The fundamental key to being found, and found faster, on LinkedIn, is to make effective use of keywords. By utilising keywords to reflect common search terms, you can transform the all too common and all too passive “yet another résumé” type of LinkedIn profile into an active, dynamic attractor of the people you want to find you, for the services you are ready to provide.
And remember—it’s not just about being found. It’s about being found quickly, ideally at the top of the list and at least on the first page of results. Like Google, LinkedIn lists ten search results per page.
There are three things you can do to bring your LinkedIn presence up to speed for “fast findability”:
- Customise your LinkedIn Personal Profile.
- Set up a LinkedIn Company Page.
- Participate actively on LinkedIn, for example through LinkedIn Groups.
This post focuses on the first area and outlines how to configure your personal profile for optimal findability. It is not an exhaustive list of all the ways to enhance your profile, but if you do the things listed here it will help your ability to be found faster on LinkedIn.
But first, a few comments about keywords.
LinkedIn and keywords
As a smart user of LinkedIn, you will make as much use as you can of the power of the LinkedIn search engine, which searches all sorts of variables, separately or in combination. The term “keyword” includes keyword phrases. So, for example, each of the terms “accountant”, “Sydney accountant” and “Sydney chartered accountant” can be a keyword.
That means making sure that you are using strings of terms that might be searched together. For instance, if someone is searching with a particular phrase for which you provide specialist services—say “tax accounting” or “financial services” or “business consulting”— you will be more likely than your competitors to be found and found first, or at least on the first page of results, if you use “tax accounting”, “financial services”, or “business consultant” in your profile instead of “Accountant at ABC Tax Services”.
This is just a variation of what many people know about how Google and other search engines work: that is, you and your products get found on the basis of the words people are typing in. However, relatively few people, especially in the professional services field, seem to use keywords strategically in their LinkedIn profiles.
Customise your LinkedIn Profile
The first and most important place to optimise your findability on LinkedIn is with your personal profile page. Too many people fill out their profile in the most basic way, with a listing of where they have worked, often with an old-fashioned “everything but the kitchen sink” type statement of duties for each position, rather than spending some time to make each entry informative, readable, and keyword-rich.
Some leave their public profile link in the default mode, with a lot of numbers in the URL, instead of customising it to emphasise their name. And amazingly, some people who have taken quite a bit of trouble with their profile have nevertheless not included their company web link. Do they think people will be happy to go searching for that? Why not just include it in the space provided?
Some sections of the profile are more important than others for being found. In my experience, the primary areas on which to focus first for findability are:
- Professional headline
The Professional Headline is the line that appears under your name on your profile. Many people leave this in default mode, which just takes the most current position you have listed under Experience. So you typically see, especially in the professional services category, headlines such as Sales Manager ABC Company, Partner XYZ Accounting, Senior Accountant at ABC Partners, and so on.
Customising the headline takes only a few keystrokes. Leaving it in default mode is letting slip a key opportunity to be found for the services you provide. As well as being one of the best things you can do to be found quickly on LinkedIn itself, customising the professional headline works also for Google and other search engines. The professional headline is what will show up under your name, with your location, when people find your LinkedIn profile on Google and other search engines.
To illustrate what I mean by customising the headline, which of the following professional headlines do you think would be more effective for, say, the owner of a local accounting practice?
Owner, MyTown Accountants
Tax accountant | Tax returns | Accounting services (GST/BAS) | Small business planning | Bookkeeping | Cloud based accounting services | MYOB Certified Consultant
The second example contains several more keyword search terms than your competitors will have who are content to list themselves just as Accountant, Owner XYZ Company, and so on.
There may be official policy or prevailing views in a particular firm about what is appropriate to be included in a Professional Headline, and of course that should be sorted out before making the change.
LinkedIn Profile Summary
The LinkedIn Profile Summary provides extensive opportunities for including interesting-to-read information about you and your services—and for using keywords strategically. In the editing mode, the Summary section is in two parts:
- Professional Experience and Goals
You can use the first of those to tell the story of your past work and roles, but I prefer to see section this as an opportunity to explain and promote what you offer now, with some references to your experience to back that up. For readers who want to know more about your past experience you can include that under the specific positions you have listed in the Experience segment.
Don’t waste the opportunity the Summary provides; use it to show what your business is about. It’s also a good opportunity to give some indication of your values, which is important and generally not revealed by a short, bullet point summary. For the Professional Experience & Goals section within the Summary, I like to explain what I do, who my typical clients are, and what my clients can expect from me.
The Summary is also ideal for explaining information to help your findability for a specialised market. For example, I saw this line included in a New Zealand accountant’s profile:
I am of Te Rarawa and Whakatohea descent and have a passion for assisting Maori business.
One area where I find LinkedIn has a limitation is in geo-location. In Australia, if you are based in Wollongong, you will be shown as being in the Greater Sydney area. On the Gold Coast, you will show up as being in the Brisbane Area or Queensland. Profiles of people in New Zealand, whether in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Whangarei, or Invercargill, will show their location as just New Zealand. If you want to attract business from a particular city or region, think about including that in your summary. Mentioning the city or region by name, and include it more than once if you can fit it in.
Make sure you list the services you specialise in and want to be found for. Also think about some variations (see Tweak and Test below). For example, if you want to be found for tax accounting services, you might want to include some variations on that, such as:
- Tax accounting
- Business tax
- Personal tax
- Income tax
Note that I’ve listed these one under another. Some people just run all the specialities together, separated by commas. Listing them vertically makes the section more easily scannable by the human reader.
Other sections of the profile:
- Text of Positions (“Experience”)
- Website links
- Groups and Associations
Apply the same keyword-thinking about your current and past positions; make sure you include keywords for what you want to be found for now.
Under Additional Information customise your website links with keywords. For a financial planner, “Financial Planning” is a better link than “Company Website”. By the way, you can insert the web link (URL) to a specific section of your site; it doesn’t have to be the home page. Also, use the three spaces provided for web links, whether for separate sites or different sections of the one site.
Use the Interests section. One search I did as a test showed 264 accountants in a specific region. When I added the keyword “rugby union”, that narrowed the search to 4 accountants, each of whom had included the term in their interests. You can see how that could be valuable if a rugby union club was looking for a new accountant in their city or region.
Under Groups and Associations, LinkedIn will include automatically any LinkedIn Groups to which you are subscribed. Add in any others, especially including any professional associations and community associations or organisations.
Tweak and test
Put some time aside to experiment with the text in your profile, especially in the Professional Headline and Summary (including Specialties) sections. Run searches after each change, noting the times, and see the effect on your profile’s ranking.
Just so you don’t confuse or annoy your network, before you start tweaking, switch off the “activity broadcast” settings. That’s under Settings – Privacy controls. Then switch it back on when you have finished the tweaking and testing phase.
LinkedIn is not always easy to navigate. If you have any questions about the suggestions in this post, please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments section below, and I’ll do my best to give you a practical answer. You can also use the LinkedIn Answers function (menu bar on your LinkedIn page, under More) where there are usually plenty of people willing to share their knowledge.
Every good wish for optimising your profile.