Help, I’ve Reached My LinkedIn Commercial Use Limit

No Commercial Search

If you are like me and run a lot of searches on LinkedIn, eventually you are going to run into LinkedIn’s new commercial use limit.  This is a new ‘feature’ that LinkedIn quietly rolled out in January 2015 as a way to reign in users who are overusing their free LinkedIn accounts.  I just bumped into my limit yesterday and want to share my thoughts and offer a few ways to get around the limit.

When you reach the limit, this message box appears in your search results:

I did not even know that this meant and had to click through to the Learn more link to see what I had done.  LinkedIn still offers up four results for your search, but that’s it.  One nice “tongue-in-cheek” feature that I enjoy is that LinkedIn does personalize their error message to take out some of the sting.  In any case, my search capabilites are serious limited until the limit resets at the beginning of next month.

When you click on the Learn more link, you are taken to a LinkedIn landing page whichexplains the new policy:

“As part of our ongoing efforts to make search on LinkedIn more relevant and powerful for you, we’re increasing the visibility of your extended network in search. You’ll now be able to view full names and profiles for anyone in your extended network – 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree – a level of visibility previously available only to paid subscribers. Previously, you would have only seen the first names with last names obfuscated for some search results, but you’ll now be able to see full names and profiles of all results. This will help you find even more of the people you’re looking for, and get yourself found more in return.”

Essentially, LinkedIn is trying to migrate more power users onto a higher paid subscription account.  When they use the term “Commercial”, they are referring to users who are using LinkedIn for recruiting or sales prospecting purposes – or what they assume are recruiting or prospecting purposes.


No Quantification of Limit – LinkedIn has not identified how many searches are too many, and the limit may actually vary from person to person.  This lack of transparency is very annoying and frankly wrong in my mind.  LinkedIn says are that they warn you when you are within 30% of hitting your limit, but I either ignored or did not see that warning.

Job Seeker Premium Accounts Are Not Premium Enough – To make matters worse, I actually have a LinkedIn premium account, but I guess that is not enough.  I am currently paying $29.95 per month for a Job Seeker premium account, and I still bumped into the limit.   I guess the issue is that LinkedIn is assuming that the queries I run are for commercial purposes and not for background research on the jobs and companies I am interested in pursuing.  LinkedIn obviously wants me to pay more for my ‘commercial’ searches.

Here is how you get around the search limit without buying a premium subscription:

LinkedIn iPhone or iPad App – For some unexplainable reason (to me), the search results for me are not impacted when I conduct a search using the iPhone or iPad LinkedIn app.  Maybe I shouldn’t say this out loud, but it appears (for now) that you can search on your mobile or tablet device without running into the search limitation.  If you are not using these apps yet, this is a good reason to give them a test drive.

X-Ray Search Technique – The other alternative is to use one of the X-Ray Search techniques.  I wrote a post last year with a detailed explanation of how to use the X-Ray Search Technique to take advantage of LinkedIn’s public profiles.  Public LinkedIn profiles include /pub/ in their URL, and around 90% of all LinkedIn profiles have a public profile which can be searched using Google or Internet Explorer search.  Users can opt out of having a public profile, but you have to make a conscious choice under Privacy and Settings.

A simpler approach is to just start your query with “LinkedIn /pub” and then include your search phrases.  For example, I was looking for LinkedIn users yesterday who work at PwC in the social media space and I used the following simple query for my search:

While this approach is not as convenient as using Advanced Search in LinkedIn, it does yield results and actually returns more results than you may receive via LinkedIn.


This new search limitation will definitely impact many in the recruiting, sales and marketing fields, and I am surprised that I have not seen more outrage at this policy.  The bottom line is that you will likely have to start paying to access LinkedIn features that were previously free to use.

Let me know your thoughts on Commercial Search limitations and how you are addressing it.


Using X-Ray Vision to Improve Your LinkedIn Searches

How would you like to use the power of Superman’s X-Ray Vision when searching LinkedIn?  By using the Google Search X-Ray techniques outlined below, you can!


With a LinkedIn free account, you can perform some powerful searches but your searches are limited in two ways.  First, you can only see the full names of people in your searches if you are a first or second degree connection with them.  For third degree connections, you can only see a user’s first name and last initial.  Second, LinkedIn limits the number of results returned with each search to the most relevant 100 results.  With a little knowledge and the X-Ray LinkedIn search technique, you can get around both of these limitations and significantly improve the width and depth of your search results.

What’s the X-Ray Secret?  There are two secrets to getting X-Ray LinkedIn searches to work.  The first is to take advantage of the public profiles that LinkedIn makes available to Google and other search engines.  The second trick is using some advanced features of Google Search, specifically searching within a web site and URL.  Note that users on LinkedIn have the option to have their profile set to public or private.  Not all users on LinkedIn have public profiles, but the vast majority of users do have a public profile.

LinkedIn public profiles come in two different flavors – they either start with or they start with  By using the SITE: and INURL: operators along with the minus sign in your search, you can limit your Google searches to only public LinkedIn profiles using the following phrase:

(( AND ( OR AND -dir)

Note that this search includes several Boolean operators – the parentheses plus the AND , OR and parentheses operators.  It is also important to use the “-dir” command because this excludes any directory listings or URLs with “dir” in them.  The end result is that the search will only return results for individual profiles where either or are present in the URL.

You will need to understand some basic Boolean operators to use the X-Ray search.  The most important Boolean operators to know are:

  • Quotes – quotes signal that the phrase between the quotation marks must be in the search results exactly as shown
  • AND – words or phrases on either side of AND must be in entry to be included in the search results
  • OR – words or phrases on either side of the OR are included in the search results
  • Parentheses – just like algebra, the parentheses identify the order of operation as anything between the parentheses are acted upon first

Getting Started – Here are the steps to issue an X-Ray search in Google:

  1. Open up Google search –
  2. Copy the following command and paste it into the Google search box –

(( AND ( OR AND -dir)

  1. Add in any additional search phrases such as a job title, skill or geography – or all three:
  • Title:  i.e. “customer service” ,“(admin OR administrative)”, “business analyst”
  • Skill:  i.e. “black belt”, “lotus notes”
  • Geography:  i.e. “greater los angeles”, “Chicago”, “sacramento, california area”

Press enter, review your results and revise as necessary

Using the Boolean operators, you can string together multiple search phrases into a complete search query.   Note that Google Search does not care about capitalization – but it is a good practice to capitalize your Boolean operators to make them easier to identify if you have to troubleshoot your query.  If you use Boolean in LinkedIn, you have to use all CAPS so it is good to get in the habit of capitalizing your Boolean operators.

When issuing a long query in Google Search, you can only see about 60 characters, so another tip is to write your query in the Notepad or Microsoft Word so you can easily see your whole query and then copy it into Google search.

Covering All The Bases – A keen searcher also knows that there are many ways for people to input information into LinkedIn.  If you want a more complete list of results, you need to make sure that you include all possible spellings in your query.   For example, an administrative assistant could be listed as admin, admin assistant, administrative assistant or admin asst.  This is where the Boolean operators are very helpful.  To catch as many of the administrative assistant instances, you could use the following search phrase to catch most of the ways that people could input their role:

 ((admin OR administrative) AND (assistant OR asst))

Putting It All Together – Let’s use a specific search example to show you how X-Ray Search works.  Our test query is that we want to search for an administrative assistant in the Sacramento, California area who has Lotus Notes experience.  The X-Ray Search phrase would be as follows:

 (( AND ( OR AND -dir)

AND (admin OR ((admin OR administrative) AND (assistant OR asst)))

AND “Sacramento, California Area”

AND “lotus notes”

The query as listed above returns about 2,700 results.  This compares to only 191 results when I use LinkedIn Advanced Search to issue a similar query.  In addition, many of the LinkedIn results only provide a first name and last initial instead of a complete name.





 The primary difference is that the Google Search returns results from all of LinkedIn while the  LinkedIn search is limited 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections.  Another big difference is that the Google search returns results from anyone who ever had Sacramento (or surrounding geography) in their profile even if they have moved away.

Just like LinkedIn, the Google search results provide some summary information from the user’s LinkedIn profile that you can easily browse and a clickable link that takes you to their LinkedIn public profile.  Once in LinkedIn, you can then use your other super powers to reach out and connect with them.

Becoming an X-Ray Search Expert will take some practice and you may have to experiment or tweak your search query several times before you get the results you want.  One tip is to make sure you have a good starting point by copying and modifying one of the queries above.  However, the outcome of doing more targeted search primer should give you plenty of ammunition to get started on leveraging LinkedIn to find those “needles in a haystack” that no one is seeing yet.

[This post was inspired by Glen Cathey – the Black Belt Boolean Search Expert]