Linkedin Automation: How to Build Boolean Search Strings

Linkedin Automation: How to Build Boolean Search Strings

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It's surprising to find that an alarming number of sales people do not actually know the basics on how to effectively use Boolean and operators to build targeted search strings on Linkedin. Building targeted search strings is crucial for any sales team leveraging Linkedin for social selling engagements. In this article, I'm going to show you how to develop a targeted search string to enhance your social selling prospecting efforts.

But first, what exactly is a search string? A search string is basically a mathematical formula that generates a specific list that meets a defined criteria.

In other words, by developing targeted search strings you pinpoint your buyers, influencers, and stakeholders on LinkedIn and start conversation with right people.

And just like in a mathematical formula, search strings utilize modifiers or operators defined by OR, AND, NOT, “Quotation Marks” and (Parentheses) to combine or group keywords together. Let's quickly go over the basics of Boolean search on Linkedin.

Smooth operators

  • Quoted searches: For an exact phrase, enclose the phrase in quotation marks. For example, type “product manager”. You can also use quotation marks if you want to find someone with a multi-word title.
  • LinkedIn search only supports standard, straight quotation marks (“). Other software or websites may use special symbols that our system does not recognize. Curly quotation marks (“), also known as smart quotes or typographer’s quotes, aren’t supported.
  • In order to optimize overall site performance, stop words such as “by”, “in”, “with”, etc. aren’t used.
  • NOT searches: Type the word NOT (capital letters) immediately before a search term to exclude it from your search results. This typically limits your search results. For example, “programmer NOT manager”.
  • OR searches: Type the word OR (capital letters) to see results that include one or more items in a list. This typically broadens your search results. For example, “sales OR marketing OR advertising”.
  • AND searches: AND searches: Type the word AND (capital letters) to see results that include all items in a list. This typically limits your search results. For example, “accountant AND finance AND CPA”.
  • Note: You don’t need to use AND if your search has two or more terms, you’ll automatically see results that include all of them.
  • Parenthetical searches — To do a complex search, you can combine terms using parentheses. For example, to find people who have “VP” in their profiles, but exclude “assistant to VP” or SVPs, type VP NOT (assistant OR SVP).

Just like math, order matters. Here's the order of precedence for our operators:

  • Quotes [“”]
  • Parentheses [()]
  • NOT
  • AND
  • OR

Note that the + and — operators are not officially supported by LinkedIn. Using AND in place of + and NOT in place of — makes a query much easier to read and guarantees that the search will be handled correctly. When using NOT, AND, or OR operators, you must type them in uppercase letters. Linkedin doesn’t support wildcard “*” searches. Last but not least, Boolean searches work in the Company, title, and keyword field in Sales Navigator.

How to use operators to build basic search strings

Get Specific with “Quotation Marks”

To generate a list of leads that match an exact query, you can use quotation marks to close off compound words or phrases. If you do a keyword search on Linkedin for sales development reps without quotation marks, you'll definitely get a list of sales development reps, but you might also end up with profiles that don't match exactly, like the example below.

Example of Linkedin quoted search versus non-quoted search
Get more precise by using quotations around keyword phrases

By using “Sales development rep” in quotes, you end up with a more relevant and targeted lead list targeting that keywords phrase exactly.

AND den? Aaaaand den?

This is a super useful operator if you want target lead profiles that match 2 or more different search criterion. The more AND’s you add, the more specific your results will be, and thus a shorter, more targeted list. Say for example, you want to target and connect with people in sales, but specifically with key decision makers, like directors. You can use the AND operator to string the two keywords together, Sales AND Director, to generate a list profiles that mention both keywords, sales and director, somewhere in the profile. For example, profiles like "director, sales...", "director of sales", or "Sales development...Director".

Search string using Linkedin AND operator
Linkedin search string using AND to combine a query for sales and director

Use quotations "sales director" if you want to generate a list of leads with those exact keyword phrase. Verbatim.

Go big OR go home

OR broadens up your search string in a single search. It lengthens your list of leads by letting you search multiple, related terms without limiting your options. An OR search will return results that match one or more of the search terms, for example, searching "sales development" OR "business development" AND manager will return:

Search string using Linkedin OR operator
Linkedin search string example using the OR operator

Get exclusive with NOT

Not is incredibly useful when you want to exclude certain types of results from your results. This is great when combined with AND to exclude a multitude of things that you’re not looking for.

Say you have a sales product or service that you sell and you would like to find sales managers but you don’t want to target regional OR national sales managers. You can use the NOT operator, "sales manager" NOT (regional OR national), to exclude regional and national sales managers. Excluding related customer segments that happen to sit outside of your target customer segment is an crucial step to lead generation on Linkedin.

Search string targeting non-Regional or National sales managers

Order searches with parenthesis

Parenthesis are super useful in telling Linkedin's search engine how to handle a search string based on order of importance. This is especially important when combining the use of different operators. For example:

("sales development" OR "business development") AND (manager OR director) NOT representative

Search string using Parenthesis to set order of search
Targeting manager or director level sales or business development

Using the 5 LinkedIn boolean operators properly can give you a major advantage when you’re working on expanding your network or build more targeted Linkedin lead lists, and the examples above are just the basics. Here are some advanced search string examples you can use to get even more precise.

Advanced Boolean search string examples

Use keywords like seeking and opportunities to target profiles of leads who are on the job market seeking new opportunities, for example "seeking" AND "opportunities" AND sales will generate a list of profiles that seeking new opportunities in sales.

Advanced Linkedin boolean search example using keywords or phrases
Search string: "seeking" AND "opportunities" AND sales

To find sales consultants or prospects at companies who help other companies do sales, you can do a search string targeting profiles who help companies with sales with this query: "help" AND "companies" AND sales. If you want to target only consultants and not agencies, try "I help" AND "companies" AND sales.

Using Linkedin search booleans to target profiles based on value proposition
"help" AND "companies" AND sales


Advanced Linkedin lead generation tactics using Linkedin boolean
"I help" AND "companies" AND sales

Or, say you want to target sales directors who are hiring for sales, you can use a search string like, "I'm hiring" AND sales AND "sales director",to target exactly those profiles as seen below.

Using intent-signals to build more advanced Linkedin search strings
"I'm hiring" AND sales AND "sales director"

Improve social selling efforts on Linkedin by getting more targeted

There's a lot you can do with Boolean search strings. Getting from good to great at building powerful search strings requires practice and tons of trial and error. Go beyond just searching for key roles or titles, improve your outreach by thinking outside of the box targeting commonly used phrases or intent-signals, i.e. hiring, seeking, building, "in stealth", etc. If you want to improve your social selling efforts, start by improving your lead list.