So it’s time to refresh your profile… where to begin?  Said another way, where do you get the most bang for the buck on your profile? The answer depends on your goals, but generally, it’s useful to acknowledge that your linkedin profile is “content”, while Linkedin is a content “host” and “data-aggregator” that powers search results with a proprietary algorithm hidden from the user’s view. So how do we measure something that’s invisible? Easy, identify the search terms you expect people to use to locate your profile.

Here’s how you do it. Open the “Advanced” search window in Linkedin. Put four or five of your keywords or phrases in the “Keywords” field (separated by commas). Then move down to the “Postal Code” field and type in your code; next, select a distance in the “Within” field. Then hit “Search” to see the results sorted by relevance. Record your position and note the page your profile shows up on. Then expand the distance by changing the “Within” field and repeat until your profile doesn’t appear in the results. Now hit “reset”, a link next to the “Search” button. Re-type your keyword list to perform a worldwide search.

At this point you should examine profiles that appear at the top of the search results on the first page, since these profiles have the highest relevance score in Linkedin’s algorithm. Pay close attention to variations of your keywords that appear in multiple high-scoring profiles. Once you’ve created a list of phrases and keywords the top performers used edit your profile to include two of the new keywords or phrases in several relevant places throughout your profile to test their effect on your ranking. Rerun the search with the distance filter to measure your profile’s performance against peers near you compared to your starting point.

Your keyword strategy starts with description words about your job-level, functional area, and industry: Hotel Sales Manager, Software Developer, Hospital Administrator, Author, Speaker, Product Strategy Manager, Inbound Marketing Director. You know what they are, but what you don’t know is which words and phrases are favored by the recruiters, customers, and partners who might be looking for your profile. Fortunately there’s a multi-million dollar tool freely available to you to uncover insights about how most people search for the terms you think best describe you. Google trends.

Go to google.com/trends and type your first keyword in the search box. When the results appear they will include “Related Searches” below the fold. Scroll down to look for similar keywords that might outscore the one’s you’ve selected. Compare the new keywords and phrases to the list you captured from high scoring profiles? Use google.com/trends to evaluate the new phrases too – and update your list powered by this new information.

On to your profile – great profiles have a lot in common. They include high quality profile photos – and no photo is complete without enhancements in photoshop. It’s a photo…a representation of you…it’s not you… so you should have perfect hair, and gleaming white teeth… and you should not have a beer in your hand, an arm around your shoulder, red-eye, or any variety of crazy accessories. Don’t use any picture that could be included in a “caption contest.”

Do ensure that your profile is 100% complete – Linkedin leads you through steps required to get there.

Do put your contact details at the top of your profile, and in the section marked “contact details.”  Make it incredibly easy for people to reach you.

Do put schools, organizations, affiliations, and hobbies in your profile.

Do join at least ten groups in your industry, and another ten groups in your functional area, and five or more groups for your level. Along with alumni associations, athletics, and religious organizations above, groups will increase the number of items you have in common with other people. It will humanize and personalize your profile. These touches will increase your likability, accessibility, and approachability, all characteristics that will enhance the probability that others will reach out to you proactively.

All of this can be achieved without more than a sentence or two about each position or job. Leave the detailed scope and accomplishments light and focus on keywords and your profile completion score, then fill-in the remaining areas when you have more time.

In his book, Bounce, Matthew Syed pointed out that expertise requires “Meaningful Practice” – I agree, and this article should help you get there with Linkedin.

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