Buying Words in Google Searches to Gain an Edge in Recruiting

People Do Click!

It's no secret that Google books most of its revenue from selling advertising that appears at the very top and in the right-hand margin alongside search results. When searches are entered, Google servers look at the key words that are being searched for and then matches those key words to specific advertisers who are interested in reaching people searching on those terms.

If, for example, you were to search using the terms "consumer," "product," and "management," Google would provide, alongside your search results, four sponsored links that, when clicked, connect you to three consulting organizations and one training organization that specializes in product management. So many people clicked on such sponsored links that in 2005, Google derived more than $1 billion in revenue from this product alone.

Now let's look at the practice as it relates to recruiting.

An Example to Illustrate the Concept

Let's say you're a recruiter looking for a great nurse in the metropolitan Los Angeles area. If you were to purchase the search phrase "nursing jobs in LA," your sponsored ad would appear every time someone enters that search string. This phrase will, for the most part, link you to active jobs seekers and agents who represent them.

Today, that search string would return sponsored links to more than 25 organizations attempting to hire nurses in Los Angeles, including three specific hospitals. Unless you are a well-branded hospital, appearing in such a flurry of links offers little value. However, there is a better approach that doesn't focus on the job per say, but rather on capturing searches searching for domain expertise or on-the-job related assistance.

Getting in front of the passive job seeker relies on approaches that sidestep many of the barriers such professionals have erected to avoid annoying recruiters. One way to slip past those barriers is to display non-job-focused links in responses to searches that have little or nothing to do with searching for a job.

Examples of search strings related to nursing that do not focus on finding a job might include "discount scrub stores Los Angeles" or "Marfan Syndrome treatment." Each of these searches could reach actively employed nurses searching for information relevant to their current job. The first phrase could link to a page on your career site providing information on your uniform policy and vendors with which you have negotiated special discounts. The second phrase could link to treatment protocols and patient statistics for persons suffering from Marfan Syndrome or any disease/condition for that matter. The first phrase on scrubs generates 10 sponsored links on Google, none of which is a specific hospital. The latter phrase on Marfan Syndrome generates three sponsored links, one of which belongs to the Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute.

More generic phrases such as "best practices in nursing" may link you to your audience, but will occur with significantly less frequency.

The very best way to get your hospital into the consciousness of the employed relies on two approaches: Become the best-practice hospital that is routinely featured in top search results based on content, or buy the relevant key words related to searches that nursing professionals routinely perform.

Is Buying Words a New Concept in Recruiting?

The buying of words on search engines is a common practice in business and sales, but not so in recruiting. Its lack of application is primarily due to the fact that most recruiters are straight-line thinkers who seldom try new approaches that require any significant effort or learning curve. However, there are a few firms (particularly in health care) that use this concept for recruiting but buy words related to "jobs" and "finding a job."

A small number of the very smartest recruiters who are well-versed in marketing and sales have jumped ahead of the field because they see the value of using key words, not to identify nontraditional job seekers, but instead as a tool to find the very best in their field who are continuously trying to get better.

What Types of Key Word Strings Should I Use?

Remember, the basic premise here is that if you want the very best, do not focus on the words related to jobs and job searches, and instead, focus on phrases that someone seeking out new answers or approaches will likely use. There's no magic here; it takes some trial and error, but I recommend that you start by seeking out your current top performers and just ask them directly to give you the search strings that they routinely use in their everyday attempts to do their jobs better.

Some of the search strings you should consider include:

  • "Best practices in…" Buying words related to best practices can help you identify individuals who are obviously looking for best practices. Since the very best become and remain the very best by maintaining an awareness of the benchmark standard, using words related to best practices in a functional area or industry is a great place to begin.
  • "New tools and approaches in…" Here you can use this generic phrase or you can substitute a particular new tool or approach by name. By appearing in front of individuals seeking out the latest tools or approaches, you're likely to come across those knowledgeable in or interested in these new approaches.
  • Issues and problems. Because the very best are constantly trying to solve the hottest problems and biggest issues facing an industry or function, purchasing phrases related to these major unsolved problems means you'll have an opportunity to attract individuals who are or who want to be on the cutting edge. Any individual who has an early awareness of an emerging problem is someone you want to "get in front of."
  • Buzzwords. By selecting search strings that include the latest hot words or phrases, you're likely to have your ad displayed in front of those who are trying to learn more about these new buzzwords.
  • Key authors, practitioners, and experts. By selecting search strings that include the specific names of leading functional experts, consultants, and authors, you also likely to get individuals who are trying to learn by reading the work of the very best in the field.
  • Award winners. Those seeking out award opportunities, competitive contest opportunities, or individuals who are award winners are almost without exception the kind of people you want to target.
  • Best-practices companies. By focusing on search strings that include the names of the top-performing organizations or functional departments, you'll generally capture the individuals who are seeking to learn how the very best operate or have solved emerging problems. If you're really bold, you could attempt to buy your key competitor's firm names, and you would then appear on the same page with them.
  • Training or learning opportunities. The very best individuals are continually trying to improve, and as a result, they often seek out professional training and learning opportunities. Thus, individuals who use search terms related to advanced training, certification, and professional seminars, or who even look up the knowledge base of a professional association should be considered prime targets.
  • New technology. Individuals who are seeking out information related to new technology are likely to be on the leading edge, and as a result, they should be targeted.
  • Forecasts and predictions. Search strings that seek to identify forecasts and predictions of upcoming problems and opportunities are likely to identify individuals who are future-focused.
  • Book and article titles. The very best seek out leading-edge books, journals, and articles in order to learn. As a result, if you include them in the word you purchase, you are likely to come across the eyes of individuals who are well-read and are constantly seeking out the best publications.

It's also important to note that in addition to buying words, you should supplement the strategy with similar approaches. For example, you should also attempt to get your company's job-search link placed on key learning/knowledge or what I call "answer guy" websites that are frequently visited by top performers. Start by asking your top performers what "learning sites" they visit on a regular basis, and then see if the owner of those sites will allow you to add a link to your own knowledge/learning or job site.

5 Steps to Take to Begin Search String Recruiting

This example covers the Google process, but it's important to note that other search engines have similar processes and opportunities.

Google calls the key words that advertisers purchase access to "AdWords." Using the AdWords system is very easy and consists of five basic steps outlined here:

Register (for first-timers only). On your initial sign-up, you'll actually complete all of the subsequent steps before you give them your contact and billing information. This process allows customers to see what they will be getting into before they actually register!

Determine your geographic target. One of the first key pieces of information you will need to provide pertains to where, geographically, you want your ad to show up. Google lets you target countries and territories, regions and cities, or locations within a certain distance from an address. Say, for example, you wanted to display ads regarding internships to individuals who live in or around your targeted recruiting schools; you could define your target as being within 25 miles of each school address.

Select your AdWords. After you've defined the geographic target of your ad or sponsored link, it's time to start selecting what key words will trigger your ad to appear. (Note: Specific key words for recruiting were covered in the previous section within this article.) Google makes available several tools to help you, including one tool that scans your website and suggests key words based upon what it found. We recommend against relying exclusively on this feature.

Instead, we suggest you conduct some market research to identify what types of routine searches your target audience conducts, and what key words they use in them. Don't assume you already know; actually do the research. Using this approach will ensure that your ads get in front of the right audience. You can select as many as you like, but we would suggest no more than 20 words.

Craft your ad or sponsored link. Once your key words are selected, the next step is to actually design and then enter your ad. Google Ads are text-based, and do not include any images (you can see a sample by doing an actual Google search and then looking at the current sponsored links for some ideas). These links consist of the following:

< tr>

Item How it Appears
Headline (25 Characters Max) Your Headline Here
Description Line 1 (35 Characters Max) First line of your pitch!
Description Line 2 (35 Characters Max) Second line of your pitch!
Display URL (35 Characters Max)
Destination URL (1024 Characters)

Obviously, your ad must closely coincide with the theme of the key word search you purchased. For example, if you bought the words "best practices," your link must mention that your organization is known for its best practices. When individuals clicks on the link, they must find prominent and compelling descriptions of your best practices, as well as job opportunities. The key is to first get them excited about your firm's best practices (or whatever is your focus) and then make it easy for them to make the mental jump from seeking out best practices to shifting their thinking toward wanting to work at a place that has so many best practices!

Set your budget parameters. The last step (prior to giving Google your contact and billing information) has to do with setting up parameters that limit your costs. Google will ask you how much you're willing to pay each day, and how much each click-through is worth to you (you are essentially "bidding" on key words). The more you pay, the higher your ad will appear on the list of sponsored links (obviously being below the entries that are visible on the first page will dramatically reduce your ability to be noticed).

During this step, Google will help you to determine your likely response rate. The system will tell you how many clicks each set of selected key words is likely to generate, what rank order on the page that your cost-per-click choice will place your ad in, and your estimated daily liability. When using AdWords, you only get charged if someone actually clicks on your ad/link.

Sample costs of using this approach include:

Term/Phrase Geography Cost per Click
Nursing continuing education U.S. $0.97
Forensic nursing U.S. $0.82
Lang win32process Germany $0.05
English phonetics China $0.42
Business English China $1.38
Telephoning American Poland $0.57

Some final things to remember are:

  • If you're looking for employed people who aren't necessarily looking for a job, use key words related to learning and the latest hot tools in your field rather than job-related words.
  • Don't assume you know what will get an ad in front of the right people; extensively profile the type of individuals who you need to reach.
  • Test your ad. Is it creative, compelling, etc.?
  • Remember to continually update the key words you purchase and the words in your sponsored link because buzzwords, approaches, tools, and problems are always evolving.
  • Don't bring them to your "door" and drop them. Whatever webpage you bring them to must be exciting enough to excite and keep them.

That's it. You're ready to start a new and exciting form of recruitment advertising that will give your firm a competitive advantage because it's designed not for active job seekers, but instead, to attract individuals who are trying to improve themselves. This is the only approach that will successfully attract the A players or game-changers who can really make a difference in your organization.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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