Is There Any Value In “Your Weekly Search Statistics” ?

Had a look at my Weekly Search Statistics for last week. I had appeared in 256 search results for the previous week. Let’s take a deep dive and see what we can learn from what LinkedIn told me about “My searchers.”

Where your searchers work

My searchers for last week work in

  • a travel business and
  • a supply chain company

And that’s it. I appeared in 256 search results last week and apparently all of those searches were performed by these two companies. This immediately makes me question the validity (not to mention the worth) of these statistics.

What they do

The top five business titles were

  • Executive director (that’s flattering I suppose, but exec director of what?)
  • Salesperson (that’s good, salespeople are typical clients of mine)
  • Process specialist (what type?…don’t leave me hanging here…)
  • Business strategy (not sure I have ever met a business strategist)
  • Business owner (okay lots of these are clients)

Okay this is minorly helpful, but some context as to what they were searching for is needed. Luckily I can turn to…

Keywords your searchers used

“WHO”

That’s it. “WHO”, all capitalized. No other search term apparently was used in searches I showed up in. Now, I can draw two possible conclusions here, both of  them a bit disconcerting:

  • Very few people actually search via keywords. They must be all searching by company or geography or title. This is too bad as when used effectively, keywords are the secret to  really narrowing down a search.  
  • Lots of people search via keywords but they have no idea what they are doing.

But the worst part of this whole exercise is the explanation for what these stats represent: “number of times your profile appeared in search results between October 31 – November 7” (I wrote this November 10th).

Note that that the “WHO” search I was in brings up over nine million people in the search results. Hardly an exclusive club. And the key here is the sneaky factor.  People and organizations that talk about the Weekly Search Statistics tool make it sound better than it is: “this new tool shows how you were found.” Sorry, not really. What the person found was a haystack, I’m just a needle somewhere in that haystack.

“Your weekly search statistics” reminds me of the LinkedIn Social Selling Index. Looks interesting on the surface, but when you dig into it a bit, there isn’t much there.

 

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.

Should You Be Using LinkedIn Sales Navigator?

If you are doing research – Sales Navigator can really help you

LinkedIn is first and foremost a database. A database that contains information on hundreds of millions of people. Often this data is skinny or thin, but just as often it can tell you things you wouldn’t find elsewhere. In particular I have found that people will often talk a bit too much about their last job – revenue levels that should have stayed private, products worked on that should have stayed secret.

All of these profiles really become available to you when you can use the search tools that LinkedIn Navigator incorporates. In the free version of LinkedIn you have a dozen filters that get shut down once you hit the monthly Commercial Search Limit. Sales Navigator has a couple of dozen filters and the user interface for them has gotten pretty good.

Search Navigator also helps with company research too. Premium LinkedIn accounts get access to headcount growth, and changes to headcount by department, and new hires by month. I use these statistics to paint a picture of a company’s health by using headcount trends as a proxy for revenue trends. Very handy.

If you are in sales – Sales Navigator can maybe help you

(Here’s where I get in trouble again. )

What? Sales Navigator is only a “maybe” for salespeople?

Well, yes. This has to do with the difference between research and sales. For research, you have 500 million LinkedIn profiles to work with. In other words, everyone on LinkedIn. With sales, you realistically only have the tiny social network embedded in LinkedIn to work with. And that’s around one quarter of those 500 million, and realistically less that. A little under one in four LinkedIn users shows up on LinkedIn at least once a month. This is based on LinkedIn’s last released statistics 14 months ago, and that LinkedIn has not said anything since then to contradict the trend that monthly or active users constitute under 25% of overall users. There are companies that claim LinkedIn has really ramped up active users in the past year, but I am skeptical of a supposedly fabulous statistic where I can’t find how it was derived and that LinkedIn has no comment on.

So seventy five percent of LinkedIn users are not around much. Not around to see your LinkedIn ad, not around to see your sponsored updates, not around to see your articles and updates, and certainly not around to see your message.

The decision on using Sales Navigator for sales should be predicated on whether your prospects are active on LinkedIn. If they are not active, the greatest message in the world won’t receive a reply. Some of these active people will be really obvious – if you sell to human resources, sales, marketing or consultants, you win, Sales Navigator will likely work for you. But if you sell to other professions, best to check to make sure a lot of people in those professions are actively using LinkedIn.

Before you sign up for Sales Navigator, have a good idea how you want to use it, and a good idea whether Sales Navigator will actually help you accomplish your goals. It’s the difference between spending money and investing money.  

 

The Key To Writing Good Content On LinkedIn

This one’s easy: Stop thinking of it as trying to write good content, and just write.

If you want to get noticed on LinkedIn – either as a company or as an individual – you need to write and publish. But when I tell people this I get push back, usually something like this:

Coming up with content is hard. We have no idea what to say in our our content should say, no one here has any ideas for content, and we are not sure our customers would like our content. “

So I will say, stop thinking content and start thinking stories. If they still balk, if  someone tells me they can’t write or don’t know what to write about, I ask them two questions. The first is:

“Can you tell me about that time you saved your customer?”

Because everyone has a story about the time they went above and beyond the call in order to help a customer with something difficult or to meet a ridiculous deadline. I usually get this really enthusiastic recitation of a story with a neat twist or lesson in it.

And when the other person is finished, I just ask them the second question:

“That is a great story, now can you write that down?”

So here is a story they can publish that makes the person or company look good, shows the lengths they will go to assist a customer and at the same time, doesn’t come across as advertising or a sales pitch.  What’s not to like?

And inevitably they will go, well that’s just the one story, now what do we do. So I ask them to tell me ten mistakes their customers are making, or ten misconceptions that their customers have. Good, there’s your next ten stories. Go get ‘em.

Some of my articles and posts do really well, and some not so much. And I have no idea which it will be beforehand. Last week I published an article on people using “likes” on LinkedIn. I thought it was an interesting topic, but I didn’t know if anyone else did or would. It has almost a thousand views and forty-six comments so far, so in retrospect, other people thought it was an interesting topic too.

Everyone who doesn’t write on publish on LinkedIn is preoccupied by how hard it is. All of us who do write and publish on LinkedIn just go ahead and do it.

Some Pro’s and Con’s of “Liking” on LinkedIn

(photo caption: “Yeah, it’s been a long day, maybe I’ll just slap a “like” on this one,” Photo courtesy Mark Johnston)

Everyone “likes” articles, posts, discussions, comments and updates on LinkedIn.  But did you ever stop to think what value that liking has? So I wrote some of my own Pro’s and Con’s down. For the purposes of brevity, I use the term
“article” as a catch all for content.

Pro: Likes are easy

Liking something takes no time at all. Click of a button, done. Which leads me to…

Con: Maybe too easy

I always wonder if likes are too easy – you can pull up an article and the option to like it is right there at the top of the screen before you have even read it.

Pro & Con: The “that’s what I was going to say!” like

You come across an article and what you wanted to say has already been nicely articulated by someone else. So either liking the article or liking that person’s comment is the right thing to do, but you still end up a little frustrated.

Pro: The acknowledgement like

Likes  are often a shorthand for “I agree with you” when they are appended to comments in particular. I use “likes” quite often when people make simple comments on one of my articles.

Con: The value add factor is low for likes

When you like an article or post, it adds little value for you. You are one of the rather anonymous like crowd. You pale beside the commenters who are adding to the discussion about the article. When I see someone has liked one of my articles, I think “thank you.” When I see someone has commented on my article, I often reply to their comments and occasionally send them a message thanking them for their comment.

Pro: Added visibility

I see many LinkedIn users who seem to employ likes as a visibility strategy. And if kind of works – authors will see those people in the list of people who liked their content. But….

Con: Too many likes look odd

So I look at someone’s activity and see all they do is like posts. No writing, no sharing, no comments, just likes. This tends to make me wonder if this is a real person or a fake profile.  

Con: Smaller opportunity for engagement

When someone comments on my content it gives me something to latch onto, and provides a possible opportunity to start a conversation with that person. Likes are kind of flimsy. I have sent thank you’s to people who have liked my content, but statistically, I can say they are much less likely to become connections.  

I suppose for me it all comes down to:

If you can, comment. If you can’t comment, like.  

 

Why Would Someone Create A Fake LinkedIn Profile?

I wrote an article a couple of months ago on some of the ways to identify a fake LinkedIn profile. One comment I received quite a bit was “why would someone do this?” It seems like a lot of work, for some nebulous benefits.

And it does not take a lot of work. I could build one in ten minutes and it would likely fool most people. Start with an email address and come up with a new name. Then just cut and paste everything from another profile…like yours, and copy your photo too. There. Done.

Here are four uses for fake profiles. The critical part is getting you to connect with them, because they can then indulge in a little…

Email address collection

This is the obvious one. Harvest email addresses from connections.

Identity theft

When added to the information most users include in their LinkedIn profiles, this is a good start. In addition to their email address, many LinkedIn users list their birthdays, and this is viewable by their connections.

Phishing, spear phishing and other scams

If a connection sent you a message with an attachment, would you open it? It could contain malware. How well do you know and trust this person?

Connecting adds credibility

This is the sneaky one. When you connect with someone there is your implied  endorsement that they are a real person. When they go to connect with someone you are connected with, that someone sees  you connected with them. They connect. They open the email with the attachment.

How do you fight this? When someone you don’t know invites you to connect, ask them a question. One other aspect to look for is comments on posts and articles. Faking activity by liking content or sharing it without comment is easy and fast. Taking the time to make comments on that content is not. It’s time consuming.

It’s one thing to cut and paste a profile together, but another to be taking the time to comment on posts, or publish posts.

Be careful out there.

 

A LinkedIn Allegory

(This could be a sunrise or sunset, but spam is spam. Photo courtesy Mark Johnston)

 

LinkedIn member:  I have come up with this great new social selling idea.

Me: Tell me

LinkedIn member: I put together a limited time offer, and I send it in a message to all my connections.

Me: Umm…

LinkedIn member: Hang on, here’s the best part. I can only send them one at a time, but all I have to do is copy and paste my message in, add the member name  and off it goes!

Me: Umm….

LinkedIn member: And I hire someone in the third world to take over my account and do it for me for peanuts!

Me: So you are going to send dozens or hundreds of the same message to people who didn’t ask to receive that message?

LinkedIn member: Umm…

Me: I think you just invented Spam.

Moral:

Think before you press “send”. This whole “trust” thing matters.

Keeping Your LinkedIn Network Healthy

You may have five hundred connections. You may have five thousand connections. But regardless of the number, your network should be tended to from time to time to keep it healthy. You built it to serve your purposes, and now that it is built, you have to keep it from getting unruly and out of control.

Think of your own network. There are probably times you have suffered from “connector’s regret.”

4 signs your LinkedIn network could use some pruning

You find someone on LinkedIn you would really like to meet, and seeing that they are a second degree connection, you are looking for an introduction. And then you see who is the first degree connection you will be asking to make that introduction  and it is someone you have never talked with or even exchanged messages with since you first connected with them over a year ago. And you can see they are not active on LinkedIn. If you find five people that could introduce you and they are all no good, you have a real problem.

Or you see a lot of odd people that seemingly make no sense in the “People You May Know” section. Gee, why am I getting all these people from Spain? Maybe because I just accepted the connection requests of a bunch of people in Spain. LinkedIn is just trying to help. And LinkedIn is helping by in effect asking me, “What’s with all the Spanish connections?”  

Do you suffer from low grade annoyance at your homepage feed? You see connections posting inane things and even worse, connections who comment and like inane things, clogging up your home page with worthless drivel. If you are constantly seeing this junk in your homepage feed, you have a problem. And it is kind of a problem you created because you connected with these people. If the sponsored content on your homepage is starting to look good to you, you know it is time to take action.

Then there are the people that you connect with but have never responded to one of your messages. I am a big fan of being optimistic in my connecting, but if you are going to just sit there like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, you are testing my optimism.

And course there are the people who connect with you and decide that you should be the recipient of a “special offer.”  You shouldn’t be suffering from people who treat their connections like an email list, fishing for customers and referrals with what are obviously form letters. I got a message last month from a connection offering to teach me the secret to LinkedIn. I was tempted to respond “I already know the secret to LinkedIn. It’s Don’t spam your connections with canned messages”.  

What you can and should do about an unruly LinkedIn network

For posts that annoy you: hide this post

Use the “three dot” drop down menu at the top right of the post and choose “Hide this post.” This works well for posts that are getting lots of comments and keep re-showing up in your homepage feed.

For posters that annoy you: unfollow them

From the same drop down menu, the next selection is “Unfollow”. You will stay connected with the person in question, but their content will be hidden from you. A good option for connections who are “judgmentally challenged” in their homepage activity.

For connections that annoy you: disconnect (ie: Defcon 3)

This option is for those times when the disadvantages such as spam or total unresponsiveness lead you to deciding that disconnecting is your best option. First go to your settings and privacy page, choose the middle tab “privacy” and change Profile Viewing Options to “Anonymous LinkedIn Member”. Now go to the connection in question’s profile, click the 3 dots to the right of their photo and select “remove connection” from the drop down list. LinkedIn does not inform the other person that your connection has been severed, and by being anonymous they won’t see you visited their profile. It’s all very efficient and discrete.  

Your network should be full of people that can help you and are around to do so, and of course you should be ready to offer the same to them. Keep your network clean and effective. 

Using The 80/20 Rule Of LinkedIn Participation To Your Advantage

Here’s a simple way to get more responses from more people on LinkedIn.

In LinkedIn’s last publicly announced quarterly results almost exactly a year ago, one statistic released was that seventy-eight percent of LinkedIn users show up less than once a month. LinkedIn consistently posted similar engagement percentages in previous quarters too, and as Microsoft surely would have informed the world if this number had improved, I assume it hasn’t changed much.  

The other twenty-two percent of LinkedIn users show up at least once a month. So who should you be trying to contact? Correct. The 100 million members that 22% represents.  

Sending a message or invite to connect to someone in the other 78%  is a questionable strategy. When is the next time they will show up on LinkedIn and see your message? Thanksgiving? New Years? Spring 2019?

So in theory, paying attention to the 22% is a good idea. But what about in practice?

Premium account badge

A little gold premium account badge on a LinkedIn profile means that person has (surprise) a premium account. The assumption being that someone who has a premium account actually comes around LinkedIn on a regular basis to use that account and get their money’s worth. But there is one thing that you still won’t know: you can’t tell whether someone is paying for their premium account or whether their company is. An individual covering their own costs seems more likely to show up more often. A possible indicator, but a mediocre one.  

Completed profiles

A complete profile tells you that the user realized the importance of LinkedIn…at one time. The problem being you don’t know if that time is now.

Lots of connections

Now we are getting somewhere. Someone with more connections typically means someone who “gets” networking, and they will check in on LinkedIn more often. Not completely reliable as an indicator, but I like the odds of getting a response from someone with two thousand connections over someone with two hundred.

Activity

This is the “aha” indicator. You can spot someone’s activity right on their profile. And because activity is date stamped, you can get a pretty good idea of what the minimum baseline of activity is for that person (because some activity you won’t see, like searches, or reading posts). Recent activity is the one indicator I use every time in considering whether to approach a person on Linkedin.

Activity with you

This may sound odd, but let me explain. People engage with you in one or more of five ways –  like, comment, share, profile view or follow. I added this one because most people don’t take advantage of the situation when someone shows an interest in them or something they have written. When someone tells me that they got twenty likes on their post, I will ask them what they did with all those likes, and often the answer is “nothing.” Well, why not? If I get twenty likes, I am all over those twenty profiles seeing if these are people I want to know better.

The ideal situation is when the LinkedIn user shows two or three of these indicators.

There no guarantees you will get a response after identifying one of these more frequent users, but at least you can put the odds in your favor.

Land Of The Canned: LinkedIn Messages That Are Wearing Thin

One of the great incongruities with the idea of social selling is the volume of messages that people wind up sending. Instead of cold calling a hundred people  once, it becomes a hundred people to monitor, share content with, comment on and send messages to.

To be social you need lots of engagement.

But lots of engagement sounds like a lot of work.

Enter the mass messaging.

Which sounds great. Come up with a message and send it to a hundred people.

But there are two problems with the mass messaging approach: zero customization and zero personalization. I receive messages all the time offering to help me…with my LinkedIn skills…or publish content on LinkedIn…or generate sales leads. It is apparent that these people didn’t bother looking at my profile, and that I was just one of a large number of people sent this same message.

Let me see if I can put this politely:

Actually reading the profile of someone you want to send a message to may seem like a lot of work, but there is a lot to be said for not looking like an idiot.

Not that polite? Sorry.

You wind up receiving messages like this: “I see you looked at my profile and based on your fascinating background I think we should connect.“ (this was an actual message a friend received a few weeks ago).

So what you have are irrelevant messages apparently being sent to a large number of recipients who didn’t request them. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call spam. So while people sending these messages may think they are being brilliant social sellers, they are actually closer to pond scum.

The worst part with this type of  messaging is the apparent contempt of the sender for the recipient. That’s what really grinds me the most. Your assumption that I will be flattered and stupid enough to fall for it.

The solution? Customization and personalization. For each person. And each message. The operative word is “person.”

And the people that send me those sad little boilerplate messages? I always respond courteously and thank them for my interest, point out that reading my profile would have saved them the effort, and wish them success in their next job.