By Meg Guiseppi
Most executive recruiters and hiring professionals at your target employers turn to the LinkedIn search engine first, when they're sourcing talent.
You want to do everything you can to have these people land on your LinkedIn profile, and that's why focus on SEO ("search engine optimization") is essential.
How do they search to find job candidates? They enter relevant keywords into LinkedIn's search field.
Because your professional headline sits at the top of the web page, the keywords you place there will be more readily found by the LinkedIn search engine, and other search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) than the content below it, in the rest of your profile.
Making your headline Search Engine Optimized ("SEO"), or SEO-friendly, means using the 120 characters allowed to pack that spot with the keywords those people are most likely to enter into LinkedIn's (or any other) search engine to find job seekers like you.
Once you have a 100% complete LinkedIn profile (according to LinkedIn's criteria) that is open to public view - AND contains those all-important relevant keywords in your headline - your profile will likely land higher in search results for those keywords. (See LinkedIn's Simple steps to a complete LinkedIn Profile.)
LinkedIn will automatically populate your headline with whatever information you provided for your current job title. So, if you haven't improved it, your headline may be a lackluster title like this:
CEO at XYZ Company
Not much of value there. Instead, go in and change your headline so it reads something like this:
CEO, COO, President – Global Manufacturing Turnaround Management – Lean | JIT | Demand Flow Technology
Each of these keywords and phrases are relevant to that particular job seeker and will likely be searched by hiring professionals.
You can pack quite a punch with the 120 characters allowed. Use as many of them as you can, while keeping the headline comprehensible. Try to avoid abbreviations that may not be an actual search word.
And don't load it with anemic phrases like "results-oriented," "hands-on," and "forward-thinking." This isn't the place to insert "Actively seeking ABC job." That belongs at the top of your Summary section.
More relevant keywords = more likelihood your profile will be found = more likelihood you'll be in the running for the jobs you want.
To determine the best keywords to place in your LinkedIn headline, turn to the Personal Branding Worksheet you did for the industry-specific words that support the value you offer your target employers.
Other LinkedIn profiles are a good source of relevant keywords. Go to the LinkedIn search field at the top of your profile. Enter the job title(s) you're seeking, along with the industry you're targeting. This leads you to the LinkedIn profiles of some of your potential competitors. Check out their professional headlines for ideas, but don't copy anyone's headlines verbatim.
Job boards are another good place to find relevant keywords. Go to Indeed.com or LinkUp.com, and enter the same job title(s) as above. Use the job descriptions that look like a good fit for you to source relevant keywords.
Take time and care creating your LinkedIn professional headline. A keyword-rich headline will help people find you, provide a quick glimpse into the value you offer and compel them to read more of your profile.
When your career target changes, re-think and rework your professional headline.
Meg Guiseppi, Job-Hunt's Personal Branding Expert and 20+ year careers industry veteran, has earned 10 certifications, including Reach Certified Personal Branding Strategist, Reach Social Branding Analyst – LinkedIn Profile Strategist, and Certified Executive Resume Master. Meg is the author of "23 Ways You Sabotage Your Executive Job Search and How Your Brand Will Help You Land." Connect with Meg at ExecutiveCareerBrand.com for c-suite personal branding and executive job search help and on Google+ and Twitter (@MegGuiseppi). And, you may also download Meg's free ebook - Job-Hunt Guide to Smart Personal Branding with LinkedIn.