LinkedIn Ads Optimization: What We Tested & What We Learned

by Sara Vicioso   |   Jun 04, 2024   |   Clock Icon 8 min read
Abstract geometrical shapes in shades of teal, purple, and salmon with a grainy overlay.

As the new Growth Marketing Manager at Workshop Digital, I've been eager to apply the strategies and insights I've developed in previous roles to our own marketing efforts. In the past, I've conducted extensive testing on various accounts, ranging from large enterprise cloud computing companies to smaller financial institutions. Now, I’m focused on seeing if these tactics can drive success for a marketing agency like ours, specifically through LinkedIn Ads.

Our recent LinkedIn Ads testing centered around experimenting with different audience segments and creative types. We aimed to understand which combinations would yield the best engagement and conversion rates for our webinar (now on-demand here) focused on Preparing Digital Marketing Strategies for a Cookieless Future and a B2B Manufacturing Digital Marketing Playbook.

I’ll aim to share the results of these tests, highlighting key learnings and takeaways. I’m hoping these findings can help inform your own LinkedIn Ads strategy.

What Are LinkedIn Ads?

LinkedIn ads are advertisements placed on the LinkedIn platform, leveraging multiple targeting capabilities centered around information available on users' LinkedIn profiles. There are also multiple ad types and objectives you can select based on your goals for each campaign, which I’ll dive into. LinkedIn makes it very easy to flow through its setup process, so there’s nothing to worry about when setting up your first campaign!

LinkedIn Ads Objectives

  1. Brand Awareness: This objective is generally best for those advertisers who are looking for more top-of-funnel outcomes such as impressions and reach.

  2. Consideration: This objective is generally best if your goal is to drive more middle-of-funnel engagement, such as website traffic and video views.
    1. Website Visits

    2. Engagement

    3. Video Views

    4. Messaging

  3. Conversions: This objective is generally good for the marketer who is interested in more bottom-of-funnel engagement such as leads or conversions.
    1. Lead Generation

    2. Talent Leads

    3. Website Conversions

    4. Job Applicants

If you want more information on campaign objectives, you can find more information in their resource here.

Types of Targeting Available for LinkedIn Ads

  1. Location: You can select either "recent" or "permanent" location. My general recommendation is to select a permanent location, although the choice depends on your goals and objectives. Note that this is a mandatory setting for every LinkedIn Ads campaign.

  2. Audience Attributes: These include company, demographics, education, job experience, and interests and traits. Each section encompasses multiple layers. For example, job experience includes job function, job seniority, job title, member skills, and years of experience. This is an area I specifically tested in, which you will see the results of below.

  3. Custom Audiences: These are audiences built by you using LinkedIn's matched audience capabilities. These targeted audiences can be direct list uploads, lookalikes, predictive, retargeting, or third-party.

For more information on targeting types, you can refer to the LinkedIn help source here.

LinkedIn Ad Types Available

  • Sponsored Content:
    • Single Image Ads

    • Video Ads

    • Carousel Ads

    • Event Ads

    • Document Ads

    • Thought Leader Ads

    • Click-to-Message Ads

    • Connected TV Ads

  • Sponsored Messaging:
    • Conversation Ads

    • Standard Message Ads

  • Lead Gen Forms:
    • Ads with lead gen forms tied to the ad variation. Formats can include single image, carousel ads, document ads, and more.

  • Text and Dynamic Ads:
    • Text Ads

    • Spotlight Ads

    • Follower Ads featured on the right-hand rail

For more detailed LinkedIn ad types, you can read more here. LinkedIn is continually expanding its ad capabilities, so staying updated is crucial.

💡 Curious about what your competitors are up to?LinkedIn's Ad Library Search allows you to find and view your competitors' ads. This tool is particularly useful for understanding their market positioning, unique value propositions (UVPs), and the types of ad creatives they are using. Below is an example showcasing Salesforce.

A screenshot of a LinkedIn Ad Library showing multiple Salesforce-related ads. The ads promote CRM tools, benefits, and digital transformation with options to view details.
LinkedIn Ads Library.

LinkedIn Ad Testing Results

Now that we have a general overview of the objectives, targeting capabilities, and ad types, let's dive into our LinkedIn Ad testing results!

LinkedIn Audience Targeting Test Results

What was tested: LinkedIn Audience Targeting
Control Targeting: Job Titles + Industries
Tested Targeting: Job Function + Seniority + Industries

Hypothesis:
The tested targeting will yield stronger results by expanding targeting thresholds while maintaining quality professionals.

Outcome:
In comparing the even days pre and post-implementation (2/15/24 - 2/25/24 vs 2/26/24 - 3/7/24), we observed the following results:

  • A 160% increase in leads generated

  • A 31% decrease in cost-per-lead (CPL)

  • A 79% increase in click-through-rate (CTR)

However, we also saw a 27% increase in cost-per-click (CPC). This was acceptable as our main objective was not to achieve cheap clicks but to secure a more cost-effective CPL.

A table showing performance metrics for three packages, including timings, clicks, cost, leads, impressions, CTR, and CPC. Specific values are detailed for each package and the overall total.

My takeaway on LinkedIn audience targeting:

The targeting strategy of job function + seniority + industries allowed us to capture a larger audience set, giving LinkedIn more data to optimize towards. Title targeting often encounters issues with variations of the same job title across different companies. For instance, "Director of Marketing" might also be listed as "Marketing Director," "Sr. Marketing Director," "Senior Marketing Director," or "Digital Marketing Director." Additionally, LinkedIn limits the number of job titles you can include in each campaign, making it challenging to cover every variation. By broadening our target audience to include directors and above within a specific job function (e.g., marketing), we achieved more efficient results.

LinkedIn Ad Type Test Results

What was tested: LinkedIn Ad Testing
Control Ad Variation: Document Ads + Lead Gen
Tested Ad Variation: Single Image Ad

Hypothesis:
With the primary goal of driving leads and a secondary goal of increasing website sessions, we hypothesized that sponsored content single-image ads would achieve a balance of both.

Outcome:
In comparing the same timeframe both ad types were live (1/30/24 - 2/15/24), we observed the following results:

  • Single-image ads achieved a 96% more efficient CPC and a 35% higher CTR compared to Document Ads + Lead Gen.

  • However, the CPL for single-image ads was 258% higher than that for Document Ads + Lead Gen.

Comparison table showing performance metrics for three tests: Single Image Ad, Document Ad & Lead Gen, and a summary of both. Metrics include clicks, cost, leads, impressions, CPC, and CTR.

My takeaway on LinkedIn ad types:

If budget allows, it's an effective strategy to leverage both single image ads driving traffic to the website and document ads + lead gen to capture both sessions and leads. This approach supports both marketing goals (sessions and leads) by driving clicks, building your retargeting audiences, and generating bottom-funnel leads.

5 Tips For Optimizing LinkedIn Ads

  1. Define clear objectives: Before launching a LinkedIn campaign, ensure you have clear, measurable objectives. Whether it’s lead generation, brand awareness, or engagement, having a specific goal will help you craft the right campaign and measure the success of that campaign more effectively.

  2. Create effective ad copy and landing pages: Ensure that your ad copy and landing page resonate with the targeted audience. Address the specific issues or pain points they may experience in their day-to-day life. Clearly communicate how your product or service can solve these problems and provide resources to make their work more efficient and effective.

  3. Test, test, test: What works for one product, service, or company may not work for the next. Maintaining an ongoing testing strategy is essential to continually drive success in LinkedIn Ads. These tests can include audience targeting, ad copy, call-to-actions, landing page, offering, and more.

  4. Install conversion tracking: Conversion tracking is essential for measuring the results of your campaigns and enabling LinkedIn to optimize them more quickly and effectively. Actions can include anything you deem valuable, such as a content download, lead submission, purchase, or specific button click. Learn more about conversion tracking here.

  5. Monitor results: Keep a close eye on performance metrics such as CPL, CTR, and CPM, depending on your campaign goals. Regularly reviewing these metrics will enable you to optimize your campaigns more effectively, ensuring a strong ROI.

Maintain a Testing Schedule for LinkedIn Ads Campaigns

Our LinkedIn Ads testing provided valuable insights into how different targeting strategies and ad variations can significantly impact campaign performance. By continuously A/B testing, we can better optimize our campaigns to achieve desired outcomes, whether it's driving leads, or increasing website traffic. Remember, what works for one campaign may not work for another, so it's important to maintain a dynamic approach to testing and refining your LinkedIn Ads strategy.

Interested in leveraging LinkedIn Ads but need help figuring out where to start? We have a team of Paid Social experts that can help you get started. Contact us to get some free insights from our paid social experts. Let’s work together to drive real results for your business.

Portrait of Sara Vicioso

Sara Vicioso

Sara brings over 10 years of experience in the digital marketing space, having spent a large portion of her career focused on Paid Media strategy for her clients. However, paid media wasn't enough. Sara is passionate about audience-first marketing strategies, finding customers where they are regardless of channel (which may be heavily driven by her background in Sociology) which led to the desire to build multichannel marketing strategies for her clients.

She brings a wealth of knowledge in industries such as manufacturing, industrial, SaaS, healthcare, education, e-commerce, & more.

Originally from San Diego, California, Sara found her new home in Austin, Texas, a city that captured her heart with its BBQ scene, country music, paddleboarding scene, and welcoming community. Outside the office, Sara is a DIY enthusiast, a lover of dogs (particularly her shih-tzu, Peanut), and will never turn away from the next travel adventure.