Wondering why so many unqualified people are seeing, clicking, and converting on your LinkedIn ads?
LinkedIn owns so much data around users’ work experience and current employment, making it the best digital ads platform on the market for B2B advertisers. We’re willing to pay premium prices for the targeting capabilities LinkedIn offers, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.
Even if the campaigns you created are targeting criteria that define your ideal customer persona to a T, there’s still a chance that unqualified people will filter through. It’s a delicate dance. You want to make sure you’re targeting enough of the right people while reducing as many of the wrong people as possible.
For example, if you want to target Salesforce Admins, you might consider targeting those with “Salesforce” listed as a skill. However, by using this targeting criteria, you’ll also be inadvertently targeting salespeople who use the tool every day and marketers who ran a report one time and felt it would look good on their LinkedIn profile (our Founder, AJ Wilcox, did this once—and we had a pretty good laugh about it).
Thankfully, LinkedIn offers a way to refine your targeting so that you’re consistently hitting more of the right people. Cue exclusions!
The Strategy of Excluding Targeting Criteria
Exclusions allow you to specify what targeting criteria you absolutely, under any circumstance, don’t want to target. In fact, LinkedIn will prioritize exclusion before inclusion criteria.
This is especially helpful when your ads are unintentionally reaching unqualified folks. As a quick note, it’s easy to see when leads or opt-ins in your CRM are unqualified, but you can also see what type of people are seeing and clicking on your ads, as well, by using LinkedIn’s Demographics feature.
If prospects have a job title, seniority level, work in a certain industry, etc. that you deem as unqualified, you can exclude this criteria from your targeting to reduce the chances they’ll be seen by someone matching that same criteria again.
Exclusions are an important asset under the toolbelt of any LinkedIn advertiser but there are a couple of things worth considering before doubling down on the number you add to your campaigns.
1/ First is in regards to Super Titles. This is a term used directly in LinkedIn’s API (you won’t find it anywhere in Campaign Manager).
Technically, all job titles that are available for you to target on LinkedIn are considered Super Titles. Because job title is a free-form field on any given LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn doesn’t recognize about 45% of titles. So, several job titles are rolled up under one umbrella Super Title.
The reason this is important to understand for exclusions is because you want to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
For example, we had a client that wanted to target CMOs but we found that we were getting a lot of Marketing Specialists filtering through, despite only defining CMO-related titles in our targeting criteria.
But when we went to exclude the title Marketing Specialist from our targeting, our audience size became nonexistent. For one reason or another, LinkedIn classified Marketing Specialist as synonymous with the Super Title of CMO.
This is an extreme case, but the principle here is one to be aware of. If you see a dramatic decrease in audience size when excluding a given job title, just know that you may also be excluding a handful of qualified people along with those that are unqualified.
Check out this episode of The LinkedIn Ads Show for more on LinkedIn’s Super Titles.
2/ In the same vein, an opt-in could appear unqualified at first glance, but could also be more qualified than you think. This isn’t often the case, but it’s worth double checking if a person really isn’t a good fit before excluding all others like them, on the chance that they could also still be qualified.
For example, if someone works two jobs, you might see the title or seniority level of only one of a prospect’s jobs and exclude this targeting from your campaigns.
It’s important to understand why someone is being served your ads in the first place. LinkedIn’s targeting is still very accurate, so if unqualified leads or opt-ins are filtering through, do some digging. Find out which of your targeting criteria matches with those that are unqualified.
If you find that they really aren’t qualified, remove the criteria that led to them seeing your ads in the first place and exclude any additional relevant criteria.
If you find that they really are qualified, consider not layering on exclusions.
What Else Should I Exclude?
In addition to criteria you deem as unqualified, there are three things every advertiser should also consider excluding:
1/ Current Customers (who are already paying you)
2/ Employees (who will never pay you)
3/ Competitors (who want to crush you)
Now, there are some cases where it might be strategic to target employees, current customers, and other advocates. But in those cases, we recommend keeping targeting and messaging separate and distinct. Otherwise, you’re leaving money on the table by not excluding them from the campaigns targeting your ideal customer persona.
How to Refine My LinkedIn Ads Targeting with Exclusions
Setting up exclusions is actually really simple but can also be easy to miss.
When creating/editing a LinkedIn Ads campaign, the option to exclude can be found at the bottom of the Audience section under the “Who is your target audience?” heading. Click Exclude and you can then start to layer on exclusions in the same way you add other targeting criteria.
Note that you can also exclude geographies, but it’s done slightly differently. Instead, click Exclude near the top of the Audience section under the “Where is your target audience?” heading.
If, after launching your LinkedIn Ads campaigns, you’re still not quite reaching your intended audience, try layering on exclusions. They’re a great way to ensure your ads are more consistently being seen, clicked, and converted on by those who match your ideal customer persona.
What other LinkedIn Ads challenges have you faced? What are you struggling with right now or what questions do you have? Comment below!
And if you want to jump into the channel but don’t have the time or expertise to do it yourself, consider booking a discovery call with us.
We’ll build, execute, and manage a holistic, custom-tailored LinkedIn Ads strategy for you to help you get more sales opportunities with your ideal prospects.
Written by Eric Jones