Hot Takes

The Bad Advice LinkedIn Is Giving You About Your Ads with AJ Wilcox

If you listen to the advice of your LinkedIn Ads rep, you’re going to spend too much, and you won’t get the results you’re looking for. Tune in to hear the bad advice so you can ignore it to get lower costs and better performance with your LinkedIn Ads!

In this Hot Takes Live session, AJ Wilcox, founder, and CEO of, discusses:

  • How to set up a LinkedIn Ads campaign the right way
  • Pitfalls to avoid that spike your costs
  • The settings that result in the lowest costs

[Transcript] The Bad Advice LinkedIn Is Giving You About Your Ads

Gary Amaral

Lucky enough to be joined by AJ Wilcox, founder and CEO at He’s gonna tell us how LinkedIn is giving us all kinds of bad advice when it comes to our ads. AJ, take it away. I can’t wait to hear all about it.

AJ Wilcox

Awesome, Gary. Appreciate it. All right, if any of you have had a rep on any platform, this information’s probably not gonna be too crazy to you, that your rep can give you pretty bad advice, but let’s talk about it specifically.

A little bit about me, I’m the founder of an agency called B2 Linked. As Gary said, we’re an agency, and LinkedIn ads is all we do. We’re one-trick ponies after 150 million spent on LinkedIn ads. It’s the one thing we do, and we do it well.

And my interesting fact is when I was little, I got my front teeth stuck in a basketball hoop as I was trying to do a back jam off of a bucket. So anyway, my two front teeth are dead. Like they’re a slightly different color. It’s crazy.

Anyway, hopefully, that was fun for everyone. All right, so we talked a little bit about how LinkedIn ads reps can make recommendations. They’re usually, well, I’ll say sometimes they’re not in your very best interest.

Usually, behind the scenes, the reps are getting pressure from their bosses to push ad spend to new products or new features that are oftentimes untested and unproven, and you become the Guinea pig.

So that’s not something we want. If your goal is to get a great performance from your ads, a lot of times, it makes sense to just take their advice with a little bit of a grain of salt.

So here are the things specifically that I want you to take with a grain of salt.

First off, your LinkedIn reps will advise to bid higher, and they say that this is in an effort to get the right people. So let’s say for an audience, you’re targeting managers and above.

They say, well, yeah, if your audience is manager and above and you’re bidding $10 per click, you’re only gonna be getting the managers for that amount. You’re gonna need to bid more like 14 or 15 or 18 or 25 or whatever to get access to more of the C-level people.

Time and time again, when we’ve tested, we find that this is absolutely wrong. It can be just as inexpensive or even less expensive to reach someone in the C-suite than it is to reach a manager or than it is to reach a director, all because of how your ads perform.

So it really comes down to ad performance. It doesn’t come down to bids unless your ads are performing poorly.

Here are the other things, too.

They want you to turn on your audience expansion, which comes enabled by default. So when you disable it, they’ll send you emails and stuff and say like, we noticed your audience expansion is off.

They’ll tell you that you need bigger budgets. I mean, I don’t know why they’re willing to tell someone that they need a bigger budget when they’re told by their boss what their budget is. You can’t force someone to have a larger budget than they have, but LinkedIn tries.

They also tell you that you need to have large audience sizes, and if you don’t have a large enough audience size, put people in your audience that doesn’t matter; obviously not great.

They also tell you don’t pause your ads. Things like on LinkedIn, we have these traffic patterns that make a lot of sense. A lot of times, your sales rep is only there during business hours. You may wanna shut your ads off after business hours so that you’re not letting these leads come in and be cold.

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Hot Takes Live


Catch the replay of Hot Takes Live, where 30 of the top SaaS leaders across Marketing, Sales, and RevOps revealed some of their most unpopular opinions about their niche.

These leaders shared what lessons they learned and how they disrupted their industry by going against the grain (and achieved better results in the process).

So we’ll go specifically into each one.

So LinkedIn’s saying you need to obit aggressively to hit the right people. We talked about why this is false. What you do in this case is create separate audiences. So one campaign specifically for managers, one for directors, one for VPs, and one for C-level, or C-level, and partner and owner.

And you can set individual bids on each of those. Now, if it turns out that yes, you do need a higher bid to reach VPs and above, great. Put those higher bids on the campaigns that are specific to those audiences. And, on the manager and director ones, maybe you don’t have to bid as high, so it just gives you a little bit more control.

If you are going to bid high, sure, you may be reaching the right people, but you could have reached the right people without having to bid high and have your budget disappear so fast.

The next one is audience expansion. A member of my team named Eric Jones wrote this haiku, I don’t know if you guys are into poetry, but I thought this was really funny.

The haiku says:

Shows my ad to those
outside defined targeting
That's dumb. Really dumb.
The Bad Advice Linkedin Is Giving You About Your Ads With Aj Wilcox

Thanks, Eric, for that.

Basically, audience expansion is turned on by default on every campaign that you start; you always have to go and uncheck it. And I believe that the audience expansion is the Covid-19 of LinkedIn Ads.

It’s the one thing that you need to keep six feet away or two meters away or whatever. Like, it’s bad. We have not found a single case when having audience expansion on improved results. It always d-proved them.

Okay, next is you need a bigger budget. LinkedIn wants you to spend more. It’s obvious why they want you to spend more. Oftentimes they are gold or receive bonuses based on accounts in their portfolio growing their ad spend.

So, of course, it’s in the rep’s best interest to tell you to expand your budgets, but it’s not in your best interest. The only reason that you should increase your budget is if you’re seeing good success and want to continue to expand. Or if your boss says like hey, you now have an additional budget, it shouldn’t be up to the platform. So take that one with a grain of salt.

LinkedIn also tells you that you need audiences that are larger than 300,000 people. They even, in the last two months, implemented a little message that when you fall below 50,000 people, they put a red message up that says your campaign’s in danger if you’re targeting fewer than 50,000.

Of course, LinkedIn likes larger audiences, and the dirty little secret is the larger the audience, the more likely it is that you’re actually gonna spend the budget that you have, which is their top goal. Their top goal is to get your budget. But that’s not something that you should be caring about.

You should be wanting to show your ads to specific qualified audiences. My recommendation is don’t ever expand your audience unnecessarily to people who are not part of your target audience just because you’re trying to hit some arbitrary number. You know, we definitely recommend audience sizes that are between about 20,000 to 80,000 people.

We found that if you’re targeting under 20,000, oftentimes you’re not gonna spend very much to make the campaign worth running and managing and all that. But if you have a highly targeted audience, let’s say it’s like an account-based marketing audience of those who are your absolute ideal customer, there’s no reason to expand that. You can, of course, keep it on a steady, slow drip.

If your audience sizes are above about 80,000, it’s really easy at that point to break that audience up into two or three so that you can speak more specifically to that audience or control budgets, as we talked about earlier.

And by the way, you can have an audience all the way down to 300 people. Of course, LinkedIn doesn’t want you to target 300 people because it’s not gonna spend very much, but it’s totally under your control.

All right, last one here. The last Hot Take.

LinkedIn doesn’t want you to pause your ads. They warn you that if you ever pause your ads, you reset your relevancy score, which is kind of the score you have as an advertiser that shows whether you should get low-cost clicks or high-cost or whether they should show you a lot or not show you at all.

So LinkedIn will warn you against this. Obviously, it’s in their best interest that your ads stay on all the time because you will spend more.

But, I would tell you if you find certain days or certain hours of the day that don’t perform, don’t feel like you need to keep spending money during those hours. Just to hit some arbitrary metric that LinkedIn has. Even if they do reset your relevancy score, you’ll probably get it back if your ads continue to perform well.

So keep your ads fresh and new regularly so that people will continue to click on them. If you leave the same ads for like a month or more, oftentimes, those will start to saturate because people have seen it before, and they stop paying attention.

So takeaway actions: if you have an account open right now, go disable audience expansion on every campaign you have, immediately. Set budgets that you are comfortable with, set audience sizes that make sense for your audience, and don’t unnecessarily embiggen them.

Pause ads on days that you don’t want to advertise, and stop feeling pressure from the ad reps to make changes that don’t make sense.

And with that being, the one key takeaway here is audience expansion is the Covid 19 of LinkedIn ads. So definitely make sure you always, always disable that.

If you are interested in LinkedIn ads, I highly recommend listening to the podcast. I’m the host; it’s called the LinkedIn Ads Show. We go into a lot of depth about LinkedIn ads. We get really nerdy, so if this is medium-level nerdy and you wanna see high-level nerdy, go check out the podcast.

It’s easy to find. Just search for LinkedIn ads, and we’re probably gonna be the first ones to pop up. Okay, that being said, Q&A time, bring it on.

Any questions you’ve got.

Gary Amaral

That was super awesome. AJ, lots of people sharing comments in the chat and, listen, I guess, you know, it’s obvious why they have these recommendations, right? Like, there are incentives that cross purposes going on, right? But are there any times when these tips that they typically give are actually the right tips?

AJ Wilcox

That’s a good question. You know, if an advertiser has really, really big hopes and dreams of advertising, and they make their targeting way too tight. They get down to an audience size of like 5,000 people, and they have a $ 5,000-a-month budget.

Like not good things are gonna happen. They’re not gonna get nearly the volume they were hoping. Often, they’ll leave and tell people like, LinkedIn ads don’t work. I went after my target audience and didn’t even spend any money.

So they obviously don’t want that to happen. So there is some wisdom in making sure that your audiences are large enough.

That being said, if you’re an advanced enough marketer and you’ve used the platform a little bit, you know they’re trying to give them to very basic advertisers, but if you’re not a basic advertiser, you can pretty safely ignore them and kind of go your own way.

Gary Amaral

Cool. So Carol said, Hey, can you comment on boosted posts? Do you have a POV on boosted posts?

AJ Wilcox

I do. So boosted posts are difficult. On the one hand, the thing that they do really, really well is they take content that already has social proof. It already has likes and comments. And even shares.

So these, when you go to boost these to people, they’re gonna appear in their newsfeed, and they’re gonna be a lot more likely to be like, oh, this company must be legit.Yeah, I’ll interact with this.

So that’s the huge positive.

The big negative, though, is that we, in B2B, need to carry data through for tracking an attribution. And if we have an organic post on our company page with tags that show that it’s an organic post or maybe doesn’t even have tracking parameters in it at all.

That means when someone goes and becomes a prospect, they fill out a form through that link. We’re not gonna be able to tag them in the CRM correctly: this person came from LinkedIn; they came from this specific ad. So it makes tracking a lot more difficult, which is unfortunate.

So, for right now, we have to choose. Do you want the tracking data and attribution, or do you want the social proof?

In the future, LinkedIn tells me that they’re gonna have the ability to do dynamic UTM parameters. And so that means any post you can replace the tracking parameters in it. That’s what I’m waiting for. We’re gonna get the best of both worlds.

We can boost a post and get tracking parameters that tell the CRM what ad they saw.

Gary Amaral

Awesome. Good to know. Antonio, his question is, smaller audiences usually mean increased costs. Does it make sense to go a bit broader just for the sake of help from the algorithm and reduce costs?

AJ Wilcox

Maybe, but I mean, if you’re doing something, like, if you’re letting a whole bunch of people in who are not relevant at all, obviously that’s not gonna help if you let people in who are maybe tangentially relevant to help bring down costs.

I mean, these are tests you can run. You can run the two campaigns, one after another, and see based off of the same bid for both. Does one not spend your budget at all and one overspend it? So there is a break-even point, at some point. You just have to find it for your audience and your ads.

Gary Amaral

Awesome. I guess in terms of getting started with LinkedIn ads, you know, maybe a smaller company doesn’t have a budget for an agency. They want to get started. Obviously, they’re not getting a LinkedIn rep day one; they’re probably not getting this bad advice, but where do they go to figure out how to dip their toe?

AJ Wilcox

Oh, I’ve got a really good resource for you. The URL is It’s the same checklist that we give to all of our new clients who are onboarding. It’s the steps and everything that you need to get your account set up and running properly. There are the basics of everything that you need before you can even start advertising.

There are a bunch of other things that you wanna make sure you have to make it even better. And this guide is a hundred percent free. So, go enjoy that one. It’s a good resource.

Gary Amaral

Awesome, AJ, we are on time. This was a super interesting, super enter entertaining session. Really appreciate you being here. For everyone listening, thank you so much for participating in the marketing track of this edition of Hot Takes Live.