3 BIG Mistakes That Screw Up Your LinkedIn Professional Headline

by Meg Guiseppi on July 22, 2014

Many of the LinkedIn profile headlines of potential c-suite clients I review have not been touched by human hands. The LinkedIn member has not changed the default headline automatically populated for this spot, based upon their current, or most recent job title.

LinkedIn Headline Mistakes

A headline like “CIO at XYZ company” may or may not work for them.

Not only is your headline one of the first things people will see on your profile – second to your photo – it’s the thumbprint first impression that’s carried along throughout all your LinkedIn activities, to help describe and distinguish your value.

  • Post something to a LinkedIn Group . . . your headline and photo go along with you.
  • Post an update to your profile . . . your headline and photo accompany your update when your network is notified.
  • Send someone a LinkedIn InMail . . . your headline and photo go with you there, too.

And most especially, your headline is the most important SEO (search engine optimization) spot on your profile.

One of the main ways recruiters and hiring decision makers at your target companies identify good-fit candidates is by searching relevant keywords on LinkedIn. Through company and industry research, you need to identify which keywords and phrases must be in your headline and elsewhere in your LinkedIn profile.

Want to get the most impact from your LinkedIn profile?

Don’t make these 3 mistakes in your LinkedIn professional headline:

1.  Neglecting the right keywords

As much as I’d like people to reinforce their personal brand by getting some personality in their headline, I feel packing it with keywords is more important. For the most part, save the descriptive adjectives for your Summary and Experience sections, and elsewhere.

You should use your headline as a means to draw people to your profile. That means making sure it contains the keywords the people you want to attract will be searching on LinkedIn to find people like you.

2.  Typos, misspellings, abbreviations, and spacing issues

LinkedIn and other search engines may not recognize phrases that vary from the exact words in any way.

  • Proofread diligently for typos and misspellings.
  • Avoid abbreviations.
  • Be careful using characters to separate words and phrases. Leave a space between commas, slashes (“/”), dashes (“–“), pipes (“|”), etc.

For instance, the phrase “CFO, Senior Finance Manager” may be doomed, if it looks like any of these:

CFO, Senior Finance Manger (Manager is misspelled)
CFO, Senior Finance Mgr (Manager is abbreviated)
CFO/Senior Finance Manager (slash with no spaces)
CFO|Senior Finance Manager (pipe with no spaces)
CFO–Senior Finance Manager (dash with no spaces)

3.  Too many superfluous words

Space is limited in the headline to 120 characters and spaces. You must use that space to your best advantage.

An expressive word or two is okay (such as “gutsy” or “Pioneer”) for emphasis, but you should be concentrating on getting the best keywords and phrases in there.

Place statements like “seeking opportunities in XYZ” or even jazzy ones like “I help sales teams soar” in your Summary section instead.

Here’s a well-written headline that may be doomed because of formatting issues. Can you spot the errors?

CFO-Senior Finance/Operations Excutive – Alternative & Mobile Paymts Pioneer, Global Montization, E-commerce, SaaS, M&A

Here’s one (at 115 characters and spaces) that is much more likely to help that person’s profile land higher in search results. It’s better to sacrifice one of the keywords, so that the rest of them will be parsed correctly by search engines.

CFO, Senior Finance & Operations Executive – Alternative & Mobile Payments Pioneer, Global Monetization, E-commerce, M&A

More Posts About LinkedIn:

How to Make Your LinkedIn Profile Professional Headline SEO-Friendly

The 3 Most Important LinkedIn Profile SEO Places for Relevant Keywords

Add Special Bullet Point Pizzazz to Your LinkedIn Profile

2 LinkedIn Personal Branding Tips You Don’t Know

Your Personal Brand Online and the LinkedIn Privacy Dilemma

graphic by Meredith Atwater

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