After spending millions of dollars on the platform last year, our Founder and CEO, AJ Wilcox, and the rest of the B2Linked team learned some incredible things about LinkedIn Ads and have some predictions for what we can expect from the platform in the coming year.
If you’re as passionate about LinkedIn Ads as we are, or are trying to find your footing in the platform, you won’t want to miss this! Read on for all the juicy details! 👇👇👇
Which LinkedIn Ads Strategies Worked in 2021?
Bidding Manual CPC and Bidding Low
Just as we’ve seen in the past, the most effective bidding strategy for generating clicks at the lowest cost on LinkedIn is optimizing for clicks (as opposed to impressions) and setting a manual CPC bid. The key to better LinkedIn Ad costs is starting out by bidding low, (significantly lower than LinkedIn’s recommendations). Then if you aren’t spending as much as you’d like to be, incrementally bid your way up.
For more on how to drive LinkedIn Ad costs down through bidding manual CPC, give this blog post a read.
The LinkedIn Audience Network
It’s surprising that the LinkedIn Audience Network (LAN) worked so well in 2021, considering that typically the off-platform audiences on Google and Facebook are significantly lower in quality. Because the sites LinkedIn partners with, though, are of such high quality, it’s no wonder why this targeting feature was successful.
Pro tip: If you’re working with campaigns with very small audience sizes or your target audience simply isn’t very active on LinkedIn, try enabling the LAN, as this will allow you to reach them in additional places outside of the LinkedIn platform itself.
If you talk with your LinkedIn rep, they will most likely recommend you advertise to audience sizes much, much larger than will do you good. At B2Linked, we’ve always been advocates of tightly targeting your audience, and this strategy proved to be true once again in 2021. We’ve found that keeping your audience between 20,000 and 80,000 members is the sweet spot. If you can do that, we’re confident you’ll see more success generating qualified leads than if you were to target broadly.
Leverage Lead Magnets
Another strategy that’s worked well for us in the past and that proved successful yet again in 2021 is promoting more mid-funnel content (more commonly referred to as “lead magnets”). We’ve seen this work because so few people are willing to engage with ads promoting something as high-friction as a demo request or hard sale, but are rather more interested in helpful, educational content that will help them to do their job better. Generating a higher volume of leads with this method gives you and your sales team more contacts to nurture to prepare them for something like a demo.
What About LinkedIn Ads Didn’t Work in 2021
Enabling Audience Expansion
We can’t stress this one enough. Just don’t do it. It didn’t work before 2021 and we saw that it didn’t work over the course of the year either.
Enabling audience expansion is a default setting when creating a new campaign and is a checkbox at the very bottom of the audience targeting section when setting up your campaign. What checking this box does is it gives LinkedIn free reign to target people on the platform who it thinks will be the right fit based on your existing targeting criteria. However, we’ve seen time and time again that who LinkedIn thinks is a good fit is significantly worse than who you explicitly target. 100% of the time. As helpful of a feature as it has the potential to be, we haven’t found a single case yet where keeping this box checked has led to positive results.
From what we’ve seen, LinkedIn’s lookalike algorithm just isn’t quite there yet, not in comparison to other ad platforms. This is essentially due to the same reason as why enabling audience expansion is a bad idea: the platform just doesn’t have the capability of accurately targeting people based on existing targeting criteria. We hope LinkedIn improves upon this feature in the future, but as of last year, we have yet to see a lookalike outperform the audience it was based on.
Target Cost Bidding
Don’t be swayed by the option to do target cost bidding, despite it being front-and-center. It is not the same as manual CPC bidding. In our experience, because this bidding option gives LinkedIn the flexibility to spend up to 30% higher than your designated cost in order to generate more potentially high-value clicks, we’ve seen that it ultimately results in the same click volume as if you were to bid manual CPC, but costs per click are much higher. With how expensive the platform already is, we recommend sticking with the cheaper option of manual CPC bidding.
If you’re curious to learn more about the pros and cons of target cost bidding, check out this blog post.
Manual CPM Bidding
Lastly, we also found that bidding manual CPM often resulted in higher costs than using LinkedIn’s maximum delivery (or automated) bidding. While it’s still possible to outperform maximum delivery with manual CPM bidding, this year we favored max delivery due to it requiring less babysitting than manual CPM.
These bidding options make sense when your campaigns achieve CTRs that are significantly higher than average.
What We Predict from LinkedIn Ads in 2022
Video Ads Success
Video ads on LinkedIn have typically been very expensive and less successful in comparison to other ad types on the platform. We believe this is due to the fact that users behave very differently on LinkedIn than they do on platforms like YouTube or Facebook. Those who log in to LinkedIn don’t do so with the mindset of wanting to kill time or be entertained. They have a very specific purpose in mind and any content they do engage with is most likely educational or insightful.
That said, we’re seeing much higher activity levels on this ad type than we’ve seen in previous years. If the trend continues, our prediction is that educational and entertaining video content will perform well as we move into 2022.
The Challenges of Website Retargeting
Given the recent iOS 14 update, we expect LinkedIn will struggle moving forward to accurately track website traffic. Because of this pivotal move from Apple, our website retargeting audiences will grow smaller and smaller until they’ll eventually be too small to meaningfully advertise to anymore.
The good news is that there are some strategies you can implement to potentially overcome this challenge.
First, rely on Google and Facebook for website retargeting. The traffic you send to your site from LinkedIn is still going to be high quality due to LinkedIn’s powerful B2B targeting capabilities. Where Facebook and Google come in handy, though, is you can leverage these platforms’ retargeting capabilities to advertise to those high value website visitors at a much cheaper cost than if you were to retarget them on LinkedIn.
Second, you can still confidently rely on LinkedIn’s other retargeting options. LinkedIn offers a wide array of event based retargeting options that will be of significant value to those affected by the iOS 14 update because they have a 100% match rate. These event based retargeting options include advertising to those who open or submit your LinkedIn lead gen form, those who visit your LinkedIn company page, those who watch a certain percentage of your video ad, etc.
The Future is Bright for LinkedIn Ads
There you have it! Thanks for reading our top lessons learned from 2021 and what we predict will come in 2022 for LinkedIn Ads. We hope this was as helpful to you as it was for us! If you’d like to watch the webinar the content of this post was based on, feel free to check it out here!
What about you? What trends are you noticing? Any predictions you have for the platform?
If you’re looking to amp up your LinkedIn Ad efforts, reach out to us here at B2Linked. We’d love to partner up with you to make your LinkedIn Ads rock.
Written by Eric Jones