Is Indeed Bigger than the Recruitment Industry?

When the recession began in 2008, the British and worldwide economies both suffered. Companies were soon making job cuts and one of the first by-products of this was that the recruitment industry had plenty of new candidates but no roles to place them in.

If you don’t believe what I’m saying then take a look at the worldwide users searching ‘recruitment’ in Google:

A Google Trends graph of global searches for recruitment

You can see where the obvious recession dips are. Now, let’s take a look at the same term but only focus on searches from the UK:

A Google Trends graph of UK searches for recruitment

Why are UK searches continuing to fall while global ones have recovered? Have we been suffering a constant recession that the rest of the world hasn’t experienced? Rec.uk.com said the UK recruitment industry posted a return of £28.7 billion in 2014, which is up £2.2 billion on the previous year, so I don’t think we are experiencing an isolated economic downturn. If this is not the case, what exactly are we doing different in the UK?

User search habits have changed. Gone are the days when we’d type ‘recruiters’, ‘recruitment’ or ‘jobs’ into Google, we now look for relevant jobs via multiple digital means. Not only has the way we search changed, but we also find ourselves in a world of global digital brands that, in some instances, have become bigger than their industry. Think Hoover, Wonga and, judging by the chart below, Indeed.

A Google Trends graph showing interest in recruitment and Indeed

In some ways this is good for recruitment consultants, as it gives them an obvious outlet to get more CVs and improve their chances of filling a vacancy. However, you could argue that the above suggests that the recruitment industry as a whole is starting to hide behind the global dominance of a brand like Indeed.

You may ask why you’d bother looking at increasing the exposure of your own brand when you can get by using someone else’s, and you may have a point. But then, why buy a house when you can just rent one? I suppose it depends if you are happy lining someone else’s pockets!

The current trend of Indeed being bigger than individual brands comes with pros and cons:

The Good

  • Increased visibility on the job listing through referral traffic from Indeed. Recruiters have a clear task of filling vacant roles and how they do this, I suppose, is irrelevant. Indeed get over 180 million unique visitors every month, so it’s an obvious vehicle for the recruiter.
  • Enhanced brand exposure for the recruiter. When a job seeker clicks on an advert on Indeed, they will be sent straight through to the original job posting on the recruiter’s website. This is undoubtedly a reasonable way of increasing brand awareness, but I do have an alternative way of looking at this in ‘the bad’ section.

The Bad

  • Are recruiters doing all they can to drive free traffic to their site? Probably not if they can pay a nominal fee to Indeed and generate all the traffic they need to a fill a role. But what if recruiters created landing pages that held relevant jobs on them? Pages that satisfy the active and passive intent of users. By doing everything possible to make users convert, recruiters can attract visitors outside of Indeed.
  • The cost of paying for visibility I know that Indeed can pull through jobs from websites into its free listings, but if you want real exposure on Indeed then you will have to pay for it.
  • Recruiters are feeding the monster that is indirectly taking their real estate in Google. I say indirectly because the job can still be found, but through the Indeed listing. Google loves brands. By heavily using Indeed and other job boards, all the recruitment industry is doing is helping them dominate organic search results. They are eating up all the unbranded searches that could be used by the recruiters, if they had a long term organic strategy.
  • Remember in ‘the good’ list I said the traffic coming through to the site from Indeed is good for branding. Well you could look at that from the flip-side as well. If the user comes to the recruiter’s website through Indeed, will they remember that they converted via Indeed or via the recruiter’s website? If it’s Indeed, then it doesn’t say a lot for the brand remembrance of the recruiter.

By relying on Indeed’s prominence and paying for the privilege, all that recruitment companies are doing is putting Indeed in the spotlight while hiding themselves behind the curtain. Don’t believe me? Take a look at indeed.co.uk’s organic reach over the last five years:

A graph showing Indeed's organic reach

Take a look at the below video from Moz for more information on why brands tend to rank higher on Google.

Going forward

Expect the advertising and marketing from Indeed to grow, which in turn will ultimately benefit the recruiter that is piggybacking off of this. But as it grows and becomes more competitive, costs will rise and recruiters will be the ones to lose out if they don’t have a long term strategy that doesn’t rely on Indeed. Recruiters should take a lesson from Indeed and ask themselves whether they are investing enough in the development of their own brands (have a look just how far Indeed are going to market their brand here).

This leads me to another question that’s begging for an answer, why aren’t Google capitalising on this lucrative industry? In a recent conversation I had with Bill Slawski, he said that before working for the search engine, Google’s Head of Structured Data, Alon Halevy, “developed a site that aggregated classifieds information together, much like Indeed does”.

We already know that Google are looking to monetise head search terms such as ‘mortgages’ and ‘insurance’, so why won’t they be looking to take on the lucrative market of recruitment? It would be easy for Google to serve ‘sponsored’ job listings in the same format as they do for something like Google Shopping and start a shift in power from Indeed to themselves. See the below image for an example of this.

Mortgage comparisons in Google's search results

How much do you think this tool has hit MoneySuperMarket’s organic traffic?

Then again, Indeed do use Google Ad’s in their sidebar. Are they spending enough with Google to put the search giant off entering the market?

The fact of the matter is that the industry is making an already dominant brand, which could be classed as a competitor, even stronger. While it does mean that recruiters are getting more eyes on their jobs, this is a short sighted view. Marketing your own company instead of relying on go-to recruitment brands like Indeed will lead to more recognition in the long term.