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The Essential Recruiter’s Handbook Guide to SEO

seo for recruiters

As you probably already know, one of the biggest challenges associated with candidate attraction is ensuring that your job ads end up being seen by the right people.

But while it’s obvious post and pray is not a viable strategy, a whopping 32% of sourcers worldwide still admit to making no effort to optimise their job ads to be found by the right people. What’s more, is that those same sourcers then go on to complain that job ads aren’t effective at attracting candidates and job boards are dead – neither of which is true. In fact, according to a recent ‘Source of Hire’ survey conducted by SilkRoad, 54% of all external interviews you will conduct, will be with candidates from job boards, and 56% of all external hires you’ll make, will be candidates who first saw your job ad on a job board.

Good job advertising has the power to fill the majority of your roles, and the easiest way to boost your chances of being found by the right people, is by ensuring each and every one of your job ads has good search engine optimisation (SEO).

What is SEO?

seo for recruitersSEO is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search results. In general, the earlier or higher ranked on the search results page, a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users. In fact, according to Search Engine Watch, the top organic search result on Google will receive 36.4% of all clicks. Results on page 2 will receive 2.6% and page 3 results will receive 1.4%.

It’s also been found that the average person will not go further than page 3 when looking to find something on Google. If after page 3, they still haven’t found what they’re looking for, they’ll just enter a new search term and start their search all over again.

In that case, I think it’s fair to say that if you want your job ad to be seen by the right people, it has to be as close to the top of page one of Google as you can possibly make it when the job seekers you want to attract, are searching.

That may sound like a near impossible task, but don’t worry, we’re here to walk you through it, step by step.

Understanding Google’s Search Ranking

seo for recruitersThe first thing you have to understand when it comes to SEO, is how Google ranks it’s search results.

When deciding which webpages are best qualified to serve as results for a particular search query, Google takes over 200 parameters (or ingredients, as I like to call them) into account. It then feeds those 200 parameters (some weighted more heavily than others) back into its algorithm, and a set of search results deemed relevant and pertinent by Google, come out the other side. Results displayed on page one will contain a combination of the more heavily weighted parameters set out by Google.

But don’t panic! We don’t have to concern ourselves with all 200 parameters. That would be crazy! Nope, we as recruiters just need to concern ourselves with the 4 (yes, just four) parameters we can actively influence when writing our job ads (without needing an IT qualification!).

In short, the key to a higher search ranking in Google, is making sure that your online job ad has the main ingredients (parameters), that search engines like Google need for their recipe (algorithm).

The Essential Recruiter’s Handbook Guide to SEO

Ingredient No. 1 – Page Title

The first and most important ingredient you need to prepare for Google’s recipe is the title of your job ad’s webpage – the blue line in Google’s search results.

A webpage’s title is the number one ingredient Google will take into consideration when deciding which search results to display first. Specifically, it looks at whether or not the exact search term, specified by the job seeker in their search query, appears near the front of the webpage’s title.

Take this search for a senior recruiter (below) as an example. The job seeker has searched Google for the phrase senior recruiter, and as a result, all of the webpages with titles beginning with the exact phrase senior recruiter have been listed on page one in Google’s search results:

seo for recruiters


As you start getting to page 2, 3, 4 etc. of Google’s search results you will start to see these words move further down the blue line, maybe the order of the words isn’t the same, there’e some other words in between those words, and by page 50 or 100 they’re not in the blue line at all. The page’s title is the strongest correlation and the first and most important thing we need to get right as a job advertiser.

So how do you make sure that the words you want to be found for, are in the blue line of the job ad webpages that you publish? Well, let’s take a step back for a moment and have a look at a job ad example.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 15.58.47


I want to figure out where the title of this webpage is coming from. To do so, I hover my mouse over the tab of the open webpage. Everything you see in the yellow box that appears, is exactly what will appear in the blue line if this job ad was found in a Google search result.

seo for recruiters


If we look at patterns, we can see the keywords we’ve typed in for the job title, “Senior Sales Person” in this case (which we probably typed into our ATS, job database or paid job board), are exactly replicated at the beginning of the title of the page.

We also see a pattern that says there are some other words we’ve typed into the ATS/database/job board that are appearing in this yellow box. In this example, we’re seeing the word “job”, not because we typed it in, but because it was in there by default. We’re also seeing the company name/website name in there by default as well. Words relating to the location we typed into the ATS/database/job board, are also appearing.

By observing this on your own job ads, you can say that the words you type into fields in your ATS like the job title etc. are the words that appear at the beginning of the blue line when the page goes out to the web. So you are in charge of the words that appear in the blue line, which is the first and strongest correlation that will lead you to be found on a search engine like Google for specific keywords.

So if you can think of what the job seeker would type into Google and put those exact words, in the same order, in the title of your job before you advertise it then you have a really, super chance of being found on page one of Google or close to it.

Ingredient No. 2 – Page URL

The second ingredient you need to prepare for Google’s recipe is the job ad’s URL – the green line in Google’s search results.

A webpage’s URL (web address) is the second parameter Google will take into consideration when deciding which search results to display first, and specifically whether of not the search term specified by the job seeker in their search query, appears in some way in the web address.

Again, take this search for a senior recruiter (below) as an example. The job seeker has searched Google for the phrase senior recruiter and as well as having the exact phrase senior recruiter in the title of the webpage, the phrase “senior recruiter” or at least one of those two words, also appear in the webpage URL:

seo for recruiters


Well, let’s take a step back again and have a look at another job ad example. What words appear in the web address of the page? You can check by highlighting all the text in the search box, as illustrated below:

seo for recruiters

We can see in this example, that similar to the pattern we saw in the page title, the job title that was typed into the ATS is appearing word for word up in the URL, along with words like “job” and the location, also filled out on the ATS. Some words are fixed – like the website name ( and certain words like “job” appear whether we like it or not – but everything else after those fixed words are coming from the job spec and we can alter and influence them.

seo for recruiters

In other words, the same words that are influencing the page title will also influence the URL – as seen above.

Ingredient No. 3 – Keyword Density

The third ingredient you need to prepare for Google’s recipe is your keyword density (the amount of times a word/phrase appears on a webpage) – the black line/lines in Google’s search results.

When deciding how to categorize a page, Google will look at keyword density and try to apply a contextual ranking of each keyword to understand what the page is all about. Keyword density is the third most important parameter Google will take into consideration when deciding which search results to display first.

If we take the example of our search for a senior recruiter again, and notice the black lines in the search results, we see those words appearing in different places in the black text:

seo for recruiters


Yet again, we’re seeing a pattern. The job seeker has searched Google for the phrase senior recruiter and as well as having the exact phrase senior recruiter in the title of the webpage, and “senior recruiter” appearing somewhere in the webpage URL, the phrase also appears frequently within the webpage.

The basic principle of this is, that if I type out a webpage with a job ad on it, and I load it to the web and publish my job, and that page has the words “job”, “apply”, “interview” and “resume”, if the word “interview” appears 6 times and the word “job” appears 4 times, Google will read all of the words on that page and say it’s more about the word “interview” than it is about the word “job”. So if people type in a search with the word “interview”, Google will show this page nearer the top of it’s search results than if they type in the word “job”. It’ll still show this page as a result for the word “job”, but it won’t display it as highly as if the search was for the word “interview”, because “job” doesn’t appear as frequently on the page.

There isn’t a certain number of times you need to repeat the top keywords in your job ad, it’s all relative to the other words that appear on the page. What you want is that, the words job seekers search for ion Google, are the most frequently used words on your job ad’s web page.

But while you could manually read every word in your ad and try to figure that out, we have a much simpler way so doing so! We’re going to create what’s known as a ‘word cloud’ of your job ad web page, and determine which word/phrase is used the most. To do this, go to your job ad, select CTRL A or CMD A on your keyboard to highlight all the text on the webpage, then select CTRL C or CMD C to copy all that text. Next, go to, click ‘Create’ and paste the text you’ve copied into the blank text box and click ‘Go’.

seo for recruiters


Wordle will then present you with a word cloud – like the on below for the Hunger Games books. The largest words are the most frequently used on the page. If your job title isn’t one of the biggest, you need to optimise your job ad to include that job title more:

seo for recruiters

How do you do this? Well, for example, if you want the job title to be repeated more, instead of just saying key responsibilities and listing the responsibilities, say the key responsibilities of the Senior Recruiter are. Similarly, rather than using the word you to tell a potential candidate what they’ll be doing in the role, say the Senior Recruiter will be in charge of x,y and z. There are loads of ways to include your chosen keywords without going overboard and hindering the flow of the job description. Just look for opportunities to include the words you want to highlight.

Ingredient No. 4 – Inbound Links

The fourth and final ingredient you need to prepare for Google’s recipe, is your inbound links (hyperlinks that link one web page, back to another).

Links from popular websites that carry high weighting in Google’s algorithm will boost you site’s credibility and page rank in search results. So always share your job ads on the most popular websites to boost it’s SEO!

Google and Facebook are the most popular websites in the world, so use your company’s Google+ and Facebook company pages to share a link to your job. LinkedIn and Twitter are also in the top 15 websites in the world, and are most used by job seekers, so be sure to share a link to your job ad to boost SEO on these sites also (see the example below).

However, it’s not the simple act of linking your site to a popular social network – the link must gain traction and be clicked upon to improve your relevancy on Google. Encourage your team mates and fellow recruiters to click on your links in LInkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook when they see them! Always include a call to action in your post: words like Click here and Click this link, Apply by clicking this link etc., encourage  your audience to take the action.


Remember, your goal is to get your job ad on page one (maximum page 2) of Google. This requires research, effort in writing your copy, and inbound links to boost your optimisation.

Ensure that your keywords are being entered into the title of your job ad webpage and the URL, as these count as a heavy weighting in Google’s algorithm for search results. Get your keywords peppered throughout your job ad webpage too in a natural way – we’re not keyword stuffing when doing this, we’re just taking opportunities to insert keywords where they naturally read to a viewer. Estimate your keyword density to be approximately 5% or 1 in 20 words – that should see you right.

And share, share, share! The more clicks your job ad webpage receives from popular websites like LinkedIn and Twitter, the higher it will be ranked by Google.

Now get out their and get seen by the right people!



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