the short story long with text ads is that we don’t know what the frequency cap actually is or how its measured. I’m gonna guess that it’s probably around five ads per day per campaign. But it could actually be closer to like a seven to 10 times. But it averages like three to five due to member activity on the platform. Remember that text ads load only in the right rail on desktop. And they can load on most pages of LinkedIn as people are surfing around. So it’s totally plausible that if they had a frequency cap of 10, that maybe many members only come and load two or three pages and then leave while some of the most active members are surfing around. And maybe they do get seven to 10 and it ends up coming out to like a frequency of around five. Dynamic ads are the same way. We don’t know the exact number, but because they share the same inventory as text ads and text ads show a little bit more, I would expect the dynamic ads to have a frequency cap, maybe somewhere around like a three or four. It could also be based on a 24 hour period, or it could be a 48 hour period. not totally sure there. But here’s the hack I was telling you about where you can break the frequency cap, we found that both text ads and dynamic ads have a really interesting quality to them. Because they’re not tied to the company page like sponsored content, and plus the auction serving algorithm was created back in 2007, before company pages were even a thing, they wouldn’t be limited the same way that sponsored content is, which is a certain number of ads that represent the same company page are served to the same person. So what they did is they created the frequency cap based off of the individual campaign, meaning that each user could only be exposed to ads in a campaign a certain number of times in this period. So then what’s stopping an advertiser from creating additional campaigns that are targeting the same audience? Well, nothing, obviously. So I use this trick with text ads back in 2011, to get them to serve a lot more often. And I’d kind of forgotten about it. When my team recently did a bunch of really cool tests, where we found that you can do the same thing with dynamic ads. And this is how they stumbled upon it. The team was trying to get follower ads to spend more for a large multinational company that we work with. The hypothesis was that additional campaigns would allow the ads to be served more often to the same people. But we wanted to make sure that the duplicated campaigns didn’t cannibalize each other. Because this happens a lot on LinkedIn, where you have two campaigns targeting the same audience. And all of a sudden, your traffic gets split between the two campaigns, or one of them takes over and gets most of the clicks and impressions and the other one starts to get ignored. So in order to control for this, they made a duplicate of each of the campaigns, but made them run at different times during the day. And because we built our own internal ad scheduling tool, we ran the original campaigns for the first 12 hours of the day, and then shut those off and had the duplicates run the second half of the day. And they noticed that the frequency numbers among the campaigns nearly doubled when they did this. So in this case, if we were only running the originals, they would get a frequency of about five and a half. But when we ran both of them at different times, that both campaigns could get a frequency of five and a half. So then we wondered if it would produce the same results if both the original and the duplicated campaign ran at the same time, and were essentially allowed to cannibalize each other. What we found is, in this case, it didn’t make much of a difference. We had one campaign that got a frequency of 5.8, another one that got a frequency of 5.1. And so altogether, we ended up around a frequency of 11. So if you need to do this, you can do it with dynamic ads. And you can also follow the same logic to do it with text ads. And of course, you’ll need to decide if it’s worth potentially upsetting your audience. So your mileage may vary. But this is a tool that you can leave in your tool belt. All right, 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.

All right, check down in the show notes for any of these links. But first up, we have that YouTube video on whether you should bid by cost per click or by cost per impression. Again, you’re not going to want to miss that one. We also mentioned the episode on saturation that you’ll probably want to listen to and execute right alongside this one on frequency and frequency caps. That’s episode 29. If you or anyone you know is looking to learn more about LinkedIn Ads, definitely check out the course that I did on LinkedIn Learning. It’s the basics of LinkedIn Ads, and is by far the least expensive and the highest quality, of course, on LinkedIn Ads out there. So check it out. If this is the first episode you’re listening to, I would invite you to subscribe if you liked what you heard. If this is not your first time here, please do me the honor of rating and reviewing the show. Honestly, those reviews mean a lot and it’s the best zero cost way I can think of for you to support the show. With any questions, suggestions, feedback, anything about the show, reach out to us using the email And with that being said, we’ll see you back here next week. We’re cheering you on in your LinkedIn Ads initiatives.