Compared to other digital channels, LinkedIn Ad Targeting is relatively simple to use by people with no previous experience in Marketing. Since LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager had a huge makeover this year, it has become more user-friendly than ever.
However, selecting the criteria that seems the most relevant for your business doesn’t always mean that it is. To actually find what criteria works best for you, you need to understand what happens behind the scenes first.
For this reason, I created this comprehensive guide to LinkedIn Ad Targeting.
Are you ready? Grab your popcorn and let’s go right into it!
LinkedIn Ad Targeting
Part 1: Objective Selection
The first part of your campaign set up will be Objective Selection.
Objective selection is really important because it’s tightly related to your LinkedIn ad targeting. It might look confusing at first, but it really just answers the question: “What is my goal with this campaign?”
In other words, what do I want to achieve by launching this campaign? Do I want my ad to be seen by the highest amount of people possible? Do I want to drive more traffic to my website? Or maybe more people to download my ebook?
Whatever your goal is, you need to understand how objectives work in order to make the most educated decision:
- First, because it will affect the way LinkedIn’s algorithm shows your campaigns;
- Second, because you can’t change your objective once it’s selected;
- And third, because not all objectives are compatible with all LinkedIn ad formats;
Having said this, let’s take a look at the different types of objectives for LinkedIn ad targeting:
This objective is suitable for impression-based campaigns. This means that it is a good choice if your main goal is to achieve more visibility for your brand. With this objective, the algorithm will try to show your ad as many times as possible for the lowest price possible.
However, it will not optimize as much for clicks or conversions. So, if your goal is to make your audience undertake a specific action (such as going to your website or download a report), I do not recommend it.
This objective will charge for CPM – aka per 1000 impressions of your campaign:
If your goal is to drive more traffic to your website or a landing page, then this is the right objective for you. With this objective, LinkedIn’s algorithms will optimize your campaigns for traffic instead of impression.
Website visits is usually my preferred option when I am not generating leads with a Lead Gen form – which we will see in a minute.
This objective charges for cost per click.
This objective is usually recommended for advertisers who want to drive more engagement to their content posts. It the goal of your campaigns to increase social engagement or Company Page followers, then this is the right one for you.
This means that the algorithm will try to show your campaign to people who are more likely to interact with your content. Any possible interaction such as a click, a share, a comment or a mention will count towards this optimization.
Additionally, your ad will include a Follow button:
This objective is also charged for Cost per Click.
You can use video as an ad format for multiple objectives such as Brand Awareness and Website visits. However, if your campaign goal is to reach the users who are the most likely to interact with your videos, you can use this one.
This option allows you to bid based on Cost per View. In comparison, the rest of the objectives in which video format is available only allow for Cost per Click bid.
With this option, you can either bid per thousand impressions (CPM bid) or per single video view (CPV).
Each option will optimize differently for your LinkedIn Ad targeting. Select cost per video view if you want your ads to be delivered to people who have shown previous interest in videos by watching them for 2 continuous seconds or more.
If you choose cost per thousand impressions, the LinkedIn’s algorithm goal will be to deliver the video as many times as possible.
This option is perfect for advertisers who want to increase their lead generation through LinkedIn’s native pre-filled forms.
LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms are a great alternative to regular landing pages. Because LinkedIn auto-fills data by extracting it from users’ public profile, the Cost per Lead can decrease up to 3 times!
Select this objective if you want to use a Lead Gen form instead of your normal website or landing page. You can either set the forms up beforehand, or directly when creating your campaign.
Choose this objective if the goal of your campaign is to drive more conversions to your website.
This goal is at the bottom of the Marketing funnel. It will optimize your campaign to be shown to people who are most likely to perform the action that you have defined as conversion. Actions such as an ebook download or getting a quote are highly suitable for this objective.
Important: To use this objective, you need to have your LinkedIn conversion tracking enabled first.
To wrap this section up, it is important to keep in mind that as of today, LinkedIn is rolling a new-objective based advertising experience.
This means that if you are reading this article fresh out of the oven, you might not have all of these objectives enabled yet. However, if you are reading it from the future, maybe you have them already 🙂
LinkedIn Ad Targeting
Part 2: Audience
The next step to understanding how LinkedIn ad targeting works behind the scenes is your Audience.
It is very important – and interesting – to know how LinkedIn captures profile information for targeted campaigns.
First, you will need to specify the main locations of your target audience. This segmentation criteria offers two options:
- Recent or permanent location – targets people who either reside permanently in the specific location, or have worked there recently.
- Permanent location – targets only LinkedIn members who only live in this location permanently.
Now, this seems obvious, but I have something in mind with that.
Let´s take a look at my own LinkedIn profile. For this article, I will use my own profile as an example – to avoid any permission issues with other profiles.
If I choose the option Permanent Location, the algorithm will take my current location of work and nothing else:
This location is set up in my profile.
Now, let´s say that your target is Finland and I just moved from Helsinki to Madrid. (Which I am totally making up, of course 🙂 )
If you choose the option Recent or Permanent Location, I might be able to see your ads even though I don´t work in Helsinki anymore.
Of course, LinkedIn´s algorithm will be able to detect this change only if you changed the location in your profile.
Now that you´ve selected the locations of your target audience, it is time to choose the profile language.
This step is very important as you won´t be able to make any changes once campaign configuration is saved.
It is also important to understand it because the decision is not that obvious as it seems.
Let´s take my profile again as an example. I am a Bulgarian, living in Madrid, with a LinkedIn profile in English.
I don´t have a profile neither in Bulgarian nor Spanish.
In this case, if a Spanish company was looking to show their ads to people whose profile language is Spanish, I would not be able to see their ads.
And vice versa, if they wanted to show me ads in English and I had my profile in Spanish, I wouldn´t be able to see them either.
When choosing profile language for your campaigns, it is crucial to understand that many people prefer to have their profile in English instead of their local language.
The reason why is because LinkedIn is the biggest professional network with over 550 million international members. Obviously, having your profile in a less popular language (like Bulgarian, for example), might limit your opportunities to connect with other professionals.
Unfortunately, LinkedIn doesn´t allow you to select multiple profile languages at the same time.
So, choose wisely! Some campaigns work better if they are open to English as a default profile language.
In other cases, if you need to make sure that your target audience speaks a specific local language, it is better to choose this one instead.
The next section dives deeper into your LinkedIn ad targeting. It allows you to select from multiple criteria such as Company, Demographics, Education, etc. in order to refine your targeted audience:
So, let´s see them in detail!
This audience attribute extracts information from Company Pages.
Let´s take a look at The Coca Cola Company LinkedIn´s Business page.
If you take a good look at the page, you will see a lot of elements that provide additional information for users. However, these elements also provide additional data to LinkedIn´s algorithms as well.
For example, on the Home tab of this page, you can see the following attributes.
- Company Name – the name of the company as displayed on the Company Page.
- Company Size – the number of employees who have a LinkedIn profile associated with this company. This amount doesn’t always reflect the actual amount of employees.
- Company Connections – if you choose this attribute, you will target the 1st connections of all employees that work at your company.
Another really interesting attribute that I use a lot for my own campaigns is Company Industries. To match your targeting criteria with actual Company pages, LinkedIn extracts information from the About tab of the Company Page:
The reason why I want you to understand this segmentation criteria well is because it is not always specific enough. Knowing where exactly you can find it on a LinkedIn Company page might help you refine your audience much better.
For example, the company industries Internet and Information Technology and Services are quite vague. There are a lot of companies that list their industry as such.
So it is a good thing to keep in mind the next time you select your campaign attributes.
And last but not least, the criteria Company Follower of allows you to target the followers of your Company Pages. Which is quite self-explanatory 🙂
This campaign attribute is also rather self-explanatory. LinkedIn extracts this information from member’s profiles. However, this data is not visible to the public.
Additionally, LinkedIn will ask you to confirm that you will not be using this criteria for any sort of discrimination based on age or gender.
I don’t usually use it for my campaigns. However, it can sometimes be very useful. For example, if you are making a gender-specific campaigns such as International Women Day. Or just an ad for a product specifically designed and targeted to women!
The education criteria can be a great way to reach your audience.
The way LinkedIn extracts data from members’ profiles is really simple.
Let’s go back to my profile as an example. When you type in the details of your education, you are asked to fill out a template:
This template matches exactly with the corresponding attributes in the Education section:
If you choose Member Schools and the school doesn’t have a Company Page, you won’t be able to use it.
The Education criteria, however, doesn’t include the Licenses & Certifications section of your profile:
In fact, you can’t target people with specific Licenses & Certifications at all. There isn’t any specific criteria for that.
Job experience is probably one of the most interesting criteria on LinkedIn. No other social platform can get that specific. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are far from that!
Each particular attribute extracts information from different places.
Job Functions is an attribute whose database is only known to LinkedIn. They have an internal database which groups different job titles into a common job function. So, there is no way to know where the algorithm takes this information from.
Similar to Job Functions, Job Seniorities are internally grouped by LinkedIn. We don’t have much information about how they do it exactly. They probably group different job titles into their corresponding seniority.
Years of Experience are determined by the accumulated total of all your job positions:
The Job Title criteria extracts information from your current job position:
You can’t target by previous job positions. If the profile has more than one current job, the target will take the one that the person has put on top.
The Member Skills criteria extracts information from the Skills & Endorsements section members’ profile:
However, be careful when choosing this criteria for LinkedIn ad targeting. Many users go crazy about the Skills section and select too many skills. In many cases, they might select a tool that they have only ever opened once!
Another interesting attribute that has worked very well in my experience is Interests.
It includes two sub-sections:
- Member Groups
- Member Interests
The first attribute refers to the group that users join on LinkedIn. If you are not familiar with them, they work on the same basis as Facebook Groups.
Groups can be a very successful targeting criteria. For a user to bother joining a group, it means that he is actually interested in a certain topic.
In fact, for a user to be accepted in a group, it also means that he is a suitable member.
This makes this segmentation criteria very efficient. Usually, much more efficient than vague criteria such as Skills in which people “evaluate” themselves.
Member interests take you all the way down to the bottom of a member profile:
Just as Skills & Endorsements, they are usually not very precise. Some of them are quite vague and they might not work well for your target audience.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to give them a try!
LinkedIn Ad Targeting
Part 3: Matched Audiences
Matched Audiences allow you to use your own data to make a second impact on your audience.
You can use this attribute to re-target your website visitors or your contact database.
You can configure your Matched Audiences to capture traffic from your LinkedIn campaigns to your website:
I recommend you to configure your audiences as soon as possible. They are very efficient, but build up really, really slowly. And, in order to use them in your campaigns, you need to have a volume of at least 300 users!
I wrote the article The 4 Types of LinkedIn Matched Audiences so I can explain everything about them. You can take a look at it if you need help with their configuration. You can also go to LinkedIn’s support for more information.
This option allows you to upload your own lists of CRM contacts or accounts. Once uploaded, you can either target them directly, or create lookalike audiences.
You can find more information about lookalike audiences here.
You can upload any contact or account database that is in compliance with the GDPR.
LinkedIn ad targeting can work very well if you understand exactly how it works. I strongly encourage you to try all criteria if possible, and see what exactly works best for you.
After all, not everything works the same for everyone.
If you need additional help with advertising on this platform, you can also take a look at my top 20 LinkedIn ad tips.
Now it’s your turn! Do you have any experience with LinkedIn advertising already? If not, which criteria are you excited to try the most? If yes, what is your favourite / most successful one?
Let me know in the comments below! As always, thank you for passing by and taking the time to read my post. See you in the next one!