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.