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Measuring LinkedIn True ROI: Click vs View-through Attribution

Ranga Kaliyur
July 23, 2024

Are LinkedIn ads really that expensive?

It's widely accepted that advertising on LinkedIn can be...expensive. While Google and Facebook ads achieve an average cost per click (CPC) of $2.69 and $1.92 respectively, the CPC benchmark for LinkedIn ads is a whopping $5.58. Linkedin ad clicks seem to cost more than double its counterparts. This, coupled with the challenge of proving LinkedIn’s ROI can make it a tricky paid channel to justify to leadership. In fact, 58% of advertisers found “cost of key results” to be the biggest challenge with LinkedIn in a poll conducted by Rob Muldoon:

What is your biggest pain point when advertising on Linkedin - Poll Question

Does this mean that LinkedIn ads are an exorbitant waste of your budget? Absolutely not. 

This edition of Factors Labs explores why the conclusion that “LinkedIn ads are too expensive” is flawed. Specifically, we use real-data to highlight how conventional click-through attribution heavily inflates the cost of LinkedIn ads and deflates it's influence, while view-through attribution delivers a far more accurate measure of LinkedIn True ROI.
But first, let’s address a few common misconceptions. 

Misconceptions with LinkedIn Ads

Before delving into the numbers, it’s worth addressing a few common misconceptions about LinkedIn that exacerbate its reputation as one of the more expensive B2B ad platforms. 

Misconception #1 - LinkedIn is an alternative to other ad platforms

Okay, time to come clean: our initial comparison of CPCs between LinkedIn, Google, and Facebook was blatantly unfair. The truth is that they’re completely different ad platforms, each with its own unique strengths, limitations, and most importantly, purpose. A failure to acknowledge these differences results in unreasonable expectations in terms ad costs. 

For instance, LinkedIn offers an unparalleled audience of over 1B+ professionals and 67M+ companies, segmented by titles, seniority, industry, regions, and more. It’s the place to be if you’re looking to target specific stakeholders or accounts. Google Ads, on the other hand, is a powerful tool to capture existing demand at scale by targeting high-intent search keywords. 

The bottom line: just as it is unfair to hold ad channels accountable for the same objectives, it’s unfair to hold them responsible for differing costs. They’re not alternatives to each other. 

Misconception #2 - LinkedIn is all about clicks and sign-ups

It’s important to acknowledge that first and foremost, LinkedIn is a display advertising channel. The primary objective of your LinkedIn ads should be to help your brand stay on top of your target audience’s mind. Accordingly, the metrics used to evaluate ad performance should expand beyond clicks and lead gen form fills.

Linkedin Banner

The bottom line: Don’t measure LinkedIn ads performance using ill fitting metrics. Judging LinkedIn ads by clicks, sign-up, and the other conventional ad metrics alone will inevitably lead to disappointing results. Instead, it’s important to consider Linkedin’s larger influence on conversions and pipeline while accepting any further engagement as an added bonus. 

Measuring this “larger influence” is easier said than done — but it’s not impossible:

With search ads, for example, you’re targeting specific keywords. It’s fairly straightforward to estimate existing demand based on search volume, predict buying intent from incoming clicks, and attribute conversions back to the ad. With LinkedIn, we’ll instead want to identify buyers that view our ads, and tie this back to bottom of the funnel conversions down the line. This is where view-through attribution or LinkedIn True ROI with Factors comes into play. More on this later. 

Misconception #3 - LinkedIn is a top of the funnel channel

The third misconception that often turns SME/mid-marketer marketers and leadership away from LinkedIn is its reputation as a top of the funnel “brand building” channel reserved for big budget enterprises. 

Factors AI

While it’s true that LinkedIn works well for top of the funnel awareness building campaigns, it’s certainly not limited to this function. If leveraged well, LinkedIn can extend itself from a demand generator to a demand capture for high-intent retargeting and ABM efforts. 

Read more about how to make the most of LinkedIn ads here:

LinkedIn True ROI: Click-through vs View-through Attribution

Depending on the nature of your product, industry, and audience, LinkedIn could be the place for your B2B marketing efforts. However, the aforementioned misconceptions tend to underplay LinkedIn’s influence and overplay its costs by taking a click-centric approach to performance attribution. This approach fails to acknowledge the larger influence that LinkedIn has as a highly-targeted display channel. To solve for this, view-through attribution provides a far more accurate picture into Linkedin’s True ROI impact. 

Click-through attribution and view-through attribution are methods used in digital marketing to track and measure the effectiveness of online advertising campaigns:

  • Click-through attribution: This method attributes conversions or actions directly to the last click a user made before completing the desired action, such as submitting a lead gen form or landing on a website. It gives credit to the specific ad that the user clicked on to reach the desired outcome.
  • View-through attribution: This method attributes conversions or actions to ads that a user saw (viewed) but did not necessarily click on. It acknowledges the influence of these ads in prompting the user to take the desired action, even if the user didn't directly interact with them by clicking.

This section compares real-life click-through attribution against view-through attribution data to highlight why the latter delivers a far more accurate picture of LinkedIn True ROI

Scope of study

We crunched one month of LinkedIn ads data from an SME SaaS re-marketing campaign group to compare deals and pipeline contributions accordingly to each approach. We used LinkedIn’s own ad manager for click-through attribution data and Factors.ai for view-through attribution data on this LinkedIn campaign.

Accounts-Wayne Enterptises

Factors.ai partners with LinkedIn, G2, Clearbit, and 6sense to deliver industry-leading account intelligence, analytics and activation for B2B marketing and sales teams. Among other features, we help identify and enrich granular account engagement that even native ad platforms tend to miss out on. This includes revealing the larger extent of companies viewing your LinkedIn ads, interacting with your G2 product pages, and of course, visiting your website. Learn more about how view-through attribution with Factors achieves an accurate measure of Linkedin True ROI. 

Okay enough with the shameless plug. Here are the stark differences in ad performance between click vs view-through attribution summarized:

Summary Click-through Attribution View-through Attribution
 Spend $4348  $4348 
 Number of Opportunities  1  11
Cost per Opportunity
 $4,348  $395
 Pipeline Value  $1,800  $19,440

1. Number of opportunities

The number of opportunities sourced via LinkedIn ads in January 2024: According to click-through attribution, the campaign generated only 1 opportunity during the month. View-through attribution reveals that in reality, at least 11 opportunities were influenced by the same campaign. One vs eleven…that's a big, big difference

Opportunities Sourced via Linkedin Ads

2. Cost per Opportunity

Of course, when the number of opportunities differ so wildly and the total spend remains the same, the cost per opportunity is bound to vary dramatically as well.

Cost per Opportunity

While view-through attribution achieves a reasonable Cost per Opportunity of $395, Click-through attribution claims a whopping $4,338 per Opportunity. That’s a cost per opportunity that’s nearly 11x greater than the true CPO. No wonder marketers and leadership find LinkedIn to be too expensive via this click-based measurement approach! 💸

3. Pipeline Value

Finally, we arrive at what matters most: LinkedIn’s impact on pipeline. According to click-through attribution, LinkedIn generated a single opportunity contributing just $1,800 to pipeline at a cost of $4,348 per opportunity. View-through attribution, on the other hand, highlights 11 opportunities that contribute to a total of $19,440 in pipeline for $395 each.  

Pipeliine(BoFu, Retargeting campaign)

This is where the crux of this article really presents itself. There’s no denying that generating $1,800 worth of pipeline from $4,348 in spend is absurd. But in reality, when evaluating costs in relation to ad views rather than ad clicks, the numbers — $19,440 in pipeline from $4,348 in spend — start to make more sense. 

If you measure the impact of physical billboards by the number of “clicks” they receive, your result will always be a disappointing zero. This, of course, doesn't mean that they had no influence on conversions. Simply because LinkedIn ads can be clicked, doesn't mean that their influence is limited to the same. Instead, as with other display channels, its impact should be measured on the basis of opportunities that view an ad and proceed to become customers. 

This is not always going to be accurate. There will always be edge cases: situations where a buyer was planning to purchase a product regardless of whether or not they view the ad — and it’s impossible to definitely measure the degree to which the ad view influenced the conversion. That being said, as the data highlights, view-through attribution delivers a far more reasonable reflection of LinkedIn performance and costs as compared to click-through attribution alone. Ultimately, depending on the nature of your business, measuring performance via view-through attribution could help justify LinkedIn as one of your most cost-effective, high-RoAS channels. 

Want to make the most of your LinkedIn ads?

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