LinkedIn referral traffic

If you are not sharing your blog posts at LinkedIn, you may want to think twice.

I’ve been noticing a dramatic increase in engagement via LinkedIn the last month or so — especially the last couple weeks. The engagement has been coming from blog posts I have shared as updates at LinkedIn.

I am not a big fan of measuring “content marketing” success by traffic. I’m in a relationship and reputation business, not an advertising sales business. I want to reconnect with people, exchange in discussion, agree to meet and get an opening to “reach out” through content I share. For me, content is the currency of engagement.

As a result of blog posts I have shared on LinkedIn over the last couple weeks I have agreed to meet a communications person at a major firm for lunch in Seattle, received an opening to call a CMO at a New York City based firm whom I have been looking to meet, and exchanged in discussion with any number of lawyers, business development, and marcom folks. This engagement is going to lead to more calls and more meetings.

Turns out LinkedIn is indeed surfacing more content from third-party publications. Digiday’s Ricardo Bilton (@rbilton) reports publishers are seeing a big jump in LinkedIn referrals.

At Forbes, for example, traffic from LinkedIn increased 127 percent from July to December last year (it wouldn’t share exact numbers). Forbes has found an effective formula on the platform, where it posts around 12 stories and quotes each day and has 1.2 million followers. But the biggest spike in traffic came last month, almost overnight. “We’ve done things to build our audience there, but they’ve clearly done things on their end and it’s benefiting not just us but everyone,” said Forbes chief product officer Lewis D’Vorkin.

The referral picture is the same at The Financial Times, Inc. and Business Insider, the latter of which reports a 300 percent increase in LinkedIn referral traffic over the past month. Business Insider president Julie Hansen said the increase came as a surprise to the site, which hasn’t changed its LinkedIn strategy to attract more readers there. The increases at both Business Insider and Forbes reflect the larger spikes in referrals coming from LinkedIn over the past two months. Parsely looked at its data and found that LinkedIn referrals made up as much as a quarter of a percent of the December traffic sent to publishers on its network. That’s still tiny overall, and reflects the fact that the network includes more than just business publishers, but it’s up from a five hundredths of a percent in July.

Though LinkedIn would not comment for Bilton, Publishers believe the spike in referrals is the result of tweaks made to Pulse, LinkedIn’s news aggregation app.

In November, it added a feature called “universal links,” which loaded Pulse articles within the app rather than sending readers to the mobile Web. That feature, coupled with the publisher recommendation feature LinkedIn added last September, have made it easier for Pulse users to find and read publisher content. Pulse has been downloaded 1.2 million times since last August, according to Apptopia.

Parsley, an analytics platform for digital publishers, shared just how dramatic the jump has been. Though the percentage of total referrals from LinkedIn is low, the increase is dramatic.
LinkedIn referral growth

What’s surprising is LinkedIn’s change in strategy in regard to publishers publishing on their own sites/publications/blogs. With LinkedIn’s publisher platform, LinkedIn wanted to get experts and authorities to publish directly on LinkedIn to their contributor network. LinkedIn called the leading authorities “Influencers.” So it was no surprise that LinkedIn wanted to surface content from it’s own contributor network to users on LinkedIn, as opposed to promoting/surfacing content from third-party sites.

Just last August, Digiday’s Lucia Moses (@lmoses) reported that the traffic LinkedIn drove to publishers dropped 44 percent in the first seven months of 2015.

LinkedIn used to be a steady referral source for many publishers. But that’s changed as the social network for professionals has prioritized its own media and its contributor network.

That’s all changed now and legal bloggers looking to reach in-house counsel and executives ought to look at LinkedIn’s change of heart the same way business publications do. From Business Insider president Julie Hansen:

It’s a great thing for sure. Given LinkedIn’s audience and the type of business content they’re linking out to, it’s obviously something we’re thrilled to see.

When sharing to LinkedIn all you need to do is share a good blog post in the LinkedIn status update directly from your blog or by copying a link into the status update on LinkedIn. Add a two or three sentence teaser that summarizes your point or pique people’s interest with a question or bold statement. That teaser will be displayed in Pulse or in people’s LinkedIn feed.

Good news for publishers — including bloggers.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Gregory Tran