7 Things You Need to Know About LinkedIn Search

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You’ve built your LinkedIn profile, updated your work experience and education and you’re all set to launch your job search, land new clients and/or grow your business. But how do you stand out from LinkedIn’s 200 Million other members? How do you make sure that people and opportunities can actually find you? It all comes down to knowing more about the search algorithm and optimizing your LinkedIn profile accordingly. Here are seven things you need to know about LinkedIn Search…

1. LinkedIn’s Search Algorithm likes connections and profile completeness.

When people search LinkedIn, the results are, by default, sorted by “Relevance” – which is code for “LinkedIn’s Proprietary Search Algorithm.” (Hat tip to Andy Headworth of Sirona Consulting for summing it up so beautifully.) “Relevance” sorts by the following criteria:

  • 1st level connections with profiles that are 100% complete (or close to it) and have the most in-common connections / shared groups, ranked in descending order
  • 1st level connections with the fewest in-common connections / shared groups, ranked in descending order by profile completeness
  • 2nd level connections ranked in descending order by profile completeness
  • 3nd level connections ranked in descending order by profile completeness
  • Shared group members (outside of your network), ranked in descending order by profile completeness
  • Everyone else (those outside your network), ranked in descending order by profile completeness

So what does this mean to you and me? Because this is the default for search results and the vast majority of people aren’t even aware that they can change it, it’s extra important to a) be a 1st degree connection to as many people as possible (i.e., grow that network!) and b) have a profile that’s 100% complete. This means including a profile picture, a professional headline, your last two jobs, etc. LinkedIn will walk you through the process and let you know once your profile is 100% complete. Anything less than 100% completeness is not only hurting you from a search ranking perspective, it’s also less-than-impressive to anyone who happens to read your profile.

2. Keywords in certain sections rank higher.

A LinkedIn profile has many different sections, but LinkedIn’s Search Algorithm likes some of them better than others. Keywords in your Name, Headline, Company Name, Job Title and Skills rank higher in the search results. This is why it’s so important to have a 100% complete profile. If these key fields are blank or filled with generic terms, then you fall to the bottom of the search rankings. Think about which search terms are most important and relevant for your business / career and then search LinkedIn for those keywords. If you don’t show up on the first page of results, update these key sections (Headline, Job Title, Skills) to include those relevant terms and then search again. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you shoot up the ranks! (Side note: LinkedIn allows you to choose up to 50 Skills. If you’ve selected anything less than 50, you’re putting yourself at a distinct disadvantage. Why give your competition a free head-start in the race?)

3. Using all fields/options available to you will give you an extra advantage.

Like Skills, you can join up to 50 groups (not counting subgroups!), so take advantage of every opportunity offered to you and use all 50 spots. You have 120 characters available to you for your headline. Use as many of them as possible to create a descriptive, interesting and keyword-rich headline that attracts lots of targets to view your profile. You have 2000 characters for your summary… use them! There are 1000 characters available for your interests… the list goes on. Make full use of the fields and sections available to you to paint a detailed picture, reinforce your brand and make your profile really work for you!

4. Keywords in the “Advice for Contacting So-And-So” section don’t rank at all.

Sorry, but placing keywords in your contact section does nothing since this section is excluded from LinkedIn Search. Use this space to tell people the best way to reach you (hint: definitely include a phone number and/or email address if you REALLY want to be contacted… why hide? You don’t leave it off of your resume or business card, do you?) and place those keywords elsewhere in your profile.

5. Using a variety of keywords that mean the same thing will help you be found.

Think about all of the different ways of saying the same thing and be varied in your language when writing your profile. Maybe you’re a recruiter… There are so many different ways of saying the same thing: recruiter, recruiting, recruitment, sourcer, sourcing, staffing, talent, search, headhunter, etc. If you’re not using a variety of terms and keywords, then you may not show up in search results. Use these terms throughout your LinkedIn profile in meaningful sentences… Do NOT just keyword stuff them into your profile in one big run-on sentence of nothingness. Use them in the correct context so that the terms are meaningful and won’t turn off your audience once they arrive at your profile. A spammy profile, even if it turns up at the top of search results, is never good for your personal or professional brand.

6. Search Trends can show you the effectiveness of your search strategies.

LinkedIn allows you to see your Search Trends – how many times you’ve shown up in search results and how many people have viewed your profile over the past three months. (Click on “Your Profile Has Been Viewed by x People” on your home page and look at the chart in the top right corner.) Take advantage of this information to make changes and monitor the results. Are you showing up a lot in search results but not being viewed much? Maybe it’s time to update that profile pic and/or professional headline to be more enticing (since that’s what people see in the search results before deciding whether or not to click on your profile to view it). Make your profile interesting and compelling to attract more viewers. Maybe you’re showing up in lots of search results but you’re buried on Page 9 and that’s why people aren’t clicking on your profile to view it. Grow your network and optimize your profile to improve your results in both of these categories – search results AND profile views!

7. SEO benefits extend beyond LinkedIn.

An optimized LinkedIn profile can have far-reaching effects.  BrandYourself recently analyzed 100,000 profiles and found that LinkedIn was the social network MOST often appearing at the top of Google search results. This means that opportunities (job offers, clients, business deals, etc.) could be pouring in from both LinkedIn as well as external searches from the web. Make sure that your profile is optimized to bring opportunities your way and to be sure that your audience likes what they see when they get there!

The amount and type of data stored by LinkedIn is mind-boggling when you really think about it and there are infinite ways to slice it and dice it. Put yourself in the shoes of your potential customer, client or future employer and search away… How do YOU look? Can they even FIND you? Now you’ve got the knowledge to make those changes and use LinkedIn’s powerful search tools to your full advantage!

What works for you?

Do you have any search tips on Linkedin that you’ve found useful?

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    • Thanks, Josepf. Great point! Some skills are trending upward (year-over-year) while others are on the decline. Be strategic when choose yours!

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  1. Great article Stacy! Jampacked with information and so well written.
    Quick note for those new or not too familiar with LinkedIn changes….
    – You no longer get a 100% complete profile.
    – LinkedIn now shows the strength. Best is “all star” (about 98%)
    – If you are setting up your profile now, there is no longer a section with “interest”

    • Hi Petra,

      I didn’t know that about not being able to achieve a 100% complete profile. I wonder why what they used to consider 100% can now only be considered 98%…?

    • Thanks, Petra. I appreciate your feedback!

      I wouldn’t say that it’s impossible to have a 100% complete profile… just that the icon they use only appears to be about 98% full. Your profile can still be 100%… I think that LinkedIn does that to give the impression that no profile is ever perfect and that there’s always room for improvement. 🙂 Yes, “all star” is the description they now use for “100% complete”… I kinda like it! 🙂

      Thanks again,

  2. Great article, thanks!
    Concerning point #6, what do you think is a good percentage of number of views with respect to the number of times you show up in searches? 10%? 50%? 80%?

    • Hi Sharon,
      Great question! I don’t have a firm answer for you, but I recently posed this same question to the “LinkedIn Experts” community on Google+ and heard a wide range of answers ranging from 10:1 to 3:1. (My personal ratio is right around the 3:1 mark…) What’s yours? What can you do to increase views and appearances in search? There’s always room to improve, huh? 🙂
      Thanks for commenting,

  3. Thanks for the very useful information. Are you saying that the descriptions of ourselves that we put in a Group will improve our chances of being found by searches done outside that Group?

    • Don’t our Profile descriptions just follow us throughout our group activity? I’ve never noticed any difference in the groups I am in.

    • Hi Eric,

      I don’t know that I understand your question since your headline / summary / profile info follows you throughout your activities on LinkedIn. There is no separate bio or description for groups.

      I’m just saying that the names of groups are full of great, descriptive keywords that help SEO… along with helping with that important “profile completeness” piece as well!

      Thanks for commenting,

  4. Many thanks for giving the keys in order to succes with LinkedIn!!
    I have been studying Google´s Algorithms, and now it is time for LinkedIn.

  5. Excellent post and one of great importance. This is an area that I see people missing the mark on frequently. Your article will help many.

    Donna Gilliland |
  6. Stacy:

    Your article is BY FAR the best article I have read on unveiling the mystique of LinkedIn’s search algorithms and other “411.”

    I have also written an article on my blog challenging readers to ensure that they are ACCESSIBLE on LinkedIn. As an interim recruiter, I am often frustrated when I find a profile that is of high interest, and cannot get to that person because their settings are too narrow, they don’t have a few LinkedIn groups displayed, they have no Twitter address I can write to, have no blog or other personal website at which I can contact them, have no email or phone number displayed overtly or on attached documents, etc.

    I also think it’s important that folks optimize their profiles by mentioning their most key terms more than once, since LinkedIn’s algorithms function partially by counting redundant keywords; keyword density is therefore key in the hot spot areas you mentioned. All things being equal, a profile with “Marketing Director” listed 3X in the hot spots will emerge higher in the rankings than one that only mentions this term once or twice.

    For those who wish to read my article that expands upon my thoughts above and challenges how accessible they are on LinkedIn, here is the link:

    Happy Hunting!


    • Marissa,

      Thank you very much for your feedback. You bring up a great point with “keyword density”… thanks for mentioning that! As long as there’s no blatant keyword stuffing of course… there are always a few who abuse things, aren’t there? 🙂

      Thanks again,

  7. Thank you Stacy for the article. Being new to LinkedIn there is a lot to learn about optimizing my profile.

    Linda Bongo |
    • This is Jessica’s blog, not mine, but I’ll thank you for your comment all the same, Steven! Appreciate your taking time to comment. 🙂

  8. Thanks Stacy, another fantastic and highly useful article keep them coming please 🙂

    Lee Ferguson |
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  10. Hi Stacy,

    Is there any kind of small “hack” on LinkedIn in order that I can see which people or in what kind of search did I appear in search results?
    Is there some specific link that will make this available.

    I want to know what are key words or something else made impact for showing my profile in search results and improve those fields or data.

    Thanks a lot!!!


    Ivan |
  11. Hi there, You have carried out an amazing job. I’ll surely delicious the item and on their own advise so that you can my buddies. I think they are took advantage of this fabulous website.

  12. I’ll just put it out there: I don’t like the concept of job search. I vote for the term being eliminated from our lexicon, and replace with “job find.” How would it feel if the right people and the right opportunities came to you? I’m not talking about magic. I’m talking about positioning yourself the right way so that you attract those right opportunities. Magnetizing your audience and magnetizing your opportunities is the next secret to successful LinkedIn job search.

    Most candidates are currently doing the opposite of magnetizing. Think about this: going uphill is hard, right? Pushing a boulder while you’re going uphill would be even harder, no? All that pushing is what most people do in the job search. You’re pushing yourself out there, blasting your resume out to companies, and bothering recruiters you don’t really know, who are likely not in an industry relevant to you, and who don’t know of anything open for which you could be a match. Instead, magnetize. Attract. Position and optimize your LinkedIn profile so that when employers and recruiters search for someone with your particular brand of expertise, you appear high in the search results. We have a full presentation on how to magnetize in our free webinar http://goo.gl/KT9pV
    Magnetizing, instead of pushing, is critically important for several reasons. First, the recruiter initially approaching you will likely spark a much more beneficial scenario than you approaching him. The person’s not approaching you just to chat. He’s selecting you because he thinks you may be a match for an open opportunity he has right now. Second, the entire act of magnetizing is simply empowering. Gone are the feelings of frustration, repeatedly being ignored, and continually getting rejected. Instead, the right recruiters seek you out.

    So create your account http://goo.gl/KT9pV

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  14. These are great tips! I just made significant edits for my profile and have a seen a change in the type of people reaching out to me and what they are seeking. Still a ways to go before I’m fully happy with it, but glad I’m seeing progress.

  15. Hello Stacy,

    I’d much appreciate your advice about a situation I was involved with on LinkedIn.

    I asked a marketing consultant I met at a SEO seminar last summer to introduce me to someone on LinkedIn. This person has a direct connection to the person I want to be introduced to. I gave her my reasons for the request. Her reply was that she tries to keep her connections private on LinkedIn. She asked if I’d let her know what I’m looking for in marketing services.

    At first I thought it was inconsistent or disingenuous of her to refuse my request for an introduction, because she offers marketing services. Then I thought that if I become her client, she’s more likely going to introduce me to her contacts. What I’d like to know is, was it inappropriate for me to ask for the introduction? Or if it is appropriate, would she be wise to make the introduction since I’d be more likely to hire her when I’m ready?

    • Gary,
      my own feelings on this are that introductions of this kind are the very stuff of Linkedin.

      Five minutes of work (two of which are warming up the laptop) and the introduction is complete and a courtesy given. After all, it’s one of the ways to develop trust …

  16. Hi Stacy,

    Thank you for the boatload of information!

    I do have one question: In section #2, you mentioned that keywords in a person’s name will rank higher in search results. Since LinkedIn wants people to only put their name in that field, does the LinkedIn algorithm actually improve the ranking of a profile with keywords in the name field?

    Thank you, Dan Stiffler

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  20. Dear Stacy,
    It’s always useful to know how these software systems have been set up, so the heads up on this one has been extremely useful. I’ve already improved my Linkedin profile and more tweaks are in the pipeline – so a big thankyou for sharing your insights.

    Gemma x

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