10k Linkedin Ads Experiment – How To Guide

by Travis Ketchum · 43 comments

Background

While most of my experience has been in dealing with affiliates and partner programs, it should be painfully obvious to anyone who has ever been a part of managing that kind of program that it’s a ton of work and babysitting.

While there is absolutely some awesome profits and relationship building to be had in this arena, you can’t let your business live or die off of that kind of traffic.

The dark secret about affiliate programs is that the rush of traffic can stop just as suddenly as it appears, and often only offers a momentary rush and leaves you with an unsustainable business. Anyone who tells you otherwise is completely lying to you. Are affiliate programs an important part of running a large operation? Absolutely, but so is SEO, a good social & content strategy etc.

Essentially what I’m saying is that there is more to the puzzle than simple referral traffic, and the most scientific part of that is paid traffic through Pay Per Click (PPC) on sites that have a congruent audience to what you are offering. If you can make the math work with paid advertising then you have something that will make you smile day in and day out.

Since I have many friends who live and breath by PPC traffic I figured I would try my hand at it without their help and make this an awesome learning experience, and I thought I would pick a network that people almost never talk about (although, after this experience it’s likely because it’s their best kept secret).

The Buzz & The “Good Old Days”

These days it seems like everyone and their mother is talking about how amazing Facebook Ads are. While I am sure there are plenty of people who have done well with this platform (there are case studies abound), I have personally found them very frustrating.

Their advertising approval proces is entirely subjective, for instance I’ve uploaded the exact same campaign 3 times to see what happened and one campaign was entirely approved while the other two were denied.

This process not only is like shooting at a moving target but it generally takes forever to get any feedback on the status of your ads.

We also had the hay day of Google AdWords where PPC was like the wild west. Clicks were cheap, there wasn’t a quality score rating that tried to decide the relevance of your ad and landing page to the search query (which allowed you to target the audience you actually wanted vs what Google thought you should have) and sending to dedicated landing pages was actually encouraged.

However, being successful with AdWords is also getting more difficult than ever to accomplish, and the fact that big brands are looking to Google to add a significant portion to their bottom line means many of us are getting priced out of the market.

So where is the next frontier? The little engine that could, LinkedIn.

Doing Some Math

Before I set out to spend a ton of cash on advertising, I had to know what my budget was based on the profit per lead at the top of my funnel.

The specific “widget” I decided to promote was in-person events for a client, which has a general breakdown like this:

Free event (register to show up = lead), then a $3,000 event and finishing with a $15,000 event. I know these prices are steep, but people find value in it and you just need focus to create a similar funnel.

The breakdown of attendance and conversion is generally 50%, 13% and 35%. For this example let say we get 100 people registered for the free event.

50 people actually attend the free event
8 people attend the $3,000 event
3 people attend the $15,000 event

This would mean that for every 100 people we have register for free events, we would see $69,000 in revenue.

Or put another way, each FREE lead we get to register is worth $690 in revenue. That’s pretty impressive numbers to work with, so it’s a great candidate.

It’s important to setup whatever business funnel you have with high margin up-sells to greatly increase the value of each new lead.

Creating Some Ads

While I won’t be showing you the exact ads I used because I want to be compliant with the LinkedIn terms of service and protect my market, I will walk you through the guiding principles I used to create my ads.

I’ll also be showing you the real world performance of those ads and showing you how much each lead cost me to acquire.

Ad Title

The first text that your audience is going to read, the title has to give them pause to read the rest of your ad.

I have personally found non-comital and no b.s. headlines to convert the best. In this case, it was events so many of the best converting ads were something like “Free Event in (Location Name)”.

What a title like that does is tell the reader what they can expect from a click (event), what the price is (free) and where it is (location name).

By starting with something free at the top of your funnel you are going to have a much higher conversion rate which is step 1 to getting sustainable sales – building an initial audience.

Picture

This is the most important part of your advertisement, and changing this alone has done as much as triple my click through rate.

In some cases, I’ve had ads that LinkedIn wasn’t showing (based on an algorithm for click throughs) and a new picture turns it into the best performing campaign I’m running.

Pictures that seem to work the best have bright colors so they pop off the screen, and show something that the viewer can either identify with or that they want.

For location based events in particular, bright pictures of a sunset or well known landmarks earned the highest CTR’s (click through ratios).

Body Copy

While not quite as important as the picture or the title, the body is the meat that typically pulls the final decision of a user to click or not.

Make it concise and complimentary to your title.

For example, if your title was “Free Event in New York” your body might say the specific location and date of the event.

Measuring Success

Luckily the reporting in LinkedIn is pretty straight forward and the conversion rates of our landing page was a nice round number.

We found that our event registration page, which was the same for all campaigns with a drop down selector for the specific location a person wanted to attend converted around 10% from LinkedIn.

Below you will see a snap shot of the 30 day spend, which didn’t saturate our 10k total budget but came relatively close.

I’ve blurred out the name of the campaigns as to protect the actual location and brand of the campaigns.

LinkedIn Conversion Data
As you can see from the picture above, we got a healthy 3,094 clicks at an average CPC of $2.78 bringing our total ad spend to $8,602.69 at the time of this writing.

Those who are in the PPC world are probably freaking out at the high cost per click, but trust me, the quality of traffic from this “professional social network” far exceeds that of the networks you are used to.

So what exactly did we get for our ad spend?

With 3,094 clicks and a 10% conversion rate we had 309 people register for our events.

If you recall from our funnel conversion rates above, each registered attendee is worth $690 within the immediate funnel and worth much more over time. However, for this example let’s focus on the immediate funnel that accounts for no-shows.

With 309 registrants worth $690 each we added roughly $213,210 dollars of new revenue for the cost $8,602.29.

Not too shabby if I do say so myself. I realize not everyone is going to have a funnel as profitable as ours but the mechanics are important and can be used in almost any industry looking for extremely qualified leads.

Fun Numbers

Curious what the earnings per click were?

With a 10% landing page conversion and an average CPC of $2.78 we only spent $27.80 for every $690 in new revenue.

Or put differently we made $69 in revenue per click that cost us $2.78, an earning of $66.22 PER CLICK.

Finding this treasure trove is undoubtedly going to be short lived as more and more people catch on, but for now it looks like a new gold mine does exist for those willing to take the time to build a profitable funnel and lay down the cash to make it work.

All I Ask In Return

I hope you found these numbers helpful in setting up your own profitable LinkedIn campaign.

If you did find this post useful, I just ask that you share with someone who might appreciate it. An easy way to do that is through a tweet, like the one below:

A 10k experiment with LinkedIn Ads that made over $200k in 30 days. Tweet This

Either way, I’d love to hear your experience with ads on social networks in the comments or answer specific questions on campaigns you have in mind.

About Travis Ketchum
A smart ass marketer who doesn't take no for an answer and always questions the status quo. Connect with me on Google+. Convinced yet? Get more tips and great content 100% free.

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Building a sustainable business is all about how well you can gather and maintain an audience. An email list is still one of the most viable ways to do just that.

We wanted to find a way to build an email incredibly fast, in a way that people actually find interesting, engaging and well - cool. It took a lot of testing to weed-whack through all the hype and find something that really worked.

The result? We ended up building our own solution, focused around the idea of contests and rewarding people for taking the actions that ultimately led to more leads on our email list. Everyone wins (and some literally do!), because as it turns out people love contests regardless of their market place.

Click to continue…

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

@DianaWei February 7, 2012 at 5:09 PM

Great Case!

If someone was to play around with social ads, what would be a budget conscious amout you’d recommend to play with first?

Thanks!
@DianaWei

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Travis Ketchum February 7, 2012 at 5:20 PM

Diana,

Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read the case study!

Getting started can always be tricky so there a few things to consider.

1. How confident are you in your landing page conversion? In our case we had some historical data that the page would convert around 5-7% but then this campaign (due to the quality of LinkedIn) converted at 10% which was awesome.

2. Do you know your market really well? Create as detailed of a cross section as you can, that added targeting can make your spend as concise as possible.

Once you have some initial data around that you are going to be able to make a much more informed decision and thus more confidently start with a higher budget of say $100 day.

However, if you are literally just starting out and don’t have too much data on your landing page or customer profile then I’d say start around $50/day. If your cost per click is around $2.50-$3 then you can get 16 to 20 clicks per day.

You are going to typically want to drive at least 50 clicks imho before you start understanding your conversion data in relation to your demographic. Given that, I’d aim for $50/day for 4 days for complete newbies (~$200 ad spend) before making any big audibles for you campaign.

Most people seem to pull their ads too quickly when starting out because they are afraid of risk and see it is ONLY dollars out and not dollars in as well.

ProTip: Make sure whatever you are promoting is free, or such an intense value that you get at least 5% conversion rate, otherwise it’s difficult to make the campaign profitable throughout your funnel. This is all about capturing cold traffic.

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fthead9 February 8, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Great case study, thanks for posting. Curious that you didn’t mention testing landing pages. A 10% conversion rate seems excellent. Have you done any landing page testing on LinkedIn outside of this test? Any results from that?

Also, you mention the need for a free offer to convert. Have you tried an information request lead form and/or a paid offer? If so how did the conversion rates compare?

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Travis Ketchum February 8, 2012 at 12:14 PM

Good point – while I didn’t mention landing page split testing, I had done some work on that against our own list. 10% is pretty good and above average from what I’ve heard from other people with congruent offers.

I actually did test driving LinkedIn Ads to a paid event, where there were two offers at $49 and $99 (this was more of a celebratory event vs business event). I found that conversion on this page hovered just below 6% when money was involved.

However – it’s important to note that all the page & ad-copy for that particular event where we charged money on the registration spoke to it being a “no pitch event”. That’s just about the only ad copy that pulled, and we found that about 98% of registrants opted for the $99 option.

The payment upfront proved to be much less profitable than positioning something free that followed our known profitable talk track. Hope that helps!

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fthead9 February 8, 2012 at 12:53 PM

Thanks for the additional info. So assuming your CPC on paid campaign was similar to the free you were close to breakeven on the $49 event and 2x on $99. Not bad at all assuming there is some future upsell. Was your CPC similar when “free” wasn’t a part of the ad copy?

I’m sure most people would love to work with a $690 value per lead but $100 is probably a more realistic value for most people. Looks like LinkedIn still works very well at those lower margins if you can keep your CPC down.

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Travis Ketchum February 8, 2012 at 1:55 PM

The CPC was very similar on the paid event campaign, so your math is correct. Yes, $690 is insanely high compared to what most people have to offer (but it’s still a truthful number in our case) but $100 is completely do-able for most and a handsome return can be had.

Keeping the CPC cost down is all about keeping a quality CTR with your ads. This means purging ads that aren’t converting and refreshing images/titles when CTR starts to drop.

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Mike Hirst February 8, 2012 at 7:20 PM

You are a beast Travis! Really well done post.

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Travis Ketchum February 8, 2012 at 10:44 PM

Ha, thanks Mike! Have you ever done any social ads before yourself? I know with music (and since a good portion of yours is also free) it makes the math hard to back out, but I’m sure there is some kind of promotional mechanism that would work.

Perhaps a contest plugin for wordpress? 😉

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Jonny February 14, 2012 at 4:03 PM

Slighty confused by this:

The breakdown of attendance and conversion is generally 50%, 13% and 35%. For this example let say we get 100 people registered for the free event.

50 people actually attend the free event
8 people attend the $3,000 event
3 people attend the $15,000 event

This would mean that for every 100 people we have register for free events, we would see $69,000 in revenue.

How did you raise $69,000 from the free event if its free?

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Travis Ketchum February 15, 2012 at 3:45 PM

It’s math from doing upsells. While the first layer of events is free, we offered a 3k event to them. When they go to the 3k event we offer them the 15k event.

So, in effect, those leads are worth a total of 69k based on how many at each layer up-sell.

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Jonny February 15, 2012 at 10:04 PM

Oh right, now I understand, so its potential revenue rather than solid revenue.

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Travis Ketchum February 16, 2012 at 12:20 AM

No no – that up-sell process has been consistent for 8+ years with this client. The numbers started coming in within 7 days of the first campaign and results were stellar.

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Eric Siu February 16, 2012 at 7:43 PM

Travis,
First time reader here and I have to say I really like how you break down so it’s easy to understand. Keep it up!

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Travis Ketchum February 16, 2012 at 8:55 PM

Thanks Eric, there really is a massive opportunity with LinkedIn Ads right now.

What other kinds of case study’s or interviews would you love to see?

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Eric Siu February 16, 2012 at 10:38 PM

Hey Travis,
2 ideas:

– Run a few other case studies with different offers using LinkedIn (show others how it really can work across the board) – hey who knows, you can make your blog become THE authority on LinkedIn advertising. You mentioned there’s a massive opportunity right now – why not become the man? I can see that blowing up for you.
– Perhaps run a case study with bars/graphs comparing LinkedIn versus other ad platforms. Perhaps you can split a budget equally and then test to see which one performed better. That would certainly be an interesting one.

Cheers!
-Eric

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Travis Ketchum February 17, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Great suggestions, our ad spend has actually increased since this was posted and doing a few other ad sources that are working at varying degrees.

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Allison W February 27, 2012 at 11:31 AM

Great post Travis. I was sent on a mission to “learn more about LinkedIn Advertising” and stumbled upon your post… you did the work for me 🙂

You’re on my radar now– looking forward to more great things from you!

Thanks again!

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Travis Ketchum February 27, 2012 at 12:12 PM

Thanks for stopping by Allison, glad you found it helpful!

What kind of future LinkedIn Advertising case studies or posts would you like to see? I’ve actually increased the daily spend now and we are absolutely killing it.

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Partha Bhattacharya May 27, 2012 at 12:21 AM

Very nice analysis Travis, but for a wealthy client (sigh)! I did try LI ads using their free offer but later chickened out after the costs became high. The stats are poor so I’m not mentioning them here. Reading your study encourages me to try again, but unfortunately my product is not priced so high.

Let me shoot an arrow in the dark for whatever little advice you can give. I plan to offer a video making course worth $50 free in exchange for buying a couple of Kindle e-books worth say $6 or thereabouts. The idea is if people buy the e-books on Amazon, the ratings of my books will go up, and eventually I get the benefit from higher selling at Amazon.

Please spare a little time to give some hints.

Thank you.

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Travis Ketchum May 29, 2012 at 12:04 PM

Partha,

Sorry to hear you didn’t see the kind of results you were looking for when you tried LI ads the first time. The important thing is to track your conversion metrics and be confident the quality of your product offering.

As for the strategy you suggested, I don’t think you’ll see a return on that because your goal of ratings is really a goal of visibility in the Amazon marketplace. I would never spend the kind of top dollar LI ads demand to drive traffic to someone else’s site and business.

The big win with LI ads comes when you can capture your prospects information and sell them something on your own site as it produces much higher margins. This worked particularly well for events because a) we could afford to offer a free event that sold into much higher margin events and b) people convert much higher in person (at the free event) than they ever will online.

Hope that helps!

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Owen McGab Enaohwo March 28, 2012 at 4:06 PM

Dude I have signed up for your LinkedIn Advertisement course to learn more

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Travis Ketchum March 28, 2012 at 7:23 PM

Glad you’ll be joining me! See you on the webinar.

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Sam May 18, 2012 at 12:34 AM

Isn’t $2 CPC Min bid limit too high?

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Travis Ketchum May 18, 2012 at 4:58 PM

Too high is a completely relevant term in my opinion.

It should always be focused on what the value of each click, and ultimately each lead ends up being worth. For instance if every click from a Facebook campaign costs you $1 and backs out to $2.50 in revenue.. but every $2 click turns into $6 of revenue (which in this case we found was pretty close to the case) then the $2 cost is CHEAP.

Relative quality > Hard cost per click.

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Greg Shah June 1, 2012 at 10:29 AM

How much time did it take you to spend $8602.Is this in one month?

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Travis Ketchum June 1, 2012 at 12:45 PM

Really not as much as you might think. This was the leg work before ramping the spend too, so while I’m OCD and probably spent way too much time analyzing the real time performance this set me up to spend over 30k the next month with results that could be scaled and replicated.

Even with obsessing I probably only spent 12-18 hours per week managing and tweaking it.

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Greg Shah June 1, 2012 at 12:52 PM

Ok thanks.Is 10% conversion is an industry standard for converting clicks?Or was this performed for your campaign only?

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Travis Ketchum June 5, 2012 at 9:32 AM

10% should be an achievable goal for anyone with a relavent and compelling offer, however this was from lots of experience and testing on our part to achieve.

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Wilco de Kreij July 1, 2012 at 1:24 PM

Would love to see a post where you go into your funnel in more detail Travis! How much value do you offer in your free event (e.g. how long is the event and how much info do you share compared to the paid upsell), how do you optimize conversions to the upsell and – mot importantly for me – how is this different from online events (e.g. webinars) in your experience? I’ve loads of experience online, but I’ve hardly any experience in offline..

Thanks!

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Travis Ketchum July 1, 2012 at 1:30 PM

That would be a lot of material to cover, perhaps as an ebook & webinar series or something. I’m always careful about going too deep, not because I want to keep it secret or anything but because people tune out when it gets too involved.

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Wilco de Kreij July 1, 2012 at 1:36 PM

True story.

Well, if you ever need some blog inspiration, how about “3 Converting Tricks That Only Work Offline”. Just sayin’ 😉

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JV August 15, 2012 at 8:47 PM

How about some information on how to find a $690/lead offer ;-0

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Travis Ketchum August 15, 2012 at 8:55 PM

Touche, but it’s important to realize that this isn’t just an affiliate offer but rather a well seasoned in-house sales funnel that made the leads that valuable.

I think a lot of the issues in promoting offers comes down to the fact that most product creators are just flat out lazy. If you are working your tail off promoting someone they don’t “really” care that much about exactly how profitable your efforts are.

However, when you can create a sales process that prioritizes profitability over a set schedule you can boost profitability per lead, and then you open many more doors for how you acquire new users.

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Chris February 26, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Travis,

How do you feel this could work with online-paid events?

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Travis Ketchum March 3, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Chris,

Like most things in paid acquisition it will really come down to doing some testing with your own landing pages (you’ll need to test the copy, layouts etc), but the fact that it’s paid gives you a much clearer picture for ROI.

I’d be surprised if you could get the kind of ROI we did with paid online events (since our offline funnel was so deep), but for specific industries, and if you can provide a lot of proof and testimonials on the sales page I’d imagine a positive ROI is totally doable.

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Thomas Wooldridge (@twool9) April 15, 2013 at 9:36 PM

this is what i tell clients all the time.. Stop worrying about CPC is too high. It’s all about the EPC

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Breck May 22, 2013 at 6:57 AM

Travis,

Great article and discussion! Just want to ask if the PPC is just based on competitive bidding or also on an algorithm using the CTR? (When my CTR went down the price went up.) In that light, is it better price-wise to start a new campaign instead of tweaking an existing one? Thanks.

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Travis Ketchum May 23, 2013 at 11:26 AM

I believe it’s both, as I’ve seen my CPC go down as my CTR went up. And, like all paid advertising options you’re competing against a larger marketplace of suitors for that ad space.

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Justin Brooke September 16, 2013 at 6:56 AM

Any chance I could beg you to upload more sceenshots of the campaign data.

The one above shows no leads, I’m assuming that’s because you didn’t use LinkedIn’s conversion tracking.

We’re about to start testing LinkedIn ads again. Our first try we turned it off too early because the CPC shocked us. I should have waited to see what the EPC was, but I just reacted instead of thought it through. For us it was $2.89 CPC which is 10 – 20x more than what we were used to on Facebook.

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Travis Ketchum November 28, 2013 at 12:58 AM

Justin,

Sorry – I don’t have much else to show at this point from when I did the campaign for a client.

The landing page was converting at about 10% though, which sounds low but it was for live in-person events.

Yes the CPC is high, but look at EPC of course. Not all offers back out so nicely, but anecdotally we have found the quality of LinkedIn leads to be very high.

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Irwin dominguez May 4, 2014 at 11:46 PM

Hi Travis,

Thanks for providing SO MUCH info about the campaign you ran a few years ago.

Are you still doing LinkedIn ads and if so, what are the biggest changes between when you ran ads then and now?

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