How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Headline

How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn HeadlineHow confident are you in your LinkedIn headline? Have you crafted it 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 “Project Manager 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 such as “IT Consultant,” “Sports Executive,” or “Sales Professional” don’t distinguish you from every other person with the same job description in a pool of half a billion LinkedIn users.

To stand out in your 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 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. 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 a job seeker, you can look at job advertisements for your target position and count keywords by hand that are showing up repeatedly. Or, to save some time and energy, use (Java must be installed, and Safari and Internet Explorer work best). Simply put the copy from a few job listings into 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 financial analyst job descriptions:

How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Headline

And here’s one for a CTO:

How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Headline

5. Featured Skills & Endorsements

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 autopopulate there to see what keywords LinkedIn suggests for your profession.How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Headline

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:

LinkedIn Headline Keywords

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 will get value from including keywords in your LinkedIn headline. So if your LinkedIn headline consists solely of your 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 for your profile that tells us what makes you 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 headlines like “Consultant” or “Senior VP”? More explicit headlines give spark and color to your profile as opposed to just listing your job title; and they contain keywords to help you appear at the top of search results. They can also hint at your personality, the results you produce, and some of your “soft skills.”

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

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

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

If you are seeking a position as VP of Finance, and you have never held that position before, 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 yourself, 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 your LinkedIn headline means you will rank higher in searches—more people will find you. 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 for you. Keywords are your key to success.

This article was adapted from my book, How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile… And 18 Mistakes to Avoid. For more on how to add your new headline, what pitfalls to avoid, and secret tips for putting more than 120 characters into your headline, get the book today!


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