The 10 best data-backed ways to optimize your LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn_logo_initialsI was recently tasked with finding the top ten ways a person can optimize their LinkedIn profile, something I did for an upcoming piece of research authored by a colleague of mine, and I was hit with a myriad of articles with the “best 2 ways”, the “one thing you are forgetting”, and the “50 best ways to optimize your profile”. So I decided to put some numbers behind those claims – I read through 54 articles and made a note of when a piece of advice was given. I sourced articles from LinkedIn Influencers, professional blogs, and other online research. Through that process, I am able to state with confidence (after taking a representative sample from the most trusted sources I could find) the 10 best ways to optimize your LinkedIn profile, based on occurrence in relevant articles.

Some of the advice seems commonplace, and I have included the percentage of articles that mention the piece of advice:

1) Complete your profile – 72%

This means having data in every section – your job, industry, tagline, summary, volunteer endeavors, awards, and having at least 50 connections (the requirements for having an “All-Star” profile on LinkedIn). This was the top suggestion – even if you spend no effort customizing your profile beyond basic information, simply having a complete profile gets you some of the way there.

2) Optimize your summary for keywords associated with your desired career trajectory – 69%

These keywords can be found from numerous sources, but looking for trends in words that show up in your top-choice companies or job descriptions is a good way to find out what keywords are associated with the type of work you want to do.

3) Craft a compelling headline – 65%

Of course, you need to state your job. But you also want to show your value as an employee or entrepreneur. I’ve seen some great ones – “Recruiter Passionate About Placing Top Talent” – is just one example of what I’ve seen.

4) Have a professional photograph – 65%

I don’t know how this was not suggested 100% of the time. One of the biggest value propositions for LinkedIn is the literal ability to “put a face to the name”. Can’t afford a professional photographer or don’t work for an employer that will get that done for you? Even a simple picture of you in business attire, looking neat, will do. Smiling is up for debate, so do what works for you.

5) Gather endorsements and recommendations – 57%

Endorsements and recommendations on LinkedIn have revolutionized how we view people. Sure, you might call yourself passionate and successful, but hearing it from someone you worked with via a LinkedIn recommendation tells me two things: That you are not lying, and that the person who recommended you thought you were good enough to publicly declare it – particularly useful if they were your boss. Endorsements say something similar, but offer a targeted plug for a skill you have.

6) Personalize your URL – 46%

What could be better than your own website? Personalized URL’s allow you to do just that – Linkedin.com/yourname. Take advantage of this to leverage your name coming up in search results (it also just looks more professional, in my opinion).

7) Be active and engaged on LinkedIn – 37%

The more you comment on articles, ask questions, and even challenge someone’s viewpoint (do so kindly and with logic; don’t attack anyone), the more your name gets out there. It will drive traffic to your profile, and might even garner a fruitful connection or two. Just make sure you are being an honest contributor and not commenting for its own sake.

8) Add media and work samples to your profile – 31%

Similar to endorsements and recommendations, adding media and work samples showcases your talent. You say you led a project to success? If you can (never break confidentiality, etc.), upload the executive presentation to your profile for people to see. It makes your statements tangible, which adds a ton of value.

9) List your projects and publications in your profile – 28%

Anything you had a hand in or helped to author should be listed on your LinkedIn. Ensure that you are crafting an easy-to-follow “story of you” in doing this; you want to make sure a reader can garner something about your interests and who you are as a person based on what you’ve done in your professional and academic life.

10) Update your connections – 28%

The whole point of a network is to leverage its potential. This means… connect with people! Sending cold invites to people who don’t know you isn’t very effective, but it makes sense to connect with someone you met elsewhere in life, or through a lively comment discussion on LinkedIn. Worried about adding people? Make sure that your offer to connect is mutually beneficial in some way.

So there you have it folks – the numbers-backed ten best ways to optimize your LinkedIn profile. The representation of each suggestion drops off significantly after the top five, indicating the top five seem to be the most “sacred” of advice, and then the remaining pieces of advice get scattered and more dependent on opinion and profession than generalized advice.

If you’re wondering, the next 10 are: Join relevant groups and follow companies (26%), Link to your other professional social media (24%), Write your own posts (22%), Have clearly visible contact information (15%), Weave context and stories into your summary and work descriptions, not just using keywords (15%), Underscore your specialties or specialized knowledge in your profile (13%), Use your summary directly as a sales pitch (11%), Get premium so you can send InMails (7%), Adjust privacy settings for ideal exposure (7%), and Quantify your accomplishments (6%).

Anymore that you think should be on this list? Leave a comment below!

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Stefan is a diversity and inclusion consultant and Founder of Ziversity. He has a number of years of experience in the HR/diversity recruiting space, starting with his research at Yale University and continuing through numerous non-profit positions. He blogs about diversity, inclusion, tech, startups, and cultural commentary. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @stefanpalios. Business inquiries can be sent to stefan@ziversity.com.

Originally posted on LinkedIn.

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