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The Key Element Your LinkedIn Profile Is Probably Missing

I think LinkedIn is the most effective social media platform for professional and business purposes. Based on the amount of email I got from my recent post, How to Create a LinkedIn Profile That Really Connects, most of you agree.

The problem is making connections is relatively easy. Connecting with the right people is a lot harder, especially if you only apply website- and resume-building strategies to creating your LinkedIn profile.

For example, the Google AdWords Keyword Tool is a great way to find out how many people search for various keywords. Use the tool to create your LinkedIn profile: Do a little keyword research and make sure you pack your profile with search-friendly terms so potential clients and connections can find you.

Great -- but everyone uses the keyword tool to determine how describe themselves or their businesses.

That means every recruiter, for example, jams hundreds-of-thousands-of-searches-per-month keywords like "staffing," "recruiting," "hiring," "jobs," "staffing agency," etc. into their profiles. By doing everything right they get lost in all the keyword noise.

What can you do to stand out and help the right connections find you?

  1. Use popular keywords to build the backbone of your profile for a general audience, then
  2. Include specific, highly targeted keywords to stand out to a specific audience
Here's an example. I worked in book manufacturing and have extensive experience in productivity, quality, and efficiency improvement. Pretend I want to build a consulting business around those skills and hope my LinkedIn profile will help book manufacturers find me.

Using the Google keyword tool approach, I should definitely include keywords like process improvement, productivity, efficiency, and quality. I should also include keywords like Six Sigma, 5S, TQM... processes and programs commonly searched for that I can deliver.

The problem is I don't really stand out from all the other efficiency experts. People will find me, and that's great, but some I'm sure to miss.

So now I'll go deeper. I'll identify types of keywords specific to the book manufacturing industry:

  • Industry processes. Conventional wisdom advises against including industry-specific and esoteric jargon on resumes, websites, etc. In this case the rule doesn't apply, especially if you hope to connect with B2B customers. For example, in book manufacturing the word "makeready" is used to refer to a job changeover. No one in the industry searches for "changeover reduction," but "makeready reduction" is perfect. I could go farther and also include "zero makeready," since a lot of printing and binding equipment is described that way. Think about specific processes in your field and include a few key examples in your profile. (Every field has them.)
  • Industry terms. Books eventually have pages, but before trimming those pages are called signatures, or "sigs." Cases, jackets, super, headbands... all are terms specific to book manufacturing. In the B2B world this is especially important; if I'm in the environmental cleanup business "brownfields" means something to me, even if the average consumer would never consider using it as a search term.
  • Equipment names. Are you familiar with manufacturers like Kolbus, Mueller-Martini, or Timsons? Probably not -- unless you're in the book business. Include industry-specific equipment in your profile to not only create long-tail keyword possibilities but also to reinforce your expert status.
  • Company names. Shameless name dropping is one thing; highlighting experience with industry-leading companies is another. I worked for R.R. Donnelley, so including them in my profile not only makes it more searchable, it also serves as a credibility-enhancer and a potential, "Hey, I worked for RRD too," bridge builder.
The key is to build your profile in two stages. In the first stage focus on a general audience. By all means use Google keyword tool-friendly search terms so you cast a wide net.

Then go deeper. Consider your specific skills and experience. Think niche. Think targeted. Include a few keywords industry insiders might use when searching LinkedIn profiles.

While some of your niche keywords may only attract a few people every month, those who do find you that way are likely to become your best connections.

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Photo courtesy flickr user ideagirlmedia, CC 2.0