LinkedIn Changes The Way Groups Appear In Searches

May 18, 2012
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Groups are a great feature on LinkedIn, and there’s much to be gained by entering and successfully engaging members within a group. If you are the creator or moderator of a group, then you’re all the better to be positioned as an authority in that specific space. We’ve operated an LI group that has grown into the largest of its kind in the greater Chattanooga area.

The advantage of establishing a strong group presence (with a large number of members) is that when people do a group search within LI for the key word that best identifies your group, you come up high in the search results. Ranking was always determined by the number of members a group had with the top ranking reserved for the group with the most members. That is until now.

When searching the “Chattanooga” in the group search bar, LinkedChattanooga was always ranked second behind The University of Tennessee Alumni Club. Since the group was created back in July 2008, long before any other “Chattanooga-specific” groups were around, it has always been #1 or #2 in the internal LinkedIn search rankings. We like to think the thoughtful moderation and curation of relevant material has made the group thrive too. However, we can’t deny it doesn’t hurt to be right up there near the top when someone does a search for “Chattanooga” groups.

Last week we noticed a drop in the number of people requesting entry into the group. Wanting to figure out why this was happening we did a search with the keyword “Chattanooga” within LinkedIn groups. The result was shocking. We were no longer a top ranking group – we weren’t even on the first page anymore. It took having to hit the “next” button six times to find the group. We were buried on page seven of the search results. Not good.

The search results were like nothing we’ve seen before. Groups, and sub-groups, with lower membership numbers were ranking high. Some groups (like ours) with larger membership were buried underneath. Not liking this we decide to inquiry with LinkedIn as to what was happening. ¬†There response was as follows:

 

 

Their explanation, although not full of details, was enough to put us on the path to fixing the problem. The name of our group was “LinkedChattanooga” so we thought breaking the two words out would be a good start. LinkedIn didn’t think so though. Their rules state that a group can not have the word “LinkedIn” in the title, and apparently the word “Linked” is close enough so our attempt to change the name of the group to “Linked Chattanooga” failed.

We had to take another route. We saw from the search results that the key word (“Chattanooga” in this case) did not have to be the first word. A group named “Network Chattanooga” was in the top spot. There were others that had five or six words in the title where the key word appeared in the third, fourth or fifth position. This led us to believe the keyword did not have to be in the first position.

Next we looked at the group description and how that related to the search results. We knew it was unlikely anyone was trying to game the system with keyword stuffing since this change by LI was so recent. The descriptions of the groups ranking high did contain the key word at least once, but none of them were blatantly stuffed.

Our existing description already contained the key word, but we decided to rewrite it anyone. The result was a slight uptick in our search ranking, but nothing to get excited about. We were still buried pages into the search. It was becoming apparent that we had to change the name of our group if we wanted to get back on the first page.

Since LinkedChattanooga was always connected to BusinessChatt.com, a site managed by us, we thought about changing the name to Business Chatt, but rather than take a chance of it not working we opted to switch it to “Business Chattanooga”. LinkedIn has a policy that you can only make changes to a group’s identity ¬†(group logo, name, type, summary, description, website) a handful of times so we wanted to get it right with minimal tweaking.

The good news is the changes worked! See for yourself. We’re back on top, but only after some careful deliberation. How often do we, as companies, marketers and professionals, take for granted that the rules can be changed at any time. Social media sites are free to use (for the most part), but we should always remain vigilant to avoid having the rug pulled out from underneath us.

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