“Black Hat SEO” has been around for just about as long as Google itself has been. If you’re not familiar with this term, it has to do with the practice of manipulating search algorithms to one’s own advantage, instead of focusing on the user’s experience and creating high quality content. While possible to accomplish, these gains are typically short lived. Google tends to pick up on these unscrupulous schemes rather quickly and banishes those search results into oblivion, sending a clear message to other webmasters who may also consider using these tactics. These aren’t strategies that you want to hang your hat on as a digital marketer, as one’s reputation can instantly be tarnished or destroyed with a manual action or algorithm update. Still though, I’d bet there are more people out there than you’d imagine taking this approach in order to achieve their desired organic search outcomes.
As you can imagine, this has been an ongoing battle for Google to fight. Since it’s the fall and there’s a new season on TV, I thought of an analogy. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, Google is sort of like the bands of survivors who are trying to protect their quaint little post-apocalyptic neighborhoods from the zombies trying to wreak havoc within their nice walled off town. Although, think of it is a huge community of people with a smaller number of Walkers trying to break in. Google always wants to provide the best answer to the searcher’s query and block out these nefarious tacticians from infiltrating their high quality, useful search results. After all, their mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” They want to accomplish this naturally, without external forces skewing the balance using technical loopholes.
When it comes to Google for Jobs, their specific objective is to “better connect job seekers to the jobs around them.” This is a very noble goal, and truly has been a gamechanger in the Recruitment Marketing Industry. In many aspects, they are making progress towards accomplishing this goal. At TMP, we’ve broken down the impact of these search results over millions of visitors to get a better sense of exactly how job seeker behavior has been altered on a large scale. You can request our Google for Jobs White Paper here, if you want to get into the deeper data findings. To boil things down though, the data does support job seekers finding jobs more effectively after Google for Jobs has gone live. Stay tuned, as we’re hoping to update these numbers in the near future, with almost an additional full years’ worth of data to crunch. While things are moving towards their goal, there is one glaring problem that needs to be resolved. That problem is the overall quality of the destinations in question, and how they relate to the user’s experience in finding and eventually applying to jobs they are interested in.
A Google for Jobs Apply Destination Case Study
A colleague of mine and I were looking to break down the “thousand foot” impact that Google for Jobs has had on one of our larger clients in the financial services space. This has been a challenge for us to do on an aggregate scale, given the job seeker’s ability to choose their apply destination from the Google for Jobs search results. For example, a visit to our clients’ career site from Glassdoor looks to us like that visitor came from Glassdoor. We can’t easily quantify that the job seeker went from Google -> Google for Jobs -> Glassdoor -> Career Site. Our goal was to break down the various destinations that were indexed within Google for Jobs for them, and then take a look at traffic from those sources in order to spot correlations across different time frames. We’re hoping that a clearer picture of Google for Jobs’ overall impact on their unique situation may emerge. In doing so, I searched “COMPANY NAME jobs in United States” and found that there were 30 different apply destinations indexed within Google for Jobs for that company. Thirty. That’s a pretty large number. Thirty different destinations that have adopted the technical requirements necessary for Google to index them within their jobs search results. In some job description cases, users have to swipe to the left on mobile, or click a button to the right on desktop in order view them all.
So, what does this look like from the candidate’s experience? Let’s take a look.
The Application Process
You would think that the process would be pretty easy, right? Search for job on Google. Find job within Google for Jobs. Click button to apply. Apply to job. If only it were that easy and straightforward. As I mentioned, there were thirty different destinations that were indexed by Google, and not all of them provided the aforementioned experience. I’ll break down what those different experiences were like when I tried them out.
- Let’s start with the clearest path for a job seeker to apply to a job. Of the 30 destinations live, only 8 provided a clear path to go from Google for Jobs -> Destination -> Ability to Apply for a Job. That’s great, and exactly how the process should work.
- In 7 instances, the job was no longer live on the third-party destination’s site. Most likely, they are scraping the jobs from another site, or do not have the technical capabilities to update jobs on their site frequently. Still, a frustrating experience for job seekers who have found a job that they’re interested in. Yes, they can close out of that particular window and look for an alternate apply destination on Google, but that adds more layers and time to the process. This may shape their behavior moving forward, and users may naturally avoid those destinations.
- There were 3 times that the job was live on the third-party site, but no longer available at the company when taking the next step to apply. Again, they most likely are able to meet the requirements for the job to be shown on Google, but can’t easily remove jobs from their own site when the company fills them. If you combine this point with the last, a quarter of the apply destinations don’t offer an actionable end goal for the job seeker, which could easily result in job seeker frustration.
- This last point really stuck out to me. In 40% of the destinations (12), a job seeker was forced to sign up for an account with that site, or at the very least needed to fill out a data collection form before taking any further action. That really surprised me. It seems to me that these sites are manipulating the Google for Jobs search results in order to bolster their own customer base, or to build audiences to market to in the future. These are the ones that I feel Google needs to address, similar to how they took action on sites that delivered forced mobile interstitials that impacted a user’s ability to view the content itself. I’d say that the same logic applies here.
Job is Live with Viable Apply Destination: 8
Live on Third-Party Site, Job No Longer Live on Career Site: 3
Forced Account Sign-up, Data Collection Form: 12
Job Not Live on Third-Party Destination: 7
White Hats – Provided the cleanest, most actionable experience for job seekers who want to take the action of applying to a job that they discovered within the Google for Jobs search results.
- TalentBrew Career Site
Grey Hats – Not necessarily trying to collect user data from the search results but may not have the greatest capability of refreshing job listings from their own site as they expire. In the end, traffic is potentially driven to these destinations, as opposed to connecting job seekers with the jobs around them.
Black Hats – Deliberately or indeliberately forces users to submit an email address or create an account before taking any meaningful action to a job that is indexed. Meets the structured data and other developer guidelines for inclusion, but uses the visibility to collect data on users. Potentially scrapes the jobs unwillingly, as opposed to being fed the job listings.
What can Google do from here?
Now that Google has successfully built a major index of jobs and has even opened up Direct Indexation through an API, I think it’s time for them to take a cold, hard look at the job seeker’s experience in this regard. From there, I think that they need to take swift action against sites that appear to be piggybacking off of legitimate job destinations in order to collect user data, collect advertising revenue, or promote their own self-interest over providing clear, actionable job opportunities to those seeking them out.
We’ve seen individual job descriptions get manually flagged if a company is using job postings to promote hiring events, but I think a mile-high view needs to be taken by Google. Matt Cutts is a name that many people in the SEO world are familiar with. He headed up Google’s Webspam team until 2014. In many ways, I think that Google’s search results were the best when he was around. He was very visible to the SEO community, offered advice, and answered webmaster questions through online videos. Now that Google is branching out into specific search result areas, I think that a Matt Cutts-esque representative needs to take a clear look at how these sites are operating, and help clean up the jobs search results a bit. Yes, it’s great that Google provides clear developer guidelines, FAQs and forums to help out, specifically regarding jobs, but there isn’t the same sense of clear communication … or visible penalties that would have come during the Cutts days. A healthy fear of being punished can go a long way to improving the overall search results, and that’s what I think Google needs to do here. As a job seeker, do I really need 5 or 6 application destinations? Or would it be better if I had a few that allowed me to easily apply to the job that I’ve come across? I’d go with the latter every time.
Don’t forget to register for our upcoming webinar on Thursday, December 13, 2018 @ 2:00 PM ET/11:00 AM PT on GOOGLE FOR JOBS UPDATES, BATTLING SPAM, AND MORE DATA! Register Here.
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- Is Your Career Site on HTTPS? Google Thinks It Should Be - March 16, 2017