Is Google AdWords 15X Better Than LinkedIn Ads?

When we’d last executed search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns on Google AdWords and LinkedIn Ads (or LinkedIn DirectAds, as it used to be called at the time), we found that, Google attracted almost 15X greater traffic than LinkedIn. As you can read in our blog post published at the time, their click-through-rates (CTR) were 0.3% and 0.02% respectively.

We recently did a couple of B2B technology campaigns on these two advertising platforms. On this occasion, we compared not only their CTR percentages but also their cost-per-click (CPC) figures. Here’s a snapshot of our findings:

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We can draw the following insight from the data:

  1. While Google still leads LinkedIn in sheer quantity of traffic it delivers, the difference between them has significantly narrowed down since our last comparison – it’s now only 3X compared to 15X before.
  2. With a much higher CPC, LinkedIn is 5X costlier than Google.
  3. CTR is a good measure of “performance” whereas CPC is a direct indicator of “price”. Since they are independent of each other, price:performance ratio might be an interesting way to compare the overall effectiveness of these two advertising platforms. On this metric, Google trumps LinkedIn by 15X.
  4. It could be argued, as we’d ourselves done in our previous post, that LinkedIn targets ads by profile of its users and could therefore deliver better quality traffic compared to Google, especially for big ticket B2B products and services where decision makers belong to the buyer’s senior management. The problem with this position is that, while Google’s “greater quantity” can be measured using Google’s and third-party tools, LinkedIn’s purportedly “better quality” cannot. As far as we know, LinkedIn does not provide any analytics related to seniority of people who clicked its ads.
  5. In addition to the inorganic traffic generated by our ads during the period of the campaigns, we continued to receive organic traffic as always from Google and LinkedIn. Interestingly, when we analyzed the conversion of visitors to leads using our EMAIL360 application, we found a significant difference between the two platforms: With Google, more leads were inorganic i.e. they were the result of the ads. Whereas in the case of LinkedIn, discussions, posts and other sources of organic traffic contributed to a larger chunk of leads than did ads.

The key learning for us from these campaigns has been that, while SEO and online ads can ATTRACT traffic, it’s equally important to implement solutions to CONVERT this traffic. We’ve achieved decent conversion of visitors to leads when we supplemented our advertising campaigns with campaign-specific micrositesvisitor company tracking and other elements of inbound marketing. Had we relied solely on SEO and SEM, we’d surely have wasted a lot of of our marketing dollars.

EMAIL360 Leadgen Widget

EMAIL360 Leadgen Widget

Many people, including some who have participated in this LinkedIn discussion, seem to complain about poor quality of leads coming from both Google AdWords and LinkedIn Ads. While we’ve had our own share of junk leads from job-seekers and others, we virtually eliminated this problem when we made changes to our CTAs, published our EMAIL360 widget on the campaign microsites and implemented a few other measures.

As an aside, our recent experience reinforces our finding over the past few months that, even in the B2B technology product and services industry, inbound marketing is becoming increasingly more effective compared to email-plus-cold calling type of traditional outbound marketing.

2 Responses to “Is Google AdWords 15X Better Than LinkedIn Ads?”

  1. Jon Russo says:

    Really excellent post.  I’m curious – did you notice a difference in the quality of the prospects that clicked through similar to what you thought my happen in your earlier posts?  In other words, of those clicks that converted, did you get a higher percentage of LinkedIn converting to sales vs. FB?  You refer to conversion in aggregate above.  Also, did you notice any regional conversion differences (US converted better for FB than that of LI, etc.)?

  2. sketharaman says:

    @JonR:disqus:
    Thank you for your feedback. With a 3-6 month long sales cycle for the advertised products and services, it’s too early to measure conversion from lead to deal / sales. Re. quality, we did measure conversion from visitors to leads and you can find the results in the following paragraph of the post:   

    Interestingly, when we analyzed the conversion of visitors to leads using ourEMAIL360 application, we found a significant difference between the two platforms: With Google, more leads were inorganic i.e. they were the result of the ads. Whereas in the case of LinkedIn, discussions, posts and other sources of organic traffic contributed to a larger chunk of leads than did ads.