Making LinkedIn Links Count

SEOs have long been preaching the importance of anchor text in links and have long pointed out LinkedIn as a great place to gain keyword-rich links. Hundreds of thousands of LinkedIn users have followed this great advice, but something changed late last year that no one else seemed to notice.

dustin woodard searchfest 2010Note from Dustin: This SEO tip is a reward for those following my blog. I’ve kept this one secret since late last year so I could share it at Searchfest during my talk on Reputation Management earlier this month. I’m sharing it here as a reward for people who have been following me, but will not be actively promoting this tip as I don’t want it to be discovered by too many people, causing LinkedIn or Google to make changes.

Again, SEOs, including myself, have long been preaching that the links you share in your LinkedIn profile should use custom anchor text so instead of the link saying “My Website” or one of the other generic terms, it could pass along a keyword-rich link. For example, my link to this site said something like “Dustin’s SEO Blog” so I was at least giving Google or other engines a better indication to what the site is about–something that is deemed very important in their algorithms.

Well, my advice has changed. Why? Turns out LinkedIn went the way of Twitter & other popular UGC sites and no-followed all the links. Let me say that again, in case you missed it: LinkedIn links no longer count in the eyes of search engines!

This is unfortunate as I believe those links should count. There’s no need for LinkedIn to hoard their link juice and the links are limited, transparent, and attached to real people with real business networks. It also gives spiders a chance to discover small sites it may not discover otherwise. I’m not familiar with search spammers using LinkedIn to game the search engines, but I suppose it may have happened enough for Google to pressure LinkedIn. For those who link to their LinkedIn profiles a lot, the fact that LinkedIn is not linking back to your site (even though you specifically tell it to do so) might be enough reason for you to reconsider.

After some tinkering, I discovered there is a way to get followed links from LinkedIn. Here’s what you need to do:

Go into your LinkedIn profile and edit the links section. Your choices in the drop down should look like this:

LinkedIn Links SEO

You’ll notice that I highlighted “My Website” and “My Blog.” If you choose one of those two, you will get a followed link from LinkedIn. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to customize the text as you can with the “Other” choice, but at least the links will count.

If you are a person who has a lot of different sites, I’d recommend using both My Website and My Blog & using one of the other choices as you prefer (knowing you won’t get link love). Take a look at my profile for an example: Dustin Woodard on LinkedIn. And if you haven’t already done so, you should be using a custom URL (see settings – I used “woodard” so my link is http://www.linkedin.com/in/woodard instead of some random number).

There you go, a free SEO tip of great value to pretty much anyone on the web.

Searchfest Photo credit: seandreilinger

Facebook Link Summary Snippets

When you share a link on Facebook the summary text (or snippet) is usually displayed with the link. Sometimes they work well, other times they are completely random. Learn how to control exactly what shows up when a Facebook user shares a link.

Here’s an example of a link I recently shared that didn’t have ideal summary or snippet text:

Facebook Snippet

I wondered why it was such a poor summary, then I learned that Facebook uses the page’s meta description (same thing used by the search engines in displaying your page). The Webby Awards has no meta description, so Facebook tried to find the next best choice, which was the first paragraph in the code following the H1 tag.

As the user sharing the link, I can actually click on the provided summary text and alter it to whatever I like:

Facebook Link Summary

Facebook Link Summary Editing

The problem is, most Facebook users don’t realize they can change it, or are too lazy to. Plus, you’d rather feed them with the text yourself.

Solution: add a meta description tag to your pages, and make sure it is unique to the page (which will benefit your search engine display). No need to stuff keywords into your meta description because it will turn of Facebook users and it doesn’t help your search engine ranking (though limited keyword use can benefit from bolded SERPs).

Troubleshooting Facebook Snippet Displays
So you’ve got a meta description already in place, but you are wondering why the heck yours isn’t working. Here’s an example:

Google shows my meta description just fine:

Google Snippet

But Facebook shows this:

Facebook Link Summary Text

Turns out Facebook is hypersensitive as to how your display your meta tag. In my case, my meta description was written like this:
meta description facebook

Notice the capital “D” on description? Search engines don’t care, but Facebook does. Change it to lower case and it will work fine.

Solution: use
meta description facebook
This will ensure proper Facebook snippets (casin on mEta or cONtent make no difference to Facebook). After making the fix, it may take Facebook some time to recognize the new meta tag if it pulled it recently.

Facebook Links Display Title
The link display name, or title, uses the title tag of your page (same as the search engines). There is no case senstivity here so this should rarely be a problem for you. Sometimes Facebook has trouble pulling titles and descriptions, but it is more a matter of their fetching mechanism, because it usually works – try again if you do end up with something weird.

Control over Thumbnails in Facebook Links
Another frustration might be the images available in Facebook for thumbnails. The good news is you do have some control. You can add this tag to your pages if you want to provide a default image:

Facebook Thumbnails

You can also specify the medium type:
Facebook Medium Type
Valid values for medium_type are “audio”, “image”, “video”, “news”, “blog” and “mult”.

Since Facebook has such a high user-base, other services, like Digg have adopted the same policies for summaries, thumnails, and mediums.

Speaking at Pubcon

Dustin at PubconPubcon is always a great conference and tends to attract more practitioners then some of the other major search conferences, which is something I highly value. I’ll be speaking at Pubcon next week on UGC SEO (optimizing user-generated content to drive large volumes of natural search traffic). Surprisingly, this is my first time speaking at Pubcon and I’ll get to do it with the conference founder, Brett Tabke on the final day of presentations.

Besides the conference sessions, there’s tons of great parties. This year I plan to attend DK’s Poker Tourney and the SEOMoz 3rd Annual Search Spam/Werewolf party (went to the first, but missed it last year).

KivaThe Poker Tourney isn’t a charity event this year, but the intentions are still the same. This year Purpose Inc has asked that attendees post one of their favorite charities to a blog post. I’ve decided to mention Kiva, which is a non-profit that enables you to lend money to entrepreneurs in 3rd world countries to allow them to get themselves out of poverty. You get to choose who you lend to by reading their profiles and what the money will go towards, then they pay you back so you can lend to another in need.

Hoe to see you in Vegas!

Little Known Twitter Search Commands

Twitter search seems fairly basic, which often leads to people using 3rd party Twitter tools for searching. Most people don’t realize it, but Twitter some handy search command abilities:

Basic Twitter Search Commands (no surprises here):

  • Multi-word queries: if you search multiple words, Twitter’s default search will search tweets containing both (or all words).
    Example: big doggy would find tweets that contain both “big” and “doggy”, but not necessarily the words paired together.
  • Exact match queries: if you use quotes, you can limit tweet searches to exact matches.
    Example: “big doggy” would find tweets that contain the exact phrase “big doggy”.
  • OR queries: if you are looking for two related or interchangable words, OR queries work well.
    Example: dog OR doggy would find tweets that contain either words.
  • Hash Tag queries: Hash tags used to be one of the only methods of putting a stamp on your tweet to help those searching in Twitter, but they not as critical these days as Twitter search has improved. Regardless, people still use hash tags (#), especially when attending events or joining in on a meme
    Example: #ff would find tweets that contain #ff (which stands for Follow Friday).
  • At queries: when referencing someone on Twitter, you use @ (at reply), so it makes sense you can search for people doing so.
    Example: @webconnoisseur would find tweets reference me.
  • Question queries: target tweets that ask a question.
    Example: web designer ? would most likely find tweets of people looking for web designers.

Advanced Twitter Search Commands:

  • Combining queries: You can combine queries to really nail down what you are looking for.
    Example: “seattle startup” OR “seattle start-up” OR “@seattle20” combines the simple search commands listed above and would be an excellent way to find tweets related to startups in Seattle.
  • From and To queries: You can actually target tweets that are specifically sent to or from someone.
    Example: “from:GregBoser” “to:Graywolf” would show me tweets Greg Boser sent to Michael Gray. If you perform a query like this, Twitter will also include a link that will allow you to see the entire conversation, if there is one.
  • Exclude queries: You can specify words you don’t want to see in your query.
    Example: hello -kitty would show me hello tweets, but exclude tweets that are reffering to hello kitty or someone saying hello to their kitty on twitter (trust me, you want to stay away from these people).
  • Location queries: You can actually limit tweets by location.
    Example: beer near:Seattle within:15mi would show me beer tweets written within 15 miles of Seattle

    Note: it isn’t entirely accurate as it appears to go off the location the person has listed in their profile, which isn’t always where they are at the time.
  • Date-based queries: You can actually limit tweets by date, both before (use “since:”) or after (use “until:”).
    Example: techcrunch since:2009-09-12 until:2009-09-13 would show me tweets about TechCrunch over the weekend on September 12th or 13th
  • Attitudinal queries: Some Twitter users incorporate happy or sad faces into their tweets. You can search these to find attitudes about topics.
    Example: cloudy with a chance of meatballs :) would show me people who were happy to go see or enjoyed the movie Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.
  • Source queries: probably one of the least useful queries unless you want to research a 3rd party tool’s adoption, you can do query searches by tweet software source.
    Example: LOL source:tweetdeck would show me LOL tweets that came from someone using tweedeck.
  • Link filtered queries: a great way to track down referenced links, this query will limit Twitter searches to tweets that contain links.
    Example: mashable filter:links would show me people’s tweets linking to Mashable articles.
  • Jumping forward in older searches if you are hunting for something via Twitter search and want to save yourself from clicking “older” over and over, you can change the page number (after your first older click) in the Twitter URL to jump forward.
    Example: http://search.twitter.com/search?max_id=3984008800&page=2&q=fight&rpp=20 is the result I get after searching fight in search.twitter.com and clicking on older once. To jump further back in time and skip a bunch of tweets, I can go up to the browser URL box and change the page=2 portion to page=35 to jump straight to page 35.

Hope you find these Twitter search commands useful. If you know of others, or would like to share your example uses, please leave a comment.

LinkedIn Benefits from Unemployment

If you think about it, LinkedIn is a natural beneficiary from massive layoffs. Upon being laid off, here are some user activities LinkedIn might not see otherwise:

  • Status updates to let others know about layoff
  • Recommendation requests to co-workers
  • Recommendations for co-workers
  • Profile updates and employment history updates
  • Status updates about job seeking
  • LinkedIn personal network job searches
  • Contact info lookups to find names & phone numbers to fill out unemployment benefits job search logs
  • Network inbox emails to ask for help with employment

Outside the unemployment-related activities I list above, there are, of course, many other activities that you might see even in healthy job markets like looking up potential bosses, researching organizations, growing network, Q&A activity, etc.

LINKEDIN UNEMPLOYMENT CORRELATIONS
The numbers don’t lie: LinkedIn certainly benefits from this increase in activity and the activity is well-documented. In terms of pageviews, LinkedIn went from 272 million pageviews in March ’08 to 872 million pageviews in March ’09 (252% growth according to Compete.com data).

Not only does an increase of unemployment catapult activity (as measured by pageviews), it also greatly benefits reach (as measured by uniques). Check the graph below that I created that shows LinkedIn uniques visitor growth and the unemployment rate for the past two years:

LinkedIn Unemployment