How To Rank Higher In LinkedIn Search Results

And the classic miscalculation most LinkedIn users make.

Author’s notes:

I published this post eighteen months ago in May of 2016, but it is a good topic to revisit in light of the conversations going on around whether you should have a large loose LinkedIn network or a smaller tighter one. This article presents one of the arguments for a larger LinkedIn network.

I have made changes and edits to the original article to bring it up to date and reflect changes LinkedIn has made in the last eighteen months.

The most important factor for ranking higher in search results isn’t the quality of your profile or your use of keywords. Those are things will get you included in the search results, but not necessarily a high ranking. This is one of the mistakes many LinkedIn users are making with the introduction of the “Your weekly search appearances” statistics. Many LinkedIn users think this means that the “x” number of search appearances means that their profiles were viewed that number of times. This is incorrect because of one overriding factor.

What is the most important factor for ranking higher in search results? Your relevancy to the searcher. So what does that mean? It means that if two people search LinkedIn using the exact same parameters – keywords, geography etc – you may show up on page one of the search results for one of them and page seven (or seventy-seven) for the other. And no one wants to be on page seven. When was the last time you googled something and closely examined the seventh page?  

Relevancy is a bit of a moving target. LinkedIn interprets relevancy based on an ever evolving algorithm which weighs things like the searcher’s prior activity on LinkedIn, similar searches other people have conducted in the past and the profiles that get selected by the query. Having the right keywords in your profile will get you included in the search results, but they probably won’t help too much, as everyone else who was included in the search results had those keywords too.

And let’s face it, you can’t do anything about a searcher’s prior history, or other similar searches to this one.

The biggest factor for where you appear in search results is your relationship to the searcher. LinkedIn thinks that the closer the relationship, the higher the relevance. So LinkedIn tends to list the search results by connection level – first degree connections first, seconds second , group members third and the third level / the “everyone else” crowd last. And this makes sense. Say you are looking for someone to help with you build a WordPress based blog. You search for WordPress on LinkedIn, maybe adding your location to find someone local. LinkedIn shows that you have three first degree connections that qualify, then forty second degree connections, sixty group members, and two hundred third level / LinkedIn members. Based on what you asked for, doesn’t it make sense that LinkedIn lists the three people you can contact directly – your first level connections – first?

So what does this mean to those who want to appear higher in search results? To appear higher in searches you should develop a big network. No, this doesn’t mean you should indiscriminately connect with anyone on LinkedIn. But you should be connecting with people in, and affiliated with, your target audience – your target audience being the people you would like to be found by, whether that is prospective employers, prospective customers, or industry peers. The more people you are connected with, the more likely you will show up as a “one” or a “two” when they conduct a search that you are found in. If you and I are in the same field, have similar experience and credentials, but you have two thousand LinkedIn connections and I have two hundred, who’s your money on for appearing higher in search results?

LinkedIn even says this (it’s in the LinkedIn help section):

The more connections you have, the more likely you will have a connection to the searcher. Closer connections, such as a 2nd-degree connection compared to a 3rd-degree connection, improve your ranking in searches.

There is a big difference between search engine optimization and LinkedIn search results optimization. To optimize for LinkedIn search results, you need lots of relevant connections.