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The 4 Types of LinkedIn Matched Audiences (Explained)

LinkedIn Matched Audiences is a set of tools that was first introduced by LinkedIn in 2017 as a new way for businesses to connect with their target audience.

It works by combining professional data with your own first-party data to re-target web visitors coming from your LinkedIn Ads. However, it also allows you to leverage the potential of your contact database by uploading lists of current accounts or contacts on LinkedIn. This way, you will be able to re-engage them with relevant advertising.

linkedin matched audiences

Today, we will learn all about the different types of Matched Audiences.  We will also see how to use them to re-target and re-engage your audience – step by step.

Keep in mind that you need to have your conversion tracking enabled before you start configuring any audience. Otherwise, it won’t work!

Step 1 of LinkedIn Matched Audiences: Types

Type 1: Website Retargeting

The first and arguably most important type of LinkedIn Matched Audiences is Website Retargeting. 

It is very simple to set up. It works by helping you gather essential information about all website visitors coming from your LinkedIn Ads.

Once you’ve reached a volume of at least 300 unique visitors per audience, you will be able to use it to re-engage your visitors with a second, more personalized impact. Let’s see how everything works step by step with a practical example.

To configure retargeting on LinkedIn, go to your Campaign Manager -> Account Assets -> Matched Audiences.

linkedin matched audiences

Now, click on Create Audience -> Website Audience:

create website audiences

Practical Example

To work with a simplified example, let’s say that you have an online shop that sells 2 products:

  • Laptops – with the brands HP, Sony and Dell.
  • Mobile phones – with the brands Samsung, Apple and Google Pixel.

Let’s say that you are running generic campaigns about laptops, but also specific campaigns about each brand. One for HP, one for Sony, and one for Dell. The same with mobile phones.

Each LinkedIn campaign will bring a certain number of clicks and respective website visitors.

For example, you had 5000 people who were interested in buying a laptop and clicked on your generic campaign. On top of that, more than 1000 users clicked on your Dell-specific campaign.

If they didn’t end up buying any product, they might need to be re-engaged with a second impact. Frequency is key in advertising. After all, people don’t usually buy a product from the first ad that they see.

Usually, a second, more personalized impact will be essential for conversion. Or a purchase. And the way to do that is by website retargeting.

Specific vs generic audiences

One might think that the best way to do that is by creating a specific audience for each brand. Or for each product, depending on your specific case.

This way, you can ensure that later on, you will be able to distinguish visitors who are only interested in buying a Dell (for example), from users interested in any other laptop. And although you will indeed need to do that, this is not the full picture.

One important thing that you will need to keep in mind for your Website Retargeting Audiences is that they build very, very slowly.

matched audiences

And you won’t be able to use them at all before reaching 300 members.

The reason why is because a few things need to happen at the same time for a cookie to be registered for retargeting:

  • First, the user who is coming to your website needs to be signed in his LinkedIn profile
  • Second, he needs to click on your ad and browse the exact page/s that you configured for your audience.

This makes the matching quite difficult. As a result, it might take a lot of time to build up your audience to a minimum of 300 users.

For this reason, I recommend that you set up both specific and generic audiences. For the online shop we are currently working with, it could look like that (obviously, everything is invented for the example):

Generic Audience – All Laptops

all laptops example

This generic audience will include all the URLs related to all your laptop products. Because you will have many different laptop campaigns driving traffic to multiple URLs, the cookies will be gathered much faster.

However, this also means that targeting by brand will also be difficult with this audience. The reason why is because you will not know which users are interested in which specific laptop brand.

You can include as many URLs and landing pages as you want. Because generic pages usually receive more traffic than specific ones, it will build up much faster. And you will be able to use website retargeting in your campaigns sooner!

Specific Audiences – HP, Dell, Sony

Now that we have set up generic audiences, it is time to configure specific ones. Specific matched audiences builder slower than generic ones.

However, they also allow you to make much better and highly-segmented retargeting.

You can get as specific as you want. In fact, the more audiences you build, the better! So, don’t be afraid to play with your options. You can make audiences by brand, product, service, or anything else distinctive to your business:

sony example audiences hp laptops example

Now that you have all your generic and specific audiences configured, it is time to wait! Unfortunately, you can’t do much to speed up the process.

Tip: Keep in mind that reaching 300 members is usually not enough to use the audience in a campaign. Because LinkedIn only shows ads to active users, it will probably shrink once placed within the campaign. 

It will also shrink when you start configuring your LinkedIn ad targeting. So, make sure to have a volume of at least 2,000 users!

Type 2: Contact Targeting

The Contact Targeting option allows you to upload your very own lists of email addresses to match against LinkedIn members.

There is a match when the email that your lead used to sign up for your email list is the same as the one he used to create his LinkedIn profile. For the algorithm, it means that we are talking about the exact same person!

Contact Targeting enables you to show tailored advertising to your current lists and databases of potential customers. Or even actual customers!

To upload your contacts from your CRM (or another platform in which they are located), go to Campaign Manager -> Account Assets -> Matched Audiences -> List upload: 

linkedin matched audiences - list upload

Now, download the contact list template. After that, just follow the example in the Excel file to paste the emails of the contacts from the original source. It is actually quite simple as it’s just email addresses:

linkedin matched audiences excel template

Make sure that your file remains in CSV format as it won’t upload in any other format. Once you’ve uploaded your  list, give it a name, and click on Create. It will take up to 24 hours to process, and up to 24 hours to start delivery.

Audience size

Once uploaded, LinkedIn will remove invalid emails and will start the matching process.

Now that you’ve uploaded your list of contacts, you are ready to use it in your campaigns to re-engage your current database with tailored and personalized advertising.

matched audiences - processed

Later on, you can use this audience to create lookalike audiences.

They will help you discover users with a higher potential to buy from you because they have a similar profile to your current database.

Keep in mind: upload lists tend to shrink a lot because the emails that you provide don’t always match with the emails in LinkedIn’s database. For example, if you upload an email list of 20,000 people, don’t be surprised if it suddenly shrinks to 10,000 or even less. Especially if you are using old lists and many people have changed their email addresses since then. (Or maybe because they have a new company address).

For the Contact Targeting option, LinkedIn also offers various Data Integrations with other platforms such as Marketo, LiveRamp, Eloqua, Salesforce Advertising Studio, Microsoft Dynamics 360, and others. Click here to learn more about Data Integrations with LinkedIn.

Type 3: Account Targeting

This option is very similar to the Contact Targeting one, and you need to follow the exact same steps to get there. The only difference is that instead of downloading the contact template, you will need to download the account template:

account list template

This type of LinkedIn Matched Audiences allows you to upload CSV lists of company names and domains to match against LinkedIn pages.

Once you’ve pasted the information into the template, all you need to do is to give it a name and upload it. Just as in Contact Targeting, it might take up to 24 hours to process, and another 24 to start serving.

Type 4: Lookalike Audiences

Lookalike Audiences allow you to create a new audience segment by building upon an existing matched segment – such as account lists, contact lists, or website audiences.

LinkedIn uses lookalike audiences to discover users with the same traits as your contact databases. This significantly increases your chances for finding your ideal customer.


However, I am not going to get into detail here because I’ve already made a dedicated article on this topic: Understanding LinkedIn Lookalike Audiences (2019). I definitely recommend you to check it out!

Lookalike audiences can be quite powerful to use if you have enough volume.

Step 2 of LinkedIn Matched Audiences: Application

Now that you’ve created your audiences, you are ready to leverage their capabilities by using them in your advertising campaigns. They can be used a segmentation criteria in your LinkedIn ad targeting.

You can add them to your Sponsored Content campaign by clicking on Matched Audiences and selecting the website audience that you wish to use. Keep in mind that they have to be processed by the platform, and they need to have enough cookies:

matched audiences campaign

The more campaigns that you make, the better – as they bring additional traffic to your website and help you build your audiences faster.

As you can see, you also have the option to upload your lists on the spot; however, you will still have to wait for them to be processed before activating the campaign. So it’s better to do it beforehand.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below! Any feedback is welcome.

Hope you enjoyed the content, and thank you for your time!

Featured Image Credit: instapage.com


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