If you’re going to do any kind of business development, prospecting or social selling on LinkedIn, the first thing you need to focus on is optimizing your LinkedIn profile. When I say “focus” I mean like a laser beam. Here are some LinkedIn profile tips that will really help you.

Every existing and new person you request to connect with will judge you based upon how well your profile looks and reads. It could make the difference between lots of new valuable connections or very few. Remember, making good first degree connections is the start to your success. If you don’t look professional then you must not be professional…perception is reality. Start using the LinkedIn profile tips now to improve your personal brand and getting found.

Quick Tip: Use a Word file to write your summary and positions of employment. You can easily see the typos and grammatical errors.

1. Get Found in LinkedIn and Google Searches

There were 5.7 billion professionally oriented searches done on LinkedIn in 2012. With LinkedIn’s new Advanced search feature, expect that number to double or triple in 2014.

Are you being found for keywords on LinkedIn that could mean new business for you? Have you done your research using Google’s Keyword Tool to see what keywords you should be using on your Profile and in group discussions? All of these are indexed by LinkedIn and Google.

Another reason why you need lots of new first degree connections is that first degree connections always appear first in search results.

Add the most important keywords to your LinkedIn profile title and your summary. Add those same top keywords to Skills and Expertise and other sections like Interests.

Quick Tip: Go to Google.com (make sure you’re signed out) and start entering your keywords. Google will auto-populate suggestions for searches. These suggestions are top searches performed on Google by other people.

2. Keep Your Profile Name Clean

On my profile under my name, my name is ‘Ronan Keane’. It’s not ‘Ronan Keane – Email ([email protected]) or call/text 703-489-7886.’

Don’t confuse LinkedIn search by putting in additional info in your name section.

3. Your Profile Photo

There should be absolutely no debate as to whether to include a photo on your profile. Anyone who uses the default grey avatar is an idiot. LinkedIn relegates people with default grey avatars to the bottom of search results. As humans, since the day we were born we learn to read faces and all their nuances. In fact, we’re experts at reading faces. If there’s no face to look at on your profile you’re at a huge disadvantage. In this heat map, you’ll see that people stare at your photo the most on your LinkedIn profile. This is a top LinkedIn profile tip.

There’s a big caveat: make sure your picture looks good. I mean, not a photo of you at a black tie event or on vacation. Go to a local mall in a shirt or blouse and jacket and get a good photo taken of yourself. I recommend this to all the sales people I train.

4. Your Public Profile URL

Nothing says, “I’m a LinkedIn neophyte” with a profile url like this: http://linkedin.com/pub/firstname-lastname435564-hjfjrigjhot

Clean it up by deleting the extra numbers and letters.

Quick Tip: You should also include this link in your email signature, presentation decks, business cards and any other material that you hand out.

5. Personalize Your Websites Under Contact Info

When you edit your website, the drop down menu gives you the option of “other”. Click on it to open a new field that allows you to type in your business name, website name, call-to-action, or description of your website.

Quick Tip: Instead of “Company Website” or “Personal Website” this section can read “Social Selling for Prospecting” or “Click here: Social Selling Advice”.

6. Recommendations: Powerful Third Party Corroboration

LinkedIn tells you your profile is complete with three recommendations. I suggest between 10 – 15 good recommendations. And when you’re asking for recommendations, provide a bulleted list of your skills, strengths and services so people will write a more accurate account of how well you performed your job and not: “She’s good at what she does”. I also recommend that you might write a recommendation that the recommender can use or base their recommendation from.

Quick Tip: Use your written recommendations in all of your promotions, slide decks and collateral. Put them in a PDF and add them as content in your Summary.

7. Join Groups…Strategically

There are three types of groups you want to join of the possible 50 you’re allowed to join. A small percentage should be your competitor’s groups, your industry and your prospects’ industries. The second type are geo-located groups like local chambers of commerce. The third and biggest should be persona-type groups for CIOs, CTOs, Entrepreneurs etc. You should be starting discussions in these groups by sharing content and asking people’s opinions about the article or content.

Bonus Tips: 8, 9 and 10

Here are three bonus tips that you should definitely use.

8. Message for Free. Send a message to any LinkedIn group member. Just search for their name in a group and click “message”. Warning: this function should be used very judiciously. I’m not condoning SPAM.

9. Trigger Event – A Prospect Clicked My Link. Wouldn’t it be great to know if a particular person clicked on a link you sent them? It’s possible with bit.ly. Create a free account and send each prospect a custom link. Upload content to Slideshare.net and Google Drive for free to create those links.

10. Collect Leads Directly from Your Profile. Do you have a white paper or ebook to give away? (If not, have one created on a hot topic.) Build a web form with Google Drive. Place the links on your Summary and share them as updates once a day every day.

The Bottom Line

Start doing what I’ve described above and you’ll be way ahead of the competition.Consider investing in a LinkedIn profile makeover by a professional who’s worked with hundreds of sales people.