LinkedIn Ought to Be ‘LinkedOut’

I have moved up the emotional scale from mildly irritated to pretty angry. I even considered a New Year’s resolution of dumping LinkedIn.

The first time it happened, I thought it was just an error caused by my chunky fingers hitting the wrong keys or clicking my mouse with too little respect for the useful creature. But, as it has continued, and LinkedIn has been impervious to requests for an explanation of whether what’s happening is intentional or not, I have moved up the emotional scale from mildly irritated to pretty angry. I even considered a New Year’s resolution of dumping LinkedIn.

Here’s why.

What would you think if you got this message in your inbox?

LinkedIn notification for Peter Rosenwald
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

Like me, you might be complimented that people are searching for you for business, for pleasure or for anything. And you’d certainly be curious about who these clever searchers might be. So, just as I did, you would click the box. Right? And here is what you would get.

LinkedIn search notifications for Peter Rosenwald
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

That’s funny. I distinctly remember that LinkedIn told me (in the opening personal email from “Notification. No reply”) that I had appeared in three searches this week. Did the other two searchers get lost?

Only a week or so later, Liz, at LinkedIn Sales Solutions, tells me my 90-day fan club, albeit over an overlapping period, grew by 400 percent.

linkedin sales solutions notification for Peter Rosenwald
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

WOW. I really want to see who those folks are.

The only problem is that to see these 13 people, I have to sign up for a 30-day “Free” trial to Sales Navigator Professional with a negative option paid subscription after the 30 days if you don`t notify

LinkedIn credit card notification for Peter Rosenwald
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

them you want to quit. And to get the free trial, I have to give LinkedIn my credit card and lots of other data. Why? Helpfully, there is a very smoothly written explanation promising “a seamless subscription experience.” But, despite these assurances, when even the CIA and NSA can’t adequately protect their data, can LinkedIn?

The playwright Tom Stoppard has one of his characters say famously, “There is an art to the building up of suspense.” LinkedIn seems to have mastered the art, taking the curious (or not taking him) to find who is really interested in his profile.

And if that weren’t enough, here’s what came next.

Important LinkedIn notification for Peter Rosenwald
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

I know I flunked math at school but, despite a serious effort, I couldn’t figure out where the 267 number came from.

It’s obvious that like many of Silicon Valley’s progeny, growth in number of “subscribers,” paying for the premium service vs. taking it free, is the key KPI. That would help explain the rather over-the-top switch-selling which so annoys not only me, but lots of people who value the LinkedIn service — but not the hassle.

“Get them to sign up” is a standard digital mantra. And as LinkedIn is now owned by Microsoft, its bean counters are no doubt focusing on this and the data that each sign-up brings. Writing for Forbes, Grant Feller said of LinkedIn: “It knows where people work, their skills, ambitions, who they went to school with and what interests groups people share. LinkedIn knows about people better than Microsoft does.”

It is now virtually impossible to get a sense of whether this strategy is paying off. After Microsoft paid a cool $26.2 billion in late 2016 for the essentially profitless company with its tanking stock price, its figures are no longer available. At the time, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was quoted as calling the deal the centerpiece of its “cloud services and software” strategy. And it also makes Microsoft a major player in the increasingly competitive social network Olympics. But does this justify such a hard sell?

The question is: Should we all be LinkedIn or Out? That’s something to consider for your next New Year’s resolutions.

Blurring the Lines Between Paid and Natural Search Listings: The Impact on Search Performance

Over the past few months, Google has made some subtle changes to the look of its top position sponsored listings. These changes have, in the aggregate, made top sponsored listings look remarkably like natural search listings.

Over the past few months, Google has made some subtle changes to the look of its top position sponsored listings. These changes have, in the aggregate, made top sponsored listings look remarkably like natural search listings.

In January, for instance, Google lowercased the display URL for all paid search ads (e.g., Example.com became example.com). The new lowercase display URL now matches natural search URLs. A few weeks later, Google began allowing top position paid search advertisers to move the first line of description ad text into the title of the listing. This can be done for any listing by placing punctuation at the end of the first description line. By moving the first description line into the title, the paid search title looks more like a natural search title.

Other recent changes have helped top position paid search ads blend into natural search results. These changes include the lightening of the paid search box’s color and a change to the box’s right-side label from “Sponsored Listings” to the less noticeable “Ad.”

What do these changes mean for paid and natural search performance? Performics’ 2010 Search Engine Results Page (SERP) Insights Study found that two-thirds of searchers know the difference between paid and natural search results. However, in light of Google’s recent changes, fewer searchers may be able to tell the paid and natural listings apart.

Many searchers click on natural search listings because they believe natural search is less biased than paid search. Yet, as the lines between paid and natural search listings blur, searchers may be more likely to click on a top position paid listing. Thus, paid search clickthrough rates (CTRs) may rise while natural search CTRs may fall. Performics’ 2010 SERP Insights Study also found that 20 percent of searchers frequently or always click on paid search ads. This year could be a different story.

In light of these changes, advertisers should pay close attention to both paid and natural search CTRs, especially for brand queries. For example, most advertisers run a top position paid search ad and rank first naturally for their brand name. Google’s changes could divert clicks from the natural listing to the paid listing, which means advertisers will be paying for clicks that they used to get for free.

This is fine if the cost per order/lead from paid search remains at or above goal, but if click costs rise and order sales and leads don’t, advertisers need to refine their paid search campaigns. This includes employing landing page optimization strategies as well as testing paid search site links to better direct searchers to the exact page they’re looking for.

It’s generally easier to use paid search rather than natural search to direct a searcher to a defined landing page that’s optimized to drive conversions. Thus boosting paid search CTRs — even at the expense of natural search CTRs — can drive more conversions. The key is ensuring that paid search landing pages are optimized.

It’s clear that Google’s changes blur the lines between paid and natural search listings. Will Bing and other engines follow suit? That remains to be seen, but in response to this change on the industry’s leading engine, advertisers now have an opportunity to boost paid search CTRs. Advertisers must be strategic about their programs and remember that in order to stay efficient, they must ensure that more clicks ultimately yield more sales/leads.

Have you seen a difference in your search programs as a result of these blurred lines? Have questions about how it might impact your campaigns? Contact me at craig.greenfield@performics.com.