LinkedIn, the social network for professionals, is taking another step toward becoming more useful. On Monday, the site announced upgrades to its search.
The company said there are 5.7 billion searches annually on the site, and the enhancements are intended to make those searches more relevant and productive -- and so induce users to remain longer on the site. Users will no longer have to choose whether they are searching such categories as people, jobs, companies or groups. Any search will automatically return results from the entire site.
But if you want to deepen the search through filters like location, company or school, the company has upgraded its advanced search. The added search features are rolling out over the next few weeks to members.
A new auto-complete feature will also prompt some options of what you're actually looking for, and the company said that the options will become more relevant over time, as the search engine gets better at predicting your needs. In general, LinkedIn told news media, the more you search on the site, "the more it learns and understands your intent over time" so that the engine can return the most relevant results.
Similarly, a search term, such as "product manager," will prompt some example search queries related to that term, in addition to a preview of the top results for that example. Automated alerts allow users to get e-mail when results from saved searches change.
While the new search functions have not reached the goals of, say, Facebook's beta Graph Search, it is giving users new ways to slice and dice information from LinkedIn's 200 million members. Facebook's Graph Search, announced in February, allows users to essentially do extensive Boolean searches based on a combination of interest graph and social graph parameters, such as "Who are my friends in New York who work in television and speak Spanish?"
'Glut of Information'
Brad Shimmin, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said LinkedIn "continues to make their space valuable" with the search enhancements. He added that the additional search functionality addresses "one of the key problems of social networks, the glut of information," and gives users another reason to spend time there.
As LinkedIn continues to move beyond its origins as a resume site with connectability, Shimmin said he hoped "they're going to make more of an play." He noted that the site is uniquely positioned to break down the barriers in a company," such as helping to "federate identities" within a company. For instance, Shimmin noted, LinkedIn could become the "trusted source" for your professional online identity, used within the company as well as externally.
Another indicator of LinkedIn's growing stature is its position as the most important sales tool for a sales rep, according to research in a new e-book, Cracking the LinkedIn Sales Code.