How To Delay Hitting The Commercial Search Limit On Free LinkedIn

(caption: some search tools are more expensive than others)

My last couple newsletters have revolved around Sales Navigator as a tool for salespeople, and I subesequently received a few messages along the lines of “hey, I can’t afford Sales Navigator. What about us poor Free LinkedIn users?” This one’s for you.

When LinkedIn sees you making a lot of searches on LinkedIn, they (usually correctly) infer that you are doing so as part of your job. And if you are using LinkedIn search for business, LinkedIn would like you to pay for the privilege of doing so. So in order to encourage (extort?) people into upgrading to Premium subscriptions, LinkedIn instituted the Commercial Search Limit (CSL).

So just what is the CSL and how is it measured?

Once you have hit a certain number of searches in a month, LinkedIn will send you a message saying something along the lines of, “It appears you are using Search for business reasons. This requires a premium subscription. You have hit your limit for free searches this month, and will be allowed to use search again next month.”

And here is the sneaky part: LinkedIn won’t say what the actual number of searches is. Heck, Linkedin won’t even say how they define a single “search”, that thing you apparently just did too many of. I have heard people say it is two hundred searches in a month, and other people say it is eight hundred searches in a month. I am suspicious that LinkedIn has some pretty smart algorithms, and if they see you searching “x” times this month, they just redefine the limit as ninety percent of “x” next month, and keep dropping it lower and lower until you finally succumb to an upgrade.

That being said, most LinkedIn users are their own worst enemy.

While LinkedIn may be the villain in this morality play, we users need to shoulder some of the blame, as we are the ones who largely put ourselves in this position. How? By searching badly. Most LinkedIn users will approach making a search on LinkedIn in a haphazard manner.

They will think, “I need to find all those prospects making ventilators.”

So they search for “ventilator” and then choose “companies”. They find over 1,500 companies making ventilators.

Okay, that’s too many, that didn’t work too well. How about ventilators, but choosing “people” instead of companies? Hmm, still 40,000.

Oh, how about just in the USA? 28,000 people.

Wait, I will add a title: “purchasing”. Heck, only 12 search results….and one is unemployed, another buys ventilators, looks like three of them used ventilators in a previous job, this is going nowhere.

This user just made four searches – every time they recalibrated what it was they were looking for, or refined their search terms and hit enter, that’s a new search. And I would argue that they aren’t really any closer to the results they wanted. So what can they do? There is no way you can avoid the CSL in the long run, but you can surely get more mileage out of your free searches.

Here are 7 ideas you can use that will help you delay hitting the CSL

1) Be absolutely clear what you are searching for.

The better you can define your search up front, the better your results will be. Defining your search up front will also help you get your search right the first time. Every time you adjust your search parameters and hit “search” or “apply” you are adding a search to your total. And the algorithm is keeping track. The rest of the ideas that follow will help you with this.

2) Use Boolean operators

These are terms such as “OR “. For example, purchasing OR buyer. The OR tells LinkedIn to look for one or the other.

3) Never put titles in the keyword field

Use the title field and use Boolean there too. The difference is huge: when you look for an expression in the title field, such as “Purchasing manager”, that’s where LinkedIn looks for that phrase, in the work experience titles of LinkedIn profiles. If you put the phrase “purchasing manager” in the keyword field, LinkedIn looks for that expression anywhere in a LinkedIn profile. So if someone says that in their job they worked with the purchasing manager, they are going to show up in your results. Not optimal.

4) Use connections carefully

You can choose to just search for any combination of first, second and third level connections. As LinkedIn will usually show you your search results in roughly that order anyway, this isn’t really necessary. I use connection level searches when I am specifically looking for introductions, and that’s a different search.

5) Use the company name filter if you are looking within a specific company

So by all means if you are looking for the purchasing people at Microsoft, use the company name filter.

6) The industry filter can be very useful

The industry filter is something that as usual, most people don’t understand and LinkedIn doesn’t bother to explain. I would encourage you to experiment with the lists here. In some cases you can hone right in on say, Medical Devices. But if you are looking for Manufacturing, you will need to pull together the twenty or so industries that could qualify as different types of Manufacturer (the last time I compiled the list there were 147 industries in the industry filter).

7) Use broad geography right away, then use it to refine your results

The first thing I want from my search results is that I found the right people. The second thing is that I want a manageable number of people in those results. This is where I use the geography filter to get a workable number of results to start with. If I ran a search of North America, and got 800 results, that’s too many to work with. So I might start with just California, or maybe the Great Lakes states. What I want is to have several dozen profiles to review, and then I will come back and slightly redefine my geography to get another several dozen.

Parting shot – if you still run into the Commercial Search Limit, and it is blocking you from getting the results you want, it’s time to think of getting a Sales Navigator account. But be smart about it, sign up for monthly until you’re sure it is worth your while.

Do you have any tricks you use to avoid the CSL? Or have you given in and upgraded to Sales Navigator?

The obligatory disclaimer: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. I was an early subscriber to Sales Navigator and have probably forked over three or four thousand bucks for the privilege over that time. And it has been worth every penny.

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