I've been a free user of LinkedIn since creating my profile back in 2007. I have kept the free version since many of the people I work with also use the free account and don't see a reason to pay $30+ per month (and keeps me familiar with what features are - or are not - available). As a free user, you used to have access to saved searches that gave us an easy way to save common searches, even getting notifications from LinkedIn for people that fit your search parameters. It was pretty cool.
Then along came the Microsoft acquisition and that "saved search" feature (along with many others) disappeared from the free version. While the LinkedIn community lamented about the changes and several took to social media (even on LinkedIn itself) to complain, we didn't see much change. One exception was the (brief) return of saved searches. Notice I said brief. While you were only able to save three searches and your only notification option was a weekly email, that appears to have been removed (again) and is no longer available in the free version of LinkedIn.
How to Save Your Searches (Using the Free Version of LinkedIn)
While it won't do any good to explain how saved searches used to work for free users of the platform since they appear to be gone (again), there is a way to save your searches so that you can pull up a list of individuals easily. To do this, we'll use LinkedIn's advanced search functionality and your browser's bookmarks to give you access to an unlimited number of search result lists (not just three). If you're using a Premium (paid) account you can keep on using search and save them directly in LinkedIn. But for those of you still rocking the free version, this may help...
Get Started With Search
To get started, place your cursor in the search box and then click on People to get to a general search page. This will show you a search of those that you know already, with some advanced options on the right side of the screen.
Customize and Fine-Tune Your Search
Over to the right, you can now add some additional search variables to narrow down your search results. Assuming that you're using search to grow your network, you first may want to check the 2nd option under Connections, so that you're only getting results from people you're not connected to (but you both will have someone in common). Then, think about the job title or other keywords that someone would have in his or her profile that you'd like to connect with. Click on the Keywords option to reveal some additional choices like Name, Title, Company, and School.
For me, I work a lot in the banking space and typically have my conversations with those in the marketing area of the bank. So I'll add "vice president" and marketing in the Title field. It's important that "vice president" is in quotes so that LinkedIn knows that's the phrase you're looking for (otherwise it will treat each word separately). By adding this title along with the term marketing, it makes sure that I'm looking for decision makers that hold that level of responsibility in their organization.
I suggest also testing terms like CMO, "chief marketing officer," etc. to see how your results will vary. When I replace "vice president" and use CMO I get two results. Using "chief marketing officer" I get 21 results. Get the idea? You can also fine-tune your search with other variables like Location, Industries, Current (or Past) Companies, etc. I'll search for Banking under Industries and since I work with clients all over the country, will leave Locations open for now.
Finally, Create Your Bookmark
Once you've completed refining your search, you'll see a list of contacts in the left area of your screen. My search for 2nd-Tier Connections who are Vice Presidents of Marketing in the Banking industry (yes, that's my actual search phrase and clicking the link will show you if you have anyone in your network that matches the same criteria) resulted in 127 individuals. What you may not realize is that in your address bar, you have the complete search string that you can save and pull up again to get to that exact same list. In your browser, you can create a bookmark folder called LinkedIn Saved Searches and then save your search result. Give it a name that you'll recognize (I used 2nd Tier Bank VPs of Marketing) and click save.
Viola! While you won't get proactive notifications from LinkedIn about people on these lists like you can with a Premium account, but it is an option for free users of LinkedIn to save searches for future reference... even though LinkedIn did "taketh away" again, you can still use the search functionality and save the results for future use!
Bonus Tips... Make a Visit and Personalize Your Invitations
When your search results come back you can move things along in the connection process. For example, if you're not ready to connect with someone but they show on your list, you can simply visit their profile. Even if they are also using the free version, they may see your name show up on who's looked at their profile and you'll get on their radar. Who knows, maybe they'll come back and check you out too... which is a good sign of potential interest and engagement.
Then, when you are ready to connect be sure to start the invitation process from their profile page. Don't just click on the Connect button in the search results. When you are on their profile, you will be given the opportunity to personalize your invitation with a Note (although sometimes this personalization works from both areas - so test and see what the current option is if you wish). This is super important and you can let them know why you'd like to connect or tie in a past event/common interest to increase the chances they will accept your invitation.