Marketing Bootcamp

How to Get to the Top of LinkedIn's Search Results

In his book Ultimate Guide to LinkedIn for Business, search engine optimization and online marketing expert consultant Ted Prodromou explains how you can use LinkedIn to quickly engage with ideal customers, partners, and employees, showcase your company and attract new opportunities. In this edited excerpt, the author reveals how to find and use the right keywords to land in the top of LinkedIn's search results.

What do you do when you want to learn more about a product or service? I bet the first thing you do is go to Google and search the internet. When you search Google, you can find information about literally anything in seconds.

The problem with Google is you get a broad search result. If you search for “web marketing consultant,” for instance, Google doesn’t know if you’re looking to hire a web marketing consultant or if you’re trying to find information on how to become one.

When you search LinkedIn for “web marketing consultant,” however, chances are your search result will show you a list of web marketing consultants. By narrowing your search, such as “web marketing consultant New York,” you can generate a targeted list that may give you the results you need.

That's because LinkedIn is a vertical search engine. A vertical search engine shows you very focused results based on the keywords you search for. This is why it’s so important to use your target keywords when creating your LinkedIn personal and company profiles. Target keywords are the phrases you enter into a search engine to find targeted results. The more specific your keyword phrases are, the better your search results will be.

Optimizing your LinkedIn profile not only helps people find your profile through the search function, it helps LinkedIn recommend people to connect with or companies you may be interested in by scanning your profile and using your keyword phrases to make targeted recommendations for you. The more targeted your profile, the more targeted the suggestions will be. Once your LinkedIn profile is fine-tuned, you'll see targeted recommendations in your sidebar every time you log in.

Keyword selection

The most important component of search engine optimization is keyword selection. Most of the search engines rank websites based on where and how often a particular keyword is used on the website. They'll rank a website higher if, for example, the keyword is used in the title, placed near the top of the page, and if it's used often. LinkedIn has its own search algorithm, which ranks user profiles on a number of factors, including your keywords.

One of my favorite ways to compile keyword lists is to look at my competitors’ profiles to see what keywords they use to make their profiles stand out. For instance, let’s say you’re a certified public accountant in San Francisco, and you want to see which keywords are being used in the profiles of the top search results. Start by doing an Advanced Search in LinkedIn, then entering CPA as your keyword, and your ZIP code in the Location field. Start with 25 miles in the “Within” box, so you get a variety of profiles to view. Leave the rest of the search boxes empty, and click on Search.

When your search is complete, you’ll see the top rankings for LinkedIn members who have CPA in their profile. The LinkedIn Advanced Search will rank the search results based on your search criteria. The top search results will have a few things in common. All of the top results will contain CPA at or near the beginning of their professional headline or in the last name field.

A great way to find keywords for your profile is to use the Google Keyword Planner. But why am I teaching you how to research the most popular keyword phrases on Google? If a search term is popular on Google, it’s usually popular on Yahoo!, Bing, and LinkedIn because people tend to use the same thought process when using search engines. Second, LinkedIn profile information—including keyword phrases—frequently appears on Google search results, often near the top. That means if you use keyword phrases that are popular on Google in your LinkedIn profile, there's a good chance your profile will appear on the first page of Google searches for that keyword phrase. This is because Google considers LinkedIn to be a reputable authority site so profile information from LinkedIn can rank higher than other website content that isn’t as highly regarded by Google. It’s another case of “who you know,” not “what you know.”

While the Google Keyword Planner is meant for pay-per-click advertising research, it’s also a vital tool when performing keyword research for search engine optimization. The Google Keyword Planner provides a ballpark estimate of the number of searches for specific words or key phrases, which is valuable information. Knowing which keywords or keyword phrases are most popular can give you a huge advantage over your competition.

Let’s review the results you'll get when you use the Google Keyword Planner. The first column will list your target search terms. The next column, Avg. monthly searches, will tell you approximately how many times the keyword phrase was searched based on the date range and targeting settings you’ve selected. The Competition column will tell you how competitive your keyword phrases are (high, medium, or low).

Now let me tell you about a little trick that will give you more accurate results from the Google Keyword Planner. By default, Google gives you the number of searches based on an exact match type, and it will display broadly related keyword ideas. When you change the keyword filter option to “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms,” you will see more accurate keyword recommendations. These results will be much more accurate than the broadly related match results.

You should try to find keyword phrases that have a fair number of monthly searches, especially local searches, if you're a local business or service provider. The more searches per month, the higher the competition. Your best keyword phrases are medium competition with a fair amount of monthly searches, so you have a good chance of appearing near the top of the Google search results.

You can add the highly competitive keywords from Google as Skills in your LinkedIn profile, so they appear in LinkedIn searches. It’s much easier to rank well in LinkedIn right now because very few people know how to optimize their LinkedIn profile.

Use your target keyword phrases frequently when you fill out your LinkedIn profile, but don’t overdo it. You don't want to be caught "gaming the LinkedIn search algorithm."