LinkedIn starter guide

The relentlessly helpful® blog by John Espirian

13 October 2021
LinkedIn starter guide

How to improve your LinkedIn profile for 2023.

Let’s look at the basics of producing the best LinkedIn profile, building your presence on the platform and using the search field to look for good leads.

For my best thinking on doing the right things on LinkedIn, check out my LinkedIn course.

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Get your LinkedIn profile basics right.

Here are my top 3 tips to get you started:

Use a consistent, clear headshot.

Use a headshot that clearly shows your face. It doesn’t have to be a super formal photo – but think about what impression you want to give viewers.

Use the same headshot everywhere – on your website, social profiles, printed materials, etc.

Keep a text file to record every location where your profile photo has been used. This will make future updates easy.

Add a profile banner that’s 1584×396 pixels – though any image that has a 4:1 ratio of width to height should be fine. In fact, LinkedIn displays the banner at 1400×350 pixels.

(Annoyingly, company pages use a different banner size. 2360×400 pixels works well but anything that has a ratio of 5.9:1 will work.)

Keep your banner on brand to match the look and feel of your website.

If you don’t have a visual brand identity yet, keep the banner simple. Even a flat colour with your name or service description would be better than leaving the default banner in place.

Put your important information at the top and on the right of the banner. Differences between the desktop and mobile versions of LinkedIn mean that these are the only parts guaranteed to be viewable.

Make your headline clear.

LinkedIn headlines can be up to 220 characters long. (This used to be 120 characters until June 2020.)

Remember that this is a headline, not a short story.

Limit your headline to 10–15 words and use keywords in your headline that match featured items in your Skills section.

The most important part of the headline comes in the first 5–6 words, as that’s all that’s visible when your posts and comments are viewed on LinkedIn mobile (unless people go to your profile to see the full thing). You want those opening 40 characters to be like a stock cube, packed full of flavour.

My current headline is:

Relentlessly helpful LinkedIn nerd. B2B content writer, LinkedIn consultant & speaker. I wrote Content DNA. Not a douche canoe. Read my About 🍍

Remember: only the first handful of words in your headline are shown beneath your name when you write a post or add a comment. Be clear about what you do in those opening words.

  • I support professionals and companies by writing content for their business websites
  • Website content writer …

If you have space left over after getting that main message across, use the remainder of the headline to add relevant keywords.

I also recommend ending the headline with a bravery badge – a little dash of extra personality that says something out of the ordinary.

The aim is to include something that could start a conversation or otherwise make you memorable in the minds of your intended audience.

My bravery badge is “Not a douche canoe”. You can decide what you think of that. I explain what it means in my book, Content DNA.

The exact number of characters people see when looking at your headline is complicated to work out, as it depends on which LinkedIn screen is being shown, what device is being used and the magnification of the view on that device.

To further complicate matters, in 2021 LinkedIn introduced a responsive design for the desktop view, meaning that it’s possible sometimes to see more headline characters even if you use a higher magnification.

I looked at one colleague’s LinkedIn post as an example on my MacBook Air in Google Chrome. At different magnifications, I could see a different number of characters in their headline:

  • 100%: 71 characters
  • 125%: 52 characters
  • 150%: 66 characters

Things are much more restrictive on mobile screens, with the worst case being when you reply to a comment, which on my iPhone 12 can get you down to seeing only the first 27 characters of someone’s headline.

As a general guide, expect to see the first ~70 characters of a headline on desktop and the first ~40 characters of a headline on mobile.

Ask for endorsements and recommendations.

Endorsements are where people click a button to confirm that you have the skill you say you have. People can also endorse you for new skills that aren’t listed on your profile.

Endorsements aren’t essential but can be useful for improving your chances of appearing in search results.

For this to work, you need an endorsement for a skill that also appears in your headline.

In my case, I have “copywriting” in my headline and that’s also one of my skills I’m endorsed for.

That means I have a better chance of being found for searches on that keyword.

Recommendations are one step up from endorsements.

They’re written testimonials that can be submitted only by the giver of the testimonial, i.e. you can’t make them up. This makes them good proof that you know your stuff (or that you’re good at bribing).

Reuse the text of LinkedIn recommendations on your website and other marketing materials. It’s polite to ask for permission first, especially if you’re going to publish the person’s photo along with the text.

Richard Tubb
Richard Tubb
IT business growth expert

John's helped me overhaul my LinkedIn profile and to make it outstanding.

His dedication to excellence shows through his research, which he shares online for everyone to benefit from. It's this attitude that has helped him achieve such a glowing – and well deserved – reputation.

Make your About section clear.

Start the About section with a clear problem statement. What problems do you fix and who do you help?

Write the About section focused on “you” (i.e. the reader). Remove yourself from the story and don’t write in 3rd person.

Include 1 contact method in the first couple of lines of the About section. This means that even if someone doesn’t expand your About, they still know how to get in touch.

Place your other contact details at the end of the About.

Break up walls of text.

Use ALL CAPS for subheadings in your Summary. Use emojis as bullet list markers.

Avoid walls of text. Use 2–3 sentences per paragraph. Be less boring than these instructions. Put a smile in your writing.

Include a clear call to action (CTA)

At the end of the Summary and in your posts and articles, give the reader an action to take. What’s the ideal next step? Tell them in clear terms.

Whenever you write anything promotional for yourself or your business, the CTA is one of the most important things to get right.

Change the default profile URL.

The default profile URL LinkedIn assigns you will end in a string of letters and numbers. This doesn’t look great, especially if you wanted to add it to print materials.

Customise your profile URL and add it to your email signature. Here’s how:

Turn off “People Also Viewed”.

When people view your profile, LinkedIn will show them other profiles that previous viewers have looked at.

To avoid leading your profile viewers to potential competitors, turn off this feature in your settings.

Turn off the People Also Viewed feature
People Also Viewed: set this to No

Build your presence (inbound marketing).

This section is about getting potential clients to come to you. It’s my main method of marketing on social media.

Write short-form posts.

Post at least 3 times per week in the main Home feed. Keep the content relevant and helpful.

Think about your subject matter expertise and write content that keeps you top of mind about that topic.

  • LinkedIn posts can be up to 3000 characters.
  • LinkedIn comments can be up to 1250 characters.

Text-only posts work well. Image posts (use 1200×630 pixels) tend not to work quite as well.

If you’re brave, record and share video. A smartphone is all you need. If you invest in anything, get a nice lapel mic. People will forgive poor video but won’t forgive bad audio.

Make posts at least 3 lines long, to trigger the inclusion of a “see more” link (it’s 5 lines for text-only posts). When people click this, it acts as a positive signal to the LinkedIn algorithm.

The LinkedIn algorithm wants to keep you on the LinkedIn site, which means that posts that link out to other pages haven’t been favoured in the past.

I did a test on this in June 2020 and the situation seems to have improved a lot. Right now, links in posts are OK – but there’s no guarantee that it’ll stay that way.

Engage, engage, engage.

React and comment promptly on all comments you receive.

Comment on others’ posts as much as you can – it’s not all about you. Don’t be salesy. Be kind and patient.

Ask earnest questions and write in a way that elicits opinion and discussion. Comments are the gold standard of engagement on LinkedIn.

Don’t write deliberately inflammatory content just because you know it will spark a lot of responses. It might work in the short term but people probably won’t want to do business with a professional ass. Be nice.

I’ve written a whole article about how to comment well on LinkedIn.

Tag/mention relevant people.

Tagging someone in a post or comment means they usually receive a notification about the content.

To tag someone, type the @ symbol then their first name, then pick from the list of options. If the list doesn’t appear, type a comma after the first name.

Don’t go nuts, though: no one wants to be a brick in your tag wall.

Use hashtags to categorise your content.

Add common, relevant hashtags to increase the chances of your posts being found, e.g. #DigitalMarketing if you’re an online marketer. Search Google to find popular hashtags for your industry.

Be wary: hashtags can make your posts look busy or messy, so be careful not to use too many.

I use hashtags such as #LinkedInLearnerLounge to categorise my content and reinforce my personal branding. Check out these examples:

Quick writing tip: when coming up with your own hashtag, try using words that rhyme or that start with the same letter (alliteration). That gives you the best chance of creating something catchy.

For more info, see my article about creating a branded hashtag.

Write long-form articles.

Republish your blog posts (or write new content) as LinkedIn articles. Your latest article is displayed on your profile page.

Publishing a LinkedIn article no longer sends a notification to all your connections. You have to promote the content just as though it were an external blog post.

The LinkedIn algorithm does not give special treatment to LinkedIn articles.

Look for work (outbound marketing).

This section is about going out to find opportunities yourself rather than waiting for them to come to you. This is especially valuable when you’re starting out.

Search for posts where people are looking for your service.

Use LinkedIn’s search field to look for phrases such as:

  • looking for a X
  • recommend a X

Replace X with your type of service. (Mmm … algebra.)

Filter the results by the Content tab, then sort by Latest.

There’s a how-to guide and explainer video here: How to get freelance work on LinkedIn

Search for people in the right positions to hire you.

Search for decision-makers (e.g. project managers or commissioning editors) at organisations you want to work with.

There’s a how-to guide in my guest post on Andrew and Pete’s blog: How to search LinkedIn the smart way.

Don’t rush to connect. Follow them and then like, comment on and share their posts.

When you’re ready, send a personalised invitation that references some common ground. Don’t be a Pushy Pete.

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Let’s wrap up.

Your best chance of winning on LinkedIn is to start by writing your profile so that it doesn’t read like a CV. Remember that you have to position everything to show your intended reader how you solve their problems. Make it all about them and you’ll be in good shape.

Once you’ve got a good profile, move on to write relevant posts and an articles about your area of expertise. That will draw new people into your network.

Combine your content creation with searches for work opportunities and for the people who could give you work down the line. Take time to build those connections.

These are the basics of navigating the waters of LinkedIn. Give them a try and save yourself from drowning.

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John Espirian

I’m the relentlessly helpful®️ LinkedIn nerd and author of Content DNA

I teach business owners how to be noticed, remembered and preferred.

Espresso+ is a safe space to learn how to ethically promote your business online and get better results on LinkedIn.

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