Why Less Isn’t More on LinkedIn

February 24, 2015 − by Carol Kaemmerer − in Linkedin − 

If your LinkedIn profile isn’t bringing you any action, perhaps this is why:

Short, terse text may work in some contexts, but it’s not what helps you rank highly on LinkedIn. The number of times a keyword appears in your profile and your level of connection to the person searching determine your page ranking for that particular keyword and searcher. So, to show up on page 1 or 2 of a LinkedIn keyword search requires that your LinkedIn profile be rich with keywords and that you have a robust network of connections. This post deals with the text part of that equation.

LinkedIn profiles have two audiences:

  • human readers
  • LinkedIn search bots

It’s important to keep both audiences in mind in crafting your profile. The people reading your profile are looking for an engaging story and text that helps them understand your work passions and experiences. They want to read prose that flows, not sentences that are awkward because of keyword stuffing. In contrast, the search bots are searching for, and counting, the number of times a given keyword appears. If your profile is skimpy and lacks a summary, there is no chance that you will rank highly on a LinkedIn keyword search. So how do you write for both audiences?

1) Decide what your keywords are.
What three or four things do you want to be known for from a business perspective? These should be words or groups of words (e.g., Chief Financial Officer (CFO), turn-around, mergers and acquisitions (M & A)) that people would be likely to enter into a keyword search. Think strategically. People are not likely to search on a word such as “excellent,” so while you’d like to be known as doing excellent work, “excellent” is not a good selection for a keyword.

2) Understand that search bots are efficient, but not smart:
LinkedIn’s search bots do not recognize the equivalence of Chief Executive Officer and CEO, for example, so if people are likely to search using different terms, make sure you feature both terms in your profile.

3) Figure out how you can use your keywords to tell your story:
Think of each section of your profile as a new opportunity to mention your keywords, perhaps multiple times.

4) Use your characters:
Your headline (the text that appears to the right on your portrait at the top of your profile) can be 120 characters (letters and spaces) long. Craft your headline in Word so you can efficiently do a character count. Start with a functional title (e.g., Senior Executive. Compliance Officer, etc.). Add some punctuation after the functional title (e.g., colon or double-dash). End your headline by including your unique value proposition. What value do you bring? To whom? Read your headline aloud several times. Revise it until it conveys your message with power and in a way that is easily read and understood.

Your summary can be 2,000 characters. The summary is where you establish emotional rapport with your human readers and feed the search bots also. You can tell a great story about your career in 2,000 characters. Write as though you were speaking to a new acquaintance and telling them about your work passions, what motivates you, what has influenced you and what you’ve accomplished. Write in first person. It will be natural to weave in your keywords. Read it aloud several times and smooth your text accordingly. If you have characters left when you’re done with your story, you can list your specialties at the end of your summary in a list.

In your experience section, you have 2,000 characters for each job entry to tell about your accomplishments. Again, it is easy to weave in your keywords here. You might want to write to the limit for your two most recent positions, but, as with resumes, you would write less content for jobs that are more distant.

5) Check to see whether you’ll “be found” on LinkedIn:
Perform an Advanced Search on each of your keywords, one at a time. You’ll see the word “Advanced” to the right of the search box in your tool bar. Make sure to checkmark all levels of relationship (1 connections, 2 connections and group members are probably already checked; checkmark 3 level connections and everyone else). Enter one of your keywords to test. To test the strength of your profile against people who live within 50 miles, enter your zip code near the bottom of the search form. If you don’t enter a zip code, you’ll test your profile against the top people in the country.

6) Not on page 1 or 2?
If you didn’t rank as well on your keywords as you’d like to, analyze what is different between your profile and the profile of those who did show up on page 1 and 2. Based on your analysis, revise and test again. Where else might you use a keyword in your prose? If the problem is truly not in your text, then it’s time to expand your network.

Wishing you every success in leveraging the power of LinkedIn.

Photo credit: Kchung, 123rf.com.

This post was originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse, October 12, 2014. Carol J. Kaemmerer is an executive LinkedIn coach who works with high performing individuals and executives. She tells their professional stories with style to align their LinkedIn presence with their personal presence. You can check out Carol’s LI profile here: www.linkedin.com/in/carolkaemmerer.

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