The Blue Dog Scientific Blog: Sourcing LinkedIn with Google Search.

Sourcing LinkedIn with Google Search.


Sourcing LinkedIn with Google Advanced Search.
Recently, I've been looking into using LinkedIn as a quick and powerful way to directly source information. "Sourcing" here refers not only to using LinkedIn as a database for recruitment, jobs searching and finding potential customers but also finding information, local businesses, contact details, websites, etc.  Indeed, LinkedIn searching can be used like a quick look-up "Yellow Pages" to find service providers, knowledge resources and help, as well as for lead generation and sales.

So I thought I would write a few posts passing on some of the insights I gained in looking into this, in particular when using Google as the search engine to find what you are looking for on LinkedIn (this has been termed "X-ray" searching in the sourcing community).

Firstly, a tip about Google searching in itself. When we enter a search into Google, it actually generates a URL or web address which contains the results of the search. One of the main insights I gleaned is that typing in the right URL at the outset is a much more powerful way to use Google for X-ray searching LinkedIn than entering search terms into the search box. This is because there are a number of "modifiers" which appear in a Google search result's URL which can be tweaked to improve outcomes. Some of these modifiers are not part of the search itself but change the search settings. The real power of using Google is not in knowing the language of advanced search, but in the language of the URL construction!

I will try to illustrate this by example. Let's say we wanted to search LinkedIn for information on Gary Sharpe. Normally, we would type something like

site: linkedin.com "gary sharpe"

into the Google search box. Here, the "site:" bit tells Google we only want to search for results from the LinkedIn website, while the inverted comma's tell Google that we are looking for the exact name, since

site:linkedin.com gary sharpe

would search and find all and any results where gary and sharpe appear but not necessarily together or connected.

How would I construct the basic result URL version of this search as if we entered this into the Google search box as normal? I would just use

https://www.google.com/search?q=site:linkedin.com+"gary+sharpe"

Here the

https://www.google.com/search?q=

part is the basic building block of Google Search result URL's, while the 

site:linkedin.com+"gary+sharpe"

bits are just the search terms (note the + replacing the spaces is the only difference between this and what we would have typed into the search box).

Perhaps you are asking why on Earth you would want to do this this way? Firstly, because I could make the URL above into a live hyperlink, i.e. make it a clickable search that you could follow and check out the results for yourself. To do it the standard way, I would have to provide you with search terms

site: linkedin.com "gary sharpe"

which you would have to copy, go to google search and paste it. So the first advantage is that it's easier to share searches and results with others.

Secondly, we can now modify the search by tweaking the basic URL in ways which we couldn't do with search terms alone. And we can make those searches into shareable links too.

As a simple example, the standard search will show 20 results per page. You can change this temporarily or dynamically within each search. As seen above, Google search results typically produce a URL which starts with

www.google.com/search?q=...

We can modify how many results we get per page by inserting a "num=...&" into the URL. So to see 100 results on the first page we modify the address to look like this:

www.google.com/search?num=100&q=....
 
This can be useful, because often the standard 20 results isn't enough for efficient searching.

There are many other modifiers we can include in the search by directly creating the search URL in this way and skipping the step where we enter terms into the search box. While this way of thinking about searching might seem quite unfamiliar and strange, it is essentially like writing short computer programs. This means that it is a matter of learning the "language" of the how Google constructs its searches. Is it worth learning this language? Probably not unless you are doing a lot of serious sourcing, in which case the search URL is where the real power of Google Search lies.

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