When you’re planning your content strategy in 2016, one prominent tactic will be to publish long-form content to LinkedIn.
The numbers supporting this approach are compelling:
- Users posted about 130,000 posts per week on LinkedIn in 2015.
- More than with any other social network, most people believe there is an opportunity to establish professional expertise by posting on LinkedIn.
- LinkedIn’s user demographics are uniquely positioned for targeted content distribution (as will be discussed later in this article).
Of course, relative to WordPress (3.6 million posts per week) and other content platforms, LinkedIn is still pretty small. So, let’s explore five best practices that can help communication professionals and content marketers optimize their content for LinkedIn:
1. Be aware of LinkedIn’s unique demographics.
In his great book, “The Sales Acceleration Formula,” Mark Roberge describes how an email address is far more valuable to him than a LinkedIn InMail. Anybody who has tried to use InMail for lead generation probably understands that sentiment.
That a user has a profile on LinkedIn does not necessarily mean he or she is using LinkedIn, which is truer for this social network than for most others.
LinkedIn is unique not only in its gender distribution, but also in its income demographics (mostly college graduates) and its age demographics (mostly 30+).
LinkedIn might be a fantastic platform for targeting content to a specific audience or demonstrating expertise within a professional group. The question remains: Are the people you think are there really there?
2. Use proper blog structure.
In a fantastic post for Moz.com, Cyrus Shepard describes the benefits of blog structure (e.g., bullet points, numbering, block quotes, italicized text) as a strategy for generating back links.
At this point, you might be wondering what back links have to do with publishing your content to LinkedIn. It’s simple: This strategy builds more back links, because it makes your content more interesting.
LinkedIn has a smaller complement of markup tools than WordPress or other blogging platforms offer, but the ideas for enhancing your content remain the same:
- Use subheads to create a hierarchy.
- Use bold and italicized text to emphasize key points.
- Use Web links to cite your sources.
- Use images (especially a featured image) to create visual interest.
3. Write for mobile consumption.
In December, LinkedIn significantly improved its mobile apps. Content creators can pay special attention to two elements:
- Headlines. Writing a compelling headline becomes especially important for mobile devices, as it might be the only thing helping a reader decide whether to read a piece of content.
- Embedded media. LinkedIn enables you to embed rich media (YouTube videos, Soundcloud files, embedded tweets, etc.) into long-form content. However, one study observed a decrease in content consumption for posts that include rich media. Especially on mobile devices, posts with embedded media can look busy or disproportionate, so be judicious with the embedded content in your LinkedIn post.
4. If you want to republish content, post it to LinkedIn first.
A lot of advice about publishing long-form content to LinkedIn suggests that content can be repurposed (syndicated) to LinkedIn. Knowing that Google enforces a duplicate content penalty on sites, I was curious to understand how syndication would work.
Typically for a website to syndicate content that content would be set to “noindex,” the canonical site would be identified, and there would be a disclaimer link at the bottom of a post.
Unfortunately, you cannot identify a LinkedIn post as canonical nor tell Google not to index a LinkedIn post. There does not seem to be a definitive opinion on how to properly syndicate posts to LinkedIn.
If you want to syndicate your content to LinkedIn—and still avoid a duplicate-content penalty—the only path that currently makes sense to is to publish on LinkedIn first and then to syndicate that content to your site with a noindex tag and canonical link back to the original post.
This means search engines will refer search traffic back to LinkedIn rather than to your site. However, it is not clear that publishing to LinkedIn is a sound strategy for generating search traffic anyhow.
5. Ignore most of the advice you read.
Most guidance about publishing to LinkedIn falls into two categories:
- General blogging best practices
- Statistics-based advice clearly derived from an unrepresentative sample
General blogging best practices work well for LinkedIn long-form posts; there is not a whole lot that is unique about posting to LinkedIn as opposed to other platforms.
As for the second point: Because there is not a lot of available long-post data for LinkedIn, it is more than likely unreliable.
If, for instance, people look at the top thousand posts on LinkedIn to determine statistical trends, they are probably lumping Richard Branson’s and Bill Gates’ posts together in that research. The collective Internet-famous “we” do not generate as much interest as
Richard Branson or Bill Gates, agnostic of content, form or anything else. Take such metrics with a grain of salt.
A version of this article first appeared on the Cision blog.