When it comes to LinkedIn profile optimization, you first need to determine what your end goal on LinkedIn is. Are you trying to get new business, get hired, build a massive following? Pinpointing your goal is the first step to optimizing your LinkedIn profile.
Then, once you’ve determined your end goal on LinkedIn, you’ve got to figure out who your target audience is. Essentially, who will you be optimizing your profile for?
So many of us are used to thinking of our LinkedIn Profile as a resume. And it is, in a way. But because there a lot of outdated ideas on what a resume is supposed to be, I want you to get that out of your head and instead think of your LinkedIn profile more as a marketing website for your personal brand.
To help you do this, I’ve got 10 LinkedIn profile tips. And, as we go over each major part of your profile, we need to keep two overarching principles in mind:
First: whoever that target person is that you’re trying to reach, we need to present your personal brand in a way that appeals to this person. Second: we need to keep authenticity at the forefront. LinkedIn is not what it used to be. And these days what people really crave is connecting with people who are real.
10 Tips to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
Your headline is your most important asset on LinkedIn. It not only displays on your profile, but on every single post and comment you make on the platform. Your headline is often the first impression you make, and it can be a powerful tool, if used correctly.
LinkedIn Headline Mistakes
By default, LinkedIn is going to fill in your title and current company/employer. Allowing LinkedIn to fill in your headline for you is a huge mistake. Nine out of ten times, you’re actually going to want to steer away from using your title entirely. Unless you’re the CEO of a really well-known company, this is a waste of this important asset. Why? Because your target person doesn’t really care about what you do. They care about how you can solve their problem.
Another mistake to avoid in your headline – don’t use generalized or vague descriptions like “entrepreneur” or “innovator” or “storyteller”. These types of headlines are pretty much useless because they don’t communicate how you can add value to some else.
One last thing you need to avoid in your headline is mentioning all the of the various things you do. The more items you add, the more likely you are to confuse your target person.
How to Write a Great LinkedIn Headline
Instead, you need to stick with one main point that people can latch onto. The goal is to use your headline to explain how you add value to your target person. To do this, you’ll need to pinpoint the core problem that this person has that you can solve and explain how you solve it in a few words.
My headline has changed occasionally, but the most effective one I’ve used so far has been “Growing Your Business thru Branding and Web Design”. What this headline does is capture the attention of my target customer and explain how I could add value to them. If their main desire is to grow their business and they recognize that they need new branding and a website, their eyes are going to be drawn to my profile.
If you’re having trouble coming up with a headline like this, start by filling in these blanks: “I help X to do X by doing X.”
For a chiropractor, this could be, “I help people with chronic health problems to live pain-free through chiropractic care.” Or let’s say you’re trying to land a job in customer service. Your headline could read: “I want to serve your company by helping turn unhappy customers into raving fans.” Notice the way this is framed – I’m not appealing to the company’s customer by saying “I’m going to provide friendly customer service.” Instead, I’m hitting on the value that the employer really cares about: turning their unhappy customers into raving fans.
2. Profile Photo
After your headline, your profile photo is the second most important part of your LinkedIn profile. That’s because it’s also one of the first things people see before even landing on your profile.
This should be a professional headshot that is zoomed in on your face. Make sure the backdrop is fairly neutral and not very “busy.” You also want to follow the rule of dressing for the job you want. Does your target person want to hire or work with a serious person wearing a suit, or a friendly person dressed in modern attire? Answers to this will vary from person to person. But it can help you determine what you should wear in the photo, whether or not to show teeth in your smile, etc.
At the same time, your profile photo should also stay true to your personality. It should appeal to your target person, but in a way that feels natural.
3. Background/Cover Photo
The “Background Photo” is the banner image across the top of your profile.
Aesthetics matter in influencing the way people view you, and your cover photo is your main opportunity to do this on your LinkedIn Profile. That’s why it should be something that’s well-designed and that incorporates your brand colors and other visual elements. You can create one for free using an app like Canva or hire a designer (like me) to do it for you!
What to Include in Your LinkedIn Cover Image
Aside from making a good impression, your cover photo can be a great tool for sharing your expertise and building trust. I don’t recommend a stock image here. Instead, I recommend using an image with you in it that’s high quality. What we want to do with your cover photo is reinforce the other elements we’ve already discussed. We talked about hitting on the value and the end result that you’re providing in your headline. How can you visually convey this same end result?
If you’re a speaker, a great cover photo would be an image of you from the side that also shows the audience captivated by your speech. If you’re a consultant, like I am, it could show you working alongside your client. If you are a photographer, you could show yourself from behind shooting a portrait of your client smiling in the background.
You could also include your company logo or a list of services/specializations in your cover photo. If you’ve worked with some reputable companies, show those company logos. Or simply include your business or personal tagline.
One word of warning: don’t get too carried away with the ideas above. It doesn’t take much for the cover photo to appear too “busy,” so just pick a couple of ideas and stick with those.
Pro tip: Be mindful of the placement of each element in the image – your Background Photo will appear differently between desktop and mobile devices.
4. Your Name
You’d think this element would be obvious, but I just have one quick thing to mention. Using “Jonathan H. Smith III, Esq. PHD” may be okay for certain situations, but most times it is overkill! As a rule of thumb, we want to aim for authenticity. Include the name people actually know you as. If you are known simply as Jon Smith, then write that.
Any inconsistencies like this between your LinkedIn Profile and real life is only going to hurt your personal brand. Remember: consistency is key.
5. Primary CTA
Everything we’ve covered up until this point deals specifically with the elements “above the fold” on your profile. On a website, this refers to elements that appear at the top and before you scroll down. By nature, they are the most important.
There’s one more element “above the fold” that I want to address: your primary call-to-action. For this, you have two main options: Connect or Follow. Connect means you and the other person can both see and interact with each other in the newsfeed. Follow means they can see your content, but you won’t see theirs.
Now, there’s some debate over which one is better, but ultimately it just goes back to knowing what your goals are. Both options allow the other person to see your content. The benefit of making the person your connection is that you’ll be able to engage back with their content. This is a great way to foster relationships with people in your network.
For me, I recieve too many connection requests to follow up on. So having the Follow button allows anyone to be able to see the content I’m posting without me having to qualify whether or not I want them as a connection.
Ultimately, you have to choose what makes sense for you. Connect is the default CTA button, but you can easily change it to Follow if that better suits your goals.
6. About/Summary Section
The next important section to optimize on your LinkedIn profile is your summary/about section. As we discussed earlier, your headline should share in just a few words how you can solve your target audience’s problem.
Your summary/about section is where you have the chance to expound on that. In this section, you can share what makes you uniquely qualified to solve their problem and results you have achieved in the past for other clients or employers.
I recommend writing this section in the first person and imagining that this is your one chance to pitch yourself to your target person… because it just might be. Try to keep it as brief as possible. The longer this section is, the less likely someone is to actually read it. And, at the end, provide a clear action step for the person to take, whether that be to book a call, connect, etc.
7. Featured Content
In this section, you can provide links to just about anything. But you want to make your first two items really count.
For your first one on the list, I strongly recommend making this a secondary call-to-action for your profile. While your first CTA only gives people the option to connect or follow, this will one will allow any warm leads to take action. For mine, I use a Book Now link to my appointment calendar. You can link to a product, online course, contact form, etc.
For the second featured content item, you should use some sort of staple content that really demonstrates your knowledge and builds trust with your target audience in the form of an article or video. The rest of your featured content items can follow suit with this, but just make sure your most important piece of the content is in that second slot.
If you scroll down a little further, there’s a section called Activity. While not directly related to your profile, some people will click in this section to look at the type of content that you post. They may even engage with it, which can help boost your content in the Newsfeed.
That’s why it’s important that you are actually posting content on LinkedIn. Again, this content is another opportunity to demonstrate your expertise, build trust with your target person, and show that you are active on the platform.
This is the traditional “resume” part of your profile. The only thing I’m going to say about this is that you don’t need to share anything and everything you’ve done as far as work experience.
If someone actually does look at this section, they’re going to be looking for relevant experience only. That’s why there’s no need to put everything you do or everything you’ve ever done.
Only include the jobs and volunteer work you’ve done that actually relates to the type of work you’re trying to get. In all honestly, I don’t even know how important this section is anymore on LinkedIn. Let me know in the comments below what you think about this section.
The last important section that you should pay attention to on your LinkedIn profile is the Recommendations area. Think of this like a testimonials section on your website or Google reviews. If someone is seriously considering working with you, this can often help push them over the edge to choose you over someone else.
My friend Thomas Heath, who is another great LinkedIn marketer, is a big proponent of this section. If someone is on the fence about working with him as a coach, he’ll tell them to go check out his LinkedIn Recommendations, and it does the trick.
I’ll admit, this is a section I still need to work on. That’s because it does take a little more time to build up. So start as soon as possible to think of people who can ‘talk you up’ in a way that will resonate with your target person. And when you do, don’t be afraid to give them some direction on talking points to include in their testimonial.
So those are my LinkedIn profile optimization tips. Are there any tips that you would add? Please share them in the comments below!