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.

An Arcane LinkedIn Search Filter You Should Be Using In Sales Navigator

Arcane (adjective): understood by few, mysterious or secret

LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator has a lot of search filters – twenty-three at last count. Many are pretty obvious and useful including geography, industry, and title. Many are not as obvious or useful: Profile language? First name? Member since?

But I want to talk about a Sales Navigator search filter that is not among the  twenty-three obvious ones. A filter that is both obvious and arcane at the same time, and one of the most useful filters LinkedIn has.

Once you have performed a search using Sales Navigator, and your search results are in front of you, four filters appear across the top of your results screen, along with the number of people from your search who fit with each of these four conditions.  

 

These four – changed jobs, mentioned in the news, posted on LinkedIn and share experience with you – are what I call the “hook filters”.  They are possible hooks, promoted as social selling excuses to contact someone. While the other three are interesting, the one I use in almost every search is:

Posted on LinkedIn in the past 30 days.

For me, this is one of the most powerful filters on LinkedIn, because it tells you about the person’s behavior. Over three quarters of Linkedin members show up less than once a month. People who post are people that are active.

Which leads me to Bruce’s Rules of Responsiveness on LinkedIn:

Rule number 1: People that are active are more likely to see your message to them.

Rule number 2: And people that see your message are more likely to respond.

It’s obvious when you think about it, but most people don’t think about it. Why not play with the people that have shown they are players? And even better, you can go to profiles and go and see what that activity is – Articles? Posts? Comments on other people’s posts? Now you have both a better opportunity to reach that person along with possible insight into how they are using LinkedIn.

The “Posted on LinkedIn in the past 30 days” filter gives me an edge in getting responses.

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.