Career Site SEO: The Basics
by Larry Engel
I’m often asked what I do for a living. And over the years, I’ve been able to hone my “elevator pitch” explanation for most of the situations that arise. You see, technically my title is SEO Strategist. However, telling people that usually leaves them with a rather confused look on their faces. I almost always need to explain in more detail. Here’s what I typically add, “I help companies grow traffic for their career sites and connect with more qualified talent via free search engines, like Google®, Bing® and Yahoo! ®.”
But maybe that’s still not enough of an explanation. So I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you a little more about what I do and why a good SEO strategy is so important to your recruiting success.
What SEO does…and why it matters
Almost all medium-size and large companies use some sort of ATS (Applicant Tracking System) to help handle the large volume of candidate applications. The ATS serves up current open positions to job seekers and allows candidates to apply, upload resumes and cover letters, and receive email alerts when future positions become available.
But there’s a problem…
ATS systems are not designed to promote job openings, attract more qualified talent to your organization or produce successful Google searches for candidates. They are designed with the sole purpose of providing candidate data management for human resources departments—much like customer relations management (CRM) systems work for sales teams.
So as an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Strategist, my primary responsibility is to make sure that open positions inside your ATS are seen by search engines and show up at or near the top of search results. This ensures that your job postings have much greater exposure to candidates using search engines to look for jobs. (And that includes most candidates. Google estimates that more than five million job-related searches occur each day!) As an added bonus, optimizing your job postings also increases traffic to your company’s career site.
How does it work?
To give you a brief overview, the following are three of the top items I look at when optimizing job postings for the search engines:
1. Job Title: Since the job titles in your ATS were created to serve internal purposes, they may not be optimized for the way candidates search for jobs. For example:
a) A job title in your ATS may look like this: “Inspector A&D”
b) The job title we generate for the same position, based on research that shows us which terms most job seekers actually use when they search for this job, might look like this: “Fire Alarm and Detection Inspector” (Optimizing your job title means your job is likely to appear at or near the top of the search results. A non-optimized title may not show up in the results at all—and great candidates won’t find your job.)
2. Search Engine-Friendly URL: In recent years, search engines have given user experience and user-friendly URLs more weight in their algorithms, which means user-friendly pages rank much higher in search results than pages with non-optimized URLs. For example:
a) A URL from your ATS may look something like this: http://xxxxx.xxxxx.com/careersection/external/jobdetail.ftl
b) The search engine-friendly, optimized URL that we would generate might look like this: http://xxxxx.xxxxx.com/Careers/Human-Resources/Payroll/Payroll-Manager-Fayetteville-NC.html (Friendlier URLs are ranked higher in search results and seen by more potential candidates.)
3. Page Source Code: Source code operates behind the scenes, but optimizing it is just as important if you want candidates to connect with your company’s jobs.ATS systems do not optimize their page source code for search engines, which means the pages in your ATS are missing essential technical elements used by search engines to properly index your pages. At the very least, your page source code should include meta tags, such as page title, keywords, descriptions, alt tags and alt text. All of these elements are usually missing from ATS-generated pages. We would optimize your job pages with the proper meta tags—and increase the flow of great candidates to your site and your jobs.
The three action items I detailed above represent just the tip of the SEO iceberg. But they should give you a better understanding of what SEO is all about and how it can help great candidates connect with your jobs and your organization. There are few investments you can make that will improve your recruitment ROI as much as letting an SEO expert properly optimize your job titles and pages—as well as the rest of your career site content.
Perform a quick audit of your site right now, and take a look at your job titles (and the URL for each job page). Do they look like terms job seekers would actually search for? If not, you should seriously consider adding some SEO work to your budget.
As SEO Strategist for the NAS Interactive Division of NAS Recruitment Communications, Larry Engel oversees the research, design and implementation of search engine optimization (SEO) methods for client career sites. His recruitment agency experience includes 12 years in account management, 5 years as a Certified Google Advertising Professional (AdWords GAP Program) and 2+ years’ concentration in SEO. Larry also has OMCP Master Certification in Social Media Marketing (SMM) and recently completed a mini MBA in SMM from Rutgers University.
Entry filed under: Contributor, Digital Strategies, Larry Engel. Tags: Candidate Sourcing, career site SEO, job page optimization, job title optimization, Larry Engel, organic search, recruitment marketing, search engine optimization, SEO, SEO strategy, source code optimization.