Deciphering The New LinkedIn “Weekly Search Appearances” Feature

There is a bar on your profile under your intro section and above your articles and activity section. It used to feature your profile strength, the number of people who had viewed your profile, and the number of views of your latest post or article.

Then last week I noticed that it had changed.

The profile strength has been truncated (that’s the blue star at the left end of the bar) and “Weekly Search Appearances” has been added.

Clicking on the number of search appearances results in this screen:

(the number of search appearances differs between my two screen caps as one was taken using last week’s numbers and the other for this week’s)

What this page appears to do is to provide you with some clues as to how well your LinkedIn profile is performing for you.

The statistics that LinkedIn provides show three things.

The number of times you showed in search results during any given week

While it is a nice ego boost to think I am showing up in a lot of searches, without any context I am not sure that knowing this number helps me much. That’s because LinkedIn quite helpfully does not tell us how a “search” is defined. Here’s a good example: if someone I know types my name in the search bar and hits enter, they find me. Does this constitute a search? And if so, should I be excited that I turned up in their search results?

And it would be nice to see how many of these search results that I showed up in actually translated into profile views. I am guessing not many because if the number was impressive, you would think LinkedIn would want us to know. I know my profile was viewed around 160 times in the past seven days…but how many of those came from searches as opposed to from posts and articles and other places?

And there appears to be a few bugs in the system. I took the screen capture at the top of this article on Wednesday afternoon, June 21st. It said I showed up in 867 searches for the week that ended June 20th. Later the same day (June 21st) I went back to check something and noticed I now had appeared in 940 searches for the week ended June 20th. How can that number still be going up today if the search period ended yesterday?

The statistics screen then lists the top places your searchers work

I am not sure what to make of this. Last week on my report there were three companies listed. This week there are two. Those two were both there last week too. WTF? (WTF of course, stands for “Wednesday, Thursday, Friday”). Apparently, over a two week period I landed in more searches performed by people at Oberlin College than anywhere else. How can that be? Does Oberlin College have a “Find Bruce Johnston on LinkedIn” course that I don’t know about?

Even if I put the nice people at Oberlin College aside, that leaves Intel as the next company. Now how can I use that information? Maybe I can send messages to my three connections at Intel asking if it was them. Or maybe I can send InMails to the 5,600 second degree connections I have at Intel.

So once again this information is interesting but not useful.

What your searchers do

Now this is data that helps. In my case, I show up in more corporate trainer’s searches than anyone else. And these are the type of people I want to meet so I know my profile is doing it’s job. If I was job hunting, I would hope to see Recruiters and Human Resources people as my top searchers.

What these statistics don’t do for you

They don’t tell you where you ranked in the results and that is a big deal. If you don’t rank highly in a set of search results then who cares? I regularly perform searches that get thousands of results. I don’t look at them all. When was the last time you performed a Google search and reviewed all the results? Okay then, when was the last time you performed a Google search and got even halfway down page one of the search results?

In a lot of ways, these statistics make me think of views you would get for a post on your LinkedIn Homepage screen.  A thousand views means it was on a thousand screens. But you don’t know how many people actually saw your post and then read it. In the same way, appearing in a thousand search results is nice. But it doesn’t tell you if the people searching even saw you in the search results, let alone clicked on and opened your profile.  

I just stopped writing for a moment, hopped on LinkedIn and did a search for people in North America. So congratulations, if you are a LinkedIn member and live in North America, you just showed up in my search results….with 118 million other people.

As it stands, “Weekly Search Appearances” gives us some useful clues, but not the whole story.

 

Should You Send “Blind” LinkedIn Invitations To Connect?

Maybe not. Let me see if I can persuade you may be heading for a brick wall.  

I define a blind invitation as one that comes in out of the blue. The recipient is not aware of the inviter’s existence until the invitation to connect arrives. Sometimes the invitation to connect is personalized, but often the personalizing isn’t very imaginative, just a bland “We share ten connections so we should be connected too” type of thing.

Some aspects of the blind connection request you should take into account:

They can leave you waiting…and then what do you do?

Someone receives your invitation, reads your personalized plea to connect and goes, “meh”, and does nothing. But you don’t know that, you’re waiting for a reply.

Did they reject your invitation?

Did they just put it aside for a couple of days?

Did they turn it down?

Welcome to Limbo, population: you  

They can turn you down…with extreme prejudice

Someone you invite to connect has the option of not only declining your request, but telling LinkedIn they declined because they don’t know you. Collect enough of these “I Don’t Knows” and LinkedIn will restrict your account. Even worse, LinkedIn will not warn you if have collected any “I Don’t Knows” or how many.

Having your account restricted means having to know and provide the email address as part of any connection requests you make from now on. I had this happen to me early in my time on LinkedIn when I sent invitations to connect to customers of a company I used to work with. Apparently I remembered them a lot better than they remembered me. It took a lot of explaining with LinkedIn in order  to get my privileges restored.

LinkedIn appears to be changing the focus from a finite number of invitations to your overall invitation success rate

LinkedIn used to allow you a certain number of lifetime invitations to connect. A few years ago this number was rumored to be three thousand and in the past couple of years it was rumored to be five thousand. If you reached the invitation cap, you were cut off from inviting more people and you had to go and grovel with LinkedIn to get an extra fifty invites at a time to use.

Now it seems that “negative feedback” matters more than absolute numbers. In the LinkedIn help section, the references to a hard cap seem to have disappeared. Instead, LinkedIn says you can be “limited from inviting more members” if too many of the people that you invite to connect either ignore you or report you. So it is not just “I Don’t Knows” anymore. Even well written and personalized invitations to connect are not immune to being ignored.

Blanket acceptance of invitations is being taken advantage of

There was a “sweet spot” in late 2016 and early 2017 when a lot of people would accept connection requests pretty easily. Being rejected was something you really didn’t have to worry about. So blind invitations became a popular strategy for sales people. But the pendulum seems to have started swinging back again as too many people have used easy connection acceptance as a way to immediately bombard those new connections with sales pitches. Even more insidious, these connectors would immediately – and without permission – add those new connections to their email lists and the Spam those poor connections outside of LinkedIn too.

I think this has the potential for connection requests to be not accepted as easily as they were just a few months ago. And there are other potential problems with this as well:

  • If LinkedIn users start thinking of their connections as pests, maybe they will start ignoring messages from connections.
  • Maybe the pendulum swings too far the other way and LinkedIn members start accepting fewer and fewer connection requests.  
  • Or maybe to avoid spam, more LinkedIn members start using a “special” email address for LinkedIn. One that they never bother checking.

While these latter three may seem improbable, the idea of them happening would probably give LinkedIn a case of the cold sweats. So my guess is at some point LinkedIn will really clamp down on invite abusers.

The takeaway here? Don’t take inviting someone to connect for granted. If you are inviting ten people to connect and getting four acceptances, maybe it is time to re-think this strategy. Someone accepting your invitation shouldn’t be an open question, it should be close to a given. Keep your invitation acceptance rate up.

Be The One To Offer Value First

Once every week or two someone will contact me and the conversation goes something like this:  

Seeker: No one in my network wants to help me.

Me: How many exactly have you helped?

Seeker: Well none. No one has asked.

And there is the crux of the problem. You will be offered help from people you have offered to help.

And this leads to one thing that works on LinkedIn: providing real value to other LinkedIn users first. And for free too. Regardless of what your goals are – networking, finding a job, sales, marketing – nothing beats providing value, especially at the start of or early in a new relationship.

Because what does everyone want? More. More information to help them make better decisions. More access to the right people. More resources. That’s what it comes down to. Be the person that offers some of that information, that access. Be one of those resources.

Providing value is giving a little piece of yourself to someone else on LinkedIn that will make them better informed, give them information that they can use, or help them with a problem that they have. And at the same time, not expecting to be compensated directly for it.

When I suggest this to someone, I usually get this objection:

“We don’t give away our hard won knowledge and expertise for free. They should expect to pay for it.”

 But I didn’t suggest you give it all away…just a piece. Enough to help the other person. I often do this, sending one of my how-to’s on something like using InMail. The how-to I send will legitimately help someone with a facet of InMail such as subject lines or  calls to action. But as I teach eighteen different facets to InMail in my course on that topic, I’m not worried about giving away one of them.  

Giving away a bit of your knowledge demonstrates your expertise. And it invites the question, “Well what else can he/she do for me?”  Helping someone like this makes them think of you as an expert first and someone out to ask them for something second. It puts the focus on business and it puts the focus on them and their problems.

Some people say that what they sell or work with doesn’t lend itself to the idea of giving away little pieces of their knowledge. That’s fine. You have something else extremely powerful to offer: your LinkedIn network. You can offer access to your connections. If you have 500 connections, you have multiple people you could introduce someone to that would be valuable to them, and to your connections.

An offer to help someone, sincerely and without expectations of any direct compensation or tit for tat is something people don’t expect. But they will appreciate it. And it works.