The age of discovery: Google, Facebook, and the rest of us

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Since its inception, the job board industry has been built on the reality that most job seekers discovered sites via a search engine. Yes, there have been periods of ‘extreme advertising’, such as Monster’s Superbowl ads – but the reality for most sites was that search engines provided the lion’s share of traffic. However, in general, job boards weren’t particularly good at search engine optimization.

Then along came Indeed, which was in fact QUITE good at showing up in search results. Instead of learning SEO for themselves, most job boards paid Indeed for the traffic – and later suffered the consequences when Indeed dumped them.

Now we are entering a new age of discovery. Yes, candidates are still discovering job sites via search engines – but Google has ‘regularized’ the job posting, punishing those that don’t follow their schema, and rewarding those that do. If a job board or employer or ATS or staffing company follows Google’s guidelines, their postings are more ‘discoverable’ – in other words, they end up at the top of the search results. All that SEO work that Indeed perfected? Not as important now (particularly as Indeed has chosen to ignore Google’s jobs schema).

At the same time, Facebook – which wants to be everyone’s portal to the Internet – has finally gotten serious about recruiting. It is seeking ‘partners’ to bring employer job content to Facebook – so that these job postings are ‘discoverable’ to Facebook users. Sound familiar? Since Facebook already has relationships with millions of businesses, one can only assume that recruiting will eventually be folded into those relationships. I suspect job boards are – once again – a means to an end. In this case, the end would be a massive sucking up of job board and staffing company client business into Facebook’s pockets.

Perhaps I am too skeptical?

Well, there is a thread here. In both cases, these internet behemoths want to take over or control the discovery process whereby candidates find employers. If you’re in recruitment marketing, I think you should be thinking hard about where and how your candidates discover you – and if you’re overly reliant on Google and Facebook, you should be looking for alternatives (just as in the past, those sites that were overly reliant on Indeed had to find other sources). What kinds of alternatives? Well, you can be like StackOverflow and give candidates another compelling reason such as Q&A to use your site. Or – like ClearedJobs.net – you can run offline events meet and help your candidates face to face. Or you can provide detailed employer data like GlassDoor or Kununu. In each of these, note that although these sites monetize via recruiting services, they lure candidates via methods other than job postings. So for these sites, showing up on the top of Google’s or Facebook’s job search isn’t life or death. Sure, these sites in fact do show up in job searches – but candidates discover them elsewhere as well.

In the new age of discovery, candidates should be able to find you outside of a Google or Facebook search. If they can’t, you may be living on borrowed time.

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