Ten Simple Steps to a Powerful LinkedIn Profile

Article by Donna FeldmanLinkedIn is the largest professional social networking site online with over 74 million users in the U.S. and over 200 million users worldwide as of January 2013. Using LinkedIn as a networking tool can help expand your network of contacts, clients, leads, and referral partners. And just like networking in person, when networking on LinkedIn, first impressions count.

Making a good first impression on LinkedIn begins with having a completely filled in professional profile. Your profile is not an uploaded copy of your resume. I like to think of it as a sales and marketing document you can use to promote yourself and your business.

To build a LinkedIn profile that gets results, follow these ten steps:

1. Complete your Profile. According to LinkedIn, having a completed profile provides you with a 40% greater chance for networking success. The only thing worse than not having a profile is having an incomplete one. And, when it comes to search results, LinkedIn is more likely to rank completed profiles over partially finished ones.

2. Upload a Professional Profile Picture. If you don’t have a photo, you need to get one. Profiles without photos are rarely viewed as they are thought to be inactive. Your photo should be square, from 200 x 200 to 500 x 500 pixels, 4MB maximum. This should be a professional looking photo, no distracting backgrounds, no sunglasses or hats that hide your face. I recommend a close-up and a smile.

3. Optimize for Keywords. Think of the People Search function on LinkedIn as Google Search for professionals. If you want to show up at the top of search results you need to use your keywords throughout your profile. What words might your ideal client use if they were searching on Google for someone who does what you do?

4. Customize your Professional Headline. The headline that appears below your name is included on every reference about you on the site and in search results. You have 120 characters to attract your target market’s attention and encourage them to click through to your profile. Think of your headline as a networking introduction, not a job title, and be sure to use your keywords. So instead of saying “Accountant” or “Tax Accountant” you might say “Denver Small Business Tax Accountant,” or “Small Business Accounting, Tax Planning, Bookkeeping,” or “Accountant providing affordable tax and bookkeeping solutions to small businesses.”

Here are some examples:

Donna Feldman
Business Coach | Social Media Trainer | Networking Expert | Get Clients Now!™ | Social Media Marketing Coach | Speaker

C.J. Hayden
Author, Business Coach & Thinking Partner to Entrepreneurs

5. Keyword Load Your Current and Past Work History. The work history section has 3 fields: Title, Company Name, and Description. In the title field you might be tempted to use “CEO,” “Vice President,” “Owner,” or some other generic term, but how many people will search for you using those keywords? Instead of using “Regional Vice-President at XYZ Corporation,” you could say “Regional Vice-President and In-House Legal Counsel.” A common mistake is to use the company name as part of the Title field. Company Name has its own field so there’s no need to repeat it twice. Be sure to include your keywords in the Title and Description areas.

6. Summary. After the Headline, the Summary is the single most important part of your profile. You have about 2/3 of a printed page to share who you are and what you do. Don’t make this a boring bio. It’s okay to show a little personality here — it’s the one free-form field on LinkedIn where you can speak to the reader in a human voice. Don’t forget to use your keywords throughout your summary and end with a call to action.

7. Customize Your Website Listings. LinkedIn allows you to add up to three website links in your profile. Do not use their generic labels such as “My Company” or “My Blog.” Always click “Other” and change the words to describe what you offer such as “Business Coaching” or “Marketing Classes” or the title of your free e-book.

8. Customize Your Public LinkedIn URL. Make sure you change your LinkedIn URL as it makes your profile look more professional and it’s easier to share. Using your name helps your LinkedIn profile show up in search results on major search engines when someone searches for you. My customized URL is www.linkedin.com/in/donnacfeldman.

9. Add to Your Skills & Expertise. You can pick up to 50 skills from the LinkedIn database. This is keyword-centric so think about every professional skill you want to promote and list it here. The Endorsements feature allows users to endorse their connections for skills listed in the Skills & Expertise section so make sure the skills you picked are in alignment with your branding objective.

10. Everything else… To complete your profile, fill in your Education, Interests, Honors and Awards, Organizations, Publications, Projects, Courses, Certifications, Volunteering and Causes, Contacting and any other relevant sections.

And that’s it! You should now have a completely filled in, professional, searchable, LinkedIn profile. What’s next? Now you can add connections, ask for recommendations, post status updates, join groups, and use LinkedIn to network and grow your business.

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Reader Comments

I think there is way, way too much focus on the LinkedIn Profile. That’s not networking & it’s such a tiny part of the value. What do you advise people actually DO?!

I wrote about my frustration with this subject here:
Understanding Personal Branding, beats ‘LinkedIn Profiles that rock’ advice

Super great list, Donna! It’s very actionable and helps people to move through the parts of their profile and not miss anything!

Anyone who has counseled social media newbies knows how helpful and essential this kind of help is!

In response to Jason Ball’s article on “Understanding Personal Branding beats ‘LinkedIn Profile’s that rock’ advice”

Having a profile on LinkedIn is like showing up at an in-person networking event, it’s the first step in networking. If you don’t show up, you can’t network, if you don’t have a profile on LinkedIn, you can’t network.

And while Jason says in his article that most people can figure out how to build a profile on their own, that has not been my experience, which is why I wrote my article. I am contacted on a weekly basis by people wanting help navigating the LinkedIn profile interface. They want help with what information to enter where, and how to go about entering it. Jason may be surprised to learn that there are still a lot of people out there who are new to social networking, aren’t very tech savvy, and want help with the basics.

I agree with Jason that it’s important to have a strategy for actively using LinkedIn, and, having a completely filled in profile comes first. As I say in the article, first impressions count, and on LinkedIn, that’s your profile.

As far as what do I actually advise people to DO on LinkedIn? That’s exactly what I’ll be talking about in my next article.

Well done, Donna. Your suggestions are spot on, and I think so many people miss doing all these important tasks that help people search, find, and connect with others. I really like that you added the strategy at the bottom about posting updates, connecting in groups and reaching out to others — what LinkedIn is all about. ~Kristy