7 Things I Still Hate About LinkedIn Ads


Like a lot of marketers, I find LinkedIn Ads frustrating. The thing is, by making just a few needed improvements, both LinkedIn itself and advertisers could greatly benefit.

For LinkedIn, advertising could be bringing in much more than a meager $181 million in revenues, as it did during the second quarter of 2016. Compare that to the advertising revenues of Google ($19 billion) and Facebook ($6 billion) during the same quarter.

linkedin ads revenue 2016

For advertisers, better LinkedIn ads would offer some pretty obvious benefits. It would give brands and businesses another platform to reach LinkedIn's 450 million professionals (although only a quarter of those users are reportedly active every month).

Win, win. Right?

That's what led me to write LinkedIn Ads Review: 8 Things I Hate About LinkedIn Ads about 18 months ago.

Then, in May 2015, the nice people at LinkedIn invited me to their headquarters to talk ads.

Larry Kim LinkedIn Ads office visit tweet

Luckily, there was no ambush! Actually, it was an awesome experience. I spoke with their brilliant product managers about some great things that they were thinking about.

So here we are, 18 months later, and my core question remains the same: if advertising isn't a priority for LinkedIn, why should advertisers care about LinkedIn?

Have things improved in the last year and a half? Has LinkedIn, which was acquired by Microsoft for $26.2 billion, gotten its advertising act together?

Spoiler alert: not yet. LinkedIn has made some much-needed progress, but has a ton of deficiencies and remains a mediocre ad network.

why I hate linkedin ads

Let's count down the seven things I still hate about LinkedIn ads.

7. No Video!

Why can't we upload videos to LinkedIn? It's kind of insane.

Video advertising is one of the most effective ways to bias people.

Numerous studies have shown that video improves brand recall and affinity, helps with lead generation, and increases engagement (e.g., shares, CTR).

problems with linkedin ads

6. Still No Remarketing!

Remarketing has been around for more than six years. But my concern about LinkedIn Ads remains unchanged since last time:

"You can buy remarketing ads on Twitter, Facebook, on the Google Display Network, at YouTube, and even for Google Search – but you can't get it on LinkedIn."

Remarketing is still not there. After LinkedIn announced the retirement of Lead Accelerator, there was some talk that remarketing ads were coming "soon". We heard that LinkedIn would roll some elements of Lead Accelerator into the self-service platform.

Well, we're still waiting. You don't get points for "soon."

no remarketing in linkedin

5. Still No Custom Lists!

LinkedIn still doesn't have anything comparable to Facebook's Custom Audiences or Twitter's Tailored Audiences.


Meanwhile, the power of custom audiences on other platforms is actually getting stronger. Google now has Customer Match. And on Facebook you can overlay custom audiences with specific attributes, interests and demographics.

4. Still No Lead Gen Ad Formats!

I can't even begin to understand how a network for business professionals doesn't offer advertisers a way to capture leads. You'll have much more success doing lead generation on Twitter or using Lead Generation Ads on Facebook.

Yet here we are. Still nothing to see here from LinkedIn Ads.

linkedin ads for lead gen

3. Pricing Is Still Bad!

Last time I took LinkedIn to task for failing to try to deliver the best value to advertisers.

Well, it's gotten worse since then for advertisers. Prices have gone up substantially. Look at these CPC prices – $8 bids?!

high cpc on linkedin ads

Yes, on LinkedIn Ads you're stuck with relatively static pricing.

2. Ad Quality Still Doesn't Matter!

A true Quality Score system is missing from LinkedIn Ads.

There's no reward for running unicorn ad campaigns on LinkedIn, even though Google, Facebook, and Twitter all dramatically reward advertisers for making the effort to create high-quality ads. Facebook and AdWords show advertisers the relevancy scores in their accounts to enable them to make optimizations.

On the flip side, the absence of a Quality Score on LinkedIn means there's no penalty for having the worst, most boring donkey ad possible.

Some other platforms won't show an ad if the engagement is too low. On LinkedIn, you can run terrible ads forever – even if it takes 20,000 impressions to generate a single click.

It also means my LinkedIn strategy is much different. I create lower funnel, high friction ads. For example:

linkedin ad example

This is kind of like asking to get married on the first date! But if you're going to pay $8 per click, you might as well ask people to take the action you really want them to take!

It's a big ask. I would never do this on other display/social ad platforms. Rather, I'd do content promotion with the goal of remarketing to people who engage. But, again, there's still no remarketing on LinkedIn.

1. Account Promotion Still Doesn't Exist!

Organic visibility on LinkedIn is remarkably good compared to Facebook. Unfortunately there’s no "Follower" ad campaign type. Last time I compared the lack of account promotion as trying to do social media with both arms tied behind your back. 

"If you use [LinkedIn] ads to promote your Company Page, you have to just cross your fingers and hope that once they click through to your Page, they choose to follow it."

Pardon my French, but...

joe biden malarkey

If you want an ad format that will increase the number of people following your company page on LinkedIn, look elsewhere. You still won't find this on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Ads: Any Improvements?

OK, we've beaten up LinkedIn pretty good, but it's only because we love them and want them to improve their advertising product.

LinkedIn has made two significant improvements:

  • LinkedIn Ads now offers conversion tracking. The lack of conversion tracking was so annoying. While this addition is indeed great news, the bad news is that basically all you can see is how bad your ad performance is.

I do this because I love LinkedIn. I really do!

linkedin ads suck

I’m just underwhelmed by their self-service ads. Advertising accounts for just 20 percent of LinkedIn's revenues – that means they're missing out on a huge opportunity.

LinkedIn is still absolutely essential, not just for individual professionals seeking exposure and new opportunities, but for companies seeking to maintain a strong organic presence, too. LinkedIn gets a lot of stuff right (such as LinkedIn Pulse, the platform's excellent content recommendation engine), and I still think it's an awesome service with many compelling features. (I shared some great tips for upping your content game on LinkedIn here.) Unfortunately, not enough has changed in the self-service platform over the past 18 months when compared to advances in other popular ad platforms. Hopefully, LinkedIn will soon recognize its full advertising potential and learn from Google, Facebook, and Twitter, and give us advertisers a fantastic self-service ads platform.

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Sep 13, 2016

Great article. I agree the lack of video and l quality score are mind-boggling. I've seen these same donkey ads in the same place for months, and from a potential customer perspective, it's pretty off-putting. They've got too many smart people there to not see that this is a problem.I tried utilizing LI ads for an ABM campaigns, but the through the roof recommended bids and lack of quality score has me looking for other channels

Tomáš Martínek
Sep 13, 2016

In some countries is still very expensive and often ineffective. I had recruitment campaign and looking programmer. I can not focus on programmers in specific area (not too much LinkedIn users) and I have to focus on all people in specific area. Then I can advertise. However my CPC was over 2 USD. For many advertisers it can be still too high price.

Sep 13, 2016

I work for a multinational B2B company and we see great business impact from LinkedIn campaigns. The conversion rates from targeted business audience ranges between 12 to 40%. The CPL is way leas than other channels (note all these stats are from desired audience unlike other channels with questionable interest and topics targeting for our Industry).

Conversion tracking in LinkedIn is now live, display ad unit is available programmatically and i heard awesome product enhancements on the cards.

So when i read this post i am certain about your myopic views, maybe you have not worked on platform. I like wordstream and it saddens me when i see such negative posts. If you have met their product team the provide these ideas to them.

By the way i wonder if you have ever written about non availability of industry and business targeting with Google (remember Bizcat? Never heard of it after the beta launch).

AJ Wilcox
Sep 13, 2016

Larry, your outlook is refreshing. Thanks for providing!

A few helpful thoughts:
7. You actually can advertise video on LinkedIn Ads. I wouldn't recommend it, though. It's a standard YouTube embed, with no annotations, and the cost is the same as if you just sent someone straight to a landing page.

5. LI does have custom lists (only one type I can mention) but it's an Account-Based Marketing list. You need to be working with a Marketing Solutions rep (which means you're spending >$25k/qtr) but it exists, and the functionality has been really awesome for B2B companies with ABM targets.

2. I TOTALLY agree. This one hurts and I wish LI would take a good hard look at their bidding algo and fix it. It may not have occurred to LinkedIn that lowering the price would gain more advertisers and make more money, but I hope it occurs soon.

Larry Kim
Sep 14, 2016

7. I was referring to native video upload capabilities like you see in Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, etc.

5. This post refers to the self service platform only.

2. Crappy ads hurts all advertisers because users just tune out all ads on the platform. That's the biggest reason to adopt an ad serving system that heavily weights ad quality.

AJ Wilcox
Sep 14, 2016

7. Gotcha. Native video would be a much welcomed addition.
5. The general movement of products is they start in the Marketing Solutions availability, and then get moved to self service. I would not be surprised to see that occur here. I'm hopeful.
2. Totally agreed. As a good advertiser, I like to get pricing wins, and as a user, I don't want to see the bad advertisers. The way the Relevancy Score algo is intended is not working well here.

Dale Morris
Sep 14, 2016

I find all of your points so very valid; let's hope LI is listening. I also wonder how they are not considering that many of us on the platform are small businesses who would greatly benefit from a LinkedIn ad but cannot utilize them as they are too expensive and ineffective. Great post, thank you.

A Nair
Sep 14, 2016

Thanks Larry for pointing out these obvious omissions on LinkedIn's part.

It is such a great tool for B2B Marketing so it's such a shame they haven't used much foresight when designing it.

In particular I dislike the way the ad preview tool is misleading and you get charged for a click, just because someone 'clicks to read more' - even if they don't actually visit your landing page.

They could do so much better!

Hope Microsoft sorts them out :-)

AJ Wilcox
Sep 14, 2016

Good point about the ad preview tool. To keep from being charged when someone clicks 'Read More', follow these character constraints so your content doesn't get truncated:

Intro: 128 characters
Headline: 38 characters
Description: 155 characters

Feb 14, 2017

Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely believe that this website needs a
great deal more attention. I'll probably be back again to read through more, thanks for the information!

Sep 15, 2016

Thank you for these notes, Larry. We're definitely working on a bunch of these. As you rightly said, no points for soon though.

So, looking forward to hearing about how you feel about all this 12 months from now.

Nazmul Hasan Rasel
Sep 19, 2016

Thanks for the great post. Keep writing...

Alexis Gil
Sep 22, 2016

I'm also missing for some of these advantages that have other social networks. Especially Video (despite the fact that you put it on the last position) and account promotion. Thanks for this list!

Nov 29, 2016

I tried LinkedIn ads recently but I wont do it again for a long time. Prices are ridiculously high. I put the same budget on LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn gave me 20 clicks for the same amount that Facebook gave me 200 interactions (likes, shares or clicks). The LinkedIn ads reached 3000 people vs 12000 on Facebook. I thought that LinkedIn would be a better market but thanks to Facebooks Custom Audiences I could reach a more targeted audience there. No more wasting money on LinkedIn for me.

Andrea D.
Dec 06, 2016

To me is unbelievable that they do not have remarketing yet.
It is maybe the most powerful conversion tool ever created. My CVR in AdWords remarketing campaigns is the highest compared to search or display networks. And I myself often buy stuff online by clicking on remarketing ads.

Feb 23, 2017

Maybe it's just my own experience, but the one thing that irritates me the most about Linkedin sponsored content is that the clicks they charge for simply don't end up on my site.
According to Google Analytics, a full HALF of my billed clicks each month don't end up landing on my site. As in, of 250 billed clicks last month, my URL tracked 148 of them as actual web traffic. Compared to all of my other PPC channels, where I run similar ads and sponsored content, that is terrible.
I assume I'm being charged for clicks to visit our company profile, clicks to expand text on mobile posts, and who knows what else. I sure don't know, because none of that is reflected in the Linkedin analytics. According to them, a click is a click. This also means the PPC prices aren't just double all other channels, but quadruple - since it takes two clicks to land one web visitor.
So frustrating for a channel with access to such high quality B2B leads, targetable by vertical, title, etc to just see such awful, expensive performance.

Mar 01, 2017

Great article! Linkedin can be really frustrating to plan for some paid campaigns for B2B...all that data and no custom audiences or remarketing which is a shame.

Linkedin could be such a game changer for B2B campaigns.

Cristian Nistor
Sep 13, 2017

You're talking all about the services that LinkedIn provides as an ad platform - some of them are not good and some of them doesn't exist.

BUT (a big buttttt) the platform itself it's shitty and very unfriendly and disorganized. It sucks, it really sucks. And you don't have control over many features...

It's like a cheap wrongly thought and designed MADE IN CHINA version of Facebook Ads Manager. It's crap!

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