Try this: Log into your LinkedIn account, type the keyword "sports" into the search bar and hit enter. The number-one result you'll see is Lewis Howes, author of LinkedWorking: Generating Success On The World's Largest Professional Networking Website and founder of the Sports Executives Association.
"If you want people to find you on LinkedIn, you need to show up in searches," Howes says. "LinkedIn is like a mini Google-people pay good money to try to appear in Google searches. It's equally valuable to appear in LinkedIn searches, but you don't have to pay," he says.
Ranking high on a LinkedIn search for your particular industry or profession has several advantages, Howes says. If you're in the market for a new job, for example, ranking high on a LinkedIn search makes it easier for recruiters to find you. If you're looking to gain exposure in your industry, appearing on the first page of search results will help keep you top of people's mind. And if you're looking for new clients or business opportunities, ranking high is essential for that, too, he says.
Improving your search ranking on LinkedIn isn't difficult. Just follow these three simple steps.
1. Generate a list of keywords. Think about what words people would use if they wanted to find you on LinkedIn. If you're an IT consultant, maybe those words would be "IT," "consultant" and "technology consultant." If you're a developer, you might use "developer," "Java" and "open-source." Howes recommends keeping your list to three keywords.
2. Populate your profile. Revisit each field in your profile and be sure to restructure it so you're using your predefined keywords. Start with your LinkedIn headline, Howes says. "In one sentence, try to tell them who you are, who you help and why you help them," he recommends.
Then, be sure to complete all parts of your profile thoroughly, especially your summary and your current and past work experiences. Each of Howes' nine current and past professional titles include the word "sports" in every sentence. This, he says, helps boost the ranking of his profile in searches for "sports."
3. Strike a balance. It may be tempting to paste a string of keywords in each section of your profile, but don't do it, Howes says. "Don't load up on keywords in your profile to game the system. Integrate these words throughout your profile, where they're appropriate. You need to keep your profile professional and clean-putting in a bunch of keywords back to back isn't going to do much for you," he says.
Staff Writer Kristin Burnham covers consumer Web and social technologies for CIO.com. She writes frequently on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. You can follow her on Twitter: @kmburnham.
Read more about linkedin in CIO's LinkedIn Drilldown.