According to the Sirius Decisions 2015 report, 68% of a sales reps’ time is spent researching. The remaining time is spent prospecting and an even smaller amount of time is dedicated to closing (roughly 3%). If inbound opportunities achieved the same level of sales, 97% of a sales reps’ time could be replaced with more productive activities. Unfortunately there is always too much emphasis on how to prospect and too little effort on how to attract new prospects. A small investment in inbound marketing will always yield a much greater return than prospecting ever will.
The greatest stumbling block to ranking first on LinkedIn is trying to be everything to everyone. Generalization is the fastest way to increase your cost of customer acquisition. The only way to truly rank within LinkedIn is to focus your keyword strategy on a specific vertical that enables you to dominate rather than flounder.
The process of choosing the correct key words can either be painfully slow or lightning fast. Option one requires a long drawn out process of trial and error which may never yield the optimal formula. Option two leverages massive real-time data, which predicts the perfect keywords, and will maximize your ranking potential within LinkedIn.
The optimal keywords will be both relevant and popular. On average Google processes 1,400,000,000,000 search queries a year. By tapping into this massive data collection via www.google.com/trends, you can instantly visualize what the most popular key phrases are for both your vertical, market, and ideal customer. In the example below we can see search queries for the term HIPAA in the California market over the past twelve months within the Computers & Electronics category.
Results are broken down by smaller geographic regions. The top category (Palm Springs CA) is compared to the neighboring top regions and each region has a percentage next to it which represents how it is compared to the top category. While we are focused on inbound traffic, a lot of this data can help us focus are outbound efforts as well.
Near the bottom of the page are the top key phrases that use the word HIPAA to help you know where to target your efforts. Each of these phrases can be reinserted into the Google Trends page to drill down further and get additional information.
Long-tail keywords are much more effective than single keywords. You will have a much better chance of ranking for HIPAA Compliance than simply HIPAA. By focusing on these top three phrases within your LinkedIn profile, you will significantly increase the chances of being found and being found more often. Once you have honed in on the top three phrases, you will begin optimizing your profile for both relativeness and keywords.
We will begin by updating your website categories to reflect the top keywords we found in Google trends. We want to direct these links to internal pages that addresses each of these topics on your site. This will enable both Google and LinkedIn to find your profile based on the keywords found in this section.
There are a few different ways to keep track and truly capitalize on your future LinkedIn ranking. If you have the luxury of a unique phone number (like a Google number), by placing the phone number exclusively on your LinkedIn profile, you can more accurately track your profile activity. Unique phone numbers also create an instant frame of reference for you, providing a heads up on the source of the call. Most phone services, including Google will enable you to maintain your personal number as the inbound number you see on the caller ID. You can also setup a unique email address that may forward to your primary address. In addition you should also be tracking link activity.
Not every prospect will contact you directly and many will go directly to your profile links and move on without actually contacting you. In fact it’s estimated that 97% of your profile visitors will never reach out to you. Luckily LinkedIn shares with you information about individuals who view your profile, but it doesn’t tell you what their activity was; that is your responsibility.
Tracking links are fairly common and helpful for tracking overall performance, but a good tracking link will reveal much more. Personally I prefer services like www.linktrack.info which enable you to not only track activity, but create unique vanity URLs that can track multiple versions of the same URL. Unlike traditional URL trackers, Linktrack also discloses detailed information about the individual who clicked the URL, including device, IP address, browser information, source, and much more. It is a wise investment to track any social media URL’s using this same technique to capture more of your anonymous prospect’s traffic.
Because 97% of your profile’s visitors will never contact you, it’s worthwhile to do some detective work to help bring these prospects to fruition. It’s much easier to prospect someone who has visited your profile than someone who has never heard of you. By combining the data from what LinkedIn provides you about who is viewing your profile with the Linktrack data, it isn’t hard to put two and two together. It’s also a good idea to look the IP address of the visitor up on arin.net for additional company details.
By combining geography, company information, and profile views, you can create the perfect mousetraps to know what your prospects are interested in and what they are consuming on your LinkedIn profile in real-time.
Step 2 Creating Strategic Common Connections
If your competition has employed the same tricks, you can outrank them by increasing the number of common connections between you and your prospect. To do so you must first connect with prospects and then explore their connections and filter for second degree connections. The results will list your prospect’s first degree connections that have yet to connect with you. To enable this view click on “View Connections” to the right of any first degree search results (note: not everyone shares their connections).
If an individual hides their connections, you can always consider using an underutilized LinkedIn profile from a co-worker or spouse. Underutilized profiles create a clean image of your prospect’s first degree connections when you perform a second degree search. You will need a minimum of fifty first degree connections to see your second degree connections. Ideally if these fifty first degree connections are your ideal prospects, all of their second degree connections will boost your ranking when your prospects perform a search on LinkedIn.
Connecting to these second degree connections will not only increase your chances of being found on LinkedIn by your prospects, but will also enable you to create a compound sale funnel. Prospecting among competitors and peers within a small industry creates a multiplicity effect and becomes compounded overtime because of human networks. Sales come much easier when you work among a customer’s competitors.
Step 3 The Commonality Factor
LinkedIn is interested in finding and ranking results based on commonalities. One of the commonalities LinkedIn weighs heavily is whether or not you share LinkedIn groups with the individual. At the bottom of any of your prospect’s profiles, you will see a list of the groups they are members of. Join as many as you can and LinkedIn will reward you in the search results.
Sharing a LinkedIn group with someone will also allow you to send them a message to them regardless of whether or not you are connected. You are limited to 15 group messages a month, so you will need to choose who you contact wisely.
It’s also important to join non-business related interest groups to help you instantly relate to the prospects reading your profile. If your prospect sees a personal commonality, they are 10X more likely to buy from you.
Step 4 Increasing Activity
LinkedIn also rewards individuals who stay active on LinkedIn with articles and or profile updates. This signals to LinkedIn that the information portrayed in their database is both accurate and up-to-date.
The best type of activity is joint activity. If you have the opportunity to connect with a few LinkedIn super connectors (LinkedIn Lions), you can find creative ways to tag them on posts and comments to help you become visible to not only your network, but their entire network.
These types of updates can be extremely valuable if you are connected to your competition. By tagging your competition for congratulations or birthday wishes, you instantly become visible to their connections.
Step 5 More Than Just a Name
The most important field on LinkedIn is the name field. If you’re lucky enough to have a short last name, you have the ability to include up to forty characters in your last name field. Unless someone else uses the same key phrase in their name, you will always outrank others regardless of their relationship to you and any other factors.
It’s important to be strategic about how you use this tool. You may need to experiment a little to see if your profile views are affected by the change. Fewer profile views may not always be a bad thing if you are attracting more of the right prospects. Use the insights given in Step 1 to make a wise decision.
Step 6 Strengthening Your Profile
As previously mentioned in step five, LinkedIn knows that whoever is performing a search values good data and an excellent indicator of quality data is how complete your profile is.
Filling in the gaps of your profile’s information will supply you with bonus points in LinkedIn’s search algorithm. Not all content is created equal. Video content will not only help your LinkedIn score, but will also have a big impact on your prospects.
The human mind prefers imagery over text. Not only is imagery more appealing, but retention is 80% higher. When images are combined to form a two-minute video, the outcome is the equivalent of a user reading 3.6 million words.
Video not only conveys messages more efficiently, it also translates to more sales. A single video can increase the likelihood of your prospects buying from you by 64%. The Online Publishers Association has broken down the stats even further:
- 26% looked for more information about the subject of the video
- 22% visited the website named in the ad
- 15% visited the company represented in the video ad
- 12% purchased the specific product featured in the ad
Ideally video should be under three minutes and consist of the following three attributes: past experience (case study), solves a problem, and compares the solution to something else.
Step 7 Popularity Is Key
LinkedIn also weighs in on how popular your profile is. This may feel like a chicken and egg scenario, but in reality it’s going to take a lot more than just your search ranking to get a higher number of profile views.
The key to increasing your profile views, which will result in higher search ranking, is to create more inroads to your profile. This can be accomplished in six ways:
- Endorsing Others
- Giving Recommendations
- LinkedIn Activity
- External Links (Email/Social)
- Profile Projects
- Clicking on Profiles
Profile endorsements, recommendations, and linking other profiles to projects on your profile leave permanent inroads back to your LinkedIn profile. It is important to invest time in creating inroads from profiles that will likely drive the right kind of traffic (like your competition).
Staying active on LinkedIn will not only build up your existing and potential relationships, but will also increase the number of profile views. Participating in LinkedIn groups, discussions, and posting relevant information is an excellent way to gain some lucrative attention.
As previously mentioned in Step 4, tagging other individuals will create a compound effect on everything you post. You will also have a big impact on profile views if you can rank in the top ten of profile within LinkedIn. Although this ranking is relevant to an individual’s profile, you can use your own profile to gauge how well you are doing.
If you find yourself beyond page one of the top profile views, you can boost your views by clicking on individual LinkedIn profiles (maybe a good job for an intern). This has a significant impact on profile views as people return the favor by viewing your profile in return. This is especially effective in prospecting when the profiles you click on are the very prospects you hope to win.
The most effective profile clicking can be performed when clicking on profiles of individuals who share personal commonalities with you. These can include religious, political, or hobbies.
Step 8 Long-Tail Phrases and Headlines
From a keyword standpoint, your name has top priority, but in a close second is your professional headline. This is a great place to store key phrases that don’t fit in your name field. It is also important to recognize the balance between keywords and your value proposition. The two need to align so that once you attract the right prospect, you are able to convert the prospect when they see your profile.
While your headline is ideal for search results, it is also an excellent conversion tool (getting someone to click through on your profile). The balance between being found and converting is a matter of empathy. It is crucial to focus on one concept within your headline. This should not only satisfy keyword requirements, but attempt to demonstrate your problem solving capabilities in a concise manner.
Ideas and messages are like trains going from one city to the next. If they are short and sweet, they will travel faster. If they are long and cumbersome, they may never reach their destination.
If there is a way to incorporate the word “only” in your headline, you will trigger a signal in the buyer’s mind that they have reached their destination. If you use phrases like “one of the best”, the mind will automatically assume that there are others like you that also need to be reviewed and will continue prospecting.
Step 9 Optimizing Your Vanity URL
Your vanity URL should be customized and for search engine purposes could include your top key phrase. This cannot be changed in the future, so if you don’t plan on pursuing this keyword forever, you may want to stick with your name. Whatever you decide, a custom LinkedIn url will always help boost your rankings in the LinkedIn search results and help you be more visible within traditional Google searches as well.
Step 10 Ranking on Google
Chances are your LinkedIn profile will rank higher than your website. Hiding your profile from the search engines is a bad idea. By configuring your keywords just right, there is a good chance that you can leverage LinkedIn’s high SEO ranking to find yourself on the first page of Google. Public profiles also appear higher on internal LinkedIn searches as well.
In addition to keywords, Google primarily takes into consideration how recent the information was updated. Creating regular updates to your profile will help Google keep you at the top of their pages as well.
Step 11 The Perfect Keyword Stuffing Strategy
Every section of your profile provides a unique opportunity to show LinkedIn how important your profile is for the keyword being searched for. One of the common overlooked areas is the Interest section.
Although we have focused on three key phrases throughout this book, it would be wise to explore additional keywords that may capture smaller audiences.
Step 12 Leveraging Strategic Business Relationships
All of us partner with and collaborate with vendors and suppliers. These strategic relationships should not be hidden. When you represent or sell another company’s product, you are an extension of their salesforce. When these relationships exist, it is always important to list yourself as an employee for these organizations.
Step 13 Optimizing Your Profile Content
It is important to also remember to add your key phrases to every available nook and cranny of your profile. Remember: you will not be penalized on LinkedIn for repeating your keyword too often.
Step 14 The Biggest Profile Mistake
Getting ranked on LinkedIn can create a steady flow of opportunities, but you have to overcome this next mistake if you expect your profile to create new sales opportunities. A majority of the profiles on LinkedIn make the mistake of only talking about themselves. This egotistical approach destroys the opportunity to convert potential customers. Rather than feed your ego, focus on talking to the individual reading your profile and demonstrating your value proposition. Provide specific examples of how you cater to their industry, including case studies, statistics, and references. Talk about your prospects more than yourself on your profile and your conversion rates will soar.
Calls to action should be frequent across your LinkedIn profile. Do not be afraid to include a phone and email throughout your profile. Remember to employ the tracking techniques discussed in Step 1 to keep track of success and help you quantify your efforts.
The strongest calls to action will be tied to content that your prospect is interested in. For example if you were prospecting to insurance companies, create a survey to better understand the challenges their customers are facing. Gather the empirical data and create a report that is only accessed after the prospect requests it from your profile.
You will also increase your conversion rate if you optimize the content in your profile. Remove distractions like the side panel that lists profiles other people have viewed. Push videos and other relevant information to the top. Only list your top recommendations.
The ideal profiles focus on a single idea/concept that is both easy to remember and demonstrates through past experiences what the prospect can expect. The proven track record demonstrated through the content of your profile should convince the reader that the cost of not buying your services is higher than the status quo.
By following these fourteen steps you will be able to reinvest your prospecting time into more productive activities and leave your competition behind.