This is the first in a series of weekly posts in which I’ll be sharing some tips on how to use LinkedIn to good effect. This week’s tip is about having a well-crafted, up to date profile. And that includes paying close attention to keywords.

The idea of a series of LinkedIn tips has been prompted by my experience, over the past couple of weeks, of getting requests for advice and suggestions on how best to use LinkedIn to help grow your business or network. In each instance found myself writing more in reply than I think was expected.

Then I reminded myself that I have spent a lot of time studying and writing about LinkedIn. In fact it’s not long ago that my colleague Bill Vick and I were working on the second edition, now available, of our book LinkedIn for Recruiting (update June 2010: as LinkedIn has since gone through more changes, the printed book is no longer sale, but the e-book version is available free of charge for research purposes). So it stands to reason there are things about LinkedIn that I may take as given, but which could well be news to a lot of people.

LinkedIn for Recruiting book cover

The book is based on interviews with top gun recruiters, sourcers and other industry specialists. And while the interviews and the book focus on the recruiting industry, a great proportion of the insights and advice is more generally applicable.

When we started the review I wondered whether what had been written a couple of years ago might be out of date. In fact it became pretty clear to me in the review process that the fundamental principles for smart use of LinkedIn that we drew from those interviews still provide a sound basis for getting value from the platform and network. While a lot has changed with LinkedIn and how it operates since we first researched and wrote that book, some basic principles have endured.

One of the principles that has endured is the importance of having a well-crafted, polished profile. And part of that exercise is to make sure to include the key words which describe or point to our talents and specialties, thus increasing the likelihood that we will be found by people searching on LinkedIn.

Joe Pelayo, one of the top Executive Recruiters in the United States, said in being interviewed for LinkedIn for Recruiting:

“The most important thing people neglect is their LinkedIn profile.” (p 74)

Just over a year ago I posted here, recommending a LinkedIn profile makeover and linking to Guy Kawasaki’s benchmark post, from early in 2007, on the subject.

Re-reading those posts now, I notice that neither of them mentions explicitly the importance of keywords.

In LinkedIn for Recruiting, leading Internet research expert Suzi Tonini explained the importance of keywords in your LinkedIn profile:

“List your strengths and accomplishments. And use keywords. Keywords are important anywhere on the Internet. As many keywords as apply to your industry, background, accomplishments, whatever you’ve done – put them in there. Then anybody who wants to network with you will be able to find you easier.” (p 14)

As well as helping with your findability on LinkedIn via general search engines such as Google, choosing and using good keywords will give you a big advantage in terms of searches from directly within the LinkedIn platform.

Remember also to review your profile regularly, especially when you change jobs or roles.

And a simple but important part of the editing process should be to customize your profile link (essentially the Web address of your profile) from the standard issue format to the more user-friendly format Then put that in the signature block for your email and in other places online or offline where you have the opportunity to share your link. Clarence Klopfstein provides a simple, clear explanation of how to customize your profile link.

For anyone unfamiliar with how to edit their LinkedIn profile, the LinkedIn help section provides some basic instructions.

If you have a LinkedIn success story to share, I hope you will do so here, with a comment and if appropriate a link in the comment. And if you have a question about how you can best improve your LinkedIn profile page, I will do my best to answer or find someone else who will do so.

Other tips in this series:

Tip # 2: Take Time to Link Strategically

Tip # 3: Give Useful Recommendations

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).