I’ve already mentioned how Amazon and Wikipedia own most proper nouns, but there’s one category I ignored: full names. That’s currently a fight between LinkedIn and Facebook. Facebook has more links and more profiles, but LinkedIn has more tricks up their sleeve.
But first, an experiment: Google the full names of half a dozen of your coworkers. You may find personal sites. You may discover that some of them have the same names as famous foreign athletes. But you’ll mostly see their LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. How can it be that Facebook’s 464 million links can’t consistently beat LinkedIn’s 30 million links?
First, LinkedIn has made more information available, for longer. Until recently, linking to a Facebook profile meant linking to a tiny image, a name, and perhaps a list of friends. LinkedIn drops the friend list and the image, but gives information on past jobs and education. Unless you’ve previously posted your resume online, this makes your LinkedIn public profile the default place to link when talking about your career.
But LinkedIn really shines with their internal linking. Googleable places that link to my profile with my name as the anchor text include:
Recently Updated Profiles, which is a page I’m sure search engines love to visit.
A directory of people by last name with my last name in the URL.
Another directory, whose purpose I don’t really understand. It overlaps a little with the previous directory. If I were in LinkedIn’s position, I would probably want to update pages as often as they were indexed; if I could get search engines to index two sets of pages with the same information, it would double the speed at which they got indexed.
A Company page: (And the company pages of places I’ve worked before). This is particularly clever: LinkedIn displays names based on who is more interesting to readers—the more people are interested in searching for you, and potentially writing high-value content about you offsite, the harder LinkedIn tries to keep you.
LinkedIn is optimized for owning names. They’ve created pages with unique, useful content—and uses them to pass valuable links within the site. At the same time, there aren’t many LinkedIn pages that aren’t valuable to someone who ends up finding them through a search.
After all that work, it’s ironic that LinkedIn is the only site that can search information Google indexes, but better than Google can. LinkedIn doesn’t have better search engineers, but they do know which parts of a page are first names, last names, and employers—just a little more evidence that better data can beat better algorithms.
If you liked this, you may also want to check out this analysis of LinkedIn’s prospectus.