With the new limitation on LinkedIn searches it is now more important than ever to know how you can access LinkedIn’s data through Google. There is more to X-raying than meets the eye, so I am laying out the methods and the tricks in the post below.
1. The Basics
The basic of X-raying is using either the site: or inurl: operator in Google, followed by the URL of the site you are searching on. In LinkedIn’s case you can use site:linkedin.com or inurl:linkedin.com. The difference between these is that the inurl: operator searches in the whole URL while the site: just searches in the domain (the beginning of the URL).
For LinkedIn X-raying I suggest to use site: to avoid the various redirect pages like this one.
In order to narrow your searches just to the user profiles use a standard expression from the profile visible for Google. To check these profiles go to an incognito window or log out of your LinkedIn. They look something like this.
For quite a while “people you know” worked really well, but this is not a standard expression anymore. The highlighted “you know in common”, “get introduced” or “find a different” expressions seem to be just as good now, and since typically you have some other narrowing keywords you can frequently go just simply for “you know” as well.
With the addition of your specific keywords your search string looks something like this. Do note that using AND-s and brackets make absolutely no change in the results at all. If they help you to oversee the syntax of your string feel free to use them, if you are a minimalist feel free to get rid of them.
Note: Keep in mind that Google is always just estimating the number of results, the number of actual results may be vastly different from what it guessed.
If you add the words “People also viewed” you have an additional benefit: when reviewing the results in Google you can immediately decide whether your keywords are in the profile of a person, or are relating to someone else (see the right hand section on the above picture). If the keywords are before “people also viewed”, you are good.
2. Getting around the maximum keyword barrier: Google Custom Search
The biggest limitation of the method above is a maximum cap of keywords: 32 (operators are not included, just keywords). If you plan to use more, you can easily set up a new search engine called Google Custom Search.
In this window you can add one or more sites to focus on, essentially telling Google that whatever search you will run, the engine should always automatically add the site: operator to it. Contrary to the information provided there, writing linkedin.com or uk.linkedin.com is not only enough, but actually will result in a couple more relevant profiles than going with linkedin.com/*.
Officially this engine has no maximum limit, in practice I’ve run a couple of really long texts where the search did not work anymore. Should never encounter any problems until around 120 keywords, which is a 4x increase from 32.
The created engine will have a direct URL, one you can share with your colleagues as well in case you are cooperating and running searches with the same premises. You can set up a new engine for every search you make, or have a couple engines set up – that can come handy for example for searching in specific countries (see below).
Alternatively, you can try using Bing where the keyword limit is higher, but Bing delivers typically around 5-10% less relevant results.
Of course most of us love that with LinkedIn’s in-built functionality you can search within specific fields like the job title or current company. Although most of these is not directly possible, there are a couple of tricks how you can fine tune your search and in some cases even get more out of X-raying than you would from the native search.
3.1. Searching in a specific country
Searching in a specific country or specific countries is pretty easy to do: just use the search site:countrycode.linkedin.com. In the custom search engine you can add multiple URLs, so you can search for French speakers for example with a custom search engine focusing on fr.linkedin.com, ch.linkedin.com and be.linkedin.com. To not waste any of the precious LinkedIn searches you have when finding out the country codes, check out this link where Jacco gathered all of them.
Caution: using www.linkedin.com narrows your results to US.
3.2. Searching for a more specific location
In most countries the built-in LinkedIn search offers you a more specific location search by choosing a certain geopgraphical region. This information is visible on the profile, hence findable via Google.
If you do not know what LinkedIn sets as a location to the region you target, either make a non-area specific X-ray search and browse through a couple of results to see your options (Google shows the location in the result list as it is seen on LinkedIn), or set the location on your profile to the target adress (provide a zip code), and see how how the system names that city.
But there is one more thing not to forget – the different places where this information can be present on a profile. Let’s examine this with the below example:
There problem with this search is that it includes for example this:
But it does not include this:
I do not know about a way to solve both, so depending on whether you want to see more results (with a higher risk of false positives) or less (with assurance that all of them come from the region you need) you have two options.
The solution to the first issue is pretty handy, and comes from the source code of the LinkedIn page and Googles abilities. Although this word is not always visible when you open a result, the source code always contains the word “Location” before the geographical area. So to make sure you only get results from the targeted region add this to your string: “location * antwerp”. Unfortunately as stated above it does exclude some “real” results as well, so it’s only advised to use it if you have significantly more results than in our example.
If you know you can not expect too many candidates in the area and you definitely do not want to loose them because of the technology, first start with simply adding antwerp. This will reveal many false positives (former company locations, school names, company names, etc), but will also reveal the different ways how Linkedin can phrase that area, possibly in other languages. You can combine this information later to:
3.3. Searching in job titles
I believe this is a frequently used field on LinkedIn’s built-in search. You certainly can not make such a structured search from Google, but you do have an option to search in the job titles. This is done by adding the “at” expression after the job title. Example:
Now obviusly this can be expanded like any other string part:
To not limit yourself to the last keyword, you can use
While reviewing the results you may notice that whenever in the Google snippets the highlighted keywords of the position come before the “you know in common” part, they are in the headline of your candidate (thus probably it is his most recent position).
3.4. Searching for languages
This is my favorite, something which is not possible even with the built-in search. From Google you can actually search for speakers with a certain level in a language.
The levels LinkedIn differentiates are:
- Elementary proficiency
- Limited working proficiency
- Professional working proficiency
- Full professional proficiency
- Native or bilingual proficiency
It depends on you and your position, but typically most cases when you would search for a language require at least a professional working proficiency. Thanks to the phrasing, this search will find all three top options.
Of course you can go just for native:
Or just for native and full professional as well:
3.5. Using Google’s ability to search for similar terms, and other versions of the same word
Some very basic words by default have an associated list of synonyms, and searching for a certain phrase will give you some other relevant results. Google also negates the need to come up with the differently typed versions of the commonly used words – it checks them automatically (example: engineer searches for engineers and engineering as well).
Note: if you use ” ” at any concrete word or expressions it will not look for any alterations, just the main word.
Even with pretty specific expressions, you can use a – between the words to let Google know that your keywords are related, and you are interested in results similar to that expression. Do not leave spaces after the first word, otherwise the – will simply be counted as a NOT. Take a look at what this can do for you:
This search shows the results who would not show for a regular water treatment search, but pop up because of the additional Google operator. Obviously in a real search you would not exclude the concrete expression, I just wanted to showcase the additional results.
Besides running more advanced searches, this is as well a great way to learn more about your position and get new keywords.
3.6. Searching members of certain LinkedIn Groups
The profile page visible to Google has all the Group memberships listed.
This means that with a simple search like this, you can search for the members of a certain group – and of course you can continue narrowing down your search with other keywords.
3.7. Searching for people who are still studying
On LinkedIn people are asked to write in details about their education, and as we are bragging creatures, we like to include even those we did not finish yet. The system in these cases adds the “expected” word to the profiles.
From a recruitment perspective this means that if you are looking for people who will finish the degrees shortly, or for high prospect interns who will not finish it for a year or so, you can use this piece of information.
4. To sum up
This is certainly a different type of challenge, but with every door closing a new door (or window?) opens. From now on at least there will be no difficulty whatsoever finding out who the 3rd degree connections are (not that it was too difficult, but got to look at the bright side :)). I hope this guide helped you to comply with the new system – let me know if anything is not clear. Even more so, let me know if you believe there is anything else important/helpful to add.
Since the writing of this post there is currently an alternative way of targeting Locations, Job titles and Target companies. Find out more on this link.