Getting Free Advertising on LinkedIn

Aiming Clear

Recently, I observed a LinkedIn ad placed by aimClearConsulting Services. All it said was:


Good calls to action give a concise value proposition, and use strong language with an attention-grabbing sense of urgency to earn a click. AimClear’s ad… doesn’t have a call to action.

Log into your LinkedIn account and look at the ads you are shown. Refresh a dozen times. How many don’t have a call to action? In all likelihood, none of them. So what’s going on here? Is this the worst ad ever?


Quite the contrary. Let’s set aside clicks for a moment, and this of what this ad communicates. In 74 characters, aimClear:

– Establishes that they were present at SMX
– Indicates a deep familiarity with and connection to advanced Facebook marketing
– Offer a post-event, gratitude-oriented relationship with attendees
– Creates an intriguing ad that gets me talking about it here

And they can accomplish this without a single click. If this was a CPM display ad, then the cost would have been what it was. There’s actually no way to tell as a user, since pay-per-click and display ads are mixed. But what if it was a PPC ad?

On the Cheap

LinkedIn ads are relatively new, but they do already have a reputation for providing weak click-through rates and high cost per click rates. Instead of trying to fight through poor ad placement and scrounge for expensive clicks, what if – and this is speculative – aimClear aimed to brand, chose a PPC and, and have potentially the least click-worthy ad of all, meaning the least possible costs?

Yeah, they probably got some clicks, so their costs weren’t nil. But by framing it as a display ad with little click incentive, they could have saved a whack of money.

It Ain’t AdWords

The reason why this strategy doesn’t work in a platform like AdWords is because of an old grouchy friend we call quality score. If your pay-per-click does not perform, which in the case of pay-per-click ads means attracting clicks, then the advertising platform makes less money. That punishment translates into higher costs per click for poor performing advertisers to recoup the poor performance losses. Quality score incorporates numerous factors, but CTR is a big one.

But it isn’t clear that there is any direct equivalent to a quality score on LinkedIn DirectAds. No quality score means no punishment in costs. The publishment a person does get slapped with is lower impressions. But first of all, low impressions can be expected anyway in LinkedIn ads, so you might be able to get away with it for a while, and second of all, the advertising is still nearly free, apart from the $5 startup cost.

The Future

As the LinkedIn DirectAds system gets more advanced and explicit about their advancements, we may start to hear about a quality score equivalent. Or at least, some clear mechanism to address cases like this which essentially make them little money. Depending on how strict their performance measure, the results of this kind of scheme can be few enough impressions to be worth the time. Still, free advertising is free advertising, and if an ad can be like aimClear’s and communicate a lot without requiring a click, it may be a strategy worth considering, especially in a case like aimClear’s where a big campaign isn’t necessary anyway, given that it was a conference followup and necessarily temporary.

Time to test! We’ll share results when we have them.

edit: Made some tweaks! The first version worked within the knowledge that the overwhelming majority of LinkedIn ads are PPC, but didn’t acknowledge that display ads do exist on LinkedIn. The post is about turning PPC ads into display ads, but the fact that display ads do exist, however rarely used, should have been mentioned.

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