As part of creating a business page for Oilfield Intelligence (a niche review site for oil and gas services and equipment), LinkedIn kindly provided $50 worth of credit for their ads. That was enough to entice me, so I set up the ads. Four pages: create your ads, choose your target audience, select pay for impressions or clicks, and input payment information.

At first I chose to pay per click (CPC), but they were charging close to $5.00 per. Ouch! We do not have metrics for how much a single visitor is worth, but I suspect it is much less than $5.00 each and that’s if we had 100% conversion rate. Normal consumer web apps run around 1% conversion rate, so you’d need 100 people on your page before one signed up. At $5.00 per person, that’s $500 per new account. Yikes! Unfortunately, by the time I had done the math and researched a bit more, my LinkedIn session had expired (really? log me out in a few minutes?).

So, I return to the page and recreate the ads, choose who I want to target, choose PPC, and hit next. It’s a payment form, and I owe them $5 for setting up my account! At this point I’m feeling like I got the bait-and-switch: $50 “free advertising” for a $5 sign-up is a good deal, but it felt shady. I’m looking to see where I can set the limit on ad spending so I don’t have to pay anything out-of-pocket (it’s only an experiment, so I don’t want to shell out a lot of money before I can at least make a weak approximation at its value); there’s nothing you can do to limit your spending, except set the limit per day and the number of days to run. Again, this feels rather shady since the minimum per day is $10 so they’ll have me for $10 everyday that I forget to turn the advertising off. Ugh. “Fine,” I think, “I’ll go back and cap it at $10 per day for 5 days.” The payment form has virtually no navigation. You can go forward (submit your information) or return to LinkedIn, but not back to the previous three pages. I press my back button and see the familiar ‘resubmit form’ dialog. I click to resubmit and I’m routed to the homepage…

A third time, I begin the ads process because nothing has been saved. I re-create the ads, re-target the ads, then adjust the costs and move on to payment information. Apparently something had been saved! After several minutes of duplicated effort, I find that I have already set-up my account and they just need my payment information. I’m not sure why they could not tell me that on the first three pages.

This morning, I log in and check the report:

OI LinkedIn Ad Metrics

They had served the ad almost 6,000 times! And of those 6,000 impressions, we received two clicks. LinkedIn estimates those clicks to be worth $6.16! Good thing I am only paying for impressions… I am paying for impressions, right? That screenshot says I’ve spent $12.32. Checking the billing, I see this:

OI LinkedIn Ad Costs

The image shows that I had spent $2.57, a number that I am baffled by. The other page says I’ve spent $12.32 based on two clicks worth $6.16 each. $2.57 is closer to the cost per 1,000 impressions, but I never chose that budget. In one pass through the ad setup I agreed to pay around $3.50 per click (not $6.16); on another I agreed to pay $2.00 per 1,000 impressions (the lowest you can go); and on another pass it was $2.50 per 1,000 impressions. Never $2.57. Weird.

My initial impressions? Advertising on LinkedIn sucks. The site feels like an alpha release (as in not even ready for beta, much less a full product). The UI and information sharing is awful (how much have I actually spent and where did that number come from?). The setup is confusing. The navigation is weak. Perhaps worst of all, the ad placement is “unobtrusive” to put it nicely; more bluntly, the UI is cluttered and I cannot find the ads I’m paying above market rates for. I plan to use up the $50 credit then abandon the platform until substantial upgrades are made.

Compared to Google: Google offered $100 worth of AdWords credit–twice what LinkedIn is willing to part with. My Google ads are costing $0.39 per click–over ten times less expensive than LinkedIn! Google’s setup and reporting are markedly better.

Compared to Facebook: the OI Facebook page seems to be ranked way higher than the OI LinkedIn page. I interpret that to mean that the Facebook page is a better use of our time than LinkedIn in general. Reading about ads, both LinkedIn and Facebook offer an abysmal 0.1% click-through-rate, so the cost per 1,000 impressions is usually equal to the cost per click.

I’ll admit I’m new to setting up CPC campaigns, but LinkedIn just seems bad. Am I missing something?