Is LinkedIn’s New Publisher Platform Worth Testing?

Because both we and some of our clients have expressed interest in LinkedIn’s new long-form Publishing Platform, my content marketing team has been test-driving it for the past couple of weeks. Originally limited to a small set of high-profile celebrity executives, the Platform has now been opened up to the general LinkedIn membership.

Our tests were meant to answer the following questions:

  1. Can it move the needle?
  2. Is it only effective if you create original content for it?
  3. How does publishing on it differ from conventional blogging?
  4. How does it fit into a content marketer’s tool kit?

1. Can It Move The Needle?

As far as the first question is concerned, the answer is a qualified yes. Original posts on LinkedIn may get you as much – or more – reach than you’d get on your business blog. One piece of original content we posted – a 550-word article – did phenomenally well, scoring more than 12,000 views, 213 “thumbs ups,” and more than 60 comments. Other articles, however did less well – scoring only a couple of hundred views (but still respectable by business blog standards). There’s no magic formula for a successful post on LinkedIn anymore than there is for a blog post. Every industry is different, but it should be noted that the post that did well was designed to start an argument, and tapping the power of arguments is a topic I’ve addressed before on ClickZ because it can be very effective.

2. Is It Only Effective If You Create Original Content for It?

Not necessarily, although it helps, plus it’s a best practice. LinkedIn’s system appears to check the Web to see if the post is original, and if it is, will reward it with higher visibility on LinkedIn. In the short-term, there doesn’t seem to be any downside to posting another copy to your site either. In our tests we found both the original LinkedIn article on Google’s SERPs and links to the article, as it was posted a few days later to two external sites. However, Google and Bing both look to determine the original article and you confusing the search engine isn’t a good idea. Make sure that you post your original article to LinkedIn first – post any additional copies later, perhaps with a new introduction based on comments you have received. At least that way you are adding value to the Web, which is what content generation is all about.

3. How Does Publishing on It Differ From Conventional Blogging?

Using LinkedIn’s platform is as easy as using any standard Wordpress/Blogger CMS. But there are some wrinkles you need to know about when using it. Make sure you think hard about your headline/article title, because LinkedIn won’t let you change it once you’ve posted the article. Also, if you use illustrations/graphics in your articles (and you should, given the importance of images on social media), you’ll need to actually upload them to LinkedIn. Make sure you’re sure that you actually are granted all the applicable image rights for each image you use, because you’re copying them, not just linking their locations on external sites. LinkedIn’s anti-copyright infringement policies are very strict (you could lose your account if LinkedIn concludes that anything you’ve uploaded to the service is infringing), so read the attribution fine print before uploading.

4. How Does It Fit Into a Content Marketer’s Toolkit?

I’d say that LinkedIn has done a service to the Web publishing community by providing a platform whose reach (represented by the strength of any given member’s LinkedIn network) is built-in. Many were initially concerned when the platform was announced that it would just be another “walled garden” where search engine spiders would not be welcome. But in our tests, articles placed on LinkedIn had excellent organic visibility, so there’s really no SEO downside to using it. Of course, publishing to LinkedIn does come with a bit of a trade-off. Any Page Rank earned by a publisher due to a popular article will be credited to LinkedIn, not the publisher’s site. In effect, you’re trading immediate SEO power – the ability to get all that link juice for yourself – for the social power supplied by LinkedIn and its audience. Some publishers will want to keep all of that Page Rank for themselves, but those that are willing to share it with LinkedIn can reap many benefits, a fact that makes the platform a welcome addition to the content marketer’s tool kit.

Sometimes an external platform like LinkedIn will rank better in SEO than your blog over time, plus have its own audience to provide you with visibility immediately upon publishing. Add to that the PR impact of building your personal or business brand as a subject matter expert and I’d say that’s a win-win-win. Now the only question is whether you’ll create all the content yourself or work with a ghost writer. I’d love to hear your opinion on the viability of outsourced writers, so contact me if you’ve got an opinion.

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