SEO guide to optimizing your LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn is not just a resume

With LinkedIn optimization, you will build connections with some of the best and brightest in your industry and attract your ideal clients directly to your profile and inbox.

From profile optimization and SEO to content posting and engagement, this guide covers everything you need in order to turn your LinkedIn profile into a brand-building, lead-generating machine.

More than SEO – Full throttle LinkedIn optimization

Many LinkedIn optimization guides start and end at SEO, but I say that SEO is just the tip of the iceberg.

As with your business website, the success of your inbound marketing through LinkedIn not only depends on traffic but also on conversion optimization.

If you focus all of your efforts on SEO, without fully optimizing your profile for conversions, you aren’t making the most of the traffic coming in.

That’s why I put all of the LinkedIn SEO best practices to the test AND applied my own expertise around conversion copywriting, sales funnels and conversion optimization.

The result of that testing is this guide – which includes sections about profile aesthetic, creating a lead funnel, writing compelling copy on your profile and much more.

1. Spruce up your profile aesthetic

One of the best things about your LinkedIn profile is how much real estate you have in terms of optimization.

Sure, the obvious places are your headline, summary and experience sections, but you can also take advantage of your profile photo and cover photo sections. This is what I call optimizing your “profile aesthetic” – as you aren’t adding SEO keywords, but are tailoring the look of your profile to your target audience.

Do looks really matter? You tell me.

How important is the design of your business website to how it appeals to potential clients/customers?

Exactly.

Optimize your profile’s curb appeal

I’m a strong proponent of squeezing every bit of juice out of a platform in order to have it work for my business. When it comes to LinkedIn, that means not only having it talk the talk, but look the look.

To optimize your profile’s “curb appeal,” you are going to focus on two features: the profile photo and the cover photo.

Profile photo

We are all familiar with the dull, grainy headshots on LinkedIn. If you want to take your LinkedIn branding seriously, I say: Dare to stand out!

You’ll want a professional, high-quality image that highlights your personality and business. Something that your potential clients will find approachable.

  • High-quality image – Clear, not pixelated
  • Close shot of your face
  • Simple background
  • Appropriate attire
  • Smile!

LinkedIn suggests having an image where your face takes up 60% of the frame. (I don’t follow this suggestion myself – oops!)

For some industries, your look may include professional attire and a corporate background. For others, it could be more casual. The key is to appeal to what your target audience is most familiar with in working with people like you.

I’m an SEO content writer who typically works from my laptop all over the world. My clients know this of me and don’t expect me to be wearing slacks and sitting in a corporate office. But if I were trying to land high-ticket corporate consulting clients for my SEO firm, I’d likely go with a different aesthetic.

And please, ditch the selfie. I highly recommend investing in a professional headshot for this. It will make a huge difference – taking you from amateur to expert.

Cover photo

The cover photo section also gives you ample real estate to tell profile visitors what you (and your business) are all about.

The default LinkedIn profile cover photo is a blue background with geometric shapes and dots. As far as us business owners are concerned, this is a near seven inches of desktop real estate that is going to waste.

Let’s make it count.

You can easily create a custom Cover image using Photoshop or Canva that includes a professional background and copy that appeals to your target audience.

Best practices include:

  • Adding a tagline telling profile visitors what you do and who you serve
  • Adding your website URL and social media handles
  • Having an attractive backdrop image that draws in your target audience
  • Including a call-to-action, or otherwise letting users know how to contact you

In the example above, we see how this LinkedIn profile makes ample use of the cover photo section by including a photo of the business owner at a speaking event, a bold description of what he does (“Grow your FB group, grow your business!”) and a clear CTA to visit his website.

With this, users know at a glance what he does, who he helps and how best to reach him – all without having to dig through his entire profile. Users can sign up for his free training – and join his email list – right away.

By optimizing the look of your profile, you give the best possible first impression to your potential connections. You also make it easier for potential clients to understand what you are about and how to get ahold of you.

Once your profile is pretty, it’s time to move on to the rest of the sections.

2. Write compelling profile copy

As an SEO content writer and copywriter, I geeked out when it dawned on me that LinkedIn is a great place to implement conversion copywriting. It really is a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, many of us have treated our LinkedIn profile like a resume – concise and professional, yet boring.

LinkedIn was built around the idea of professionals connecting with other professionals. You won’t effectively do that if your profile reads like the ingredients section on the back of a bran flakes cereal box.

Write with your target audience in mind

Instead, write your LinkedIn profile like you would your online dating profile, only, more professional.

Make it interesting, add pizzazz and write it to appeal to the type of people you want to attract.

There are a few primary areas where you can do this, and those are your headlinesummary and experience sections.

Headline

Your headline is the line of text directly beneath your name on your profile. LinkedIn gives you about 120 characters of space here to tell visitors who you are and what you offer.

Your headline should be a combination of LinkedIn SEO keywords (which we will discuss in section three of this guide) and compelling copy. That’s because it works to both attract traffic and keep users engaged with your profile.

You want to be uber clear about what you do. This is not a space for witty taglines like “Probably out fishin’” or “I rank it, you bank it!” Not only do headlines like these not include keywords, but they can leave profile visitors feeling confused about what exactly it is that you do.

I suggest either keeping your headline chocked full of keywords, with a bit of finessing copy (“I’m a digital marketing strategist that help small businesses reach more customers online.”) or taking the time to craft a compelling headline with conversion copywriting.

In the example above, this business owner is straight to the point by simply listing what her job title is and the services she offers. This is fine. It includes proper keywords that could potentially draw in people that are looking for services like hers.

By contrast, this business owner focuses less on keywords and more on appealing to people looking for “business success” through a “best-in-class” partnership.

Note that both examples fill up their headline with copy and keywords, ensuring that none of that space goes to waste.

Not a great writer? You may want to reach out to a professional copywriter to help you craft a message that appeals to your target audience.

Later on, we will discuss how to find LinkedIn SEO keywords to include in your profile.

Summary section

Your Summary section is by far the largest space for adding compelling copy and LinkedIn SEO keywords. With over 100 words worth of space, you can’t afford to NOT optimize this section.

This is where visitors go to learn even more about you, your business and the services that you offer.

I like to compare it to the about page on a business website. And every great copywriter will tell you that your about page is about your audience, not about you.

You need to craft a summary that speaks to what your target audience is looking for. This is not a place to simply rattle off your accomplishments and services.

Ask yourself, What is my potential audience looking for when it comes to working with someone like me?

Market research will be able to answer this for you.

If you conducted market research prior to adding copy to your business website, then you can apply the same concepts here. If you haven’t conducted market research in order to figure out your audience’s struggles, pain points, needs, and wants, you will want to do that first.

Once you have your market research in hand, you will write a summary that appeals to your target audience/ideal clients. You will simply address their primary struggle and how you will be able to help them overcome that struggle.

In the example above, you can see how I address the primary struggles that SEO agencies have when it comes to outsourcing SEO content: poor quality and writers’ lack of SEO knowledge. Then, I go on to explain how I do things differently, what to expect when working with me and how best to contact me.

Your summary section shouldn’t ramble on and on; it should be concise, targeted and written with a purpose. Get your message across as efficiently and effectively as possible so that you can move visitors along your profile funnel without delay.

Experience section

The experience section is where I see most business owners getting lazy and treating their profile like a resume. I used to do this myself. Not anymore.

Your experience section is another place to include LinkedIn SEO keywords and compelling copy that convinces users that you are the right fit for them.

You do this by writing each Experience in a way that highlights what you took away from working at that company and the results you got for them.

Above is an example of how a LinkedIn user has used the experience section to include detailed summaries of the work she did at certain companies, the projects she was a part of and the results she generated through these projects.

For your own profile, you can mention things like percentage increase in traffic that you generated for an SEO client, an uptick in conversions for a Facebook ads client or how you increased a client’s business revenue year over year.

Highlighting these results is a great way to show profile visitors that you not only have experience, but how you can replicate those results for them.

I suggest writing naturally here, rather than including a bulleted list of everything you have done. Hand-pick your best examples and make them super compelling. Speak to what your potential clients are searching for and let them know how you can generate the results that they want.

Top tips

  • Add experience items for each of your top clients (and link to their company profile), being sure to describe the work you did and the results you generated for them.
  • Use layman’s terms whenever possible. Don’t assume that your audience knows what “CTR,” “schema markup,” “KPIs,” “keyword cannibalization” or other industry terms mean.
  • Remove any experience examples that irrelevant to the audience you aim to serve. If you offer SEO services to law firms, they don’t need to know that you were a Boy Scout in sixth grade or that you were party chair at your college fraternity.
  • Include references to any publications you write for or industry organizations you are a part of.

 

3. Implement LinkedIn SEO

LinkedIn SEO differs from regular SEO due in the fact that the keywords that users type in to find services and businesses on LinkedIn aren’t always the same as what users type into Google.

That’s because the average user doesn’t consider LinkedIn to be a search engine. They use it as it is intended – as a social media platform – and therefore use short-tail terms that match users’ job titles.

While users may use keywords like “copywriting services for small businesses” in Google, they are more likely to use terms like “copywriter” or “writer” on LinkedIn.

However, when users do search long or short tail terms in Google, LinkedIn profiles have the chance to rank in the SERPs. That’s why I suggest optimizing your profile with both SEO keywords and what I call “LinkedIn SEO keywords.”

Finding SEO keywords

To find SEO keywords to use in your profile, simply conduct keyword research as you would if you were finding keywords for your business website.

What do you want your profile to rank for?

Do these terms get decent search volume, with low competition?

Do they match the intent of your target audience?

These are all questions you’ll want to consider.

Generate a list of terms that are worth ranking for and that have a reasonable search volume. With this list, you will start on your LinkedIn SEO keyword research and then you’ll optimize your profile with a combination of these terms.

Finding LinkedIn SEO keywords

Unfortunately I have yet to find a tool that provides search volume data for keywords used on LinkedIn.

Therefore, this is not a hard science. But, if you are skilled in SEO, you can make some informed guesses around how keywords are being used on LinkedIn.

Here is my process for finding keywords on LinkedIn:

1. Search for the shortest, broadest term associated with the services that you offer.

Use LinkedIn’s search box to search for the broadest term that applies to your business.

If you have an SEO agency, this would be “SEO” or even “marketing.” As a Facebook ads expert, this would be “Facebook ads” or “advertising,” perhaps “social media.”

LinkedIn will automatically show you a list of the top results for that term in your network (more on this later).

2. Look at the full results.

Beneath the list of results, you will see an option to “See all results for [keyword].” Click on this to view the full results page.

This will take you to a page that shows you all of the results associated with this keyword, including the number of results, whether the results are connections, companies, groups, the location of the results and much more.

You will notice that the top results are likely connections already in your network – identified by a “1st,” “2nd” or “3rd” degree connection annotation. What this means is that you aren’t seeing the TRUE search results, as LinkedIn prioritizes showing people and companies that you have some existing connection with.

Our job then is to determine which terms yield the highest volume and best match results, across the board.

3. Take note of search volume.

Before moving on to the next step, make a note of how many results your initial search yields.

You can do this by looking at the original total, or by filtering it by people and companies. Do not add any other filters yet.

Basically, you want to know how many results are pulled up when users search for that term to find people or companies that offer services like yours.

4. See expanded results for first-, second- and third-degree connections.

Once you have recorded the initial “volume,” filter the results by ticking off the connection options.

This will pull up the profiles of people that you are connected with, as well as those that you are not connected with.

There’s no good way to see what others see when searching for your target keyword, but this gets you close. It will show you what keywords profile within and outside of your network are using, as well as how those profiles rank in LinkedIn for those terms.

This “search volume” will be your guide when it comes to deciding which terms are worth using in your profile.

5. Analyze the keywords used in the results.

Much like conducting competitor analysis of websites in your niche, you will now want to identify what keywords are being used in the “top ranking” profiles.

(Remember that is not the true search results, as they are skewed based on your degree of connection).

Note how your keyword is being used in the resulting profiles.

Are profiles using “SEO strategist” or “SEO specialist?” Are they simply listing “SEO, SEM, SMM” or are they more specific? See if you can find any trends here.

Finally, determine which terms are the best match for the kind of traffic you are trying to attract to your profile.

In the example above, we can see that most of these profiles use the term “SEO” near the beginning of the Headline, so this may be something we want to implement as well. “SEO strategist” has also been used.

Make a list of these terms. Then, enter these terms into the search box again and see what kind of results come up. Repeat this process until you have a list of the top 3-5 most used terms related to your initial “seed” keyword.

6. Reference your SEO keywords list.

Finally, you should compare your LinkedIn SEO keywords list to your regular SEO keywords list.

Is there an overlap? If so, keep these terms.

Are there some terms that are being used on LinkedIn but that may not be a great fit in the search engines? Decide whether you should replace this with a high-volume, low competition SEO keyword.

Eventually you will have a mix of terms that have the potential of drawing in traffic both from LinkedIn searches and Google searches.

Adding LinkedIn and SEO keywords to your profile

Once you have a solid list of keywords, you will want to incorporate them into your LinkedIn profile.

A plus side with LinkedIn, compared to Google, is that there is no evidence that keyword stuffing is penalized here. However, you want to keep your audience in mind and have your keywords fit into your copy in a compelling, natural way.

For my own profile above, I determined that more profiles used “SEO content” “content writer” and “copywriter” than they did “SEO copywriter” – despite “SEO copywriter” getting a fair amount of search volume from Google.

I also saw the terms “freelance” and “ghostwriter” used a lot. Finally, I included keywords like “B2B” and “SaaS” to attract the types of businesses I work with.

Some areas to add keywords:

  • Headline
  • Summary
  • Experience section
  • Recommendations
  • Skills section

If there are some regular SEO keywords that you don’t want to leave out, your experience section is a great place to add these.

If you found trends in terms of where these keywords were being included in the top ranking profiles, try to follow this in your own profile. At the same time, don’t make compromises if you think that your profile copy is stronger by taking a different approach.

In section six, I address how to generate recommendations, skills and endorsements, plus how to add keywords to these sections.

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