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Opportunity Awaits: SEO for Recruiting

Katrina Kibben
April 6 ․ 6 min read

For years, hiring teams have ignored SEO and organic search in conversations about candidate experience and recruiting. Over the last 10 years I’ve spent writing in this industry, I can’t think of even one time when I heard SEO for recruiting and candidate experience in the same conversation.

Just look at all the content in talent acquisition that suggests we take a sledgehammer to our ATS, (actually) respond to Glassdoor reviews, or invest in new software. Sure, that’s all important. But when was the last time you read about SEO? If it’s been awhile, I think we should change that right now.

Here’s why: If we’re truly going to put ourselves in the seat of the candidates, search is where our interaction really begins. Not on your career site. Not on Glassdoor. It’s on Google, alongside 300 million job seekers every month who are searching for “jobs near me.” Or “jobs in [insert keyword].”

Yet, we don’t talk about SEO and organic traffic when we talk about candidate experience. Why? I think the data’s misled us. Look at the source of hire metrics, for example. In almost any recruiting trends report for 2018, candidate traffic attribution points to specific websites (i.e.,Indeed and LinkedIn), which leads most to assume, “Oh, I got the majority of my traffic there.” So, they sign another annual contract (and another CareerBuilder rep gets their wings). But if we think one step ahead, we might consider: How did candidates get to those sites in the first place?

In most scenarios, it wasn’t through direct traffic. It started with a search.

Of course, the next question I hear from most practitioners is, “Well how can I influence organic search then?” 

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t easy and won’t change with a big budget. It takes a specific and tactical evolution fueled by candidate research to show up on page one, but there are some rules every talent acquisition leader should know and implement this year. 


Google for Jobs matters. 

Google owns the power to change search results whenever they want. Remember 2015’s Mobilegeddon? And what Google shows, we click. Less than 10% of web traffic makes it beyond the first page of Google results and more than 30% of people click that first organic search result. What’s always on page 1, usually always ahead of every other result? Google for Jobs listings!

Mobile friendly and mobile optimized are different. 

Mobile friendly means you’ve taken a website and shrunken it like the humans in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Candidates have to play the mobile hokey pokey (zoom in, zoom out, turn the phone all about) just to find the button or read the page. Mobile optimized means it’s built for a mobile page. Google prefers the latter, and so do your candidates.

Make no assumptions. 

Always confirm your job titles will drive traffic using Google Trends. It takes less than five minutes. First, Google “[Job Title] resume.” Look at the image results and scan for common alternative job titles. Then, open Google Trends. Add your current job title and compare it with two additional job titles you spotted. Google will compare search volume and trends to tell you which title is getting the most search traffic. It can even give search recommendations for your region, state, and city. You think there’s no difference between office assistant and administrative assistant? Maybe in your world, but for search, it’s a difference of 75,500 searches a month. (There are 80,000 searches a month for the administrative assistant title and only 4,500 for office assistant.)

Keywords are key.

If you’ve learned anything about organic search, you’ve heard about keywords, but most advice gets lost in translation between meta this, meta that and all the acronyms. Keep things simple. Use the job title you selected based on traffic and make sure to mention that phrase or word in the title (and only that), in the first paragraph and URL if possible. These three elements are fundamental for basic keyword optimization and will put you on track to improve candidate discovery and SEO.  

The difference between the success and failure of any recruiting campaign is the discovery of information. We talk a lot of tactics, but it’s simple, really. If you’re never aware something exists, you can’t talk about it or buy it. If you never knew a job existed, you can’t apply. Make sure candidates know your jobs exist in 2019 with better SEO.