It’s a rare group of businesses that are so integral to the fabric of society that their names become commonly-used verbs. For a time, Xerox managed it. FedEx is still used as a verb from time to time. But since the dawn of the modern web, Google has been the most obvious example. It’s not just a powerful web platform, it’s an activity.
Of course, Google is also an extremely integral part of the recruitment landscape. Nowadays, when businesses worry about SEO (search engine optimization), they’re almost always worrying about Google in particular. When you optimize your career site or your job landing page for web searches, you’re essentially trying to keep up with Google’s efforts to deliver relevant content to its users. Given that, it’s a little strange that more recruiters don’t utilize Google AdWords to attract potential job candidates.
What is Google AdWords?
Of course, to run a truly successful recruitment ad campaign on Google AdWords, you first have to know what it is. Basically, AdWords it Google’s advertising platform, offering businesses the ability to place sponsored posts within Google search results, across the Google Display Network (all of the sites across the web that manage their advertising through Google), and on YouTube. Each of these channels is important, but we’re going to save Google Display and YouTube for other blog posts and just stick to Google search ads for this one.
So what do these ads look like? Essentially, you choose a set of search keywords that reflect your recruiting goals (more on this in a minute), and then you set a budget that includes the amount you’re willing to “bid” for each click. When someone searches for one of your terms, Google picks a few ads to display at the top of the search based on the bids and relevance scores (more on that in a minute) of the various advertisers who list that search term. These ads are structured to look just like normal search results, except that they are labeled as sponsored posts. Notably, though you’re constantly “bidding” for individual searches, Google doesn’t actual charge you until someone interacts with your ad.
Now, we know what you’re thinking. “Sponsored ads in Google search results? No one clicks on those!” This is a common misconception. In point of fact, these sponsored posts often receive a lot of attention. For searches relating to online retail, for instance, people are actually more likely to click on the sponsored results than the organic ones. Naturally, this is an extreme example, but it should give some indication that people are, in fact, willing to click on these results. The trick, then, is to make sure that your post is high quality and highly relevant to your target audience.
Choosing the Right Search Terms
Let’s say you’ve decided to run a recruitment ad campaign through AdWords. What’s the first step you need to take? Deciding on your search terms. This, after all, is going to determine who sees your ads. So, think about your employee personas: what Google searches are they likely to be making? Crucially, active and passive job seekers will likely encounter your on this platform through fairly different search terms. Thus, if you’re hiring developers who are fluent in Haskell, you might expect active job seekers to search for something like “developer jobs Haskell,” while your passive job candidates might be searching more generally to resolve questions they encounter using that particular language. Since Google determines which ads to show in large part based on the relevance of your ad to the search term (also known as your Google Quality Score, or GQS), it may be easier to reach active job candidates with posts linking straight to job ads. Passive candidates, on the other hand might be more inclined to click on a link that sends them to some educational content, like a blog post or a whitepaper.
Once you’ve sat down and thought about your employee personas and their search habits, it’s time to narrow down some actual search terms. You’ll want to research the relative search volumes of the terms you’re picking, to make sure that you’re setting yourself up to reach a sufficiently broad audience (while also making sure that your bids aren’t competing with those of too many other companies for the same space). You’ll also have to decide whether you want to bid on “broad matches” (i.e. search terms that Google identifies as fulfilling the same intention on the users' part as the search terms you’ve designated), or “phrase matches” (in which you bid only on searches that utilize the exact phrases you designate). Broad matches can help you to get in front of a wider audience, but they contain a higher risk that you’ll pay for ads that don’t reach your target personas.
Constructing Your Ad
At this point, the only thing left to do is construct the ad itself. This is an especially crucial part of the process because the way your ad is put together will have a big impact on its GQR, and therefore on your ability to reach your desired candidates. Much like a normal search result, your ad will include a link and a short link description. This description is one of the first things Google uses to determine the relevance of your post. If your metadescription actually uses the search term that you’re bidding on, it’s more likely to rise to the top of the pile (and, thus, to the top of the search results).
The link itself should redirect to a landing page that’s specific to whatever you’re posting on. Google will crawl the text of this page as well, so the better optimized it is for the search term the better. Since this is where Google makes its money off of you, there’s also a real incentive to make this page as impactful as possible. Make sure that your landing page has a clear call-to-action, whether for an online job application, a recruitment newsletter signup, or anything else that will help you meet your recruitment goals. There are, of course, a handful of formatting options available for these ads (in some cases, for instance, you can add a phone number to the listing), but the general rule of providing relevant, easy-to-navigate content at each level will continue to apply in all cases. By following this general rule, you can set yourself up for continued success in attracting candidates on Google.