SEO with LinkedIn
A quick search of Google will give you the conventional wisdom. If you’re optimising blog posts for Google search, then you want the traffic to your own blog – not to LinkedIn.
The logic’s sound. If the traffic is on your owned content, then you can convert the traffic using conversion methodology: customer onboarding then follows...
For business focused content – whether you’re a one-man band or a global conglomerate – I’d find it impossible to disagree. But what if your content isn’t specifically focused around your business? What if it’s content that sits outside of your day to day job, business or main passion?
Let’s work through an example. I work for a technology company. Our markets are education and the public sector. If I’m writing about anything to do with the types of challenges that our customers have, the potential solutions that are on offer within the marketplace or the types of products and services we sell – that content is going on the Stone blog.
I work in marketing. Suffice to say, Stone's target personas only like hearing from marketing people when it contains information that’s of value to them. As someone who works in marketing, I have lots of thoughts and opinions about marketing that just wouldn’t fit on the Stone blog. I’m also passionately involved the exponential technology movement and have spent a lot of time speaking and blogging about technologies like chatbots that haven’t quite crossed into the domain of the masses yet.
At that point there are two options. I could either go through the rigmarole of creating a new brand, a new Wordpress site, and building a following to drive traffic to my blog. Or I could use a publishing platform like LinkedIn.
If you had aspirations of starting your own agency or business at some point in the future, it might make sense to build a community of your own that you control. I chose LinkedIn – primarily because:
1. I could get up and running in minutes
The publishing platform works really well. I didn’t have to mess about developing, branding and maintaining a Wordpress site.
2. I could take the party to the people
My network is already pretty established on LinkedIn. Many of my Marketing and technology peers are active on here and with the recent Microsoft acquisition – it’s only going to get more tightly integrated with the tech space.
3. It makes the content natively shareable
All content on LinkedIn is designed by the site to be shareable. It’s in their interests to help you get your stuff shared.
In the last twelve months, I’ve become more involved in SEO and Google optimised content. It only follows then that I would be keen to see if I could integrate it into my LinkedIn content strategy. I was curious to see if there’s anything I should do with my Pulse posts. A quick search threw up two areas of discussion:
1. How to cross post from your own blog to LinkedIn, and not get penalised by Google for having duplicate content.
2. How to SEO your LinkedIn profile – seems an obvious one and it’s something I was definitely aware of when searching Google for stuff.
To my surprise, I couldn’t find anything that really spoke about Google ranking and LinkedIn Pulse content. How could LinkedIn be used as part of an SEO strategy for your brand or personal brand? How does Google respond to LinkedIn Pulse articles that are optimised for search? Could it help to build traffic?
I struggled to find a good comparison post when starting on my chatbots building endeavours, so I decided I would test out my theory in this area.
Having done a bit of keyword research, I found a sweet spot. I also found a control subject: a slightly rewritten blog article with the same keyword programming was submitted to NeoSchool.io – an education technology startup site.
We can quickly shoot down the control. Despite ranking initially for some keywords, the article quickly faded into internet obscurity, presumably because of the Domain Authority of neoschool.io as a startup.
With every other article I’ve ever published, the traffic has followed a predictable trend. An initial flurry of engagement and then nothing. Let’s say the Nii Lamptey of the content marketing world.
That was previously my most popular post in the last year too, until my SEO test turned out to be a real late bloomer. Let us say the Ian Wright of content.
As I said before, this is picking the best of the rest of the articles I’ve done yet still:
- Over 4x the total traffic in over half the time. There’s actually been more traffic in the last 15 days than there has been since the other LinkedIn article was published 9 months ago.
- It’s got an inherently global reach. As you can see from the demographic information, Silicon Valley is very much in the house, as is The Windy City and, erm, Perth in Australia: all major cities. It’s helping to round my personal brand with a more global dimension, which as the world gets more connected can only be a good thing. Conversely, the other article barring London features slightly less of a global dimension and considering Stone's office is in Staffordshire I don’t need any more of a ‘Stokey’ dimension!
- The traffic sources report is very telling. The SEO article has seen 88% of traffic coming from Google search, whereas 100% of the traffic for the VR article used for comparison comes from LinkedIn. I think this feeds directly into the other points raised above.
How it affects the LinkedIn algorithm change
LinkedIn have done some messing around with their publishing code. They seem to be split testing the ‘traditional' way of LinkedIn Pulse publishing with a newer version.
The ‘traditional’ process allowed you to assign three keywords that would help the article align with certain LinkedIn channels and the areas of interest members have in their profile. It then showed a very small percentage of the general LinkedIn audience (not just your connections) the article as part of the LinkedIn homepage. Those articles that got a specific threshold of likes, comments and shares (no one knows the specific formula) got promoted then to a wider audience and could potentially get big traffic.
I’ve had some articles that had received pretty good likes, comments and shares initially – but I’d never had anything that properly took off. That said, I always thought it was a relatively sound principle. I’d just not written anything that was good enough yet…I could see where I was going with more practice and tests.
Since then they’ve introduced a different way of doing things. In this method, aligning content keywords to users that may find it interesting is based on hashtags (that aren’t really a ‘thing’ on LinkedIn). I’ve had two posts that have used this mechanism and they’ve both been the worst performing articles I’ve had. Paradoxically too, they’ve also stopped notifying all of your connections when you post a new Pulse article. This is presumably because for people with a bigger network, perhaps more the open networkers, they were receiving too many notifications.
I’m not sure the solution to that was to turn notifications off. Perhaps being able to segment the notifications more effectively may have been a better way of doing things all round. What LinkedIn has decided to do is to try and show the content to the connections you engage with the most, those that are doing a similar job – or have identified as part of their profile that they’re interested in the same things. Not necessarily a great way to build the collective understanding of our world and for different disciplines to be inspired by each other but I’m hopeful it will be improved one day soon.
As I mentioned before, I’m reluctant to go and build my own thing. Considering this experiment, one approach to consider would be to actually just focus on LinkedIn pulse articles that aren’t reliant on the initial spike and can sustainably build traffic and bring inbound traffic to your profile.
This is taking an SEO first policy to LinkedIn with the objective of building a personal brand and reaping the benefits or more expertise requests and profile in my space.
Why is this article ranking
As a piece of content, I think it’s one of my stronger posts. But I think that’s quite a small part of the complex picture (as always with Google).
Perhaps a more significant factor is Domain Authority. For those who don’t know, “Domain Authority is a score (on a 100-point scale) developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines.” That’s Moz, nicely blowing their own trumpet there.
According to Moz's, LinkedIn’s domain authority is 100 – the same as the BBC, The Guardian and most of the other top traffic destinations on the web.
As a comparison, I was interested to see what a top blog with mass appeal could reach after years of hard graft, consistently great content and a bit of luck.
Legal Nomads has been featured (and subsequently probably linked to) by BBC, New York Times, National Geographic, The Guardian etc. As such, they came top of a league table of travel blogs by Domain Authority. The site was set up in 2008 and offers information on travel, which pretty much the entire of the developed world is in to. It’d sure be a hard slog for a marketing blog with time sensitive content to get a Domain Authority score half as good as that after 8 years of consistently posting great content.
Why is this good
It reduces the need to be really frequent
One of the downsides I’ve experienced with publishing on LinkedIn considering the initial ‘spikes’ is that it forces you to become really frequent. Because historically each post’s shelf life only really lasts for two days max, it’s meant in an ideal world I’d be posting weekly. With my other commitments, I’ve simply not been able to meet that volume. Taking the SEO approach would mean I can concentrate on putting out the right articles at the right time without the pressure to be really frequent and still get an uplift in traffic to my profile.
It will bring qualified traffic
Anyone with half a nose in Google Analytics will tell you that traffic that comes to a website organically from Google will spend more time on site, will browse more content and have a lower bounce rate. If you apply that same principle to LinkedIn, then I’ll be getting more traffic and following the principles of inbound marketing if I have a meaningful Call-to-Action (CTA) then I’ll generate more 'leads'. I’ve had expertise requests from a number of people from all over the world asking for help since publishing this piece. That never happened before and that’s directly as a result of this approach and this article.
The more articles you do, and the longer they’re up, the more cumulative traffic you’ll have. Simple.
What comes next
Now that I see that this is an approach that can help build traffic my priorities are:
1) Publishing more content in areas where I have a story to tell and where there’s a ranking opportunity. This is something we’ve done with a consistent level of success with the content strategy at Stone, so I feel confident that this should be replicable. By the early part of 2018 I can then have 4 or 5 LinkedIn Pulse articles all bringing nice volumes of qualified traffic to my profile. That’s where I’d like to be.
2) Thinking about conversion specifically. Once the traffic is flowing, following the typical inbound methodology through would be the logical step. Barring the very obvious CTA of sending a message/InMail, the only thing I’ve ever done to improve conversions is to test variations of profile summaries and headlines. It will be interesting to have a think about this and run some tests. I’ll probably end of blogging about this once I see if there’s any value or not.