Keywords – The Key to Success on LinkedIn

LinkedIn Profile Optimization

Keywords are the key ingredient to having a successful and highly ranked LinkedIn profile. Use the wrong keywords or no keywords at all and there is almost no point in having a LinkedIn profile.

The better your keywords, the better chances that a recruiter finds your LinkedIn profile when looking for qualified candidates to fill an open position.

In regards to choosing keywords to include in your profile, think of LinkedIn as if it were a regular search engine like Google. People use Google to look for something specific. The more detailed the keywords used during a search, the better the chances that Google will return the correct search results. LinkedIn works exactly the same way.

If you were to search LinkedIn to find a sales representative, you get all kinds of results. When looking at the results, a recruiter could not immediately tell what kind of a sales representative a person would be.

For example, search on LinkedIn for “Sales Representative” and make sure you search for “People”.

In this case, my search brought back results for 1,861,392 people. That type of search would not help a lot if I were searching for a sales representative in the medical field.

Therefore, my next search is going to be more specific. I am going to search for “Sales Representative Medical”.

By adding one additional keyword the search is already more specific and the number of returned results is much smaller (251,848 results for this search).

Granted, I have not yet used additional filters like geographic location, but you can already see the difference in search results by being more specific. You can tell how important it is to be specific in what you write in your profile.

My next search will be even more specific. I will add a geographic term (e.g., name of a city) to my search term. Please note that you can also select the geographic location in other ways, but for this visualization of the search results I am not going to do so immediately.

So, my next search is for “sales representative medical Chicago” and here are the results (7,266).

While the search returned only 7,266 results, (as compared to the original 1,861,392 results) the number is still way too big to be  meaningful. If I were a recruiter, I would not want to look at 7,266 profiles to find the right candidate. As a matter of fact, I would like to look at a much smaller number – maybe 100 to 200 –  but how do you get the search to be that specific? I will be using the filter system of LinkedIn to further reduce the noise in my search.

LinkedIn has the option to apply different filters to searches – be it when searching for job or when searching for people. As an example, you apply filters for the geographic location, for the relationship (to your own profile), for the current company where somebody is (great if you want to “steal” away the competitors top gun), the industry, past company, school, and a few other less important filters.

Going back to my example search, I will leave the search term alone, but now I will pick a specific industry and also add the geographic location filter for Chicago. By using the geographic filter, I want to remove search results where people have the term “Chicago” in their profile, but it might not be their actual place of residence. So, I am going to search for “sales representative medical Chicago” in the Pharmaceutical industry in or near Chicago.

After completing this search, I have significantly more meaningful results.


The search returned 124 results. Now, if I were a recruiter, I could start reviewing the profiles and do additional research. I would definitely have a list that I can work with, and I would most likely reach out to several people from this list.

As you can tell, my search went from over 1.8 million results to just 124. That is quite a difference.

Now let’s go back to your profile on LinkedIn. If you  have not put in any effort to optimizing your LinkedIn profile, you were probably included in the 1.8 million people from the very first search, and you would have been weeded out very early in the search process. But if you optimize your LinkedIn profile with the appropriate keywords and settings, your chances of being found by a recruiter are dramatically higher.

Keep in mind that I picked a very simple example here. A recruiter who is looking for a specialist in a certain field and industry will do a very detailed search to cut down the noise and to reduce the time it would take to find potential candidates.

The recruiter might not be searching by job title, but by expertise and skill. If your profile does not have any expertise and skill related keywords in it, it will not be included in the search results.

It is also very important that you repeatedly use the keyword (without being annoying) you want to rank for. For example, if you are a computer system administrator with years and years of experience with Microsoft Windows, you want to use the term “System Administrator” and “Microsoft Windows” several times in your profile. Of course you do not want to limit yourself to one keyword and then optimize the heck out of it. You need to use a whole range of job and expertise-specific keywords. Ideally you want to create a Top 10 list of the keywords you feel represent yourself and would be used by a recruiter to find new candidates for an open position.

Using the keyword several times in your profile is still not enough to rank high in the different searches. To further increase your chances, the keyword needs to be included in the headline. The headline in LinkedIn is the line of text under your name. The headline is one of the very first items a recruiter sees when he/she looks at your profile.

We are still not where we want to be, however, because it could be the case that everyone else is doing exactly the same thing. You need to use your keywords in sections like “Current Job Title”, “Headline”, “Specialties”, “Additional Job Titles” and “Skills”.

When using keywords, they should always be in the first third of the section you are working on (and do not forget to use them more than once, but do not overload your profile with the keywords).

Keywords are one of the key ingredients in order to be found by the right people on LinkedIn. You will be surprised how your life on LinkedIn changes when you use proper keywords and terms across your profile.

Keywords in Job Titles

I already mentioned that you need to add the right keywords to your job title. This is one of the most important tasks you need to do if you want your LinkedIn profile to become successful.

Below is a screenshot of my own LinkedIn profile. I am going to highlight the job titles on my profile to better visualize what I am talking about. I also modified the titles briefly for this part of the tutorial.

Please note that while I like working for myself I also enjoy certain pieces of being employed as an IT professional at the same time. This combination allows me to better explain keywords and titles.


In the screenshot above, you can see parts of my work history. The top position shows a 3-letter job title that is fairly generic, and my job title at my own business is just one word (namely, President). The job title for the third  position is six words long and includes several keywords.

“Lead Systems Administrator”

The first job title accurately describes my employment position at the moment, but it does not provide any insight in what type of a systems administrator I am. A LinkedIn user looking for a specific type of system administrator will have to spend some extra effort to determine if I am a good  candidate. That person would have to read the job description on LinkedIn in order to make a decision about  contacting me or looking for a candidate who seems to be more suitable.


This is one of the worst choices for a job title on LinkedIn. Nobody would be searching for a president on LinkedIn. This job title has nothing to it. It is too generic to add any value.

“Senior Windows Engineer | VMware Virtualization Administrator”

While the overall job title may seem long, it is not unusual to use such a long job title on LinkedIn. If you compare this job title with the other titles, you will see the differences easily. This job title is loaded with keywords (VMware, Windows, administrator, and engineer) that  potential recruiters would use when looking for a candidate to fill an open position in this field.

I hope this example helps you  to better understand the need for finding the appropriate keywords you want to rank for and  the importance in placing these keywords in the different sections of your  profile. Now, get your creativity going and think about the most important keywords that you need to embed into your profile.