A colleague of mine recently pointed me to a video on LinkedIn by Phil Strazzulla, and was interested to get my take on it. The first thing that jumped out to me was the whiteboard, emblazoned with a title that read “SEO Doesn’t Matter for HR.” I know we live in a world of content clutter and clickbait-y headlines, but as the SEO Director here at TMP, that immediately piqued my interest. Of course, I had to take the next four minutes or so to watch it.
While I think Strazzulla makes some interesting points, the video generated many more thoughts and questions on my end than answers. Obviously, a brief video isn’t the format to get into an extremely deep level of detail, but I thought it was worthwhile to explain why SEO still matters for HR today.
1. Google for Jobs
Obviously, the biggest reason today – and one that Strazzulla basically leaves out of his critique – is Google for Jobs, which has revolutionized recruitment SEO and created a whole new set of rules and strategies along the way. If you’re not familiar with how these new search results work, check out this Google for Jobs webinar that I did after it launched that breaks down a lot of the basics. We also worked to measure the behavioral impact of these search results on the job seeker, to try and learn more about how this new search functionality is impacting the job seeker’s experience. If you’re interested, you can request TMP’s Google for Jobs white paper that looks at behavior from tens of millions of Google organic search sessions. OK, enough for the personal plugs. Truly though, this is one of those recruitment marketing SEO paradigm shifts that happens quite rarely, and the impact on the entire landscape has been huge. It opens up organic search visibility for keywords that had previously been locked up by a handful of powerful third-party sites, leveling the playing field for employers in markets across the world. What’s your presence like on Google for Jobs? Could it be improved through an optimized career site?
2. Targeted non-branded queries
There are countless nuanced ways that job seekers search, beyond high-level generic non-branded search queries like “Boston Sales Jobs,” which Strazzulla highlights in his video. As of last year, Google reaffirmed that 15% of searches performed have never been seen by Google before. That’s pretty mind-boggling, and illustrates the almost infinite nature of keyword combinations users can search. I agree that there are a lot of phrases that are difficult to rank highly for in the traditional, core algorithmic search results (below Google for Jobs, that is). Still, there are many targeted niches that are important to companies and are also sought out by job seekers. From my experience, there are plenty of these niches that we’ve been able to rank highly for. These have translated into SEO success in terms of organic search engine traffic, applications and hires for our clients. Digging in and doing the keyword research and optimization for these niche areas is a crucial aspect of a recruitment SEO strategy. Simply throwing in the towel up front sure doesn’t sound like a winning plan to me.
3. ‘Search Experience Optimization’
Even when a job seeker uses a branded search query, what is that experience like for them? In Strazzulla’s video, IBM is used as an example for the ease of ranking for branded search queries. If you look at the page that ranks #1 for that search query, it’s a well-optimized page of job-related content that addresses sales jobs at IBM. It gives an overview of sales careers, some calls to action on searching entry-level vs experienced sales jobs, has video content about specific IBM salespeople, etc.
What happens, though, if you try some other queries, like “IBM Cloud Jobs,” “IBM project manager jobs” or “IBM Engineer Jobs”? These aren’t very obscure phrases, and are relevant to a company’s recruitment needs. You’ll find the generic Careers home page returned for these phrases, if any IBM-branded site results at all. From here, the job seeker will have to navigate the entire site to find the exact content they’re looking for.
Third-party sites like Indeed, Glassdoor and LinkedIn are phenomenal resources for job seekers, and have become a very important part of the job search process. However, it’s good to have your first-person voice in the ring as well, explaining your value as an employer directly to the prospect and making your available jobs easy to find. Having a platform that is optimized at its core for these types of phrases shouldn’t be overlooked. Think of what the experience is like from a candidate’s perspective. Google has the same goal as you do. You want to connect the candidate with the most relevant page that they’re looking for based on the keywords searched on Google. Lacking SEO-friendly career content makes it harder to do this, and makes it more likely that you’ll miss out giving the ideal candidate a direct path to discover what you have to offer.
Thus far, I’ve talked about having the SEO bases covered at a core level – having the structure and strategy in place to be indexed within Google and rank for a wide variety of keyword strings that are directly related to job searches. What’s outside of those queries though? What other information or answers to questions can you provide the job seeker through digital content? How can you separate your company from your competition through your web presence? That’s where content creation comes in.
I’ve been paying attention to how Elon Musk and Tesla have been rolling out their “more affordable” Model 3. At the $35k base level, you get a slick electric car that gets the job done. Beyond that, you have higher-end packages with improved finishes, premium sound system and heated seats. Maybe their enhanced autopilot or future self-driving capabilities is the way you want to go. Those options sound pretty nice, don’t they? Now think about your career site. Those additional features are sort of like candidate-focused content that ties in directly with the jobs you have available. Sure, you can easily get by on an SEO-friendly career site alone, but being able to rank for additional strategic queries that aren’t always so transactional also sounds nice, doesn’t it? SEO-focused content helps employers define who they are, and helps shape the perception that they want job seekers to have of them. Since these search queries aren’t all about “JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!” it gives the employer the ability to appeal to passive candidates who may be seeking out particular types of information about potential employers at a time when they aren’t actively searching for work. Think about how different the intent of the phrase “technology company with paternity leave benefits” is from “software engineer jobs in san francisco.”
5. Destination for link acquisition
Links have always been like shiny little nuggets of gold in the SEO world, and continue to have high value today. As of March 2016, Links were confirmed to be a “Top 3” ranking signal for Google, which helps it map out the seemingly infinite connections that weave the Internet together as we know it. Moving away from using links as an authority guide is a rather monumental task, and I don’t see search engines straying too far away from them for the foreseeable future. Like the universe, the World Wide Web is cluttered with areas of interconnected activity. It’s massive and continually growing. These links are like a compass for search engines, and it’s never a good idea to throw away a compass when you’re trying to map something out.
When you naturally acquire links, where are they going? Are they pointing to a web presence that is optimized for SEO? Or are they pointed to a difficult-to-crawl site (at best), or a completely inaccessible or blocked destination (at worst). Organic visibility can emerge from a rather cutthroat level of competition, so every little boost that you can provide your company’s recruitment position is helpful. Make sure you’re maximizing the SEO value of those links, so that you can continue rising upwards in the search engine rankings.
6. Social signal consolidation
Think of social signals as an extension of the link importance concept that I mentioned in point 5. They continue to grow in terms of SEO importance, as more and more of the conversation online shifts away from traditional web channels and onto social networks. The social media conversation can also lead to traditional links back to your career site. Strazzulla talks about focusing more on a social media strategy, and I think he’s right. A social strategy IS an important part of the overall recruitment marketing efforts. But again, where are you driving those job seekers back to? Having an SEO-focused career site provides a lot of flexibility in terms of link destination, while at the same time benefiting from the social signals associated with the overall strategy. Building awesome content off of that same platform dovetails perfectly with the social media strategy, and the employer story being told through those channels. In the end, a recruitment SEO strategy fits hand in glove with a recruitment social media strategy.
7. Data capabilities
Data collection has been in the news frequently over the past few months between Facebook and the GDPR regulations enacted by the EU. It can get a bit of a bad reputation, especially if it’s being done in any sort of nefarious way. At its basic level though, behavioral user data patterns on websites help inform strategies, shine a light on what’s working, what needs to be improved and, in the end, should improve the user’s overall site experience. From an SEO perspective, it can help show where job seekers are landing throughout a site from their search queries, and how they’re interacting with the jobs when they get there. Are they bouncing off the page quickly? How frequently are they clicking apply? Are they interacting with our career content? These are questions that can be answered through analytics from a site, as long as the site is properly set up to capture this data.
Google’s Search Console has also made big strides lately in terms of organic keyword performance, data into “Rich Results,” schema usage and more. Valuable insights can be taken away from this data, which you can apply to your overall recruitment strategy. Are you in a good position to understand your web analytics as they relate to your hiring goals?
8. Missed opportunities of NOT doing SEO
It’s worth flipping things around a bit, and taking a minute to think about the missed opportunities of NOT having a strong SEO recruiting presence online. If candidates don’t have an ideal experience finding your jobs, or don’t come across your jobs through non-branded keyword strings, what impact are those missed opportunities having on your holistic recruitment goals? Given the intricate nature of search and the number of variables at play, it’s hard to quantify exactly. Still though, SEO is a core component of that holistic strategy that needs to be checked off the list. Strazzulla talks about focusing on other things like Talent Communities, or social media. While I agree that those are important areas to focus on, neglecting SEO leaves a giant hole in that well-rounded recruitment strategy. Use organic search to help build your Talent Communities, and harness the symbiotic relationship that SEO and social media tend to have. Share SEO-friendly links to valuable social media followers, and let them naturally spread the message of what your company has to offer through additional organic link building. This, in turn, helps improve your SEO strategy over time.
9. “Future Proof” your career site SEO
This is probably the biggest point, since the organic search experience continues to evolve. Little algorithm changes happen every day. Big algorithm changes happen a few times a year. Every so often a paradigm shift like “Mobilegeddon” or Google for Jobs comes along. How well-prepared are you to adapt to these changes, small and large, as they happen over time? Do you have the flexibility to turn on a dime and develop what’s necessary to compete as SEO progresses?
For example, there have been some fascinating advancements in virtual assistant AI and natural language processing over the past couple of years. Google recently announced the ability to use recipe schema from websites to be showcased within their Google Home products. Websites can create recipe content that can be easily read, step by step, to at-home chefs across the world. To me, there’s a natural progression to utilize the Job Schema in a similar manner. As the use of these voice-assisted AI’s continues to progress, I can see job seekers branching out and asking their smart speakers for job recommendations near them. Why not? If something sounds interesting, just have the assistant email it to you, so you can apply when you’re ready. Who knows what else the future will bring? When inevitable change occurs, will you be ready to quickly adapt?
- 9 Reasons Why SEO Does Matter for HR - July 17, 2018
- How Google for Jobs Is Connecting the Dots - February 13, 2018
- Google for Jobs Part 2: The 7-Point Checklist that Will Prepare You for the New World of Recruitment Marketing SEO - June 1, 2017
- Google for Jobs: The New SEO in Recruitment Marketing? - May 23, 2017
- Is Your Career Site on HTTPS? Google Thinks It Should Be - March 16, 2017