Picture Perfect: 5 Steps to Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn has a ton to offer professionals and business owners like yourself. And if you want to take as much advantage of that opportunity as you can, then it all comes down to your profile.

Think of your LinkedIn profile as the central command of your presence on LinkedIn—and, actually, the entire web, since it’s likely to come up as one of the top results when someone searches you on Google.

Think about how you want to be presented to potential contacts, how you want your brand and career to be perceived, and put that vision into your profile. After all, one of your primary goals on LinkedIn will be establishing a sense of authority and expertise in your given industry. But why would any such industry-specific group members trust you if they don’t know who you are?

So before you start adding connections, joining groups, or publishing content, you need to optimize your personal profile. There are 5 key steps to follow when strengthening your individual page:

1) Choose a photo that represents you at your professional best.

I wish this didn’t have to be said, but let’s face it–it does. Your LinkedIn profile picture needs to represent you at your professional best. You want to be able to create quality relationships. To do so, people need to relate to you as if they were meeting you in person, to truly get to know you and look in your eyes. And the way to do that is through a great profile picture.

There are some guidelines to follow to help you take and choose the right LinkedIn profile picture:

Picture Perfect: 5 Steps To Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile

…and of course, smile.

2) Don’t just copy and paste your static resume.

Don’t let your profile become just a virtual representation of your resume, for the simple reason that resumes aren’t very exciting. They’re worthwhile as a succinct way of learning a lot about a person in a short amount of time, but LinkedIn offers the opportunity for more than just that. Instead, serve up information that you want potential connections to know about you, and that will help them qualify whether or not you might be a relevant connection for them.

While professional and educational experience is a given, LinkedIn also provides the opportunity for you to provide insight on your volunteering experience, relevant publications you’ve been featured in, and even your personal interests. You can expand on everything from patents you hold and causes you care about to certifications, honors, and awards you’ve received. Sections such as these can really help you convey the most of yourself through your profile. When you’re in profile edit mode, LinkedIn will prompt you to add these additional sections–just click “View More” to see all that’s at your disposal.

One such section of note is Projects, which allows you to comprehensively address any team-oriented initiatives that you’ve worked on. These can be third party efforts or internal work. Depending on your job description and industry, some examples of project work can include training or academic presentations, blog contributions, websites developed or managed, programs launched (whether internal or external), third party reports, webinars, and many other forms of online or traditional contributions.

Adding projects, or any of the additional information sections, is quite easy. Each option comes with a description of what’s relevant to that section, and then a button that prompts you to add the section to your profile. Once you click ‘add’, you’ll be guided in filling out the section with the relevant details, and be well on your way to giving your connections a clearer picture of who you are and the relevance that you offer them.

3) Highlight your expertise through skills and endorsements.

The first way to do this is to take control of your skills and endorsements. You can add 50 skills to your profile, and there’s no reason not to utilize the maximum number of entries, since you can delete terms if other skills become more relevant over time. Once you start typing a skill, LinkedIn will prompt you with those already in the database. If a skill is unique and thus not found on the database, you can enter it manually, but be cautioned that it’s likely rare and thus not searched for very often. It’s therefore better to stick with what LinkedIn is offering.

Endorsements from quality contacts are a great way to demonstrate your expertise. Note that LinkedIn will suggest skills for your contacts to endorse, so if you’re getting a lot of endorsements for a skill you don’t care to promote, simply delete that skill. Further, if someone’s endorsed you for a skill you’d rather not highlight anymore, don’t lose them as an endorsement. Write them a polite email thanking them for taking the time to endorse you, explaining that you’d rather be known for different skills, and asking if they can endorse you for something else.

But be sure that, as you garner endorsements, they’re coming from the right people. If you get an endorsement from a contact that you’d rather your brand not be associated with–maybe someone who has a poor reputation in the industry or is known for being unethical–you can remove it by clicking the little blue pencil next to the skill, and then hitting “Manage Endorsements.”

4) Optimize the summary section.

The summary section of your profile is your best opportunity to tell a story around what you do, how you can help, and why you love what you do.

As you build out your summary, be sure that you’re answering:

  • Why you do what you do

Your summary is where you tell your audience why you’ve racked up all the experience that’s detailed out on your profile. It’s the climax of how your background, education, and expertise all come together to serve others through the work you are currently doing.

  • How you do it

Similarly, your summary is a great place to add a secondary paragraph that shares more details about your role with visitors. Tell them what your job entails, and how you go about getting them the results or solutions that you’re delivering to them.

  • How you are different from everyone else in your industry

List your specific accomplishments, publications, and educational background, as well as the unique aspects of your product or service, in order to differentiate yourself and your company in your visitors’ minds. Building out the sections detailed in point 2 are also a great way to help your profile stand apart from others.

  • Who you do it for

Don’t make the person viewing your profile work too hard. They’re checking out your summary section to get an idea of what you’re doing, so that should also be where you make it clear who you’re doing it for. Communicate clearly who you can help so that they can qualify for themselves whether or not they’re a good fit to connect with you, do business with you, or just become a part of your general network. For example if you primarily work with venture funded start-ups, then you can add a line that makes it clear that you won’t be too helpful to a small, bootstrapped business.

  • How to reach you

More good than harm (read: spam) will come from you openly sharing the best ways for someone to reach you. It can be your direct extension, an email address, or even a short sentence letting them know you are open to receiving a LinkedIn message from them.

Note that when you click ‘Contact Info’ at the top of your profile, you’ll be able to add more than just your email address and phone number. In fact, those details will only be visible to your connections. You should therefore also include social media information and any relevant websites. That doesn’t just have to mean your company site; you can include several URLs, so if you have a profile on Medium or other networks, it’s worth sharing those links.

LinkedIn also provides an ‘advice for contacting’ section, which will allow you to add more details about your availability, as well as any contact information that you want publicly shared any contact info that wasn’t available in the top section.

As you’re writing out your summary, be sure to be conscious of optimizing with keywords. Now, a lot of people hear ‘keywords’ and think ‘Search Engine Optimization (SEO)’ and ‘Google analytics.’ Well, the SEO piece sort of stands here, but instead of optimizing your website, you’re optimizing your LinkedIn page. At their core, keywords are the search terms used by people to find what they want. Translating that to LinkedIn, it means that you should think about words that are relevant to your business and that people would be searching for in a professional or service-oriented capacity, so that they can find you more easily. For example, if your industry is regulated by any sort of organization, you should include any certifications you may hold from those groups–in both acronym form and spelled out–since someone might only be seeking to connect with a business that aligns with those regulations, and will thus be searching for those certifications specifically.

5) Your headline should not just be a job title.

Your headline can be the most powerful representation of who you are in the professional sense; it should explain how you help others, who you help, and why you help them. Resist the temptation to make this sentence about you, and instead make it about the people looking at your profile.

Michelle L Evans, a former global marketing strategist at Microsoft, offers some great headline hacks to build the perfect representation, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. These include:

A. ‘Establish your expertise’ formula: {Keyword/subject matter expert area} who {does what} for {client, company, audience, project}. {Proof point}.

Picture Perfect: 5 Steps To Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile

B. ‘Claim your niche’ formula: {Keyword(s)} | {your specific benefit or focus area}

Picture Perfect: 5 Steps To Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile

C. ‘Direct to customer’ formula: {Attention-grabbing question} + {Who you are} + {who you help}. {Proof point}. OR {Attention-grabbing question} + {Free resource}.

Picture Perfect: 5 Steps To Optimizing Your LinkedIn Profile

This piece of the profile puzzle is particularly crucial as your headline follows you around LinkedIn, and appears with your picture and name any time that you start a discussion, or comment on someone else’s conversation, so think about how to best convey your brand in that sentence.

LinkedIn offers so many opportunities on your profile page to help you establish yourself as a true voice in the field, so that potential readers know that you are a connection worth making, and that content from you is worth reading. And none are difficult to find, since LinkedIn walks you through each section step-by step when you create your pages, plus will continuously advertise them on the ‘profile edit’ view of your page. An optimized profile is literally just a click away.