As any HR professional can tell you, attracting talent in today’s competitive job market is no easy task. Nowadays, it’s not enough to write a compelling job description and hope for the best. With so many opportunities available to job seekers, your first step must be to ensure that your posting can be easily found in online search results.
Just as marketers try to optimize their web pages to rank highly in Google, savvy recruiters optimize their postings to rank highly in job search engines where candidates are looking. To get the most out of your job postings on Glassdoor, Monster, Indeed, etc., you’ll need to start thinking like a search engine and following best practices for search engine optimization (SEO).
How does that work? To get the inside scoop on what employers can do to optimize their job descriptions, we sat down with the head engineer in charge of Glassdoor’s job search engine, Bhawna Singh.
Based on Singh’s research and experience, here are six tips to help you improve your job posting SEO:
1. Make your job title consistent with industry language.
Most job seekers search by job title, so knowing how to optimize your title is the first step to getting your job posting in front of qualified candidates. To perform well, keep your title straightforward and consistent with the language typically used in your industry. Steer clear of creative titles like “Excel Wizard” or “Coding Ninja,” as these tend to rank poorly compared to more popular titles like “Software Engineer.”
“Our algorithm will rank your jobs higher if the job title closely matches what the user typed in the search box,” Singh tells us. “Additional phrases in the title, like ‘apply now’ or ‘competitive salary,’ make it less likely that your job will match the user’s query. These types of modifiers are best saved for the job description.”
2. Watch your abbreviations.
When it comes to abbreviations, most search engines are advanced enough to recognize commonly used abbreviations such as “Sr.” for “Senior” or “RN” for “Registered Nurse.” However, things start to get tricky when the same abbreviated term may be used among different positions in different industries. To prevent your description from getting advertised in the wrong place, make sure to expand your abbreviations to specify whether your “PA” job is referring to “Physician’s Assistant,” “Production Assistant,” “Personal Assistant,” or “Personal Accountant.
3. Keep location out of the title.
Unlike Internet search engines such as Google or Bing (which filter queries through a single generic search field) all major job search sites feature two fields, one for job title and the other for location. When these search engines try to match your job to the user’s query, they match title-to-title and location-to-location.
Users search for specific job titles more than any other group or combination, including location. If your job title is “Assistant Manager North Canton Store” and your location is “North Canton, OH,” including the location within the job title only makes it a less exact match to a job seeker’s query of “Assistant Manager.” To help boost click-through rate, ditch redundant information so your title will more precisely mirror what the job seeker is looking for.
4. Front-load your title.
A 2014 eye tracking study conducted by Mediative revealed that the way people read search results differs from the way we read other kinds of text. As opposed to reading a piece of text line by line from left to right, people consume search results vertically, scanning the beginning portion of results from top to bottom. Applying this to job searches, candidates scanning through dozens of results are likely to view just a fraction of job titles, focusing their attention at the beginning.
To make sure that important pieces of information don’t get passed over, orient your job titles so that the most relevant words fall within the scanning window of the first 1-2 words. In the image below, you’ll find an example of a job title not optimized for search result viewing. Because the first two words don’t include any title-related terms, it’s more likely that a job seeker will skip over it.
5. Keep an eye on character count.
When crafting the right title for your job posting, it’s important keep length in mind. At Glassdoor, the job search engineering team has found that among the site’s millions of job postings, the most typical length for a job title is between 12-20 characters. What’s more, titles within this range also have the highest click-through rate. Examples: Product Manager (15 characters); Sales Associate (15 characters); Business Analyst (16 characters); and Non CDL Truck Driver (20 characters).
If your title’s character count falls at either extreme of the range, you run the risk of stunting click-throughs. For example, on Glassdoor, job titles over 60 characters get clicked on half as often as titles in the 10-20 character range.
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6. Formatting matters . . . a lot.
Job seekers tend to skim job descriptions, so it’s crucial that yours is easy to digest. Beyond making your description easy on the eyes, there is also an SEO incentive around formatting. “Good search engines take into account the quality of the job title and description,” Singh says. “Misspellings and bad formatting can negatively impact how your job ranks.” To give your description a well-defined structure, break up your text with separate paragraphs, section headings, and bullet points where appropriate.
Paying close attention to formatting is particularly important when advertising the same job on multiple sites. Be cautious when copying and pasting descriptions that your posting doesn’t convert into a single blob of text. Singh advises, “If you’re using multiple sites, it’s always a best practice to check how the formatting of each one looks.” Be aware that some job boards do a poor job of preserving your original formatting, which will reflect poorly on you as the employer.
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Remember that your goal is to craft job titles and descriptions that will match a job seeker’s query as closely as possible. Try putting yourself in their shoes and think about how you would conduct a job search for your own position. The more you can imitate the way job seekers interact with search engines, the better your posting will perform.
Lizzie Jeffrey is a content writer and business development specialist at Glassdoor. As one of the fastest growing jobs and recruiting sites, Glassdoor is dedicated to helping people everywhere find jobs and companies they love.