August 13, 2010

How to optimize your LinkedIn profile

Linkedin Centipedes at 2010 Bay to Breakers
Image by smi23le on Flickr.

Guest post by Anthony Piwarun
SEOmoz

Like most in the SEO (search engine optimization) community, I’m always looking for ways to improve content for my clients. Whether it’s a website, blog or a press release, there is always a way to make it rank better. Recently I began optimizing profiles on LinkedIn, the social networking site for business professionals. Using my own LinkedIn profile as a test, I’ve discovered that the same principles we use in the SEO field.

For two months, I altered various fields of my profile and logged the effect on the number of searches that it appeared in according to LinkedIn analytics. While I’m not one to rely heavily on a single method of measurement, LinkedIn doesn’t offer an option for analytics so my primary method of measurement was the in-house tracking system. The results I found were conclusive: It is possible to optimize your LinkedIn profile to rank better in search.

Before diving into the results of my study, I’d like to point out a few areas that I believe are key to achieving an optimized LinkedIn profile and also give a brief “how-to” on optimization techniques.

How to handle the profile headline

The first and most important field to optimize on your LinkedIn profile is the headline. The headline field can be most equated to a meta description in SEO terminology. It’s a way to explain what you do and how you do it (in as few words as possible) to the world without having to use one of those awful labels known as a “job title.”

For my headline, I opted to go with three keywords and my contact information. For those that aren’t too familiar with LinkedIn, contacting a non-connection isn’t easy unless you’re in the same group or you have a mutual friend, so adding contact information is helpful for new business development. Like its SEO counterpart the meta description, it’s the first thing a searcher sees when searching on LinkedIn.

linkedin

Profile summary

A LinkedIn summary is a chance to describe who you are, what you want to accomplish, and what you aspire to be. In SEO terms, I like to think of it as the first 100 words of the page. This is a great opportunity to add a ton of keywords, related terms, and longer, more descriptive strings. While it’s important to use your targeted phrase a few times throughout your summary, keep in mind this is a professional profile and if you sound like a robot you most likely won’t win the bid, get hired, or be able to go more than 4 consecutive hours without your coworkers calling you R2D2. Just like any effective website, a LinkedIn profile optimized with user experience in mind will get the sale long before a keyword-stuffed can of Spam.

summary

Job title and description

Another important field when looking to optimize a LinkedIn profile is the job title and description. I’m not going to open myself to hate mail from HR reps, so I’ll bypass job title optimization and cut right to the description. The job description you provide doesn’t have to and most likely shouldn’t be word-for-word verbiage from your job offer letter. Be creative, yet truthful; descriptive, yet succinct. Remember, your target audience has even less time than you to spend reviewing job applicants or proposals so cut to the chase.

title

Group memberships & connections

Group memberships and the total number of first-, second- and third-degree connections also play a part in determining your ranking in LinkedIn search results. Group memberships and connections are a lot like incoming links- they serve as a “vote of confidence” of sorts, and the closer your connection is to the searcher, the higher up you will show if they use the one-click filter option to sort by relationship. My best advice would be to join as many (relevant) groups that you can and connect with a few LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers) from your industry. Note: Don’t connect with random strangers, it’s just plain rude!

group membership

Hidden gem: DoFollow link love!

A little-known perk of having a LinkedIn profile is the strength of the domain and the presence of doFollow, customizable anchor links. Your profile allows three links for your website, blog, or Twitter with default anchor text like “My Website” or “Other”. The “Other” field, when selected, allows for customized anchor text. Instead of selecting “My Blog” or “My Website”, use the “Other” option and give yourself some link love from a trustworthy PR 8.

DoFollow

Pulling it all together

Because we’re all results-driven marketers, optimizing content and leaving it alone simply isn’t an option. We need to track, and we need to measure! Throughout my 8 week test on LinkedIn I kept a log to track changes and measure results. The fields that I changed over time were headline, summary, and work description- each of which were explained in detail above. Some other notable variables included a new recommendation from a vendor and a premium LinkedIn subscription.

fields

Conclusion

While the actual numbers aren’t something to write home about, they show an increase of search impressions by as high as 5.5x the baseline measurement. Changing the headline, summary, and work experience alone increased search impressions by a factor of 1.8. Because a new recommendation is an uncontrolled variable, there’s no accurate way to measure (or predict) the results of this type of action. Upgrading to a premium membership slightly increased the number of search impressions but, in my opinion, not enough to justify the cost.

Key takeaways

After reading this HOW-TO, I hope to drive home the following points:

  • Adding keywords to the 3 high-traffic fields of your LinkedIn profile will provide a measurable increase in the number of it will display in search results.
  • Optimizing your profile will not only help it rank better in search results but also pre qualify potential connections.
  • Sometimes it’s best to think of optimizing your content for user experience, not for search engines.

I hope this How-To was helpful — if anyone has done LIO testing on their own, please leave feedback in the comments below for all to see. For more internet marketing tips, be sure to visit my blog and follow me on Twitter.

This post originally appeared at SEOmoz and is republished with permission. The author’s views are entirely his own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc. SEOmoz is not affiliated with Socialmedia.biz and has not reviewed this translation. SEO­moz provides the Web’s best SEO tools and resources.
  • http://twitter.com/adamloving @adamloving

    The “other web sites” dofollow trick doesn't seem to work anymore. Each link is pre-pended with a redirect via linkedin.com.

  • Manvesh Sathe

    Awesome post.. really helpful ..actually I never think before that we can optimize our Linkedin profile..so now I got new way for optimizing business as well as social media accounts..thanks again

  • floridafrecks

    Really good no nonsense approach to getting found on LinkedIn. I really appreciate how you took it one extra step and showed us the performance numbers on the back end. Hey – we are marketing folks after all, right?

  • http://twitter.com/getmoredone @getmoredone

    We like your insights and have applied many of them to our linked in and keyword settings at ” target=”_blank”>http://www.getcontrol.net – we are an email efficiency training company. My struggle is which keywords to pick. I think I know 90% of them but I need someone to go through the data with me and help me choose the top 5.

  • jaz

    Thank you for the input it was mega helpful. And I will try to apply your suggestions above.

  • Web Hosting UK

    oh that is quite useful. Thak you for the linkedin advice.

  • Bryden McGrath

    Thanks, Anthony. I’ve come back to this post a few times to help optimize my personal profile. Great point on joining groups and how these can act as a “vote of confidence” much like incoming links. If you’re an active user on LinkedIn, you’re more likely to rank better in search results. If anyone out there is interested in optimizing the new company pages that have just rolled out, be sure to check out my post: http://www.portent.com/blog/social-media/optimize-new-linkedin-company-page.htm