As careers website developers we’re always being asked about search engine optimisation. In many cases the client is simply asking whether the website will be successfully indexed by the search engines. Or more accurately, Google. And of course the answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes”. All careers websites should be designed, written and developed to ensure that they are indexed as fully as possible. Homepage, content pages and jobs. It’s what we call being ‘search engine friendly’. And it’s essential. In many of the projects we’ve delivered in the past five years, search engines are contributing over 35% of all traffic to the website.

This is especially important when you consider that between 78% and 85% of all job searches start at Google. This number varies depending who you talk to.

But search engine optimisation, or SEO, is slightly different. In this case, not only are you making your website available for indexing, but you’re proactively influencing the key words and phrases that it is being indexed against. Optimising your website to ensure that it is returned in a prominent position against specific searches. Something that is particularly useful in the world of employer branding and recruitment marketing.

So, what’s the difference? Strap in. We’re going on a little journey.

Search Engine Friendliness

We’ll never build a website that isn’t search engine friendly. The website architecture, page names, template layout, copy, image tags, ATS integration and even the code are all designed to get the website and the jobs held in it indexed by the search engines. We want Google, Bing, Google for Jobs and Indeed to all love it. That will ensure we’re at the party.

Indexing can often be a long drawn-out affair, so we try and speed it up by hand submitting it to both Google and Indeed. We use Google Search Console and the Indeed employer tools to ensure that they know that the careers website and the jobs are here. It’s what will get us on the dancefloor.

Try this to test just how search engine friendly your website is. Google your company name and the word jobs. Are you at the top of the results list? You should be. Also, is it just the homepage or the main pages of your website being indexed? Are your jobs indexed by Google for Jobs which is in the box below the first few search results? If not, chances are that Google is only seeing your homepage, not the whole website. If you can’t see your homepage, website or jobs being indexed, then no-one can see you. And you’re unlikely to be asked to dance.

Search Engine Optimisation

As I mentioned earlier, search engine optimisation is a process designed to ensure that your careers website is delivered in the search results for a particular search string. For example, search ‘Clarks Jobs’ and you’ll see the Clarks careers website at the top of the search results list and their jobs indexed by Google for Jobs. Lovely, and friendly. But do a search on ‘Footwear Design Jobs’ and you won’t find their website until page four of the search results. After Burberry, Sketchers, Adidas, Nike and Fitflop. Good optimisation will ensure that it appears before these other brands. And that is ignoring the job boards that you also have to compete with.

So search engine optimisation isn’t actually a function of the website but actually a marketing strategy. And like all strategies it should be scoped, agreed on and signed off before a line of code in the website has been written. What’s more it’s often an ongoing process. There will always be competition for premium positioning in the search results list. So you may need to keep tweaking your strategy.

We’ve recently covered search engine optimisation an earlier blog. So, rather than go into further detail here, take a look at how to improve the SEO of your careers website. It covers our tips on many of the things that contribute to good SEO and will give your careers website, pages and vacancies a much better chance of being found.

In practice

So what would we do to optimise the Clarks careers website for ‘Footwear Design Jobs’? Well first we’d ensure that the description of the website included the words ‘footwear’, ‘design’ and ‘jobs’. Then we’d design, write and develop a page aimed exclusively at ‘Footwear Designers’. And while the temptation would be saturate the page with the words ‘Footwear’ and ‘Design’ we’d avoid this by actually just writing the page to engage our target audience. Cheap tricks may work in the short term, but remember people are going to be reading this page.

We’d then make sure we give the search engines as many different opportunities as possible to ‘find’ and ‘understand’ the content of the page. The URL, name of the page, page description, image alts tags, blog articles, jobs, etc. will all be designed to ensure the search engine indexes this page including the words ‘footwear’, ‘design’ and ‘jobs’. Oh, and yes, we’d include the phrase ‘footwear design jobs’ once or twice.

In summary

In short, you’re friendly if your website can be found. You’re optimised if it can be found for specific key words and phrases. You’re friendly if you tell your employer story well. You’re optimised if you talk about specific areas with the intention of attracting relevant people to your careers website.

Another way to look at it is that search engine friendliness is typically done once and focuses on the design, writing and development of your careers website. But search engine optimisation is an ongoing, healthy maintenance process to ensure that your website supports your ever changing needs. After all, there are always more keywords to optimise, more content to create, more job postings to setup, more links to get and more ranking to achieve.

What’s more, while it will encourage successful indexing, it isn’t a guarantee of priority positioning in the search results. That’s because the job boards often ‘own’ these searches with great SEO and a lot of Google juice. The best you can often hope for is to be the top ‘direct recruiter’ in the search results list, after the jobs boards.

How we can help – a careers website audit

We have developed a website audit specifically for careers websites. The audit will benchmark your careers website against best practice in site design, structure, functionality, content and candidate experience. You’ll receive useful and actionable feedback to improve both your site’s search engine friendliness and SEO.

It’s free of charge and you can find out more here.