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SEO Do’s and Don’ts for a Job Search

Search engine results are never random. Not only are these webpages relevant to your search terms, but they were likely engineered to be so. Through deliberate keyword usage and an understanding of search engine algorithms, pages can be made more likely to sit atop Google's list. This is called "search engine optimization," or SEO.

Since the modern job hunt takes place largely online, SEO principles also apply to listings for open positions, networking profiles, and any other webpage related to an employment search. Recruiters and HR professionals scouring the web for qualified candidates are more likely to be first shown who Google, LinkedIn, and others want them to see. This means getting hired today is no longer as simple as being the most qualified for the job.

Do make content you want employers to find

Before you can impress recruiters online, you need to supply search engines with results to show them. If you've already applied for a job and hiring managers know your name, your web presence will be far easier for them to find. Depending on your industry, a blog, website, YouTube channel, or any other kind of online portfolio could boost both your visibility and qualifications.

If you want to be discovered by recruiters before applying for a job, you need to make a LinkedIn profile. And if you want them to contact you first, don't scare them away with the rest of your online presence. Make sure it's industry-appropriate.

Don't let social media give the wrong impression

According to a SHRM survey, 93 percent of recruiters use or plan to use social media to recruit. While the majority is done via LinkedIn, employers can peek at public Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter profiles too. If searches of your name return offensive or otherwise work-inappropriate posts, you're less likely to be hired. Remember to check your privacy settings before prospective employers research your background.

Do create (and optimize) a LinkedIn profile

While recruiting via other social sites is gaining popularity, nearly every recruiter utilizes LinkedIn, the world's most-used networking site. "LinkedIn [profiles are] going to rank really high as a search result in general because it's LinkedIn," says ReFresh Your Step owner and lead career strategist Emily Kapit.

Every job seeker should at least have a basic LinkedIn profile. And if they want to stand out enough to be approached by recruiters, they need to optimize it. "Get to 500 contacts fast," says Kapit. "Make sure you have a profile picture, a banner picture, and a vanity URL." Kapit says the more a user satisfies LinkedIn's algorithms by filling out their profile, "the more likely their profile will be promoted as a potential search result."

Don't overstuff your profile with keywords

Another key to optimizing LinkedIn profiles, and to SEO in general, is keyword use. Search algorithms are keyword-driven, meaning the more certain words are used on a page (to a point), the higher that page will rank in results when someone searches for those terms.

This doesn't mean stuffing your profile with as many keywords as possible makes you more discoverable. Search algorithms are trained to spot "keyword stuffing," and hiring managers will still reject easy-to-find candidates who lack sufficient experience.

Don't add keywords dishonestly

Don't stuff your profile with keywords (related to skills, experience, etc.) that don't apply to you. Kapit says it's fine to "look at job descriptions for the roles you want and craft your content using phrases you see repeated," but only if those descriptions "are true for you."

"Naturally, the SEO will work out," she says. While this advice also applies to useful terms you might find in example resumes or other LinkedIn profiles, blatant lying to boost SEO will land you in the reject pile.

Do continue learning how to optimize

Beyond using LinkedIn, there are countless tricks to better encourage engines like Google to display your content. Giving a page a perfect-length meta title or optimizing text to be highlighted as a results-page excerpt can make a huge difference. Or, when building a webpage, including "alt text" for images increases their odds of appearing in a Google Image search results. For any content you want found via online search, there are always more tricks to increase SEO.

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