Over the past few months, Google has entered the talent management space in a big way and they are not showing signs of slowing down. The first major announcement was their Cloud Jobs API, which uses machine learning and relies on a hierarchy of job categories, job titles, and skills to provide better job search results within websites for job seekers. Next came the announcement of Google Hire, their foray into the world of applicant tracking systems. From an SEO perspective though, their recent tests of including jobs directly within organic search results seem to be their most “head first” dive yet into the job search experience. These recent tests were cemented into reality during Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s May 17 keynote speech at the I/O conference, when he announced the Google for Jobs initiative (at 1:51 in the video).
What is Google for Jobs?
I’ve worked on the SEO side of things for quite a while now, and personally think it’s great that Google is making a concerted effort to better handle job-related search queries. Pichai is absolutely correct when he said,
“46 percent of U.S. employers say they face talent shortages and have issues filling open job positions, while job seekers may be looking for openings right next door. There’s a big disconnect here. … We want to better connect employers and job seekers through a new initiative, Google for Jobs.”
This disconnect, and the overall challenge resulting from it, has resulted in the recruitment marketing industry.
We’ll better understand the scope of Google for Jobs in a few weeks, but we learned from the keynote that they will be partnering with a variety of companies like Monster, CareerBuilder, ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor and even “competitors” like Microsoft-owned LinkedIn and Facebook, to build a massive index of jobs that can be found directly from Google search queries. These partner sites will be featured alongside company career sites offering more direct access to available jobs. It’s a departure from traditional organic search results, with an interface that’s more akin to searching for flights or shopping.
Google for Jobs seems perfectly suited for mobile job searching, which is what Pichai demoed in his keynote speech. He focused on the phrase “retail jobs,” which yielded results near the job seeker using the location of their mobile device. The Google for Jobs interface shows an immersive, user-friendly experience, with various facets that a job seeker can use to narrow their job search. It appears to be a great way to deliver a robust set of job options for some very generic search queries like “retail jobs.” It’s difficult to type out more descriptive, longer-tail, keyword searches on a mobile device, but Google’s voice search capability solves for that in a useful way. Here is a screenshot taken from Google’s I/O conference:
Compare that to what we see today, for that exact same phrase. It’s literally 1.5 pay-per-click listings – not the greatest user experience.
Still, many questions remain. Will this experience be mobile and tablet heavy? Will it appear in the same format on laptop and desktop computers? How much screen space will the interface take from the organic, algorithmic results? How frequently will this interface pop up, depending on how descriptive the search query is? Will you be taken to a job board for a branded company query? To me, that seems like a poor job seeker experience. Why go to a third-party site when you know exactly what you’re looking for?
Paid Within Organic?
I can understand why Google has partnered with a variety of job sites, even competitors, in this project. First off, it wouldn’t be very nice of Google to come out and go beyond “disrupting” an industry. It would be more like “demolishing” an industry of paid job advertising sites. Remember when Google’s mantra was “Don’t Be Evil?” I’m assuming it still is. If Google’s true goal was to connect job seekers with available jobs, they would work toward connecting job seekers with jobs at the company itself, leaving out the paid middleman. Instead, I envision this as more or less replicating Indeed’s functionality directly within Google’s search results – organic job listings directly from companies, surrounded by PPC ads.
The second point, though, is the main reason I think they’ve established these partnerships. That reason is to amass as large of an index of jobs as they can handle, and then to unleash their Cloud Jobs machine-learning technology on them in order to make it smarter. Google has been open in the past about their difficulties crawling the immense amount of web content on sites like Facebook and Twitter, which is likely a major reason why they renewed their data-sharing agreement with Twitter back in 2015. They’ve incorporated tweets directly into search results, and they appear frequently for trending topics. These partnerships give them easy access to massive amounts of web content to work with, while providing a great experience for users. It’s a win-win.
However, companies still have to pay to be featured on a lot of these recruitment sites. So in essence, a company would have to pay to be featured in Google for Jobs organic listings in some cases. To me, that seems to go against Google’s traditional view of “organic” results. It will be interesting to see the ratio of paid listings vs. organic career sites when Google for Jobs rolls out, but I think it’s a good start to incorporate both of these alongside each other. If Google truly wants to try and connect job seekers who are “looking for openings right next door,” then their goal should be to include jobs from companies that may not have a budget to advertise across all of these partner sites.
Surprisingly, there was no mention of the 800-pound gorilla in the room during the Google for Jobs keynote. And that is a big blue and white gorilla named Indeed.
Indeed – Search Results Within Search Results?
Today, job search queries on Google yield your typical set of search results: 8-10 organic results wrapped in PPC ads. The number of ads shown depends on the advertiser demand for the keyword searched. The phrase “sales jobs” tends to have many more ads than a longer tail query like, “outside software sales jobs in California that include a company car,” so you’ll see more PPC ads for the phrase “sales jobs.” Similarly, the organic rankings vary quite a bit based on how descriptive the keywords are. For higher-volume, more generic search queries, Indeed.com has dominated the top overall position in recent years.
I’ve always been impressed with the SEO dominance that Indeed has built up over the past decade. They’ve established a really powerful, dominant domain authority and link profile, and have built out a clear, crawlable site architecture for search engine bots to spider and index. From there, they’ve targeted just about every job-related phrase under the sun, and have ranked very highly for those phrases. One nagging fact kept working at my brain, though, and that was: “These are basically search results of third-party content within Google’s search results, surrounded by paid advertising.” In other words, they are some of the exact things that specific Google algorithm updates have been focused on singling out over the past few years.
At this point, I think that Indeed has become a strong destination in its own right, and they will be just fine given Google’s more direct journey into the jobs space. I’d be curious to know what percentage of Indeed’s users only discover Indeed from a Google query? I would imagine that number has steadily shrunk over time. Indeed, Indeed has become a behemoth in the industry, but is that all you need to get the job done? Are you getting those hard-to-find candidates in other corners of the Internet, and what’s their experience like when finding jobs? As the classic, cliché saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” It’s clear that SEO has evolved in recruitment marketing, and it is still alive and well today. Google for Jobs is an evolution of SEO, putting a greater focus on “job seeker experience optimization.” It will be interesting to measure the full impact that this paradigm shift has on SEO for jobs as we’ve known it.
Stay tuned for another post next week, in which we cover the ways that you can prepare for this rather monumental Google for Jobs rollout.