How to get started with a search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy for your career sites and jobs.

Several years ago I spent some time consulting into a Yellow pages online directory business. The emergence of Google as first port of call to answer someone’s day to day queries like “Where will I find a lawyer in Manhattan” had necessitated a shift in strategy. The game plan was to optimise the directory to capture the lion’s share of the page one results pages and then pass that traffic on to the lawyer or plumber who was paying to feature their business on the directory. Sound familiar?

Several years ago I spent some time consulting into a Yellow pages online directory business. The emergence of Google as first port of call to answer someone’s day to day queries like “Where will I find a lawyer in Manhattan” had necessitated a shift in strategy. The game plan was to optimise the directory to capture the lion’s share of the page one results pages and then pass that traffic on to the lawyer or plumber who was paying to feature their business on the directory. Sound familiar?

Time and Money
A lot of time and money was spent figuring out what worked well and optimising both content and the directory structure to rank highly in search results. It worked well and over 90% of the directory traffic was driven by organic search, indeed this remains the case 5 years later for most good online directories.

Today the same story is starting to play out in the world of job search with the launch of Google job listings in the US. However there are still some interesting quirks. I suspect these are driven by many applicant tracking systems putting jobs behind a login and not exposing them to Google for easy indexing. This has necessitated the import of direct feeds from aggregators which sometimes makes for less than ideal results.

Recruitment marketing platforms like Clinch, Success Factors RMK, Phenom People and others are filling the SEO gap by taking the jobs from the ATS and re-presenting them in a search engine and (hopefully) also a candidate friendly way.

Over $12.5 Billion
Considering that over $12.5 Billion is spent on digital job advertising in the US there is plenty of opportunity to use SEO to create value. It’s actually pretty exciting what you can do with the flexibility a next generation recruitment marketing platform gives you to create long tail search optimised landing page campaigns. Hint : Think about the conversion performance of candidates from a niche job board to get a sense of what is possible.

SEO strategy for your career site and job listings
But, in the same way we used to do it in the directory business, the first step is to go back to basics. I was recently interviewed for some tips on job SEO by Vsource.io so here’s an expanded post as a starting point for an SEO strategy for your career site and job listings.

The first thing to keep in mind is that most candidates find your organisation via a job. Most of the time their first contact with your company usually starts as a search in google for their skill set or desired role and a location. With luck this leads them to one of your jobs before your competitor’s.

Remember candidates do not come up to the front door that is your careers site for their first visit
In fact data shows that over 80% of your first time visitors arrive directly to a job therefore making your company easily found using all the jobs you have on offer is very important for inbound traffic generation.

The new Google jobs search algorithms will most likely mirror their existing approach to general SEO over time. Ultimately their goal will be to deliver the candidate to the job that is most likely to convert them to an applicant.

As an aside, this appears to be a shortfall of the current Google jobs ranking algorithm. For many jobs you will see listings for the same job prioritising an aggregators listing ahead of the job on the employer’s career site or ATS. This doesn’t make sense, particularly when it puts additional barriers in front of the candidate like having to give their details to the job board before they can apply. However I would be confident that as this service matures issues like these will be ironed out.

The initial focus in ‘Yellow pages land’ was always to make sure ‘structural’ SEO was in place in advance of content optimisation efforts for maximum effect so making sure your jobs meet structural SEO requirements is a great place to start. For the uninitiated ‘structural’ generally refers to how easy you make it for search engine to understand the contents of your pages.

Start with the basics
Google have kindly published a guide on how to do this which can be accessed here and this approach should be used in conjunction with all the normal SEO best practice that companies like Moz and Semrush blog about regularly. You can even run an analysis using some of these tools that will give you a report on the traditional SEO ranking factors of you pages and site.

If you are not using a recruitment marketing platform you may need to lean on your ATS vendor to do this if they are not already compliant. Many applicant tracking systems are not. But marking up the jobs in this way makes it easy for the Google bot to understand that they are jobs and also to segment them correctly so as to deliver them to the right audience in the enhanced jobs search listings.

(If you are not sure how to test your jobs for compliance with Google’s suggested markup just drop me an email with the url of one of your jobs to shane@clinch.io and I’ll do it for you)

Submitting a sitemap of your career site and jobs is also going to be important to make sure Google knows about them and you can do this using Google Search Console by clicking here. You can also use Google search console to confirm your jobs are being indexed correctly.

Once this basic structural SEO work is in place and you are making it into the Google index and by extension Google job listings, the actual content of the job will certainly come into play. Avoid duplicate content and also avoid the same boilerplate at the start of every job description if you can to help present your jobs optimally.

If you use relevant job titles and descriptions to capture the clicks and enhanced landing pages that deliver candidates what they are looking for your careers site will perform well. Pages and job descriptions that cause a candidate to bounce back to Google will not do well whereas pages that capture a candidate’s interest and keep them engaged enough to make an application will perform better in search ranking over time.

Google loves videos and images, pages that incorporate these versus the legacy block of text and an apply button should also do better.

The really big positive is that, aside from the hidden structural SEO benefits, all these steps will also improve the candidate experience which generally leads to better informed higher quality candidates in your ATS.

Studies have found that candidates who reached your organisation via SEO were in general higher quality and went further in the overall process.

Why?
In a nutshell they were putting the time and effort in to get to know your organisation and that’s a positive flag. Google jobs may change this as it delivers more job board type traffic from its enhanced listings but who is to say your optimised careers site pages may not also rank for other search queries and deliver more candidate traffic that is in the all important research phase of their job search,

In conclusion, make sure your jobs are being marked up as per the guidelines and start to think about making your job descriptions more unique. Google really doesn’t like duplicate content so no more cutting and pasting! Next, put some robust analytics in place so you can measure your hiring success from SEO and Google listings so you can invest more in improvements. This is not going away!

Here are some of the free resources you need to make a start on your journey into SEO
View your aggregate stats and markup error examples in Search Console

Use the Structured Data Testing Tool to validate markup and preview listings

Keep track of your sitemap status with the Sitemap Reports

Free SEO Tools from Moz

Shane Gray

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