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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 :


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(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:


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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.


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By Andy Foote