Tweaking Your Academic LinkedIn Profile … SEO Matters!


If you care about your online presence  in general – e.g., making your activities known to others, increase your network of contacts, improve job opportunities, etc., then you should think about having a profile on LinkedIn.

While LinkedIn is THE social network for businesses, it is up-and-coming for academics. Let me explain why it is valuable and how to get value from it.

Critical Mass.

With nearly 2 million academics on LinkedIn has network critical mass. (ResearchGate has about 3 million active accounts while has about 4 million). That critical mass is needed in order for you to get value.

Below are the 5 LinkedIn tweaks that will optimize the visibility of your profile.


Caring about your online presence means caring about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Think of someone (government agency, private company, etc.) looking up an academic to learn about the their expertise.

LinkedIn has great Page Rank (think great SEO). What that means is that if you do a Google search for your name your LinkedIn profile should be near the top of the results.  If it is not, then it is time to optimize.

Tweek 1: Public profile.

How is Google going to find you if you are hiding? It won’t. Therefore, you have to make your profile public. As Stacy Konkiel from Impact Story puts it a LinkedIn profile that nobody can find is not very useful.

Tweek 2: Vanity Url

When you are done rendering your profile public you should claim your personalized URL. Google just loves vanity URLs – as long is it includes your full name. While you are editing your public profile on the bottom right of that page is the link to customize your URL:

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 7.24.13 PM

The result of your change should be something like this:

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 7.10.32 PM

Tweek 3: Headline 

There are three things that go with you when interacting with people on LinkedIn: Name, Photo & Headline. By default LinkedIn populates your headline with your current job title and where you work, e.g., “Professor of Microbiology at Cambridge University”. This type of headline is just not going to do. Why? Because it doesn’t showcase what value you have to offer.

The rule for what to write in your headline should be: “Why would someone contact me?”

To answer that question your headline should include your value proposition, claim your niche by including niche keywords, and be as succinct, specific, and as memorable as possible.

Here are some good examples (that I invented):

Computer Science Professor at Columbia University, Algorithm Guru and Author of “Algorithms You Can Love.”

Bestselling Author of “That Virus Will Catch You,” Dedicated to the Application of Digital Evolutionary in Microbiology.

Cognitive Scientist Researching Autism at Cambridge University. Open Access Advocate. Editor at PLoS One.

As an aside: Many academics are quite creative with their Twitter Bio while their LinkedIn Headline is not. This just doesn’t make sense. Consider 3 favorite academics on twitters their Bios on twitter range from clever (Sean Carroll) to informative (Vincent Racaniello) to partially promotional (Daniel Levitin:- note first part of bio is his book – “This is Your Brain on Music“). Now look at their LinkedIn headlines and notice the differences: Sean Carroll, Vincent Racaniello and Daniel Levitin. 

Tweak 4: Links

Since Google loves LinkedIn (remember Page Rank), you should be adding website links to your Summary. This will not only improve the SEO of your LinkedIn profile, but it is also going to improve the SEO of whatever sites you link in your summary. In my summary, I have included links to my company’s website as well as my profile and other social network profiles (Facebook, Google+ as well as personal and company twitter).

As an aside: Still don’t understand why you cannot add your ResearchGate profile as a link, it is just not clear how LinkedIn chooses the image to be associated with your link, and it is also currently impossible to change that linked image.

Tweak 5: Keywords

Improving the SEO of your LinkedIn profile (both internally and externally) is all about using the appropriate keywords for your niche; it is about taking advantage of the space (in characters) available in your Headline (120) , Summary (2000), Interests (1000) as Position Description in your Experience (2000).

Using keyword rich descriptions that highlight the value you have to offer for your niche in these 4 sections of your LinkedIn profile will dramatically improve the SEO of your profile.

Final word

Academics can get a great deal out of LinkedIn, but it requires several rather simple tweeks to make your account stand out in order to increase traffic to your profile via LinkedIn and Google searches.

Any questions or comments? Let me know and I will be sure to help you.

John L. Dennis, PhD CEO & Founder, Melioravit.