LinkedIn Ads or Google AdWords for My Small to Mid-Sized Business?

July 11, 2011

Tell me about your company’s target market — Who are they? What do they do? Where are they located? When would they use your product/service? How would they use your product/service? Are your customers different online than in-person? Can you answer these questions in detail?

Imagine having to call a new phone number and not having an area code; What would you do? Jump online and research using the seven digits and location? A good start, but very time consuming.

My point is that missing an area code (data) in a phone number throws everything out of sync. This concept is exactly the same with online advertising; missing data about your customer will cause even the best advertising campaign to fail.

LinkedIn Ads differentiates itself from Google AdWords by allowing an advertiser to target individual people on its network, instead of large audiences where Google AdWords shines.

LinkedIn’s mission “is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful” whereas Google’s mission “is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” 

Target Market

Prosumer Marketing

Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) has been studying a new category of consumers called “Prosumers”. Prosumers are  “characterized by a blurring between consumer’s personal and work lives” (links to Cisco .PDF). IBSG discovered five core work styles:

  1. Using employer-paid devices such as cell phones and laptops for personal use
  2. Using employer-paid applications such as email for personal use
  3. Doing work on personal time
  4. Working from home versus the office
  5. Working “on the go” or on, off, and around the corporate campus

As a small and medium-sized business (SMB), the ability to target prosumers on the LinkedIn network is a HUGE advantage for your business. For example, a SMB creating a new SaaS (Software as a Service) platform wants to start spreading the news around. Using traditional advertising, marketing costs can be through the roof with very little return. Advertising on the LinkedIn network, they can target prosumers based on their job titles and/or industry specific groups.

“Approx. 15% of all workers can described as prosumers, and they tend to occupy professional and managerial positions (“executive”, “manager”, “director”, and “professional”)

B2B Targeting

Let me give you an example of how LinkedIn Ads was the right recommendation for a small business owner who hired me to conduct market research for his new service. After discovering his target consumers were “IT decision makers”, it became clear that he would need to advertise in areas where they congregated online, enter LinkedIn.

Q: How do we market effectively — How do we let them know this service exists?

LinkedIn Ads provided the targeting abilities to directly advertise to business professionals who make IT decisions for their companies and advertise on company pages who would be interested in such a service.

Using these tools, advertising directly to our target market through LinkedIn, we spent less time wondering if we were targeting the right audience/website and had more time to analyzing the results behind the campaign. We also had more time to spend on creative as well.

“…According to The Nielsen Company @Plan data released in December 2010, U.S. visitors to our website represent more decision makers, have higher average household incomes and are comprised of more college or post graduates than U.S. visitors of many leading business websites…” – LinkedIn

Google AdWords has two different networks an advertiser can use, the Search Network and Display Network. If I had a list of market research keywords I wanted to use in my advertising campaign, I would use Google Search Network and create text-based ads targeting audiences searching for those particular keywords, I can also target user search query, device, language, and location down to the zip code. The zip code is the furthest level of targeting I can reach using AdWords on the Search Network.

GOOGLE ADWORDS TARGETS AUDIENCES, NOT INDIVIDUALS!

The AdWords Display Network allows the use of video, images, text, and audio ads to be placed automatically or manually on websites, tablet devices and mobile phones of your target market. Similar to LinkedIn ads, advertising on the AdWords Display Network allows you to target users based on age group and gender.

 

Strategy & Execution

As a Certified Google AdWords Consultant I can vouch for the amount of preparation that goes into creating a successful AdWords campaign. Compiling a list of keywords and appropriate match types is time-consuming and very detail oriented. Often times the list original keyword list has had so many revisions that it looks nothing like the list in the beginning. Following the keyword list, text ad’s will start to be written and optimized for each individual landing page. Quality Score is another important variable to pay attention to as a low Quality Score can cause a keyword to be over-priced and not useable. Location/language research is conducted to make sure we are targeting the appropriate areas of interest. After double-checking everything, we launch the campaign and wait for the results.

By the way, all of this preparation, creation and launch is only for the Google Search Network…I haven’t even talked about image, audio, video or mobile ads yet…

The immediate difference between the two advertising solutions is the amount of work required to launch a campaign. As you read above, Google AdWords takes a considerable amount of time to set up and execute; and that’s not even including people who are learning while creating the account!

LinkedIn Ads cut the campaign creation time in half by removing the keyword research stage and replacing it with drop-down menus of applicable categories:

Don’t be deceived by the cleanliness of the targeting options, one check of the check mark box opens a sub-category of even more options.

Since LinkedIn Ads display only on linkedin.com they are able to use there network to determine ad placement. From a consumer standpoint, this is fabulous! I envy the newbies who will moan at the “amount of work” it takes to setup a LinkedIn Ads account — I’d like to see them set up an AdWords account:)

Marketing to Mass Consumers

Both advertising platforms provide mass marketing opportunities. Depending on your advertising goals and target market; this may be the biggest differentiators separating the two networks. Considerable time should be spent on market research, if you know where your customer are located and who they are, you should be able to choose the appropriate advertising network. Yet, the are similar in that they both use cost-per-click (CPC) and cost-per-impression (CPM) as metrics. The creation of ads is different, but not drastically:

If your business wants to reach a large amount of internet users — Use Google AdWords

If your business wants to reach a select amount of internet users — Use LinkedIn Ads

Continuing to compare the two is like comparing apples to bananas. Both are successful advertising platforms yet offer two different targeting options, different account setups and more…
Knowing your target market and goals as an advertiser will make choosing an advertising solution that much easier!

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