Headlines give spark and color to a profile and can hint at personality, unique selling propositions and soft skills says Brenda Bernstein

 How confident are you with the LinkedIn headline you have for yourself or that you’ve written for your executive? Have you crafted the headline with keywords and viewer engagement in mind?

Many LinkedIn users have not considered either SEO or marketing strategies in their headlines, mistakenly believing that their LinkedIn headline must be the same as their current job title. I frequently see job titles like “Executive Secretary at ABC Company.” In fact, using your current job title with nothing more will do very little to help you get found on LinkedIn. With 120 characters to play with, you can do so much more!

LinkedIn headlines with brief titles, even “CEO at ABC Company,” don’t distinguish you or your executive from every other person with the same job description in a pool of half a billion LinkedIn users.

To stand out in a LinkedIn headline, you must use both keywords and an attention-grabbing statement. Otherwise, you won’t appear at the top of LinkedIn search results, and you certainly won’t capture your readers’ attention.

How to Identify Keywords for a KILLER LinkedIn Headline

Not sure how to choose your top keywords? Here are my top 5 tips for building your LinkedIn SEO:

1. Put yourself in the position of the people who are searching for you

Who is searching for you or your executive on LinkedIn? Are they potential clients? Recruiters and hiring managers? Future business partners? Think about what and whom they would be looking for on LinkedIn and identify the phrases they would be searching for. These keywords might include job titles, core competencies, geographical regions, technical skills, soft skills, languages and more. Put the top keywords you identify into your headline.

2. Brainstorm

You know your profession better than anyone, so simply brainstorming commonly used words in your field can reap the perfect keywords.

3. Do comparative research

Another great tactic is looking at the profiles of other people with backgrounds or positions similar to yours or your executive’s. What keywords are showing up in their headlines? You might want to “borrow” them. Do not – I repeat do NOT – copy someone else’s LinkedIn headline (or any part of their profile) verbatim!

4. Wordle it (for job seekers)

If you are writing with job search in mind, you can look at job advertisements for the target position and count keywords by hand that are showing up repeatedly. Or, to save some time and energy, use Wordle.net (Java must be installed, and Safari and Internet Explorer work best). Simply put the copy from a few job listings into Wordle.net/create and generate a word map that shows you what words come up most frequently. Use those keywords!

Here’s what I got when I put in some assistant job descriptions:

Choose the words that show up biggest and see if they fit well into your headline.

LinkedIn has done a lot of work for you in the Skills section. The items that come up in the drop-down menu in that section are keywords most searched for by recruiters. Scan through the skills that auto populate there to see what keywords LinkedIn suggests for your profession.

Once you have identified your top keywords, use them! Before I knew the power of keywords, my LinkedIn headline read: Founder and Senior Editor, The Essay Expert. Note the lack of keywords in that headline. Now it reads:

The new headline has a lot more keywords. When I changed my headline, as well as added more keywords to my Current Job Title, Summary, Skills, and other Job Titles, I went from being almost invisible in searches to coming up first in the search rankings on queries for “Executive Resume Writer” in my geographic area of Madison, WI.

Adding keywords will not only help your SEO within LinkedIn, but it will help you on Google too. Here’s a sample Google result:

It’s incontrovertible. You must include keywords in every LinkedIn headline to get full value from LinkedIn. So, if the LinkedIn headline you wrote consists solely of a job title and company name, go change it now!

How to Convey Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Once you’ve identified your keywords, craft a headline that tells us what makes you or your executive unique while including as many of those keywords as possible. Here are some examples:

Frank Kanu
Management / Business Consultant ■ Speaker ■ Author ■ Leading Fortune 500 and Small Business Executives & Teams

Dave Stachowiak
Host/Founder of Coaching for Leaders, a Top 10 iTunes careers podcast • Senior VP, Dale Carnegie of Southern Los Angeles

Ole-Kristian Sivertsen
Senior Vice President – Maritime | Global Eagle (MTN, EMC, GEE) | Market Leader in Mobility, Content & Connectivity

See the advantage over bland headlines like “Consultant” or “Senior VP”? More explicit headlines give spark and color to a profile as opposed to just listing a job title, and they contain keywords to help you appear at the top of search results. They can also hint at personality, unique selling proposition, and “soft skills.”


Including proper keywords does not guarantee a profile will appear at the top of searches. There are other factors that go into search rankings—most notably the member’s number of connections and level of profile completeness. But without keywords, any profile is guaranteed to remain at the bottom of the pile.


When connections search on their phones, the entire LinkedIn headline is not visible, so use the most important keywords in the first 50 characters.

What if I’ve never held the position I want to be found for?

If your executive is seeking a position as VP of Finance, and they have never held that position before, they may need to consider creative ways of including the keywords VP and Finance. For example: VP-Level Finance Executive or Available for VP of Finance Position at Growing Company.

Of course you need to make sure not to misrepresent anyone, so you might need to say “Poised for…” or something similar. Note that if you have performed the functions to match a job title, you can put the job title in your headline. I say if you’ve done the job, you can claim the job title!

Should I include a tagline?

There is evidence that you will have a higher conversion rate if you include a tagline or “unique selling proposition” (USP) in addition to straight keywords in your headline. Best strategy: Use keywords to increase the frequency with which you are found in searches; include a tagline or USP to generate interest so people click to read more.

In conclusion…

More keywords in a LinkedIn headline means the profile will rank higher in searches—more people will find you or your executive. And with an effective tagline, people will be sufficiently intrigued to read more. An increase in page views means more potential business activity or job search activity. Keywords are the key to success.

Brenda Bernstein, Owner of The Essay Expert LLC, is the author of the #1 Amazon best-seller, How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile. A sought-after speaker and award-winning resume writer, Brenda is a dedicated student of leadership and a trained life ... (Read More)

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