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Google Jobs again: the sky is falling edition

That’s right, it’s Google Jobs again! Last weekGoogle Jobs again I walked through the Google Jobs initiative, which is comprised of a specific way of marking up job ads (and letting Google know you did), and the Cloud Jobs API, which addresses job search. There is a third piece – the Google Hire project, which is essentially (at this point) a lightweight and free ATS for employers. Put all of this together, and you may ask yourself, “Why would employers continue to use job boards?“, or “Should I as a job board/recruiting operator be worried?“, or even, “Are job boards doomed?

Well, let’s pivot away from last week’s relatively sunny perspective and give in to our worst fears (which I heard expressed many times at the Jobg8 conference and elsewhere). Let’s take a look at the dark side of the Google Jobs initiative (or at least what could be a dark side). I will present each concern/fear/nightmare – and give you my 2 cents (for what that’s worth).

1) Google is going to pull an Indeed: Remember when Indeed entered the market in the mid-2000s? Remember when they scraped all their jobs from job boards, then optimized the listings for Google (and other search engines) and sold the traffic back to job boards? Remember how stupid job boards felt when Indeed dumped them and began working directly with employers? Well…many are convinced that Google is getting ready to do the same thing. First, Google asks (tells) everyone to mark up their jobs so they are more easily discovered (i.e., show  up at the top of the search results – because search engines are where most job seekers start their search). Then Google asks (tells?) everyone to use their Cloud Jobs search to improve their search experience. And then (maybe?) Google encourages all employers to use Google Hire as their ATS. Now Google has a very clear picture of: a) every job out there, laid out in a way that ties directly to their search engine algorithms; b) how job seekers are reacting to those marked-up jobs inside the Cloud Jobs search (and don’t forget – machine learning means that this process will improve with each iteration); and c) how job seekers end up applying for specific jobs – and then get hired for it (via Google Hire). That’s a pretty complete picture. If they know that much, they can probably start pushing job boards out of the way and working direct with employers because they know they will produce better results.

Are you trembling yet? Well, my 2 cents: What Indeed did to job boards is different – they took a gullible audience (job boards – and soon, staffing companies), figured out what they didn’t know how to do (SEO), and did it better than anyone else. Once they extracted their revenue from job boards, they moved on to direct employers (and now, staffing companies). Google, on the other hand, has been the fundamental discovery tool since the inception of job boards for all recruiting sites and services. It has formed, if you will, the backbone for the online recruiting ecosystem. So it has – I think – different objectives than a company like Indeed, which is simply trying to become the new Monster or LinkedIn (note, too, that Indeed has – belatedly – discovered that it has no candidate brand, and thus is trying to build one now via user conferences, TV ads, and so on). If you’re the backbone of an ecosystem, you are more interested in: a) keeping the ecosystem healthy by ensuring that your primary customer (the searcher) is happy – so you are focused on trying to figure out how to always deliver the exact search results that customer wants; and b) you want as many businesses as possible to live on your ecosystem – to depend on it – because then you can sell them more access (ads) to your primary customer.

If you’re a ecosystem backbone like Google, the last thing you want to do is wipe out an entire category of businesses that pays you lots of money. Instead, you watch for any businesses that have or can subvert your two objectives (keeping primary customers happy, and selling ads) – and you push them out of the way. Can you think of any business in the recruiting world that matches that description? Ahem – I’m thinking #1 is Indeed, #2 is LinkedIn, and (maybe) #3 is Facebook. The easiest to push out of the way is #1, because they depend on search engine results to drive their business (and apparently, Indeed is willing to help by refusing to participate in the Google job markup project!). Business #2 and #3 are more challenging – because they are also primary discovery tools for job seekers. You know what? That’s Google’s problem, not ours. We have the luxury of using all 3 discovery tools to promote our sites – plus the many online/offline/community things that most good job boards do.

2) Google will bankrupt me!: Google said there would be a ‘nominal charge’ – pricing isn’t finalized, but could start at 1 cent per executed query. If you’re the average job board/recruiting site and you have an audience of any size – and you decide to use the Cloud Jobs search – you could be spending some real moolah. Sure, there will be volume discounts. But all that machine learning/AI magic doesn’t come cheap. And beyond search, Google will most likely charge for ‘promoted’ jobs, similar to the current AdWords model (note that this ‘product’ doesn’t exist – yet).

Well…you’re going to spend money somewhere, right? How many of you have sent thousands of dollars to the aggregators – or even to Google itself (via AdWords)? Spending on search on your own site is – again, in my opinion – smart spending. You’re investing in your relationship with your job seekers (and if you don’t have a relationship with your job seekers, you’re probably toast anyway). If your site is doing a better job of actually serving up the specific jobs that a job seeker wants, the likelihood goes up that he/she will apply for the job…and that the employer will get what they want, which is a good hire. As I’ve heard many times (and CareerBuilder certainly believes this), Google is expert in search technology. It is at the core of their business. I can almost guarantee that they do a better job of search than you do. If your site manages to deliver search results that are more meaningful and relevant than your competitors (big and small) as a result of Cloud Jobs search, that’s a competitive advantage. (And this type of advantage is something that a company like Indeed never really offered to job boards – they just offered more external traffic).

As far as the (currently non-existent) promoted jobs costs – you can pay your money to the aggregators, or you can pay it to Google (unless you’re StackOverflow, which apparently doesn’t spend anything on SEM).

3) Google will know everything about my business!: Hey, you know what? They already pretty much do. Between what they know about how job seekers discover and use your site, to what they know about their own career site, to their work with sites like Dice, CareerBuilder, and Snagajob, they can – I am sure – predict what is going on inside your site. Even the parts that aren’t currently exposed to them.

So…do you adjust to the ‘new world’ of Google Jobs markup and Cloud Jobs search, or do you stand against the Google Jobs initiative? Sure, this could be another Google Base or Google Glasses – but from where I sit, it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like an ecosystem adjustment that will affect each and every one of us, for better…or worse.

Which nightmare scenario did I miss for you? Let me know!

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Google is in an interesting position the default search engine for much of the world, which might make going through with fear #1 a challenge. The EU recently fined them a couple billion euros for anti-competitive behaviour with respect to search results, and while Google for Jobs is US-only right now, they may want to appear as neutral as possible as they expand.

    I haven’t seen much discussion about SEO in Google for Jobs other than the JobPosting Schema markup, which has actually existed for some time. How much will the SEO of a job’s source/publisher/job board factor into search results? Or is it purely based on the relevancy of job post content? While I haven’t read anything definitive, my guess is that the relevance and validity of a job’s source do play a role.

    I suspect niche job boards and recruiting companies will still prove to be valuable service providers, especially for SMBs who don’t necessarily have the resources or expertise to take advantage of all Google may have to offer, should fear #1 come true.

  2. Excellent write up Jeff. Agreed #1 should be looking at their exit strategy. Google is continuously improving, and finding new ways to generate revenue. Let’s hooe they learned some lessons from Google Base. I am excited to see how this plays out.

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