Last year, I wrote few articles on LinkedIn and expected the last one probably will attract more visitors. I got some visits from my LinkedIn connections, but very few from popular search engines like Google or Bing. Here is the analytics of the last post
I was having doubts about LinkedIn articles benefit and decided to do a technical SEO audit on a post which attracts a significant number of users to justify my doubts. I choose Brian Dean’s recent article, he is reputed and well-known in the SEO field. As of today, it has 310 likes, 62 comments, and 61 shares
He also wrote the same post on his website around a year ago in 2017 which intrigued me to do this SEO audit. Because he could’ve published on LinkedIn at the same time but instead he published there around after a year.
Without further ado, let me share the findings with you.
1. Protocol (HTTP/HTTPS), Hostname (WWW/NON-WWW) and Trailing Slash Anomalies
I used cURL (a command-line tool), Chrome DevTools and Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool to verify the URL response status codes. And I found that the following LinkedIn URLs are returning inconsistent response codes
Now, speaking of inconsistent URL response let me share this popular tweet by John Mueller (senior webmaster trend analyst at google)
I noticed there was some confusion around trailing slashes on URLs, so I hope this helps. tl;dr: slash on root/hostname=doesn’t matter; slash elsewhere=does matter (they’re different URLs) pic.twitter.com/qjKebMa8V8
— John ?.o(???)o.? (@JohnMu) December 19, 2017
Now, read on to see the cURL, Chrome DevTools and Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tools result respectively
This is somewhat relevant to this cURL command so see this tweet as well, it’s like an alternate and advanced version of this but in Chrome DevTools
— Umar Hansa (@umaar) March 22, 2018
It is clear from the above image that the URL status was not same. If you notice this URL http://www.linkedin.com/pulse/we-analyzed-13-million-youtube-videos-heres-what-learned-brian-dean/ returned 307 status code. To know more about 307 see this Mozilla developer documentation article.
Also, see“A search-engine guide to 301, 302, 307, & other redirects” a Google plus post by John Mueller. HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) is one of the several new features in Chrome, so in case of 307, it’s probably best to trust Chrome DevTools.
Screaming Frog wrote a helpful article on this topic as well. Firefox Developer Tools & Microsoft Edge Developer Tools didn’t provide 307. A Mozilla engineer replied to my tweet on this topic but the conversation didn’t go further
I get 301 in Firefox DevTools, Chrome DevTools and Chrome DevTools (Canary) so I don’t see why you are getting 307.
— Mike Ratcliffe (@ratcliffe_mike) March 20, 2018
A little info to share with the readers, Chrome DevTools user agents are not up-to-date, always cross-check to verify. Please see the image
If you see row six and eight in the image above, the 999 URL status code is confusing and looks like this issue is not new, see this Github thread.
Also regarding this point in the video – Whether its possible to choose specific audit while we use Lighthouse CLI? Yes it’s possible, see this twitter feed
— Chrome DevTools (@ChromeDevTools) March 26, 2018
It’s verified from the cURL, Chrome DevTools & Screaming Frog screenshot that search engine robots are getting different signals when they are visiting the LinkedIn page which probably is diminishing its chance to appear on the search result pages for many different keywords but Google is respecting Linkedin’s rel=canonical tag
URLs from Brian Dean’s website didn’t show any inconsistencies and the URL status code was same in those 3 tools. The search engine page result appearance is better as well.
I recorded a quick video to describe the steps and result, please take a look
Disable & Debug JS Using Chrome DevTools
Please check out the video and see the findings as well
Lighthouse CLI audit says the LinkedIn URL has a valid rel=canonical and hreflang tag which I found in Chrome DevTools generated DOM but I failed to find when I was looking at the source code. Wappalyzer chrome extension shows Ember.js is being used on this page. I was also logged into my Linkedin account
I was able to see rel=canonical in an incognito window (i.e. I was not logged into LinkedIn) but not the hreflang tag. Technicalseo.com and Varvy.com’s Googlebot fetch & render tool didn’t provide anything convincing to find the cause of this issue
Chrome DevTools is pretty powerful and constantly updating its features with an army of brilliant engineers. Their Twitter account, Youtube channel, and this webpage are ideal sources to stay up-to-date, check them out!
Also, I found that only the top banner of the LinkedIn post was indexed by Google which verifies this test. The image was indexed from LinkedIn’s German version though which is a separate issue to investigate, I have doubt about them using hreflang tag appropriately.
Backlinko webpage, on the other hand, worked well when the JS files were disabled and there was no known issue regarding Google search engine index.
3. Webpage Speed
Webpagetest.org is a prominent & sophisticated tool to run website performance and optimization test. It was created by Patrick Meenan (Chrome engineer at Google) and he is maintaining it as well. I ran a test and the Linkedin page was the clear winner.
According to Webpagetest, the lower the speed index the better it is. Linkedin page speed index was 5027 and Backlinko page index was 7922. Here is the screenshot and click on it to see the full result
Now to know details about LinkedIn’s better speed we need to analyze the result and it can be a separate blog post. But just better speed alone is not enough for search engines like Google to give it a preference on SERPs over others. Here is what Google is saying about their new speed scorecard tool
— Russell Huq (@russhuq) March 6, 2018
Also to know more about speed and performance optimization check out this excellent Smashingmagazine article published on Jan 3rd,2018. This is an overview of all the things which need to keep in mind when improving web performance.
4. HTML Title Element, URL Structure & Meta Description
Another finding of the audit is that Linkedin doesn’t provide an option to edit the title, URL, and meta description which are vital for search engine optimization. Here is how Google indexed the Linkedin page. The URL is a bit confusing compared to other LinkedIn article URLs.
Brian’s site is developed on WordPress and this CMS platform is well-known for its SEO abilities.
Here is how the specific webpage is appearing on Google
LinkedIn should consider offering those options which would allow those articles to compete well and win search engine page results for various keywords.
5. Image SEO
Google has specific guidelines to optimize images and to reduce image size see this tweet and the replies by Google engineering manager Addy Osmani.
Good tools to reduce image file size:
🖥 Desktop: ImageOptim (Mac), XNConvert (Win/all)
🔨 Build: ImageOptim CLI, Imagemin
📤 Server: ImageFlow, Thumbor
🤖 CDN: Cloudinary, Imgix
More image tips on https://t.co/3yFc9C7pCG
— Addy Osmani (@addyosmani) December 15, 2017
Check out their HTML/CSS style guide as well. Let’s see if the Linkedin page and WordPress Web page are following those practices by analyzing ALT attribute, image URL & name, caption, image file size.
The LinkedIn page is barely using the ALT attribute, only for the top banner but there is no content.
Chrome DevTools Lighthouse audit also found the same issue. ALT attribute allows adding alternative text for the images which is beneficial when the image can’t appear for some reason ( slow internet speed, image file path/name change etc.) and for the screen readers.
Post on the Brian Dean’s own site is using ALT attributes properly. Which is nice and increasing its chance to appear more both on Google regular and image search.
I used Web Developer Chrome Extension which is a handy tool but if you want to do this test without using this extension then just follow this simple instruction in Chrome to disable images
settings -> advanced -> content settings -> images -> do not show any images
Image URL & Name
Linkedin image URLs are returning confusing responses as well for instance here is the URL of the first image returns 200
The same URL with HTTP was returning 200 as well. I also tried with a trailing slash and it was breaking the URL
That’s probably one of the reasons LinkedIn post images were not crawled by Google except the first one. Speaking of crawling it’s also worth checking out their robots.txt file. It is vast and they have specific instructions for all popular bots.
Backlinko images are on CDN as well. I used Chrome DevTools, cURL & Lighthouse tool to check the image URL status. Canonical HTTP header was used but Google most likely don’t yet count canonical on image files, URLs responded well except with the trailing slash.
Please see the video and at the end of the video, I said his image settings are good but there are still rooms to improve.
Regarding this, someone at Stackoverflow.com described the trailing slash issue very well. Google Search Console’s help section also has a specific page on managing duplicate URLs. It covers issues like choosing a canonical page, different ways to specify a canonical page etc. so check it out.
And about naming images properly, Backlinko is using meaningful image names but the Linkedin post is not.
Image Captions & File Size
Regarding captions, none of the posts use captions. Recently Google released this post – Get more useful information with captions on Google Images. So the usage of caption will likely increase.
I ran a test using Cloudinary’s website speed test tool to see its suggestion on image file size. It shows images in the Backlinko webpage can be optimized. The LinkedIn page test result was interesting, it only shows a couple of the images which proves that images in this post except the top banner are blocked for the crawlers
6. Backlinks and Influencer Referral
In this stage of the audit, I did a quick research using popular SEO tool from Ahrefs.com to understand Brian Dean’s link building outreach. In his website, the analyzed article is getting a lot of links and influential digital marketers are tweeting about it.
It received around 292 comments and these user-generated contents probably are also helping his article to get noticed by search engines.
On the other hand, the LinkedIn page is in a poor state in terms of link building. People are sharing and commenting but it’s probably not helping that much.
7. Structured Data Markup
Both posts passed the structured data markup and social media tags test with minimum issues.
Here are couple other points I would like to share which are nothing more than some suggestions to improve the LinkedIn platform. Last year I found a bug which was escalated to the Linkedin internal research team. The post likes were not showing properly. Here is a screenshot of the email thread
I am still awaiting a reply but hopefully, this issue already got resolved.
On Jan 27th, 2018 NYTimes published this article “The Follower Factory” which elaborates social media black market so there are always rooms for improvement in popular social media like LinkedIn. Also here is a twitter thread where I am sharing a couple of the LinkedIn limitations
— Russell Huq (@russhuq) November 28, 2017
Brian Dean is a skilled digital marketer and he might know those limitations very well. The analytical research which he did on youtube videos is a good resource for the online community. He is popular on Linkedin.
Improving LinkedIn’s SEO abilities probably would inspire marketer like him to write articles more frequently and attract more users to use it as an ideal digital marketing platform.
Lastly, I am an online marketing and technical SEO consultant and if you need help with any technical SEO audit project I would love to chat. Please use this form to send me your project details.
2019 © russell huq.