Google Is the First Page of Your Career Site—Start Treating It That Way

Google Is the First Page of Your Career Site—Start Treating It That Way

Mike Roberts

google best practices for recruitmentYou’ve probably noticed by now, the people who work at Google are pretty smart. They’ve figured out a way to connect searchers with exactly the information they’re looking for—in a matter of milliseconds. Imagine if it was that easy for job seekers to find your jobs on Google. Spoiler alert: it’s not.

With the ability to quickly find information via search engines becoming routine in our everyday lives, it’s only natural that the process of searching for a job has been migrating there. CareerBuilder’s 2015 Candidate Behavior research validates this trend, showing that 73% of candidates start their search in Google. Just as you would search “restaurants park slope brooklyn,” there’s an equivalent in the job search process.

Google as a job search tool sounds great in principle. But more often than not, career sites and requisitions are hard to find via search engines. And even today’s top companies are missing out in a very big way. In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into this issue.

The Current State of SEO in Recruiting

Historically, the words “Search Engine Optimization” and “recruiting” haven’t been in many sentences together. They didn’t need to be. Sites like Indeed and Craigslist delivered tons of traffic and applicants, so requisition distribution strategies focused primarily on job boards as means to get in front of candidates. Search engines were an after thought, if one at all.

What’s more, job boards have also been doing SEO well for many years, so when you search for a specific type of position and its location, they tend to be the first results. An example is below for the search query “marketing jobs nyc.” You can see the live page here:

search engine optimization best practices for recruiting
For such a broad search term, it may make sense for job seekers to be presented with a list of aggregators.

But what about more specific, branded search terms? We won’t point anyone out here, but take a moment to try and find one of your own positions via Google with a search term like, “marketing associate jobs manhattan [company name].” Chances are, your career site wasn’t the first result. It might not even be on the first page. Ten years ago, job seekers might not have looked to Google to connect them with your requisitions, but today they do.

Consider the (backwards) journey most job seekers face when they google your jobs specifically:

  1. The user searches: “marketing associate jobs manhattan [company name]”
  2. She quickly looks at the top three results from Indeed, LinkedIn, and Craigslist
  3. She clicks on Indeed and is taken to a search results page that includes paid ads for other companies
  4. If she’s not derailed by other options, she clicks your position to learn more
  5. She’s taken to an unbranded page with a call-to-action to apply
  6. Finally, she’s on your career site getting ready to fill out an application

For someone who went to Google to find one of your jobs, this is far too many steps as well as opportunities to diverge. Accounting for the fact that you’re also paying-per-click, the return on investment seems to be dwindling in comparison to years ago. Ideally, with a branded search query, she would have simply gone from Google to your career site in two clicks.

Why Aren’t Career Sites Showing Up in Search Engine Results Pages?

By now, you might be asking why your career site isn’t showing up on search engine results pages (SERPs).

The reason is often simple, and it relates to the prevalence of out-of-the-box Applicant Tracking System (ATS) deployments among large companies. The candidate-facing aspects of the ATS, primarily a back-end software used by recruiters, weren’t built with SEO in mind—they’re often completely devoid of the basic structured data required to show in the SERPs in the first place.

A good exercise is to go to your career site and click the button that allows you to search for jobs. At this point, you’re likely being navigated to the ATS. Click on a requisition and take a look at the URL. Ideally, in an SEO-friendly world, it would say something like “jobs.[company name].com/[requisition number]/new-york-city-marketing-associate.” But what’s more likely is it has an unintuitive structure with well over one hundred seemingly random characters.

This is a red flag for Google, and in many cases it’s not even indexable for search engines. As a consequence, those pages may never even show up in the SERPs. The URL is just one example of the structured data problems ATS’ have, but there are many that impede or eliminate the possibility that your career site will show up in Google.

If you’ve been reading our blog, then you already know how important mobile-friendliness is to Google as a ranking signal—hence the big news about Mobilegeddon in April. More SEO ranking factors are explained here.

Bringing SEO Into Your Modern Talent Acquisition Strategy

With all that said, consider the following points side-by-side:

  • Career sites ranked as the number one source for hires in 2014 (Bersin by Deloitte)
  • 73% of candidates now start their search in Google (CareerBuilder)

By sticking with the status quo, most companies are making it difficult for job seekers to connect with their number one source for hire. Not only that, they’re also paying a premium to job boards.

Clearly, the way people find information with Google has extended into the job search process, and with talent acquisition’s main focus on optimizing candidate conversions, it’s time to start doing something about it.

Fortunately, this doesn’t mean replacing your entire ATS. Although the legacy ATS is most likely the culprit behind your poor search performance, it doesn’t typically make sense to allocate the massive amounts of resources required to get a newer, more modern one. What does make sense is ATS integration—which enables you to deliver a consumer-quality candidate experience on top of your existing ATS at every candidate touch point—especially search.

With the right technology and strategy, the makeup of your recruiting spend could change dramatically in the not-too-distant future. Our new eBook “Creating a Consumer-Quality Candidate Experience Without Replacing Your ATS” inspects what it takes to turn your career site into an SEO powerhouse. Read it here.

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