This could be a really short article. LinkedIn is rolling out a way for advertisers to track when their ads lead people to do things on the brand’s site like buy a product or register an account, which is something that Facebook and Google and Twitter and Pinterest already offer.
But LinkedIn is putting its own spin on a measurement tool that even Russ Glass, product boss at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, called “table stakes.”
LinkedIn’s conversion tracking won’t only tally how many people saw or clicked on an ad and eventually did something on the advertiser’s site. The business-centric social network’s tool will cross-reference those converters with its own audience data so that brands can get a better idea of which ads work for which specific types of people and how. Telling brands how many conversions their ads elicited by audience segment is LinkedIn’s “biggest differentiator,” said Glass.
Advertisers using LinkedIn’s conversion tracking will be able to see audience breakdowns by categories such as what industries people work in, how senior their positions are, what their job functions are and the size of their companies.
“Certainly the simplest tie-in is targeting,” said Glass. “When you get your results and you’re seeing your conversion rate for, let’s say, [people in] the finance industry is twice as high as your conversion rate for the healthcare industry,” an advertiser might use that information to shift some of its ad dollars away from targeting people in the healthcare industry and toward targeting more people in the finance industry or to recognize which individual ads or particular campaigns are doing well or not doing well among which particular industry group or other LinkedIn audience segment. That insight is even more valuable if the advertiser wasn’t targeting a specific industry or other audience segment in the first place, since LinkedIn will break down conversions by its various audience segments regardless of to which audiences a brand is targeting its ads.
Through LinkedIn’s conversion tracking — which can track the people who clicked on an ad as well as those who were simply served it but didn’t click on it — an advertiser can see that, say, C-level execs aren’t clicking on its ads nearly as often as middle-manager types, but that those C-level execs still end up on the advertiser’s site after seeing the ads and do something like download a white-paper.
In addition to the audience breakdowns, advertisers will be able to see more standard conversion measurement stats, like how many people converted from their ads, how much they paid for each conversion and the return on their investment. The latter ROI metric isn’t the same as how much revenue a brand generated from its campaign. Instead advertisers will set a value for how much money they think each conversion type is worth, and LinkedIn will then multiple the number of those types of conversions by the defined value to get the ROI figure.
On average among the 200 advertisers that have already been able to test LinkedIn’s conversion tracking, the company saw a “21% improvement in cost-per-conversions,” according to Glass.
To use LinkedIn’s conversion tracking, advertisers have to add a single, universal tag, or a piece of code, to their sites and then define which specific URLs on their sites correspond with which conversions. Advertisers can use LinkedIn’s predefined list of conversions — which includes purchases, leads, sign-ups and content downloads — or create their own definitions to correspond to URLs where people may do things that don’t exactly match with LinkedIn’s list.
For now LinkedIn’s conversion tracking only works for its Sponsored Content ads and Text ads, but the company plans to eventually implement for all of its ad formats, including Sponsored InMail campaigns. Advertisers can access conversion tracking through LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager tool as well as through ad-tech firms AdStage and 4C, which are able to incorporate it into their ad management platforms through LinkedIn’s API.
LinkedIn still has some catching up when it comes to add-ons for its conversion tracking. For example, Facebook has a way for advertisers to automatically target their ads to people with similar characteristics to those who convert on their sites. And Google can track conversions that happen in an advertisers’ mobile app or offline. And Twitter lets brands set different conversion windows, so that a brand looking for immediate returns can track it over a day or two and another with a longer sales process can opt for 90 days.
But LinkedIn is aware that it’s not rolling out a complete conversion tracking product.
Later this year it plans to add a way for advertisers to automatically target their ads based on their conversion stats. It also expects, at some point in the future, to let advertisers customize the time windows against which they track conversions. And eventually LinkedIn wants to be able to tell advertisers how much actual revenue their ads generated, but to do that it will need to connect to brands’ revenue and CRM systems.