linkedin lookalike audiences

Understanding LinkedIn Lookalike Audiences (2020)

The Concept of a Lookalike Audience

To better understand the concept of LinkedIn Lookalike audiences, it is first important to keep in mind that every business has an ideal customer. According to Smart Insights, leads need to meet the following criteria in order to be qualified as potential customers for our business:

  • Need – do they have a need that your product or service is able to fulfill?
  • Interest – are they interested in fulfilling that specific need?
  • Budget – do they have enough money to make the purchase?

free trial saas customers

And even if your leads meet the above-mentioned criteria, it doesn´t necessarily mean that they are qualified. The task of discovering your ideal customer gets even more complicated when you consider other factors, including:

  • Geographical area – if they need to go to a physical shop to buy your product, do they have one nearby?
  • Timing – maybe they have the need, the interest, and the budget, but is it the right time to buy the product? Think of purchasing a flight ticket for a certain destination. 
  • Decision making authority – are they the decision makers for a purchase? For example, B2B products can´t be purchased by anyone in a company.
  • Professional profile – this can be especially important for some business. Think of a Business School selling an Executive Education program for people in a specific sector or with certain years of experience. 


The Definition

Let´s say that you already have the vision for your ideal customer and a couple of leads or prospects that represent it perfectly. How awesome would it be to simply replicate the winning formula?

If you found a high-converting target audience with common traits in their profiles, creating a lookalike will greatly increase your chances for further conversion.

LinkedIn Lookalike audiences make exactly that. By combining the traits of your perfect customer with member and company data, you will be able to identify the people who are most likely to buy from you. And, as a consequence, you will be able to target them accordingly. 

Creating LinkedIn Lookalike Audiences

You can create lookalike audiences from a couple of sources: 

A list of target accounts or contacts from your CRM

With this source, you provide LinkedIn with a database of emails (or accounts) that you’ve previously collected in your CRM. LinkedIn uses this information to match against its own database.

What does that mean? 

Well, it is more simple than it sounds. Let´s say that your lead/customer used one email address to register for your website, and the same one for his LinkedIn profile. If this is the case, great! The matching is considered correct, and LinkedIn can now analyze this information to find similar profiles. 

However, if the lead used one email address to register for your website, and a different one for LinkedIn, there isn´t a match. LinkedIn recognized these email address as two different people, in which case it can´t analyze the data that you are requesting.

Matched Audiences

Matched audiences are LinkedIn’s native retargeting audiences. They work the same way as they do in Facebook and Google. And that is, by collecting cookies from users coming to your website from LinkedIn (both from ads and organic).

Keep in mind that you will need at least 300 users before the platform can do anything with them. Which means that it can´t create lookalike audiences until the minimum number of web visitors is reached. 

You can also create lookalike audiences from any other lists of contacts that you have. Of course, you have to keep in mind that it must comply with the GDPR if you are in Europe. And with the corresponding privacy regulations if you are rading this from outside of Europe. 🙂 

subscriber and customer

Creating Lookalike from CRM

To build a lookalike audience based on the contact list that you’ve extracted from your CRM, go to your Campaign Manager. Then, select the account name in which you will want to upload your list, in case you have various accounts. After that, go to Account Assets -> Matched Audiences, in the upper part of the screen:

linkedin matched audiences

In the upper right corner, click on Create Audience -> List Upload. 

From there, just download one of the templates that you wish to use:

Fill in the template with the corresponding email or account list as shown in the template itself, and click on Upload.

Keep in mind that it can take up to 24 hours for LinkedIn to process the list before you can actually use it. 

Once your upload has been processed, if it has enough volume, you will be able to make a lookalike based on it.

Go to Campaign Manager – Account Assets, and then Matched Audiences.

Select the list that you want to make a lookalike of, and click on Create lookalike. Then, give your new lookalike a name and wait until it´s processed!

Creating Lookalike from Matched Audiences

To build a lookalike audience based on Matched Audiences, first you will need to have at least one Matched Audience.

You can find additional information about setting up Matched Audiences in my article The 4 Types of LinkedIn Matched Audiences (Explained),
But for now, we can do a quick recap here:

To build your first Matched Audience, go again to Account Assets -> Matched Audiences. Then, click on Create Audience -> Website Audience: 

linkedin matched audiences

Now, give your audience a name and simply add all the URLs that you want to use for retargeting later:

lookalike audience from matched audiences

Just keep in mind that, depending on the traffic coming to your website from LinkedIn, Matched Audiences might grow in volume really slowly. So, you will need to arm yourself with some patience!

Once you’ve reached more than 300 users, you will be able to create a LinkedIn Lookalike audience from Matched Audiences.

To put it simply, it just means that LinkedIn is creating a list of LinkedIn members from visitors who are coming to your website. These members share the same traits with the users who already visited your website. Which greatly increases your chances for conversion!

To create a lookalike from Matched Audiences, just go to Account Assets -> Matched Audiences. Then, select the Matched Audience and click on Create a Lookalike:

create a lookalike

Now, you can select any audience that you have already created. And LinkedIn will build a list of LinkedIn members with similar profile to the ones that you are looking for!

Things to keep in mind with LinkedIn Lookalike Audiences

Now, there are some important things that you need to know before getting started with lookalike audiences. Let’s take a look:

The matching is not always correct

It is important to remember that not all emails that you provide to LinkedIn will actually be matched.

Let’s say that your email database consists of 10,000 leads or customers. When you upload this list to LinkedIn, the emails that you provide will be searched among all user profiles within the platform.

However, sometimes a user will sign up for your newsletter with one email address, and create his LinkedIn profile with another email address. In this case, since the emails are different, LinkedIn won’t recognize him within their own database, and there will be no matching. Don’t be surprised if your list is suddenly reduced from 10,000 to 3,000!

So the more emails you provide, the better! Just don’t do it illegaly, ok? Always comply with the GDPR! This way, you will increase the possibility for correct matching. 

Lookalike audiences include only active members

LinkedIn only shows your LinkedIn ads to active members. This means that, even if the matching is correct, not all users will be included to your active audience. Which will probably reduce your base audience even more!

However, please don´t get angry at LinkedIn for that. The platform does this so that you don’t spend your money on an audience that isn´t engaged with your content.

Focus on building specific audiences rather than generic ones

Let’s say that you are selling both sports shoes and elegant shoes. In this case, and if your database has enough volume, it is better to build one lookalike audience for sports shoes, and another one for elegant shoes. This way, you will make them more precise, and LinkedIn will be able identify the things that sports shoes users have in common in order to find more potential customers with a similar profile. And, if you need both audiences for a Sponsored Content campaign, you can always add all your specific audiences at the same time if necessary!

I hope you enjoyed my article on LinkedIn Lookalike Audiences. Thank you for passing by, and don´t hesitate to leave your questions or feedback below! Thanks!

If you want to learn more about LinkedIn advertising, I highly recommend you the following articles of mine:

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