Search on LinkedIn: LinkedIn giveth and taketh away

LinkedIn Commercial UseLinkedIn seems to be all about starting the New Year with a bit of a bang this year with a couple of announcements and some new policies being implemented. The latest relates to Searching on LinkedIn – so, as they say, do you want the good news or the bad news first?

Let’s start with the good news!

Since August 2012, any members on the free or basic accounts have been unable to see the full name or profile of anyone outside of their 1st and 2nd level connections in their search results. Specifically, instead of seeing the full name of a 3rd level connection, they would just see the first letter of their surname and anyone further removed from them (“Out of Network”) would appear simply as “LinkedIn Member”.

The announced change indicates that you will now be able to see full details of your 3rd level connections although people beyond that will still be hidden – that is still to be confirmed. In addition, LinkedIn has built in some additional intelligence and “predictive searching” to make the whole process easier.

So where’s the bad news?

Well, alongside this, they have decided to limit the number of searches that you can make every month on the free account by imposing what they are calling a “Commercial Use limit on Search” – first indications from some valued sources seem imply that they consider this to be about 60 searches a month which I must say seems to be very low for anyone who is using it as a serious tool.

I am currently researching and testing exactly how this will be imposed but I worry that if a normal user of LinkedIn, using it for networking not commercial purposes, has been to a networking event and returns with 20 cards in their pocket, wanting to look them up on LinkedIn and connect, then this has the potential to take up a 3rd of their search usage in one fell swoop.

Essentially, you pass that limit then you get a message from LinkedIn indicating that they believe you are using it for commercial use and only 4 – 5 results are displayed. This then gets reset at the start of the following month and the process repeats.

It is possible that there is intelligence built in and that only “non named” searches will count or may be boolean searches will be focused in on or something similar as they seem to be focusing in on those recruiting or prospecting heavily on the site. Fair enough … although some warning would be normal where such a potentially radical change in terms of service has occured.

However, there been no official announcement from LinkedIn on this that I can find and there’s a distinct lack of clarity which is perhaps unhelpful, but there is something on it at:

and the Help Centre piece on it is at:

As I get more clarity I will let you know by updating this post.

To avoid these restrictions you need to upgrade which is where the second sting comes in – LinkedIn rationalised its premium account levels at the end of last year and so now the only general Business account is Business Plus at £40.00 per month with the Sales Navigator and Recruiter accounts costing more still.

How will this effect people? It could go one of two ways :

  • it might encourage more people to upgrade (which is clearly the aim) because they have discovered the opportunities of what LinkedIn can offer and are willing to pay to continue to use it in the way they have become accustomed;
  • alternatively, it may discourage those who would like to use LinkedIn more from doing so because the jump from free to £500 a year is too much of a leap of faith.

Personally, I feel it may create a two tier environment and widen the gap in usage between heavy users and more casual ones. The trouble is that those who do pay and essentially paying for unfettered access to that vast pool of LinkedIn, the vast majority of whom don’t pay. If that pool is diminishing then so is the utility for those paying who ultimately will find other routes to achieve the same.

Time will tell I guess and I am guessing that the results will start to rear their head from about 20th of this month as more and more users start to hit the monthly limit and find their usage of LinkedIn becoming unexpectedly restricted.

Bated breath …

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