LinkedIn search targets ads poorly, resulting in wasted clicks, and returns poor people search results.

Here's why this is important and how LinkedIn can improve this feature.

I’m a big fan of LinkedIn. I was one of the first members, number 58,795 out of more than 275m members, and for years I’ve paid a monthly fee for a higher level of service.

I’m in LinkedIn all day every day. But there’s a major problem with its search that significantly diminishes its value for people in both marketing and sales, and to job-seekers. It amazes me that after 10 years it still works this way.

Here’s how I described the problem to LinkedIn support:

When doing searches for people or targeting advertising I run into a persistent problem with LinkedIn search: that it combines attributes across all of a person's current positions.

Let's say, for example, that I want to target owner/partner/C-level people of 500-1,000 person companies in my area. I put that in, but what I am returned are people in those positions as well as people who are individual consultants (and are an "owner" or "president" etc. of their small/one-person consultancy) but also work in a 500-1,000 person company at a lower level.

I don't want those latter people in my search results, and they make up a considerable part of the people returned in many cases.

Obviously someone who wants to advertise to, for example, C-level people in mid-market companies is not looking to target owners of small and individual consultancies that happen to also work in another role in a mid-size company.

But that’s who LinkedIn includes. Sometimes it includes a LOT of them.

It also includes vice presidents if you search for "president". And executive assistants to the CEO if you search for "CEO". Not ideal.

Here are some of the results for a CEO search in companies with 500-1,000 people:

 LinkedIn people search results page

These aren't bugs, although in my opinion they act like bugs. This is how LinkedIn search is currently supposed to work, and it really reduces its value for properly targeting advertising and finding the people you want to find.

LinkedIn support quickly replied with this:

Thanks for reaching out to us regarding your search results. Our searches are programmed to review the entire profile of a member for the keywords and attributes that you have requested in your search terms. Unfortunately, there isn't a way to specify they are Owner/Partner of a specific level of company.

I've sent your concerns on to our product team for consideration. When many of our members ask for the same improvement, they try their best to get it done. However, due to the number of suggestions they receive, they usually don't provide a timeline.

In other words, don’t hold your breath.

So if you, like me, would like a more intelligent, useful LinkedIn search feature, for targeting advertising and ad hoc searches, we need to make our voices heard. Here are two ways to do that:

I’m going to tweet a link to this article to the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman @reidhoffman, and to LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner @jeffweiner. You could tweet to them, too.

Contact LinkedIn support by logging in and going to (it may be different in the UK). You can then post a support issue about this or use the online chat feature on the right to register your request.

And please pass this on to other people. The more people they hear from the more likely they are to take swift corrective action.

Now, there are other problems with LinkedIn's search, too. Like if a person works at a company called 'Acme' and you click on the company name in their profile, you don't just get the people at the Acme that they work at but people in any company with Acme in its name.

But let's deal with that one another day. Maybe if we make a ruckus on this one issue for now, we can get better ad targeting and search.

Louis Gudema

Published 8 April, 2014 by Louis Gudema

Louis Gudema is the president of revenue + associates and a contributor to Econsultancy. Louis blogs here and can be reached via TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn.

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Comments (5)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

If I understand correctly, you want "A and B and C" search terms, but LinkedIn gives you "A or B or C". Very annoying if you *really* need to tightly focus on very specific targets.

Basically you want a join. I've not checked in detail, but I wonder if this is because LinkedIn is implemented using a NoSQL technology, which would not have have native joins.

over 4 years ago


Kari Rippetoe

LinkedIn leaves much to be desired in terms of some of their features, especially in the self-serve advertising department. They always seem to be behind the ball in that regard. As avid users (and fans) of LinkedIn advertising, we've expressed our concerns about the platform to them on a couple of occasions, and they only really seem to pay lip service to them and come up with excuses why they can't do something. They also continually try to get us to pay out the nose for their "premium" advertising services (which don't really work all that well).

Regarding the search functionality, unfortunately you have to upgrade to a higher paid plan to search based on the seniority and job function parameters - so if you want to search for people in certain roles and you don't want to pay more for access, then you're pretty much stuck with the standard keyword search. So, the stonewalling you received might be their way of nickel-and-dimeing you into a better search experience.

over 4 years ago


Krish TechnoLabs

I understand that LinkedIn wants to burn down on spam, but it really should be hitting it as comfortable as possible to touch people.

over 4 years ago


Louis Gudema

Thanks for your comment, Pete. Yes, I want AND, but I also want them to not search across positions for the same person. I'm not a database programmer, so don't know if it's a technological limitation of their platform -- if it is, they need a new platform.

Hi Kari: actually I do pay for a premium service. The problem is not that I don't have access to those parameters.

over 4 years ago



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over 4 years ago

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