With a corporate motto of “Relationships Matter,” LinkedIn is usually on a short list of major social networks along with Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. But the fact is LinkedIn isn’t only about being social. This is a business network where the basis of relationships is professional more than any of the other big names.
Today I’m concluding my series on social and search with a look at how you can use LinkedIn to optimize in search engines like Google and Bing.
LinkedIn has 300 million users worldwide through 2014, in most countries of the world. The demographic of LinkedIn tends to be older than some of the more social networks. Because of its business focus, it’s seen as more “serious.” And there’s a culture of professionalism that means if you engage with people the way you do on, say, Facebook, you might have a hard time winning friends and influencing people. LinkedIn also established, from the beginning, strong metadata and themes pertaining to every aspect and identifier of a person’s professional life.
It’s maybe for this latter reason that there’s a perception that Google tends to consider LinkedIn more relevant and higher quality than Facebook or Twitter.
Let’s dig into this and more about using LinkedIn to improve your search engine results.
The Google and LinkedIn Connection
Do you have a personal page on LinkedIn? If so, try Googling your own name. Chances are your LinkedIn profile will be a top item in the search results, even if you’re not very active there.
Unless you’re someone tremendously influential, this link may outrank your website as well as other social media profiles—including Google+. This is due to the common SEO ranking factors of content, site architecture, and internal and external linking. Beyond that, Google has been quiet on the subject of LinkedIn specifically, despite this as a consistent occurrence.
It’s worth considering if personal profiles for key employees or executives at your company could be part of your overall social/SEO strategy. Check out this recent study that LinkedIn carried out with Brian Solis of Altimeter Group for more about that.
But personal profiles are only one feature of LinkedIn. You can also set up a business page—these operate basically the same way as personal pages.
Here are some general best practices to keep in mind for any LinkedIn page:
- Make sure your profiles are available to the public and therefore search engines.
- Link to your LinkedIn profile from your Google+ or Twitter accounts.
- Build out your profiles with as much personal content as you’d like to make public. LinkedIn offers a lot of flexibility in how you enter information in fields that are searchable by Google. For example, you can change the anchor text for your website from the generic fields provided (“company website” and “blog”) to keyword-rich text that Google can pick up. On a personal page, don’t just enter your official job titles in the work history summary: describe what you did. For business pages, include events like awards, mentions in publications, and upcoming conferences.
Now let’s look at a third way you can take advantage of LinkedIn for SEO. It’s also one of my favorite ways to use this network.
Long-Form Publishing on LinkedIn
As with the other social networks, the main SEO perk to using LinkedIn is not a straight line between your website and a Google SERPs page. Twitter and Facebook are great for building links and traffic through intensive sharing. You can use LinkedIn for that, too, but this network offers the additional benefit of allowing all users to publish long-form content—and do it in a way that’s potentially as valuable as posting content on your own blog.
The publishing feature was previously only available to top-level influencers like CEOs, authors, and thought leaders with strong personal brands. But this year, LinkedIn made this publishing feature available to everyone.
Long-form posts appear to be fully indexed by Google, so publishing offers the potential to get more links to your website—and having more of your branded content fill up a search engine result page.
I found this post by social strategist David Erickson (on LinkedIn, of course) very insightful about technical tips for optimizing your posts for Google:
- Use links because Google considers them, follows, and passes link value through them.
- Choose post title and keywords carefully. These are included in the title tag as well as URL structure.
- Use natural language and keywords in the first paragraph because this becomes the metadescription, the snippet of text listed under the blue link in Google’s search results.
One of the first issues that’s come up with LinkedIn publishing-for-all is about duplicate content. According to LinkedIn’s official publishing guidance, it’s okay to publish nonoriginal content. Will this have a potential negative SEO effect? The feature is still too new to know for sure, but the short—and cautious—answer is “maybe.”
To avoid possible duplicate-content penalties from Google, consider these best practices.
- Write a new article or short piece based on original content on your blog, linking back to the original.
- Make sure you’re familiar with LinkedIn’s publishing rules and policies.
- If really important, mark your original content using the rel=canonical tag so that it’s sure to be recognized as the original source.
- If you choose to republish original content word-for-word, only do it once in a while.
LinkedIn and Bing
LinkedIn can also be a part of your Bing SEO strategy, if you have one.
Bing’s natural-language processing repository—analogous to Google Knowledge Graph—is called Snapshot. Earlier this year Bing added 150 million new entities focused on professional associations to Snapshot. These incorporate individual account information from LinkedIn as well as from other Web properties.
So, if Bing is part of your SEO strategy—especially if that strategy includes a lot of personal pages—it makes sense to optimize those pages with complete profile information, relevant keywords, and long-form content.
Summing It Up
Like the other social network biggies, much of the SEO potential of LinkedIn is about boosting traffic and/or links to your own website from a more diverse audience.
But keep your eye on the long-form publishing venue that’s recently been opened to all users. Content here is fully findable by Google and Bing, and if you’re careful about duplicate content issues, it can greatly expand your brand presence online.
As with all social networking, use LinkedIn in the context of an overall content marketing strategy to get the most bang for your buck.