One very important decision that can affect your ad performance, and overall experience, when advertising on LinkedIn is which bidding option you choose. That’s because your bid plays a factor in how much you spend on the platform each day and at roughly what cost your ads are able to generate results.

We published a post recently on the differences between bidding for clicks vs bidding for impressions (feel free to check it out here). In that post, we discussed how it’s more cost effective to optimize your bids for clicks 90% of the time. 

With that in mind, this week we’ll discuss the differences between two forms of CPC bidding and which is most likely to bring you LinkedIn ad success: manual bidding and target cost bidding.


Manual Bidding


Let’s start with what manual bidding is. LinkedIn defines this bidding type by saying:

Manual bidding allows you to specify the amount you want to bid per key result… Manual bidding is the best option for advertisers who want to manually control their bid in the auction.

Manual bidding is available for every ad objective, format and optimization goal.

There are pros and cons to this type of bidding. The greatest advantage is that, as LinkedIn states, you have full control over how much you are willing to bid. The downside is that, if your bid is not high enough, you will win the auction less frequently, reducing the number of impressions your ads receive. This is easily remedied, however, by simply raising your bid. This bid type requires a bit more attention in comparison to other options in order to make it successful.

The amount you bid should hinge on a couple different factors. First, how much are you willing to pay per click?  It should be noted that by selecting the manual bidding option, LinkedIn automatically checks the box that says “Enable bid adjustment for high-value clicks.” 

With this checked, LinkedIn will automatically raise your bid as high as 45% during the auction to get your ad in front of those who are most likely to click and result in a valuable action (such as filling out a form or downloading your content). This means that, if you set a bid of $8, LinkedIn could stretch it as high as $11.60 to generate what it terms to be a high-value click.

Based on our experience, we don’t believe LinkedIn’s algorithm is advanced enough to predict this level of high-value click and conversion behavior. We recommend unchecking this box in order to give you the fullest amount of control over your costs.

Second, how competitive is your target market? If you have a highly competitive and sought-after audience, you may end up needing to bid higher in order to win the auction.



Target Cost Bidding


Target cost bidding is a relatively new bidding option on LinkedIn. The platform defines target cost bidding as:

Target cost bidding allows you to set a target cost per key result for your campaign. Our system will automatically adjust the bid amount to deliver the most key results possible while staying in range of your target cost.”

The idea of target cost bidding is to keep your cost per key result as stable as possible. If our emphasis is on generating clicks, then our cost per key result would simply be our CPC. In our experience, you need to set your target cost about $2 – $3 higher than you would if you selected the manual bidding option in order for target cost bidding to be successful. 

To add, this option gives LinkedIn the flexibility to spend up to 30% higher than your target cost on average per day. Talk about expensive! This means that, instead of an $8 bid (to use the same example we referenced earlier) with the potential of bidding as high as $11.60 (with the bid adjustment option enabled), your target cost starts around $10 – $11 with the potential of spending up to $13 – $14.30 per click on average per day!

On the other hand, one upside to using target cost bidding is that LinkedIn does all the heavy lifting for you. LinkedIn will automatically optimize your bid so that your ads are shown, while also aiming to stay within your specified target cost.




In conclusion, each bid type has its pros and cons. While manual bidding requires more management, it is also nice to have full control over what you spend. And while target cost bidding is more automated, you could potentially end up paying slightly more for the same traffic.

In our experience, we suggest using manual bidding the majority of the time. The complete control over your bid is just too nice not to utilize. Target cost bidding does have a time and place, but more often than not, we would be willing to bet that your results will be better and costs especially will be lower by sticking with manual bidding.

But what do you think? Has manual CPC bidding proven to be a more cost effective option for you? Have you seen better results with target cost bidding than we have? Leave a comment below!

For more on target cost bidding, click here.


Written by Tucker Evans

Tucker Evans - B2Linked