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 http://help.linkedin.com/app/ask (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.