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.

 

Why Every B2B Salesperson Needs Sales Navigator

a-navigator

Here’s what LinkedIn really is:

“LinkedIn is a database of prospective customers with the means to sort and make sense of that database”

In the just released results (October 27, 2016) LinkedIn announced it had 467 million members. LinkedIn may not have everybody, but I would argue they have most of the people that matter.

To capitalize on sorting and making sense of that database, you need Sales Navigator. Here’s why:

  1. Sales Navigator gives you the ability to filter on multiple parts of profiles – like geography, industry, and company size – and Sales Nav also allows you to search by title and keyword and do Boolean searches (which is a really cool term for a group of search conditions like “AND” or “OR” ).
  1. You can take your search results and adjust or change the filters you are using and conduct the search again.
  1. You can save your searches. This is particularly important if you have put together some exotic searches ( see the example below) and want to make sure you can replicate it.  
  1. You are not limited on the number of searches you can make in a given month.

The bottom line is, if it is on someone’s LinkedIn profile, you can search for it and find that profile.

Here’s an example of a search you don’t see every day, but one that will illustrate what you can do with Sales Navigator:

I had a client looking for beta sites for their new software product. They needed banks. In the mid west. With a certain number of servers. Running a certain type of software. But not the banks that were running their direct competitor’s software.  So I developed a search that identified the people running the data centers at banks that met those criteria. Results: Eight prospect companies to call.  

With the data that LinkedIn users put on their profiles, you are only limited by your own imagination.

The LinkedIn business premium subscription also has similar capabilities as Sales Navigator, but not as many filters. And the free account has a small subset of Sales Navigator’s features…for now.

There are other features in Sales Navigator, both those important to social sellers (the ability to designate a LinkedIn user as a lead, and view their activity in a separate feed) and any sales person (the much maligned but still very effective InMail), but you have to find them before you can follow or contact them.

And yes, having all this ability doesn’t come cheap: Sales Navigator will will cost you five or six hundred bucks a year.

But as much as many people dislike LinkedIn, if it’s where your prospects are, it had better be where your are.

How To Rank Higher In LinkedIn Search Results

 

a search beamThe most important factor for ranking highly in search results isn’t the quality of your profile or your use of keywords. Those things will get you included in the search results, but not necessarily a high ranking.

What is the most important factor? Your relevancy to the searcher. So what does that mean? It means that you may show up on page two (that is somewhere between 11th and 20th) for one person and page seven (61st to 70th)  for another searching using the exact same keywords. And no one wants to be on page seven. When was the last time you googled something and closely examined the seventh page of results?  

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 / 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 tell us? 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 peers.) The more people you are connected with, the more likely you will show up as a “one” or a “two” in the search rankings. If you and I are in the same field, have similar experience and credentials, but you have two thousand 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.