Where Do You Rank In LinkedIn’s Search Results?

LinkedIn_Why_Join_LinkedIn2 from www.linkedin.com Have you ever wondered where you rank in the search results when other people search for you or people like you in LinkedIn?

Have you ever searched for yourself on LinkedIn?

Do you know here you rank in the results?

From my research and observations, most of what the LinkedIn experts and gurus advise with regard to LinkedIn profile optimization may be wrong. In fact, some of the things people are doing on LinkedIn in an attempt to positively affect their search ranking may have a dramatically opposite effect!

Let me show you what I’ve found.

What Happens When You Search for Yourself on LinkedIn?

When I search for myself, this is what I get:


I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but something told me I should be #1. Instead, I am the last on the list of results sorted by relevance, after people who aren’t even in my network.

None of the profiles, including my own, mention my name more than once.

Then I decided I would try searching for my name in the keywords field to see what would happen. The results are the same – I am dead last, and the top 2 results are people who have only 1 connection. The third result isn’t even spelled the exact way I searched for it, and it’s still ranked higher than me.

Does this happen to everyone who searches for themselves? Does LinkedIn always rank you last in your own search?

What happens when you search for yourself by first and last name in LinkedIn? Is your experience any different?

LinkedIn’s Answer to Search Result Ranking

To get to the bottom of this mystery, I thought I’d try checking into LinkedIn’s searchable customer support center. I’m not sure how many other people have really delved into all that is available there.

Surprisingly, it turns out they have an answer to the question of why my profile doesn’t rank at the top of LinkedIn search results. I suggest you read very carefully.


Did you catch that?

You have a unique relevance score determined by LinkedIn which affects search result ranking.

What I find especially interesting is that the order of search results is determined in part by the Profile, activity, connections and relevance score of the person conducting the search.

Out of the Glen Catheys in LinkedIn, I have the most complete and detailed profile, the most activity, and the most connections. So why am I still ranked last?

Am I somehow penalized for having a detailed profile, more activity and a high number of connections? Of course I can’t say for certain, but it’s worth noting that from the search results alone, it appears so.

For the many people who think that keyword-loading their LinkedIn profile helps in their search ranking, if you read point #3 above carefully, you’ll see that having an “extended list of keywords in your Profile” will result in your Profile showing up in a high number of searches, and while most people would consider that a good thing, it may not actually be.

Interestingly and somewhat mysteriously, LinkedIn says that you need to ask yourself whether or not your profile is relevant to the people whose searches return your Profile, and that “their behavior as a collective group may be influencing the algorithm used to rank you in the search results.”

How can anyone know if their own profile is relevant for anyone who runs a search with words mentioned on their profile?

What “behavior” as a group can searchers exhibit to influence LinkedIn’s algorithm that affects where YOU show up in the results?

If you have the answers to these questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know!

LinkedIn Search Results Defy Logic

I decided to search for someone I know that I am directly connected to – Eric Jaquith.


Using the first name and last name search fields and sorting by the default ranking of “relevance,” somehow the Eric Jaquith I know (the second result) is the second result.

Which is especially odd given that I sorted the results by relevance, which, according to LinkedIn, is a mix of keyword relevance and social graph, as he is a 1st degree connection.


The #1 ranked result only mentions the name once and he is a 3rd degree connection.

How is this possible?

Then I decided to search for Eric’s name in the keywords field and sort by relevance.

The Eric I know should be first result not only because he is a 1st degree connection, but even more so because his name is also mentioned multiple times in his profile under his company’s name as well as in recommendations.

The results defy logic:


How can a 1st degree connection be ranked last, after two 3rd degree connections (oddly, the #1 and #2 results) and one 2nd degree connection when I am sorting by relevance?

Notice that Susan Robinson and Wendy Kembel show up in the results ahead of Eric himself.

Again, I must ask – how is this possible?

It’s as if the higher keyword frequency of Eric’s name is actually penalizing his search rank.

In this case, the #1 result doesn’t mention “Eric Jaquith” as “keywords” anywhere – the name is only mentioned in the name field. He’s a 3rd degree connection with 17 total connections.

Susan, the #2 result, mentions his name twice and she is a 3rd degree connection with 4 connections.

Wendy, the #3 result, mentions Eric’s name once and she is a 2nd degree connection with 500+ connections.

Eric’s own profile mentions his name 4 times, he’s my 1st degree connection, has 500+ connections and he is ranked last.


See a pattern?

My “sourcing sixth sense” is telling me that some combination of high levels of activity, multiple keyword mentions, and large networks are in fact negatively affecting search rankings – at least to some extent. I just can’t determine if it’s because of my Profile, Eric’s Profile, or a combination of both.

So, What’s the Big Deal?

Well, think about it.

If someone searches for YOU, do you know where you rank?

Have you tried to optimize your LinkedIn profile for optimum ranking?

From what I have demonstrated in this post, you may not show up in the results where you expect to be, and if your name isn’t as uncommon as mine or Eric’s, you may not even be on the first page of results.

The $64,000 question is why?

I’m curious to know what happens when you search for yourself on LinkedIn, what happens when you have friends search for you, and if you have any insight into LinkedIn search ranking.


  • Amy

    I always thought LinkedIn was trying to encourage more connections, when I would see things like putting the people with only one connection at the top and someone you are already conncected to at the bottom. I figured the keywords would be useful for someone searching for someone on say Google, that the keywords on LinkedIn would identify that person and help bring them up that way.

  • Interesting post, Glen! I’ve seen something similar when I’ve searched for contacts in the past but never really documented it.

    This is a great example that something isn’t particularly right with the LinkedIn search. I look forward to seeing other insights you may have on LinkedIn profile optimization!

  • Funny you noticed this too. A lot of people mentioned this to me in the past. My name, Jacco Valkenburg, is unique but 14 people have used it for SEO purposes in their profile.

    So, if you search on my first name and last name you’ll find one person. That’s me.

    But guess what happens if you use my full name as keyword search? I am the last on the list of results, sorted by relevance! To be precise; number 15 out of 15 (on page 2). And it doesn’t matter who conducts the search.

    Your theory that high levels of activity, multiple keyword mentions, and large networks are negatively affecting search rankings is in my case not correct. Let’s investigate this further.

  • I’m sure that the uniqueness of my name throws this whole theory off – but I show up first in the results & no one has used my name for SEO purposes. As well, if I just enter “amybeth”, I still show up first in a list of 35 results. Out of curiosity, I did a search for “researchgoddess” and “research goddess” and showed up first for just researchgoddess, & was unmentioned when searching for “research goddess” (quotes included). Interesting.

  • Very interesting Glen, as usual.


    I’m commenting on this so I can track the discussions of where you guys go with this – might need to revisit the advice I’m dishing out to my clients if you’re right on LinkedIn penalising ‘power’ usage

  • @ Amy (and everyone) – I am definitely going to do more testing, but the results I get don’t seem to make sense based on LinkedIn’s documentation, specifically with regard to sorting results by “relevance.” My finding thus far are of course not statistically relevant – I’d have to repeat the exercise on a good sample size. However, I still find it interesting to notice the pattern and order of how results are returned, the # of actual keywords mentioned, and the # of connections of each person.

    I’m not sure how many other people have stumbled across that particular information I discovered in LinkedIn’s searchable FAQs – that each searcher has their own relevance score, that the order of search results is determined in part by the Profile, activity, connections and relevance score of the person conducting the search. Heavy users of LinkedIn need to take time to try and understand how their own Profile and activity may be positively or negatively affecting search results.

    I am still not sure what to make of LinkedIn’s claim that the behavior of people searching for you and/or people like you (keywords, titles, employers, etc.) “as a collective group may be influencing the algorithm used to rank you in the search results.”

    I sincerely appreciate the comments and shared observations thus far, and I am looking forward to more, as it may help all of us gain a better understanding of LinkedIn’s search result rankings.

    @ Jacco – you show up as #13 of 15 when I search for your name in the keywords field. :-) You and Amybeth benefit from being the only people on LinkedIn with your name. It would be very interesting to see where you turned up in searches if there were other profiles with the same name, as in my case and Eric Jaquith’s.

  • I wonder why LI is trying to re-invent the wheel. Can’t they follow a protocol of what SEs are doing? Relevance searching is completely false in this case.

    I think I should create another account/login with very minimal info – with bio says “Blame Linkedin!!”….. :)

  • Glen,

    Since your post I’ve been testing LinkedIn relentlessly – I’m afraid to say it’s well on its way to becoming an obsession.

    If we follow central point that it is the searcher who determines the result, then the only way to test what it actually means for us all would be do conduct the series of identical searches with a test group of searchers, who perhaps, have divergent LinkedIn approaches. I would put myself forward for such a test, if others have the same inclination?



  • Fantastic post Glen.
    My experience is still that I can get my clients ranked first / high through keywords. However, what i have also noticed is that I show up last in a search. The reason – I think – is because at one time I broke an EUA and when I was reported, LinkedIn “Blacklisted” me. (FYI – DON”T put anything in the last name field other than you last name :)) For over two years I’ve been trying to work with them to see why I no longer show up in a search. They say there is nothing wrong with my profile so I created a fake free profile and was up on the first page of a search within hours. Sigh.

    My clients allow me to do searches form their profiles as well, because I wondered if the results would differ, but they seem to be pretty much aligned (except when a network is too small to see anything)

    I am incredibly grateful for the research you did. I was not able to get the answers from LinkedIn that you did. This is a great article and I will point people to it.


  • Hi Glen,

    I believe you have uncovered what I found out about 5 months ago: That LinkedIn _could be_ flagging users so that your results in the LinkedIn search come up either last or next-to-last for any given search. It sounds like you have the same issue that I have. Let me explain.

    If you do a search for “Neal Schaffer”, “Windmill Networking”, or even “Social Media Author” within a zip code radius (I am near 92618) or inside the same group, I am coming up either last or next to last. These are terms which are pretty specific to me as dictated by traditional LinkedIn Profile SEO practices.

    I did a similar experiment to which you want to do where I had 10+ people worldwide do searches for these same keywords, and the results were all the same. Some of these people were 2nd degree connections and the results were the exact same. Some were from overseas and yet the results were the exact same.

    I have gotten mixed feedback from LinkedIn Customer Service since I first contacted them, and what they have told me has changed over time. The current status is that “Engineering will check on it when they have time.”

    I would like to believe that the LinkedIn that I love, evangelize, consult with businesses on, and wrote a book on would not do things such as flag out certain profiles from LinkedIn search results for any reason. But facts like yours and mine seem to suggest otherwise. In fact, whenever I mention my case to someone, their immediate reaction is, “Wow! LinkedIn doesn’t like you, do they?”

    Why would LinkedIn restrict search results for certain individuals? I do not know, but one thing about me is that I have been an evangelizer of LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers) for some time. I had heard rumors that LIONs were somehow punished in the system, and I am beginning to think this is how the punishment is carried out.

    I have not released my blog post with my own findings, similar to yours, in that I want to give LinkedIn the benefit of the doubt. But seeing that you have similar results, I now have further proof…and another blog I can link to as evidence of what I have found.

    I would also throw my hat in the ring to do a joint experiment on this. If my theory is true, there have to be a lot more people that are negatively affected by this… Either way, what we have both found is that the LinkedIn Search Results for us are completely counter-intuitive to the point that they are borderline ludicrous, and I point this out to all of my social media consulting clients to make sure that when they do searches they don’t just concentrate on the 1st page of any given LinkedIn search result.

    I rest my case ;-)


  • Interesting findings Glen – and the plot thickens with Neal’s comment. I hope you figure it out!

    To add to your data gathering – when I search for my first and last name, I come up first.

    When I search for you and Eric, I get the exact same results that you showed on your post. Since both of you are closer connections to me and we have many shared connections and groups, that definitely should not be the result when sorted for relevance. The results do show both of you first if I change to sort by relationship or connections.

  • G’day Glen, Neal, all,

    While the way I use LinkedIn i very localized and people find me more by activity in Groups, who I’m connected to they know and in person events etc., I had noticed this not only when searching for myself, but when searching for many of the people I know.

    For my name I am simply not in the first 100 results/10 pages, and so anyone with a basic account would need to upgrade to a Business Account (300 results), a Business Plus Account (500 results) or maybe they’d even need to have a Pro Account (700 results), to be able to find me! Ridiculous.

    For the record:
    – I once was a LION, not now since 2006
    – I once had my email in my name field (not since 2006 now)
    – I’ve had my ability to send invitations limited twice only (I rarely invite people unless I know them in person)

    And re you guys:

    Glen Cathey: Keywords (11 of 12), FirstName, LastName (4 of 4)
    Eric Jaquith: Keywords (4 of 4), FirstName, LastName (2 of 2)
    Neal Schaffer: Keywords (6 of 7), FirstName, LastName (1 of 1)
    Hung Lee: Keywords (1 of 202) [!!! someone never broke rules?], FirstName, LastName (1 of 59)
    Jennifer McClure: Keywords (1 of 73) nice, FirstName, LastName (1 of 50)
    Viveka von Rosen:
    a) New TRAINING ONLY profile: Keywords (1 of 7), FirstName, LastName (1 of 2)
    a) LinkedInExpert profile: Keywords (7 of 7), FirstName, LastName (2 of 2)
    Jacco Valkenburg: Keywords (11 of 15), FirstName, LastName (1 of 1)
    Amybeth Hale: 1 of 1 for both

    Guess there’s no avoiding actually going out and building your brand, helping people, online and off!

    BTW I love professionally run LinkedIn groups for this. So few people actually engage, so it’s easy to stand out.

    Cheers all and thanks Glen,

    Jason Ball

  • @Jason @Neal and others
    For the record, I never broke any rules since I became a member in Febr 2004:
    – I never was a LION
    – Used only my name in the name field
    – No send invitations limits (I rarely invite people too)
    – No restricted account due to high activity

    But I am a heavy user, like some of you, and evangelist of LinkedIn:
    – Wrote 2 bestselling books about LinkedIn
    – Setup (very) large groups
    – Have a Pro Account

    Furthermore, I have a strong relation with LinkedIn corporation and have no reasons to believe that my activities have a negative impact on search results. I have another theory and will run a few tests to check it.

    @Glen good to see my profile is becoming more relevant!

  • Andrew Philp

    Interestingly, despite not being connected to you and our only direct Links being 4 fairly tenuous ones, when I do the same search as you I get 5 Glen(n) Catheys rather than 4 and you are indeed at the top of it. Quite what criteria they are using I have no idea…

  • Justin Giovinco

    This is most certainly happening as a result of configuration on the part of LinkedIn.

    If you run these same searches thru a google site search, the results will come back as anyone would expect.

    When I ran a LinkedIn site search for both Glen and Eric individually, they each appeared as the #1 result for each respective search.

    Bottom line…. if you don’t feel like dealing w/ LinkedIn’s search result shananagans, then use Google/Bing or another outside search engine. Make sure that when you site search thru another search engine to use the syntax of that specific search engine. Using LinkedIn search syntax in Google/Bing will bring you back to the same search results we started with (Eric and Glen’s profile appearing last).

  • Vlady

    When I ran my name, I actually came up first.

  • Rob McIntosh

    Additional considerations if you try this search in Bing OR Goolge

    site:linkedin.com/in glen cathey
    site:linkedin.com/pub glen cathey

  • Chrissy McKenzie

    Glen – Great post! Very interesting especially as LinkedIn continues to change over time. I ran a name search – I came up #3 in all of the Christine McKenzie’s on LinkedIn. (# 3 out of 70 results). Next I searched for your profile and Erics profle. I am connected as first to you and second to Eric. Regardless, both profiles came up first on the list. Could it have anything to do with how active one is on Linkedin? Response to inmail rating, acceptance rate – etc?

  • Stan Rolfe

    Great post.
    When i search my name within keywords I come up 1/19. Using first and last name.
    Searching Glen Cathey in keywords you come up 9th under the default search, but when changed to keywords you come up in 11th of 12?
    Using First Name, Surname for Glen sorted by Keywords you come up 5/5. Changing sort to relevance Glen remain 5/5.
    I’ve always wondered why certain names I have searched for came up on the last page, and whilst we still dont know.. I kinda do know now.
    Thanks Glen

  • Interesting topic, thanks for bringing it to our attention.
    I, too, have a unique name, so that gave the expected result, as did some friends with unique names.

    I tried a connection (1st level) with common name, however, and that person also shows up in the number one spot. I noticed that while I am typing the name, LinkedIn already does a pre-search to see if the person is in fact already connected with me. If so, I could click and stop right there.
    If not, so far the searched person has shown up at the top of the listing for me.

  • Follow up:
    when I search only for my first name (Joost), I am 12/11063 (who would have thought!!) and on my last name I am 3/4418, albeit the first one with “allard” as the surname.
    My brother “boudewijn” shows up as 49/4418.

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  • Greetings! I stumbled onto your discussion and find it fascinating. I probably don’t have the same level of volume of usage of LinkedIn of the “power users”, and when I search for my name under relevance or under keywords, I am the only person who comes up. I wonder whether @chrissy and @amy both have a good point. If the purpose of the algorithm is to increase the depth of the Linked in experience, it would be weighted to promote those with less activity and smaller networks first. It does seem counter intuitive, but from a marketing perspective it makes sense. The heavy user is already savvy and will find the person he’s seeking,… the lower frequency user may need a boost to help them get more entrenched. This is still ‘freemium” for the most part, and encouraging more participation by the new or less frequent users does make sense.

  • @ Jody – thanks for the comment! I must say that although the idea that LinkedIn might be weighing and ranking search results to promote those with less activity and smaller networks first (and thus penalizing more active users and those with larger networks) seems to make sense, it really doesn’t if the goal of searching LinkedIn (or any site or network) is to find the most relevant people/results. If the most relevant result for any given person searching LinkedIn happens to be someone with a large network and a great deal of activity, does it make sense to not have that profile ranked as the #1 result, ahead of those that are less relevant to the searcher, but just happen to be less active and have smaller LinkedIn networks?

  • What’s maddening is that what we may think of as “tried and true” techniques to raise visibility does actually work 8-9 times out of 10 and the 1-2 times it doesn’t defies all logic. I have a unique name, there’s only 1 of me when I search by Lisa Mauri Thomas. Using just Lisa Thomas, there’s 2,199 and I still come up first. Over 800 connections, over 50 recommendations, and an active user of LinkedIn. When I search on keywords associated with my profile, I consistently come up on the first page of results out of thousands of returns. When I apply the same techniques to others, regardless of number of contacts (or lack thereof), amount of activity, profile completion percentage, amount of content, etc., I’m still seeing everything work “as planned” 8-9 times out of 10. The outliers or exceptions are maddening simply because they defy all logic. I’d love to know how to have more of an impact, make a visible difference, for those 1-2 out of 10. Even when searching as themselves, these 1-2 are completely invisible in search results, which defeats the “relevance” aspect of the searcher.

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  • As always, great post.

    When I search for myself, I come up first in all categories except when I search using keywords. I’m curious what everyone else sees.


  • Wholeheartedly agree: “most of what the LinkedIn experts and gurus advise with regard to LinkedIn profile optimization may be wrong.” My main gripe is with the “LIONS” (open networkers – who connect with any/all – but have no real connection with any, it appears) and with #in “gurus” who tell people to join groups — so newbies can spam group member lists.

    As for #in search results issues, this article is superb, and a real eye-opener. (Now I can stop trying to further optimize my #in profiles, and get some actual work done!) Thanks, BooleanBlackBelt folks!

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  • I was the VP of Operations for a search engine, so I know search engines, and take my word for it LinkedIn doesn’t.

    I had the same problem, because I ranked 90th out of 110 Patrick O’Malleys. At the time, the guy who was ranked #3 had no, I repeat NO, connections, so they just don’t have an intelligent ranking scheme, and you stop worrying about it.

    I wrote my rant about this very topic at http://www.the-linkedin-speaker.com/blog/2009/08/27/linkedin-search-people-function-changed-sort-order/ and some of it is funny.

  • Hi Glen

    This is a really interesting post. I’ve been trying to get my head around LinkedIn’s search – how it actually works, and can only conclude that they’re feeding us a bit of a story with their unique search results for every user. I think there are real problems with LinkedIn – like the fact they’re using old postcodes to generate your area, and if you put in a new postcode you only show up for, in my case, the UK (luckily I worked that one out).

    Glen you actually appear #1 in my search results, but looking at you, Patrick O’Malley, you come way down the list after people who aren’t even called Patrick O’Malley. In fact they’re not even called Patrick and one of them is a woman :-0

    I rank reasonably high for my keywords in my local area, especially since I sorted out that little problem with my location, but I’m determined to find out what exactly those pesky LinkedIn search algorithms are doing. I’ve given up my quest to find the Holy Grail, in order to pursue this, so there had better be an answer.

    PS Patrick that is a very entertaining video :)

  • I was doing a search concerning LinkedIn and found this article. Wow! I didn’t realize the complexity behind the preverbal curtain. I must be one of the lucky ones who are so unique that I’m first in a search, actually, I’m the only one who shows up… I will keep this in mind and place emphasis on managing a client’s account.

    Thank you!

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  • I’m the #3 Expert on LinkedIn and search there is different than Google.  You can work with it and come up in the search results or not … it’s up to you.  All the best!  P.S.  Great headline to get views.

  • I’ll have to try searching within LinkedIn. When I google my name: ‘Petra Fisher’ and then scroll down to where is says: “There are five people named Petra Fisher on LinkedIn” I click that and out of the five I am the #1
    But not many people will look for me by searching my name. Especially if they don’t know me. So I want to work more on being found when people search for a social media trainer. :-)

  • To me it makes perfect sense for 3rd level connections to show up first if you take into account the overall purpose of LinkedIn. Generally, if you’re looking for someone on LinkedIn using the search feature, you’re trying to find someone that isn’t a connection so that you can add them. I don’t want to wade through my level 1 connections to find people to add to my network. I also suspect that adding additional keywords dilutes your search results because it makes you less relevant. If I’m looking for a job as an Instructional Designer and all of my keywords are related to Instructional Design, that would make me highly relevant. But if I had some Instructional Design keywords, and then keywords for a bunch of less related things, that would make me less likely to be a targeted fit for Instructional Design. I think you’re trying to apply Google search logic to LinkedIn search logic, and it just isn’t the same thing at all. I really enjoyed this article, even though I’m reading it a year later! It made me think more clearly about how I need to optimize. Thanks!!

  • Glen, & Neal, just a quick update – FirstName LastName Searches seem to be spot on now, though Keyword field searches for our full names hasn’t changed much. (Location: Anywhere)
    [Glen]: Keyword search 8 of 17, FirstName, LastName = 1st of 5
    [Neal]: Keyword search 13 of 18, FirstName, LastName = 1 of 1
    [Myself]: Keyword search not in top 100 (1 of 4 if Japan selected), FirstName, LastName = 1 of 4
    Wonder if things are changing just a little or this tells us anything else?

  • Hey!!! I tried searching myself on LinkedIn and Google ..I am so happy to see myself as #1 on both the sites…. I wonder, is there anyone else with my name???? :)

  • Jean-Thomas Bujard

    Newcomer to LinkedIn (2 weeks). My memory is not that good and with 100+ connections I am not sure about who is or not among my contacts. I guess my list will reach double that size and it will be impossible to know not only all connections but worse specific skills. So, not having people I know not coming up first in search results would be a negative from my point of view.
    I agree with you on keywords and dilution, on the other hand I noticed that massively more educated and brilliant contacts appear much less skilled than me, self-taught multitasker in Commercial diving, Ichthyology and Communications.

    Rich brainfood, thank you BooleanBlackBelts.

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