How to Use Boolean Search on LinkedIn to Laser Target Prospects
If you are a B2B business, then there is no better place to find your ideal clients than on LinkedIn.
But with over three quarters of a billion people located across the globe using LinkedIn, the key will be to find the very specific group which are your ideal clients.
If you are just getting started, you may find searching for your ideal clients on LinkedIn a little intimidating.
If my ideal clients are social selling trainers and I type that into LinkedIn’s search and click on the People filter, I get about 2,050,000 results.
Where would I even begin with that many results.
Thankfully I don’t have to.
There are a number of ways that I can laser target my search efforts. The first is by using LinkedIn’s built-in search filters.
The second is by using Boolean searches on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn filters vs. Boolean searches
Every search for People on LinkedIn can benefit from the use of LinkedIn’s search filters.
You do searches on the LinkedIn network for your first-, second- or third-degree connections. If you are searching for prospects, then you will want to select your second- and third-degree connections.
You can also filter the results by their location, which of your existing connections they are connected too, their current or past company, industry and several other filters. If you have a Sales Navigator membership, this gives you an additional 12 advanced filters.
But even using these powerful filters, it can be hard to narrow the results down to a smaller and much more targeted list of results.
For example, let’s say that I know I want to focus my search on social selling trainers that I am not already connected to in the US.
This still leaves me over 693,000 results to go through. That is not reasonable. So, what can I do to laser focus this list of prospects?
This is where Boolean searches come in. By creating tailored Boolean search strings, you can save a significant amount of time and effort, as these complex and targeted searches provide much more accurate results while eliminating unsuitable results.
What is a Boolean search string?
A Boolean search on LinkedIn uses a string of modifiers or operators (which I will go into more detail about below) to combine, group or exclude keywords.
Think of it like a mathematical formula that generates your ideal client list based on a defined criteria using modifiers or operators with your keywords, rather than numbers.
These modifiers or operators that combine or group your keywords together include:
- Quotes “”
- Parentheses ()
You can use Boolean searches in the keyword field in Linkedin.com. If you have Sales Navigator, you can also use them in company, title, and keyword fields.
Define your search terms
It’s important to note what you can and cannot search for using LinkedIn’s search field.
Unlike other social media or search platforms, LinkedIn does not allow you to target by things like gender, age, marital status or interests.
This means that the keywords you include in your Boolean search string will need to include terms that might be commonly found within the profiles of your ideal clients. These common terms will often be listed in their headlines, about section, experience or skills section.
A good way to figure out exactly what these terms might be, would be to visit the LinkedIn profiles of existing clients or the profile of prospects and look for these common terms that you can include in your search strings.
As well as looking for common terms, you can further define your ideal clients by answering these questions:
- Which country, region or city are your ideal clients in?
- What are the typical job titles of your ideal clients?
- Is there more than one title your ideal clients may be known by?
- Do your ideal clients work for specific companies?
- Did your ideal clients attend specific schools?
- Are there specific skills that your ideal clients usually have?
It also can be helpful to narrow your ideal client list on LinkedIn by excluding people with certain terms listed in their profile.
To do this you will need to define what those exclusions might be. Begin by asking yourself these questions:
- Are there job titles you want to exclude from the search? These might look like assistant, intern or student.
- Are there companies you’d like to exclude from the search? These might include companies you are already doing business with or in conversation with.
- Would you like to exclude people who have attended specific schools?
- Are there specific terms from their profile that you would like to exclude?
If we think about my social selling trainer example, a term I might want to use as an exclusion might be personal trainer, as I see this frequently pop up in my results.
Now I will define each Boolean operator and show you how you can use it when searching for your prospects. Be sure to check out how the result number changes with each example.
Building Boolean Search Strings on LinkedIn
One of the most frequent and useful search operators you can use when searching is the quoted search.
This helps you produce results based on an exact phrase enclosed in quotation marks. This is particularly helpful when they keyword is a multi-word phrase.
For example, “social selling trainer”
A straight search for this term (without quotes) with my connection and location filters produced 693,000 results.
Simply by adding the quotation marks to my search, I now have only 25 results.
If you want to include multiple sets of terms in your search to really narrow results down, you can type AND (in all caps) between each search term.
For example, “social selling trainer” AND speaker
As you can see, I have a laser focused list of 6 results.
If your search is getting too narrow, you can broaden it by adding more search terms with OR (in all caps) between each search term.
For example, “social selling trainer” OR “sales trainer”
You will notice that my small list of 25 for just social selling trainer jumped up to 7,500 results by including sales trainer with the OR operator.
When you have search terms that you want to exclude, you will use the NOT (in all caps) operator, directly before the search term you wish to exclude.
For example, “social selling trainer” NOT “account manager”
Parentheses are usually used in more complex searches. They allow you to combine terms.
For example, perhaps I am looking for social selling trainers who are not also authors or account managers.
In this case my search might look like:
“social selling trainer” NOT (author OR “account manager”)
This search gave me a very narrow 14 results.
Advanced Boolean search on LinkedIn
Advanced Boolean search strings
If you have created a very large list of results using more simple search strings, you might need to increase the complexity of your search with a more advanced search string. In this case, you will need to be very familiar with your ideal clients and the common terms found on their profiles.
For example, let’s say I want to target all the sales coaches and social selling trainers on LinkedIn who are also authors and speakers.
(“social selling trainer” OR “sales trainer”) AND speaker AND author
But I notice that many people in the list are also motivational speakers, which are not my ideal clients. I can further improve this list by removing motivational speakers.
This updated, advanced Boolean search would look like:
(“social selling trainer” OR “sales coach”) AND speaker AND author NOT “motivational speaker”
As you can see this produces a very reasonable list size of 356 results. This a much more manageable list that will provide a good pool of prospects that I could then begin to reach out to with personalized connection requests as part of my lead gen or social selling strategy.
Additional Reading: Why I Accept or Reject a LinkedIn Connection Request
LinkedIn specific search operators
As well as the Boolean operators I have just explained, LinkedIn has a number of additional LinkedIn specific search operators which can be used to narrow your results down within the keyword search.
Here are the LinkedIn specific search operators:
firstname: This will filter the results based on their first name.
lastname: This will filter the results based on their last name.
title: This will filter the results based on their current job title.
title:“social selling trainer”
company: This will filter the results based on their current company.
company:“top dog social media”
school: This will filter the results based on schools they’ve attended.
skills: This will filter the results based on their listed skills.
headline: This will filter the results based on what is in their headline.
headline:“social selling trainer”
profilelanguage: This will filter the results based on the language of their profile (2 letter language code).
spokenlanguage: This will filter the results based on their listed spoken language (two letter language code).
By using a combination of the Boolean and LinkedIn specific operators as well as the built-in search filters, you can generate highly targeted lists of prospects.
LinkedIn Boolean search tips
Here are some LinkedIn Boolean search tips to really help you maximize your time and effectiveness when searching for your ideal prospects.
- Boolean operator order matters. There is an order that LinkedIn uses when doing a search that includes multiple Boolean operators (similar to a mathematical formula). The order of precedence is:
- Quotes “”
- Parentheses ()
2. The + and – operators are not officially supported by LinkedIn.
Using AND in place of + and NOT in place of – makes a query much easier to read and guarantees that LinkedIn will handle the search correctly.
3. When using NOT, AND, or OR operators, you MUST type them in uppercase letters.
4. LinkedIn does NOT support wildcard “*” searches.
5. Aim for a results list under 1000 results for highly targeted searches.
6. Save your best searches. You can save three searches with a free LinkedIn account.
7. You are limited to a predefined (and unknown) number of free searches every month, known as your commercial search limit. Once you hit this number you will be unable to do any more searches until either the first day of the next month or you pay for a paid LinkedIn membership.
Read: LinkedIn Membership Levels: Free vs Premium Business vs Sales Navigator
Find more prospects on LinkedIn using Boolean search
Anyone in sales or business understands the importance of keeping your sales funnel full of prospects, and in B2B, this often means generating new leads through an outreach or social selling process.
But your time is limited and valuable. So, you need to make sure you are effectively using the time you spend on LinkedIn.
Reviewing the LinkedIn profiles of thousands of people based on a simple keyword search is not an effective use of your time.
On the other hand, when you understand how to use Boolean search on LinkedIn it will help you laser focus and narrow down your list of results to the people who are most likely to be your ideal prospects.
Using the information I have provided, with practice, you will soon be creating effective and result producing lists full of ideal clients who need someone who offers what you offer.
If you would like to learn more about how to get the most out of your LinkedIn experience register for my free LinkedIn Leads video series. In it, I cover how to create a profile that stands out, convert connections into clients, and build your authority through content. Get access to the video series here!