Want to be a LinkedIn Influencer? Cheryl Conner shares five expert tips to creating a thought leadership presence on LinkedIn.
It’s no secret thought leadership is the element of PR and content marketing that is currently compelling small businesses most. And now, LinkedIn’s platform makes long form publishing available to every subscriber, providing entrepreneurs of every variety with access in one degree or another to their entire network of more than 780 million.
These means that while having a strong network of LinkedIn connections is undeniably helpful towards attracting an audience, you no longer have to establish a following first in order to find traction for every article you post. (Yes, take a moment to let that concept sink in.)
Over my past three posts in this series I’ve shared stories of entrepreneurs who are bringing in leads, broadening their networks, and closing sales derived entirely from their posts on LinkedIn. High quality, interesting and user-applicable stories are essential to their success. Beyond that, however, I had a visit today with one of Utah’s top SEO authorities, Bruce Rowe, President and cofounder of Sebo Marketing, about the SEO implications of LinkedIn posts (and other varieties of guest posting). We talked about the things he sees people doing both well and poorly as they start to publish on LinkedIn.
Fundamental Law #1 – What Are You Hoping To Achieve?
Rowe notes (and I agree) that the biggest mistake he sees posters making, both on LinkedIn or elsewhere, is not thinking the strategy through for what they hope to achieve in advance.
For example, from an SEO standpoint, posting your company’s link inside a LinkedIn article does, indeed, produce a Google result. That would seem to be a wonderful thing. However, is your purpose for posting to draw more people to visit your website? Or is it to gain broader awareness and higher authority for your personal or company brand around an area of expertise? Or is it relationship building, to find and invite interested parties to engage with you in dialogue around the topic at hand?
These answers will make a difference. If your goal is general awareness and links back to your company website, yes, Google can generally find your LinkedIn article, but it’s not a highly placed target for building your company’s SEO traction. Generally, the search would need to include both your name and the article’s headline, or your name and one of the hashtag search terms you applied to the piece. The very best LinkedIn posts are great stories on their intended topics that spur dialogue, create new relationships, and in some cases produce a solid interest in a sale that is generated directly from within the LinkedIn platform. Remember that in most cases you are starting with a business reader who has at least some direct or indirect connection to you and some interest in your topic before they even begin. When compared to a broad and somewhat sterile Google search, these readers are to at least some degree “warmer leads.”)
But if your biggest goal is classic SEO traction (for example, to push an undesirable review or story about your company to page 2), you would be better served to keep your LinkedIn posts strictly interesting and topic oriented and consider press releases, pay per click ads, or contributed stories and earned media outside of the LinkedIn platform as your primary resources to product google search result SEO.
Mistake #2—Ignoring the Duplicate Content Ramifications of the Posting Choices You Make
So what if you post an article in your blog, or you guest post or regularly post in an industry publication and then you re-post those stories—with proper citation and link—as full length posts on LinkedIn. Good, bad or otherwise? Says Rowe: “Remember that the first and highest ranking location your article appears in is going to be the primary link result Google sees.”
What this means for the majority of entrepreneurs: If you write a blog post on your site, a search on your name or on that topic will point viewers to your site as the source. That’s very cool if this is your primary hope and the location you use for nurturing and closing new business. But suppose you post your article on LinkedIn or on a national publication instead and then re-post it (properly cited of course), on your site? A year ago, it was standard practice, Rowe notes, but thanks to the newest Google changes, this is not a good plan anymore. Now your website is the second source where the duplicate content appears. Not only will your site not appear in Google’s results, the fact that your site is posting duplicate content will actually penalize your overall SEO rank. This is bad.
The better strategy: Take the most salient paragraph or couple of points from the post you run first on LinkedIn or as a national column and embed it into a new post on your site that elaborates further on the piece you just published on Huffington Post, or Topeka Sentinal, or Linkedin. On an “in the news” section of your site you can list the headlines and include the links to all of the places you’ve appeared, in summary. But make sure the full-length posts you put on your site are original goods.
But what if you re-post an article from an outside site as a full-length post on LinkedIn? Thus far, it doesn’t appear to result in SEO damage. Furthermore, in some cases, LinkedIn viewers may actually give more heed to a full-length piece that now also holds the credibility points of having originated in a highly ranked publication. The top posts on LinkedIn are generally always written as original material to LinkedIn, (or are pieces LinkedIn, not the writer, has syndicated from an outside location such as NY Times). But in this case, re-posting your own column from elsewhere (with proper link and attribution) appears to be worthwhile from a different standpoint: Your LinkedIn post will reach a different cross section of viewers than your original column received. Furthermore, the LinkedIn community will by and large be a group that feels much more compelled to jump into the dialogue with you and engage. In-depth interactions in the comment string, new connections and follow up requests are the kind of things that wouldn’t happen nearly so readily on a publication like Forbes, where readers go primarily to be entertained, educated, edified and then leave. So you may achieve 10,000 views and high SEO traction on your name and topic by posting in a major industry publication. But the meatiest dialogue and follow-up will occur within the separate (and generally much smaller) audience that finds your posts on LinkedIn.
In my opinion: SEO traction on Google and the strong interaction that occurs on LinkedIn are both vital goals. But if I had to choose just one of these outcomes—dare I say it—the majority of entrepreneurs are not helped nearly so much by aspiring for perceived authority and SEO traction by “being seen” as a contributor on Inc., Entrepreneur or Forbes as they are by advancing their leads, their sales and their business traction by publishing effective thought leadership posts on LinkedIn.
Mistake #3: Attempting to Misuse SEO in Thought Leadership
This is my own point of caution. An amazingly high number of people contact writers like me with absurd propositions such as “I am looking to achieve a link to my site from a highly placed publication.” Or “I have three links that want to be profiled. What is the price?” This is not a story, nor is it a value proposition of any kind to the writer or to the audience. Generally these pitches arrive without a care as to the context of the story or the writer’s beat. Not only is this a violation of policy for fairly well every reputable publication, it is also a worthless endeavor for the entrepreneur.
Striving to get quoted somehow, somewhere in order to get your company’s name and link in a major publication is nearly as bad as attempting to “buy” a qualified link. Not only does it not enhance the understanding of the company, the odd linkage for SEO motivation cheapens the publication as well. Most editors will remove them. In fact, a subtle etiquette has begun emerging among writers to not link a name and company unless the person’s role is vital to the story, simply to avoid the appearance of a contrived SEO link. So if your agenda is purely to draw SEO authority and links to your company page, you should find a way to tell or publish a compelling and full story that justifies the link, or stick to what is perhaps your authentic agenda – SEO linkage – by purchasing a company ad.
Some final words of advice from Rowe: As you do work on drawing traffic to your own site, take advantage of the tools from Google such as Google Analytics, the new Google Search Console and the new Tag Manager tool. These free tools make it easy to determine how people got there, what the search terms where that drew them there, and where your online traction is actually originating from.
A Better Strategy: Study What’s Being Done by the Best.
As examples of best practice in LinkedIn publishing, here are several of this week’s most popular posts. First, an example by Arianna Huffington on Nov. 24: “Business And Climate: A Match Made In Paris.” It promotes, in a gentle way, an upcoming conference on climate change that Huffington Post, Michael Bloomberg and LinkedIn, as a joint initiative, are encouraging leaders and businesses to attend in Paris next week. It mentions a program sponsor, Unilever, as an example of a company making strides toward climate improvement through a program called the Sustainable Living Guide. The piece includes current statistics on the problem and the status of several current solutions.
Yes, the piece is somewhat promotional. But the body of the text is true to the promise of the headline. Furthermore, the piece is constructed in a way that is interesting to any reader who is compelled by the topic, whether they want to read the full series and consider attending the conference or not. The language is straightforward. The endnote says exactly what the program is and what it wants to achieve, without marketing hype or “nearly sold out” trickery. So yes, the program sponsors and even the author had a vested interest in this particular post, but it is an authentic proposition delivered within an interesting article, which allows it to meet the criteria of solid thought leadership.
As to SEO wizardry, the majority of the best-read pieces on LinkedIn, such as Liz Ryan, popular Forbes contributor’s piece “When Your Manager Doesn’t Want You To Succeed” and Shark Tank’s Daymond John in “What I’ve Learned In Seven Years on Shark Tank” included no links at all. They are genuine thought leadership meant to educate and inspire. Both Ryan’s and Daymond John’s articles on LinkedIn are original. They are not, as many posters are currently doing, posted with link and credit to an original appearance on Forbes, Businessweek or even a company blog.
Think First and Foremost About Genuine Business Results.
What is your thought leadership coverage buying for you in terms of leads and a passageway to sales traction? For example, it might be heady stuff to have authored a piece that achieves thousands or even millions of views. But as a means of advancing your business, perhaps 200 highly engaged readers on LinkedIn, who are now connected and in a dialogue with you about topics that are likely to result in new sales for your business, are the better deal. Furthermore, thanks to the advances in LinkedIn publishing, this is likely the easier and more realistic goal that every willing entrepreneur can achieve.
This article was written by Cheryl Conner from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
Originally published on Dec 3, 2015 11:00 AM