Editor's note: Google isn't the only way for your business to be discovered online. This is the fourth in a five-part series looking at alternate sources for search.
In today's corporate world, you aren't somebody until you can be found on professional networking site LinkedIn. But as more individuals and businesses add their profiles, it's becoming more challenging to turn up in searches.
What most LinkedIn users aren't aware of is that the results displayed for these searches aren't random. LinkedIn uses an internal set of algorithms to prioritize certain profiles over others, giving the businesses and individuals who have optimized their accounts correctly a leg up in using the service to find jobs, clients and more.
If you're using LinkedIn for any of these purposes, getting a strong ranking in its internal search results should be a top priority. Here's how to do it:
Fill out your profile completely: One of the most important ways to improve your position in LinkedIn's search results is to fill out your profile completely. Not only does this give LinkedIn additional opportunities to identify search-related keywords in your profile, but the company is also more likely to rank completed profiles over partially finished ones.
If you aren't sure if you've filled out your profile completely, LinkedIn provides a helpful tracker in each profile that shows both the percentage of fields completed and any specific areas that still need information.
Include relevant search keywords in profile areas: As you're completing your profile, include the keywords for which you'd like your name to appear in LinkedIn's internal search results.
Keywords you target in your LinkedIn profile shouldn't be the same long-tail search engine optimization phrases you target on your website. Instead, the keywords in your profile should be those that a potential client or employer would probably enter into the LinkedIn search bar.
For example, on your website, you might target the long-tail keyword phrase, "best Raleigh NC accounting practice." But the odds are small that a potential client or employer will enter this exact phrase into the LinkedIn search feature. Instead, they're likely to search for phrases like "accountant" or "accountant NC." So in optimizing your LinkedIn profile, try to think like your target clients or employers and focus on the keywords you believe they would search for.
Expand the size of your network: In addition to considering the different keywords it finds in your profile, LinkedIn also looks at the size of your network. In particular, LinkedIn prefers to display results that have at least some connection with the search user -- even if these connections are only second or third level, rather than first level direct relationships.
As a result, you will probably improve your LinkedIn profile's visibility in the search results by expanding your network. First, make it a point to connect with your past coworkers, managers, clients and other contacts. Once you've completed this step, you can try to further improve your LinkedIn search presence by reaching out to new contacts, especially people who share your professional interests and qualifications.
Participate in LinkedIn Groups: Participation in LinkedIn Groups can be as powerful a ranking signal as the size of your personal and professional network. So if you aren't having much luck connecting with new contacts, you can join groups to boost your overall level of profile activity.
To find groups to join, you can search LinkedIn using your industry's keywords, as well as see which groups the members of your network participate in. Once you become part of a group, do your best to contribute in a positive and professional way. Simply joining a group isn't as beneficial to your search ranking as actively engaging with it.