LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD ) stock is up strongly today in anticipation of first-quarter earnings. But the market's excitement for the stock today pales in comparison to its 30% decline in the past eight months. After such a significant drop, the metrics LinkedIn reports today are certainly important. Can the world's largest online network of professionals deliver? Here are the three most important items to watch.
As always, talent solutions revenue will be closely watched. Accounting for 55% of the company's revenue, it's also the LinkedIn's largest business segment. Last quarter, the segment's revenue grew by 53%, year over year -- that's down from 62% growth in the prior quarter.
The deceleration in talent solutions growth in Q4 was no surprise; that's been a trend for several years now. But as the segment's top line continues to decelerate, investors are hoping the deceleration can slow.
Investors should hope for 50% year-over-year growth in talent solutions revenue or better in Q1.
With LinkedIn's launch of a Chinese language version of its site during the quarter, investors will be looking for an update on the project. As one of the few U.S.-based social networks with the opportunity to have a presence in the country, investors are hoping the site can prove to be a lucrative venture.
China is a big opportunity. LinkedIn has said that the country is home to one in five of the world's knowledge workers. It's predicted that the launch of the website could help it grow its paltry user base of 4 million in the country to 140 million eventually, boosting total members by about 50%.
While the impact of the new site may only have small impact on the quarter's results since it was launched toward the end of the quarter, investors should look for an update from the company on the site's progress to date. Does LinkedIn still believe it can achieve 140 million members in China? Even better, maybe the company will provide us a timeline for this goal.
As always, investors will want to get a pulse check on LinkedIn's progress with member engagement. One way to measure engagement is to look at unique visitors and page views.
In Q4, unique visitors (including mobile) were up 31% from the year-ago quarter. Member page views were up 48% during the same period. After these year-over-year growth rates accelerated in the prior quarter, the deceleration in Q4 was somewhat of a surprise.
Will the deceleration continue? Given how robust these growth rates are, there's a good chance the company's year-over-year growth in these two metrics may decline further.
What can investors expect from these two metrics in Q1 then? I'm hoping for 26% plus growth in unique visitors and 40% plus growth in member page views. (Note: These are not the metrics reported in the company's selected financial data, but the ones that include mobile data, usually referred to in the earnings call.)
Overall, analysts expect earnings per share of $0.34 on revenue of $467 million.
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