It's interesting how aspects of our lives come into play. Prior to joining this Web revolution, or evolution, depending on your point of view, I worked in the world of consumer packaged goods. I developed and managed some of the office products that most of you probably use everyday. I became fairly familiar with even more products that I didn't manage, but was naturally exposed to. One of these was the Rolodex brand card file products after that parent company was acquired.
Even though I didn't manage the product line, there was always something intriguing about the products. In this highly electronic world we live in, business cards continue to change hands every day. At some point or another, I'd guess that nearly every TV sitcom has someone pulling a card or looking up contact information from a card file; or at the very least, one is seen prominently on someone's desk. It just lends credibility and is something we've grown to expect.
By no means do I see business cards disappearing anytime soon--so pull those boxes back out of the trash. But, keep in mind that even business cards can only take you so far. Beyond business cards, everyone (and every business) should make sure that they are adding LinkedIn.com to their marketing mix.
While there are a number of services that can help keep you up to date with your contacts--probably better actually--the mix of features as well as the huge and continued adoption of LinkedIn by professionals makes it a worthwhile Web marketing venue.
So how can LinkedIn fit into your SEO and Web marketing mix? Here are three key areas to focus on.
Links & Linking
Every LinkedIn profile is able to add three links to other sites. These could be anything--perhaps to your company home page or to your blog. What many may not realize is that these links are live, direct, and not "nofollowed" on the public profile page...which is the page that is openly available to search engine spiders.
Rather than using the default choices that LinkedIn provides when adding links though, select "Other:" to add relevant anchor text to your links. Of course, you also need to make sure that your public profile is set to actually show these links within the Web site section of your profile. Since these public pages are accessible to search engine spiders, they'll also pass PageRank and contribute to overall link popularity.
Now that you've added links, be sure to link to your public profile URL from other sites when appropriate. This way you'll drive a little traffic to the profile, and depending on the link, also flow a little PageRank through the profile page to your chosen Web site or sites.
SEO of course has a strong focus on-site and in regard to search engine spiders. But SEO is also part of the much bigger picture of search engine marketing (SEM). This becomes especially clear when looking at the social media arena. And no where is this more evident than in the LinkedIn Answers section.
The Answers section provides members a forum for asking as well as answering questions posed by other members. While search engine spiders may index and even return these pages, more importantly, these pages are seen everyday by real live human beings who may well be potential customers. Participating within the Answers section is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate thought leadership within your industry, draw additional attention to your Web site (since you did of course add a link to it from your profile as discussed above), network, and further build your brand image.
Did I mention that your public profile may be seen, indexed and more importantly, returned within search results? What this means is that you have one more opportunity to rank, and not only rank, but rank via content that you control. LinkedIn is a great reminder that optimization is mostly focused on-site, but we should never lose sight of opportunities to optimize content we can control, residing on sites that may lead visitors to our site. And actually, LinkedIn may provide even more than one opportunity to rank since every employee's profile within a company may be one more potential search result.
Now this isn't a license to spam your LinkedIn profile. What it does mean is that it may be beneficial to give a little more attention to the summary information that you provide. Write it intelligently but also incorporating strong keyword-rich signals that are related to your brand, industry and Web site that you wish to be found for.
Best of all, even if LinkedIn decides to "nofollow" all links within profiles, or even block search engines from indexing member profiles, LinkedIn will still serve as an online marketing and networking channel to connect you and your business with potential clients and customers, which in the end, is what SEO is really all about.
But as I said earlier, don't go throwing out your business cards, or your card files. Who knows though, maybe in the future, business cards will look a little differently than they do today, and perhaps something more like this:
Brian R. Brown
Certainly allows for plenty of white space.