Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile With These 10 Key Elements

LinkedIn Announces Unique Content Marketing Score For UsersIn my latest column for Search Engine Land, I discussed how we use LinkedIn as a B2B link building tool, designed to research, identify, and communicate to potential third party publishers.

But at the foundation of all effective LinkedIn outreach is a well designed, fully developed LinkedIn profile. Without this, your outreach initiatives lack trust and credibility.

This post highlights ten key elements that every LinkedIn member should consider, whether you’re using LinkedIn for B2B link building, professional networking, or looking for your next job opportunity.

Profile Photo (Headshot)

The first opportunity you’ll have to make a good impression is through your profile photo. At the least, use as professional a photo as possible but consider experimenting with opportunities that blend career-oriented experience or provide an opportunity to stand out (professionally).

Good Examples

LinkedIn Profile Example

LinkedIn Profile Example

I would recommend reading this post from Jason Seiden, a contributor to LinkedIn’s Talent Blog, highlighting his experience testing various LinkedIn photos and their impact on business objectives.

Bad Examples

Example of a Bad LinkedIn Profile

Social Media Marketer Andrew McCarthy wrote a nice post highlighting mistakes people make when adding in their LinkedIn profile. It’s worth reviewing to make sure you’re not doing something similar.

Just make sure if you’re planning to use LinkedIn as any part of your outreach programs, don’t use this:

LinkedIn Default

I’d also recommend using a consistent profile photo across social media platforms. This way, if you make an initial connection through Twitter or Google+ as example, the connecting individual will more immediately recognize your information.

Headline (Tagline)

The second point of impression in a LinkedIn profile is the headline (or tagline). You have 120 characters to write a concise, professional headline, ideally keyword rich, and specific to your role and expertise.

As Jim Yu writes in a recent Marketing Land column, the headline (and also the LinkedIn vanity URL) also shows in search engine result snippets:

LinkedIn Profile in SERPs

How much is too much (IE, should you stuff keywords in your headline)?

I would not go overboard with keywords in your headline; pick one or two of the most relevant opportunities. It’s equally important to catch a viewer’s eye and influence their decision to click and view your profile.

You could get creative as well. Check out this post from the Undercover Recruiter, highlighting “10 LinkedIn headlines that stand out from the crowd” and can be used for inspiration in your own development.

Just keep in mind your objectives in crafting a good headline. For purposes of this article, we’re trying to use our LinkedIn profile to help acquire links, so your headline should instill trust and professionalism at the least.

LinkedIn Summary

You have up to 2,000 characters worth of space to create a comprehensive LinkedIn summary, which provides an opportunity to further expand upon your broader experience, success stories, and professional goals and objectives. Your summary is also one of the best opportunities to integrate keywords (IE, job-oriented skills and applications) within the LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn Summary

Suggestions and recommendations:

  • Format your text a bit with bullets (here’s how), paragraphs, and sub-headings / spacing if possible. In other words, don’t simply add one massive block of 2,000 characters of text.
  • Add a call-to-action such as contact information, other social media profile web addresses, or references in context to third party sites and information.
  • Don’t forget to upload presentations or reference third party web addresses (such as blog posts, interviews, etc) that demonstrate your experience and help support your credentials.

Professional Experience

Similar to summary information, you have 2,000 characters to describe your experience in a particular role / organization. Customize and organize your information for readability purposes. I highly recommend using bullets to itemize information. You can also add applicable presentations, web addresses, and other collateral created within these sections as well.

From a contextual perspective, I recommend leading with your results and outcomes as opposed to tasks and responsibilities. Don’t forget to incorporate relevant keywords, such as applications and programs used, and particular skills required / that contributed to your success.

Skills & Endorsements

LinkedIn launched their skills and endorsements functionality in late 2012 as a way for members to easily endorse keyword-oriented “skills” other members of their network. What’s interesting about this functionality is the crowdsource-like, third party mechanism for illustrating what skills a person is or should be known for.

LinkedIn Skill Endorsements

Opponents of this functionality feel that it’s too easy to game this system and won’t really add value to the relationships professionals build through LinkedIn.

Regardless, I can’t help pay greater attention when I come across a LinkedIn profile with a significant number of relevant skill endorsements. I confess that I’ll also evaluate (just a little bit) more experienced job applicants and marketing partners based on their skill endorsements. I can’t be the only one!

A few points about skill endorsements:

  • You can (and should) adjust skills people may indicate you have that are inaccurate or not desired.
  • You should evaluate LinkedIn’s suggestions for added skills but only add those you really want to be referenced by.
  • You don’t have to reciprocate endorsements from others, but it is nice to consider it if they’ve gone above and beyond.

Late last year Forbes writer Susan Adams wrote a nice breakdown of advice for leveraging LinkedIn endorsements, based on her conversations with a half dozen career coaches and executive recruiters, and to a spokeswoman for LinkedIn, Julie Inouye, which I also recommend reviewing to better understand how to leverage this element of LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Recommendations

While endorsing skills might be a system ripe for gaming, recommendations are much less likely to be anything but authentic. Why? Because a person’s specific LinkedIn profile are directly associated with these recommendations. Thus, their reputation is on the line as well.

Arguably, LinkedIn made it more difficult for users to organically provide recommendations once they switched to skills and endorsements, but the functionality is still there. The best way to gain recommendations is to directly ask those in your network that you’ve worked with in the past.

Recommendations add more credibility to your experience and work history. For ongoing network development, a solid combination of recommendations and skill endorsements can go a long way to successful interactions.

LinkedIn Groups

For this post, I’m simply stating that being involved, or at least associated with, a core set of quality LinkedIn Groups, can have a positive impact when others review your profile. How to participate in LinkedIn Groups is a completely different blog post.

While you can be a member of as many as 50 different LinkedIn groups, I don’t necessarily recommend doing this. Instead, focus on a core set of LinkedIn Groups you really want prospective marketing partners to recognize you for. Regardless, being involved, or at least a member of a small set of industry or professionally-oriented groups shows greater depth to your LinkedIn profile.

Here are a few references for effective participation in LinkedIn Groups:

Education

While this section is hopefully self-explanatory and it’s worth taking time to thoroughly complete. You can even add 1,000 characters worth of detail to each sub-section of your education, which is ideal for outlining key courses completed and significant project work (such as a MBA capstone requirement). You can also add applicable presentations and academic references.

While I tend to believe the education section is more critical for more entry-level job seekers, remember that displaying your academic background will usually be required to gain entry in LinkedIn Alumni Association-oriented groups, which can be important for networking purposes.

Projects

LinkedIn Project Example

What I like most about the Projects section of LinkedIn is the ability to address larger, team-oriented initiatives you may have worked on in a more comprehensive fashion. More importantly, “Projects” don’t have to be isolated to third party reports or collaborative efforts. I’ve seen many LinkedIn users reference their own internal work as well.

Examples of project work to highlight:

  • Training or academic presentations.
  • Blog contributions, websites developed / managed, programs launched (internal and external).
  • Third party reports, surveys, webinars, and other online (or traditional) contributions.

Publications

LinkedIn Publications

Lastly, if you contribute to third party publications, make sure to incorporate the details in your LinkedIn profile. From a link building perspective, I believe this section has been invaluable in demonstrating trust and viability when prospective publishers review my profile.

You can add up to 2,000 characters of description to each publication you contribute to, as well as applicable individuals associated with the publication or that are part of your content marketing team / process.

Tl;dr

Here’s the short list of LinkedIn profile elements I recommend, particularly when you are considering leveraging LinkedIn for network development but for broader business and career development as well.

  • A Professional Profile Photo (Headshot)
  • A Concise, Impactful Profile Headline
  • A Well Written / Developed Summary
  • A Well Constructed List of Professional Experience
  • A Well Developed Skills & Endorsements
  • Recommendations from Customers, Peers & Colleagues
  • Involvement in Select LinkedIn Groups
  • Education Background
  • Highlighted Projects
  • Publications / Written Works

I also created a set of slides which contain a brief synopsis highlighting the wider range of the relevant fields to consider in a LinkedIn profile. That deck can be accessed here:

Final Thoughts

There is more to LinkedIn profile development than just these ten elements, but I believe these ten are the most important when performing any sort of business-oriented outreach or network development.

What are your thoughts? Are there elements of LinkedIn profile development you feel are indispensable that I am missing from this list? I’d love to read your feedback and perspective via comments below.

Additional References and Resources

“KoMarketing understands how to present and execute recommendations across the organization, from the IT professional to strategic marketing leadership. They go beyond expectation in working with the client to evaluate, execute, and implement program initiatives.”

— Silvina El Baba, Senior Manager, Web Marketing, EFI

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