Many of us make the mistake of treating LinkedIn, the world's largest professional network, as simply an online Rolodex or a glorified CV, rather than an inbound marketing channel that can be optimized for sales inquiries.

That is a huge misstep. The social network is home to over 500 million users—500 million potential customers—many of whom are regularly searching for product or service providers.

Although not everyone has the time to spend their days publishing content, commenting on updates, and outbound prospecting via InMail to find potential customers, there is a way to make your buyers come to you.

By optimizing your LinkedIn profile using the process outlined in this article, you will make your profile an inbound sales asset that is more likely both to be found and to generate inquiries—whether you proactively use the network or not.

Getting Your Profile Seen

When a buyer uses a keyword to search on LinkedIn, its algorithm uses a variety of signals to decide whether your profile should rank higher or lower than other professionals' on the network who provide a similar service or product.

Although the greatest impact on where you show up in a search is Connections in Common (shared), Connections by Degree (1st Degree, then 2nd, then 3rd), and Groups in Common (shared), other (lesser-known) ways to improve your ranking include the following.

Repeat target keywords across your profile

Remember the early years of search engine optimization, when simply repeating a keyword in your content was enough to get it to rank high in Google?

Well, LinkedIn's algorithm in 2018 is like Google's in 2004: The more you repeat a particular keyword, the more that the algorithm uses it as a signal that it should rank your profile over a similar profile that also ranks for that keyword.

Ideally, you should be looking to make your target keyword (for example, "freelance translator") appear at least 15-20 times across your profile. It's important that you don't do so in a spammy fashion; your profile should read well. However, there are lots of places for you to drop "freelance translator" in your profile to hit the minimum number: your Headline, your Summary, your Recommendations, and your Endorsements.

Change your profile URL to the relevant target keyword, not your name

Despite just about everyone's being excited about having a vanity URL that uses their name, in reality your buyers tend to search for the service or product they want, not a person by name.

A neat little hack that can help you appear higher in results is to modify your profile URL from the one initially assigned to the target keyword your buyers will be searching for. For example, if you provide language translation services, instead of having, change it to

Make sure your profile is 100% profile complete

LinkedIn's algorithm rewards profiles that are 100% completed. That's not hard to do: LinkedIn periodically reminds you that you haven't completed a particular section of your profile. Yet, at last count, less than half of LinkedIn users have fully filled out every part of their profile!

By simply making sure that you've completed every part of your profile, you will have already had an incremental advantage over everyone else in your industry with a similar service or proposition who has not completed their profile.

Converting Profile Viewers Into Leads

Once buyers find your profile and click through, you then have the challenge of making sure they decide to contact you. Here's how to do that.

Turn your profile cover into a call to action

The profile cover is a prime piece of real estate on your LinkedIn profile that is often underutilized. As the first thing someone browsing your profile will see, that space serves as an excellent canvas for conveying your authority and expertise.

Most people make the mistake of leaving it blank or putting a nice scenic picture that has nothing to do with their product or service. Instead, you should display information to make it as easy as possible for a buyer who finds your profile to (1) understand what you offer; (2) believe that you can do what you offer, and (3) know how to contact you immediately.

You can do that by featuring the following:

  • Client logos
  • A clipping of a media mention or byline in a reputable paper
  • A clear value proposition (e.g., "I train B2B companies to generate an extra 2-4 sales meetings per day, per sales rep, with LinkedIn.")
  • Your contact details
  • A clear call to action (e.g., "Call me now if you want to 10-20 more sales appointments within 7 days.")

Use a professional headshot photo

A professional headshot is integral to generating sales inquiries, simply because it's important to look like someone with whom buyers would want to do business: trustworthy, competent, approachable.

Many LinkedIn users undermine themselves by uploading a photo that is unclear (e.g., blurry or poorly lit), or plain inappropriate (e.g., and informal setting or pose), or confusing (e.g., a group shot).

Remember: Your profile photo is visible constantly. When people view your feed on social media, read your comments, or browse your posts, they will repeatedly see your profile photo. Using your phone, electronic device, or camera to take a photo isn't good enough. It's important that you have a high-quality, professional headshot that portrays you in the best possible light.

Use the Summary to explain the benefits of working with you

Buyers who browse your Summary want to know what you can do for them and the results you will achieve. The Summary section at the top of your profile affords you 250 characters to communicate the value of doing business with you. Don't treat your Summary as an abridged CV or a winsome record of your philanthropic achievements and hobbies.

The new profile interface shows only the first three lines of your Summary; a reader has to click "show more" to see the full version. Use the preview space to pack in a two sentence elevator pitch and contact details: a strong call to action that explains why a buyer should contact you.

Acquire endorsements and recommendations

Endorsements and recommendations, as noted earlier, serve as helpful signals to LinkedIn that you are an expert in your category.

These sections can also serve as social proof to affirm your competency. Accordingly, get as many people as possible to endorse you for the keyword you wish to rank for, and to write compelling recommendations that convey just how good you are at the service you provide.

Make it easy to contact you

Make it really clear— in the shortest amount of time—to all those who find your profile how they can contact you. That means filling in your contact details in the Contact and Personal Info section, as well as displaying your phone and email in your Header photo, Headline, and the first two sentences of your Summary section.

* * *

By completing the above process, you will have done two very powerful things:

  1. You will have made yourself more likely to be found.
  2. You will have completed the steps necessary to make it easier to be contacted by a buyer who is interested in your product or service.

If you want a LinkedIn profile that generates leads on autopilot, without your having to do any further upkeep or outbound activity on the social network, do those two things.

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How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile for Inbound Sales Inquiries: Get Found by Buyers

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image of Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is the founder of  Win At LinkedIn, a one-to-one coaching service that teaches B2B professionals how to use LinkedIn to generate leads, nurture prospects, and close deals.

LinkedIn: Jonny Rose