Recently, Microsoft Ads announced a new targeting option that marketers have been curious about since it acquired Microsoft LinkedIn a few years ago. LinkedIn, like Facebook and other social media sites, has a wealth of knowledge about our customers. However, LinkedIn knowledge is particularly valuable for B2B operations. Given that LinkedIn is designed to be explicit about your profession, professional role, duties, and networking with others, this professional consumer profile is a goldmine for B2B marketers trying to reach decision makers.
So you can imagine the excitement of B2B marketers when Microsoft announced that they would slowly roll out the LinkedIn targeting features – namely company, industry, and job function – on their ad platform. "That's great!", I thought, "we can finally get more focused with our focus on the job industry." That is, instead of just being able to target general industries like health and medical professions or education workers, we could get more specific and target "hospital administrators" or "elementary school teachers". This would theoretically allow us to weed out the unwanted traffic we get with broader categories and make spending more efficient.
Implementing LinkedIn targeting
This feature is currently in a closed beta so not all advertisers currently have access to it. However, if you have access to it, the feature can be found in the Demographics tab of the left toolbar in Microsoft Ad's new interface layout (another recently released version).
After going to the demographic section, you'll see the Company, Industry, and Job Function targeting options at the top of your page. Whenever you jump into any of these options, you'll see selection tools for choosing your goals. At the corporate level, there are approximately 80,000 companies that can be used for targeting. However, you don't get a drop-down menu to pick and choose from these 80,000. Instead, you need to look for every company that you want to target. This is fine for anyone with a full list of relevant companies on hand, but it's not great when exploring your options. Since you can't see the full list of options, you don't know what is available to you and what isn't – and who has the time to research all of the companies that could potentially benefit you, especially if you don't I don't know whether they are even available for targeting! Another difficulty with actually implementing this targeting is that there is no option to bulk upload a company list. So if you happen to have a full list of the companies you want to target, even if there are hundreds of companies in that list, keep adding them one by one.
However, at the industry and job function level, there is a browse feature that you can use to explore your targeting options. In these two areas, 175 different industries and 26 different job functions are available to you.
The last thing to mention here, and it is LARGE What is the actual targeting ability for each of these options. With these targeting options, you can only target by bids. This means that you can only adjust the aggressiveness of your bid with positive and negative bid modifiers. You cannot limit your target group and only search for individuals in your selected companies / industries / job functions. Instead, all you can do is choose how valuable they are to you compared to the rest of the audiences (and keywords) you are targeting.
Despite some obstacles and options to narrow down an audience, this Microsoft Ads feature is still very useful. In theory, you can compare which companies, etc., are most appealing to your product by comparing the audience's performance, although you will still hear unwanted noise due to bid-only targeting.
I tested this tool for over 2 months with moderate spending specifically for business goals. Fortunately, I had a pretty long list of companies to target and I was able to find most of them in Microsoft Ad's business search function. When I ran this test on over 3,000 target companies, I felt my target audience would be large enough to collect a decent sample of accomplishments.
After those two months, however, performance was very … poor. This did not degrade efficiency, but it certainly did not improve. In fact, it did almost nothing. In that two month period, I saw fewer than 50 impressions and 0 clicks. What?!?! That was very disappointing.
I'm still testing different bid levels on these business goals to try to increase traffic, and Microsoft Ads is improving functionality throughout the beta so these business goals may prove to be valuable at some point. For my test at the moment, however, they did not fulfill my hopes and dreams. It may be worth using the Job Features and Industry options. I plan to test these features out next. Learn more about the first LinkedIn Alignment Reviews in Microsoft Ads!