📈 As part of this series, I’m doing some deep-dives into LinkedIn Ads metrics that you’ll want to understand. 📈

We’re starting with one that you think you already understand, but I’m about to blow your mind.

What’s an impression? Seems simple enough but you might be surprised how different the definition is across ad formats…especially Sponsored Messaging

For instance, with newsfeed ads (Sponsored Content), an impression means your ad was at least 50% on screen for 300ms. So there’s no guarantee that the prospect saw your ad, but at least it was on their screen.

With Sponsored Messaging (Message Ads or Conversation Ads), though, an impression is actually a Send, meaning that the message landed in the message box, but it’s not on their screen.

Once they go into their messaging box, they at least have the opportunity to see it, which feels closer to the proper definition of an impression, but this isn’t tracked.

Then, when they click on the message to read it, that’s when we know for certain that they saw it, so I think this is a better analog to an Impression, but LinkedIn calls this an “Open.”

With Text Ads, they serve a LOT of impressions. Sponsored Messaging “impressions” (sends) are quite expensive so you have relatively few, in comparison. Sponsored Content generates somewhere in between. So depending on your ad format, the reported number of Impressions is extremely varied.

Now, how in the world are you supposed to actually make sense of the data from your ads? I’ve got 2 ways for you.

Campaign Manager (Not Preferred 🥺)

If you’re staying in Campaign Manager to do your analysis, this is more difficult and less customizable. First, filter your campaigns so you’re only looking at one ad type (I’ll show you Sponsored Messaging as an example, since it’s the most nuanced.)

Click “Columns: Sponsored Messaging” and scroll over to the column “Opens.” This is what I recommend you consider an Impression. To calculate your Clickthrough Rate, use this number as your denominator. Use the definition of “Click” from this post in the series. Now your CTRs will actually measure a CTR, and not an Open Rate. SO much more meaningful.

<rant>I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain to a new advertiser who was so excited that they were getting 50% CTRs that they were actually getting a 2% CTR. What a letdown!</rant>

Exporting to Excel (My personal favorite 😁)

If you’re exporting your data to Excel (because you’re a rockstar 🎸), you’ll have the ability to create your own custom calculations, and can analyze all of your different ad types at the same time.

Export a report (Ad Performance or Campaign Performance) and export all columns. If you have lots of data, this is where I’d recommend creating a pivot table.

Create a new column for your new definition of an Impression that will work across all your different ad types, and use this formula:

Real Impressions = (Impressions + Opens – Sends)

What this Formula is Actually Doing:

This takes all the reported impressions (which includes Sends, but doesn’t consider Opens) and allows us to add Opens, and removes Sends since that’s not actually indicative of an opportunity to see the ad.

Then base your CTR and CPM metrics off of this definition of an Impression, and your data will be a lot more meaningful across any ad formats you throw at it!


Ready to go Beastmode?! If you export your data by day over a period of time, you can start to see the delay between Sends and Opens. This shows you how long the Sponsored Messaging Ads tend to sit in the prospect’s inbox before they open and engage with them.

  • Maybe your first day of advertising you have 100 Sends and 10 Opens.
  • Your second day has 100 additional Sends and 30 Opens
  • Your third day has 100 more Sends and 110 Opens.

I would interpret this data that the prospects are averaging ~3 days to open the message after it’s been sent.

This feels to me like a reflection of how active your audience is on LinkedIn since a Send only occurs when they’re logged into LinkedIn at the time. And they’re able to receive it only if they haven’t received another one in the last 21 days.

So your Sends can be representative of how often your ICP is on LinkedIn, and your Opens are more indicative of how often they’re using their LinkedIn messaging.

Then after you pause your Sponsored Messaging Ad, you’ll stop seeing Sends, but you’ll likely continue to see Opens and Clicks for days (and even weeks!). So don’t judge Sponsored Messaging performance unless you have allowed plenty of time for the performance data to bake out, or mature.

Comment below if there is another metric that you’d like to see a deep dive on!

If you haven’t met B2Linked yet, we help B2B companies maximize their return from LinkedIn Ads by minimizing waste from poor targeting, bad bidding, and inefficient campaign setup.

If this would be helpful to your company, consider booking a free discovery call. We’d absolutely love the chance to get to work with you!

AJ Wilcox
Host of the LinkedIn Ads Show Podcast, Founder B2Linked