or alternate title: How to become mayor of fantasy land.
Yep, I totally snookered you with a bait and switch here. The reality is there will never be a single post that tells you everything you need to know about coming up on the first page of an employer's search results on LinkedIn. Every time someone thinks they have mastered it, LI changes the game and we all start over. Please be wary of any so-called expert who says that they can teach you everything in one session/article/training. It's so much more complex than that! However, there are ways that you can help improve your chances of ranking higher on searches and we're going to break those down. But, allow me to digress and first answer the "who cares" question some of you non "LinkedIn junkies" might be thinking.
Why do search rankings matter? Let's face it. The market is filled with smart professionals looking for work. Especially in a market like this where supply of workers has outpaced the demand for workers, you want to show up on the FIRST PAGE of any employer search. I promise you that unless the employer is looking for the proverbial purple squirrel, they will not go to page 20 of the results to browse if they find the candidates that they need on pages 1-5. As a result, if you give no thinking to your search results on LinkedIn (or job boards or Bing or Facebook or whatever else you use online), chances are that your search result ranking will be less than desirable. Bottom line: You want to own the results when it comes to employers looking for people in your skill set.
Now on to the things that you should be thinking about for your LI strategy to help improve your LI rankings:
1) Understand that LI search results are a living thing. LinkedIn is very cagey (imho) about detailing how they deliver search results. How the results are ranked, what pieces of a profile have the most importance and when/how does that information change are all important. However, their search algorithm seems to be a more closely guarded secret than how Donald Trump gets his hair to do that thing it does. Regardless, a savvy job seeker is going to keep his/her ear to the ground and pay attention when others start to do new things on their profile that look like they have the potential to impact search results. Which brings me to...
2) Add skills to your profile. The LI skills section of a profile is relatively new offering but it's one that I think is having an impact on the search results. However, I don't think it's just the skills being added but also the endorsements that will play a part in positively impacting search results. Consider adding skills to your profile today. Then go out and ask for endorsements after you have endorsed others.
3) Realize that LI is for networking...and add connections! Regardless of what pretty things you put into and on your profile, you have to be connected to other people on LI. LinkedIn absolutely works on the premise of six degrees of separation. So, the more humans you are connected with, then the more humans you can be found by. Get it? Ok, in other words, if you want to come up on more searches, then be connected to more people. However, it can't just be about 1st degree connections because at some point, you are going to run out of people that you remember you know. So, to circumvent that problem, you can meet new people in the...
4) LinkedIn Groups. LinkedIn lets you join a large number of groups and you absolutely should. Not only are you indirectly connected to everyone else in a group you join (thereby increasing your network with one click) but it also gives you the opportunity to interact and engage with more humans on a personal level. You don't have to know someone in person to know them people-it's a global economy! So get in the groups (lots of them) and begin to engage.
5) Keep an eye on your network size. There are many other solid suggestions for helping positively impact search results that I have
I don't know that anyone can quantify a good number here, but if you notice that your network size is itty bitty compared to the overall number (175M users as of July 2012) on LinkedIn, it's probably time to think about expanding your web of influence there.
Allow me to wrap up this rant with my bottom line: Hiring Managers and Recruiters are increasingly dependent on web results to find candidates. The days of paper resumes are gone and now smart job seekers want...nay, need to be found by a variety of potential employers electronically. LinkedIn plays a big part in that result and today's economy requires that you be smarter, better and faster than your competitors when it comes to using LinkedIn. Good luck and happy hunting.