In this episode of JobBoardGeek, we talk to Peter Askew and Nick Leroy of SEOjobs and RanchWork about how to do SEO for job boards. SEO is a critical part – perhaps the most critical – for succeeding with your job board, and both Peter and Nick have excellent advice on how to do it right. Jeff Dickey-Chasins of JobBoardDoctor and Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter discover the two key SEO tasks that every job board operator should be doing – and why. Jeff also discusses Jobrapido’s recent announcement on flat-fee pricing, and Steven chimes in on why it might work – or not.
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0:00:36.5 JD: Hello everyone, and welcome to Job Board Geek. It’s the podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers. I’m Jeff Dickey-Chasins, I’m the Job Board doctor and your host. And with me, I have the astonishing Stephen Rothberg of College Recruiter, he is the co-host. Hey Steven, how’s it going?
0:00:53.9 Steven Rothberg: It’s going well. Astonishing. Is that… That sounds nice. That’s… Am I in the wrong place? Is this the wrong podcast that I dialed into?
0:01:01.5 JD: You know, I started using this little synonym app and I was trying to come up with some unusual synonyms, and I don’t know why I thought astonishing matched you. I think I was probably not paying attention. But anyway, it’s what you get for today. We gotta keep Mac happy, so.
0:01:21.2 SR: That’s my dog for those who don’t know. And so, you keep him out of it.
0:01:26.0 JD: Yeah.
0:01:27.6 SR: You just keep… You keep my dog’s name out of your effin’ mouth, as Will Smith would say.
0:01:33.1 JD: Ooh. Oh, someone had too many Wheaties this morning. [chuckle] Anyway, today we’re lucky. We have Peter Askew and Nick Leroy of RanchWork and SEO Jobs here to talk to us about what they’re doing and SEO and Job Boards and all that good stuff. But before we get into that, I actually wanted to chat just a little bit about a news item that came through. It’s not anything hugely important, but I thought it was very interesting. The Italian job aggregator, Jobrapido has just announced that they’re launching a fixed fee, flat fee subscription service in the UK, and it’s at a very low price, at 350 pounds for a three-month period. And it allows businesses to list unlimited jobs and change their jobs any time, anywhere. It’s available on a three, six and 12-month plan. They’ve already launched this in Italy and the Netherlands. Now, the thing I thought that was interesting about this was, first of all, it’s really, really cheap for unlimited jobs, but second of all, Jobrapido is an aggregator and the vast majority of aggregators that I’m aware of basically work on a pay-per-click basis or a pay-per-application basis.
0:02:44.6 JD: At this price point, I think Jobrapido for medium volume and high volume hires is gonna be a much better deal than what an employer could be doing on a regular plain old job aggregator. And Jobrapido is not small. It’s maybe not as well known here in North America, but in Europe, it’s pretty big. They claim six… 70 million job seekers, they’re active in 58 countries, 17 million jobs, so they’ve got all that sorta stuff. I’m thinking, so why would JobRapido do this? Immediately, I thought, Hey, you know what? They wanted to shake up the market a little bit, they wanted to be competitive. There’s a lot of job aggregators out there, there’s Programmatic that’s starting to take hold in EU and in the UK, and then there’s this little old company called Indeed that is really pushing pay-per-application at this point. Will it work? I have no idea, but I think it’s a pretty smart play if you’re trying to shake up the market and pick up some marketshare. What do you think, Steven?
0:03:40.9 SR: Three quick thoughts. So first of all, I’m shocked to hear you saying that it might be a good idea given that your middle name is Raise Your Price. [laughter] Second thought is, if the vast majority of their traffic is organic, then I think this has a lot of promise. But if it’s… If the vast majority of the traffic that they’re sending to jobs is sponsored, if they’re having to pay for that and essentially arbitrage that, then with the low pricing that they have, they’re gonna have a really hard time buying enough traffic profitably that their customers are gonna be happy, because they’re just not gonna be able to deliver very many clicks or candidates to these jobs with the pricing that low. But again, if their traffic is mostly organic, then that’s not really an issue. The third thought that I have is, you know the expression, If you can’t beat them, join them. This seems to fall more into the, If you can’t beat them, flee from them category to me. That maybe they’ve just reached the conclusion that they’re not gonna be able to beat the Indeeds of the world at their own game, and so we’re just simply not gonna play that game. And that might be a great strategy.
0:04:48.3 JD: Yeah, I was about to say, I think that’s a very smart strategy. It’s a strategy I often advise clients to do. You know, I work primarily with niche job boards, because they’ll come in and they wanna take on the Indeeds of the world head first. I’m like, No, that’s not the strategy you should have unless you have unlimited wealth. And if you have unlimited wealth, then I’m gonna raise my price. So… [chuckle] And unfortunately, I haven’t had any clients that had unlimited wealth to my knowledge, so.
0:05:19.1 SR: Not after they get and pay your bill, so…
0:05:21.8 JD: Right, yeah. Well, yeah, I always make sure I do that, so. [chuckle] Well, anyway, food for thought. We’ll see what happens. Today, as I mentioned earlier, we have Peter Askew and Nick Leroy of RanchWork and SEO Jobs here on Job Board Geeks. So welcome to the podcast guys.
0:05:37.9 Peter Askew: Thank you for having us.
0:05:39.2 NL: Yes, thank you very much.
0:05:40.5 JD: Yes, I’m glad you guys are here. I guess to start out, I was hoping that you could talk to us a little bit about your backgrounds, and how did you get into the recruiting and job board industry, and just how did you happen to end up running a couple of Job Boards?
0:05:55.2 PA: Nick, you want me to go first?
0:05:56.4 NL: Yeah, go for it, Peter.
0:05:57.5 PA: I had a friend in the Atlanta area who ran a Job Board years ago on the nursing industry, that was my original introduction. And he did it as a solo operator and managed the entire process. He had a background in PHP Development, so he built a Job Board from scratch, but also had a background in SEO as well. During the dotcom boom, he worked with headhunter.net. I don’t even know if that still exists anymore. So he we had a good exposure to the moving parts of a Job Board. So I would always meet him for lunch and I was fascinated by this model that you could build and focusing on kind of niche industries, and I hadn’t built a Job Board at that point. I was still playing around with domain names and seeing what types of models would work well with me. That was my initial introduction into kinda job boards as a potential project to focus on. And you, Nick?
0:06:50.7 PA: Yeah. So my background is kind of the inverse. Yeah, I am SEO by trade. I’ve been in the SEO industry for over 10 years. Within the last couple of years, I have gone out on my own, and within those times, that’s when I started getting a little bit more introduced to the job boards. I actually… One of my clients was job.com, a premium domain, a couple of different projects that had worked with them, some had worked better than others, but in addition, also I did some auditing for… You guys might be familiar with builtin.com, they do a lot of job listings within the tech space. So again, that’s kinda where my SEO experience as it relates to job boards, so really being able to optimize and making sure, as Steven, you had said the organic search is so critical here. You know, I think there’s big opportunities for SEO to play a role, and obviously that’s where Peter kind of reached out to me. I’ll let him go into a little more detail into our relationship, but SEO jobs was just such a fantastic match behind his domain-ing experience, my SEO experience, and then just kind of… And in between where our passions lie.
0:08:01.1 JD: Interesting, so Peter, I am curious, ’cause I’ve been aware of the site for a while, but I saw you on Chris Russell’s Job Boardathon or whatever you called it, I can’t remember…
0:08:10.6 PA: Yeah.
0:08:11.5 JD: And you were talking about SEO and I was wondering if maybe you could just sorta give our listeners here, a little bit of background on how you got into the SEO work with RanchWork, and then talk about how you and Nick got together and work together?
0:08:25.3 PA: Sure, yeah. So I actually started off on the paid search side, working with a several startups in the Atlanta area and started understanding the moving parts with paid search in those days, and still to these days. It takes up about a third of the page and I kept looking at the organic section and saying, Well, how does this section work, how do I get my sites listed in this in addition to paid search? When I started jumping down that rabbit hole, I quickly learned, well, it’d be a whole lot quicker if I learned how to code, if I learned how to code, I’d be able to build some websites, then test and see if there are ways to get them to rank for specific terms. And then also drive additional traffic via paid search by buying specific broader phrase or exact match terms and use both.
0:09:08.2 PA: And I had seen prior to that point the good conversion rates that you could drive from paid search. I was a big believer in search and then started really reverse engineering everything. So I started in paid search, moved over to organic, and honestly, I got a lot of my education from some great books, Art of SEO, this is just a great traditional… Not even… I don’t wanna call it traditional, it may make it sound outdated. A wealth of knowledge that’s in that book, that’s reasonably priced. And even over to the SEOBook by Aaron Wall. He produced a book back in the day, just talking about the nuts and bolts of how to architect a site and build it in a way that serves the audience, but makes it easy for Google to index it and make sure your site is fulfilling all those little points of the algorithm that’s constantly changing.
0:10:00.1 PA: And so when I originally adopted, I adopted RanchWork as a project and found some success with it, and I was always looking for a secondary project on a job board, and I followed Nick’s newsletter. He provides a really neat educational newsletter. The SEO is a constant education and it never stops, so I always appreciated his email just to keep me up to speed of what in the world is going on in the industry. When the opportunity to acquire seojobs.com popped up, Nick popped into my head and well, while we know each other through Twitter and through video, we’ve never met face-to-face yet, and we will at some point, but I reached out and said, Hey, Nick, I know I’m a stranger, I’m a big fan of your newsletter, would you have any interest in trying to potentially work together on this interesting project? We have a lot of overlaps.
0:10:50.7PA: I admire his Twitter feed and his background in the industry, and he has a really great reputation in the industry. So, he and I kinda just started on that foot and work with each other for a month or two just to make sure that we didn’t drive each other crazy and we worked quite well together. And at this point, I try to lean on his expertise from an SEO standpoint from, Oh gosh, all the schema stuff, which I’m still trying to get up to speed on, and having job listings kind of structured correctly from a schema standpoint. And even all those small nuts and bolts that are still over my head, I try to lean on his experience and Nick, feel free to add.
0:11:28.4 NL: Yeah, no, I think you did a really good job. As Peter had said, It’s interesting, this industry, especially on the SEO side, it’s such a small group of people overall, so it’s not uncommon that if you’re on Twitter or social media that you’re at least familiar with each other. So, Peter and I had kinda followed each other, small talk. It’s funny to this day, every time I mention Peter as one of my buddies and co-founders, they always go, Oh, the Vidalia onions guy. [laughter] And he’s like, Oh, he’s the domainer. And it’s like, Yep, yep, yep. So it really was this great opportunity, as he had quickly mentioned, I run the SEO newsletter, It’s called SEO for Lunch, it’s a weekly newsletter. Peter had reached out originally willing to sponsor just to get some exposure to SEO jobs, and that’s when he kinda doubled down and said, Actually, what if we were to work together?
0:12:16.5 NL: And I love Peter’s example, I was full in on day one, I was super excited about it and very passionate about SEO, but Peter was the one that was like, you know, let’s kinda do the equivalent. Let’s date for a month. Let’s make sure that when we propose like, this is a marriage that’s gonna last forever. And honestly, each day it’s just gotten better and better and a combination of Peter’s success with some of his other job boards and the SEO experience that I’m able to bring over, it’s just been a really good partnership since day one. I’m very excited for the future of that particular site.
0:12:47.3 JD: Yeah, I think that’s good advice about having a tryout period, if you’re in a partnership with people, wouldn’t you say Steven?
0:12:53.5 SR: Oh, definitely. [laughter] My wife tried me out for a number of years as a married couple before she agreed to go into business with me. [laughter] And then I got… I was demoted, she’s our CEO now. So we all rise or sink to our own levels of incompetency. [laughter] So, for the people who are listening to the audio version, they’re not able to see Nick’s background, but he’s got an Adrian Peterson jersey up and a Minnesota Vikings logo [laughter] on the other side. So as a long-suffering Minnesota Vikings fan, I feel your pain. So, maybe you can create a job board that’ll help the Vikings get an offensive line.
0:13:33.1 NL: There we go. It’s exactly what we need, you know, free agency. Anybody off of the street can apply for that role.
0:13:39.1 SR: Yeah. It’s like, do you wait 400 pounds, do you have a pulse, and are currently incarcerated? And depending on how you answer those questions, you can play for the Vikings this year. For the listeners who are sort of newer to our space, Nick maybe you can first distinguish for them the difference between search engine marketing, SEM, and search engine optimization, SEO. And then maybe a few tips that you see a lot of job boards doing wrong when it comes to SEO. Like, what are some… What’s the low-hanging fruit that job boards should really be looking at to improve their SEO?
0:14:13.3 NL: Absolutely Steven, that’s a fantastic question. As Peter had kind of alluded to with his experience, SEM, Search Engine Marketing, also known as like paid ads, is just kind of what it’s being said, you have to pay to play. And the reality is is people that come to the table with the most money, typically win. Whereas on the SEO front, Search Engine Optimization, these are the… And I’m using air quotes, “free traffic,” as in there traditionally are those 10 blue links that are below the paid ads. You don’t have to pay for them, but it does take quite a bit to be able to optimize your sites, gain the visibility, the credibility, to be able to win those positions in search.
0:14:50.3 NL: As it comes to best practices, or what I’ve seen, big issues within job boards, there’s a couple that come to mind. One, I’ll just start with just the general what we refer to as on-page optimization. A lot of what Peter was saying, he’s reading the books or read in the past, and these are things like title tags. This is just an element in the backend of your site. It actually shows up in the tab in your browser and is what actually shows up in the blue text within Google itself. It’s important that this value is unique to each individual page. So there are job boards that will just have the position name, and that’ll be it, when there’s so many opportunities to be able to have… If you go to seojobs.com you’ll notice we have the position name, the salary, if that’s available, whether it’s remote, and the company name. These are all things.
0:15:42.4NL: So, while our title tags sometimes go outside of best practice limits, people are searching for a particular job. We essentially have all the variations of those keywords. So I would say that is a big opportunity that if you guys are not optimizing your title tags across the board, pardon the pun, definitely [chuckle] start there. I think one of the biggest opportunities, and I would put this more on the advanced side, and Peter was the first one to raise his hand and say, “Hey, I know this is a big deal. I don’t have any interest in doing a RanchWork, but we gotta… I am open to it.” And this really is, it’s the Schema Markup and coupled with the job API indexing that Google provides. So what people don’t always know is when you type in basically any variation of position/job into Google, there’s a widget that essentially shows up in the search results. And what it is is that Google’s version of their own job board. You click on one of those listings and then it essentially gives you the option of selecting the job board that you want to view it on.
0:16:44.6 NL: Now, a key fact to this is it’s very, very difficult to get included in this listing if you don’t have schema.org. More directly, that you have the opportunity to use what’s called Google Job API. And this is a mechanism that allows you to basically force-feed directly to Google each and individual job listing. And it does not then rely on the original crawling mechanism that Google normally does. And just to take one step back, ’cause I know I’m going a little bit deep here, Google traditionally comes to your website with what they refer to as a crawler. They then kind of click all your links and discover your content, and only at that point do they decide whether it’s worthy to index it or otherwise include it in the search engine. This job API allows you to basically bypass that process.
0:17:34.3 NL: Two main benefits, one as we had kind of alluded to. One, it gets you into Google’s index almost instantly. Again, the caveat is that you have your Schema Markup and everything is set up properly. But one of the bigger benefits as well is, it also allows you to remove your job listings from Google’s index, because what we don’t wanna do is have a lot of expired jobs within Google search results. That makes you as a job board look bad when you’re consistently serving up bad results that are already filled. So I would say those are two opportunities. One is table stakes. You can go in, everybody probably has access to it. The schema and the API is gonna be a little bit more complicated, but certainly is worth the [0:18:16.0] ____ time or if you have the ability to kind of configure it on your own, I would say that is a huge opportunity for anyone who’s running a job board.
0:18:23.6 JD: Nick, I have to jump in here and ask you a question, just because I’m just so curious. I’ve never really gotten an answer from anyone on this. But Indeed, in North America at least, has very famously refused to use the Google schema. And so, of course, I have always encouraged my clients to do that, just as sort of like you said, table stakes. And it’s been beneficial. Typically it drives up their organic traffic 15%, 20%, 25%. I guess the question is, A, why do you think Indeed refused to get into the Google schema where they used to own the first page, second page, sometimes the third page, of Google search results? And B, is there any case in which a job board would not want to use the Google schema?
0:19:09.2 NL: So, those are great questions, and I’m gonna answer your first one with kind of an example. I would equate indeed.com is kinda the Amazon of the job board niche. Now, the reason that I say that, anybody here who’s familiar with SEO knows that Amazon doesn’t have a lick of schema on their entire site yet you see that they always have the price component, the star ratings, and all of that is exclusive to schema markup. However, it is to Google’s benefit when you have a large brand or entity that if you’re gonna regularly show those up in your search results but you’re not gonna have those components, it makes Google look bad. So to answer your question directly, I think similar to Amazon where I think they are for better or worse terms kind of hard-coded, Google is making an exception for them. And I believe that with Indeed being such a power house, I think Google is doing that for them as well, it’s for the same reason.
0:20:08.5 NL: My understanding is, I don’t believe Indeed actively uses the job API either, but they do get included in that widget. So, I think in short, I don’t think they are doing it or allocating engineering time to configure that, because Google is already kinda giving them an exception that none of us who have a niche site would be given.
0:20:31.2 JD: Interesting, yeah. So, kind of the job board industry is too big to fail situation with them, right? [chuckle] Yeah, too big to ignore.
0:20:39.5 NL: Exactly. Like I said, that’s why I like to always go back to Amazon. People on the SEO space, we all scratch our head and we get so frustrated because schema is difficult and it does vary per industry but Amazon doesn’t have to put a lick of effort into it because Google just knows that if they don’t automatically account for the market that they should have, it makes them look bad.
0:21:00.6 JD: So, is there any situation which you can imagine job boards that are not indeed ignoring the schema?
0:21:05.7 NL: I don’t really see a situation where it would ever benefit you to not have it in place. Really, it’s only a benefit to you and again, I’m going to kinda loop in schema with the job API.
0:21:17.2 JD: Sure.
0:21:18.6 NL: I think there’s actually a larger risk to you not using it simply because we talked about kinda that idea of index flow with Google regularly crawling your site. They’re not gonna be crawling, visiting, indexing, removing pages as fast as you are populating your site with jobs and removing the jobs from your site.
0:21:37.8 JD: Well, listen folks, we’re just about out of time, but Peter I want to ask you one final question which I’ve asked a lot of our guests, which is, what’s been the biggest challenge for you over the last three years, has it been the pandemic or has it been something else?
0:21:50.9 PA: Gosh, it may have been something that you touch on every now and then, Jeff, pricing. Like, figuring out what is my sweet spot? Sometimes I… And I play with my pricing every now and then, the current pricing I have… This is just for RanchWork. And even Nick and I are playing around with what… We don’t know what our eventual pricing will be on SEO Jobs, but trying to find that sweet spot, ’cause we don’t… At least for RanchWork and I assume we’ll have the same thing for SEO Jobs, it’s… A lot of times you set it and then you actually just look at the raw analytics and determine, did job sales go down? Did job sales go up? We don’t get many opportunities to do a random sample test or interview people or potential ranches or potential SEO agencies. A lot of times you adjust the price, you cross your fingers and look at the bottom line and determine if the sales go up or down. I keep playing around with that with RanchWork and I’m up to, I think I’m 65, 95 and 195. Adding more bells and whistles, I have a featured job category which we pulled over into SEO Jobs as well.
0:22:52.9 PA: So if you get the 195, you get included in the feature job category, but it’s always concerning, it doesn’t… It never gets easier. Each time I consider it and a lot of this is my livelihood and if the revenue goes to zero or drops significantly, it hits me directly in the pocket book. That’s been challenging for me. Oddly, the pandemic, it was a net benefit to me just because most ranchers from the ranching perspective, they’re naturally socially distanced out there, so [chuckle] there… I didn’t have a big pop of traffic, but it was a modest level of growth over the entire year. It never had any type of crash and I was consistently getting new job listings and I allowed job seekers to post listings on RanchWork as well. So I had a good increase from that perspective from folks who are listing, “Hey, I’m tired of living in a big city, I grew up on a farm and I’m interested in returning to that type of lifestyle.”
0:23:50.5 PA: But pricing for me, that’s the first thing that pops into my head that is always a concern whenever I tinker and determine what those comfortable rates are, just to cover promotions, not necessarily domain renewals, but hosting, I always want super fast and Nick may even talk about this, but I love very, very fast hosting from an SEO perspective. I want my site to be very, very fast. From a mobile standpoint, ’cause a lot of my users on RanchWork are accessing the site, at least 60% or 70%, sometimes more are accessing the site through a mobile device, so I always want it quite fast through a tower connection to the internet, but then yeah, it goes back to pricing.
0:24:29.3 JD: Steven will be shocked to hear me say this but I can absolutely promise you, Peter, that your price is too low. [laughter] And we can have a conversation about that offline some time.
0:24:39.1 PA: Yeah, we should. I know it’s so easy to say that but I’m getting there, I’m taking baby steps. I should take one big baby step, but I haven’t yet, I’m still too gun-shy.
0:24:51.6 JD: Well, like I said, we should have a conversation about this some time but we’ll leave that on the table. So, Peter and Nick, it’s been great to have you on JobBoardGeek and if our listeners want to get a hold of you, how do they do that?
0:25:03.6 NL: Yeah, if you wanna get a hold of me, you can go to my website, nickleroy.com or email me directly at email@example.com.
0:25:11.5 PA: I’m fairly active on Twitter, I’m @searchbound, S-E-A-R-C-H-B-O-U-N-D, but then I’m pretty active through RanchWork, if you just… Peter@ranchwork.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
0:25:23.8 JD: Great. Well, thank you guys so much for coming on the show. It’s been wonderful and very, very instructive and useful, so.
0:25:30.9 PA: We appreciate you having us.
0:25:32.3 NL: Thank you so much.
0:25:33.2 JD: You bet. And Steven, if people wanna get a hold of you, how do they do that?
0:25:37.4 SR: Well, I’ll be the one with my eyes closed as the Minnesota Vikings season starts, so that’ll be easy to identify me. Actually, it won’t be, ’cause most of the Vikings fans will. But anyway, okay, email@example.com.
0:25:51.4 JD: Great. Well, that’s it for today’s episode of JobBoardGeek. Be sure to subscribe via Spotify, Apple, Stitcher, Google, whatever particular application that you like. My name is Jeff Dickey-Chasins, I’m the JobBoardDoctor and you’ve been listening to the only podcast that talks about the business of connecting candidates and employers. That’s all for now. See you again next time.