Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

MySpace and Facebook may say they reign supreme in the social networking space. They may even have the numbers to back them up. But when it comes to business networking, one site stands above the others: LinkedIn. In this article, I’m going to show you how to overhaul a LinkedIn profile and get it working for you.

I’ve said more than once that I don’t do SEO for a living. I don’t even do it consciously for the articles I write or edit for the Shed. Content comes first, right? I still believe that. Nevertheless, I’m about to engage in my first act of “real” SEO, right in front of you. Wish me luck; I have a feeling I’ll need it.

When I started my research on this topic, I was surprised by how little I know. I probably shouldn’t have been. LinkedIn has been around as a network since 2003; that’s plenty of time to create a huge user base and a slew of features. There is even a semi-independent website, LinkedIntelligence.com, with a blog that covers the many different ways you can use the online business network (and sometimes criticizes LinkedIn when it misses the ball). When it called for suggestions on smart ways to use LinkedIn, it received a veritable avalanche.

LinkedIn has added new features gradually throughout its existence, but the pace of innovation has begun to pick up at the company in recent months. At the time of writing, its newest addition is company profiles. I hope to cover those later in this article – which incidentally, given the sheer volume of my information, may turn into a two-parter.

Right now, though, if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, or if (like me) you have a profile that has been sorely neglected, you might want to read along and take notes. My original inspiration came from Brian R. Brown’s post entitled “LinkedIn: Your SEO card file,” which appeared on CNet News Blogs. And then of course there was Guy Kawasaki’s blog on his LinkedIn extreme makeover; he did it more than a year ago, but it still came up in my research, so he must have done something right.

Every good article on makeovers includes before and after pictures. So I guess I’d better include my “before” picture. Here it is, cropped and reduced to fit (and don’t I wish dieting was that easy!):

 

Okay, it may not be immediately obvious, but this is one lame profile. Even LinkedIn says that it’s only 40 percent finished. The only experience I list is with my current company, I have four connections (two of which are also with my current company), and really, from looking at this, you don’t get any clue of who I am or what I’m about.

By the time I’m done, this won’t look nearly as pretty as Kawasaki’s profile; I haven’t done as much by any stretch of the imagination. But after nine years covering technology, if I can’t do better than this I’m a pretty sorry writer.

We’ll start by looking at my experience, past and present. I’m not going to add everything, despite the advice of Scott Allen writing for LinkedIntelligence: “On a resume, maybe you only need to go back ten years or so if you’ve held several positions. Here, though, keep in mind that everywhere you worked is an opportunity to connect with those old friends and colleagues.” But I will add more depth to the positions I list.

When you edit a position on LinkedIn now, the site tells you whether or not the company is in their database, and offers to let you add it. I suspect that’s connected to LinkedIn’s new company profile feature. You can also choose what industry it’s in and what kind of company it is from drop-down menus. Anyway, after a bit of work, my work history is slightly more filled it:

 

I included several words that I hope will be picked up by those searching for writers and editors. I’m pretty happy with my job, but it’s often wise to keep your eyes open.

My profile has other gaps I’m not prepared to fill at this time. I don’t have a picture on file, for example, nor do I have any recommendations. And I’m going to want to build a summary – my “elevator pitch,” if you will. I’ll come back to those later; I’m nowhere near done. But right now I think I want to go public.

Making your LinkedIn profile public is easy, and you can control how much of it you want to make public. I won’t deny that there are risks to this, and if you’re really worried about identity theft and privacy-related issues you’ll want to think carefully. To do it, though, you simply log in to LinkedIn and go to your profile. To the right of the “Edit My Profile” and “View My Profile” tabs you will see a link that says “Edit Public Profile Settings.” That will take you to a page that looks like this:

 

Change your URL to something easy to remember – your own name if possible. I emphasize “if possible;” mine was already taken. Of course, that gave me the opportunity to add the word “writer” to the URL (though I couldn’t separate it with dashes); we’ll see if this helps my SEO at all. Anyway, the full view is clicked by default, but you get to choose which parts of it are shown by checking the appropriate boxes.

I have no websites in my profile, and it’s about time I add them. As a writer and editor, what I put in as websites can also serve as my portfolio. If I was a web designer or owned my own business, I’d put in links to examples of my design work or my web site. In fact, when you put in a URL, you get to choose from the following options from a drop-down for describing the link: My Website, My Company, My Blog, My RSS Feed, My Portfolio and Other. Guess what? I’m clicking Other.

 

When you click “Other” you can include a specific name for the website. I’ve just linked my LinkedIn profile to my bio page on SEO Chat – which links to all of the articles I’ve written for this site. I could actually be doing better here; my bio on SEO Chat does not include any kind of description of myself or my background. I may improve that later.

While I’m on the topic of links, as you can see, you can include up to three links on your LinkedIn profile. For some people that won’t be enough, but others will be at a loss. There are lots of options though. You can link to bios you have elsewhere, as I have done here. You can link to profiles you have on other sites. You can link to a friend’s business website; why not give them a boost? You can link to charitable organizations about which you feel very strongly. Every part of a LinkedIn profile is designed to give other networkers a vision of who you are; why skimp here?

Some of what I’m going to talk about next involves filling in any remaining gaps. But for other aspects, you’re going to have to actually put yourself out there and ask for things. I know that’s not easy for some folks – fancy asking your current supervisor for a LinkedIn recommendation? – but they can make a difference.

Let’s look at some of the easier gaps first. You can go to your education area and edit it to provide additional notes on your experience at the school. As a separate thing, you can add activities and societies you participated in at the school. I notice from Kawasaki’s “after” picture that he talked about what each college meant to him, not just his activities, so I choose to include some of that as well. I also debate whether to include my first two years at a community college. Well, I can always add that later. At any rate, this is another good place to use some keywords, so I emphasize the time I spent writing and researching. Even for a history major, it was nothing to sneeze at, as I participated in two optional programs that put those skills to the test.

Here’s a quick screen shot of the information I’ve added so far that wasn’t in my LinkedIn profile before:

 

Now does it really make sense to go to this kind of work? Well, I admit I should have Googled to see what my status was before I started this article. But either way, I’m pretty visible, and would want to put my best foot forward. Unfortunately, LinkedIn still doesn’t show it as well as I’d like. Take a look at this Google search on my name:

 

My bio on SEO Chat ranks for the third link, and you’d think that’s my LinkedIn profile in the sixth position (fifth link if you don’t count the indented one – which goes to an article I wrote for SEO Chat). I seem to be cursed with a pretty common name, at least as far as LinkedIn is concerned. There are eleven of us with the same name, and I’m the seventh one that turns up in a search on LinkedIn itself. That’s just a little frustrating (though the eleventh one is a CEO in the UK). It almost makes me understand a little better what our chief technology officer, Rich Smith, feels.

So, does it make sense? That may depend in part on your goals. It probably won’t hurt. And since I’ve updated my profile, I’ve been contacted by a former co-worker who gave me a recommendation and asked for one in return, so it’s helping me to network. That’s a start.

I’m not finished with this topic. I’m out of space for this article, however. Next time I’ll cover some more things you can do with your LinkedIn profile to raise your visibility, and hopefully get into what LinkedIn is doing with its new company profiles.

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