Wednesday, March 07, 2007

LinkedIn Needs to Get Connected: Top 5 Ways to Improve

  After teaching at CSULB Business School, I was writing a blog and needed to reference the teacher. Their public LinkedIn Profile seemed fitting, but as I was amazed to discover that the hyperlink is not optimal for search engines. In fact the LinkedIn site is very, very flawed with respect to SEO. It upset me; much of the reason that I link is for referral value; LinkedIn, I thought, would have recognized and embraced that. However, I do realize that SEO is like Brain Surgery.
  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE LinkedIn, but it has a long way to go. LinkedIn is getting just a fraction of the traction that they could. I hope that they recognize several aspects to improve upon, especially in light of their recent capitalization of 12.8MM by Bessemer. However Reid Hoffman, Chairman, stated that the funds would fuel new products and international growth. I'm sure that there will be great strategies and territories to cover; but LinkedIn, before venturing off too far, please make your U.S. property look good so we can come there more often. LinkedIn current and past success is monumental, a testament to the value of their community application and unique tools; however they are seriously leaving a lot on the table as far as exposure and user contributed content go.

Top 5 way to improve LinkedIn
1) Faulty SEO internal linking strategy. The site is a mess in terms of linking. Permalinks are attempted, but not published or redirect to. For example the custom profile URL option is great, but each and every link to my public profile should be either changed or at least redirect to my custom URL. The long URL (querystring) kills much of the SEO. There are other aspect to the ontology and internal linking that are too lengthy to elaborate in on this. NOTE: I can't even find my own LinkedIn profile in the top 10 pages SERPs. They are missing out on the honey pot of search.

2) Deepen Value through Recommendations. LinkedIn does not provide a benefit for regularly using the site, nor do they encourage repeat visits. The site provides a nice search and browsing opportunities, but most of the linking in actually happens outside via email. Over a year ago, I proposed a mechanism for LinkedIn auto-connection. Alternatively, let me be a match maker (mensch); putting two together has a way of making three, four and more... Indeed, there are several ways that the site could breath in a much bigger way rather than being speechless. The system would be much more meaningful if it triggered an email upon detecting a new opportunity. Give me a reason to come back!

3) Leverage Structured Information. They obviously have a large and rich information repository. I know because I've browser it. To bad I can't effectively search it outside their tool. I discuss more about data publishing here.

4) LinkedIn Email Alias. For example, I attempted to sending a note to Dan Nye on this webform (btw- another horrible, useless for SEO, URL) instead of my comfortable Outlook (or Gmail, etc). Instead - Create alias addresses for each user (i.e. The LI service could rule route the message based upon connections, approval/authorization and forward, retain a webmail backup copy. At the very least, it would effectively allow for a perma-email address. That way, even if Dan moves companies, his Linked connections can keep an consistent email address. It might even be a better spam controlled email address than any others, because messages would be "from" valid connections. Moreover though, it could be a great way to track and monitor offsite usage.

5) Open the hood. Several of the social networking hubs have opened APIs. The internet community of technology companies and software developers breeds creative usage. Having an API would allow for innovative mashups that I can only begin to ponder such as with Google Maps, Pay-per-call/Lead generation, widgets and blogging. This alone might be enough to provide an overnight viral growth in usage.

  While LinkedIn is currently leading the pack in professional social networking, it has not fortified itself as a brand. While they have a considerable registration rate, they are leaving a lot on the table due to lack-luster recurring usage. I truly hope that the change in leadership and funding will supply LinkedIn not only fantastic growth opportunities, but amazing social value.