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Here’s what happened when I followed Googlebot for 3 months

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On internet forums and content-related Facebook groups, discussions often break out about how Googlebot works – which we shall tenderly call GB here – and what it can and cannot see, what kind of links it visits and how it influences SEO.

In this article, I will present the results of my three-month-long experiment.

Almost daily for the past three months, GB has been visiting me like a friend dropping by for a beer.

Sometimes it was alone:

[02/09/2018 18:29:49]: 66.249.76.136 /page1.html Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

[02/09/2018 19:45:23]: 66.249.76.136 /page5.html Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

[02/09/2018 21:01:10]: 66.249.76.140 /page3.html Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

[02/09/2018 21:01:11]: 66.249.64.72 /page2.html Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

[02/09/2018 23:32:45]: 66.249.64.72 /page6.html Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

Sometimes it brought its buddies along:

[16/09/2018 19:16:56]: 64.233.172.231 /page1.html Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko; Google Search Console) Chrome/41.0.2272.118 Safari/537.36

[16/09/2018 19:26:08]: 66.249.69.235 /image.jpg Googlebot-Image/1.0

[27/08/2018 23:37:54]: 66.249.76.156 /page2.html Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 6.0.1; Nexus 5X Build/MMB29P) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/41.0.2272.96 Mobile Safari/537.36 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

And we had lots of fun playing different games:

Catch: I observed how GB loves to run redirections 301 and crawl images, and run from canonicals.

Hide-and-seek: Googlebot was hiding in the hidden content (which, as its parents claim, it does not tolerate and avoids)

Survival: I prepared traps and waited for it to spring them.

Obstacles: I placed obstacles with various levels of difficulty to see how my little friend would deal with them.

As you can probably tell, I was not disappointed. We had tons of fun and we became good friends. I believe our friendship has a bright future.

But let’s get to the point!

I built a website with merits-related content about an interstellar travel agency offering flights to yet-undiscovered planets in our galaxy and beyond.

The content seemed to have a lot of merits when in fact it was a load of nonsense.

The structure of the experimental website looked like this:

Experimental website structure

I provided unique content and made sure that every anchor/title/alt, as well as other coefficients, were globally unique (fake words). To make things easier for the reader, in the description I will not use names like anchor cutroicano matestito, but instead refer them as anchor1, etc.

I suggest that you keep the above map open in a separate window as you read this article.

Part 1: First link counts

One of the things that I wanted to test in this SEO experiment was the First Link Counts Rule – whether it can be omitted and how it influences optimization.

The First Link Counts Rule says that on a page, Google Bot sees only the first link to a subpage. If you have two links to the same subpage on one page, the second one will be ignored, according to this rule. Google Bot will ignore the anchor in the second and in every consecutive link while calculating the page’s rank.

It is a problem widely overseen by many specialists, but one that is present especially in online shops, where navigation menus significantly distort the website’s structure.

In most stores, we have a static (visible in the page’s source) drop-down menu, which gives, for example, four links to main categories and 25 hidden links to subcategories. During the mapping of a page’s structure, GB sees all the links (on each page with a menu) which results in all the pages being of equal importance during the mapping and their power (juice) is distributed evenly, which looks roughly like this:

The most common but in my opinion, the wrong page structure.

The above example cannot be called a proper structure because all the categories are linked from all the sites where there is a menu. Therefore, both the home page and all the categories and subcategories have an equal number of incoming links, and the power of the entire web service flows through them with equal force. Hence, the power of the home page (which is usually the source of most of the power due to the number of incoming links) is being divided into 24 categories and subcategories, so each one of them receives only 4 percent of the power of the homepage.

How the structure should look:

If you need to fast test the structure of your page and crawl it like Google does,  Screaming Frog is a helpful tool.

In this example, the power of the homepage is divided into four and each of the categories receives 25 percent of the homepage’s power and distributes part of it to the subcategories. This solution also provides a better chance of internal linking. For instance, when you write an article on the shop’s blog and want to link to one of the subcategories, GB will notice the link while crawling the website. In the first case, it will not do it because of the First Link Counts Rule. If the link to a subcategory was in the website’s menu, then the one in the article will be ignored.

I started this SEO experiment with the following actions:

  • First, on the page1.html, I included a link to a subpage page2.html as a classic dofollow link with an anchor: anchor1.
  • Next, in the text on the same page, I included slightly modified references to verify whether GB would be eager to crawl them.

To this end, I tested the following solutions:

  • To the web service’s homepage, I assigned one external dofollow link for a phrase with a URL anchor (so any external linking of the homepage and the subpages for given phrases was out of question) – it sped up the indexing of the service.
  • I waited for page2.html to start ranking for a phrase from the first dofollow link (anchor1) coming from page1.html. This fake phrase, or any other that I tested could not be found on the target page. I assumed that if other links would work, then page2.html would also rank in the search results for other phrases from other links. It took around 45 days. And then I was able to make the first important conclusion.

Even a website, where a keyword is neither in the content, nor in the meta title, but is linked with a researched anchor, can easily rank in the search results higher than a website which contains this word but is not linked to a keyword.

Moreover, the homepage (page1.html), which contained the researched phrase, was the strongest page in the web service (linked from 78 percent of the subpages) and still, it ranked lower on the researched phrase than the subpage (page2.html) linked to the researched phrase.

Below, I present four types of links I have tested, all of which come after the first dofollow link leading to page2.html.

Link to a website with an anchor

< a href=”page2.html#testhash” >anchor2< /a >

The first of the additional links coming in the code behind the dofollow link was a link with an anchor (a hashtag). I wanted to see whether GB would go through the link and also index page2.html under the phrase anchor2, despite the fact that the link leads to that page (page2.html) but the URL being changed to page2.html#testhash uses anchor2.

Unfortunately, GB never wanted to remember that connection and it did not direct the power to the subpage page2.html for that phrase. As a result, in the search results for the phrase anchor2 on the day of writing this article, there is only the subpage page1.html, where the word can be found in the link’s anchor. While Googling the phrase testhash, our domain does not rank either.

Link to a website with a parameter

page2.html?parameter=1

Initially, GB was interested in this funny part of the URL just after the query mark and the anchor inside the anchor3 link.

Intrigued, GB was trying to figure out what I meant. It thought, “Is it a riddle?” To avoid indexing the duplicate content under the other URLs, the canonical page2.html was pointing at itself. The logs altogether registered 8 crawls on this address, but the conclusions were rather sad:

  • After 2 weeks, the frequency of GB’s visits decreased significantly until it eventually left and never crawled that link again.
  • page2.html wasn’t indexed under the phrase anchor3, nor was the parameter with the URL parameter1. According to Search Console, this link does not exist (it is not counted among incoming links), but at the same time, the phrase anchor3 is listed as an anchored phrase.

Link to a website from a redirection

I wanted to force GB to crawl my website more, which resulted in GB, every couple of days, entering the dofollow link with an anchor anchor4 on page1.html leading to page3.html, which redirects with a 301 code to page2.html. Unfortunately, as in the case of the page with a parameter, after 45 days page2.html was not yet ranking in the search results for the anchor4 phrase which appeared in the redirected link on page1.html.

However, in Google Search Console, in the Anchor Texts section, anchor4 is visible and indexed. This could indicate that, after a while, the redirection will begin to function as expected, so that page2.html will rank in the search results for anchor4 despite being the second link to the same target page within the same website.

Link to a page using canonical tag

On page1.html, I placed a reference to page5.html (follow link) with an anchor anchor5. At the same time, on page5.html there was unique content, and in its head, there was a canonical tag to page2.html.

< link rel=“canonical” href=”https://example.com/page2.html” />

This test gave the following results:

  1. The link for the anchor5 phrase directing to page5.html redirecting canonically to page2.html was not transferred to the target page (just like in the other cases).
  2. page5.html was indexed despite the canonical tag.
  3. page5.html did not rank in the search results for anchor5.
  4. page5.html ranked on the phrases used in the page’s text, which indicated that GB totally ignored the canonical tags.

I would venture to claim that using rel=canonical to prevent the indexing of some content (e.g. while filtering) simply could not work.

Part 2: Crawl budget

While designing an SEO strategy, I wanted to make GB dance to my tune and not the other way around. To this aim, I verified the SEO processes on the level of the server logs (access logs and error logs) which provided me with a huge advantage. Thanks to that, I knew GB’s every movement and how it reacted to the changes I introduced (website restructuring, turning the internal linking system upside-down, the way of displaying information) within the SEO campaign.

One of my tasks during the SEO campaign was to rebuild a website in a way that would make GB visit only those URLs that it would be able to index and that we wanted it to index. In a nutshell: there should only be the pages that are important to us from the point of view of SEO in Google’s index. On the other hand, GB should only crawl the websites that we want to be indexed by Google, which is not obvious to everyone, for example, when an online shop implements filtering by colors, size and prices, and it is done by manipulating the URL parameters, eg.:

example.com/women/shoes/?color=red&size=40&price=200-250

It may turn out that a solution which allows GB to crawl dynamic URLs makes it devote time to scour (and possibly index) them instead of crawling the page.

example.com/women/shoes/

Such dynamically created URLs are not only useless but potentially harmful to SEO because they can be mistaken for thin content, which will result in the drop of website rankings.

Within this experiment I also wanted to check some methods of structuring without using rel=”nofollow”, blocking GB in the robots.txt file or placing part of the HTML code in frames that are invisible for the bot (blocked iframe).

I tested three kinds of JavaScript links.

JavaScript link with an onclick event

A simple link constructed on JavaScript

< a href=”javascript:void(0)” onclick=”window.location.href =’page4.html’” >anchor6< /a >

GB easily moved on to the subpage page4.html and indexed the entire page. The subpage does not rank in the search results for the anchor6 phrase, and this phrase cannot be found in the Anchor Texts section in Google Search Console. The conclusion is that the link did not transfer the juice.

To summarize:

  • A classic JavaScript link allows Google to crawl the website and index the pages it comes upon.
  • It does not transfer juice – it is neutral.

Javascript link with an internal function

I decided to raise the game but, to my surprise, GB overcame the obstacle in less than 2 hours after the publication of the link.

< a href=”javascript:void(0)” class=”js-link” data-url=”page9.html” >anchor7< /a >

To operate this link, I used an external function, which was aimed at reading the URL from the data and the redirection – only the redirection of a user, as I hoped – to the target page9.html. As in the earlier case, page9.html had been fully indexed.

What is interesting is that despite the lack of other incoming links, page9.html was the third most frequently visited page by GB in the entire web service, right after page1.html and page2.html.

I had used this method before for structuring web services. However, as we can see, it does not work anymore. In SEO nothing lives forever, apart from the Yellow Pages.

JavaScript link with coding

Still, I would not give up and I decided that there must be a way to effectively shut the door in GB’s face. So, I constructed a simple function, coding the data with a base64 algorithm, and the reference looked like this:

< a href=”javascript:void(0)” class=”js-link” data-url=”cGFnZTEwLmh0bWw=” >anchor8< /a >

As a result, GB was unable to produce a JavaScript code that would both decode the content of a data-URL attribute and redirect. And there it was! We have a way to structure a web service without using rel=nonfollows to prevent bots from crawling wherever they like! This way, we do not waste our crawl-budget, which is especially important in the case of big web services, and GB finally dances to our tune. Whether the function was introduced on the same page in the head section or an external JS file, there is no evidence of a bot either in the server logs or in Search Console.

Part 3: Hidden content

In the final test, I wanted to check whether the content in, for example, hidden tabs would be considered and indexed by GB or whether Google rendered such a page and ignored the hidden text, as some specialists have been claiming.

I wanted to either confirm or dismiss this claim. To do that, I placed a wall of text with over 2000 signs on page12.html and hid a block of text with about 20 percent of the text (400 signs) in Cascading Style Sheets and I added the show more button. Within the hidden text there was a link to page13.html with an anchor anchor9.

There is no doubt that a bot can render a page. We can observe it in both Google Search Console and Google Insight Speed. Nevertheless, my tests revealed that a block of text displayed after clicking the show more button was fully indexed. The phrases hidden in the text ranked in the search results and GB was following the links hidden in the text. Moreover, the anchors of the links from a hidden block of text were visible in Google Search Console in the Anchor Text section and page13.html also began to rank in the search results for the keyword anchor9.

This is crucial for online shops, where content is often placed in hidden tabs. Now we are sure that GB sees the content in hidden tabs, indexes them, and transfers the juice from the links that are hidden there.

The most important conclusion that I am drawing from this experiment is that I have not found a direct way to bypass the First Link Counts Rule by using modified links (links with parameter, 301 redirects, canonicals, anchor links). At the same time, it is possible to build a website’s structure using Javascript links, thanks to which we are free from the restrictions of the First Link Counts Rule. Moreover, Google Bot can see and index content hidden in bookmarks and it follows the links hidden in them.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

“Do not accept ‘just’ high quality. Anyone can do that. If the sky is the limit, find a higher sky.” Max Cyrek is CEO of Cyrek Digital, a digital marketing consultant and SEO evangelist. Throughout his career, Max, together with his team of over 30, has worked with hundreds of companies helping them succeed. He has been working in digital marketing for nearly ten years and has specialized in technical SEO, managing successful marketing projects.





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SEO

SEO guide to optimizing your LinkedIn profile for more connections, better leads

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LinkedIn has the unfortunate reputation of being a platform for stuffy CEOs, spammy salespeople and college students that were required to make a profile in their university career skills class.

For that reason, many business owners and marketers treat their LinkedIn profile (if they even have one) like an online resume. They list their credentials, add a little blurb about who they are and hope that someone is intrigued enough to network with or hire them.

What they – and likely you – don’t know about LinkedIn is that it is a powerful search engine that has the power to drive targeted, high-volume traffic to your profile.

Not only that, but that traffic can very well turn into valuable professional relationships and new clients.

It’s time to stop sleeping on this platform and start tapping into that power.

LinkedIn is not just a resume

With LinkedIn optimization, you will build connections with some of the best and brightest in your industry and attract your ideal clients directly to your profile and inbox.

From profile optimization and SEO to content posting and engagement, this guide covers everything you need in order to turn your LinkedIn profile into a brand-building, lead-generating machine.

More than SEO – Full throttle LinkedIn optimization

Many LinkedIn optimization guides start and end at SEO, but I say that SEO is just the tip of the iceberg.

As with your business website, the success of your inbound marketing through LinkedIn not only depends on traffic but also on conversion optimization.

If you focus all of your efforts on SEO, without fully optimizing your profile for conversions, you aren’t making the most of the traffic coming in.

That’s why I put all of the LinkedIn SEO best practices to the test AND applied my own expertise around conversion copywriting, sales funnels and conversion optimization.

The result of that testing is this guide – which includes sections about profile aesthetic, creating a lead funnel, writing compelling copy on your profile and much more.

The LinkedIn optimization guide covers:

You’ll also learn how to craft a high-converting “welcome” message for new connections, attract your ideal clients directly to your profile and build authority with LinkedIn articles.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

1. Spruce up your profile aesthetic

One of the best things about your LinkedIn profile is how much real estate you have in terms of optimization.

Sure, the obvious places are your headline, summary and experience sections, but you can also take advantage of your profile photo and cover photo sections. This is what I call optimizing your “profile aesthetic” – as you aren’t adding SEO keywords, but are tailoring the look of your profile to your target audience.

Do looks really matter? You tell me.

How important is the design of your business website to how it appeals to potential clients/customers?

Exactly.

Optimize your profile’s curb appeal

I’m a strong proponent of squeezing every bit of juice out of a platform in order to have it work for my business. When it comes to LinkedIn, that means not only having it talk the talk, but look the look.

To optimize your profile’s “curb appeal,” you are going to focus on two features: the profile photo and the cover photo.

Profile photo

We are all familiar with the dull, grainy headshots on LinkedIn. If you want to take your LinkedIn branding seriously, I say: Dare to stand out!

You’ll want a professional, high-quality image that highlights your personality and business. Something that your potential clients will find approachable.

  • High-quality image – Clear, not pixelated
  • Close shot of your face
  • Simple background
  • Appropriate attire
  • Smile!

LinkedIn suggests having an image where your face takes up 60% of the frame. (I don’t follow this suggestion myself – oops!)

For some industries, your look may include professional attire and a corporate background. For others, it could be more casual. The key is to appeal to what your target audience is most familiar with in working with people like you.

I’m an SEO content writer who typically works from my laptop all over the world. My clients know this of me and don’t expect me to be wearing slacks and sitting in a corporate office. But if I were trying to land high-ticket corporate consulting clients for my SEO firm, I’d likely go with a different aesthetic.

And please, ditch the selfie. I highly recommend investing in a professional headshot for this. It will make a huge difference – taking you from amateur to expert.

Cover photo

The cover photo section also gives you ample real estate to tell profile visitors what you (and your business) are all about.

The default LinkedIn profile cover photo is a blue background with geometric shapes and dots. As far as us business owners are concerned, this is a near seven inches of desktop real estate that is going to waste.

Let’s make it count.

You can easily create a custom Cover image using Photoshop or Canva that includes a professional background and copy that appeals to your target audience.

Best practices include:

  • Adding a tagline telling profile visitors what you do and who you serve
  • Adding your website URL and social media handles
  • Having an attractive backdrop image that draws in your target audience
  • Including a call-to-action, or otherwise letting users know how to contact you

In the example above, we see how this LinkedIn profile makes ample use of the cover photo section by including a photo of the business owner at a speaking event, a bold description of what he does (“Grow your FB group, grow your business!”) and a clear CTA to visit his website.

With this, users know at a glance what he does, who he helps and how best to reach him – all without having to dig through his entire profile. Users can sign up for his free training – and join his email list – right away.

By optimizing the look of your profile, you give the best possible first impression to your potential connections. You also make it easier for potential clients to understand what you are about and how to get ahold of you.

Once your profile is pretty, it’s time to move on to the rest of the sections.

2. Write compelling profile copy

As an SEO content writer and copywriter, I geeked out when it dawned on me that LinkedIn is a great place to implement conversion copywriting. It really is a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, many of us have treated our LinkedIn profile like a resume – concise and professional, yet boring.

LinkedIn was built around the idea of professionals connecting with other professionals. You won’t effectively do that if your profile reads like the ingredients section on the back of a bran flakes cereal box.

Write with your target audience in mind

Instead, write your LinkedIn profile like you would your online dating profile, only, more professional.

Make it interesting, add pizzazz and write it to appeal to the type of people you want to attract.

There are a few primary areas where you can do this, and those are your headline, summary and experience sections.

Headline

Your headline is the line of text directly beneath your name on your profile. LinkedIn gives you about 120 characters of space here to tell visitors who you are and what you offer.

Your headline should be a combination of LinkedIn SEO keywords (which we will discuss in section three of this guide) and compelling copy. That’s because it works to both attract traffic and keep users engaged with your profile.

You want to be uber clear about what you do. This is not a space for witty taglines like “Probably out fishin’” or “I rank it, you bank it!” Not only do headlines like these not include keywords, but they can leave profile visitors feeling confused about what exactly it is that you do.

I suggest either keeping your headline chocked full of keywords, with a bit of finessing copy (“I’m a digital marketing strategist that help small businesses reach more customers online.”) or taking the time to craft a compelling headline with conversion copywriting.

In the example above, this business owner is straight to the point by simply listing what her job title is and the services she offers. This is fine. It includes proper keywords that could potentially draw in people that are looking for services like hers.

By contrast, this business owner focuses less on keywords and more on appealing to people looking for “business success” through a “best-in-class” partnership.

Note that both examples fill up their headline with copy and keywords, ensuring that none of that space goes to waste.

Not a great writer? You may want to reach out to a professional copywriter to help you craft a message that appeals to your target audience.

Later on, we will discuss how to find LinkedIn SEO keywords to include in your profile.

Summary section

Your Summary section is by far the largest space for adding compelling copy and LinkedIn SEO keywords. With over 100 words worth of space, you can’t afford to NOT optimize this section.

This is where visitors go to learn even more about you, your business and the services that you offer.

I like to compare it to the about page on a business website. And every great copywriter will tell you that your about page is about your audience, not about you.

You need to craft a summary that speaks to what your target audience is looking for. This is not a place to simply rattle off your accomplishments and services.

Ask yourself, What is my potential audience looking for when it comes to working with someone like me?

Market research will be able to answer this for you.

If you conducted market research prior to adding copy to your business website, then you can apply the same concepts here. If you haven’t conducted market research in order to figure out your audience’s struggles, pain points, needs, and wants, you will want to do that first.

Once you have your market research in hand, you will write a summary that appeals to your target audience/ideal clients. You will simply address their primary struggle and how you will be able to help them overcome that struggle.

In the example above, you can see how I address the primary struggles that SEO agencies have when it comes to outsourcing SEO content: poor quality and writers’ lack of SEO knowledge. Then, I go on to explain how I do things differently, what to expect when working with me and how best to contact me.

Your summary section shouldn’t ramble on and on; it should be concise, targeted and written with a purpose. Get your message across as efficiently and effectively as possible so that you can move visitors along your profile funnel without delay.

Experience section

The experience section is where I see most business owners getting lazy and treating their profile like a resume. I used to do this myself. Not anymore.

Your experience section is another place to include LinkedIn SEO keywords and compelling copy that convinces users that you are the right fit for them.

You do this by writing each Experience in a way that highlights what you took away from working at that company and the results you got for them.

Above is an example of how a LinkedIn user has used the experience section to include detailed summaries of the work she did at certain companies, the projects she was a part of and the results she generated through these projects.

For your own profile, you can mention things like percentage increase in traffic that you generated for an SEO client, an uptick in conversions for a Facebook ads client or how you increased a client’s business revenue year over year.

Highlighting these results is a great way to show profile visitors that you not only have experience, but how you can replicate those results for them.

I suggest writing naturally here, rather than including a bulleted list of everything you have done. Hand-pick your best examples and make them super compelling. Speak to what your potential clients are searching for and let them know how you can generate the results that they want.

Top tips

  • Add experience items for each of your top clients (and link to their company profile), being sure to describe the work you did and the results you generated for them.
  • Use layman’s terms whenever possible. Don’t assume that your audience knows what “CTR,” “schema markup,” “KPIs,” “keyword cannibalization” or other industry terms mean.
  • Remove any experience examples that irrelevant to the audience you aim to serve. If you offer SEO services to law firms, they don’t need to know that you were a Boy Scout in sixth grade or that you were party chair at your college fraternity.
  • Include references to any publications you write for or industry organizations you are a part of.

3. Implement LinkedIn SEO

LinkedIn SEO differs from regular SEO due in the fact that the keywords that users type in to find services and businesses on LinkedIn aren’t always the same as what users type into Google.

That’s because the average user doesn’t consider LinkedIn to be a search engine. They use it as it is intended – as a social media platform – and therefore use short-tail terms that match users’ job titles.

While users may use keywords like “copywriting services for small businesses” in Google, they are more likely to use terms like “copywriter” or “writer” on LinkedIn.

However, when users do search long or short tail terms in Google, LinkedIn profiles have the chance to rank in the SERPs. That’s why I suggest optimizing your profile with both SEO keywords and what I call “LinkedIn SEO keywords.”

Finding SEO keywords

To find SEO keywords to use in your profile, simply conduct keyword research as you would if you were finding keywords for your business website.

What do you want your profile to rank for?

Do these terms get decent search volume, with low competition?

Do they match the intent of your target audience?

These are all questions you’ll want to consider.

Generate a list of terms that are worth ranking for and that have a reasonable search volume. With this list, you will start on your LinkedIn SEO keyword research and then you’ll optimize your profile with a combination of these terms.

Finding LinkedIn SEO keywords

Unfortunately I have yet to find a tool that provides search volume data for keywords used on LinkedIn.

Therefore, this is not a hard science. But, if you are skilled in SEO, you can make some informed guesses around how keywords are being used on LinkedIn.

Here is my process for finding keywords on LinkedIn:

1. Search for the shortest, broadest term associated with the services that you offer.

Use LinkedIn’s search box to search for the broadest term that applies to your business.

If you have an SEO agency, this would be “SEO” or even “marketing.” As a Facebook ads expert, this would be “Facebook ads” or “advertising,” perhaps “social media.”

LinkedIn will automatically show you a list of the top results for that term in your network (more on this later).

2. Look at the full results.

Beneath the list of results, you will see an option to “See all results for .” Click on this to view the full results page.

This will take you to a page that shows you all of the results associated with this keyword, including the number of results, whether the results are connections, companies, groups, the location of the results and much more.

You will notice that the top results are likely connections already in your network – identified by a “1st,” “2nd” or “3rd” degree connection annotation. What this means is that you aren’t seeing the TRUE search results, as LinkedIn prioritizes showing people and companies that you have some existing connection with.

Our job then is to determine which terms yield the highest volume and best match results, across the board.

3. Take note of search volume.

Before moving on to the next step, make a note of how many results your initial search yields.

You can do this by looking at the original total, or by filtering it by people and companies. Do not add any other filters yet.

Basically, you want to know how many results are pulled up when users search for that term to find people or companies that offer services like yours.

4. See expanded results for first-, second- and third-degree connections.

Once you have recorded the initial “volume,” filter the results by ticking off the connection options.

This will pull up the profiles of people that you are connected with, as well as those that you are not connected with.

There’s no good way to see what others see when searching for your target keyword, but this gets you close. It will show you what keywords profile within and outside of your network are using, as well as how those profiles rank in LinkedIn for those terms.

This “search volume” will be your guide when it comes to deciding which terms are worth using in your profile.

5. Analyze the keywords used in the results.

Much like conducting competitor analysis of websites in your niche, you will now want to identify what keywords are being used in the “top ranking” profiles.

(Remember that is not the true search results, as they are skewed based on your degree of connection).

Note how your keyword is being used in the resulting profiles.

Are profiles using “SEO strategist” or “SEO specialist?” Are they simply listing “SEO, SEM, SMM” or are they more specific? See if you can find any trends here.

Finally, determine which terms are the best match for the kind of traffic you are trying to attract to your profile.

In the example above, we can see that most of these profiles use the term “SEO” near the beginning of the Headline, so this may be something we want to implement as well. “SEO strategist” has also been used.

Make a list of these terms. Then, enter these terms into the search box again and see what kind of results come up. Repeat this process until you have a list of the top 3-5 most used terms related to your initial “seed” keyword.

6. Reference your SEO keywords list.

Finally, you should compare your LinkedIn SEO keywords list to your regular SEO keywords list.

Is there an overlap? If so, keep these terms.

Are there some terms that are being used on LinkedIn but that may not be a great fit in the search engines? Decide whether you should replace this with a high-volume, low competition SEO keyword.

Eventually you will have a mix of terms that have the potential of drawing in traffic both from LinkedIn searches and Google searches.

Adding LinkedIn and SEO keywords to your profile

Once you have a solid list of keywords, you will want to incorporate them into your LinkedIn profile.

A plus side with LinkedIn, compared to Google, is that there is no evidence that keyword stuffing is penalized here. However, you want to keep your audience in mind and have your keywords fit into your copy in a compelling, natural way.

For my own profile above, I determined that more profiles used “SEO content” “content writer” and “copywriter” than they did “SEO copywriter” – despite “SEO copywriter” getting a fair amount of search volume from Google.

I also saw the terms “freelance” and “ghostwriter” used a lot. Finally, I included keywords like “B2B” and “SaaS” to attract the types of businesses I work with.

Some areas to add keywords:

  • Headline
  • Summary
  • Experience section
  • Recommendations
  • Skills section

If there are some regular SEO keywords that you don’t want to leave out, your experience section is a great place to add these.

If you found trends in terms of where these keywords were being included in the top ranking profiles, try to follow this in your own profile. At the same time, don’t make compromises if you think that your profile copy is stronger by taking a different approach.

In section six, I address how to generate recommendations, skills and endorsements, plus how to add keywords to these sections.

4. Create a profile ‘funnel’

Wondering why copywriting is so important for your LinkedIn profile?

Well, it’s because your goal is to turn your profile into a funnel for new leads.

While many LinkedIn users rely on visitors to take the initiative and contact them via direct message, you and I are going to do things differently. We are going to make it stupid easy for people to convert.

We’ll do this by funneling visitors down the page – from your cover photo and headline, to your summary, to your media section and, finally, to your inbox or landing page.

Photos and headline  – Awareness

After visitors have read the text on your cover photo and in your headline, they should have a pretty clear idea about who you are and who you help. They will then make the decision of whether to learn more about you.

Summary – Interest

The summary section is your chance to address any pain points they have, communicate what your unique selling point is, and briefly cover the kinds of services that you offer. This is where it’s super important to get your messaging on point, based on the market research you conducted earlier

Media – Decision

The media section on your LinkedIn profile allows you to add links to your website and blog posts or upload videos. This content can make all the difference in convincing visitors that you are the right fit for them.

While directing visitors to a page or post could be effective, this approach involves directing visitors off of your profile. There’s the chance of creating a bottleneck here, as visitors may drop off due to inconvenience, or the fact that it takes longer for them to read through text versus watching a short video.

That’s why I suggest adding a video to your media section instead. This video, again, should address the primary pain points your audience faces, communicate how you will help them and include a clear call-to-action.

If you do this effectively, you will build trust with your profile visitors and convince them to reach out to you directly.

Inbox or landing page – Action

The call-to-action in your video should tell visitors how best to contact you. This will likely be through LinkedIn direct message, or through your website. You may want to include a unique landing page for LinkedIn leads.

Your call-to-action should sound something like, “For x services, send me a message [on my website/through LinkedIn/through this link].”

Be specific about how visitors should reach you and what they should expect after they contact you. “Send me a LinkedIn message for a custom quote” is much more compelling than “Visit mywebsite.com for more info.”

By creating a profile funnel, you are more likely to take advantage of the traffic coming to your profile. Without a funnel, the burden is on visitors to figure out what you offer, chase down the details on your website, and figure out how to contact you.

A funnel makes the process straightforward, simple and conversion-friendly.

5. Build SMART connections

While LinkedIn SEO and creating a profile funnel taps into the power of inbound marketing on LinkedIn, there’s another way to attract your ideal clients to your profile.

That method involves building connections with your target audience and professionals in your industry.

As we learned in the SEO section of this guide, LinkedIn prioritizes showing you your first-, second- and third-degree connections whenever you search for a keyword. It works the same way for your potential clients. If you are connected with people in their network, your profile is more likely to pop up when they search for one of your keywords.

Therefore, the more industry connections you have, the better.

Making the right kind of connections

Many LinkedIn users connect with every possible person they can find (aside from the clearly spammy profiles).

While this has yet to be tested, I am of the opinion that this can potentially weaken you profile, as you will become associated with profiles outside of your industry, making it less likely for your profile to be associated with your target keywords.

Is it beneficial be connected with loads of graphic designers in India if you provide legal SEO services in the United States? Common sense would say no. (Feel free to prove me wrong, though).

My take is that it makes sense to build connections within your industry and within the industries of your target audience.

As a legal SEO expert, that would mean connecting with other legal SEO agencies, digital marketing experts, law firms, law blog writers and the like. You can still get quite broad.

Be smart about the kinds of connections you want to have and how they could benefit your business in the short-term and long-term.

Finding your target audience on LinkedIn

While connecting with other people in your industry is simple, you will want to put more time and energy into connecting with people who fit your ideal client persona.

If you have been in business for a while, you will likely already know what these people look like. They could be small business owners, tech entrepreneurs, SaaS businesses, Fortune 500 companies, law firms, etc. Knowing this, you will simply use these identifiers to find profiles on LinkedIn that match.

If you are just starting out, you need to figure out what terms your target audience is using to describe themselves on LinkedIn.

You can do this by searching some general terms that you know about your audience (like “small business” or “contractor” or “mommy blogger”) and seeing what comes up in the LinkedIn results.

Dig around until you find people that fit your ideal client persona and take note of what terms they used in their headline and summary. Then, use these terms to find other people to connect with.

Connecting and saying “Hi”

One of the reasons why LinkedIn has had a bad reputation for being dull and spammy is because many users use the platform to cold pitch their new connections. We aren’t going to do this.

Every time you extend a connection request to someone, send them a message introducing yourself and why you want to connect with them.

Remember – you are practically strangers. It will take a bit for them to trust you and determine whether the connection is worth it.

Rather than jumping into the pitch, follow scripts similar to the ones below (which have gotten me a near 100% response rate):

Networking Script

“Hello [ name ],

Thanks for connecting. I see that we are both in the [ niche ] industry. I am an [ industry title ] myself. Are you working on anything interesting lately? Chat soon! – [your name ]”

This script implies that the person has already connected with you or may have extended the connection first. It creates a sense of familiarity versus making it seem like a random stranger is connecting with them.

It also gives a reason for the connection, instead of leaving room for the person to suspect ulterior motives. They know what you do, so they can decide whether the connection is worth their time.

Finally, it prompts the person to respond by asking them about themselves. This puts the ball in their court. And, if they happen to be working on a project that you could potentially help them with, it opens the door to having that conversation without you coming across as salesy.

Potential client script

“Hello [ name ],

Thanks for connecting. I see that you [ run a small business/have a law firm/are a tech entrepreneur/etc ]. I wanted to reach out because I [ help businesses like yours do x ]. Maybe there’s potential to work together. Are you working on anything interesting lately?”

Similar to the previous script, this script lets the person know who you are and why you want to connect with them, and leaves it up to them to respond to you.

There’s no pitch that implies that you know how you can help them – you don’t yet – or starts rambling about the services you offer.

This keeps the conversation more open and prevents the risk of you pitching them on one service when they may have asked you about a different service that you didn’t think to mention.

Let the conversation flow more naturally and they will likely ask you about services that are most relevant to them. Another benefit of this approach is that you avoid drawing in leads that may not be the best fit for you.

A final note about connections

Try to build as many connections as possible (following the process I outlined above), or at least reach that “500+” mark. This helps you build a more expansive network and appear as a trusted person in your industry.

6. Gather recommendations, skills and endorsements

Again, LinkedIn SEO isn’t quite as measurable as website SEO, but that’s part of the fun. By optimizing certain sections for keywords, you can test what works and what doesn’t and come up with your own lead generation strategy.

The recommendations, skills and endorsements sections are all areas where you can add LinkedIn SEO keywords, but they don’t bring any hard evidence that says they move the needle in terms of SEO. They may, however, move the needle when it comes to conversions.

Recommendations

LinkedIn recommendations are the “reviews” of your profile. This is where references and past clients can talk about their experience working with you and the results you have gotten for them.

Your clients will likely include keywords naturally here, which may or may not play a role in your profile SEO. If you prompt your network contact for recommendations, you may want to suggest that they include those target keywords, just in case.

SEO aside, recommendations are great social proof to show that you know what you are doing and that you bring awesome results for your clients. If visitors see loads of positive recommendations on your profile, this could be the final push they need in order to hire you.

Skills

LinkedIn allows you to add a list of skills to your profile that tells visitors what you are best at.

This is another area where it may be smart to include things that have your target keywords.

You can have three “top” skills, as well as a longer list of other skills that you have. I recommend listing your primary skills in the top three section, as these are the most likely to get endorsed (as they are seen first).

Endorsements

Endorsements are when other users endorse you for the skills on your profile. Again, this serves as social proof that you have the skills that you say you have.

You can reach out to users on LinkedIn to endorse your skills in order to boost your numbers. You can also endorse users for their skills, which could prompt them to contact you or endorse you back.

It’s best to have many endorsements for just a few skills versus only a few endorsements for many different skills.

7. Post the right kind of content, consistently

Posting on LinkedIn can be hit or miss, as few guides have covered how to “hack” the algorithm. That’s why I believe your success on LinkedIn (in terms of posting) depends on what works best for you and your audience.

Try different content methods – long-form posts, images, videos, shared blog posts, etc. – to see which get the best engagement. Repeat what works, ditch what doesn’t and pretty soon you will have a LinkedIn content strategy that fits your audience and business.

One thing to note is that it is difficult to test the success of your content without being consistent. You should post different types of content, multiple times throughout the day and then assess the results. If you are simply posting one short post per day, it’s unlikely that you will get any tangible data.

You may also want to look at what your competitors are posting and which types of posting are getting the most engagement there.

LinkedIn articles

The exception to this “post and pray” method is LinkedIn Articles.

LinkedIn gives that added algorithmic push to articles that are published on their platform.

While a shared blog post may attract a small handful of website visits, an article published on LinkedIn can easily trigger 2x, 3x or 5x the number of views.

For this reason, it may make sense to republish your existing blog content on LinkedIn. Just be aware of the ramifications of having two identical pieces of content competing for the same keywords. However, if website SEO isn’t a major concern to you, it could be worth taking this approach for the social traffic alone.

Finally, be sure to include a call-to-action within your LinkedIn article in order to take advantage of that traffic.

8. Give engagement, get engagement

While posting on LinkedIn can yield spotty results, engaging with other users on the platform appears to be much more promising.

That’s because whenever you engage on a post, your comment and name pops up on your connections’ LinkedIn feed. You can also pop up as a second- or third-degree Connection to users in their network, expanding your reach.

That is, the more of a presence you have on LinkedIn, the more likely you are to be seen by people inside and outside of your network.

It stands to reason then that most of your time on LinkedIn should be spent engaging with other peoples’ content, rather than posting your own content (until you come up with a content strategy that works). It’s the best way to connect with users one-on-one and reach profiles outside of your immediate network.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t post on LinkedIn at all, but in terms of the numbers, it’s clear that more new traffic is driven to your profile through engaging with other peoples’ posts.

When users see your comment they are likely to click into your profile to learn more about you. You can then reach out to these new viewers through a request to connect.

These views are reflected by your notifications and in your LinkedIn analytics.

9. Understanding your LinkedIn analytics

No optimization guide is worth its weight without showing the results in terms of cold, hard numbers. That’s why I was sure to test all of the LinkedIn best practices I encountered, as well as any optimization hacks I came up with on my own.

I recommend that marketers and business owners do the same, as LinkedIn optimization is still not cut-and-dry. The success of your LinkedIn strategy also depends on what works best for your target audience.

Profile views, connections and search appearances

LinkedIn offers you rather limited (but enough) data to see how your profile is performing.

You can see how many people have viewed your profile, how many have viewed your posts, how many people you have connected with, and how often you have appeared in the search results.

You can also see who has viewed your profile (unless they have a protected account) and examine trends over time.

Since implementing my own LinkedIn SEO strategy in January, I saw a 173% increase in profile views over the course of 30 days.

Post March 26, my average number of profile views has been around 50 per day. That is with very little posting or engaging on LinkedIn (roughly 1-3 times per day).

I have also grown my number of connections from 325 to 900-plus in 90 days, and have generated at least 10 qualified leads in that time (without outreach).

These results have come from a process of near constant testing. I have told others to implement micro-optimizations and analyze their LinkedIn analytics to see what is working and what isn’t.

Track your conversions

The goal of LinkedIn optimization isn’t merely more traffic and connections, though.

If you are starting on your own LinkedIn optimization journey, I recommend tracking how many leads you generate as a result of your efforts (LinkedIn does not track this for you). Only then will you truly know whether your strategy is paying off.

You can tap into your Google Analytics to see how many visitors you are getting from LinkedIn, and then set up conversion tracking there. However, if you are directing users to your LinkedIn inbox, you will have to track this manually or with a bot.

The numbers don’t lie. Follow what works and you will certainly see an uptick in connections, traffic and leads over time.

Turn your LinkedIn profile into a lead-generation machine

By following the LinkedIn optimization tips above and testing your own ideas for optimization, you can generate high-volume traffic to your profile and convert that traffic into qualified leads for your business.

The foundation of this strategy consists of conducting LinkedIn SEO keyword research, optimizing your profile aesthetic, building quality connections, and directing visitors through your custom profile funnel. Then, it’s just a matter of making adjustments based on what works for your target audience and business model.

Are you making the most of your LinkedIn profile? If not, start today.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Jessica Foster is the Founder and lead SEO Strategist at Keys&Copy – an SEO agency with a focus on content marketing and SEO copywriting. She is also the founder of TrueToast Magazine, an online resource for and by millennial entrepreneurs. She lives in the very beautiful and very hipster Seattle, Washington.



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Byte, the Follow-Up to Vine, Begins Sending Out Beta Invites

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Byte, a reboot of Vine from the same creator, has sent out the first 100 invites to its closed beta.

The app is simply described as a “looping video app,” and is expected to function the way Vine used to.

According to creator Dom Hofmann, Byte is already on track to being the true Vine reboot users have been hoping for:

Vine has managed to maintain an avid fanbase since being shut town by Twitter over two years ago.

Fans of Vine have been getting their fix by watching compilation videos on YouTube. Soon they may be able to create all-new memories with Byte.

The launch of Byte will certainly benefit from its built-in audience of former Vine users. However, since Vine was shut down, a new king has claimed the short-form video throne.

I’m talking about TikTok, which was downloaded more times than Instagram last year.

TikTok is a looping video app which can include licensed music, so that lends itself to a lot of creative lip-syncing videos.

The momentum of TikTok cannot be understated, as it’s rapidly becoming the app of choice among Gen Z users.

Where Byte can differentiate itself is with its user base. If Byte can attract older age groups then there’s a real opportunity to compete.

While TikTok is filled with lip syncing and teenage shenanigans, Byte can be the video-sharing home for older users.

Although it will be a while before we get to the point of seeing those apps compete, as Hoffman plans to run multiple beta tests before releasing Byte publicly.





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Google takes baby steps to monetize Google Assistant, Google Home

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Google isn’t concerned about making ad revenue from Google Assistant and Google Home right now. The company is more focused on gaining market share for the moment. Nonetheless, it’s starting to insert paid-search ads into Assistant results on Android smartphones; it’s also starting to monetize Google Home “traffic” as well – though, more tentatively.

Ads in Assistant results. In February, Google started testing ads in Assistant results on the phone. Then in early April, Google officially introduced ads in situations where there are web search results (vs. answers): “When relevant, these results may include the existing ads that you’d see on Search today.” The difference for the time being is fewer ads in Assistant results than general search.

Audio ads on YouTube Music. Last week Google also decided to give Google Home smart speaker owners access to the free version of YouTube Music, which is ad-supported. The premium version without ads is $9.99 per month.

One way to look at this is as a competitive response to free Amazon Music on Alexa devices. However, it’s also a way to upsell Google Home users to the premium version or, alternatively, generate ad revenue. The ad-supported version of YouTube Music is currently available on Google Home or other Google Assistant-powered smart speakers in North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia.

Revenue from transactions. Two years ago, Google suggested it would monetize Google Home and the Assistant through fees tied to transactions. This was chiefly going to happen through Google Express ordering. However Google Express has struggled to gain momentum and recently lost Walmart as a customer, although it still has more than 1,000 retailers on its site.

Google Pay is another way the company could make money from Google Assistant or Google Home transactions. It currently doesn’t charge merchant fees; however, might change over time.

Local services. Google is exposing a subset of local listings in response to queries for local service providers on Google Home and Google Assistant. There are currently no ads returned for these queries. However, merchants must be certified through the Google Guarantee program (previously only available with Local Services Ads) or via Google partners Porch or HomeAdvisor.

While there are currently no ads in these local listings, it would be easy for Google to start charging a fee for a Google Guarantee certification or include Local Services Advertisers with a “sponsored” disclaimer to alert users they were advertisers (or both).

Google smart displays. Google is reportedly renaming its smart display “Google Nest Hub” and going to release a larger-screen version. It would be easy for Google to include sponsored search or display ads on the screen. In some ways, this is the model that would be least disruptive to users. This is not currently happening, but marketers should anticipate some form of on-screen advertising on Google smart displays in the relatively near future.

One analyst estimated that Google had sold more than 50 million Home Hub smart displays globally and 43 million in the U.S. Google’s smart display also appears to be one smart speaker category in which it’s outselling rival Amazon Echo.

Other types of ads. Roughly two years ago, Google appeared to run an audio ad for Disney’s live action film Beauty and the Beast, which was triggered by users asking about their daily schedules (“what does my day look like?”). Google denied that it was an ad, but it appeared to be a test of some sort of partner promotion. No similar promotions have appeared since that time.

Along these lines, there are some high-profile Google Home placements that might command a premium from brand advertisers if Google were to make them available. Again, this is hypothetical but one can envision selected ad placements on Google Home that would reach a large, TV-sized audience.

Why we should care. If we accept that Google Home’s market share is only 25 percent of the smart speaker market, in the U.S. that’s still 25+ million devices. When you include the Assistant on smartphones, the number of devices jumps to more than a billion globally.

As the recent inclusion of ads in Assistant results on Android phones indicates, Google does intend to generate ad revenue from the Assistant and Google Home. In addition to the actual and hypothetical ideas above, there are probably other options not listed. However, marketers should expect Google to test and introduce more advertising options for Assistant-powered devices by next year at the latest.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He researches and writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.



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