Weekly Wisdom with AJ Wilcox: Advanced Targeting on LinkedIn Ads

AJ Wilcox

Feb 26, 20199 min read
Weekly Wisdom with AJ Wilcox: Advanced Targeting on LinkedIn Ads
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Modified transcript

Hi, I'm AJ Wilcox. I am a LinkedIn ads expert and founder of B2Linked.com. We are an ad agency that only handles LinkedIn ads. I get asked a lot about how do I use audience targeting on LinkedIn ads to get better performance as well as lower costs, so I want to show you that today.

Anytime someone asks me about how to target an audience, I immediately think I need to break this audience into two different pieces. Number one, I need to understand who the individual is. Number two, I need to understand what type of organization they are at. If you just told me that you target CFOs, for instance, Chief Financial Officers and your product costs $12 hundred a month, I can tell you that a CFO of a two-person company will likely not be able to afford your product or service. It helps to understand what size of organization would actually have the budget to sell your product to a CFO.

The company side is not too difficult. The targeting facets that we get on LinkedIn are going to be things like your company name for account-based marketing, your company size, and company industry. Those tend to be pretty standard across all of the audiences that you are going after. Where people really get tripped up is how to target the actual individual, and there are some really good efficiencies that you can get through LinkedIn just because profiles are incomplete.

I want to show you the four ways that I like to target these people. Now, there are a few more ways, but these are the standard ones. Check this out. Number one, we can target by job title. Number two, job function. Number three, skills. Number four, groups.

Let's go over each one, and I will give you the pros and cons.

Job title is a pretty weak form of targeting on LinkedIn for two reasons. Number one, it is the place that most marketers go to — to start off with — because we tend to understand job titles pretty well and that pushes competition up meaning that you are going to pay more for that audience.

Job Titles on LinkedIn

Number two, job title is a freeform field so you can write whatever you want. Now, that is great for you, but it is really difficult for LinkedIn's ad platform to understand everyone's job titles, so I would imagine that LinkedIn only really understands about 40% of the job titles out there. Because of that, if you are using job titles, you only have access to probably 40% of your audience instead of 80% of 90% that you might get through another targeting option. Higher cost and smaller audience sizes mean that this is going to be a low volume and a more expensive type of campaign.

Job Function on LinkedIn

Job function plus seniority is actually on the opposite side of the spectrum. So this is the most broad option, and it is the cheapest because it is so broad. Also, because it is so broad, you will have really high volumes so those of you who are big spenders on LinkedIn, you will probably want to use job function and seniority a lot.

Now, to break it down for you, job function is like the department that someone sits in, and then seniority is their level of seniority, whether they are a manager, director, VP, C level or whatever. When you add both of these things together, let's say you are going after something like a marketing executive or maybe marketing VPs and above, you can say "job function marketing" and then "seniority of VP and C level". You can even do partner/owner if you want to go that direction. Okay, so that's job function.

Skills Targeting

The next is skills targeting. Now, skills are pretty broad because each one of us can have up to 50 skills listed in our profile. I have got some skills that I put on there as like, SQL for instance. I took a class on SQL one time, and I'm okay at it, but if you are trying to sell me database software, I am probably not going to be buying it at this stage, so it makes it a little bit more broad. It is pretty high volume so if you are spending a lot of money and you want large audience sizes; skills is a good way to go. It's going to be cheaper for sure than job titles.

Groups - Very Precise Audiences

Okay, next you have groups. Now, if you go and actively join a group on LinkedIn about being a marketing executive or about marketing in general, you are raising your hand and saying, "That is a subject that I'm really interested in." While a salesperson could go and put marketing as a skill, they are likely not going to go and join a marketing group on LinkedIn going out of their way to get involved in conversation about this skill. Groups tend to create very precise audiences, very small audiences. They tend to be the most active users on LinkedIn and generally have pretty good lead quality. If you add a seniority layer on top of a group about marketing, you can say it is a marketing group, and I am going to add a VP or a C level of seniority, and that is going to get me marketing VPs and CMOs.


This is the approach; this is how we segment. To give you an idea, in most campaigns we would actually create four separate campaigns for about every persona out there so that we can try job title, job function, skill, and group. The reason why is because there absolutely will be some overlap between these audiences, but at the same time, we know over time we are going to get data on each type of targeting, and we might learn something like, skills cost per conversion is lower, but lead quality is also lower so we should bid down there. Or, job title targeting is more expensive, but hey, conversion from MQL to SQL is higher, so that is worth us continuing to do, or maybe even bidding higher. Those are the types of insights you can get from that.

The Ad Platform

Now, what I would like to do is actually take you into the ad platform, and we can create these audiences so you can see how this is done. Let's go do it now.

Now, this right here is a campaign where I want to target marketing executives. In my mind, that is probably going to be VPs and above in marketing. Now, let's start with first, job title; this one is pretty simple. Very first off when we are creating a new campaign on LinkedIn, it is going to shout at us until we choose a geo-location.

I'm going to start with just North America. You can see, it updated the target audience size to 170 million. Now, as we add additional targeting criteria, we will see that fall and become more and more targeted. Okay, let's go down to add a new targeting criteria. We will start with job title, so we go under audience attributes, and then to job experience, and then to job title.

We can type VP of Marketing. We can also type CMO. CMO should cover Chief Marketing Officer, but let's try spelling it out. Chief, okay. It got Marketing Chief as part of that, so let's try just marketing and let's see if any VP or C level titles happen to pop up just to make sure we caught everything.

All right, that is looking pretty good to me. You can see, now we narrowed from 170 million down to 120 thousand; that is more like it; this is a pretty good audience, and always make sure uncheck enable audience expansion because it is absolute trash.

Job Function and Seniority Campaigns

All right, let's move on. Now, let's pretend that we want to go after this audience through job function and seniority instead. I am going to remove the job titles and instead, I am going to come under audience attributes > job experience >and then job function. We know we want to go after marketing. You can either scroll down the list or type "marketing", and then you can add a new targeting criteria.

You can see it went from 170 million to 2.6 million. There are 2.6 million people in North America whose job function is marketing. Now, let's go to job experience again, to job seniorities...let's go scroll down and select VP and C level. You can see that's narrowed down to 250 thousand. Now, if you remember from when we built our job titles campaign, it was much smaller. You can immediately see how many more people we hit that fit this mold. That was like I think that was around 70 thousand people who could not be reached by their job title.

Skill and Groups Campaigns

All right, let's scrub that, and I will show you how to go and create both skill and groups campaigns as well.
Let's start by removing job functions and seniorities. Then we will come here to audience attributes > job experience > member skills to start out with. Let's try for some marketing skills.

Now, what I don't want you to do is just select something so broad as marketing because sales folks can add that, students can add that. It is just too broad. If we select it, you can see immediately there are 15 million people. Let's go for more of a long tail approach to the keyword of marketing; how about digital marketing, online marketing, social media marketing...those are good. Marketing management, integrated marketing, search engine marketing is good. Basically, anything that has two words is probably okay.

If I have a small budget, I am probably going to go to really specific two-word keywords or even a three-word keyword. B to B marketing is a good one that is a little more specific. You can see, that took us down to 5.3 million, and if I come to add new targeting criteria, job experience, and then seniority, I can now add VP and C level onto this.

You can see, now I have 730 thousand people who fit this role. Generally, skills are pretty broad. This example created a smaller audience, but we can always go and add some additional skills to try to get us back there. This would be a little bit more specific than even job function campaign.


All right, now let's go for groups. I am going to remove skills. You do this by going to audience attributes > interests > member groups. I am going to just type marketing. I want to see the names of marketing groups. They have one that is about marketing CMOs, social media., marketing communication, marketing, and communication network. We can go a little bit nuts here pretty much adding any group with marketing is probably going to be a good place.

I wish there was an easier way to do this where you could select multiples at a time. You can have up to 200 of any type of targeting method in here, so if you really want to go nuts, you can go and add 200 different groups. These don't tell you how many people are in them or if they are active, so you are just pretty much going off of, yeah if they are a member of a group with marketing in the name, chances are they are a marketer.

Now, let's go ahead and add seniority on top of this as well. We go to job experience > job seniority, and we go and add VP and C level. You can see, this gives us a much smaller audience, only 130 thousand but they will likely be some of the most active members on LinkedIn.


Now, like I mentioned, if you are running all four of these concurrently there is a really good chance you will find that some are more efficient than others, so the more efficient ones you can either bid up or give more budget to, and the ones that are inefficient you can always bid down or shut off entirely. That will give you the most levers to control cost in your account, which is awesome on LinkedIn because it tends to be a pricier network. Hopefully, these were great tips to help you get a much lower cost per lead and learn more about your audiences along the way.

Author Photo
AJ is a LinkedIn Ads pro and founder of B2Linked.com, an agency, specializing in LinkedIn Ads training, consulting, and account management. As official LinkedIn partners, they manage the world's most sophisticated advertising accounts worldwide. AJ is included in PPC Hero as one of the Top 25 Most Influential PPC Experts of 2017.