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A tale of two – er, many – aggregators by Jeff Dickey-Chasins

Roughly 5 years ago something important happened in the job board world: the aggregator was born.

First Indeed, then Simply Hired, then many others appeared. They offered what seemed an irresistible proposition to job seekers: one stop shopping. All jobs from almost every job site, collected on one site, making it easier for candidates to find what they wanted without worrying that they were missing anything.

At first many job sites were hesitant – they saw the aggregators as either unnecessary or competition. However, one thing that the aggregators did very well was SEO. By 2007 it was almost impossible to avoid aggregator postings in search engine results – and these efforts were bolstered by effective use of Google AdWords and other SEM.

At the same time, aggregators offered job sites an offer they couldn’t refuse: high visibility for their jobs (courtesy of the aforementioned SEO and SEM). Job sites quickly began spewing jobs into the aggregator sites (bolstering aggregators in the search engines) and – in search of even more traffic – began paying the aggregators for keyword-based placement. In fact, some have likened the dependence of some jobs sites on aggregator CPC as ‘crack cocaine for job boards’. Pithy but containing more than a germ of truth.

Fast forward to 2010. Indeed has overtaken Monster as the most visited job site on the web. Simply Hired has integrated a ‘who do you know’ from LinkedIn and Facebook feature for its listings. Both are busily including postings from company sites, and both have affiliate programs that allow any site to add a job board – free of charge (they take their fees in the form of a revenue share). Time and again, the aggregators have been effective at exploiting both job seeker and job site needs.

So what’s next? Who is actually threatened by aggregators, and what does the future hold? Here’s my take:

  • Aggregators rely on niche job sites and company career sites for the bulk of their postings. Thus far they’ve been careful to avoid antagonizing either party. I suspect that will continue.
  • As the news about Indeed suggests, the ‘big’ boards are most threatened by the rise of the aggregators; the latter arguably have deeper and more thorough collections of listings
  • Job seekers continue to be frustrated with ‘site bouncing’ – clicking on an aggregator job listing, then bouncing from one to another site before finally (hopefully) landing on the original posting. It makes for an ugly user experience – and a valid point of attack for competitors.
  • Aggregators don’t offer resume visibility for job seekers – something that both seekers and employers want. When you see Indeed or Simply Hired move into the resume posting biz, expect fireworks throughout the job board world.
  • Search engines in many ways offer the most direct competition for aggregators – and yet aggregators are some of the search engines’ most loyal customers. This may be a battle determined by the job seeker – who does a better job across all platforms and channels, including Twitter, mobile, desktop, and beyond?

About the author:

The Job Board Doctor is Jeff Dickey-Chasins, a veteran of the job board, publishing, and e-learning industries. Jeff was the original marketing director for Dice.com, growing it from $7 million to $65+ million in three years. He has worked with numerous job boards and HR-related sites over the past 20 years.

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