LinkedIn Skills Are The New Keywords. Endorsements Refined.


Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 9.42.35 PM

How do we give words meaning? We put them in a sentence. They need context. Keywords are one-dimensional, isolated, dumb and capable of being manipulated. Look at this guy’s LinkedIn Profile:


Keyword stuff 1


This guy ranks the highest for “Product Management” on my LinkedIn search. He has 6 Endorsements for “Product Management”. I can’t wait for Endorsements to mean something on LinkedIn.


Keywords are never going away but Google recognized the importance of and need for context when they introduced a major change to their search algorithm in August of 2013. “Hummingbird” (“precise and fast” according to Google) is all about context – not just words in isolation but the meaning of an entire sentence or phrase. Semantic search essentially looks at and behind the words to find meaning and intent of the search. Behind the words? The more personal information you’ve shared with the search giant, the better the accuracy, relevance and usefulness of those searches. It’s a quid pro quo which many don’t give much thought to in this share anything/everything internet age (see DuckDuckGo for an entirely different approach to search and privacy). With 277+ million professionals diligently creating, curating and sharing their personal data daily, you’d better believe that context has always been king for LinkedIn. LinkedIn (apparently) hates Keyword manipulation less than Google or is still trying to figure it out. LinkedIn still allows Keyword-stuffed Profiles like the one above to be a top hit search result on their (apparently dumb) system.


The case against Endorsements is an inherently weak one. I’ll deal with the main arguments:


People I don’t know are endorsing me.
Why are you connected with people you don’t know?

People are Endorsing me for Skills they know nothing about.
You can opt to hide those Endorsements.

People are Endorsing me for Skills I don’t have.
You can opt to hide those Endorsements.

Endorsements are all about gaming.
Maybe but you don’t have to play the game.**

Endorsements are just a popularity contest.
So you don’t want to be popular? Right.

Endorsements are trivial and don’t mean anything.
They will. You’ll be on the wrong side of history.

LinkedIn is pushing Endorsements and people click to Endorse at random.
Not any more.**


LinkedIn recently made some welcome and smart changes to Endorsements :


Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 3.45.38 PM



(1) You can choose to be endorsed or not.
(2) Be suggested for Endorsement to your network or not.
(3) See Endorsement suggestions when you browse your network or not.
(4) Get email notifications when endorsed.
(5) Move any Skill up or down.


Now you can hide individual Endorsements; so rather then complaining about unwelcome, unwarranted and specious Endorsements (from people you don’t know) – take matters into your own hands. LinkedIn is tackling the gaming issue with (2) and (3). If you leave those 2 options blank, you won’t appear in the suggestion engine and you won’t be prompted to provide Endorsements ever again when visiting a connection’s Profile. Option (4) provides the user with information that they can choose to act on or not. It used to be that you could only move those Skills which had no Endorsements attached but LinkedIn have now given you the flexibility to completely re-arrange your Skills, regardless of whether Endorsements are attached or not. Option (5) is therefore a great opportunity to re-think the entire design of your Skill tapestry – are your top 10 Skills accurate and in demand? Are there Skills which you want more Endorsements for? Move those neglected Skills up into the top 10 so they can be seen and endorsed. The following screenshot is my personal preference for the way that I will be handling Skills from now on:


Screen Shot 2014-05-04 at 11.27.22 AM


LinkedIn ought to find a way to highlight weak and strong Endorsements. ‘Weak’ if they are from someone who has never worked directly with the Endorsee or the Endorser has a habit of giving Endorsements to a large proportion of their network. ‘Strong’ if they come from someone who has worked with the Endorsee recently and there is a Recommendation from the same person. ‘Strong’ if the Endorsement comes from someone who rarely gives Endorsements and/or is a recognized influencer in their industry. Clearly, the LinkedIn Endorsement system needs further refinement. Donna Svei said that LinkedIn were trying to “ride their bicycle while building it”, there will be bumps/bruises on the journey. The way that Endorsements were rolled out/promoted undoubtedly damaged their credibility but the primary goal of building a massive peer review system quickly has now been achieved. Credibility can and will be restored imho.


Recruiters do look at Endorsements but only to check that candidates are being rated by their peers. There is no way to search on Endorsements at the time of writing but there is evidence that Endorsements are already influencing Skill search results (LinkedIn users with more Endorsements for a particular Skill are ranking higher than their lower-endorsed peers). LinkedIn introduced Endorsements because Recommendations required too much effort, took up too much space and couldn’t be searched. Skills are added to Profiles by LinkedIn users voluntarily and their connections can then ‘vote’ on those Skills in seconds. Skills are easily searched and are weighted by Endorsements – professional DNA submitted in granular context at the rate of 10 million per day.


Why do you still have specialties on your Profile? Specialties are redundant and have been replaced by Skills. Go ahead and remove those Specialties now, they’re pointless clumps of boring text which no one read anyway.


If you liked this article, you’ll love my customized consulting service. I’ve helped many professionals to achieve their full potential on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is not somewhere you paste your resumé, sit back and wait for things to happen. It’s a complicated and nuanced website portal that requires action, consistency, insight, branding strategy and marketing know-how. What you don’t know – could hurt you. Whether it’s getting more traffic on your Profile, engaging with a stunningly good Summary or refreshing your LinkedIn presence and brand – share your goals with me and I’ll help you to achieve all of them via LinkedIn.


Contact me now: / 773.469.6600 to get started.

By Andy Foote

You may also like...

21 Responses

  1. Des Walsh says:

    A comprehensive and helpful post, Andy. Your clinical treatment of the standard complaints about endorsements is alone worth the price of admission.

  2. Donna Svei says:

    Hi Andy,

    Thank you for the mention and the link, but I don’t think I said anything about LinkedIn and a bicycle.

    Kind regards,


  3. Steve Madsen says:

    Andy – once again, you’ve hit multiple nails, each on its head. I made a pass through my endorsements and deleted some. Now I must look at each of these endorsements and as you suggest, if they don’t know your skills, 86 the endorsement.

    • Andy Foote says:

      Thanks Steve. I’d counsel all of my readers to carry out ‘prudent pruning’ of their Endorsements – if they don’t seem credible (for whatever reason), hide them.

  4. Hi Andy

    I disagree with “This guy ranks the highest for “Product Management” on LinkedIn. He has 6 Endorsements for “Product Management”. I can’t wait for Endorsements to mean something on LinkedIn”. I’ve found this Jason. He is a level 2 contact for me and does not rank in the top 100 for “product management” nor for product management.
    You know that search results are personalized.

    • Andy Foote says:

      Hi Cyril.

      I have now clarified that the example I gave is the top search result for me. I am sure that there are many examples of people who rank by Keyword-stuffing. Personalized search doesn’t change the fact that it still happens. Google as you know, penalizes those who attempt to boost content by stuffing and it’s highly effective as a deterrent.

      • Maybe in the US, but here in Europe, many people still don’t have understood that LinkedIn is a search engine tool driven by search and keywords. Which means that you can try to optimize your présence with keyword optimization. But keyword stuffing is not a so good strategy, because of personalization and because words don’t have the same weight regarding their location. You can overpass keyword stuffed profiles in your network by optimizing their location and your network.

  5. My analysis is a little different. Even if LinkedIn is growing fast (+300 millions members and +2 each second) not the half of them are monthly users and generally people don’t spend so much time on LinkedIn. So one of LinkedIn’s challenges is to make people come more often and stay longer. This is the reason why they launched Today and bought Pulse. They hope that with more and better content, people will come more often and stay longer.
    Another way to make people come and stay is gamification. And I think that Endorsements are LinkedIn’s gamification. We all now that LinkedIn members use it as a game, they compare to each other and try to have more than their colleagues.

    • Andy Foote says:

      Of course one of the goals is to make LinkedIn ‘sticky’ and great/original content is part of that strategy. Gaming occurred prior to Endorsements (Recommendations were being ‘gamed’, Groups were competing in the unified search league before it was broken into categories, Expert Of The Week on the Q&A before it was shuttered etc. etc.) and competition is intrinsic to the workplace. My point about Endorsements is that (a) it’s a mistake and short-sighted to dismiss them as purely a game and (b) they have enormous potential to reveal accurate ‘context’ of Skills locally, nationally & globally.

      “Our ultimate dream is to develop the world’s first economic graph. In other words, we want to digitally map the global economy, identifying the connections between people, jobs, skills, companies, and professional knowledge — and spot in real-time the trends pointing to economic opportunities.” Jeff Weiner Dec. 10 2012

  6. Well done, Andy.

    Endorsements ARE indeed the new Keywords. I find it interesting that LinkedIn is “lifting the veil” a bit with how their keyword suggestions work with the premium feature of keyword suggestions for the summary section. I used to use the skills section of linkedin to better optimize client profiles – and this new feature of suggestions is another awesome way.

    Thanks again for a great, detailed post.

  7. Skills in a LinkedIn profile are to the LI search engine,
    what links on a page are to the Google bot.

    LinkedIn is using the same Adsense algorithm to run its ads,
    so I suspect the LinkedIn PageRank algorithm is similar to the Googlebot.

  8. Melissa says:

    Hi Andy,

    Thanks for all your edifying (and witty) articles about LinkedIn. I’ve spent the last two hours reading them all.

    I’ve just graduated (or will have by September) from university, and I was wondering if there’s any light you could shed on whether graduates should be using LinkedIn — when the majority of them likely do not have enough experience to write brilliant summaries or headlines, and so on. Is there any kind of graduate/LinkedIn M.O. that you could suggest?

    Having asked that, I will create a LinkedIn account now and apply all your insights to my profile — just on a smaller, measlier graduate scale.


    • Andy Foote says:

      Hi Melissa. Thanks for your kind words about my blog, it’s always nice to hear and I greatly appreciate it.

      Great question, GRADS – should they be using LinkedIn and how? Yes – they should! Linkedin should be seen and used as a personal branding tool, a showcase for marketing your (budding) talents and done well, a wonderful opportunity to differentiate from the mulling herd. Just because you can’t add much to the Experience section doesn’t stop you from shining in other areas (i.e a witty/creative/stunningly original Summary). Look at Profiles you admire and figure out why you like them so much. Use the same techniques, build your reputation one Connection and conversation at a time. There’s no hurry but you should start using LinkedIn now. Incorporate it into your daily routine, try to make every minute count.

  9. LinkedIn endorsements are such a joke – some of them have absolutely no space on a ‘professional’ network. The fact that you can make “swag” a skill on your profile is proof of that.

    Take a look at some of the ridiculous ones for yourself: 

  10. Miloš Milosavljević says:

    Has anything changed in terms of endorsements impacting search?

    I would also add that aside from the relationship of the endorser and endorsee, indicators such as influencer status, correlation of skillset and the skill being endorsed should come into play as well.
    Basically, linkedin could build a relative ProfileRank index and each endorsement would lend some of the ranking to the person being endorsed, similar to how PageRank and the transfer of link juice works in Google’s algo for SERPs.
    This would also make people think more before endorsing someone
    However, this would warrant a feature with which any two profiles could define the nature and relevance of their relationship relative of an endorsement, because an endorsement should only be valid of both parties have agreed that there is a relationship and are aligned about the nature of that relationship. You can’t fit everything in the Experience segment.
    LinkedIn would have to travel the same road as Google though, to rout endorsement farm accounts and any other black hat relevance building techniques.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *