The Ultimate Guide to a Perfect LinkedIn Profile

The Ultimate Guide to a Perfect LinkedIn Profile

The Ultimate Guide to a Perfect LinkedIn Profile

Because LinkedIn began as a platform for connecting employers with employees, essentially an online resume service, our LinkedIn profiles are far more complicated and advanced than the other social networks. This is no 140 character Bio like on Twitter. You've got sections for a Summary and Experience and Education and more.

And I have to be honest here, setting up and optimizing a LinkedIn profile takes time. This is not going to be a "Clean Up Your LinkedIn Profile In 5 Minutes" kind of post. So while it will only take a few minutes for you and I to run through these suggestions, be prepared to spend a considerably greater amount of time actually implementing some of them. Fortunately, once done, you can relax, have a glass of wine, and just pop back into your profile every few weeks or months to make a couple updates.

Before we jump into these recommendations, let me make one more point perfectly clear. These are not necessarily recommendations for the perfect LinkedIn profile if you're looking for a job. I am writing this from my own perspective, as someone who is using their LinkedIn profile to connect with influencers, partners or prospects. I already have a business and I am counting on LinkedIn to help me grow that business and reach more of their nearly 200 million active monthly users.

All of the recommendations below are just that, recommendations. Take 'em or leave 'em however you'd like. Each can be implemented by going to LinkedIn, logging in, clicking on Profile in the top menu and then clicking on the grey Edit button. This will put your profile in edit mode, and you'll be able to change anything you need to. You may also want to take advantage of LinkedIn's suggestions and recommendations by clicking on the blue Complete My Profile button. LinkedIn will ask you a series of probing questions designed to get your profile even more complete.

We will cover:

  1. Research Keywords for LinkedIn
  2. Use a Current, Professional Profile Image
  3. Consider Premium, and Then Add a Cover Photo
  4. What's Your Name, and What Do You Do?
  5. Offer Complete Contact Information
  6. Grab a Custom URL
  7. Make Sure Your Profile Is Visible
  8. Consider a Profile Badge
  9. Support Additional Languages
  10. Update Your Connections
  11. Update Your Background
  12. Add Media / Links
  13. Review Skills & Endorsements
  14. Move Sections Around
  15. Add / Update Projects
  16. Add / Update Publications
  17. Ask for Recommendations and Give Recommendations
  18. Regularly Publish Posts
  19. Review Group Memberships
  20. Daily LinkedIn Activity

Let's get started.

1. Research Keywords for LinkedIn

Before editing your profile, it will help you if you have a list of targeted keyword phrases in mind for which you would want to come up in search. These are the actual words and phrases that you think prospects and potential connections might actually type into a search. If you're a plumber, make sure you use the word "plumber" in your profile, along with variations you think might work like "plumbing." We will be reviewing specific instances where you can and should use these targeted phrases, so write them down. I suggest coming up with 10 - 12 and then prioritizing them so that you know what your most important keyword phrase it.

Before finalizing your list and implementing them, you may want to do a few LinkedIn searches yourself to see who comes up and if it would be advantageous for you to be seen ranked above those individuals.

Jot these down in Evernote or someplace handy, and refer back to them throughout the following recommendations, each time you have an opportunity to talk about you and your business. While you want to write everything with your profile viewers and prospects in mind, it is a good idea to make an effort to work in keywords when possible.

2. Use a Current, Professional Profile Image

First, let's get this out in open right now. If your profile picture is so old you no longer resemble that person, and your own children wouldn't know that was you, change it. We're all getting older and most of us would rather be defined by our younger, better-looking selves, but your professional image needs to reflect who you are today. I've written at length about what makes for a good, personal brand image. You should have an excellent profile pic on LinkedIn and one that's used on all of your other personal profiles as well — at least the ones you're using to promote your business.

That means this image needs to be up to date and professional. This image will be showing up anywhere there's a piece of information associated with you on LinkedIn, which means status updates, published posts, search results, group discussions, and of course your profile. People will begin to identify you by your image, and your image will help some people decide whether to further a conversation with you, so make it count.

And of course, the implied fact is here is that you must have a profile photo. According to LinkedIn, profiles that include a profile image receive 14x more views. (Tweet This Stat)

3. Add a Cover Photo

7/17 UPDATE: LinkedIn has opened cover photos to everyone.

Are you a LinkedIn Premium member? If not, you may want to consider it. As a premium member, you'll be able to see more information about other members, who's looking at your own profile, and you will be able to take advantage of the new LinkedIn Cover Photo.

I had not been a huge proponent of LinkedIn Premium for business owners like myself until these recent changes, and now it's a bargain. For a few bucks a month, I'll get enhanced listings in search results? I already know from Google Authorship what a benefit that can be. Sign me up! And I love the branding and customization that a cover photo brings me.

So strongly consider upgrading, and if you do (or have already), create a custom cover photo for yourself (dimensions and requirements here). Don't just upload an image you like — make sure that image communicates something about you and your business to prospects, and add text to help contextualize the image, or at least add additional information. Here's mine:

Mike Allton's LinkedIn Cover Photo

Sorry it's a bit squished, since the live graphic is quite wide. But do note that your header info is superimposed over the central lower half of the graphic, and that part of the header is slightly transparent, so it's one of the trickier cover photos to create.

4. What's Your Name, and What Do You Do?

Give careful thought to your Name and Title. Along with your profile image, these are the pieces of information most commonly associated with your account throughout LinkedIn, so they're extremely important.

Are you using the same exact version of your name as on other web properties? Make sure you're consistent and professional, and have your full name with proper capitalization. Do not use your business name or anything else here.

For your title, you should attempt to strike a balance between coming up with something creative, while at the same time using keywords from your industry for which you'd like to be associated. "Owner" or "CEO" may be appropriate, but are hardly helpful to getting you seen by prospects. Mine, for instance, reads, "Content Marketing Consultant, Author" as that communicates what I do and who I am.

This is referred to within LinkedIn as your Professional Headline and has a limit of 120 characters.

LinkedIn Header for Mike Allton

While you're editing the information in your header, be sure to check your location. If you're providing services to a specific geographic area, this is a critical component. When entering my own zip code, LinkedIn gives me the option choosing my local city or the greater metro area, which worked better for me.

And finally, give careful consideration to your Industry. This will appear to the right of your location at the top of your profile, and give viewers a quick indication of what kind of business you have. LinkedIn actually suggests that adding your industry will bring your profile 15x more views! (Tweet This Stat)

5. Offer Complete Contact Information

Below your header is a tab for Contact. This contains all of the contact information that you've chosen to share with your connections. Make sure this is complete! At a minimum, you should have your email address, phone number, website and Twitter accounts.

If you want to make yourself available for instant message, like through Skype, you can include that as well.

Under Websites, you can include up to three. You might link to your Home page, to your Blog, and to your RSS Feed. Or perhaps you have a second website you might want prospects to go to, or even your Google+ profile. Do take advantage of all three slots. And make sure that you edit the label for each website name to be more interesting and descriptive, rather than just "Website."

Update & Complete Your LinkedIn Contact Information

6. Grab a Custom URL

Have you claimed a vanity URL for your LinkedIn profile yet? A vanity URL is easier to remember and use, and of course looks more branded and professional. Mine, for instance, is http://www.linkedin.com/in/mikeallton/.

Customize your URL by going to http://www.linkedin.com/myprofile?editwp=# and clicking Customize your public profile URL down on the right-hand side. Definitely use your name or as close to it as you can get based on what LinkedIn will allow you to choose and what others may have already taken. Don't use nicknames, handles or your business name, or anything that could change in a year.

7. Make Sure Your Profile Is Visible

If you're hoping to get business from your LinkedIn profile, than you want to make sure that anyone can view it, whether they're logged in or not.

In the same drop down menu next to the Edit Profile button, click on Manage public profile settings. The left side will be what anyone can view from your profile, and along the right you'll see a set of checkboxes for each of your sections. Generally, you'd want to have them all visible, but do take a moment to review them and make sure you're not invisible to the public.

Also, let's take a moment to review what other LinkedIn members can see as well. Click on your profile image in the upper right corner of the screen to access your account menu, and click on Privacy & Settings. Here you can:

  • Make sure EVERYONE can view your activity feed.
  • Turn on or off your activity broadcasts
  • Select what others can see when you view their profile (image, name and headline recommended)
  • Enable Open Profile if you're a Premium member

8. Consider a Profile Badge

While technically not an optimization of your profile itself, it's certainly a good idea to make sure that other people know they can find you on LinkedIn. I use a rich signature in my email that includes linked icons for my top social networks, and have a similar set of icons in my Bio below this and every other blog I write. Depending on your own site and situation, you might take advantage of one of the LinkedIn Badges available here: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/profile-badges?goback=

Here's what mine looks like:

View Mike Allton's profile on LinkedIn

9. Support Additional Languages

Do you cater to other countries and languages? If so, you can offer your profile visitors an alternate version in their language. to the right of the Edit Profile button, click on the down arrow to reveal an additional options menu and click on Create profile in a different language. You choose from several dozen languages, with more being added regularly.

When you add additional languages, those alternate versions are then available to profile viewers via a button below your profile image. My own profile is available in both Spanish and French in addition to English.

10. Update Your Connections

If you've never used the LinkedIn Networking tools, or perhaps it's been a while, now's a good time. In fact, I recommend doing a quick check every month so that you can connect with people you've emailed recently. Basically, LinkedIn will scan your email accounts (with your permission) and offer to send a connection invitation to any existing members LinkedIn finds in your address book.

Head up to Connections and click on Add Connections. Select an email service that you're currently using, like Gmail, and follow the online instructions to authorize your account and allow LinkedIn to identify potential connections.

Once LinkedIn has scanned your account, you will be presented with a list of individuals whom you've emailed and have LinkedIn accounts associated with that same email address. Since you already have their email, LinkedIn won't ask you to confirm or supply anything — you can simply select the people who you know and want to connect with and LinkedIn will issue the invitation. I recently connected my Gmail account and was presented with over 400 potential new contacts.

11. Update Your Background

The Background section includes your Summary and any media you choose to associate with it. Your Summary can include up to 2000 characters and I strongly recommend using every single available space. According to LinkedIn, summaries that have more than 40 words makes you more likely to turn up in appropriate searches, which makes complete sense. The more you're talking about your business and industry, the more likely you are to use important keywords.

The first and most common mistake here is to write a brief biography of yourself or your work history. Not only is that boring, it's also ineffective when you're trying to land business for yourself. You aren't trying to get hired, so why write for a job interview?

Instead, treat the Summary field like it's the Home Page of your website. Talk to your prospects and really try to reach out and engage them. Explain a little bit about who you are, but focus more on what you do for people. And this should not read like a list of services. People don't buy services. They buy solutions or experiences. If you talk about how you're going to help me, I'm far more likely to relate and to want to learn more.

That said, at the bottom of my Background, I do include a list of specific services or topics. This certainly helps your profile's optimization, but it also mentions some specific services, like Pay Per Click or Social Advertising, that you may not be able to work into the rest of your prose.

If you're a Premium member, when you go to edit your Background, LinkedIn will offer suggestions of additional keywords to add, and highlight strong business words that you're already doing well to integrate.

12. Add Media / Links

One of the outstanding features of your LinkedIn profile is the option to add Media to some sections. Media can include images, links or video, and can serve to help educate and engage profile visitors.

Look for this icon in the upper right of sections: Add Rich Media to LinkedIn Sections

Under your Summary, you can add up to 10 Media entries, which will be displayed in a layered brick fashion. I strongly recommend selecting your best, most appropriate blog posts and videos and link them here. Only the first five will be displayed initially, so prioritize your media links and make your first two the most important two.

Add Rich Media to your LinkedIn sections.

In addition to the Summary section, you can also add Media to individual positions you've held within Experience, and individual institutions you've attended within Education. Again, since you're using your LinkedIn profile to get leads and sales for your business, it's likely that your past jobs and the schools you attended are meaningless. However, you have presumably put your current business as your current job within Experience, so take advantage of this feature and add a couple more links there, perhaps to specific services or key landing pages. I chose to link to The Social Media Hat's About Page, as well as our key services page.

13. Review Skills & Endorsements

The Skills & Endorsements section is one of the most misunderstood and berated features of LinkedIn, so it's not surprising that most people aren't taking advantage of all this section has to offer. Yet according to LinkedIn, members who include skills and utilize this section receive 13x more profile views.

And most of the criticism stems from the fact that members can endorse other members for anything, so it's possible for other people to endorse you for skills you don't have, or wouldn't want to display on your profile. Yet you retain complete control over what skills are displayed, and even which skills you can receive endorsements on.

Click on Edit next to the Skills & Endorsements section to edit your skills.

First, if you really don't want to use this feature, you can turn it off here.

Next, you can choose whether or not your connections should be encouraged to endorse you (YES!) and whether or not you want to be encouraged to endorse them (ALSO YES!).

Next you'll see a list of the skills you've already added, and a field to add more. You can list up to 50 skills, so fill it up! Make sure that you've decided for yourself what 50 skills you want to be endorsed for, as this will ensure you don't get lots of endorsements for random skills. Refer back to the LinkedIn Keywords list we created earlier.

Now it's time to prioritize those skills. The skills that are most relevant to your business and the kind of work you want to get should be listed first, so drag your skills around until they're in the order you want. Once saved, the top ten will be listed along with thumbnails of your endorsers, followed by a list of the next 15 skills, and a button to see the final 25. So note that only your top 25 skills are seen on your profile.

Since the first ten skills are the ones that viewers of your profile can easily endorse, I often cycle different skills into that top ten listing to give them a bump in endorsements. For instance, I recently added "Blog Coach" as a skill in addition to the "Blogging" and "Content Marketing" skills I was already displaying. Since it's a new skill, it hasn't received many endorsements yet, so I put it in my top ten to get it more attention. It will soon be in the 99+ listings like many other skills.

Edit and Prioritize your LinkedIn Skills.

Having these skills serves two important purposes. First, they are additional uses of the keywords we talked about earlier. Your skills should reflect the topics and expertise that potential clients are looking for. Second, many potential clients will see this list and if you've done a good job of optimizing skills and getting endorsements, this section will help reaffirm what you were talking about in the previous Background section.

So before we move on, let me touch on an obvious question many of you may have at this point, "how do I get more endorsements?" I don't ever recommend asking for endorsements. Either you're asking people you don't know and that's awkward, or you're asking people you do know and whom you've worked with, and that seems a waste. If I've worked for you and done a good job, I'm better served by asking for a recommendation, which I'll get to in a moment. Instead, focus on giving endorsements. Each time you view someone's profile, LinkedIn will suggest a few endorsements, and as long as they seem appropriate, go ahead and endorse them. Then, LinkedIn will bring up four of your other connections and recommend skills to endorse them for, do those too. Each time you endorse someone else, they'll get a notification that you did that for them, and be prompted to endorse you for a skill in return.

Do you see the beauty of this system? Not only are you being nice to other people and encouraging more endorsements for yourself, you're also regularly "dripping" on your other connections in a very unobtrusive yet valuable way.

So as soon as you've finished optimizing your own skills, go endorse a bunch of your connections. Make that a party of your daily LinkedIn routine (which we'll expand on in a moment).

14. Move Sections Around

Another feature that many LinkedIn members aren't aware of is that some of the sections of your profile can be moved around, allowing you to customize and prioritize the information you present connections and prospects.

Look for this icon in the upper right of your sections: Move LinkedIn Sections

Sections that can be rearranged include:

  1. Summary
  2. Skills & Endorsements
  3. Publications
  4. Certifications
  5. Projects
  6. Additional Info
  7. Volunteer Experience & Causes
  8. Organizations
  9. Experience
  10. Education
  11. Courses

And that happens to be the order in which I currently display my information. Note that Experience and Education are near the bottom — that's because none of my clients and prospects have ever asked me where I went to school, or what my previous jobs were. If you're trying to get hired, these are critical points of data, but not important for getting business.

Within some of the sections, you can also reorder elements. We already talked about Skills & Endorsements, but you should also review the order of information you have within:

  • Publications
  • Projects
  • Volunteer Experience & Causes
  • Education

You might also be using a few sections that I'm not: Languages, Honors & Awards, Test Scores or Patents. If those apply, make sure you use them and place them accordingly.

15. Add / Update Projects

The Projects section is an ideal place to show off some of your actual work, similar to a portfolio. One of the great ways in which you can communicate to a potential client what you can do for them is by showing them what you've done for other similar businesses.

Unfortunately, it's currently a rather static section. Individual projects are listed much like past job experience, without the option to add Media. If you can provide an outstanding description of what you did, or perhaps the names/brands themselves will lend some weight, definitely take advantage. If, however, you work in a more visual field, I recommend having a gorgeous portfolio on your own website and linking to it from here.

16. Add / Update Publications

Publications isn't just for published books and written work, though if you've been published that should should definitely be included here. You can also include links to blog posts, particularly if you've contributed articles on sites other than your own.

I list my book first, and then some of my best guest articles on other sites and publications.

Edit and Add Publications to LinkedIn

I wouldn't recommend listing every single one of your guest articles here — just a nice sample to show a prospect that you've been published elsewhere, beyond your own website. 4 - 6 entries in this section seems like a reasonable number. But of course there are always exceptions. Just like the one-page resume rule can be broken by someone with an exceptional history, if you've been published in a dozen incredible places, or have an extensive library of books that you've authored, list 'em.

17. Ask for Recommendations and Give Recommendations

Recommendations are an extraordinarily powerful tool within LinkedIn. They represent independent reviews of your business, and can go a long way toward establishing your expertise with potential prospects.

And while recommendations can only be displayed for the specific position for which they were given, they're still a powerful conversion tool.

Make sure that you're displaying all of the recommendations you've received. And then take the time regularly to ask your satisfied customers and connections for recommendations.

Note that I said "your satisfied customers and connections." Do not ask your other connections, who have never worked with you, for a recommendation. If I don't know you beyond our LinkedIn connection, why would I recommend you?

Now, that said, it's becoming increasingly common for people to offer recommendations for other people based on the value they've provided, even if it wasn't a paid position. For instance, I recently wrote a recommendation for Peg Fitzpatrick based solely on her blog content and the incredible knowledge she's shared with me freely. I offered that recommendation without any expectation of receiving one in return, but the fact is the more often you recommend others, particularly for less transactional relationships and benefits, the more recommendations you will receive in return.

I also have an article that can help you with writing LinkedIn recommendations so that they're both powerful and effective, yet not time consuming to create.

18. Regularly Publish Posts

LinkedIn has implemented an actual blogging platform within the network which allows you to craft and publish posts like you would on your own blog. I will be sharing more soon on my own experiences and why I think it's such a great idea in general, but for now, let's focus on what Published Posts do for your profile.

When you share a status update on LinkedIn, it appears in the stream of your followers and is quickly buried under the updates from all of their other connections. When you create a Published Post, however, it appears at the top of your profile, just above your Summary. In fact, your most recent two posts appear. If you include a great image with the posts, they really add a great element front and center. (This is also why it's so important not to publish rubbish there.)

Publish Posts to LinkedIn through your status update bar.

So just like with your own blog, make sure that you're regularly sharing great new posts directly on LinkedIn.

If you don't yet have access to this feature, just wait. LinkedIn is gradually rolling it out to all members.

19. Review Group Memberships

Finally, take a moment each month to review the LinkedIn Groups that you're a member of. Are they offering you valuable discussions and connection opportunities? Are you in groups that are appropriate for your business and industry? And have you joined the maximum 50 groups? While many LinkedIn Groups have devolved to nothing more than link dumps, there are still many that can be valuable assets. Participate in those groups, and make sure that viewers of your profile can see the groups that you're in.

20. Daily LinkedIn Activity

Like every other network, success on LinkedIn requires that you be present regularly. There are many activities that you can be doing with regard to lead generation and prospect research, but there are are a specific set of activities I recommend you perform daily.

  1. Endorse Others
  2. Review Recent Profile Views
  3. Share Evergreen Content
  4. Share Curated Content
  5. Comment on Group Posts

We talked above about the importance of regularly endorsing other people. Whether or desktop or mobile, take a few minutes each day to endorse some of your connections, and you'll be rewarded for the effort.

One of the interesting and unique aspects of LinkedIn is that the network will show you a portion of the members who are viewing your profile. While this may feel somewhat like stalking at first, the reality is that people are checking out our profiles on every social network all day long. We usually just aren't given the courtesy of a heads-up. So take advantage of the fact that you have access to this information, and pay attention to who is reviewing your profile. You may find that a prospect or even a cold lead has viewed your profile, and might be an opportunity to open a conversation.

Throughout each day, you should be sharing status updates that offer your connections interesting, valuable information. To me that means sharing a combination of links to my own articles, and links to articles other people have published, creating a constant, helpful stream of posts. I use a combination of manual shares, Buffer and Hootsuite to make sure that each day, I'm providing value, but also ensuring that those posts aren't all shared at once. So each morning, at a minimum, queue up some shares for throughout the day.

And finally, make sure that you have some measure of activity in your most important LinkedIn Groups. Have some specific groups identified and pop into them for a few minutes each day to see what other members have shared, and engage with them. Like a few posts or leave a comment if you're so inclined. If you find a particularly interesting article, share it with your own audience and mention that person so they know you appreciated what they shred.

A lot of this activity can be done via mobile, so make sure you have the mobile LinkedIn app installed for either iOS or Android.

Here's a quick infograph to help you remember all of these tips:

How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile for Business Success

Share this Image On Your Site

If you take the time up front to make your LinkedIn profile as good as it can be, and then follow up with these kinds of regular activities, you'll see see your number of connections rising, your engagement with others improving, the traffic to your website from LinkedIn increasing, and your number of leads and sales as a result of LinkedIn going up.

If you have other tips on LinkedIn that have helped you grow your business and influence, please share them in the comments below. And if you want more specialized assistance in optimizing your LinkedIn profile to support your business, contact me.


Mike is a Social Media Consultant and Blog Coach in St. Louis. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's. He is active on all of the major social networks and enjoys writing and teaching small business owners on how to leverage the Internet to promote and grow their business. Mike provides training and seminars to businesses and individuals on topics like "Content Marketing - Using Blogging + Social Media + SEO to equal Small Business Success" or "Establishing a Brand on Google+" or "How to use HootSuite to Manage Your Social Media Presence."

Mike is the author of, "The Unofficial Book On HootSuite: The #1 Tool for Social Media Management."

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