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:

12 Things I Have Learned About LinkedIn & Using LinkedIn

“Knowledge is good.” – Emil Faber

Today’s newsletter is a mashup of two pieces I wrote for my email newsletter, one on things I have learned about LinkedIn that are useful, interesting and good, and one on things that occasionally make me grind my teeth. These are all things that I have figured out or have gradually dawned on me from using LinkedIn every day for 11+ years now.

Money talks and companies have money. If you have lots of money to spend on lots of premium subscriptions, ads or sponsored updates, LinkedIn will be keen to talk to you. If you don’t have money, LinkedIn is not that interested in you. Like many software platforms, LinkedIn’s business model is not designed to provide a high level of support to their users. The fact that this low level of support and interaction has provided a business opportunity for people like me is not lost on me.

LinkedIn’s primary customers are sales, marketing, human resources and recruiting people. If you are not in one of these four groups, you are not so much a customer, you and your data are the product LinkedIn sells to those customers. LinkedIn makes changes to the platform that will serve those customers. If those changes serve you, that’s a bonus. While it may sound nice that LinkedIn is “improving the user experience,” what LinkedIn is really doing is persuading us to become more active on LinkedIn, which is good for ad sales.

You are going to be contacted on LinkedIn by people you don’t know. Expect recruiters and salespeople to contact you. That’s the price of admission. Be gracious to people who approach you intelligently and respectfully. But if they don’t approach you intelligently and respectfully, all bets are off. Spammers and people who send automated crap messages should be treated with the lack of respect they deserve and reported to LinkedIn with extreme prejudice.

LinkedIn will never be a fabulous user experience. There are just too many different constituencies inherent in eight hundred million users. You have people who use it every day and people who show up once a year. You have people using it for sales, research, recruiting, networking, job search and a hundred other reasons. And each of those groups has a laundry list of features they wish LinkedIn had. As far as the user experience is concerned, “serviceable” is probably the best you should hope for.

If you don’t have a plan, you can waste an awful lot of time on LinkedIn. Plan what you need to do in order to accomplish your LinkedIn goals, do those things, and leave.

Using automation on LinkedIn hurts your brand. You people that use automated messaging tools on LinkedIn may be suprised to find LinkedIn users are better at seeing that your messages are automated than you think. Automation makes you look like you just see everyone as an entry on a spreadsheet. Hardly the way to build credibility and trust.

And if you use automation for things like profile views, connection requests, or messaging, LinkedIn will come after you. I hear folks say that LinkedIn won’t catch you, that it’s extremely unlikely. Well, it’s also unlikely that you will be struck by lightning if you wander around outside during a thunderstorm. For a while.

Engage one on one with your connections and other people on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a contact sport.

Social Selling on LinkedIn is just like regular selling. That is, if you do it well, it works. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of people doing it well (just like regular selling).

Remember that LinkedIn is a tool. A good one, but it’s not the Holy Sales Grail. This is mostly because people think LinkedIn is a social network, but it is really just a big database with a very small social network embedded in it.

LinkedIn is an excellent people database with good search tools attached. Though you need a Sales Navigator or Recruiter premium account to take full advantage of these tools. In my opinion, those tools are worth it.

LinkedIn can be used to find paths to people you don’t know via people you do know. Every time you see a little “2nd” beside someone’s name on LinkedIn, that means you share one of more LinkedIn Connections with that person. You can ask your mutual connection for an introduction, a referral or for more background on your person of interest. And you don’t need a premium subscription to obtain this info or use it. This is a very underrated and underutilized aspect of LinkedIn.

You get out of LinkedIn in direct relation to what you put into LinkedIn. By all means you can “do” LinkedIn in ten minutes a day, just expect to get results corresponding to ten minutes worth of effort.

It’s still a “give to get” world. The minute you start looking at someone’s LinkedIn profile and figuring out how you can help them, instead of how they can help you, is the minute you will start moving towards effective results using LinkedIn. The single best thing you can do on LinkedIn is invest your time developing your relationships with your connections. Very few people do this.

For B2B sales professionals, LinkedIn is a game changer. What originally attracted me to LinkedIn a dozen years ago was that it was what I had wished for since I started in high tech sales in 1985: A searchable database of most every customer I could ever want, a treasure trove of researchable material on those people and their companies, and the possibility that LinkedIn itself may be an effective method to reach out to them.

All of these things that I have figured out boil down to one overall theme: See LinkedIn for what it is, not for what you wish it was, and you will make more effective use of the time you invest in it.

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 or three articles like today’s, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page:

5 Things I Figured Out About Who Viewed Your Profile

Who Viewed Your Profile remains a popular feature on LinkedIn. After looking at thousands of profile viewers, here are a few things I figured out. 

1) Anonymous viewers are just noise.

That’s because they have no value whatsoever. Are they possible customers? Competitors? Suppliers or vendors? Headhunters? Who knows? I sure don’t and I won’t find out either, so why agonize over them? 

I don’t know why LinkedIn even shows users that they had anonymous viewers as it just winds up pissing those people off and making them mad at…LinkedIn. 

2) A lot of my profile viewers are likely bots

One of the sad facts of life on LinkedIn is that people still use automation to view profiles, figuring it will spur the viewee to reach out to them. But if someone is using an automated program they likely have no idea that “they” viewed your profile. I have reached out to people who viewed my profile and it is apparent that they have no clue who I am and that they didn’t go to my profile, but their software did.

I continue to struggle to see the value in a profile view where the viewer does not know they viewed my profile. 

3) My profile was sending my viewers elsewhere

Profiles come with a “helpful” sidebar called “People also viewed.” This sidebar will list profiles that the viewer may also want to check out. This feature is very useful to the viewer and to LinkedIn who gets the viewer to spend more time on LinkedIn, but it sure isn’t helpful to me. 

To my mind, two things can result from this list, both of them bad: 

This list often will contain some of your competitors, and even if it doesn’t, the last thing you want is to be presenting a list of “you may find these profiles more interesting than the one you are reading now” candidates. 

You can remove this sidebar in your Settings. Just go to Privacy and Settings > Account Settings > Site preferences. It’s (currently) the sixth item under Site Preferences.

4) “Found you via” is pretty badly incomplete

LinkedIn has a bunch of categories here, showing if people found me through messaging, their homepage, their network, people similar to them and so on. 

But for a large number of your visitors – 70% of mine when I looked just now – there is no source listed at all.  So I am unsure what conclusions I can draw about sources with such an incomplete dataset. Actually, I take that back. There is one conclusion I can draw….

5) People are probably not coming to your profile via LinkedIn search

I checked my own stats. In the past 13 weeks, LinkedIn tells me 25 of my profile viewers came to my profile after doing a lInkedIn search, or less than two a week. But LinkedIn also tells me that I have appeared in 160 searches in the past week. So “appearing” in search results does not appear to generate much in the way of profile views. 

And let me close with one observation. I have found that the profile views that do help me are when I can see several associated people from the same company all viewed my profile. That’s smoke that I want to investigate further to see if there is fire there too. 

Do you look at who viewed your profile?