LinkedIn Search: What’s Changed In The Free Edition

I had a good look at the free version of Search under the new LinkedIn desktop user interface over the weekend, as it seems that while not totally eliminated, many of the bugs are at least known at this point. And while I am disappointed in a couple of the things that were lost or moved to Sales Navigator, the overall search “experience” is much better than I thought it would be, with one rather large caveat that I will get to later in this post.  

Here’s what’s new, what’s changed and what’s gone.

Types of searches

We used to be able to choose between: 

People

Jobs

Companies

Groups

Universities

Posts

Inbox

Changes:

“Inbox” has been lost, but the other six remain. However, as LinkedIn allows you to search your messages in your message center, losing Inbox search  isn’t a surprise.

Bugs:

I have heard from many users who seem to be missing one of the tabs, usually “Companies” or “Groups”.  

I like the new presentation where you enter your initial search term or name and then choose which type of search you want to perform.

Filters we have now and changes

We used to have these filters:

Keywords                       Title

Location                         Relationship

First name                     Last Name

Current Company        Past Company

Industry                        School

Profile Language          Non Profit Interests

Changes:

“Relationship” is now “Connections” as you now can only choose among 1st, 2nd and 3rd. No fellow group members.

“Keywords” now includes sub-fields for first name, last name, title, company and school.  This is a much more user friendly setup than the old search which had one general “Keywords” field and another specifically for “Title”.

“Location” hasn’t changed and this is too bad because locations kinda sucked in the old version of search (ie it still does). Search in the free version of LinkedIn is still set up for recruiters and not for salespeople. For example, I pity any salesperson who has New Jersey as their sales territory because New Jersey does not exist in free LinkedIn search. It does in Sales Navigator, so I know that LinkedIn is capable of locating New Jersey on a map.

“Industries” has changed minorly. There are 148 industries listed as of Friday March 3rd. By my count there were four new industries added in the last year: Construction, Music, Investment Management and Outsourcing/Offshoring.

What’s gone?

Location by zip or postal code

Location by proximity (number of miles or kilometers)

Groups was part of the “Relationship” filter along with 1st, 2nd and 3rd level connections. The Relationship filter is now the “Connections” filter and allows filtering by 1st, 2nd and 3rd level connections only (cue ominous music re: future of groups on LinkedIn).


The (evil) Commercial Search Limit  

Microsoft has asserted they can grow LinkedIn’s sales, and one way to do so is to get more Sales Navigator and Recruiter subscribers. And one way to do that is to limit how many searches a user can execute for free.

As the “old” commercial search limit was never publicly defined by LinkedIn, it is hard to tell if this has changed, but lowering the CSL would have a bigger impact on many LinkedIn users than all the more obvious changes to functionality. I tried an experiment last week,  sharing a screen with a colleague who has a free LinkedIn account and the new UI. He performed 53 searches, defined as entering a term of one type or another in the Search Bar and hitting the “Search” button. No problem. We even took a bunch of the searches and refined the results four or five times. No problem. While this is not conclusive evidence by any means, it seems to indicate that the commercial search limit has not been changed to  something awful like five or ten searches.

 

Saved searches

Once you perform a search, Saved Searches show up at the bottom of the filter column on the right.

 

You appear to get three Saved Searches.

Bug: some people don’t have Saved Searches yet.

 

Conclusions / Some closing thoughts on the new LinkedIn Search

  • The new Search is much easier to use and much more intuitive. I think LinkedIn users will be able to use this version more effectively than the old search.
  • We lost some functionality. People who made heavy use of searching by zip code or proximity are out of luck. But not as much functionality was lost as we were led to believe.
  • The marginalization of LinkedIn Groups continues
  • The wild card remains the Commercial Search Limit. If the CSL has been reduced again (and this certainly seems likely), a lot of users won’t really care about all the changes to functionality and the user interface.
  • If you are not getting the search results you are looking for, or you keep running into the Commercial Search Limit, you are either searching ineffectively or you need Sales Navigator. Know the difference, because if you are searching poorly it’s just going to cost you eighty bucks a month to get the same lousy results.  
  • In my experience – as teaching LinkedIn search and performing searches for clients is a lot of what I do – most LinkedIn members still use search inefficiently and ineffectively. They wind up with the wrong results, or too many results or too few. A lot of using LinkedIn Search still depends on you the user, so
    • Be clear about what results you want.
    • Understand how Boolean search works.
    • Define what information you have that will help narrow the search  down.
    • Use the filters for help. Check each filter to see if they will help narrow your results.
    • If you have important searches, do them early in the month before you risk hitting the CSL.
  • It is unclear if the weekly updates with new people found in your saved searches counts towards the CSL. It probably doesn’t. You get three saved searches. If you have a lot of repetitive searches, save them.

While everyone likes to call it the “professional social network”, LinkedIn is more accurately described as a database of 500 million people with the advanced search tools that can be used to search and make sense of that database. Know how to use those search tools to get the most out of LinkedIn.