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Are ‘destination’ job boards dead?

Job boards began as digital translations of ‘real world’ objects: newspaper classifieds. The relatively low cost of entry meant that job boards soon proliferated. And from this crazy-quilt of sites grew the job board advertising wars.

Again, the logic driving this massive flood of advertising had roots in the ‘real world’ – almost all of these job boards duking it out were general: they carried all types of jobs, from all locations. In other words, they were pretty much the same – just as if you saw three shoe stores lining the street, all containing pretty much the same shoes. How would you pick which one to visit? If your functionality and content were the same as your competitor, then you had to differentiate yourself through marketing. Thus, monkeys and monsters.

These sites were called destination sites because the advertising drove candidates to them. They were and are a one-stop-shop for finding jobs (or so they would have you believe). Sites such as Monster and CareerBuilder became household names, and their ads were evaluated against the latest from Miller Lite and Pepsi. The job boards themselves probably saw a future lasting as long as some of the storied brands of the 20th century.

Things change. Indeed’s take on Google Adwords introduced pay per click to the job ad world. LinkedIn convinced millions to make their resumes public. And programmatic used consumer ad technology for job ads. Monster stumbled, as did CareerBuilder and many other generalist job boards.

And then Indeed decided it needed to start advertising. Being an aggregator wasn’t enough. Being a big job board wasn’t enough. They decided they needed to become a brand. Why? I suspect it’s because more job seekers were starting their job hunts with Google. The job seeker might find Indeed or another generalist job board via Google, but they started with Google. They in fact viewed Google as the job search tool.

Which it was.

Ouch! That must have burned Indeed – not to mention the pain they were feeling from having the corporate world turning to LinkedIn instead of them. And what would Indeed do if Google changed the SEO rules that had so benefited the job board? So Indeed did something they should’ve done years earlier – they began building their brand and focusing on being a destination site.

They did a good job. It’s a rare person who hasn’t seen an Indeed television ad, or heard an Indeed radio ad. It’s a rare employer who hasn’t gotten an Indeed mailer, or (even more likely) a daily call from an Indeed salesperson. Indeed is a destination site. And it is most definitely a brand.

So what does this mean for destination sites? Are they dead? No, not really. A few details have changed from the early years of job boards, but there are more similarities than differences between Monster’s dreams of glory and Indeed’s current ‘envelope the world’ approach. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Which means we’ll be seeing a ‘reset’ in the next five to six years. Mark my words. A new king will clamber on the throne. We just don’t know who it is yet. In the meantime, enjoy the ads!

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