If your B2B marketing department is like most others nowadays, you are engaged in blogging, social media, SEO, email marketing, and much more; the sales department requires an ideal number of quality leads, after all. But limited resources and tight budgets in today's economy can make that a challenge for any marketing department.

If implemented correctly, LinkedIn pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be a high-volume lead source at low cost per lead. It is similar to Google AdWords paid search, but it can be more targeted and it is more specific to B2B.

As an online marketer, I have spent tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours building LinkedIn PPC campaigns. In my experience, the following factors are essential to LinkedIn PPC success.

1. Make sure the audience is large enough

Advertise to a target audience of approximately 50,000 people minimum, with the ideal size even larger than that. Ads with a small audience are, of course, viewed less and receive fewer clicks than those with a large audience; there are simply fewer chances for your ad to be seen. If prospects don't see your ad, they can't click on it. If they can't click on it, they can't become a lead.

2. Make sure the audience is targeted sufficiently

Your audience must be large enough, but at the same time it should be specific enough. LinkedIn campaigns may be targeted according to location, company, industry, job title, seniority, skill set, age, and other choices. Take advantage of that powerful ability to share your ads with people who meet certain criteria. For example, a company selling software for Web developers may choose to show campaigns to LinkedIn members who list PHP, Python, HTML, JavaScript, or MySQL among their skills.

3. Bid more than the suggested bid range

A bid is the amount of money you are willing to spend each time a prospect clicks on your ad. Let's say a Web developer named Jane is perusing LinkedIn. Various software companies are vying to show their ads, so an auction quickly takes place behind the scenes at LinkedIn to determine which company's ads Jane will see. Ads with a high bid are more likely to be displayed than those with a low bid. To assist you as an advertiser, LinkedIn presents a recommended bid range for your campaigns. That recommended bid is the average for comparable campaigns, so always bid more than that to help ensure your ads are displayed rather than your competition's.

4. Turn off low-performing ads

LinkedIn quickly determines whether it will display your ads in high volume (giving you a better chance of engaging prospects) or whether it will display them in a mere trickle. Monitor your ads regularly and review new ads within several days of launching them. Be sure to discontinue or edit ads that are not garnering clicks.

5. Use an image that works for your company

Many people say using a photo of a person in your advertising works best, rather than other graphical elements. My advice is to use whatever images are eye-catching and relevant to your company—and garner the most clicks. Such images may or may not include people.

6. Choose to optimize based on click-through rate

LinkedIn offers the choice of rotating your ads evenly or showing high-performing ads the most. You may want to choose the latter so your flagship ads can dominate the competition and rack up impressions. For example, a company advertising to Web developers may run one ad with "Web Developers" as the headline, another ad with "Build Web Apps" as the headline, and a third with "Web Design Software" as the headline. If the "Build Web Apps" ad reaps the most clicks, why limit it?

7. Link to a dedicated landing page with a form

This point is obvious, but it's worth mentioning nonetheless. Sending prospects to your homepage or your generic Contact Us form squanders potential leads. Implement a different landing page and form for each distinct offer, whether a whitepaper, e-book, checklist, webinar, demo, or simply a request for information.

8. Temporarily change your profile for research purposes

To see what type of ads LinkedIn is serving to your target audience, for research purposes momentarily change your job title on your own LinkedIn profile. (To avoid confusion among your LinkedIn connections, you may want to turn off your Activity Broadcasts beforehand.) Alternately, you could set up a test LinkedIn account. Remember that software company advertising to Web developers? Looking at the profile of a "Web developer" will reveal ads served to that audience.

* * *

With some dedication to properly setting up and monitoring your LinkedIn pay-per-click advertising program, your company may find a rich source of viable, highly targeted leads for a reasonable price. The platform can be an invaluable tool for B2B marketing teams worldwide.

Have you had positive or negative experiences with LinkedIn pay-per-click advertising? Enter your remarks below to share with the community or to ask a question.

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Eight Secrets of Success With LinkedIn PPC Ads

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image of Elaine Marquis

Elaine Marquis is an online marketer specializing in technology and B2B. She's senior online marketer for the Corporate Education Group and social media strategist for the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) Greater Boston Chapter.

LinkedIn: Elaine (Viscosi) Marquis

Twitter: @elaine_marquis