Indeed, customer service, and job boards: a cautionary tale

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Imagine that you’re one of the thousands of job boards that provided Indeed with job postings from its inception. Imagine that in addition to providing those jobs (which turned Indeed into the most visited job site on the web), you also spent money promoting those same jobs – thus providing Indeed with a lucrative source of income. Imagine that, in return, Indeed provided your job board with a stream of inbound referrals (both organic and paid) that grew as rapidly as Indeed did.

Now, imagine that Indeed’s referrals to your site suddenly disappeared – and when you asked why, you were told that Indeed’s Search Quality team had determined that your listings are of ‘poor quality’. That your listings were no longer indexed, and that your money was no longer welcome (for if there were no jobs from your site on Indeed, how could you in fact spend any CPC dollars?). And, ahem, no, Indeed would not tell you why your listings were no longer wanted. Your sales contact simply told you his hands were tied, that he in fact did not know why – that the Search Quality team was a black box – nothing was shared with Sales or Customers.

And oh, by the way, traffic from Indeed (both organic and paid) comprised about 50% of your site’s total traffic.

I first heard rumblings about this many months ago. The story kept surfacing, first from one site and then another. The general pattern was the same. I honestly found it hard to believe – until I became directly involved, on behalf of a client. The job site in question had been indexed by Indeed for years. Then literally overnight its feed was pulled and when the site asked why, they received the answer in the example above: “Sorry, we don’t know why, they won’t tell us, look at these rules and see if you violate any of them.” The client asked me to try to get an answer (they were willing to rework their site to get back in Indeed’s good graces) – so I did.

Guess what? I talked to a very nice sales director – who said his hands were tied, who said he knew nothing, and who sounded as frustrated as I was. Next, I tried various other contacts at the company – garnering one of two responses: ‘That’s not in my area’, or ‘I can’t help you.’  Finally I reached out to the founders, hoping against hope that I might get a response.

Nope – nothing.

Well, ok. Indeed is a business and they can treat their customers as they wish. In fact, a few days later, they published a posting on their blog that addressed the issue. The real issue?  ‘Search quality’. The internal ‘black box’ team responsible for shutting down job sites is doing so to improve the user experience. OK, seems reasonable.

What doesn’t seem reasonable is the company’s unwillingness to talk to its customers: job boards. What is wrong with telling a newly banned board exactly why they were banned? Doesn’t Indeed want the job sites to get better? Or does it simply not care that much anymore about the job board section of their customer base?

The entire situation seems a bit heavy handed, to be honest, and curious too. Why the sudden push to ‘search quality’ now? As long as Indeed has been in existence, I have gotten complaints from job seekers about the quality of their listings (as well as the infamous multiple-click-bounce that job seekers are subjected to). I suspect there is more to the story.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I counsel job board clients to use aggregators like Indeed with caution – as they are addictive (and expensive). On the other hand, most job boards have benefited from aggregators – just as aggregators have benefited from job boards (in fact, would there even be aggregators without job boards? I don’t think so).

But at the end of the day, Indeed will do what it wants to do – and job boards will have to make their own decisions.

Just be sure to ask yourself: can my site survive without Indeed? If the answer is no, you might want to start working on plan B.

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. David Manaster

    Is this really so different from Google’s recent ding to the content farms? As competition heats up, there is a realization on the part of search engines (and Indeed is a search engine) that the quality of their results matters, and they have been taking action against those who they believe are gaming the system.

  2. Job Board Doctor

    David, I think that Indeed has every right (even an obligation) to clean up its search results. But to simply cut long term customers off without any explanation, without any opportunity for the site to modify what it does, is not, in my book, good customer service. If they really want to improve the job board world, why not have a 2 or 3 step process: step 1, Warning with specifics on what is wrong; Step 2: 2nd warning; Step 3: you’re gone. At least it lets those sites who are not gaming the system but have simply run afoul of Indeed’s mysterious rules to correct what they are doing.

  3. CCSH

    The sites which indeed removes are generally spam or duplicate jobs.
    If you want to discuss this then put your cards on the table.
    Which site specifically are you referring to? I am willing to bet that upon investigation their job quality does not meet the criteria as specified:

    INDEED QUALITY RULES:
    Only include paid, current jobs directly posted to your job board by authorized company representatives. Include complete data for the job including company name, location, job title and complete job description. Job seekers should be able to view the entire job description without requiring a login and there should be no charge to apply to jobs. Respect job seekers’ privacy and confidential information.

    Sites that offer free posting, or sites that “crawl” or redistribute jobs from other sites will not be included.

    Your site should include a clear contact page with a physical address, must not employ excessive or fraudulent advertising, and must demonstrate an appropriate level of organic traffic relative to job count.

    Indeed reserves the right to remove from its index any site that fails to adhere to these guidelines or results in excessive user complaints or spam so suck it up already.

  4. Mike Williams

    A few things that disturb me about indeed.

    1. “demonstrate an appropriate level of organic traffic”…this penalizes newer sites.

    2. http://www.jobhost.org/jobs/viewjob/senior-project-editor-d64441f17e64891e

    they are now hosting jobs. its time for job boards to unite and stop using them

    3. one search, all jobs? not true anymore

  5. job boarder

    I run a few job boards and work with Indeed on both sides of business (advertiser and publisher in their backfill network) and have experienced something similar to what was described above although never actually cut off; just a steady gradual decline in traffic. It is clear that they have been strategically moving closer to the employer and cutting out job boards altogether whenever possible. Their sales force is almost exclusively focused on getting listings directly from employers. They want to aggregate original content, not aggregate aggregated content. They already rank jobs placed directly by employers above those from job boards (a la Google’s relevance score). Indeed’s recent move to start collecting resumes and selling them to employers pretty much removes any doubt from my mind regarding the spot that Indeed wants to dominate in this market. They want to be the one stop job aggregator and we’ve done a nice job of funding them.

  6. Dennis Gorelik

    I’d say Indeed became arrogant.
    They would inevitably pay for that. They already do.
    Indeed’s traffic does not really grow anymore.
    http://www.quantcast.com/indeed.com
    My forecast (assumming Indeed keeps doing what they are doing) is: year of 2011 would be the year of almost no growth for Indeed. Starting from 2012 indeed.com’s traffic would be on decline.

  7. Michael Carrillo

    Very interesting comments. However the one thing that Indeed can’t do is have a direct connection with the candidates. If you have a job board and are in a niche then I believe you must begin to find a way to personally connect candidates with the employers.

  8. Daniele

    Dear Doctor,

    I run into the same with a couple of job boards de-indexed the 1st of January.

    Did you find a way to recover from this?
    I implemented stricter moderation policies and then I submitted already twice my XML but nothing happened.
    Sent Indeed an email and keeping my finger crossed.

    From your experience, do they re-integrate a de-indexed jobboard?

    Thanks!

  9. JobBoardDoctor

    Daniele, in my experience, once you’ve been deindexed, you don’t get back into their feeds. Sorry- Jeff

  10. Daniele

    Thanks Jeff, in this case it might be worth to register a new domain and submit that :/

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