How to Create a Winning LinkedIn Ad (w/ FAQ)

No matter what industry you work in — healthcare, tech, marketing —  it’s likely you’ve heard of LinkedIn, and wondered how it can help you reach your business goals.

As the world’s largest professional network, LinkedIn is an incredible platform for advertisers looking to boost leads, drive traffic, and win over new customers. It’s especially helpful for B2B businesses — LinkedIn’s own marketing materials claim that 80% of B2B leads generated through social media come from the platform. And while platforms like Google and Facebook let you cast a wide net with your advertising, LinkedIn’s hyper-specific targeting parameters allow you make sure your ads are finding the right audience, every time.

Still, that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. In this article, we’ll help you figure out whether LinkedIn advertising will work for you, and show you how to craft a LinkedIn ad that does what you need it to. 

To start, we’ll focus on 2 of LinkedIn’s most popular ad formats — Sponsored InMail and Sponsored Content — but we’ll also answer some commonly asked questions and drop some tips and best practices along the way. 

With any luck, by the end of this article you’ll be ready to explore a whole new avenue of advertising that has the potential to yield massive returns.


First thing’s first: Who’s a good fit for advertising on LinkedIn?

Advertising on LinkedIn may seem like a good idea for any business, but there are some types of businesses that stand to gain more than others. 

For example, if your target audience is a group of professionals, a pool of qualified job candidates, or even another company, Linkedin could be a great fit for you. One of the best things about LinkedIn is that it’s a professional network, so filling out key information like company info and job titles are expected. This creates a rich audience for advertisers looking to get their ads in front of other professionals or businesses from a wide range of industries. 

On the other hand, LinkedIn advertising is less suited for direct-to-consumer marketing, such as the retail industry. The platform’s audience targeting segmentation isn’t designed for that, and it doesn’t flow well with the existing content on the site. While there are always exceptions to the rule, we typically recommend LinkedIn for B2B businesses.


How should I approach LinkedIn ads, and what metrics should I focus on? 

As a social platform, Linkedin can complement other marketing activities as a mid-funnel advertising tool. The types of ads that are successful here will be lead gen-focused — think promoting gated content, webinar sign ups, inquiring/filling out job applications, etc. 

For these ads, you’ll want to keep an eye on the following:

  • Conversions: Whatever you’ve designated as your conversion goal is going to be the most important metric to watch. Are your ads creating measurable business value?
  • CVR (conversion rate): Maybe your ads are getting a ton of clicks but overall conversions are lower than expected. This could mean there is either a disconnect between the message in your ad and your landing page, or that your landing page is creating a barrier to conversion (unclear CTAs, difficult to find the form, too much information required in the form, etc.). Use this as an opportunity to test various types of landing pages, or try lead forms if resources are limited. 
  • CPL (cost per lead/conversion): Whatever your conversion action is, you’ll want to measure the efficiency of your spend against that. Measure CPL at the audience level and shift spend toward the audiences that are most efficient. 

Here are some additional metrics to focus on that are not specific to lead generation, but helpful overall: 

  • CTR (Click-Through Rate): This is a good way to gauge the effectiveness of your ad. A high CTR tells you that your ad is eye-catching and engaging. A low CTR is an opportunity to test. You can test elements of the ad itself (like CTAs, messaging, imagery, and more), or you can expand and test alternative ad types or even audiences.
  • Frequency: This tells you how often your audience saw your ads on average over a given period of time. Frequency is important with social ads because we aren’t relying on users to indicate their interest as they do with search ads. High frequencies can cause ad fatigue and often mean you’re spending inefficiently. Shoot to keep your frequency lower than 4. If it’s higher you should consider updating creative and getting a new ad in front of your audience. 

While it isn’t a metric within LinkedIn, another thing you’ll want to look out for is the quality of your key result — especially if you’re collecting leads. 

With LinkedIn, your cost per lead may be higher than you expected (it’s definitely higher than some other platforms), but you should remember that the audience here is probably much more relevant to you than what you’ve tried elsewhere. So while these other platforms may have brought in more leads, how many of those leads panned out into the key business result you were aiming for? 

If possible, follow your leads as they progress through your sales funnel, and if they turn into customers, take that into consideration when evaluating your LinkedIn spend and cost per result. 


Are there any restrictions for advertisers?

When it comes to advertising restrictions on LinkedIn, there aren’t any that are out of the ordinary. The same policies that you see on other major platforms will apply here.

As advertisers, the most commonly restricted industry we work with is healthcare. On LinkedIn, we’ve been unrestricted with advertising when it’s targeting other healthcare professionals (in a B2B capacity) as well as for recruiting/staffing needs. As always, read the policy, and if you’re still unsure you can connect with their support team to confirm. 


What about targeting? How granular can you get? 

With LinkedIn, you’re able to segment targeting by key attributes like company name, company size, industry, job title, seniority, years of experience, education, and more. You can also segment by member groups or interests that users have identified on their profiles or engaged with on the platform. Finally, you can build retargeting audiences with the LinkedIn Pixel as well as upload email lists. 

For more information on how B2B advertisers can take advantage of LinkedIn’s targeting parameters, be sure to check out our blog post on the subject.


LinkedIn Ad Types

Sponsored InMail

What it is: Sponsored InMail is an ad that’s delivered directly to your audience’s inbox. They come in two forms: message ads and conversation ads. A message ad has one single CTA, while a conversation ad allows for multiple CTAs where the user can choose their own path. 

The goal of either ad type will be to get the user to take whatever you’ve determined to be your conversion action, whether it’s downloading a pdf, signing up for a demo, submitting their contact info, etc. 

What it’s best for: Sponsored InMail will work best when the message is highly relevant to the user. For that reason, I recommend some type of retargeting audience. Having established some brand awareness and engagement beforehand will help with conversion rates.

Content recommendations: Generally, any type of content that ends with a request for user information. So requesting a demo, signing up for an event, subscribing to a newsletter, etc. are all good options.

Sponsored InMail Tip: With Sponsored InMail, it’s important to keep the “sender” part of the ad in mind. This section can be customized or segmented to suit your needs. For example, if you have a big sales team and a diverse set of clients, you can modify your InMail ads so that no matter who receives them, they always look like they’re coming from the correct team member. 

Here’s how to do set that up:

Note that the request is going to be sent to whatever email the individual used to sign up for their LinkedIn account (often a personal email), so check there once it’s sent. 

Ad Requirements:

Message ad specs

  • Sender Name: Select from available senders or add a sender
  • Subject Line: Up to 60 characters
  • Body: 1500 character maximum
  • CTA button: 20 character maximum, limit 1 button 
  • Banner creative: 300×250, up to 2mb
  • More

Conversation ad specs

  • Sender Name: Select from available senders or add a sender
  • Body: 500 character maximum
  • Image (optional): 250×250 pixels, up to 5mb
  • CTA: 25 character maximum, limit 5 buttons 
  • Banner creative (optional, desktop only): 300×250, up to 2mb
  • More



Sponsored / Direct Sponsored Content

What it is: Sponsored Content is the promotion of previously existing content (either from other campaigns or your LinkedIn page posts). Direct Sponsored Content is the promotion of newly created content in the campaign manager. For Direct Sponsored Content, you’ll need access to both the ad account and LinkedIn page.

What it’s best for: Sponsored content can be used with a variety of objectives and ad types. These ads will appear on the main feed — however, if you choose a single image or video, they can appear in the LinkedIn Audience Network which is made up of partner apps and websites. 

Content recommendations: Most content will work here. An easy way to see if your message and offering align is to look at the list of available CTAs:

With such a variety, there’s really endless content opportunities to test. For example, if you’re trying to generate brand awareness, posts demonstrating the work you’re doing and the impact you’re making will fit very well, and they’ll pair easily with the “Learn more” CTA. 

It’s also worth noting that LinkedIn is often used by members to celebrate professional achievements, so incorporating your own company achievements into that existing flow feels very natural from the consumer side.

Sponsored Content ads are great for promoting events like keynotes and webinars. Pairing this content with a lead form objective is a great way to encourage quick and easy sign ups.

Sponsored Content Tip: When in doubt, these are the ads to try first. They flow seamlessly with existing organic content (sponsored content shows every fourth post) and are harder to distinguish as an ad, meaning users are more likely to stop and engage with your content as they’re scrolling.

You can use Sponsored Content ads for every stage of the funnel (awareness, traffic, conversions, etc.), but make sure you know what your measurement plan will be before starting. Success will look different depending on the campaign objective you choose, so if your ultimate goal is leads, try the website conversion or lead generation objective and then test the effectiveness of different sponsored content types from there. 

Ad Requirements

Single Image ads

  • Headline: 200 characters maximum (<70 characters recommended)
  • Copy: 600 characters maximum (<150 characters recommended)
  • Display Image: 7680×7680 maximum, up to 5mb


Video ads

  • Copy: 600 characters maximum
  • Video: 75kb to 200mb file size, .mp4 file format, <30 frames per second
  • Video length: 3 seconds to 30 minutes (<15 seconds recommended)


Carousel Image ads

  • Copy: 255 characters maximum (<150 recommended)
  • Individual images: 6012 x 6012 maximum, up to 10mb
  • Slides: 2-slide minimum, 10-slide maximum




Other content considerations

Lead Gen Forms

Lead gen forms are available for both Sponsored Content and Sponsored InMail, and they’re a great tool for collecting user information. In the advertising realm, we want to make the path to conversion as easy as possible — which often includes reducing the number of steps (or clicks) a user has to take to complete a form — and lead gen forms are a great way to do that. 

With lead forms, the entire experience occurs within Linkedin and can auto populate based on their profile information. This speeds up the submission process for the user, creates fewer barriers to submitting their information, and allows them to continue with their browsing in a relatively short amount of time. 

Lead forms can be a time saver for the advertiser as well if you don’t have an optimized landing page to send traffic to. The downside is that you might miss out on tracking the user and adding them to cross-channel remarketing lists. However, you can still remarket to them on Linkedin as long as your list includes at least 300 people (the LinkedIn audience minimum).

In general though, if you’re struggling with CVR, lead forms are a great option to test. For more information on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile for lead generation, head over to this blog post to learn more.


Image(s) or video?

With sponsored content, you can choose to pair your ad with an image, a carousel of images, or video. These are all great options, but how do you know when to use which?

A lot of the time, the type of ads you run will simply come down to whatever assets you have available to you. Single image or carousel ads are more common than video video because they’re easier to create. Video does a great job at grabbing the user’s attention, but it may not be worth the investment, unless you have an in-house team dedicated to creating high-quality creative.

That said, you can be successful with any of these options. Just because you don’t have the resources on hand to make high quality video doesn’t mean you won’t have success advertising on LinkedIn!

However, if you do manage to create a video, there’s no guarantee it will perform well. To find out whether your video will work for ads, I recommend checking out LinkedIn’s best practices, making edits as needed, and then running with it. You can start out testing your video against image ads, then optimize whichever format resonates best with your audience. 


LinkedIn Ads best practices

Ideally, the ad will be the last thing that you finalize before launching your LinkedIn campaign. In order to make sure it reaches its full potential, it’s important to do your homework beforehand, and keep a few best practices in mind while doing so.


1. Do your homework

For your ads to be most effective, you’ll need to put some thought into who the audience is, how you want to target them, and what you’re offering to them. Doing this will help you figure out which ad type is best for you. As I mentioned above, if you don’t know where to start, I recommend Sponsored Content — it gives you a wide reach for a better price than InMail and allows you to build up an audience for retargeting.


2. Don’t write off Sponsored InMail

Once you’ve built up a large enough retargeting audience (or if you have a prior list to upload), don’t be afraid to put Sponsored Content on the side burner while you give Sponsored InMail a try. There are a few reasons you should consider Sponsored InMail:
For starters, when you’re retargeting with InMail, you know the user has already expressed some level of interest in you, and the personalized ad is less likely to throw them off guard. There’s also the fact that you can write more copy in an InMail ad than in a Content ad, so you can more clearly communicate what you’re offering. Finally, this type of ad gets delivered straight to the user’s inbox, meaning you won’t have to compete for their attention on the main feed.


3. Have a testing plan

If you’re new to LinkedIn (or even if you’re not!) I recommend setting up a testing plan. That way, even if the ads don’t “work,” you’ll have a foundation in place and a means of figuring out what went wrong. Having a game plan to test different ad types, creative, messages, CTAs, and more will let you continue moving forward and refining your strategy.




Wheelhouse is here to help!

Whether you have a question that wasn’t answered here, you’re looking for some help crafting your next campaign, or if you just wanna talk shop about best LinkedIn advertising practices, we’d love to chat. For over a decade, we’ve made it our mission to help people work through problems and take their business to the next level. At Wheelhouse, we form true partnerships with our clients, so they know that the advice we give is always in their best interest, even if it’s not in ours. Give us a call, use our online form, or request a video meeting to get in touch.

By Makena Sutich