Discover how LinkedIn Profile Targeting on Microsoft Ads can transform user targeting capabilities and learn why this could be the next emerging approach for B2B brands.
Searching for the perfect audiences has long been a challenge for B2B brands on search engines such as Google and Microsoft. The ability to granularly target occupational roles has previously been aspirational for many B2B brands who have instead had to rely on proxy-built in-market and affinity audiences. Over the last 24 months however, there has been a plethora of beta products and standardised targeting options released with this exact challenge in mind. Most notably, the advent of LinkedIn Profile Targeting, which was the product of the $26m LinkedIn takeover by Microsoft in 2016, has now opened a doorway to intelligent user targeting based on occupation. Further, this has attempted to bridge the gap between Paid Search and job occupation identification, providing a catalyst for B2B and SaaS brands to reconsider their digital marketing channel strategy.
So, how does LinkedIn Profile Targeting work?
From a Search Engine Marketer’s perspective, one of the main advantages of Microsoft purchasing LinkedIn, is the ability for Microsoft to integrate with LinkedIn. This allows advertisers to target their newly created or existing campaigns to professionals registered on LinkedIn and searching on Bing, along the three dimensions of industry, company, and job function.
Advertisers have the option to target up to 147 different industries, accommodating for brands which have a target audience that fall within a specific industry. This option also provides a broader range of targeting compared to specific companies and could be used where prospecting companies are unknown to the brand in question.
Examples of the industries available to target include:
- Mining & Metals
Company targeting allows advertisers to target with a high level of granularity from a list containing over 80,000 companies. These companies range from extremely large conglomerates to small start-ups, giving the advertiser a tremendous amount of variation in targeting options.
Some example companies available on the ever-growing list:
- Louis Vuitton
Job Function Targeting
The advantage to advertisers of using this targeting method, is that regardless of industry or company, users in specific job roles can be identified and reached. There are currently 26 different job functions, which gives the advertiser flexibility to target anything from human resource professionals to engineering experts.
Below are the 26 job functions available:
How does this compare to other B2B specific targeting products offered on Google?
Google Ads – Detailed Demographics For B2B
Google reacted to the new capabilities added to Microsoft Ads thanks to LinkedIn integration, by announcing their own B2B tailored targeting called Detailed Demographics for B2B back at the end of 2019. The goal is similar to Microsoft Ads, which is to reach audiences based on their occupation and the industry/sector they work in. Where the Google product significantly differs is the ability to target solely based off company size. As Google does not have access to the valuable LinkedIn user data, it has instead used its own data and artificial intelligence to create company size groupings with varying ranges of employees. This targeting option is paired with an industry targeting option similar to the Microsoft Ads counterpart, but with just 8 different industries to choose from. This is 139 less industries than Microsoft Ads, however the higher data volumes on Google and broader industry titles should allow for more effective use on lower volume campaigns.
Industry Targeting available:
- Real Estate
Company Size available:
- Small Employer (1-129 Employees)
- Large Employer (250 -10k Employees)
- Very Large Employer (10k+ Employees)
How to set up LinkedIn Profile Targeting in Microsoft Ads
Any prospecting advertisers can take advantage of LinkedIn Profile Targeting by applying these audiences to any search or shopping campaign, although the latter may not be appropriate for the majority of B2B brands. The targeting can be added via the Demographics tab within the main Microsoft Ads interface, and by selecting either Company, Industry or Job Function. Any of these targeting methods can then be added at either campaign or ad group level.
To add a company, select the campaign or ad group you would like to target and then simply search for the company’s name in the search bar. Once you click target, you can confirm the decision below with the save box. This process is very similar for both industry and job function, however due to much fewer options, you can manually navigate through the options using the scroll.
How can advertisers really leverage LinkedIn Profile Targeting?
Positive bid adjustments
When an advertiser has a professional target set up that they wish to drive search volume through, they can add positive bid adjustments. These positive bid adjustments can be up to +900% and are designed for advertisers to increase keyword bids for users that fall within the target audience. This can be a useful when advertisers would like to keep wide coverage but ensure their prime audience are upweighted.
Negative Bid adjustments
While you cannot directly exclude any of the companies, industries or job functions, advertisers are able to apply negative bid adjustments up to -90% to any of the professional targets, essentially acting as an exclusion for these targets seeing their ads. For example, this may be useful for an advertiser in the cloud computing industry who may want to exclude meteorologists from their activity due to this target driving poorer performance.
Tailoring campaign messaging
Whilst positive and negative bid adjustments should allow advertisers to see incremental gains in performance, taking full advantage of occupational segmentation starts with increased personalisation in messaging within ads. Advertisers can experiment with these new targets and set up campaigns targeting specific companies, industries, or job functions.
For example, an advertiser has created a new campaign targeting the Automotive industry exclusively. The entire messaging within the ads can be personalised to the automotive industry, including headlines calling out how your product can be specifically applied to the automotive world. Additionally, headlines and description lines are the perfect vehicle for pushing your key wins within the industry such as award victories and successful case studies. By adding this extra dimension of personalisation, and combining this with LinkedIn Profile Targeting, you can deliver an extremely customised ad to a specific group of users. The amalgamation of the audience specific creative and granular targeting should lead to a more seamless experience for the user who will now have a much more personalised customer journey.
Similarly, for job function, say an advertiser creates a campaign specifically targeting Human Resources, all the ads within the campaign can be customised to mention the advantages and pull factors for users working within the Human Resources industry. This should make customer experience from the users’ end seem significantly more relevant than an ad designed to appeal to the masses.
Important considerations when using LinkedIn Profile Targeting.
Whilst extremely granular targeting can sound good, there is such a thing as ‘too granular’, where the targets are so small in volume that there isn’t enough data to justify the activity. This can be especially true for company targeting, where search volumes can be negligible when smaller companies are used or if the advertiser’s keywords are low volume. Before any campaigns are built, forecasting and modelling should be carried out to ensure sufficient levels of data.
No bulk uploads for Company Targeting in the interface
Despite Microsoft gifting advertisers with 80,000+ companies to target, they have not currently set up a feature to allow bulk uploads of multiple companies in the Microsoft Ads interface. This means that if you wanted to add 50 desired companies, then they would have to all be manually added to a campaign which is obviously extremely time consuming. Although there is a 1000 company limit for campaigns, manual aspects of application make it seem unlikely many advertisers will reach that. However, it is worth noting that bulk company uploads can be made if using Microsoft Ads Editor.
No company size toggles or filters
Whilst Google provides company targets split into employee size, this is not possible using LinkedIn Profile Targeting as although you can see individual companies displayed with their employee size, you are not able to filter for boundaries. This means that advertisers will have to manually add companies by mining through alternative methods rather than filtering within the interface.
LinkedIn Profile targeting is the first real step towards segmented audiences for B2B accounts within the Microsoft advertising sphere, providing some exciting new options for B2B businesses with a presence on Paid Search. However, this new innovation is not without caveats and limitations, with bulk edits and detailed filters on the wish list for most pioneering advertisers. Predictably, as Microsoft has started to fully leverage its position of ownership over LinkedIn with new attractive targeting capabilities, Google has reacted with their proprietary B2B specific targeting, although this is currently still in beta. These new targeting methods will presumably improve going forward and provide B2B advertisers with a chance to re-consider their current audience segmentation strategy, encouraging tailored messaging and advanced bidding decisions.