In this article I’d like to discuss a topic that a lot of people find boring: boolean search on LinkedIn.
But if you understand how to use boolean operators correctly, you can dramatically improve the quality of your results, which will result in getting more high quality connections for your network. And having high quality connections in your network is the foundation for getting high quality leads for your business.
As a LinkedIn lead generation agency, we use this tool every day. Below I’ll show you the core search operators, and explain how you can use them to find more targeted prospects.
LinkedIn Boolean search operators
1. The AND operator
Using AND in your query tells the algorithm that you want results that include more than one keyword, which will narrow down your results. The more ANDs that you add to your query, the more specific the results will be, since they must include all keywords.
Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you want to find marketing professionals that work at startup companies by using the following phrase:
marketing AND startup
As you can see, the result shows profiles that include both words in the headline (but note that the keywords can be located anywhere on the profile).
2. The OR operator
Using OR in your query lets you include more keywords in a single search, and will broaden your results. A query with OR will return results that match one or more of the terms.
Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you want to find senior operations executives by using the following phrase:
chief operating officer OR director of operations OR operations director
Notice that the results now include people with all 3 versions of the job title. This is a great way to increase the number of results, so that you can reach out to more people who fit your ideal client profile.
3. The NOT operator
The NOT operator works as a negative search filter, which can be super useful to exclude certain types of results.
For example, let’s say you’re interested in finding medical doctors, and you’re using the keyword physician. But while this keyword gives you many doctors in the results, it also comes up with many physician assistants.
So, in order to clean up your results to only show doctors, use this boolean phrase (we’ll cover why we use quotation marks in this phrase in a moment):
physician NOT “physician assistant”
As you can see, the NOT operator cleans up the results, so we’re only getting doctors, and not assistants.
4. Increase specificity with “quotation marks”
If you put quotation marks around a group of words, that tells the algorithm you want results with exactly that phrase on their profile. The results will only include profiles with those exact words, and in the same exact order.
If you don’t use quotation marks around several keywords, the results will include profiles that have those keywords, but in no particular order, and even in different parts of their profile.
So using quotation marks enables you to get more specific results, for example with this phrase:
As you can see, we only get us results that contain the exact phrase.
Note that the phrase can be located anywhere on the profile, not just in the headline, as in these cases.
5. Use (parentheses) for even more specificity
When you use parentheses in your query, you’re telling the algorithm about the order of importance of your keywords.
Information within parentheses is always read first, and then information outside the parentheses is read next. This can be very useful when you combine several boolean operators, such as AND and OR.
For example, let’s say if you’re trying to find sales professionals whose job title is either Director or Vice President, and you come up with this phrase:
Sales AND Director OR “Vice President”
This is an ambiguous search phrase, since we’re not telling the algorithm precisely how these keywords relate to each other. For example, it can be interpreted to mean that you’re looking for profiles that have both sales and director, as well as profiles that only have vice president.
And indeed, as you can see, this phrase turns up a Director of Sales, as well as a Vice President of HR, which is not what we are looking for. So if you want LinkedIn to understand the exact intent of your query, you would use this boolean phrase instead:
Sales AND (Director OR “Vice President”)
Now the algorithm knows it should look for people who have either the keyword Director or the keyword phrase Vice President first, and then it checks that they should also have the keyword Sales.
With this phrase we’re getting the right results – there’s a Director of Sales and a Vice Presidents of Sales in the same results page.
The 5 boolean search operators are one of the keys to using it correctly. The best way to learn them is to start implementing the easy ones first (AND, NOT, & OR), and observe how they change your results. Then gradually make your phrases more complex by adding parentheses and quotation marks, and keep observing the effects on your results.