Do LinkedIn Lead Gen Ads Work? (Real-Data Case Study)

In 2017, LinkedIn introduced Lead Gen forms with the purpose of helping companies generate high-quality leads with just a couple of clicks. Because these forms come pre-filled with data straight from the users’ profile, they are supposed to be not only more efficient for businesses, but also to provide a significantly better experience for users compared to regular campaigns.

However, do LinkedIn Lead Gen ads really work? Here is what the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog says:

Our internal data shows that LinkedIn’s Lead Gen Form campaigns increase conversions by 2-3x when compared to standard Sponsored Content campaigns.

And of course, reducing our Cost per Lead by up to 3 times sounds really great. Who wouldn’t want that?

But the truth is, while this statement sounds purely awesome for companies looking to generate quality B2B leads, it doesn’t give us any particular information about anything.

do linkedin lead gen ads work

How exactly did they compare LinkedIn Lead Gen ads with Sponsored Content ads? What was the criteria that they used? Were they tested in an equal context and under the same conditions?

We don’t know this for sure – so today, we will be proving the validity of this statement with actual, real-time data.

To see if my conversions really go up – and by how much, I decided to conduct my own experiment and test LinkedIn Lead Gen ads against landing pages (which is how regular Sponsored Content works).

Which one will convert better? Here is how I did it:

LinkedIn Lead Gen ads vs Sponsored Content: the experiment

To provide the exact same testing conditions for both my Lead Gen ads and my regular ads, I needed to prepare a couple of things:

Target audience

In this experiment, I wanted to test the performance of one ad format against another. This meant that, if I wanted to make an actual A/B test and see which one converts better, I had to use the exact same target audience across the tested campaigns.

linkedin lead gen ads - a/b testing

If I had tested LinkedIn Lead Gen ads with one target audience, and Sponsored Content ads with a completely different one, since I am changing two different factors (ad format and segmentation), I wouldn’t be able to know what really worked.

The key to A/B testing is to only change one element at a time, while keeping everything else the same.

Budget

In a similar manner, in order to find out if LinkedIn Lead Gen ads really work, I had to make sure that I am working with similar (preferrably the same) bugets.

Even more than having the exact same total budget, it was more important to have the exact same daily budget:

linkedin lead gen ads - budget

This way, I could make sure that all my ads are competing under the same budget conditions. If one had double the daily budget of the other, it would gain more traction faster. Besides, LinkedIn’s algorithms would have optimized it faster as well.

Ads

The next thing that I had to keep the same in order to evaluate the performance of LinkedIn Lead Gen ads were the different ad creatives within the campaign.

I used the exact same text copies, the same banners, and the same headlines in both Lead Gen campaigns and Sponsored Content campaigns.

Except that in one case, I took the audience to the URL of the company’s website, more specifically the landing page of the product that was being promoted. And, in the other case, I assigned a Lead Gen form that I had created beforehand.

linkedin live events

Example of an ad creative within a regular Sponsored Content campaign. This is not the actual company nor content that I used for my own campaigns, it’s just an example.

Bidding

And last but not least, in order to find if LinkedIn Lead Gen ads convert better than Sponsored Content ones, I had to make sure that they are both using the same bidding strategy.

If that was not the case, it would have been really hard to distinguish the impact of the bidding strategy from the actual performance of the ad format.

You can read more about the different bidding strategies on LinkedIn in my article All 6 LinkedIn Bid Types (and how they work!). However, for this exercise, I went with Manual Bidding because it’s easier to take control of during the experiment.

The Results

With all of these factors in mind, I was ready to conduct my experiment. However, before I move on to the results, I want to make a little disclaimer:

These results are based on my personal experience and on real campaigns that I have been working with over a controlled period of time. I can’t guarantee that your experience and results will be exactly the same; as they depend on your business model, country, industry, and how strong your competitors are. 

Now that I’ve got this out of the way, we can move on to the results. The company I am working with is within the education sector, but I can’t talk about the exact products that they are selling, nor the country in which they are based because I don’t want to compromise their privacy.

So, I have simply labeled each column Product 1, Product 2, etc.

The experiment was conducted over a period of time of 4-5 months (with slight variations between products). In this time, I was able to collect enough data in order to make a well-researched conclusion on whether LinkedIn Lead Gen ads work.

Example 1. Products 1-4

linkedin lead gen forms vs landing - example

In the first graphic, we can see the actual campaign results for 4 different products that the company is selling.

The black column indicates the Cost per Lead for a campaign that is using a Lead Gen form. The pink column indicates the CPL for a regular Sponsored Content campaign that takes users to a landing page outside of LinkedIn, aka the company’s website.

From the graphic above, we can see how much cheaper were our Costs per Lead for a Lead Gen campaign compared to a Sponsored Content campaign:

  • Product 1 – 2.4 times cheaper; there was a 70% reduction in CPL.
  • Product 2 – 0.69 times cheaper; there was a 40% reduction in CPL.
  • Product 3 – 1.56 times cheaper; there was a 61% reduction in CPL.
  • Product 4 – 1.5 times cheaper; there was a 60% reduction in CPL.

From this data, we can see that LinkedIn Lead Gen ads performed better than regular ones across the whole portfolio sample. In Product 1, we can see that the difference was bigger, while there was the least difference in Product 1.

Speaking in LinkedIn’s language, we can say that conversions increased by an average of 1.5x simply by implementing a Lead Gen form instead of sending your audience to a landing page outside of LinkedIn.

This result doesn’t meet their claim of 2-3x that we saw in the beginning, but the results were really great nonetheless.

Example 2. Products 5-8

lead gen vs landing - cost per lead

Our next graphic shows another range of products, which we will label from 5 to 8. And these were the results for this batch:

  • Product 5 – 1.06 times cheaper; there was a 52% reduction in CPL.
  • Product 6 – 1 time cheaper; there was a 50% reduction in CPL.
  • Product 7 – 0.96 times cheaper; there was a 49% reduction in CPL.
  • Product 8 – 0.09 times cheaper; there was a 9% reduction in CPL.

In this graphic, we can see that LinkedIn Lead Gen ads were still cheaper than regular Sponsored Content, but this time the difference was smaller – 0.72 times on average across products 5-8.

The Cost per Lead was reduced by 42%.

Example 3. Products 9-10.

lead gen vs landing 3 - cost per lead

In the third graphic, we are looking at two different products:

  • Product 9 – 1.12 times cheaper; there was a 53% reduction in CPL.
  • Product 10 – 0.03 times cheaper; there was a 4% reduction in CPL.

Here, we can see that the difference was really small in Product 10, to a point where it’s not too relevant. In Product 9, we definitely noticed an important difference, reducing the Cost per Lead by 1.12x.

On average for this batch of products, we can say that we can only get 0.28x more leads compared with the rest that we saw beforehand.

Final thoughts: do LinkedIn Lead Gen ads work?

And now, looking at the average across all 10 products, we are ready to answer the initial question: do LinkedIn Lead Gen ads work?

Yes, using LinkedIn Lead Gen ads can help you decrease your Cost per Lead by 44% on average, and achieve up to 2x more conversions as opposed to regular Sponsored Content.

Of course, as we saw from the graphic above, these results will depend on your product, sector, business model and competition.

However, the point is that they do work, and you can achieve great results with them, especially if you are constantly monitoring your performance and optimizing accordingly.

Why do Lead Gen forms perform better?

Now that we’ve answered the initial question and confirmed that LinkedIn Lead ads indeed work, I think it’s also important to explain why. What exactly makes them so effective? Here are my top 3 reasons:

Reason 1: User Experience

Obviously, the first and most important reason why Lead Gen works (and exists in the first place) is its ability to auto-fill data from the LinkedIn profiles of the users who clicked on your ad.

Since users don’t have to fill in their data manually, they are able to save time, and skip the annoyance of having to type their personal information over and over again. They simply submit the form, and move on to other things.

In comparison, landing pages typically have long and tedious forms that many users just don’t want to fill out. In many cases, they want the downloadable product or the information, but don’t want to spend time typing data, so they will just leave.

The amount of auto-filled fields and the ones that will have to be filled in manually by the user depend on how you created your Lead Gen form. These forms are highly customizable so you can adapt them to your goals and needs by selecting fields from the list:

Or requesting specific information that is not found publicly on a person’s LinkedIn profile. You can add up to 3 custom questions and up to 5 custom checkboxes:

Even if you choose to not add custom questions or checklists, there will be some fields that users will have to fill in manually always – such as their phone number or/and email address:

Because LinkedIn considers this as a private information and will not share it publicly without the user’s content.

Conversion rate

Information is key for getting to know your audience. So a lot of times, companies are tempted to ask for too much data when creating a lead generation form on their landing page.

This usually creates a very frustrating experience for the user who just wants to get the content that you promised him in exchange for signing up.

According to Hubspot, the convertion rate decreases as the number of form fields increases:

Compared to a regular landing, Lead Gen forms make it significantly easier for the user to sign up for your content or download your ebook. And that’s why LinkedIn Lead Gen ads tend to perform so well.

Because it fills in a lot of data automatically, you will be able to ask for more information from the user. All while reducing significantly the negative experience of filling out numerous fields.

So, it’s a win-win!

Reason 2: Straight to the point

One of my favourite things about LinkedIn Lead Gen ads is that they go straight to the point with a clear and concise message. There are no endless paragraphs, overwhelming testimonials, videos, and other sorts of distracting content.

But don’t get me wrong! As a Marketer and a blogger myself, I absolutely know the importance of content on a landing page.

However, besides from an advertiser, I am also an ad and content consumer. And from a consumer’s perspective, I think that sometimes companies tend to overcomplicate their message. When in fact, simple is usually better. 

If your ad was compelling enough and managed to convince me to click on it, it will probably not take me that many arguments on your landing to get me to convert.

Of course, it could be completely different depending on your product niche and service. However, it is definitely something that is worth the try.

Reason 3: Users stay on LinkedIn

The next reason why LinkedIn Lead Gen ads work, which is again related to user experience, is that they are native.

This means that once users have submitted their data through your form, they will stay on their LinkedIn feed, without being taken to a third-party website.

In regular Sponsored Content, you have to take your audience to a page that is not on LinkedIn, but on your own website, because this is where you capture conversions in the first place.

The thing is, users don’t really want to leave LinkedIn. They are browsing through a social media platform that they enjoy, scrolling through their feed, and consuming content.

So, when they click on an ad, they don’t want to be taken to a third-party website, which they might not even consider trustworthy.

However, knowing that their personal data is submitted through LinkedIn’s safe platform gives them an additional sense of security, and they are more likely to fill out your Lead Gen form because of it.

And this was all from me for today! Thank you for taking the time to read my article Do LinkedIn Lead Gen ads work? If you have any questions or doubts, do not hesitate to leave me a comment down below. I hope to see you in my next article!

Featured image credit: business.linkedin.com


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4 comments
  • When you use lead gen forms in LinkedIn are you paying when: a. a user clicks on the ad and goes to landing page; b. when a user clicks submit on lead form; or c. both? It is very unclear about what constitutes a click in the lead gen CPC model.

    • Hello Eric,

      Thank you very much for your comment! This is actually a really good question. You are paying for click, which means that you will pay when the user clicks on the banner that he saw on his feed. Once he clicks on the submit button of the lead gen form, he already becomes a conversion, but you don’t pay for generating a conversion. Just for the click.

      Hope my answer helped! Let me know if I can help with anything else.

  • Hi Ani.
    Hope you are doing well.
    I may not share the same interest as you on LinkedIn marketing and everyone else here but I like the way you structure your posts.

    The way I found your blog is while I was watching the Jim & Rickys video and then i read your comment underneath.

    I am wishing you good luck for a bright and prosperous future.

    • Hello Georgi,

      Thank you very much for your lovely message! 🙂 It made my day!
      I am glad you found me through Jim and Ricky, they are awesome.

      I am wishing you a great and prosperous future as well!
      Kind regards,
      Ani