Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn back in June 2016 left many of us in the paid search advertising world dreaming of future integrations between the two tech powerhouses. Safe to assume the $26 billion acquisition wasn’t made without future profit generation in mind, and ad revenue is lucrative for both companies. Fast forward to October 2018 and the rollout of the Bing Ads + LinkedIn integration — the moment all of us B2B advertisers were waiting for! The feature is currently in beta and only available to select Bing advertisers (sign up for an invitation to the beta here). We’ve had a chance to implement for our clients and have a better sense of the capabilities of the integration.
What We’re Excited About
Advanced Audience Targeting: The professional nature of LinkedIn profiles means users provide much more realistic & in-depth details about their job functions, company, and industry than other social media platforms. This is the main reason we see LinkedIn advertising work so well as a lead gen source for our B2B clients. Thankfully, all three of these categories are now targetable from within Bing Ads, giving PPC advertisers the ability to further hone their target audience and spend ad dollars more effectively.
Bid-Only Targeting: The new targeting categories are bid-only adjustments when applied, meaning you don’t risk narrowing your audience and cutting your ppc campaigns off at the knees. This is similar to the way Observation audiences work in Google Ads. You’re able to add bid adjustments to bid more aggressively for searchers in a certain job role, or who work for a specific company. You can then gather data about how those specific audiences perform, but don’t remove yourself from the wider pool of users who match your keyword targeting but not those specific LinkedIn attributes.
Negative Bid Adjustments: In addition to bidding more aggressively, you also have the ability to set a negative bid adjustment for the new targeting options. This is particularly useful for B2B businesses whose target keywords could very well overlap with another unrelated industry or vertical. Adding negative keywords to exclude all those unrelated searches is an ongoing, often painstaking process. Layering the new LinkedIn targeting categories on as negative bid adjustments can help further refine your traffic and lessen the time spent on sifting through search query reports.
What We’re Not So Excited About
As it were, the main advantages of this initial rollout are also its weaknesses. When the integration was first announced my head swirled with more nuanced targeting possibilities. Unfortunately, only a portion of these are actually possible — at least in its current form.
No LinkedIn Groups: Marketing to specific LinkedIn Groups remains one of the most effective ways to get in front of the right audience through LinkedIn Ads. Group members have manually opted-in to that community because of a particular interest or affiliation, and are thus highly relevant. It would be great to remain visible to these users through Bing Ads, but Groups are not part of the targeting integration at this time. I suspect it’s due to privacy concerns involving groups with a low number of members, but here’s to hoping this becomes available down the road.
Targeting Remains High-Level: The level of specificity within the available targeting categories (job function, company, & industry) remains very basic. Only companies above a certain threshold of employees on LinkedIn can be targeted, and the job functions are categorical — marketing, sales, account, etc — rather than specific roles such as “director of marketing,” or “maintenance supervisor.” This is again, likely a limitation related to privacy, but it definitely limits the ability to hone targeting to a certain degree.
Bid-Only Targeting: One of the first wacky ideas that came to mind after the integration announcement was the ability to combine very broad keyword targeting on the Bing search engine with targeting of specific companies, job positions, etc. This could limit the visibility of the ads to a very specific group, and let us advertise on keywords we would otherwise never go after. Unfortunately, because the LinkedIn targeting is currently only a “bid-only” strategy it can’t be used to further narrow your audience. There goes that fancy idea…
Conclusion: Use Your Imagination!
This LinkedIn & Bing Ads integration has the potential to be a major differentiator for Microsoft over Google, but it feels like a very cautious rollout in the first iteration. It’s no surprise given the recent hoopla around user-data and privacy. Microsoft is definitely being cautious not to alienate users from providing the very thing that makes LinkedIn such a powerful professional tool: very detailed professional information about millions of users. That said, we’re confident with a little bit of imagination and testing the new targeting options can be used to further refine the performance of your Bing Ads campaigns!