Recruitment SEO Guide:
How to Optimise Your Jobs Site

Who is this guide for?Recruitment professionals wanting to improve the SEO on their jobs site.

There’s nothing new about an SEO guide. There are many, many brilliant guides to SEO out there such as Aaron Wall’s SEObook and Rand Fishkin’s Beginner’s guide to SEO.

There are, however, few, if any, industry specific SEO guides to read up on.

My Guide to Recruitment SEO is aimed at the beginner to intermediate SEO consultant or in-house marketers tasked with buying a new jobs website from a web design agency. It covers applying SEO technique to a recruitment website and is a high-level overview of many of the SEO techniques I have applied to the 40+ jobs sites I’ve worked on over the years.

Creating an Optimised Site Structure

Getting a clearly organised and well optimised sitemap structure on your recruitment website plays a vital role in user experience and search engine optimisation. This is a step by step basic guide to creating your website structure with that in mind. If you’re thinking about creating a new site, read this post.

Step 1 – Do your research

When you’re starting out, there will always be a bigger, better optimised site that you aspire to compete with. Study them. How have they arranged their site? List the types of content you find on the site. Let’s start with taking a look at this corporate governance recruitment company.

SEO site map structure example - homepage - Barclay Simpson

By taking a quick look at the homepage you can see the content types your competitor is using. Make a list:

There’s a particularly good reason why Barclay Simpson’s site structure is laid out like this. Relevance. Each section of the site (homepage, sector pages, jobs pages, vacancies) have been assigned their own keyword and therefore become the most relevant content to a specific query.

Step 2 – Draw your own sitemap

Now you’ve done a bit of research and you’ve got a note of the content types you’re going to need, start arranging them into a site map. Here’s one I’ve created:

Sitemap structure for SEO (search engine optimisation)

I’ve created a hierarchical, semantic relationship between the sector pages, jobs pages and the vacancies (that’s if you’re displaying vacancies on the jobs pages, we’ll come to this in another post). This means you only link to the job title pages on the sector pages that are relevant to that industry. Do the same when you’re displaying vacancies on the job title pages.

Obviously this diagram is quite simple, it doesn’t have a sitemap or the related content. Nor does it display horizontal internal links. Whenever you’re creating that extra content, always try to add it to your sitemap and link any keywords to the relevant, important areas of the site. Internal linkbuilding is key.

Step 3 – Assign keywords to your sitemap

In a recruitment website structure, there are 4 main types of keyword (keyword buckets). They are;

Here’s a revised sitemap diagram with the keyword buckets assigned:

Sitemap structure diagram for SEO including keywords

Once you’ve completed this exercise, you’ve got a fair idea of the structure of your site and how you’re going to assign your keywords, you have a structured, optimised recruitment website.

Optimising your Homepage

What kind of recruitment company are you? An accountancy recruiter? A pizza company?! It sounds obvious but make this the main element of your homepage keyword optimisation and as a secondary element, you can add your main sector keywords. Here’s a really good example of why that strategy will work:

Query: audit jobs

Quite often you can get your homepage ranking with a sector page from your site with a well-chosen keyword strategy.

Next, you should consider including some important features on the homepage, either for SEO or for better conversion! Here are some items you should include in your design:

Here’s an example of how you could arrange those tags on a legal jobs homepage: (site credit:

Using header (h1,H2,H3) attributes in title tag optimisation

Now we have an optimised site structure and an optimised site homepage. The next step is to talk over some of the details of optimising the bulk of your website.

Optimising Vacancy Pages

Vacancy pages. How many jobs has your recruitment agency had in its database since the company started, each vacancy lovingly typed into a database by one of your recruitment consultants, hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands?

How do search engines find all of these jobs? have you built your website with the ability for search engines to crawl, index and rank your jobs pages?

So many recruiters have databases that update their website with new jobs that are completely hidden behind a “search” button on the site. A wealth of valuable, traffic generating content is completely missing from their site. For the recruiters who don’t have “indexable vacancies” here’s what your SEO consultant should be telling you:

  1. For faster indexing, make sure that your site structure allows for your most recent jobs to be displayed on your home page and internal content pages. For bonus points (and conversion) you might want to think about displaying jobs that are relevant to the page you’re on.
  2. If you’re going to try to get a vacancy page indexed, you’re going to need to be able to rewrite the URL so it’s a little more relevant to the job title and a lot more search engine friendly. Here’s an example:

    Note how the URL contains the job title and location of the role. That’s good practice when you’re targeting job searcher behaviour in its longest tail. Ok, so this example might be a little long but it’s better than a set of dynamic queries and meaningless numbers.

  3. Consider the vacancy page itself. It’s now an optimisable page, just like any other! don’t forget to encapsulate relevant titles in H1’s and H2’s. For bonus points (or better internal link building) this website should consider modifying their breadcrumbs so that a vacancy page links back to the sector page it is most relevant to.
  4. Optimised vacancy (job) page on a recruitment web site
  5. What happens when the job has been placed? You’d be shocked about how frequently this part of the puzzle gets lost. Many websites simply return a 404 error page once the vacancy has expired or worse still, a default “this vacancy is no longer available” page is published at the old job url. The outcome, a slow but sure duplicate content suicide.
    What you should do, without fail, is keep all the original content, URL and meta code with a simple message displayed: This vacancy has now expired. Please see some of our similar positions below..” Bonus! that way, you don’t lose any traffic (in fact you gain some) nor do you miss out on converting that traffic into CV’s. Perfect. Here’s a good example of an expired vacancy page.
  6. Meta code. I wrote a post on Moz covering dynamic meta code on vacancy pages. Most of that advice hasn’t changed so check out that post here.

Now you have an optimised site structure, optimised homepage and an ever growing, content-rich repository of indexed vacancy pages. Next, I’m going to cover getting rankings for brand search in the jobs market.

Optimised Campaigns Leveraging Brand Search

Vacancy optimisation is designed to capture traffic for long tail search like “landscape gardener job in Rickmansworth”, and that long tail can mean a 30% uplift on your site traffic. But there’s another search behaviour in recruitment. Brand search.

It sounds obvious when you say it out loud. Job seekers are looking to work at specific companies. Would you like to work at Google? Maybe Mencap? Perhaps Microsoft? There are already recruitment agencies cashing in on this search. Let’s try some searches:

  1. Jobs at Google. Position 3 belongs to
  2. Jobs at Microsoft. Position 2 belongs to
  3. Jobs at Mencap. Position 3 belongs to

Here’s the Mencap page:

Jobs at Mencap - Optimised campaign page

Note the meta code is dynamic and includes the employer name in the <title> tag, though the description could be handled a little better:

By creating a set of pages optimised for your key clients, you can leverage extra search traffic from job seekers using brand terms as a starting point. You’d think that job seekers would go directly to that specific company to apply. Not always so. Perhaps the website design isn’t clear enough to know what to do (jobs websites are way better at converting cv’s right?). Perhaps the job seeker doesn’t want to approach the company directly, for confidentiality reasons. Either way, this method does generate traffic, and there are already agencies and cleverly seo’d jobs boards out there that are capitalising on the traffic.

Understand Your Long Tail

Could you imagine writing 10,000+ meta titles? I think not! The secret is in a little developer time and some research into your specific industry (perhaps via your deepest, longest tail data in your analytics account?!). I’ve written a similar post before, thing is, it missed a vital concept: candidate search behaviour can vary depending on what industry sector jobs they’re searching for!

We start with an assumption that you followed my advice from post 3 and that your developer knows how to modify the meta template on your job detail master pages (let’s say job-details.aspx). We also assume that your developer could make elements of the meta template pull through information unique to the job itself, for example, the location and job title.

So, if you were able to create entirely dynamic, customised meta data for each one of your vacancies, how would you go about it? To help us along the way, I wrote a simple post about the subject 6 months ago. Here’s the link.

The main point of the Youmoz post was that job seekers use a specific pattern to search for jobs and that some of those patterns tend to convert better than others.

Thing is, there’s more to it than this. The “long tail of search in the recruitment market” is far too general a point to make. That’s because the long tail of search in your recruitment business is likely to be specific to the recruitment business you’re in! Did that make sense?

I’ve gotten some very useful data on the subject to prove this. By looking at long tail patterns by 3 major industries that use the recruitment market I hope I’ve provided a useful extension to my original post and that I’ve provided you with useful inspiration to go and research your own niche. I’ve looked at a major IT recruiter, a financial / accountancy recruiter and a construction industry recruiter. Here are the results:

Long tail search data

As you can see there are some key behavioural differences in search patterns in the long tail. I thought the frequency of occurrences of the word “contract” in the IT and construction markets really spelt out the importance of this type of research. There are some commonalities too, “salary” for example came up every time. In the accountancy market, it seems a lot of job seekers are looking for “salary survey” at the end of their job title. Perhaps there’s a higher level of dissatisfaction with salary levels and pay rates in the accounting sector.

Each industry is slightly different, so make sure you’ve done your homework. If you understand the long tail, but you’ve made it relative to the recruiter industry you’re optimising in, you’ll really impress your new client!

Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter is an SEO Consultant of over 15 years and the Founding member of digital agency, Builtvisible.

Richard founded Builtvisible in September 2009. Since then he has grown a one-man SEO consulting agency into a 45 strong, industry accredited full service digital agency based in the heart of Old Street, in London.

More about Richard

Richard brings deep experience in SEO and organic digital marketing, having begun his career in search in 2003. Having worked in highly competitive verticals including travel, finance and retail throughout his career, Richard understands what is required to perform well in a crowded, competitive marketplace.

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