Get Linked: Simple Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile

Simple Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn ProfileLinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools you can add to your arsenal as a professional. Whether you’re interested in connecting with other professionals, creating new business opportunities, or looking for a new job, LinkedIn can provide a great way to grow your career.

The key to making the most of LinkedIn’s potential is to get your profile noticed and to grow your network of connections. Ideally, you want to optimize your profile so that it shows up in LinkedIn search results and captures the interest and attention of the right contacts.

To accomplish this, there are a few recommended steps that I’ve come across through my own research and my own experience that you may want to follow.

Add a Profile Picture

Adding a profile picture is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your chances of getting noticed. You want valuable contacts to connect with you as an individual. People are built to recognize each other’s faces, not resumes. Having a profile picture is a valuable first step in establishing yourself as a credible contact.

Your profile picture is also an opportunity to for you to add a bit of your personality to your profile which can be difficult to express in words. Or choose a photograph of you in professional attire to reinforce your identity as a credible professional. Either way, choose a photo that suits the kind of message that you want to convey about yourself to your contacts.

Give your Professional Headline a Newspaper Hook

Your professional headline is your 5 second pitch about why you are an outstanding professional in your field. It is one of the most valuable pieces of real estate on your profile since it immediately follows your name and it is one of the few pieces of your information that shows up in search results. Valuable contacts are going to make the decision about whether or not to read more about you based on your Professional Headline, so make sure that it makes as strong an impact as possible.

Some people use this to state their current position and company. This is fine, as it declares what you’re currently doing, but be aware that you can use this space to emphasize some of your skills, accomplishments or competitive advantages.

In this sense “Headline” is a very apt name for this section. In the same way that newspaper headlines don’t try to tell the whole story in a sentence, you too should use your headline as a hook to entice your readers to explore your profile further.

I can suggest two methods of creating a good hook for your headline. Rather than simply stating your current position and company, highlight some of your skills, responsibilities or achievements in your headline to encourage searchers to explore how you have gained that experience.

The other method, and the one that I follow, comes from discussions with a colleague that has worked with high-ranking members of LinkedIn. Pack your headline with keywords. Searchers are scanning search results for specific qualifications. Your entire profile expands on your details, so list your key qualifications as key terms, and entice searchers to delve deeper.

Give Something Back with your Status Update

The status update portion of your profile is where LinkedIn really begins to get social. This is the section that lets you update others on what your current projects, questions or interests are. Although there is no wrong answer when it comes to expressing yourself, there are a tactics that people use to use this space.

This is another one of the few pieces of your profile that allows you to post some interesting, personalized information about yourself that doesn’t fit within your more static profile. Share interesting news or information that could also be valuable to new contacts, update people on your activities, projects or causes or reinforce your online presence by posting links to your latest blog posts.

The idea is to post information that reinforces how you want people to perceive you as a professional and as an individual,  but not to simply update people on what you’re up to socially. Leave that for Facebook and Twitter.

Your Professional Summary: Pitch Yourself

The summary section of your LinkedIn profile is your fist opportunity to pitch yourself to a new contact. They were interested in your name, your headline, or your company enough to click on your profile. Now this is where you can sell them on more details about yourself.

Your summary should be a succinct description of your skills, your capabilities and your goals, and should convince a new contact that you’re worth more investigation. Consider this the book jacket version of you as a professional. What are your qualities that make your book readable? What are your qualities that make you valuable as a professional?

Some people recommend writing this in the first person style, using “I” and “me” as if you were summarizing yourself to someone in person. Choose first or third, depending on how you want to present yourself. Either way, this is an ideal place to reinforce any important keywords for your profile.

Claim a Personalized Profile URL on LinkedIn

One of the really neat aspects of LinkedIn is that you can specify the URL where your profile will reside. By default, the URL for your profile online is a long string of characters that don’t say much about you.

You can specify what extension you want your profile to have in the URL. For myself, I claimed brentlandels early, so that my LinkedIn profile resides at www.linkedin.com/in/brentlandels.

You may want to claim your own name, or something else significant to you early on. This makes your profile more memorable when you’re reciting it to a new contact, and also helps to reinforce how you want to brand yourself.

List Your Websites to Make your Profile your Online Hub

LinkedIn gives you the option to add up to 3 websites to your profile, and your social media accounts. I highly recommend that you use these spaces effectively, because it allows connections to explore your interests, expertise and work outside of LinkedIn.

If you don’t operate your own website, or use Twitter, I have read recommendations that suggest you should link to sites or blogs that interest you or that you think would be valuable to your contacts to show a wider range of information about yourself.

While I understand the value of sharing the subjects or activities that reflect positively on you, I personally want to keep a searcher’s focus on me and my accomplishments. The second a searcher has clicked to visit another website, you’re out of sight and out of mind, which works against what you’re trying to achieve with your profile.

One piece of advice I will give is to never use the generic choices for classifying your links. When adding URLs, LinkedIn prompts you to choose Personal Website, Company Website, Blog, RSS Feed, Portfolio, etc. as default choices for each URL. By choosing one of these generic tags, you’re losing an opportunity to brand yourself. By choosing “other” when classifying your links, it opens up the option for you to specify the anchor text that users will click to get to that URL.

Write in your blog or company’s name as the link. This way, the websites section of your account adds important keywords to your profile.

The final tip I have for using the websites section of your profile is strictly for people that are web metrics and analytics geeks like myself. Read on for a cool analytics trick I’ve discovered, or click here to skip to the next section of this article.

I always add a variable in the URL for any link that I add to my LinkedIn profile if I control that site and can view the web traffic data through Google Analytics later on. I do this so I can gather useful information about what kind of traffic my LinkedIn profile is generating.

For example, I added my blog homepage to my LinkedIn profile, but added a unique variable to the homepage URL so that it looks like this: www.brentlandels.com/site/?LinkedIn.

For the user, there is no difference in their experience visiting my site using the “?LinkedIn” variable or not, but Google Analytics treats these visits separately from all other traffic that heads to my site. This means that I can track all traffic that has come specifically from LinkedIn.

Now, you can already view this information by looking at the Referring Sources section of your Google Analytics account, but by treating LinkedIn traffic as a unique page, it gives me more options. I can track more detailed information like users’ navigation patterns after arriving on this page, and I can set up Traffic Goals using this page as a step, like tracking users who come from LinkedIn and then visit my Contact information.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how searchers are interacting with your web presence online, I find this is a tactic that is worth experimenting with.

Generally, it is good advice to add as many of your past positions as possible. Every time that you add a new position to your profile, you are giving searchers more opportunities to find you based on your position title, company name and descriptions. Each position also allows you to list all of the responsibilities, skills and achievements that defined you in this role, allowing you to list powerful keywords and helps to paint a more complete picture of you as a professional.

Although that’s all true, there are also a few things you should bear in mind about your position information.

There are some jobs that I’ve held in the past that I wouldn’t want influence anyone’s perception of me as a professional. I’ve held student jobs in retail and construction which, while incredibly valuable to me personally, doesn’t help me to achieve my goal of building my reputation as a media professional.

It’s a trade-off. The more positions you list, the faster that you’re likely going to grow your profile, but be aware of what kind of message you want to send searchers about yourself.  I would suggest that you be conscious of what kind of statement you’re making every time you add information to your profile.

The other consideration for your position information is how much detail to get into.

People tend to scan information online as opposed to reading in-depth, meaning that long profiles may get ignored by searchers who just want to get a sense of who you are as a professional at a glance.  However, I prefer to list detailed information about  each of my positions to give due credit to the importance of each of the roles I’ve held in the past. Also, LinkedIn allows searchers print or save a copy of your profile as a PDF, meaning that my detailed profile can act as my full resume should a searcher choose to  use these options.

My advice would be to make your position information detailed, but easy to digest. Don’t make searchers work to understand what you achieved. Keep your sentence structure simple. Use lists as opposed to paragraphs. And use keywords frequently to assist searchers who are scanning your profile to find relevant information easily.

List All of your Education

Listing all of the schools that you have attended is a recommendation that I wholeheartedly endorse. By listing all of your schools, you’re opening yourself up to be found by all of your old school contacts, a lot of whom may be valuable additions to your network.

Your high school contacts may be limited, but I have been surprised by how often I bump into someone professionally who attended my university. It provides one more method of creating a new contact and makes a personal connection with that person, having shared their university experience.

People Like You. Find Recommendations

My suggestions for Recommendations are simple, but important. Firstly, LinkedIn requires that you have 3 recommendations before it considers your profile to be 100% complete. For that reason, I would recommend that you find at least three colleagues or connections to endorse you to complete your profile.

Secondly, recommendations are one of the greatest ways to sell yourself as a professional. By finding others to endorse you, they are all giving their vote of confidence in your abilities and reinforcing the image that you are trying to establish for yourself.

I would recommend that you also try to find endorsements from a variety of people, including your colleagues, managers or clients. By having a variety of perspectives in your recommendations, you’re painting a broader and more detailed picture of yourself as a professional.

Closing Suggestions

Finally there are a few final points that are purely suggestions, but I believe are good food for thought.

  • Leave your profile visible online. LinkedIn lets you specify what amount of information you permit others to have available to them when you view their profiles. You can be anonymous, provide some information about what industry or company you’re in or reveal your entire profile to them.

    By making others aware that it was you who was viewing their profile, you are establishing that first connection with a new contact, and opening up the possibility for making a new valuable connection. If nothing else, it’s also a courtesy to show others that you were interested. I’m always curious to see who was looking at my profile, aren’t you?

    At the end of the day, you know what level of privacy you want to maintain online. Stick with what you’re comfortable with.
  • Experiment with Applications. Applications are additional plug-ins or sections that you can add to your profile that reveal some more information about yourself and your interests. You can display your reading list, make important presentations or files available online, add polls for visitors to fill in, add your portfolio, display your blog posts, etc.

    There are a variety of applications to integrate with your profile. Explore these and see if any would add value to your profile.

  • Keyword Strategy. Add lists of important key words to your profile. I’ve seen the “Specialties” and “Awards” section for this purpose to list important terms that you want to brand yourself with in a single section. Just be sure to add the term “Keywords:” before this list so that visitors understand what they’re reading.

    Add important keywords that don’t fit in anywhere else, and add common misspellings of your name. This will ensure that your profile will still come up even when a searcher hasn’t spelled your name properly. You still belong in that list of search results.
  • Don’t send generic requests. When asking to add someone as a connection, take the time to write a unique request for them. This will show that person that you’ve taken the time to address them as an individual as a courtesy, rather than simply sending out a random request.

Click here to view my Professional Experience on my site, or see below for my profiles online:

LinkedIn ButtonSee my LinkedIn Profile for more information.

See my CV as an Infographic – beta state.