When Google announced their Quality Control Guidelines in summer of 2021, I recall experiencing a combination of relief, excitement and optimism for the future. This was an issue that I’d noticed building as a slow motion wave, and it gnawed at my brain enough that it led me to write a blog post about the concept back at the end of 2018, entitled “Spamming Google for Jobs – Google’s Next Big Problem to Solve.” I’m not taking credit for Google’s actions here, but it’s comforting to know that team members on the Google for Jobs project were on the same wavelength as me. If you aren’t sure what these quality control guidelines are, I urge you to check them out here.
Google’s stated goal has always been to better connect available jobs with the job seekers around them, and that is a particularly noble goal in today’s labor market. But what happens when the information in the job description itself isn’t accurate? What if a job doesn’t actually exist in a location, and is fabricated by an enterprising webmaster looking to harness the power of organic search technology for their own financial gain? People have been manipulating Google’s organic search results for their own financial gain since Google’s inception. Google’s Webspam team exists to punish these hangers-on that are using Black Hat SEO techniques. However, the Google for Jobs experience and the technology driving the job results is much younger.
I want to dig into some of these post-quality control efforts and highlight some of the persistent issues that I’ve noticed over the past six months or so. Radancy also has a wealth of performance data across our own network of career sites. I plan to follow-up this post with another that digs into Google for Jobs performance at the career site level, to better quantify the impact that these efforts have had on career site destinations themselves. At Radancy, we pride ourselves on putting the candidate’s experience at the heart of our web development efforts. Our career site platform is a pure extension of our client’s employer brand, hosted on their preferred company domain, with no mention of Radancy whatsoever. We never place distracting ads on our sites, or force users to input an email at any point of their journey (we do, however, offer the ability for them to opt-in to job alerts if they want to stay up to date).
Quality Concerns Still Linger
What happens when the job listing isn’t accurate? The following comes straight from the Google blog post I mentioned earlier:
“Don’t include wrong or misleading information in the job post or the markup. This includes incorrect salary, location, working hours, employment type, or other job-specific details. To avoid this, make sure that the job post describes the job correctly and that the markup is an accurate representation of the job post.”
It’s possible that the following scenario is an innocent mistake. It’s also possible that some of these sites are manipulating the job data for their own benefit vs. the company’s and the individual looking for that job. In this case, a large grocery client of ours pointed out a variety of remote jobs that actually were not roles that could be performed remote. From our experience, remote jobs have much greater exposure within Google for Jobs, since they can be served up to job seekers across the country, versus those searching specific geographical areas. Is it possible that Zippia and Tarta.ai purposefully included this to boost traffic?
When I click on the Zippia job, it looks like a basic job description page, with some advertisements at the bottom.
However, when I go to apply to the job, the Apply Button turns into an email entry box. No thanks.
When I click the Tarta.ai listing, I experience a series of odd redirects, and eventually end up back at the career site.
The company does mention a Hybrid work scenario, but Google’s guidelines state to only include the TELECOMMUTE schema if a job can be done 100% remotely. This wouldn’t fit that criteria and could drive a large number of unqualified job seekers. This is why we do not include the TELECOMMUTE schema on their actual career site. We may sacrifice some visibility, but we boost the viability of candidates who come across the job.
What Not to Do: Job/Searcher Breakdown
The previous example could have an innocent explanation that could easily be fixed if someone went in and restructured the job data to reflect the reality of the job more appropriately. In this next example, I’m more apt to believe that this site is actively trying to manipulate the search results for their own gain vs. the experience of the job seeker.
To be clear, nothing in the following example would be considered Spectrum’s fault. This is just one example across many companies that are facing the same situation. Spectrum has open jobs like many other organizations, and they’re looking for the best candidates to fill those jobs. What IS happening though is that this third-party site Job/Searcher is trying to maximize their web traffic by manipulating these organic search results. Job/Searcher wasn’t around when I wrote my first post back in 2018, but has recently started popping up more and more within the Google for Jobs search results. To me, they seem to be the poster child of what NOT to do, as they blatantly violate Google’s basic developer guidelines, and just about each point that this Quality Control initiative is targeting.
I’ll put myself in the shoes of a typical job seeker and walk you through the experience. Let’s take this job in the screenshot below. To me, it looks just like any other listing within Google for Jobs, although it’s the only apply button that shows up. Hmm, that’s odd, most of the other ones give me the option to click on a few apply options. I’ll go ahead and click on it.
I’m then taken to this job page. Ok, looks normal to me. I want to scroll down and apply.
That’s weird. I can’t apply for the job, and it says it expired 5 days ago. I also see a big Ad with an Apply Button right below it. But that’s not the job I’m looking for? It’s as if it’s baiting me into clicking that, thinking I’m applying for the job in question at Spectrum.
There is a link that will send me to the actual career site. If I search for the job there, I see that it doesn’t actually exist near Miami. At the moment, there actually aren’t any open jobs with Spectrum in Miami. Where is this job coming from?
If you plug their job into Google’s Rich Results tool, you’ll also see some funny things. For example, the valid-through date for the job exists BEFORE the date that it’s posted. That doesn’t make sense to me, but may “confuse” Google in some form or fashion. The fact that the job has been expired for close to a week with no apply button and is still indexed is a big red flag.
If I do find a job that I can apply to, I experience a variety of redirects that take me to lead generation forms on a variety of destinations. From my experience, I can’t locate and/or apply to the job in question. Imagine this on a large scale across many employers? I think it’s safe to say that Job/Seeker is making money off the ads and/or other means. It certainly doesn’t make me feel confident that I’m applying to a legitimate job with Spectrum, when the actual company doesn’t exist anywhere in that apply process.
How does this impact my use of Google for Jobs over time? Will I just bypass these sites that don’t make much sense in search of trustworthy ones? Or will I use the feature less and less, exploring other alternatives. If Google strives to provide a good candidate experience, they need to remove these misleading destinations as soon as possible. The examples in this article are clearly doing the exact things that Google set out to target last October but are still prominently indexed. With these spammy destinations present, the job search experience is muddied, and the overall experience degraded.
Since I don’t feel in a tangible sense that these Quality Control Guidelines have had much of an effect on the Google for Jobs search results, my next step is to dig into the Google for Jobs data across our career site network. I’m curious to know the impact there, since we want to present actual, legitimate job opportunities to job seekers in the cleanest way possible. Come back soon to check that out, and in the meantime, be wary of where you’re clicking within Google for Jobs! Stick to company listings, trusted job boards and aggregators.
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