Think Search Engine Optimization for your LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site. It is a great platform for re-connecting with past and present colleagues and classmates, giving and getting advice with fellow industry colleagues, and finding jobs or business opportunities. Think of your LinkedIn profile as your extended professional calling card.

As a professional seeking new business opportunities you may have heard the old adage: “It is not who you know, it’s who knows you”. In this day and age, I would expand that to include, “it’s who can find you.” That is where Search Engine Optimization comes in.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art and science of increasing the volume or quality of visits to a web-site from search engines. For the purposes of this article, those search engines include not only the ones that  readily come to mind (Google, Yahoo!, and Bing) but the search capability within LinkedIn as well. Your LinkedIn profile IS your web-site. You are well advised to use SEO to help people find you. Here are some suggestions:

1. Update your LinkedIn summary to ensure you are found

The key to SEO is to think in terms of how someone trying to find you might conduct a search for someone with your skills or background. A cursory look at random LinkedIn profiles reveals that people tend to write about themselves in “fluffy” terms that would not be used in actual searches. Some examples:

  • seasoned (as in peppery?)
  • highly skilled
  • results oriented
  • stellar track record

If I were seeking candidates to fill a CFO position, would I search for “seasoned highly skilled financial executive with stellar track record” or would I search for “Denver CFO VP Finance renewable energy”?

Another example (from the owner of a Denver based SEO firm) is for folks in the restaurant business. It is not unusual for a restaurateur to be proud of their food — perhaps based on their grandmother’s recipes. Although this reference might look cute in a menu, basing a web-page on this factoid makes no sense from an SEO standpoint. What was the last time you typed in “grandmother’s recipes” when searching for a restaurant? More than likely you typed something like “best comfort food Denver”.

2. Use the “Specialties” section to your advantage

A bullet list of relevant search terms in the “Specialties” section in the summary of your profile will help those search engines find you. Keep it relevant and don’t stuff it with every three letter acronym in the book. If you are CEO material your specialties might include business development and strategic planning. Do yourself a favor and don’t include COBOL, Excel, Word, or PowerPoint as core competencies if you are indeed CEO material. I am amazed by how often I have seen this.

Look at some tools to come up with search terms that people are actually using. They are a great source of ideas.

3. Complete your profile

It is interesting to see how many people leave their work experience blank or only list employer names. If it’s not there, it will not show up on a search. You may also think about highlighting your accomplishments, not just stating what you worked on. Stating you “worked on IT governance” does not quite carry the same punch as “reduced IT spending by $1M by designing and implementing a client computing governance program”.

4. Expand your network

The number of people who can find you on LinkedIn is proportional to how many people you are connected to. Add pointers to your personal blog or web-site if appropriate. See my LinkedIn profile for example.

5. Get endorsements and recommend others

The possibility of your profile coming up on a search may depend on how many people have recommended you as well as how many people you have recommended. Think about getting endorsements from managers, peers, direct reports, vendors, etc… No better way to prompt them to do so than by recommending them first.

Now that some potential customer, business partner or recruiter has landed on your LinkedIn profile, how do you keep their attention?

Engaging you visitors

1. Evaluate your profile for readability

Make sure you make effective use of white space. Add bulleted lists and blank lines. A “wall of text” may turn some people off.

2. Keep your profile relevant to your profession

If you are a CIO, display your membership to IT professional groups. You may want to turn off displaying your membership to the World Class Procrastinators, or to the Executives in Minimum Security Prisons professional groups.

3. Make it easy for people to contact you

You can embed your e-mail and phone number at the top of your summary section.

4. Make it personal and easy for people to relate you

You should have a clear, professional picture of yourself on your profile. Pictures of pets, spouse, children, or cartoon characters belong on other social media sites (i.e. Facebook). Make sure those sites are ONLY searchable by your close friends and family and not searchable by the general public.
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