I look at a lot of LinkedIn profiles of job seekers. All too often their LinkedIn profile headline needs major work.
Many of them have not changed the default headline automatically populated for this spot, based on their current, or most recent job title.
I’ve found that many people don’t know:
- That they CAN edit their profile headline,
- How important relevant keywords and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) are throughout their LinkedIn Profile, but especially in the headline, and
- That they need to strike a balance between satisfying SEO and attracting the human beings that will also be reading their headline (and hopefully reading their entire profile, too).
Your profile headline sits just below your name in the Introduction section of your profile, which is the first thing most people will see when they visit your profile.
If you haven’t changed the default headline – that is, your current job title – you’re not making the best use of that prime real estate.
A headline like “CIO at XYZ company” probably won’t draw many people to your profile.
Your headline is also the thumbprint first impression that’s carried along throughout all your LinkedIn activities, to help describe and distinguish you from others.
Your profile headline and photo show up when you:
- Post an update to your stream.
- Comment on, or react to, other people’s updates and articles.
- Publish an article on the LinkedIn publishing platform.
- Post something to a LinkedIn Group.
- Send someone a LinkedIn message or InMail
This spot on your profile is custom-made for SEO. LinkedIn allows you 220 characters and spaces for your headline. With some thought, you can do quite a bit with that amount of content.
Don’t make these 3 SEO-damaging mistakes in your LinkedIn profile headline
1. Neglecting the right keywords
Recruiters and hiring decision makers at your target companies identify good-fit candidates by searching relevant keywords on LinkedIn. Through company and industry research, you can identify which keywords and phrases must be in your headline to draw people to your profile.
In a LinkedIn post of mine about profile headlines, career coach and former recruiter Bernadette Pawlik left this comment:
“As a check do this: Hop to the LinkedIn search box on the left hand side and plug in your target title…does your LinkedIn profile appear? If not, then you need to work on “blanding” that title!”
By “blanding” she means minimizing the words that aren’t the ones that people looking for candidates like you will be searching on LinkedIn. (More about this in #3 below)
2. Typos, misspellings, abbreviations, and spacing issues
LinkedIn and other search engines may not recognize phrases that vary in any way from the exact words.
- 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 much personality, not enough keywords
I always want people to reinforce their personal brand by getting some personality in their headline.
But, in my opinion, since the LinkedIn profile headline is such an important SEO spot (because it lands so high on the web page), most of what you put there should be hard-hitting keywords.
It’s doubtful that anemic words like “results-oriented” or “successful professional” will be keywords that anyone will search, when they’re looking for candidates like you. So avoid such words entirely.
And, this is not the place to put things like “actively seeking opportunities in [whatever industry, company or field you’re seeking]”. Move such information to your About section.
But DO get your personality in there. The strong keywords in your headline will help draw people to your profile through keyword search. The additional nod to your personality, or personal brand, will compel people to read more of your profile.
In the same LinkedIn post of mine as noted above, Bernadette Pawlik also left this comment:
“Boring is a virtue on a LinkedIn headline. During my recruiting career I never looked for: Helping people to optimize their vision heart-centered engagement. I would instead look for: Director, Human Resources/Manufacturing/Benefits And, if someone approaches that function from the heart, that should be elaborated upon in the about section.”
Bad and Good Examples of LinkedIn Profile Headlines
❌ A blah headline that’s not SEO-friendly
This LinkedIn member attempted to pump up their headline, but didn’t do enough to it:
Process and Performance Improvement Executive
❌ A headline that’s well-written, but poorly formatted
Here’s a well-written, SEO-friendly headline that may be doomed because of formatting issues and other mistakes:
CFO-Senior Finance/Operations Excutive – Alternative & Mobile Paymts Pioneer, Global Montization, E-commerce, SaaS, M&A
- Formatting issues: No space between CFO and Senior, and no space between Finance and Operations
- Misspellings: Executive and Monetization
- Other: Abbreviation of Payments
✅ A headline that ticks all the boxes
Here’s an example of a strong profile headline. It’s SEO-friendly, formatted properly and shows a little personality:
Chief Data Scientist for the Fortune 500 | Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, Product Development, Thought Leadership | My mantra for business survival in the technology sphere: Unlearn. Transform. Reinvent.
Plenty of keywords are at the front end (which is better for SEO), along with the candidate’s compelling personal brand tagline.