Rethinking Ad Placement 2000-2017: Seeking Universal Search & The Next 800-Pound Gorilla

When the dinosaurs roamed the earth, we figured out every week which newspaper (local, regional, national, etc.) where we would place our newest jobs' ads...for a single day- Sunday. We spent $10 billion on it as late as 2001 in the US. Candidates simply opened the one classified section of the paper they always had delivered (or the few they could purchase locally) and perused the help-wanted content out of curiosity (passive) or need (active). There was no universal search. It was all segmented. The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, the New York and Los Angeles Times were the best of the lot. No 800 pound Gorilla to be found. Even 'Permanent' Placement agencies were more in the know than any average job seeker-  for non-specialized, everyday opportunities. Today, for good reason, spending in those H-W sections is 5% of what it once was.

Job Boards, today's version of newspaper classifieds, combined to fill millions of positions each year for the last decade and a half. They aren't as sexy as having a team of recruiters directly sourcing passive candidates for tough-to-fill openings or executing on sophisticated, social media branding campaigns to drive hard to find prospects to engaging content. But, as a routine, effective (for some positions), and low cost method of getting the word out, Job Boards are a fascinating study of classifieds on the web. Like their print predecessors, Job Boards added content, helpful services (resume, coaching, etc.) and had 'Titles' for every possible combination a prospect might recognize: level of job, experience, specialty, industry, function, geography, etc., etc. These niches did quite well until their numbers approached tens of thousands and then only a few, for awhile, could claim to be monstrous - Career Portals of the best and the most jobs of every kind. Getting that big meant advertising everywhere (SuperBowl)... each new generation of job seekers had to be reminded where to go...until Google.

Automation, by the way, continued to make it easier for the niche j-board as employers could more efficiently plan to post to multiple relevant Job Boards once w/o reposting over and over. And now, of course, costs can be adjusted automatically for efficiency, quality and quantity.

It was when employers began to see the results of their intended efforts that things began to change

Ten years ago Indeed (and several similar sites) claimed they would 'help out' the job boards by aggregating all their jobs on a single database- and sending candidates that found a job that way right back to the job board that provided the position- so that they would be credited by the employer. In a decade, Indeed rolled up thousands of job boards' content and out shined their competitors. Indeed's success is in no small part due to it's mastery of SEO/SEM. Candidates couldn't help but click through...once they searched Google. Employers eventually realized that Indeed was more monstrous than any previous 800 pound gorilla when their ATSs began showing results that the 'original' click through wasn't really Monster or CareerBuilder or DirectEmployers but Indeed ('Click-throughs' from Google not being tracked back). The new shift to Universal Search began and Employer began moving to Indeed direct and supplementing elsewhere as needed.

CareerBuilder pivoted to new products and services. DirectEmployers pivoted to 'compliance'. The niches worked harder on programmed services. Only Monster thought they could sell search. They were wrong.

Google has become interested in Recruiting. They have literally adopted Indeed's 10-year old playbook) as Joel Cheesman's article in EREMedia, Your Jobs on Indeed Aren't Showing Up On Google, so excellently describes (must read). Indeed's response is to keep their jobs off of Google search results...or hidden on the 10th page. Indeed wants to do to Google what Craig's List did to them. But Craig's List never aspired to be the King Cong of the Job Boards and Indeed is taking a huge gamble that the candidates will remember to go to them without first asking Google (or maybe they will just spend more on the SuperBowl).

But that isn't all. As Chris Hoyt pointed out in an recent post, Is Indeed in Trouble?..., Google can take feeds directly from large employers as well as from Job Boards.

I think Kara Yarnot, responding to Joel Cheesman's article captured it best when she said:

"Job seekers have continually shown that they have no loyalty to job boards....Since most people use Google to search for everything else in their life, once they realize that Google can provide as many relevant jobs as Indeed, they will be unlikely to use another job search tool. It might not happen in the short term, but it will happen."

We agree, Google not only has the capability of being the next generation's 800-pound Gorilla, it can estimate accurately what part of the total job universe it actually covers. All hail King Cong.

Indeed must inevitably pivot. It has the resources and backing to do so and could easily become an amazing RPO (IMHO) and disrupt the entire approach to 3rd party staffing.

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Gerry Crispin
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Gerry co-authored eight books on the evolution of staffing and has written 100s of articles and whitepapers on similar topics during a career in Human Resources that spans more than 40 years from HR leadership positions at Johnson and Johnson; to boutique Executive Search firms; a Career Services Director at the University where he received his Engineering and 2 advanced degrees in Organizational/Industrial Behavior; and, GM of a major recruitment advertising firm even as he launched CareerXroads 20 years ago.

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Rethinking Ad Placement 2000-2017: Seeking Universal Search & The Next 800-Pound Gorilla

by Gerry Crispin time to read: 4 min