guide to advertising on linkedin

LinkedIn Advertising Guide

With so many social media channels competing for user attention, LinkedIn has managed to set themselves apart as being the primary place online to make business connections and share professional updates.

That may make it a strange advertising fit for some brands, but for B2B businesses, LinkedIn advertising is well worth considering.

Why Businesses Should Advertise on LinkedIn

LinkedIn currently has nearly 5 million users. While in general, those users aren’t as active as people are on other social media sites – only about 100 million people are active monthly – when you consider the focus of the site, that just makes sense. LinkedIn isn’t where people go when they’re looking for distractions from work or looking to be entertained; it’s where they go when they’re in work-mode, ready to network and gain education relevant to their business needs.

61% of LinkedIn users are 30-64, and 75% of users have incomes over $50,000. And 70% of LinkedIn professionals say they consider the site a trustworthy source of business content.

While there’s a wide range of industries, job titles, and professional levels represented on the platform, for most B2B brands you can trust that some of the serious business decision makers you want to reach will be on there. And they’ll be on there when they’re thinking about work and business decisions, which is the time you most want to reach them.

In addition to ads that show up on the LinkedIn site itself, the social media company has developed the LinkedIn Audience Network, which enables you to use their advertising platform to deliver ads to a number of sites across the web they’ve deemed “brand safe” and high quality.

Their whole advertising apparatus is set up to reach professionals when they’re in a professional mindset. If that’s who your brand most needs to reach, then LinkedIn’s an important channel to include your marketing mix.

Types of LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn offers an array of ad type options brands can take advantage of. Some of them you’re able to create yourself through their self-service advertising platform; others you’ll need to work with a rep to set up.

Self-Service Advertising

Self-service advertising is the easiest way to get started with LinkedIn advertising. In this category, you have three main ad options.

1. Text Ads

linkedin text adsText ads are the ones you see along the side of LinkedIn pages that include:

  •   A small image
  •   A hyperlinked headline
  •   A short description

These are pretty easy to set up on your own, and are one of the most affordable ad options on the platform. The format is similar to that of PPC ads on platforms like Google Adwords, so you may be able to make some slight tweaks to copy you already have prepared.

2. Sponsored Content

linkedin sponsored adSponsored content ads show up in the LinkedIn feed alongside the updates people see from the contacts they follow. For people who use LinkedIn as a tool to find valuable resources, getting your content into that feed can be a useful way to reach them.

These ads look a lot like the other content shares you’ll see in a LinkedIn feed. They include:

  •   Your name and logo
  •   A short description
  •   A link to the content you’re sharing
  •   An image
  •   The title of the content

If your content gets engagement on the platform – likes and comments – then people will be able to see that as well. If you’re considering content promotion options (and any business doing content marketing should be), then this is a good option for getting your content seen by a wider audience.

3. Sponsored InMail

linkedin sponsored inmailSponsored InMail messages show up right in your prospect’s inbox, thus giving you a chance to reach people in your target audience more directly and even add some personalization to the ads based on what you know about them. Since people see these when they’re going through their messages, there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll notice it than with ads that show up in their feed or on the busier main page of the site.

There’s some variety in what you can include in a Sponsored InMail message, but messages usually include:

  •  A message title
  •  The message itself – you have space for a longer message here than with the other two self-serve ad types
  •  An image
  •  A clear CTA button – you can choose what action you want the recipient to take here. For example, the button could drive them to your website, to download a piece of content, or to sign up for a webinar.

Sponsored InMail can be a good way to cut through the noise on LinkedIn and reach your prospects more directly.

Advertising Partner Solutions

For those a little more serious about LinkedIn advertising, you can choose one of the other two categories of ad types that require working with a representative or third party platform to buy and create.

Display Ads

If you’re already doing programmatic advertising, you can use your buying platform to purchase ads to be displayed on LinkedIn. These can take a few forms that include the visual ads you see on the side of the main page on LinkedIn and the text ads you see along the top of the screen.

LinkedIn display ads

linkedin ads example

Dynamic Ads

LinkedIn provides the option to purchase dynamically generated ads that are personalized to your audience based on their behavior on the platform. For example, these could be recruitment ads that include the targeted user’s profile picture.

These ads require working directly with a LinkedIn sales rep to purchase and develop. If you want to provide your audience with a more personal advertising experience, they’re the best way on LinkedIn to do that.

linkedin dynamic ads

LinkedIn’s Targeting Options

One of the best things about social media advertising options in general is that social media sites tend to have a lot of data about their users that translates to valuable targeting options for advertisers.

LinkedIn is no exception. They might not have the kind of detailed data on user interests that Facebook does, but they still have plenty of information on users’ professional backgrounds, current job status, and professional aspirations, in addition to general demographic data.

LinkedIn’s extensive targeting options include:

  •      Gender
  •      Age
  •      Geographic location
  •      Company
  •      Industry
  •      Business size
  •      Job title
  •      Job seniority
  •      School attended
  •      Subjects studied
  •      Degree level
  •      Professional skills
  •      Years of professional experience

linkedin ad targeting

In addition, LinkedIn allows you to create customized groups to target with their Matched Audiences feature. You can upload a list of contacts from your email list or use website retargeting to create a list in LinkedIn of users on the site that have interacted with your brand previously. You can then create ads targeted at them specifically.

Ad targeting can help you ensure you get the best bang for your buck with LinkedIn advertising. If you only pay to get your ads in front of the people they’re most likely to be relevant to, your success rate increases. And the more specific you can get about reaching that exact right person, the higher your ROI is likely to be.

How Much LinkedIn Advertising Costs

That higher ROI is important to think about, since LinkedIn has a reputation as one of the most costly social media sites to advertise on.

Most cost-per-click pricing starts at $2 per click and can go up to $5, and you can end up paying more if your campaigns don’t do well. But HupSpot’s research with LinkedIn ads (Sponsored Content, specifically) has found that they get a higher conversion rate than other advertising channels.

Even though the CPC is often higher, as with on other advertising platforms, you can control your budget and set a maximum on what you’re willing to spend each day or the total amount you’re willing to spend on a campaign.

LinkedIn does require a minimum spend of $10 per day or campaign and a $2 minimum bid on Text Ads.  Beyond that, how much you spend is up to you.

LinkedIn’s Advertising Analytics

LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager dashboard provides metrics on the performance of your ads and campaigns.

In addition to information like the number of impressions, clicks, and social actions, they also provide data on who’s clicking on your campaigns so you can determine if your ads are reaching the right people and better understand which ads work best with which demographics.

linkedin advertising analytics

You can also set up conversion tracking in LinkedIn, so you can better see which of your ads are successfully driving the actions you want your audience to take. This is important information to help you better evaluate the overall ROI of your advertising with LinkedIn.

How to Get Started Advertising on LinkedIn

If you’re ready to go ahead and get started advertising on LinkedIn, start by going to the LinkedIn Advertising page and clicking on one of the buttons that say “Create Ad.”

how to create ads on linkedin

This will take you to LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager site, where you can choose which of the three self-serve ad options available you want to start with. (Note: if you want to jump straight to dynamic advertising, click on “Contact Sales” here instead and a LinkedIn rep will get in touch to talk you through the process).

get started linkedin advertising

Once you’ve made your selection, the Campaign Manager site will walk you through the information you need to provide to create your ad.

linkedin ads set up

Once your ad is created, you can choose your targeting options.

choose linkedin ad targeting

Then set your budget, add your payment info, and you’re ready to launch.

linkedin ad budget

You can have self-serve ads ready to go in well under an hour from the time you got started.


If you sell toys or camping gear, LinkedIn might not be the most effective channel for your ads. But if you sell something like B2B software, professional training courses, or anything else that’s likely to interest a professional audience specifically, then it’s a smart place to be. Investing in advertising can make your efforts on the site go further and give you the chance to reach a new, relevant audience.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.