Even if you are happily employed or running your own successful business, being found inside LinkedIn is essential, making you visible to LinkedIn's 590 million members (as of December, 2018).
People you are meeting with or possible clients/customers search to find you (or people like you). So, of course, do recruiters and potential employers.
The best way to be found is to leverage your best keywords and the LinkedIn search algorithm.
The algorithm that determines rank in search results is not shared by LinkedIn.
The result of well-executed LinkedIn SEO is a higher position in search results rankings, in searches inside of LinkedIn. This may also impact your appearance in Google and Bing search results.
Each LinkedIn member sees search results customized specifically for them, based on their LinkedIn network (connections) as well as what LinkedIn calls "relevancy to the searcher." When we analyzed LinkedIn search results, we concluded that job seekers can successfully optimize their Profile by focusing in these 10 specific areas:
The version of your name used on your LinkedIn Profile is your most important set of keywords!
Employers research applicants, and they also search for (a.k.a. "source") qualified candidates. And a 2018 CareerBuilder survey found that nearly half of employers (47%) say that if they can't find a job candidate online, they are less likely to call that person in for an interview.
To enable recruiters and others to "connect the dots" and to find your LinkedIn Profile when they are searching for you by name, use that exact version of your name from your LinkedIn Profile in your job applications, resumes, business cards, meeting name tags and badges, and ALL other professional visibility.
I've seen way too many job candidates be William A. Jones on their LinkedIn Profile, but Bill Jones on their resume -- or vice versa. Crazy!
Unless you have an extremely unusual name, not consistently using the same version of your name in all your professional visibility makes you hard to track down. Recruiters in a hurry won't spend much time trying to track you down, so make it easy for them.
If they cannot find you, their assumptions are either that you are out-of-date (no LinkedIn Profile) or hiding something. NOT good for you! And, worse, someone else with the same or a very similar name may have a very bad online reputation that can ruin opportunities for you.
Implement Defensive Googling to know what search results are associated with your name on Google.
Use these keywords in many different areas within your Profile such as your Professional Headline, Work Experience (job titles and job descriptions), Skills, and Profile Summary.
Mary Jane Smith, MBA
Edward M. Smith, MBA, PMP
Elizabeth E. Smith, JD, CPA
If you have target employers, review their descriptions for the job you want, particularly the job titles they use as well as the skills, certifications, and other terms used consistently for the roles you want.
Assume you are employed as the Marketing Content Manager for a retailer, choose the appropriate keywords in for the person's Professional Headline (assuming that everything stated is accurate):
Experienced marketing professional (the only keyword is "marketing")
Marketing Content Manager focused on Data Science applied to increasing website traffic and sales; predicting, segmenting, and growing Twitter followers (MANY keywords in this headline, describing the job and making the skills clear)
Do not simply repeat the same keywords over and over. That looks desperate, dumb, and doesn't work. Include your keywords appropriately in the content of your Profile (another reason to have a robust Profile).
[MORE: LinkedIn SEO, The 25 Best Keywords for Your Job Search and Choosing the Best Keywords for Your LinkedIn Profile.]
Inside LinkedIn Recruiter (the service recruiters pay LinkedIn to use), Skills are a major search option, usually the first search criteria a recruiter chooses. Often overlooked by LinkedIn members as trivial, the Skills and Endorsements section is actually a very important part of your Profile because
LinkedIn recommends members have at least 5 skills out of a maximum of 50.
According to LinkedIn, "Members with 5 or more skills are contacted up to 33 times more often by recruiters and other LinkedIn members."
Choose the best LinkedIn Skills for you and your career, and collect endorsements to prove you have them. Only your first level connections can endorse you.
[MORE: 4 Steps to Leverage LinkedIn Skills & Endorsements for a More Powerful Profile.]
Think of your LinkedIn Profile as a personal marketing portfolio. Consider: What would an employer like to know about you? What skills and experiences do you have that an employer would need? Why would an employer hire you? Why would someone want to work with you? Include that information in your Profile.
A complete Profile, also known as "All Star" in LinkedIn terminology (LinkedIn's definition), is the minimal effort needed to be found in LinkedIn search results. Don't stop there! Read 7 Best Ways for IT Professionals to Optimize Keywords for a More Powerful LinkedIn Profile for examples and more details.
Add relevant KEYWORDS! Complete every Profile section as completely as you can. Don't skimp on descriptions of ALL of your jobs and your employers (for the last 15 to 20 years), your quantified accomplishments in those jobs, projects, and education and training.
If you want your Profile to be found high up in search results, where a recruiter is more likely to click on your name, a robust Profile is necessary, beyond the All Star minimum, because that will increase the likelihood that it includes the keywords an employer is searching for.
Focus your Profile on the job you want next, as specifically as possible so that it contains the right keywords for you. Without appropriate keywords, it won't be found.
You can also upload documents your have written, link to presentations you have made (and uploaded to SlideShare.net, owned by LinkedIn).
NOTE: Be sure you are NOT sharing any confidential information of current or former employers.
Unless a recruiter is paying to use LinkedIn Recruiter or doing a search for a person's name, LinkedIn search results include only the people who are connected to the searcher as first, second, and third degree connections inside LinkedIn.
Consequently, the more connections you have, the greater the likelihood that you will appear in someone's search results, even if they are a third degree connection. Search results are not sorted by the degree of connection, so a third degree connection can be the top entry in search results.
Clearly, if you have a limited number of connections, your visibility in LinkedIn is extremely limited.
[MORE: Refusing or Accepting LinkedIn Connections?]
Location is one of the most important and often used search criteria for recruiters looking for qualified candidates, inside and outside of LinkedIn. Employers usually want someone who is local so the person can be interviewed easily, start quickly, and avoid the expense of a relocation.
Not surprisingly, Location is also a main search criteria in LinkedIn Recruiter. The Location field in your LinkedIn Profile is one of the key elements used to determine whether or not you should be included high up in someone's People search results.
According to LinkedIn, "More than 30% of recruiters will use advanced search based on location."
You can use a country as your official location, but that's a very generic location which means your Profile will probably be invisible (NO keywords!).
A MUCH better idea is to input your (current or target) Zip or Postal Code which LinkedIn will usually translate to a specific city (from the Zip/Postal Code) or to a general region (like "Greater Boston Area"). You'll be able to protect your privacy while providing LinkedIn with a very valuable element in their search algorithm.
If your goal is to move, my recommendation is to use a Zip/Postal Code for your target location. LinkedIn will accept this, and you will be visible in LinkedIn search results for that area.
LinkedIn calls your photo "your virtual handshake," and they are probably right.
According to LinkedIn, "Members with photos receive 21 times more Profile views and up to 36 times more messages."
Without a headshot photo, you are effectively invisible in LinkedIn regardless of how fabulous the rest of your Profile may be. You may appear in search results, but people are very much less likely to click on your name or contact you.
People typically assume that a Profile lacking headshot is for someone who is clueless, hiding something, or fake. None of those reasons will encourage people to click on your name in search results, and your activity in LinkedIn will be very limited.
People have told me that they skip the photo so they won't be discriminated against for a job. Unfortunately, omitting the photo does not reduce discrimination. It only impacts the timing of the discrimination -- if someone doesn't want to hire you because of your age, race, or gender, they won't hire you after a job interview, either.
Skipping the photo is not likely to result in less discrimination. The true impact is a dramatic limit to your visibility inside LinkedIn.
[MORE: LinkedIn Profile Photos for Job Seekers Over 50.]
The less active and visible you are on LinkedIn, the lower your name will probably appear in LinkedIn search results. Daily participation seems to be the best approach, and that participation can be for ten or fifteen minutes a day, possibly less.
Make relevant updates. Share good information from solid sources. "Like" and comment professionally on good, relevant content shared by others.
The goal is to show LinkedIn (and recruiters) that you do visit regularly, so if you are found in search results and someone reaches out to you, you will respond within a reasonable amount of time.
Pay attention to your spelling and grammar. Bad spelling or grammar is one of the key reasons a person is ignored by recruiters and others. Misspelling an important keyword like "manager" (often replaced by "manger") eliminates you from search results for an important keyword.
In addition, if you are rude or nasty to other members, resulting in being blocked or having your connections choose to disconnect, LinkedIn knows and is unlikely to place you very high in search results unless you have absolutely no competition.
Don't confuse LinkedIn with Facebook. LinkedIn is for professional visibility, not for sharing your views on politics, religion, or sports, unless your profession is in politics, religion, or sports. Skip the party photos and other sharing unrelated to your profession.
In the SEO world, this is known as creating "backlinks" but to your Profile in this instance, rather than to your website or blog. If you have a website or blog, add your LinkedIn URL to your bio or contact information, and include them in your LinkedIn Profile, if they are related to your profession.
Also, include your LinkedIn URL in your resume and job applications, add it to your career portfolio (with your resume, etc.), and don't forget to put it in your email "signature" at the bottom of all of your email messages.
If you have visibility on other websites (e.g. professional associations and/or business directories) or publish articles on other websites (e.g. Amazon, Medium, etc.), link the about-this-author blurb to your LinkedIn Profile, particularly if you don't otherwise have a website.
Once your Profile is complete, keep it current with what is happening in your career.
According to LinkedIn, "Members with "up-to-date" positions are discovered up to 18 times more often in searches by recruiters and other members.
Review your Profile on a monthly basis, or more often. Add new content, particularly new accomplishments and skills, training, and good news about your employer.
Even if you are in transition between jobs, update your Profile. [Read The Best LinkedIn Job Title When You Are Unemployed for tips.]
One of the terrible ironies of LinkedIn is that I see many excellent Profiles with no way to contact that LinkedIn member. Include contact information!
Enable recruiters, potential clients, and network members to reach you when they are interested.
Recruiters and potential clients, in particular, are always in a hurry, so, often, if they can't quickly and easily contact you, they'll move on. Read Be Reachable to Be Hired: How to Safely Publish Your Contact Information on LinkedIn for details on how and where to include contact information so your privacy isn't compromised.
Be accurate, and avoid putting your current employment at risk. But, don't distort reality by claiming keywords that are not appropriate for you (don't use a job title that is your next, not your current, job). By following these Profile optimization tips, you increase the likelihood that you will show up in the search results when recruiters are searching for candidates that match your set of qualifications, education, and experiences. In addition, your Profile will add credibility to your current employer's online reputation, if you are employed.
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.