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The Future of Job Boards and Job Search Engines?

Categories: FXRecruiter Blog; News and Views |

Here we are re-publishing an article from OnRec.

Our FXRecruiter job board software already integrates with many leading job search engines, including Indeed, Trovit, Google Base, 1job.co.uk, Workcircle and Workhound – contact us for more details.

Online recruitment magazine – Search Engines and Aggregators – 24/02/2009

Job search engines (JSE) and aggregators are relative newcomers on the online recruitment scene- we take a look at what they do and how they can sustain their business in difficult times and take it further in the future.

Simon Appleton from Workcircle explains: “Vertical search engines or aggregators provide a Google-like experience for jobseekers searching for a job. They aggregate job listings from many sources, and give the jobseeker a single place to search across all these job sources. So if you’re in sales, instead of following several niche sales boards, the local site for your area, plus the big generalist sites, you can simply search at a vertical search engine. A lot less hassle! You can look at aggregators from the other side as well: they are the most cost-effective source of qualified jobseekers for job boards, agencies and employers. Aggregators are usually experts at getting high volumes of qualified candidates to their site, and on to the job sources. There are two types of aggregator: ‘scrapers’ and ‘paid for’. Scrapers aim to get as many jobs listed as possible, without the permission of the job advertiser, and then earn money from the traffic these jobs generate. ‘Paid for’ or ‘with permission’ aggregators have a commercial relationship with the job sources, and usually receive job listings as a structured feed, which means much higher-quality data and less out-of date and incorrectly categorised jobs ads.”

Stephen O’Donnell from 1job.co.uk agrees not all Job Search Engines (JSE) are the same. He says: “A JSE which ‘crawls’ all websites indiscriminately, or without the cooperation of a site, will find that many of the vacancies on its database are either expired, poorly categorised, or lacking in detail. This inevitably disappoints and frustrates the potential candidate. Equally, what is the use of a JSE which indexes only a small number of job sites? The whole idea is that a job seeker can search as many job boards as possible in as short a time as possible. It is essential that a JSE is working directly with all of the major sources of vacancies, and can ensure the accuracy of its database, by continually updating via direct feeds from those websites.

Recently, there have been newcomers to this sector from the USA, where the websites of employers are the primary sources. JSE’s are now an essential source of candidate traffic to not only UK job boards, but increasingly to the websites of recruitment agencies, and employers themselves. The flexibility and cost-effective targeting, can mean that a Job Search Engine can make an immediate effect to the traffic on a recruitment website. New sites, that can take months, and a well implemented SEO strategy, to achieve good natural search rankings, can receive an immediate presence amongst the very candidates that they are targeting, in their required industry sector and location. This means that their return on investment is much quicker, and that market awareness of a brand is established in a much shorter period. Established sites can also benefit from an injection of additional candidate traffic that will supplement their existing database, and provide fresh talent for vacancies.”

Search engines and aggregators may seem similar but they are actually quite different, say Workhound.co.uk. Instead of repackaging job feeds, Workhound, as a search engine, is seeking to organize the world’s online recruitment data: “We do this through a combination of different means. We get XML feeds but we also crawl the internet to build a Fair Use index of recruitment offers. Since job sites tend to have different taxonomies for displaying data, we have built intelligent data systems to process this data and relevancy algorithms so that we can present a uniform searching experience for visitors of our sites. If done correctly, it puts a company in a position to offer ‘one stop shopping’ to its users.”

The real challenge for a search engine is:

• individuals visit the site; then,
• they type in 3 words; then,
• the search engine sifts through millions of job records from thousands of sites; then,
• presents the individual with 10 relevant options.

Quite simply, if this is done well, individuals will return. If not, they won’t. Says Fischer, “Google is the most valuable internet company in the world because they do this well. But it’s hard to do and even Google doesn’t do it well in job search. Aggregators try to avoid the hard work of turning millions of unstructured data sets into structured data, deduping that data, then building GUI’s that make it easy for job seekers to navigate the results, but we think that in this marketplace it’s the best way to create value.”

Workhound has a financial model similar to Google’s. They say: “It is free to have your jobs listed on the site (we recommend that job sites provide us with an XML feed, but it’s not required because of our spiders). Organic search results are done on a relevancy basis. Sponsored Ads, however, are done on a relevancy + CPC basis. It is important to our visitors that they are provided with the largest inventory of jobs and it’s important to our advertisers that they get qualified leads. There is too much “noise” on the internet. We only display paid placements when they are relevant to both the job seeker and advertiser. A specialized search engine sits between job seekers and advertisers and uses sophisticated relevancy tools to play match maker. We do not collect CV’s nor do we allow individuals to apply through our site, we merely match job seekers with job sites.”

Increasing popularity in current economic climate?

The downturn in the economy and confidence in its recovery is going to affect how everyone manages their business this year. Most of our correspondents believe this may result in more use of search engines and aggregators. Simon Appleton thinks cost-effective spend is going to be a huge focus for recruiters in 2009. He says: “Aggregators are probably the most cost-effective way to buy quality traffic. Additionally most aggregators charge on a performance basis (pay per click). We expect to see more recruiters (boards, agencies and employers) using aggregators to get more and better candidates from their online marketing spend. For jobseekers, the challenge is how to find the job they want, given there are going to be fewer out there, and how to find it quickly. Aggregators help the jobseeker search more jobs, across more sites, and get to an application in as little time as possible.” Alex Paterson, Website Director at Check4Jobs agrees about the cost advantages: “Imagine if you are a rigger looking to work in Aberdeen. That type of job may well take you days to locate if you didn’t have the right online search knowledge. However a vertical search site with 10’s of thousands of keywords indexed into Google and Yahoo will have those results and let you apply online within seconds. Google and Yahoo are expensive options for obtaining candidates, whereas aggregators like Check4Jobs can deliver targeted traffic for a fraction of the cost.”

Providing a different point of view, Lee Biggins MD at CV–library says: “On the flipside, aggregators can display the same vacancy from a number of job sites which could become an annoyance for job seekers. Aggregator sites need to develop a system which cuts down duplicated jobs whilst balancing a happy medium between the job sites and recruiters advertising vacancies onto them.”

Richard Clarke, Director at Red Advertising thinks there will be changes in the sector: “Jobs boards that are concerned about free advertising vertical search formats gaining significant traction in the market can rest easy. Yes, at the moment, some aggregators are riding the adsence gravy train for all its worth with heavily search engine optimised websites; but this is likely to be short lived. The hard fact is that it costs significant capital for a quality vertical search operator to market a digital format to the right candidate audience, especially if they attract audience share from methods outside of just search engines. They can’t then afford to give that candidate traffic away for free, nor is it cost effective to push it towards adsence. There is always a cost for quality marketing and because the market is so fragmented, in order to stand out from the masses, the aggregators that intend to be front runners need to invest significant sums into marketing to secure brand awareness. Hence the rub; they are not going to spend significant capital marketing to the right quality targeted candidate audience and then give that candidate traffic away for free. What we will see will be more online media players closely monitoring the quality of the candidate traffic that aggregators send them, checking the level of conversions they secure from the traffic received and in general will want to know exactly where that traffic that’s sent originates from. It’s a cliché, but you do pay for what you get. There is little value in a jobs board taking in lots of candidate traffic unless it’s of the right quality that converts, adds real value to their business and delivers to a high return on their marketing investment.” Workhound.co.uk agrees that building a job site off of Adsense or by gaming Google is a limited strategy. Says Fischer, “We agree, at heart, that all job sites are arbitrage plays. But to succeed, it’s imperative to offer the best user experience and for us that means having the largest selection of jobs and the best tools to navigate them. Only this will allow us to build an audience of qualified leads that can be directed to job boards on a cost-effective basis.”

Simon Appleton sees ‘free’ aggregators disappearing, as he says gaming Google becomes less and less effective. He adds: “The quality aggregators that remain will need to be flexible in their business models – while a good aggregator has the ability to flex its variable costs if its income reduces, it’s difficult to see what the recruitment landscape will look like in a year’s time. The fit and nimble will prosper! Perhaps the biggest question is how the balance between available jobs and available candidates will play out. Now that jobs are scarcer, and candidates relatively abundant, aggregators have to show real value to their customers to justify their role.” Stephen O’Donnell says that this year, with fewer organisations able to confidently plan their marketing spend more than 6 months ahead, it will be essential to employ strategies that allow them to react quickly to the marketplace.

Workhound.co.uk predict that: “Although there will be some consolidation amongst the larger job boards, the number of job sites will continue to increase and the role for vertical search engines will become more important.” They see a future with tens of thousands of job sites and even a migration to new platforms, says Fischer, “Internet browsing behaviour is ever evolving. We are seeing a shift toward social media and cloud computing that will cause a proliferation of thin client devices and a change where individuals look for work. As such, we have built TwitterJobSearch.com and other products, that are identifying and processing recruitment offerings across different platforms like Facebook, mobile, and Twitter.”

David Martin, MD at Allthetopbananas.com also predicts the way the industry works evolving rapidly: “The different players in the market offer a range of opportunities for the recruiter and the jobseeker. As this young sector continues to grow it will be very exciting to see the innovative features taken to market which will really help the online recruitment space move forwards at an increased pace. As with any emerging sector there is plenty of out of the box creativity. The job search engine or aggregator role is to enable boards, agencies and companies to attract highly targeted traffic at an efficient price. Google AdWords are very expensive options – more effective solution delivering better value and active job seekers are needed, and job search engines are an alternative. I think the role of this young sector will develop rapidly – based on metrics and client feedback I would be shocked if the CPC model remains commonplace for more than a few years. CPA has to be the way forwards putting emphasis on quality-targeted leads. However, an industry standard rate for CPA will be difficult to identify as it dependent not just on lead quality but also target site quality – specifically ease of application as well as look and feel. The Google / Yahoo bidding option may come out on top”

Peter Fryer, PR & Communications Executive at ClickAJob.co.uk predicts future shifts in formats: “Likely tactics will include a move away from search-only systems to longer term customer engagement, similar to the way Amazon does with books. Like Facebook and MySpace, some sites already offer the opportunity to create candidate profiles and involve friends. But to ensure fulfilment – the hard business of getting actual bodies onto company payrolls – more behind-the-scenes effort will be necessary – real consultants using phone, email and online video interviews to nudge career professionals more sharply in the right direction.”

Search engines and aggregators may be relative newcomers, but they already provide a welcome wider choice for recruiters and much future potential. Yet again our contributors say concentrating on quality will be the key to success; along with cost effectiveness and flexibility.