Pay-per-click Struggles for Recruiter Recognition

By Jonathan Pont

Nov. 15, 2005

Employers and recruiters have wondered about the impact Google might have if the company enters the job listings business. A formal entry would get the attention of recruiters, but the tech giant actually established its presence in the Internet recruiting segment a long time ago, with “pay-per-click.”

    Despite its close association with blue-chip search companies like Google, Yahoo and MSN, the advertising technique has yet to become widely known among recruiters. In pay-per-click, text ads appear next to results that a search engine generates. Each time a Web user clicks on an ad, the advertiser pays the Web site a fee.

    A major reason the technique isn’t known is lack of education, says Joel Cheesman, founder of HRSEO, a consulting firm in Cleveland that advises employers on how to use search technology. He says that few companies are learning how to leverage pay-per-click as a recruiting tool, and that the major job boards aren’t likely to change their own pricing models. In the hands of companies that currently use job boards, pay-per-click is another competitive threat.

    For employers, it’s a low-cost way to gain visibility with job seekers. Cheesman says the technique has the potential to help employers reach a wider audience on the Web and could give them an advantage over a competitor who doesn’t use the technique.

    Internet search works for jobs the way it works for any other “vertical”–or category–like travel or retail. Typing the words “New York” and “jobs” into the Google search engine, for example, yields two sets of results. On the left side of the page is a list of so-called “organic” results. These are the most popular sites containing those words. On the right side, companies bid for the right to have their matching results appear in the top position.

    These companies, known as “sponsors” in Web parlance, bid whenever they want superior positioning on the right side of the page. In early September, the high bid per click for “New York jobs” was $3.27 and belonged to CareerBuilder. All three job boards use the technique to drive traffic to their sites. But enterprising employers also could decide that the technique is cheap enough to learn about, and bid on combinations of words that drive traffic to their corporate recruiting pages. That’s a nightmare scenario for the job boards, where ads cost hundreds of dollars.

    Steve Pogorzelski, group president, international, for Monster, says online keyword buying is another way for the company to drive traffic to its site. “We use a variety of different media to get our message across,” he says, including radio, television and print ads.

    A user arriving at any of the “Big Three” job sites through a sponsored link does not see a particular job category or skill set. Rather, the link takes the user to the job board’s front page. Pogorzelski says the intention is to have the searcher register and leave a résumé.

    SimplyHired recently bid on placement for the word “jobs” and the names of 12 cities on Yahoo. Though the company didn’t bid for top placement on the right-hand side of the page, it spent enough to ensure that its listing would appear in a shaded box above the organic search results.

    Cheesman notes that the job aggregator would most likely not appear to a job seeker on the first Yahoo results page if it hadn’t paid for space on Yahoo. “Invisible is not an option for most sites,” he says.

Workforce Management, November 7, 2005, p. 50Subscribe Now!

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