How The LinkedIn Publishing Algorithm Works (Or Doesn’t)

How I envision the inner worklings of the LinkedIn algorithm…

While there are people who claim to know exactly how the LinkedIn publishing algorithm works, I am at best skeptical, even if just for the simple reason that LinkedIn is constantly tweaking it to take into account both the user’s experience, new features and whatever LinkedIn’s goals are at any given time.

And while there is promise in the new Notification Bell (coming out on LinkedIn profiles) that the people who want to see our content will actually be able to do so, people have to discover us and our content in order to want more of it.

With all this in mind, here is a handy guide to how the algorithm seems to work after you hit “publish”.

Step 1. LinkedIn puts your content in front of a small slice of your Connections. Or maybe it’s your Connections and your Followers.

Some people think this slice is 5-7% of your connections.

Other people think it is 5-10% of your connections and followers (which begs the question of how your followers could enter into it at all, seeing as LinkedIn has talked about your Connection Strength Score being important. I have yet to read about a Follower Strength Score).

I have seen other people who think the small slice is a discrete number like a couple dozen or a hundred connections (which doesn’t pass the smell test for me, as people with very large followings should have better distribution of their posts out of the gate shouldn’t they? I would think Bill Gates’s posts get put in front of more people to start with than you or I).

Step 2. LinkedIn watches to see what the reaction to your content among that first slice of people is like.

It is guessed that among reactions/likes, comments and shares that LinkedIn gives more weight to  comments. I think this makes sense as  comments take more thought than a simple like or a share (note that when I say “comments” I am talking about real comments, not stuff like “nice post!”).

It is also guessed that getting those comments, and to a lesser extent, likes and shares soon after the content is published is important. The problem is that “soon after” phrase. What’s that all about? Fifteen minutes? Fifteen hours?

Step 3. Should the content get lots of engagement quickly after we publish, the algorithm will decide that our content is relevant, and distribute it to more people.

Only on LinkedIn could I write a sentence like that last one, where the words “lots”, “engagement”, “quickly” and “more” are all open to interpretation.

Step 4. Steps two and three repeat until engagement wanes.

Let’s dissect this a bit more because I want you to understand what’s happening here and what isn’t:

  • LinkedIn acknowledges their role in boosting posts, especially during the time right after you post, and further boosting your post’s distribution if engagement is good.
  • But everything else is guesswork. While it is generally accepted that Likes, Comments and Shares constitute “engagement”, LinkedIn does not define what engagement is in the context of their intent to further distribute content. And note that LinkedIn also does not define or explain what “further distribution” is – how much further? Another five to ten percent of your followers? Friends and family?  How about a larger number as your high engagement is a sign of a successful post? LinkedIn doesn’t say.

The bottom line is LinkedIn has a big hand in you going viral, or at least achieving widespread distribution on LinkedIn. But…a big hand doesn’t mean the only hand.

While everyone seems to get hung up on the “who” your content goes to, and the “how many” of them it goes to, most people completely miss out on the “why”.

The magic word that everyone seems to gloss over is “engagement.” While we can argue till we are blue in the face about whether a comment is the equivalent of five likes to the algorithm, or one comment equals two shares, the bottom line is that engagement gets rewarded.

This is one of the reasons I have always thought views were a useless metric. LinkedIn decides who sees our content out of the gate, then it is all up to the engagement we get in order for more people to have the opportunity to see our content. No engagement, no views.

And as opposed to all those other metrics – how many people LinkedIn puts the content in front of and how fast people respond – engagement is one thing we can affect as the creator (oops, sorry, make that Creator) of that content. We can write with engagement in mind. We can write (or create videos or audio or whatever) with the goal of starting conversations.

My goal when I write and publish on LinkedIn is to get people thinking about how LinkedIn works and how they are using it. Sometimes my content prompts a lot of comments and conversation, sometimes not that much. But there is a very real correlation between the engagement I get and the number of views – further distribution – my content gets.

I have been writing and publishing for several years on LinkedIn, and I continue to learn new aspects to the way LinkedIn works. It took me a long time to figure out that engagement drives views, not the other way around.

The obligatory disclaimer: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. For some reason LinkedIn gave me early access to the LinkedIn Newsletter. I have no idea why, but thanks for reading.

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: