Can You Game The LinkedIn Publishing Algorithm?

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5 surprising factors that don’t seem to affect published post engagement on LinkedIn and 5 not so surprising ones that do.

I have been publishing on LinkedIn for eighteen months now, and have written a hundred or so posts. I was looking at some of my posts and the engagement they had generated and wondered if any of the obvious factors really had any bearing. So I compared how my posts had done with other people who publish on LinkedIn. I compared their statistics with mine to see if there were clues that were precursors to success. I came to the conclusion that the following have little or no bearing on how much engagement a post gets.

  1. The total number of posts published on LinkedIn

Your total number of posts published seems to have no bearing on the success of future posts, that is people who have many more posts than I do don’t seem to average more views and engagement with their posts than I do. Of course their aggregate views may be higher.  If I have 20 posts at 200 views and they have 40 posts at 200 views, they have more total views.  

Lesson learned:

  • Don’t be deterred from starting to publish your own posts on LinkedIn  because you can never “catch up” to someone who has posted every week for the last two years. You are starting with a fresh page, but so is that prolific person who posts each week.

      2. Engaging with other people’s posts and updates? No discernible effect.

I had a look through the activity for ten people who publish their own posts on LinkedIn. More engagement with other people’s posts and status updates does not necessarily appear to lead those people to your posts. Several people I looked at have three and four times the number of status updates and comments on other people’s posts as I did in the last month, yet seemed to average the same post statistics as I did.

Lesson learned:

  • You don’t need to strive to be visible on LinkedIn in order for your posts to be successful

      3. Monster posts don’t have much, if any, spillover effect on future posts.

Having a monster post with a lot of  views and engagement doesn’t necessarily help with the next post’s reception. I have even seen this with the influencer posts

Jeff Haden November 17, 2015 post: 546,000 views

Jeff Haden’s next post on December 3rd, 2015:  23,000 views  

Lesson learned:

  • Don’t think that a monster post is necessary to be successful.
  • And if you have a monster post, don’t think you can cruise from now on based on that post. You are guaranteed no views or comments on your next post. Just ask Jeff.

     4. Post frequency has no impact  

Publishing more often doesn’t seem to change the results on a per post basis. No difference. Once a month, twice a month, every week, multiple times a day (!!). I reviewed several people who post a lot less often than I do and much more often than I do and our statistics were very close.

Lesson learned:

  • Post on your own schedule, not someone else’s.

     5. Do people with larger numbers of followers get more views per follower? It doesn’t seem so.  

I have 5500 followers. Jeff Haden has 890,000 (between the time I wrote this and published it he may have picked up another 5500).  I did some calculations based on the last nine posts we have each published (Jeff has only published nine times in the past year). Some interesting results:

Per post

              Jeff averaged:                                                        I averaged:

              93,000 views                                                         411 views

              1400 likes                                                               47 likes

              300 comments                                                      12 comments

Lessons learned:

Jeff’s number of followers is more than 160x mine. So three observations.

  • Jeff has better statistics than I do (that was the easy observation)
  • Mine might be comparable to Jeff’s if I took the time to increase the size of my network 160x
  • Jeff’s views and likes per follower are slightly higher than mine, but his comments are much lower. This argues that there is no exponential engagement accelerator with a larger following (for example a following twice as big doesn’t yield two and a half times the engagement).   

Grand conclusion:

You can’t game the LinkedIn algorithm with any of these things.

However, based on my own experience, here are five factors that do seem to affect overall engagement:

1) Writing quality. Not as big a factor as you would think, but being able to write in an interesting and engaging style helps.

2) The photo or illustration you use. Having no photo is bad. Using a stock photo is better than nothing. Using something original beats using a stock photo. How much stock and original photos are is open to debate.  

3) Headline. Better headlines lead to more views and engagement. I know this from my own experience.  

4) The topic of your post. On LinkedIn, a post on social selling will do better than a post on coal mining in Silesia (now I have probably offended all the Silesians)

5) Luck. LinkedIn has decided to put my posts in Pulse channels a few times. I usually tweet at them to feature my post (except when I have been skeptical of something LinkedIn has or has not done) and have been successful maybe one in ten times. Considering LinkedIn has that 130,000 plus posts to choose from every week, I consider myself lucky to have been featured at all.  

And one last one that qualifies as neutral:

Building up your own following

Regular readers who like, comment and share your posts – should help. I have a pretty good following (thank you all), but ironically, due to the nature of LinkedIn’s lousy notifications algorithm, hardly any of them actually do get notified when I post.

Hmm…looks like I won’t be notifying LinkedIn about this post either.  

Or Why One Skill You Need To Master On LinkedIn Is Writing Headlines

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A really good headline increases the number of people that read what’s under the headline. And there are three places on LinkedIn where a headline is critical to your success:

  • Your profile
  • Your InMails (sometimes referred to as Subject Lines)
  • Your posts

You may not post on LinkedIn, and you may not use InMails, but you do have a LinkedIn Profile, so we’ll talk about that first.

Profile Headlines

The purpose of your LinkedIn Profile’s headline is to get people to read your Profile.

And the profile headline has the distinction of being the most under utilized part of most people’s profiles. Why? Because most people just list their title.

I reviewed the LinkedIn Profiles of 500 sales and marketing people. These are people who should know how to sell themselves. The results? 492 headlines consisting of the person’s job title, or their job title and company.

So what’s wrong with listing your job title? It’s a waste, both for someone seeing you in search results and for someone looking at your profile and deciding whether to read it or go on to the next person.

If you are in a list of LinkedIn search results, the following are shown to the searcher:

  • Your photo
  • Your name
  • Your headline
  • Your current job title and employer

Typically, someone will be scrolling through search results, and deciding which profile or profiles to open and read. When you use your job title in your headline, you are just saying something that is already listed there. And you have lost an opportunity to use your headline to give the searcher a reason or reasons to choose your profile to read first.

Your headline is an opportunity to sell yourself, to tell a story in 120 characters (including spaces and punctuation). A story that makes the profile viewer want to stop and read your profile.

How many words can you get out of one hundred and twenty characters? Well, there are twenty-one words in these sentences

…and exactly 120 characters in those sentences.

Ask yourself: who is my ideal reader? And what does that person want? What result are they looking for? Then imply, or flat out tell them in your headline that you can deliver those results.

InMail Headlines (aka Subject lines)

While your InMail message will have three parts – the headline or subject line (which I will refer to as the headline for the remainder of this post), the body of your message and your call to action – the headline is the most important of the three. Why? Because the greatest message in the world and most compelling call to actions won’t work if the headline doesn’t work, and the reader doesn’t bother opening or reading the message.

There are a lot of things you can do and a lot of things not to do in an InMail headline, although if you take the classic advice of keep it short, keep it mysterious, don’t give too much away and allude to someone you both know, the logical ultimate headline…

“God sent me”

…would still come out wrong.

There is no one headline formula that works every time. There are lots of ways to write headlines and you should experiment with them. Is it worth the effort? Definitely. If you send ten messages to prospects every week, improving your response rate from one to two means one new lead every week. Over a year you have added fifty prospects. Combined with a decent sales process and close rate, that’s a lot of extra business.

Remember that they can’t read it if they don’t open it. The headlines only purpose is to get them to open and read your InMail or message.

LinkedIn Publishing

There are a ton of resources out there for post headlines (just google “how to write post headlines”. See you in five hours. Maybe ten). But the fact that there are that many resources shows how important headlines are to posts.

When I write, the writing is actually pretty easy. My rule of thumb is that one of my posts takes 3 hours.

  • One hour to write. This is the easy part. I will jot down my main ideas and just start writing till I’m done. Sometimes it’s a long post like this one, but even then, the first two parts of this post were largely based on parts of “how-to’s” I send to clients.
  • One hour goes to editing, though it is usually not all in one go. I will edit a post two or three times before I publish it. The first edit is big, the second smaller and the third just minor things. This will surprise some people who I am sure don’t think I edit at all.
  • One hour goes to the headline. That’s right, one hour. I will write down three or four headlines and then four or five variations on each. Then I will start dropping the ones that are mediocre or don’t work. I sometimes end up with two or three I like and just go with one of them. I look for a hook if I can, and I look for a fit with the photo I will use. I like to have fun where I can (like today), but I want my readers to have an idea of what they are going to read.

With LinkedIn’s current notification system, a good post headline becomes more important. A good headline can make your post stand out on a crowded homepage news feed.

But like a lot of things on LinkedIn there is no magic shortcut to writing good headlines. There’s a bit of psychology, then a lot of work and trial and error and experimenting. And it’s worth it.

LinkedIn Gives Archived Posts New Life & Creates The Long Tail

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A hidden advantage of publishing on Linkedin reveals itself

For those of you not familiar with the idea of a “long tail”, here’s a definition  from dictionary.com:

“the segment of a market representing the large number of products that sell in small quantities, considered by some to be of greater financial value than the few products that sell in very large quantities.”

This is the story of how I realized that by adding one simple feature, LinkedIn had increased the views and engagement from my old posts; in effect creating a long tail of engagement.

I write and post a lot on LinkedIn, at least once a week, and lately three times a week. I have a library of LinkedIn published posts on my LinkedIn Profile’s “Recent Activity” page that goes back over a year.

Over the past few weeks I have been getting a lot of notifications that people are interacting with some of my older posts. This peaked in early September when one week I received more engagement from a post that I had published in January than from the two posts I had published that week combined. I decided to investigate.

Using my statistics for post views and engagement, I went and examined all my posts from this calendar year. Up until early this summer, I would typically publish a post every Tuesday morning. That post would generate activity and engagement on that Tuesday, and then usually decay at a rate of fifty or sixty percent a day, that is if it received a hundred views on Tuesday it would get forty to fifty on Wednesday, fifteen to twenty-five on Thursday and so on and would finally stop receiving any views and engagement just in time for me to publish my next post the following Tuesday. Are you still with me? It’s okay to not be on the edge of your seat, but the background is important.

Around a month ago, all the statistics went a little weird. More views – and comments, likes and shares – started appearing for my recent posts, but also odd little “engagement eruptions” popped up for posts that were two, three, and yes even eight months old. But what had changed to cause this? It was pretty easy to figure out that it was due to this new little feature that LinkedIn has put at the bottom of each new long form published post:

…along with the headlines and photos from my three most recent posts

This was acting as a promotion for my most recent posts and people were responding. My posts from the previous week or two were now tailing off, but not to zero. But what about  the much older posts, why were they getting more engagement after all this time? From analyzing the timing for likes and comments, I have a theory for that. Someone will see the post I published today, and because LinkedIn is now teasing three more of my posts at the bottom of the page, decide to check out one of the other posts I have recently written (thanks LinkedIn). And if they like one of those, they then go to my recent activity page and look through all my older posts. It seems that if someone liked today’s post, and the one two weeks ago, they are predisposed to like the one from March too. And they express that through comments and shares. Which helps expose that old post to new people and all of a sudden a dormant post has new life.

There’s a lot of conjecture here, but I would like to share with you some statistics from the week of September 5th. (I wrote this post between the Sept. 11th and 13th).

My post the week of September 5th was viewed about 270 times.

My previous three posts – highlighted by LinkedIn at the bottom of the September 5th post – got 140 views that same week. That’s impressive: the three oldies got half as much as the new one did. A few months ago I would have expected that number to be 10 or maybe 20.

But here’s the real kicker: My older posts, past my most recent four, going back to ones I published in January got an additional 500 views.

My thirty “old” posts got more views last week than my four newest posts.

Aside from the January post that received 225 views, one post from May received 65 views, and a couple of others from March and June got 40 each. Almost every one of the thirty had at least five views last week. And while views are a somewhat sketchy metric on LinkedIn (and elsewhere for that matter), the fact is that I am now responding to comments every week on posts written months ago and seeing people sharing posts that were published months ago.

That’s a long tail. The aggregate of all the older small engagement numbers is a very significant percentage of my total engagement.

This one small seemingly insignificant feature appears to have doubled my readership and increased my engagement. There are a lot of things LinkedIn has done that I have not been a fan of, but this is pretty cool.


If you are interested in upping your LinkedIn game, email me atbrucejohnston115@gmail.com