With thousands of recruitment agencies across the world all competing for the same keywords, what does it take to rise to the top of the search engine results?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is tough for recruitment agencies. It’s so tough that even the experts seem unable to offer anything beyond general advice.
If you search for “SEO tips for recruitment agencies”, in the top five Google results you’ll find some pretty good tips from some pretty good sites. The strategies they suggest are sensible enough, but it’s the sort of advice that could be applied to any site from any industry. There’s very little in there of specific interest for those who run recruitment sites.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that, at the time of writing, this site ranks in the top five Google results for “SEO tips for recruitment agencies”. It’s a strange blog post on a Singapore directory site, rife with formatting issues, spelling errors, and advice that’s so outdated it’s become downright inadvisable. For example, it actively encourages you to submit to “article websites”, and at one point seems to encourage setting up link farms. Don’t do this.
That such a low quality page ranks so highly for an enquiry into SEO for recruitment agencies suggests that this is a topic that hasn’t yet been widely or adequately researched.
In this post, I will attempt to answer the question – What does it take for a recruitment agency to rank prominently in the search results?
I will do this through assessing the sort of pages that currently rank prominently in Google. I will then analyse, in greater depth, the page that currently occupies the top spot. Through seeing what they’ve done right, you might be better placed to understand what you’ve been doing wrong.
The Obvious First Step – Keyword Research
Keyword research is the vital first step to optimising any website in any sector. It’s a process by which you determine the sort of terms people will use when searching for your products and services.
The people who visit recruitment sites are looking for work. So what sort of things will they search for?
Well, they might search by area: “Jobs in Nottingham”, “Jobs in Derby”, “Jobs in Leicester”.
Alternatively, they may search by specific job types: “SEO jobs Nottingham”, “plumber jobs Derby”, “fireman jobs Kettering”.
Some people might even search by the businesses they want to work for: “Hallam Jobs”, “McDonalds Vacancies”, “Google jobs”.
Your site should be written and structured with these searches in mind. This means having a dedicated page for every area, industry, and sector you serve – and ideally, for every job category you list. However, bear in mind that Google values useful content. This means that, no matter how exhaustive your job database becomes, it must always be structured to be as easy and intuitive to navigate as possible.
We’ll discuss the ways in which you might achieve this below. First, though, we’ll take a look at the sort of sites that rank highly for one of the above search terms.
At the time of writing, here are the top five Google search results for the term “jobs in Nottingham”:
34 million results!
The first three results have been paid for. PPC for recruitment agencies could fill a blog post in itself. Suffice to say, though, that these guys will have bid quite a lot of money to rank so prominently for such a broad term.
In this post, we’re more concerned with the ways in which a recruitment agency might rank organically. As such, we’ll be focusing on the latter three results – the top three organic listings.
Before we delve into the top result, look at the second one. It’s the job listings page for the Nottingham Post, the city’s local paper.
Google’s search algorithm is constantly being refined, and the intention is to return the most relevant content for the user’s search term. In this case, Google has clearly recognised that Nottingham’s most popular local paper is highly likely to feature an abundance of relevant content for the “jobs in Nottingham” search.
That their listing page ranks so highly is a valuable lesson for all recruitment agencies: Make your listings as locally-focused as possible.
Even if you run an international recruitment agency, bear in mind how many job hunters search for vacancies by location, and tailor your listings accordingly.
Now let’s take a closer look at the page that’s currently occupying that number one slot.
What Does an Optimised Page Look Like?
You’ll see I’ve drawn attention to eight key areas. Each of these is a feature that makes the site simple and intuitive to use. Indeed has gone to great lengths to make it easy for job seekers to find relevant vacancies.
And that’s the key takeaway for this entire blog post: This site has not just been optimised for the search engines. It’s been optimised for the users.
How? Let us count the ways:
1. Prominent Search Box
Right at the top of the page are a couple of search boxes, and Indeed has made it clear just what sort of information they want you to put in each box. Not only do they specify “what” and “where” – that is, what do you want to do, and where do you want to do it – they also specify that job seekers should enter job titles, keywords, and company names in one box, and cities or postcodes in the other.
We’ve already discussed the benefits of including search boxes on your site. Because Indeed has placed theirs so prominently, no matter where users find themselves on the site, they’ll always have a means of refining the results to better reflect their needs. There’s even an “advanced job search” option, for those who really know what they want.
2. Page Content
12 words. That’s basically it for the core content. The words “jobs in Nottingham” are there to tell Google what this page is “about” – that’s keyword optimisation! Then we get a call to action – “Upload your CV” – plus reassurance that this “only takes a few seconds”.
And that’s essentially it. It’s still common to see pages include reams of content for the sake of it – usually with a few variations of the target keyword clumsily shoehorned in. Beyond a token heading and CTA, Indeed wastes no time or space on such useless content. Instead, they devote almost the entirety of the page to the job listings – which is precisely what people are here to see.
Once again, user experience has taken priority. And as we’ll see below, these job listings provide much more effective on-page SEO than any standard, generic content could ever hope to deliver.
3. So Many Jobs, So Little Time
Indeed is seemingly listing 34, 365 job vacancies in Nottingham. One possible reason as to why they’ve ranked so highly for the term “jobs in Nottingham” is because they’re listing more jobs in Nottingham than anywhere else, and Google has thus recognised Indeed as the most relevant result for such a broad term. Yet because the listings are so easy to navigate, not only has Google recognised Indeed as the most relevant result, but also as the most useful result.
4. Recent Searches
Another useful feature for job seekers – no matter how many unique searches they undertake, they can refer back to previous results at the touch of a button. But the main thing I want to point out here is the orange text next to each term – “372 new”, “78 new”, “151 new”. Google values new content, and Indeed is seemingly uploading hundreds of new listings every hour. This can only help their rankings.
5. Search Refinements
Here job seekers can refine the search results to identify the listings most relevant for them, without having to start their search from scratch. This is another point for user experience, but through clicking on one of these links, we see an example of the sort of technical SEO considerations that have gone into the construction of this site.
Here’s the URL for this basic, unrefined jobs in Nottingham page:
Look what happens to the URL when I refine the search to only display the jobs that pay £100,000+ (a man can dream):
It changes! As a result, Indeed avoids the various SEO pitfalls of URL parameters.
When working with a database that contains over 34,000 listings for Nottingham alone, technical touches such as this can make a huge difference in determining search engine rankings.
6. Sponsored Job Listings
It looks like Indeed’s hosting job listings from other recruitment agencies. As well as providing what is likely a lucrative source of revenue – which perhaps explains why they’re able to bid on such competitive PPC keywords – the willingness to link to other sites serves to cement the idea that Indeed is THE resource for job seekers. It’s there in their slogan: “One search. All jobs.” Google clearly recognises the value of such a site, which is why it ranks so highly for such a broad search term as “jobs in Nottingham”.
7. Actual Job Listings
Here it is – the meat. This is what people are here for.
Above, I mentioned how this page’s “core content” consists of no more than 12 words. Rather than wasting the user’s time with irrelevant, keyword-stuffed, cookie-cutter content, Indeed instead lets the job listings do all the talking.
The job listings are the reason this site exists. They’re the reason the site receives any users. The listings ARE the content.
There’s a strong SEO benefit to this which, again, could be a blog post in itself. Essentially, if you want to tell Google and other search engines what your site’s about, it’s no longer enough to simply pepper your pages with keywords. Instead, you have to write naturally, and take into consideration such concepts as entity salience, semantic distance, synonyms, and close variants.
Rather than echoing the term “jobs in Nottingham” across the page, Indeed instead fill the page with job listings, which are naturally filled with such thematically relevant terms as “careers”, “training”, “vacancy”, “sales”, and “customers”.
In the most natural way possible, these listings give Google a strong idea of what the page is about.
For more information, there’s an indispensable MoZ blog post about these advanced on-page SEO concepts.
8. Sign up for Email Alerts
Any job seeker who wants to receive email updates for “jobs in Nottingham” can do so at the touch of a button. You’ll notice it says “get new jobs for this search” – so no matter how much you’ve refined the search, you’ll always receive emails that are relevant to your specific interests.
This is one final point for user experience. There’s even a nice little reassurance that “you can cancel email alerts at any time”, so users don’t have to worry about getting flooded with alerts indefinitely.
We’ve mentioned numerous times the benefits of email marketing. As well as being great for the user, email marketing can also be great for SEO, as it can drive huge amounts of relevant traffic to your site.
Google will see that thousands upon thousands of job seekers are visiting this site every day. What’s more, because they’ll be reading and responding to job listings, these visitors are likely to spend a lot of time on the site. This sends a further strong message to the search engines that this site is a valuable resource for job seekers, which provides a further explanation of why this page ranks so highly for such a broad search term.
What Can We Learn From Indeed?
This page on Indeed’s site has been optimised for their target keyword, and as the URL parameters suggest, there’s a lot of careful technical considerations bubbling under the surface, all of which are certainly helping the page to rank.
The main takeaway from this page, though, is that Google is strongly favouring sites that put the needs and preferences of the user first.
Whether you’re a recruitment agency or a manufacturer of fine leather jackets, you should absolutely continue to undertake keyword research and implement on-page and technical SEO. But, as this example hopefully proves, your priority should be to make your content and your site as relevant and as useful as possible for your target audience.