More than 700 million business professionals congregate on LinkedIn to find jobs, grow their networks, and share content. And most of the B2B buyers rely on it to make business decisions.
Whether you’re developing your personal brand or marketing on behalf of a business, LinkedIn is not a social network you can ignore. You need to develop a strategic plan to succeed on social.
Get started by understanding how the LinkedIn algorithm works. It will help you expand your reach on the social network as well as engage with the right audience.
- How the LinkedIn algorithm works
- Tips on how to master the LinkedIn algorithm
- Decoding the LinkedIn content magic
- Making LinkedIn’s algorithm work for you
How the LinkedIn Algorithm works.
The two main things to understand about the LinkedIn news feed are: (1) it is primarily concerned with native, organic content, and (2) it is based on an algorithm, not recency.
Much like Facebook, the LinkedIn algorithm prioritizes content you’re most likely to find relevant and engage with over the most recent content.
However, users can sort the content in their LinkedIn feeds by recency if they chose to do so.
Fortunately for everyone’s sanity, that means that you don’t need to post 20 times a day to stay on top.
While you should be posting regularly — no week-long holidays — the LinkedIn algorithm favors “natural” posting schedules over very regular ones. That means that your posts could be penalized for appearing every day at the same time.
Pro tip: Post high-quality content frequently at irregular intervals — including the weekends.
In general, content is ranked and displayed based on your account’s reputation, how users have engaged with your content before, and what else is being posted.
Here’s how it works:
Every time you post something, the LinkedIn feed algorithm determines whether it’s spam, low quality, or good to go. Obviously, you want to be in the “good to go” category.
If you passed go, your content appears in the feed temporarily. During this stage, LinkedIn’s algorithm bots look at how your audience engages with the content.
If they’re liking, commenting on, or sharing your post, that’s a good sign you’ll make it through to the next filter.
If people mark it as spam or hide it from their feed, LinkedIn will penalize your content.
“Report this post” and “Hide this post” are two different options but are often used interchangeably. People may hide your posts because you’re posting too much or because your content is irrelevant to them.
Pro tip: The more engagement your post receives in the first hour after posting, the better. You can optimize your post times based on your own analytics or these best times to post.
If your posts are reported or hidden by users repeatedly, they’re likely to be filtered out by the LinkedIn algorithm.
At this step, the LinkedIn algorithm will look beyond the content of your post to determine if it should keep showing up in users’ feeds.
It will look at your profile and network to determine whether your post is spam. This is because LinkedIn wants to avoid rewarding spam accounts.
Based on this stage, LinkedIn either removes your content from the feed or displays it less frequently. It’s essentially up to your network to engage with your post and keep it around for another review.
At this point, editors review your post to determine if it should keep showing, if they could include it somewhere else on the network, or whether they can derive any takeaways from it for future algorithm tweaks and product development.
They want to know: why, exactly, is your post performing so well?
If it keeps getting engagement, your post stays in the mix, continuing its algorithmic journey through the feed.
Therefore, sometimes you’ll see posts in your feed that are weeks (yes, weeks) old—something you wouldn’t see on the fast-paced feeds of Facebook and Twitter.
Tips on how to master the LinkedIn algorithm.
The beauty of the LinkedIn algorithm is this: as long as your post is performing well, it will keep showing up in the feed.
However, it takes a lot of work and some luck based on what LinkedIn defines as good performance.
Follow these three tips to optimize your posts around the LinkedIn algorithm:
1. Optimize your posts.
Use the same tactics you do on your blog and other social media channels, but tailor them slightly for LinkedIn:
- Tone of voice
Your voice may have to be a bit more professional than it is on Twitter, but don’t be overly formal (it is a social network after all). Feel free to give your posts personality and a sense of humor.
Lots of LinkedIn users access the network from their phones, so prime your posts for mobile viewing with compelling messages and interesting imagery.
- Diversity rules
Mix up your content with tips, opinions, videos, images, quotes, and links to other content.
- Use keywords, but don’t sound generic
Add hashtags and work in keywords where you can, but don’t make your copy read like an SEO bot. You want your post to show up when people search for related content, and you want them to actually click through, too.
- Time your posts right
People can be on the platform at all times of the day, working hours or not, so review your analytics to determine when your audience will most likely be on LinkedIn.
- Use #hashtags appropriately
LinkedIn is still a professional network, so #thirstythursday and other semi-NSFW hashtags won’t help your content get seen. Think of LinkedIn hashtags as categories or labels, use them wisely, and save the funny ones for Twitter. But don’t forget to add hashtags to your LinkedIn posts. Three would be a good start.
2. Work their bias to your advantage.
LinkedIn is clear about what kind of content they want to display. It is first and foremost a professional network, so they recommend to:
- Be relevant to your audience and your brand.
- Stay niche, rather than broad.
- Offer value to someone’s career, such as tips for their professional growth.
- Have industry relevance.
- Use different formats such as Live videos, LinkedIn Stories, LinkedIn polls, Carousel images, Notify employees about your post, LinkedIn Publisher, etc. the list goes on and on.
3. Grow your network.
LinkedIn wants you to post professionally inspiring or helpful content because that’s why people are on LinkedIn in the first place—to get a job or to grow their professional networks.
LinkedIn reviews the relevance of your posts by looking at your audience’s profiles. That is the demographic information it has to work with, so it’s a large part of what the algorithm is based on.
Here are some tips on what you can do to boost your brand on LinkedIn:
- Ask all your employees to follow your company and set it as their workplace on their profiles.
- Follow influential people in your industry who are prominent on LinkedIn to demonstrate your interests and industry affinity.
- Join and participate in relevant groups, sharing your content when appropriate.
- Comment on content relevant to your industry.
- Set up links to your LinkedIn page on your company website and careers page to encourage more relevant follows.
- Mention (@) people when you post something they’ll particularly like or if you’ve named them in your post.
Decoding the LinkedIn content magic.
So how do you understand what works for you on LinkedIn? Here are four main factors to have in mind:
LinkedIn evaluates the quality, relevancy, and frequency of content posted through your page. In short, content that engages your audience helps demonstrate that your company is sharing valuable content within your network.
- Influencers, partnerships & employees
Speaking of engagement, LinkedIn prioritizes certain areas of influence over others. They keep track of how many likes, comments, and shares your posts get from influencers, partners, and employees, respectively.
- Employee shares
Any time an employee tags your Company Page in a post, LinkedIn keeps track. High employee engagement works to your Page’s benefit.
- Paid efforts
LinkedIn rewards Pages that invest in LinkedIn. Having a smart and effective paid strategy on LinkedIn will also benefit your organic posts.
If your content is great, but no one (not even your employees) is sharing it, LinkedIn won’t promote it in the organic feed.
On the flip side, encouraging a few key partners or influencers to engage with your content can have a hugely beneficial impact on your overall score.
Making LinkedIn’s algorithm work for you.
Performing well with the LinkedIn algorithm all comes down to relevance. Is your content relevant for your target audience?
Be relevant. Be engaged. Build your authority on LinkedIn.
Michael Quoc is the CEO and founder of ZipfWorks, an e-commerce lab with forward-thinking web products. He’s currently at work on Dealspotr, creating the most comprehensive and accurate promo code database on the web—all through the power of crowdsourcing and AI. Previously, Michael was the Director of New Products at Yahoo. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelquoc.