The value of SEO in this new era of work
The original article below by John Elstad, SEO Director for TMP Worldwide, a World Employer Branding Day Platinum Partner can be found here>>
I remember coming out of college back in the Mid-2000s and starting that first “real-job” job search in Chicago after working in college and gaining some experience in internship-like related roles. Back then, the online job search experience was rather limited to a handful of job sites. Monster.com was fresh in my mind, after seeing those multi-million-dollar Super Bowl commercials. Those office monkeys at CareerBuilder cracked me up too (it just so happens that my first real-world job was actually at CareerBuilder). Yahoo’s Hot Jobs might ring a bell. And, of course, the minimalist Craigslist.org was a reliable option.
One of my clearest memories of that process was my skepticism of so many of the “jobs” that I’d come across. There were great opportunities in the mix as well, it just wasn’t always easy to find them. This isn’t meant to be a knock on any single destination, but it was a little more like the Wild West back then. Some jobs sounded too good to be true, which they usually were. Others involved an easy to uncover scam. A few sounded cool and legitimate but were misleading at best and intentionally deceptive at worst.
Let’s fast forward to late summer of 2019, when the terms ‘Coronavirus’ or ‘COVID-19’ weren’t apart of our daily vocabularies. The working world was completely different than my early job search days, and many people that I’d meet had some sort of work from home connection related to their or their spouse’s jobs. Before they were acquired, my wife’s entire company worked from home, and did so efficiently. It’s like they were unknowingly preparing themselves for “The New Normal” that we’ve all been living in since late February of 2020.
The speed of the internet combined with the power of various devices has made it so easy to do a lot of digital and technology-focused jobs from just about anywhere. Digital Nomads were traveling the globe and staying in Airbnb’s, while remaining connected to the work they needed to do. The actual time zone or office amenities like in-house baristas doling out free high-end coffee drinks weren’t important in that working scenario. The freedom to stay connected professionally while growing personally vastly outweighed those benefits. Here at TMP, we questioned the value of ping-pong tables to attract millennials years ago.
Today, however, all those things seem like little luxuries in the face of companies being more or less forced to move towards a remote workforce in a matter of days. March was like an acceleration of what seemed to be naturally coming, and the need to innovate and adapt came at a similar pace. It’s likely that results seen by organizations have varied across the board, but at the very least it has resulted in speculation about this becoming a more permanent situation for a lot of workers. Jack Dorsey-helmed companies, Twitter and Square, have announced that employees can permanently work from home, and other tech titans Amazon and Microsoft have said that employees can continue working from home through October.
That speculation about a paradigm shift in work has had a corresponding spike in search demand on Google for phrases like ‘work from home jobs’ or ‘remote jobs.’ As you can see here, both saw major spikes in March, but demand has remained up since then. The exact match search volume for those phrases is in the hundreds of thousands, not to mention the countless keyword combinations around those concepts.
Normally, if I search for jobs at a company, Google will return jobs available with them nearby. Now, they are highlighting a little ‘Work from home’ suggested search button, with a line that is trending upward. If I click that, it will modify my search to show jobs with that company that can be done remotely.
When Google has enough address data for a job, they will return a little car icon with the time it takes to drive to that location from where you’re searching from. Within the job listing, Google Maps auto-populates the route to get to that location, right alongside some schema-driven employer reviews. I love this feature, since it gives the candidate immediate insight into what that commute may look like, or at the very least the route to take to get to the interview. If that commute will not work for them, there’s no need to move forward with the employment process, saving time on both ends of the deal.
But what if I just search ‘work from home jobs’? As you can see, the geographic restrictions drop off from that search, and I’m shown jobs that can be done from ‘Anywhere.’ They’re also denoted with a little home icon where the car icon typically resides, along with the phrase ‘Work from home.’ I can still click into the results and filter down more, but I’m now searching an immediately larger set of jobs than the ones Google thinks are available nearby me.
How does Google know that these jobs can be done remotely? It’s all thanks to a little piece of structured data known as the TELECOMMUTE schema. By attaching this data to the job posting, Google “understands” that the job can be done remotely and can incorporate that data into their search algorithms. I think it is a crucial strategy for companies moving towards a more remote workforce, since it automatically opens up visibility for those seeking work from home jobs, no matter where they are searching. However, a country does need to be specified in the location schema at a minimum, so that Google knows which users to show the job to.
We have seen real-world results for a client who had a remote recruiting need, and for whom we strategically built in TELECOMMUTE schema over a year ago. I’ve taken out their name below, but you can see the top performing Google for Jobs keywords for them. The phrases ‘work from home jobs’ and ‘remote jobs’ yielded the first two spots in terms of organic clicks and organic impressions, outperforming some of the branded keywords that tend to show up highly on these lists. I have highlighted a few more below, but half of their top 16 keywords were related to working from home. This delivers a ton of value, since these keywords tend to be difficult to rank for within the main Google organic index and can be expensive to purchase via Google Ads. If you dig deeper into the top 1,000 keywords, you will find many more instances of non-branded organic keywords pop up. Since the candidates know what they are looking for, they’re at least entering into that phase of the recruitment process on the same page as the employer, which is a good place to start.
It is important to have TELECOMMUTE schema organically built into your career-site’s job postings, since you as the employer are the ultimate source for that position. You want to be able to fully highlight the value of working for your company, in whichever ways possible. In an organic search sense, you want to ensure that Google can pick up jobs as they open and take them down cleanly as they are filled. Since Google for Jobs is still 100% organic today, there has never been a better time to take full advantage of the opportunity presented. We are at a perfect intersection of forces like remote work necessity, historic jobless claim levels, shifting demand from talent, business needs for the future, workplace innovation and hopefully a quick economic recovery.
I wish the process were this smooth and straightforward when I embarked on that first job search. Instead of sifting through the scammers to find great legitimate job opportunities, I could have used these amazing tools and technology at my disposal. Like in many aspects of life, I hope younger folks grasp how much easier everything is today. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve said that cartoons only existed on Saturday morning to my 5- and 7-year old’s, but that’s a whole different path to head down.