Last month, I wrote a blog post digging into Google’s Quality Control Guidelines around Google for Jobs, and how effective they have been over the past six months or so. To summarize briefly, I still feel like there is a lot of work to be done to tackle this problem, and to remove websites that are manipulating the search results for their own personal benefit vs. those of the job seeker.
Five years after Google for Jobs went live in the US, the index of jobs is still 100% organic. I’m rather surprised that paid advertising hasn’t been introduced directly into these search results yet and I expect that to come along at any time. It’s a phenomenal avenue to connect job seekers with the jobs around them when everything is aboveboard. My fear is that the user experience will be degraded over time if job seekers are clicking apply buttons that lead them on a series of redirects to a page that doesn’t allow them to apply. Or try and apply to jobs that don’t actually exist in the real world.
Radancy’s Career Site Network Data
There are many dynamic variables at play in today’s complex labor market. Low overall unemployment, high inflation, “The Great Resignation” as a result of the pandemic, number of open jobs, vaccine availability and the “return to normalcy,” labor participation rate fluctuations and more. These could all impact the overall numbers that we are looking at, and probably do. Remember, correlation doesn’t equal causation.
I took a look at traffic across our career site network, comparing organic Google for Jobs data from October 1, 2021 to May 11, 2022 against the same time frame in 2020-2021 for 322 career sites. My thought was that if Google is actively trying to remove sites that are manipulating the system, the higher quality listings, like the company’s career site, will “rise to the top.” Given the changes in the pandemic, my gut expectation was that we would see growth across the board. I was surprised when I saw drops across the board for these key traffic volume metrics:
Apply Clicks: -11.09%
Apply Click Rate: -5.56%
Let’s take a step back and theorize what may be the cause of these declines.
- Larger Index of Jobs and Sites Overall – I’m not able to find numbers from Google, but over time, I think it’s fair to say that more jobs from more destinations will be indexed within Google for Jobs, as websites adopt the technical guidelines for inclusion. I’ve seen ATS’s adopt structured job data, and other media outlets (Fox, CBS, WGN, etc.) now pop up within Google for Jobs. This is a good thing. The natural outcome of that expansion though is that it makes it a little bit harder to stand out from the crowd. I’ve also seen the same job indexed separately across different job listings if the data is structured slightly differently. It’s Google’s goal to combine destinations whenever possible, but this isn’t always the case. Some of these jobs may be duplicated, expanding this index even further.
- More Manipulative Destinations / Cluttered Search Results – Besides the more trustworthy destinations appearing, the number of destinations that I’ve never heard of is expanding as well. I would classify these in the category of the ones I pointed out in my first blog post: sites that require you to fill in data before viewing a job, or deliver a series of redirects, or redirect to a page that doesn’t actually provide a job to apply to. With these in the mix, job seekers may not be able to find the actual jobs available directly at the company nearby them as easily as they once could. The ‘jobs near me’ type of search queries could yield more of these manipulated listings, since the structured location data appears closer to Google. However, they could be showing a job that actually doesn’t exist near that person. This could take the place of an actual job available just a bit further out from where that person is searching from, pushing down the legitimate listing.
I feel like the data we’re seeing is likely a combination of both of these, along with the myriad of other economic factors from the past two years mixed in. The overall volume of this traffic is still very impressive, even if the velocity of growth has slowed in recent years.
What Google Should Do
I think that Google should take swift manual action on any site that goes against their quality control guidelines, as there are still blatant issues there. Their webspam team has a long history of tackling bad actors, which is why I don’t understand the prevalence of poor destinations more than half a year after announcing that they are actively cleaning things up.
If you think about it, this is one of the easiest ways to try to organically rank for very high-volume keywords like ‘jobs in Florida,’ ‘sales jobs,’ ‘jobs near me,’ or even just ‘jobs.’ Given that opportunity, it makes sense that black-hat sites would swarm all over it like sharks to a feeding frenzy. The bar should be high for these sites to prove that they’ve fixed the issues and re-enter the search results. They should need to consistently maintain a positive and consistent end-user experience over time. If they shift back to their original spammy techniques, Google should permanently ban the site.
The end result would be a set of trustworthy websites that accurately highlight employment opportunities available. Job seekers could depend on the search results and wouldn’t endure the frustration of data-capture forms and redirect chains that deliver them to a survey instead of a job. Navigating deceiving ads that look like apply buttons sure isn’t fun. The destinations will end up being brand names that people are familiar with and trust. Quality will be restored. In my personal opinion, the company’s own career site should trump all other available apply destinations, as they are the party who is directly offering the opportunity. Their sole motivation is finding the right person for that role. Who needs eight apply options anyway? That just muddies the water even further. Here’s to hoping this happens sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping my eye on it.
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