Wednesday, March 31, 2010

At Five-year Mark, Job Search Engines Are a Success

A week ago SimplyHired celebrated its fifth birthday. That alone is a momentous event, considering how many recruitment-focused startups have come and gone in that time.

More significant than just surviving, SimplyHired and its counterpart (which launched five months earlier in 2004, but came out of beta almost exactly five years ago today) have thrived. Starting with zero traffic, both are now in the top 10 of career sites in the U.S. Indeed ranked 4th in the Nielsen report last year, behind Monster.

SimplyHired, sixth in the report, has probably already moved up. If by some chance it hasn’t already, yesterday’s announcement that it was becoming the job channel for Huffington Post almost guarantees it.

Huff Po, as it’s known, is getting 26.4 million monthly visitors, some 21.6 million of them from the U.S. Between the jobs channel SimplyHired will now power and the widgets the site will deploy to distribute contextually related job ads throughout its sections, the bump in traffic and visibility will be significant.

Traffic comes at a price. SimplyHired, which issued a press release announcing the deal, didn’t say what the revenue arrangements are. Rarely are financial details announced. Traffic deals, though, don’t come cheap. A few years ago, CareerBuilder snatched a deal with AOL from Monster, paying nine figures over four years.

The fact that SimplyHired can make a deal at all is a testament to the acceptance of the job search engines by the recruiting industry. Both SimplyHired and Indeed launched as totally free sites; jobs were gathered from elsewhere, indexed, and made searchable by job seekers.

As convenient as these sites were for job seekers, the question at the time and for long after launch was: How do you make money with a free model? I remember SimplyHired founder and CEO Gautam Godhwani and Indeed co-founder and CEO Paul Forster having fundamentally the same approach.

Forster went with a Google AdWords approach. Godhwani has Google AdWords on the site today. However, even with the kinds of traffic volume both sites get today, you don’t get rich (unless you are Google) purely on selling contextual ad placements.

Both CEOs told me back in 2005 that they would offer pay-per-click job ads in premium positions. Today, both sites do.

The marketing strategies of both sites run on parallel tracks. Through a combination of financial incentives and free widgets that are attractive to small publishers, both SimplyHired and Indeed have built impressive networks. Servicing these low-volume sites, many of which have highly specialized readerships, is possible because of the apps that make everything self-service.

In exchange for sharing some of the revenue with bloggers, professional organizations, publishers, and the like, both SimplyHired and Indeed can offer highly targeted ad placements presented to audiences of passive users.

Without too much effort, a publisher can even take a completely customized feed of jobs and have an instant job board offering dozens, hundreds or thousands of opportunities, depending on the level of targeting.

Way back at launch and for a time after, many of us wondered how long the major job boards would permit the search engines to aggregate their listings and redistribute them. That was a worry to the search engines themselves; Craigslist did shut them out and still does.

Of even bigger concern was Google’s intentions. The search dominator launched its own classifieds business, calling it Google Base. Clearly in its sights, or so many of us believe, was the multi-billion dollar recruitment business. Like many of Google’s toe-dipping ventures, Base floundered and its traffic tanked.

One well-placed insider at one of the leading job boards told me at the time they were watching how the search engines would handle the listings. Google, being the 800-pound gorilla, was the bigger worry.

Being small, SimplyHired and Indeed just didn’t have enough of a footprint to have much of an impact. And there wasn’t any financial hit to the majors, who were busier battling each other anyway. The added visibility SimplyHired and Indeed brought to their listings was a welcome addition to the traffic count, slight though it was at first. Today, that added distribution is a factor for which the job boards get the credit; to apply or read a complete listing from an off-site source, job seekers must go there.

In the unlikely event that Monster and CareerBuilder were now to shut off their spigots, there would be an impact, but no crisis. So many employers are providing job feeds directly that job seekers might hardly notice the loss. Of course, neither search engine wants that to happen, one reason (there may be others) neither has gotten into the resume business. That keeps job seekers engaged with the job boards and recruiters paying to search them.

So today, on the fifth anniversary of job search engines, they have come to occupy an important position in recruitment advertising. The job seeker traffic testifies to their usefulness, and employers have responded by including them in their ad spend. Both sites are profitable, according to their CEOs, and have been for sometime.

It will be interesting to see how they evolve over the next five years.

Original Post

1 comment:

  1. Great post. As you point out, these job search aggregators have basically begun to dismantle Monster and other "paid jobs only" boards. Somehow a beaver fiddling while Rome burns was a quite fitting Superbowl advertisement. {grin}

    FYI: The HuffPo "job channel" link is broke.