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LinkedIn Frequency Capping: Impact Measurement

Ranga Kaliyur
June 10, 2024

LinkedIn ads work, but…

With over 1 billion users and 67 million companies worldwide, LinkedIn is by far the largest professional network in the world. It’s simply the place for B2B marketers to engage with target accounts and key decision makers. In fact, as much as 80% of B2B marketers advertise on LinkedIn. There’s no denying that LinkedIn ads work, but given that it’s a relatively expensive marketing channel, it’s worth highlighting low hanging ideas for optimization.
One such idea is impression frequency capping on LinkedIn.

What is impression frequency capping? 

Impression frequency capping is an advertising strategy that seeks to limit the number of times a unique ad is shown to a specific user, account, or geography over a defined time period. 

For example, if your ad receives 100 impressions and is served to 25 unique entities, we can claim that on average, each entity viewed the ad 4 times. In this case, we’d consider the reach to be 25 and the frequency to be 4. The objective is to avoid ad fatigue and poor audience experiences by preventing overexposure of an ad. 

Frequency capping (aka frequency rules) is a standard feature amongst popular ad platforms such as Google and Facebook. However, unlike these other ad platforms, LinkedIn does not support account or geography-level impression capping. This edition of Factors Labs explores the impact of this limitation by crunching 14 LinkedIn ad accounts with nearly 14 million ad impressions distributed across nearly 70,000 target accounts.  

Why is frequency capping important?

Before jumping into our data-driven insights, let’s understand why frequency capping is so important:

  • Avoid ad fatigue: As mentioned, the primary objective with frequency capping is to avoid ad fatigue. That is, having to see the same ad over and over again until you’re sick of it. Frequency capping eliminates overexposure so things stay fresh. 
  • Optimize budget allocation: Frequency capping helps limited budgets go a long way by reaching a broader audience fewer times as opposed to a narrow audience several times. That is, limiting the number of ads served per user/account and increasing the total number of users served. 
  • Support integrated campaigns: Integrated or sequential campaigns is a marketing strategy that coordinates marketing efforts across channels and customer journey stages to deliver cohesive, progressive messaging across the sales funnel. Measuring how many times an entity has viewed an ad helps marketers schedule the next phase of the integrated campaign appropriately.  

LinkedIn Frequency capping: crunching the numbers

If the previous section is anything to go by, impression frequency capping is prettyyy important. So how does LinkedIn support frequency capping today? Why is it a limitation? And how does it affect LinkedIn ad distribution? 

How LinkedIn frequency capping works

As it stands, LinkedIn enforces frequency capping at a user-level. This means that reach and frequency is reported based on the individual LinkedIn members that are served your ads. Here’s a quick overview of how frequency capping works today:

Ad format Frequency cap
 Sponsored content (1-2 ads per campaign) 1 ad per user per 24 hours 
Sponsored content (3+ ads per campaign)  5  & 48 rule: Number of ads in campaign per user per 48 hours, maxing out at 5  
 Message and conversation ads 1 ad per user per 30 days 
 Text ads Unknown, but predicted to be 5-10 ads per day per campaign 

Each ad format enforces a unique LinkedIn frequency cap. As an example, let’s take sponsored content ads. In this case, the frequency cap is contingent on the number of ad creatives in a campaign. Let’s say we have 4 ad creatives in a campaign, in this case, you’d be able to show a user the same ad 4 times in 48 hours or 2 times in 24 hours, with a max limit of 5 times in 48 hours. 

AJ Wilox has covered the specifics of LinkedIn ad frequency capping in detail in his podcast LinkedIn Ads Show. Check it out here.

There are a couple of disadvantages with this frequency capping mechanism. For one, there’s no room for customization. That is, linkedIn ad managers don’t have any say in the frequency capping limit in cases where you may want a specific creative to be surfaced fewer or more times than LinkedIn default limit. For another, as we’ll see in the next section, it tends to result in lopsided ad distribution at an account and geographic level. 

Account-level impressions 

We analyzed 14 anonymized Linkedin ad accounts, consisting of nearly 14 million impressions and 70,000 target accounts to examine how ads are distributed in the absence of frequency capping. 

Our research reveals that without a frequency capping rule in place, a whopping 77.8% of ad impressions were consumed by the top 10% of target accounts. This implies that 90% of target accounts received only 22.2% of ad impressions. 

Here are our findings summarized:

Total number of ad accounts 15
Total impressions served 13,835,154
Impressions served to the top 10% of target accounts 10,764,545
Percentage of total impressions served to top 10% of target accounts 77.8%

In short, this means that if you’re targeting 100 companies on LinkedIn and have allocated a budget for 1,000 impressions for the campaign, 10 companies will receive nearly 800 impressions while the remaining 90 companies will only receive 200. Woah. 

Linkedin Ads - Ad Impression Distribution

This is a glaring issue because it eliminates the exact benefits cited above as the importance of frequency capping:

  • Ad fatigue: The majority of impressions are delivered to a minority of target accounts and users. 
  • Budget inefficiency: Limited budgets are spent reaching a narrow audience several times, rather than the broader audience a few times. 

Ad Account No. of target accounts Total impressions Impr delivered to top 10% of target accounts % of Impr delivered to top 10% of target accounts
 A  187  4,280 2,346  54.8% 
 B 10,000  1,555,369  935,463  60.1% 
 C  5,801  668,462  478,176 71.5% 
 D  4,640  4,064,176 3,474,681  85.4% 
 E 6,113   171,126 97,009  56.6% 
 F  2,043 104,526   80,300 76.8% 
 G  2,628 557,381  516,090  92.5% 
 H  10,000  431,642  265,132 61.4% 
 I 4,687  3,516,461  2,754,925  78.3% 
 J 6,912   499,642 357,044  71.4% 
 K 1,532   299,426 235,817   78.7%
 L  815  13,904 9,138  65.7% 
 M 9,081  426,538  291,113  68.2% 
 N  2,875  1,522,221  1,267,311 83.25% 
 Total 67,314  13,835,154  10,764,545  77.8% 

Country-level impressions

This lopsided ad distribution is not limited to users and accounts. It seems to be the case at a country level as well. Say that you’re targeting Europe & UK with a LinkedIn campaign. Similar to how certain accounts receive more impressions than others, UK-based users will tend to consume the majority of impressions (read: budget) over other European countries. 

As a work around, LinkedIn suggests setting up individual campaigns for each geography. Operationally, however, this is incredibly tedious as LinkedIn already requires campaign managers to set individual campaigns by ad types and ad objectives. The total number of campaigns would quickly start to spiral. 

Meme comparison

Explaining lopsided ad distribution

LinkedIn’s ad distribution mechanism is a black box. It’s impossible to know for sure why certain users, accounts and regions receive disproportionately more impressions than others. That being said, we have a couple of theories:

1. Engagement-based distribution criteria

One theory is that LinkedIn favors showing ads to those target accounts and users that display the most active engagement on LinkedIn. For example, let’s say that you’re targeting company A and company B. If the CEO, CFO, and other key stakeholders of Company A actively participate in LinkedIn posts, messaging, etc as compared to Company B, the former will receive more impressions. Borrowing from the Pareto principle, this implies that close to 80% of LinkedIn engagement is via about 10% of LinkedIn users.

2. Time-based distribution criteria

Another possible explanation for lopsided ad distribution could be time-zone differences. This one is also better explained with an example. Say you create a LinkedIn campaign targeted to accounts in various time zones (PST, EST, IST, etc) and allocate a budget of $100 per day. LinkedIn is designed to spend the entire $100 over the span of the day. However, in a bid to accomplish this, it might serve the majority of ads to accounts earlier in the day, and, depending on your timezone, run out of daily budgets towards the end of the day. So if, by 7PM IST, the ad budget is 90% complete, only the remaining 10% will be served to EST accounts, even though it would still only be around 8:30AM to them.

LinkedIn Frequency capping: Next steps with Factors.ai

Frequency capping is an important feature that is currently unavailable on LinkedIn. To solve for this, Factors is building out a host of LinkedIn ads management features including automated frequency capping, integrated/sequential campaigns, time scheduling, and more. This will ensure that B2B marketers have sufficient control over their ads and budgets.

Learn how Factors can help make the most of your LinkedIn ads with industry-leading account intelligence, engagement scoring, and account activation. 

Factors Campaign

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