How does Linkedin Search Rank really work?

By Neil Patrick

I posted yesterday about how you can improve your chances of being found by head-hunters on LinkedIn. Today, I'll go a little deeper into how the LinkedIn people search algorithm actually works.

Now of course this information is a closely guarded piece of IP at LinkedIn so we are never likely to discover exactly how it works. Moreover it is evolving constantly, and the rankings delivered depend on the profile of the searcher as much as the searchee, so two people doing the same search can get different results in terms of the rankings shown.

But LinkedIn do provide a little information about this on their help page and this is what they have to say about the topic. NB the emphases in bold are mine:

Search Relevance and Rank on LinkedIn Search

How are profiles ordered in search results?

Last Reviewed: 06/18/2013

LinkedIn uses proprietary algorithms to rank and order the results you get when you search for people on the site. 

There is no single rank for LinkedIn search. Unlike the standard search engines, LinkedIn people search generates its relevance score uniquely for each member. As a result, even though a query will return the same results for everyone, the order is determined in part by the Profile, activity, and connections of the person searching. Testing a query from a handful of users is not likely to reflect the overall rank any Profile has across the millions of queries that LinkedIn has every day. A better measure would be the number of views your Profile gets (check the "Who Viewed My Profile" module and statistics on your home page). 

Searcher relevance is based on a variety of factors. Relevance is a proprietary algorithm which we are constantly improving. Our goal is simple - optimize search results for the searcher. Before we return results, we consider the searcher's activity on LinkedIn, the Profiles returned by the query, and other members who have made similar searches in determining the sort order. These, along with other factors, combine to provide us with data to improve the overall quality of our members' search results. 

More keywords aren't always better. Our advice would be to only include the keywords (including repeated keywords) in your Profile that best reflect your expertise and experience. If you integrate an extended list of keywords into your Profile, you are likely showing up in a high number of searches. The question you need to ask yourself, however, is whether members consider your Profile relevant to their search. If not, their behavior as a collective group may be influencing the algorithm used to rank you in search results.

Note: Search results may vary from user to user.

I also ran a couple of tests to see how I fared against an advanced search for two of my key work activities, Marketing consultant and blogger. I selected a 100 mile radius from my location and was pleased to find I came out top of Page 1 for both searches. Of course if you do the same search, you might not find me in the same position – this would I presume be affected by the nature and connectedness of our mutual networks.

But, I do know this – a year or so ago I wasn’t even on page 1 for these searches, let alone at the top.

So what has changed that might have helped improve my search ranking?

I cannot tell you for sure that these things have specifically lead to this outcome, but they are things I have done which I suspect have made a difference: 
  1. I have shared information and updates on the site (not a lot – just one or two posts from my blog each month) 
  2. I have posted some comments on Groups I am a member of. Again, not a lot – just a couple a month or so. 
  3. I have removed a lot of ‘fluff’ from my profile and stripped it down to the most essential pieces of information and keywords. 
  4. I have networked more actively, connecting with people I have encountered on other social media, especially Twitter. 
  5. I have kept my profile current by adding new information from time to time. 
And that’s it. No SEO trickery, no mass sending of invitations to connect, just occasional but minor adjustments and refinements and a bit more networking. Essentially, just being an active rather than a passive LinkedIn member.

I hope this information is helpful so you can improve your own search rankings – and if you have any additional advices I’ll be happy to share them here and look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic.

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