by Andrew Hutchinson
Probably the biggest challenge of creating a LinkedIn profile is maximising every field — ensuring all your descriptions and language present you in the best light.
LinkedIn is the new résumé — while it doesn’t necessarily replace the paper version, it’s the first place most people are going to look at when you apply for a new job, and the place where recruiters and headhunters are most likely to come across your profile. It’s important to do whatever you can to ensure you’re found, but also to stand out and have visitors stick around to read about the great things you can offer.
In this context, it’s your headline that stands as the most important element — your key opportunity to make a positive first impression and entice the reader to want to know more.
So it’s important you get it right. But how do you go about doing that? What keywords or terms should you include in your headline? What things should you avoid?
Here are a few expert tips on creating and maximising your LinkedIn headline and building your personal brand on the professional network.
Step 1: Clarify
Like all web-based search, LinkedIn is reliant on keywords. Searches are made based on keyword queries, and while context also plays a part, it’s the key terms that will lead people to your profile in the first instance.
In LinkedIn search, your headline is one of the most highly weighted elements, meaning the words you use here are very likely to influence where you appear when someone goes looking. So how do you find the right ones to use?
Use LinkedIn’s built-in comparison tool
An easy way to get an idea of your options is to use LinkedIn’s built-in search function to see what others in your industry are calling themselves. To do this, you first need to ensure you’ve selected an industry on your profile. Once you have, go to the edit option for your headline and click on ‘See what other users in your industry are using’:
This will open up a new window with a listing of other people within your industry, along with their headlines. This is good, basic research to get an idea of how people are utilising headlines in your field.
Search job listings in your industry to see what terms people are using
Another basic — but relevant — way to work out what terms to use is to go to the jobs tab in LinkedIn and search for positions being advertised in your field.
This is important because often companies will create their own titles and definitions – what you were called in your last job might not necessarily be what the industry is calling that same position. Going though the listings, you can get an idea of the terms being used, and in particular, take note of the specifics. People searching for a ‘Social Media Editor’ may not find you if you list yourself as an expert in ‘Social Media Editing’.
Those small differences in language are important – consider searcher intent over self descriptors to ensure you’re getting all the attention you can.
Use Google Trends for research
Ideally, you’d be able to search for the most common keywords searched on LinkedIn specifically, but since that’s not an option, you can use Google Trends to search for the most common terms being used in your industry.
I had an example of this come up recently when working with an accounting firm. They had the term ‘accountants’ prominently featured on their website, but not the word ‘accounting’. As with the previous note, those differences are important. A Google Trends search will highlight which terms are being used, by region, which can help you refine your best potential keywords.
Now, obviously, it’s contextually relevant – ‘accounting’ is most probably not the term searchers are going to use when seeking future employees, but matching up variations of your job title or potential title will show you which terms are more commonly searched on the web, providing additional guidance on what terms you should use.
Search by job trends
Job search website Indeed has created an interesting job title trends tool which analyses listings from thousands of job sites and shows how many job listings contain the terms you search for, by percentage.
Using this tool you can get an idea of what the more searched terms are on job sites and industry trends. The search is not region-specific, so the data should only be used as an indicator, but it may help guide you towards the words to use to maximise your findability.
See steps 2,3, and the complete Firebrand article.