SEO for Staffing Firms: 2016 Edition
I'm new to this! What is SEO?
SEO, or "Search Engine Optimization," is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to your website from search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and hundreds of others.
The goal is to find users who are looking for exactly what you offer. Whether it's a staffing service or a piece of content on your blog, you want them to land on your website. If they don't find your site, there's no chance for them to convert into a paying customer or a job application.
I don't know about you, but I don't think there's much point in having a website that doesn't generate business leads!
How does a website actually get ranked?
With the amount of websites in existence exceeding one billion as of 2014 (yes, that's billion with a "b"), the only possible way to know what every website contains is through automated scanning. All major search engines have some form of Web crawler (an automated bot) that will visit a website, download its pages, and index them to make them easier to find for its users. Without automation, you would need people to review over a billion websites manually, and on a regular basis. At that quantity, there's not enough coffee in the world to make that happen.
Why should I care about SEO?
If a prospective client is looking for a recruiter in your area, the last thing you want is for them to find your competitor instead of you! There are SEO opportunities in every industry, regardless of how large or small your niche may be.
To give you an idea, here are some terms that people are searching right now:
- 1,830,000 people search Google for "jobs" each month.
- 74,000 people search Google for "temp agencies" each month.
- 60,500 people search Google for "recruitment agencies" each month.
...And that's just to name a few! This data reflects Google only, not the hundreds of other search engines that people use every day. All you need is the right data and a smart strategy to yield the long-term benefits that search engines provide. The best part is, most major search engines follow similar industry-wide best practices. This means that a good SEO foundation can help you get ranked in almost every search engine! How awesome is that?
Great, but how do I get MY website ranked?
A Web crawler only knows what it reads. It deciphers the code on your website and renders the page to know exactly what a normal user would see. This means you can edit the wording on your website to incorporate certain "keywords" or "search phrases" that people are using, and there's a good chance you'll be ranked by a search engine for that term as well.
Nice! Is it really that easy?
Well, not exactly. Perhaps a small history lesson can bring you up to date on where SEO currently stands.
Back in the day (before Google was cool), it was commonplace to manipulate search engines through a variety of tactics. The most common one was referred to as "keyword stuffing." This basically means that you'd take a search phrase that you want to be found for, such as "staffing agencies in Buffalo," then put it on every page 20+ times.
Without actually doing that, you can imagine how well those pages would read to a normal human (not well at all). Some webmasters even went as far as making the text color the same as the background so the keywords weren't actually visible. Oh, how clever! In the early days of search, Web crawlers viewed those spammy pages as more relevant to the query, and ranked those pages higher. This is no longer the case.
You have to remember why search engines were created. It wasn't because a group of engineers happened to be feeling nice that day. Search engines are in the business to make money by serving you ads. The consequence of continually showing users poor results for their queries means that people will likely not return, or switch to a competitor who shows better search results. Without a developed user base, they're not going to be selling many ads. If they're not selling ads, the search engine is probably going out of business.
Because of this, search engines have evolved and developed very advanced algorithms to show users only the most relevant content and Web pages. We're so far removed from the days of keyword stuffing that we might as well compare rotary phones to the iPhone 12, which I'm sure will be pretty awesome when it's released. Rumor has it that the new device will do all of your SEO for you, but until then, we'll be happy to work with you on your SEO.
What goes into a search engine's ranking algorithm?
This is where things get tricky. Modern-day Google takes over 200 different factors into consideration when determining where to rank a website, and each of those factors may have up to 50 variations. The truth is, only Google knows what all these factors are. One thing we can be sure of is that they all have one common theme in mind:
A search engine's ranking factors are both internal and external. Internal factors include things about your website that you can, for the most part, control. The written copy, the loading speed, the user experience, the URL structure, and so on. External factors might include social signals, an external backlink from another website that points to yours, and overall user engagement (pages viewed, time on site, etc.). Even though they're external factors, you still have a certain level of control over them. It just takes a bit more work.
What makes a good SEO strategy?
Think of the internal SEO factors (also referred to as on-page SEO) as the foundation to your house. You must have a good foundation before you start building the house (your website).
At Haley Marketing, we take care of a lot of those factors before we even begin to discuss your direction and strategy. How do we do it? By offering light-weight, quick-loading, user-friendly and responsive websites focused on converting your users into returning customers. Our industry-leading recruitment website design has evolved from years of experience working with staffing agencies across the country. That's the hard part, and we've done that for you. From there it's simply a matter of discussing your business goals and creating a plan to optimize your pages around the most relevant and high-converting keyword terms.
By building a modern and fully optimized website that perfectly answers a users search query, the external factors will take care of themselves. If a user found exactly what they were looking for on your site, it would only make sense for them to stay on the website longer, viewing additional pages, or even sharing a blog post to their Twitter followers.
Get the on-page SEO down first and all of your future marketing efforts will be much more effective!
So how exactly do you modify the content on a page to appeal to both search engines and humans? I'm glad you asked! Let's cover the basics.
How do you know if you have the perfect collection of keywords? Unfortunately, there's no simple formula, but here are a few tips:
Pick commonly searched keywords
If people aren't searching for the keywords you're targeting, then it won't matter if you're ranked #1 or #100, the result will still be the same: No traffic. Visit the Google AdWords Keyword Planner and start searching for some relevant terms.
Pick terms that are likely to convert
The most important part of keyword research is finding terms and phrases that will convert prospects into returning customers. I'd rather receive 10 clicks from people who are likely to use my product or service than 100 clicks from tire kickers. The data you can see in the Google AdWords Keyword Planner is slightly limited; however, the competition column is a good indicator of whether or not a keyword actually converts.
The competition column represents the number of advertisers who are bidding on the keyword for a paid spot in Google's search results. If it says "high," then many advertisers are bidding on the keyword. A general rule of thumb is that high competition means a keyword has high commercial value, and is therefore more likely to convert. But it also means that more people are trying to optimize their websites for that term, so ranking high will be difficult. However, for the sake of getting the right traffic to your site, you'll want to target terms with medium to high competition.
Make sure you can compete
Search the keyword in Google and make sure the top 10 results aren't littered with highly authoritative websites that you have no chance to surpass. Google favors authority websites in almost every niche. For our purposes, we're trying to avoid competing with websites such as Indeed, CareerBuilder, Monster, and others. SEO competition analysis can be very complex, but this is a quick way to assess whether or not a term is worth targeting. And for the record, the analysis phase for a typical staffing website takes us around five hours! When doing keyword research:
1) DO NOT choose keywords that are too broad. A term like "jobs" isn't nearly targeted enough, and it's far too competitive for you to have any SEO success.
2) DO NOT choose ONLY the most popular terms. If the term is popular, there's a chance it's also extremely competitive.
3 ) DO NOT try to be everything to everyone. The strongest SEO has a theme. Each page is about one specific thing. Do not try to optimize your website for every keyword you can think of--or every page for 27 different terms.
Optimize Meta Data
Meta data is hidden code on your website that helps search engines determine what information your website provides. There's a lot that goes into it, but the two main components you should be concerned with are:
- Meta Page Title
The page title is what's visible when you hover your mouse over the browser tab. This is also what shows up on the search engine results page when someone finds your website. Best practice is to include the keyword in your page title, and to keep your title short. Preferably to six words or less. The early words in the page title are viewed as the most important, so brevity is key here.
The meta description is what appears when your website shows up in the search results--most of the time. Sometimes the search engine will grab text around a keyword term to show the user, but for the most part, the meta description is what people (humans) will see when they are skimming through Google search results.
The idea behind the meta description is to convince the user to click on your listing. Having the keyword in the meta description is not a ranking signal in itself; however, the keyword will get bolded in Google if it happens to be in your description, and this may be an additional signal to the searcher that your page is relevant to their query. In other words, write the description to drive an action, and include the keyword only if it makes sense.
Make sure the keyword is in your content!
This is the most important part of optimizing a page. If the keyword is nowhere to be found on the page, guess what? Your page isn't about that keyword!
Work the keyword into your written copy naturally. The amount of times your keyword should be included depends on the length of the article. If it's a shorter top-level page on a website, the exact keyword should be in the copy at least twice. If it's a longer article, don't be afraid to include it a few more times, as long as it's not forced. You should also work the keyword into the headings of an article or page when possible, as well as using synonyms and keyword variations throughout your page.
Remember, the page needs to be helpful to a human, so subtlety is important.
Misc Optimization Tips
- Modify the page URL to include the keyword
Much like the meta page title, the URL should be modified to include your keyword. Shorter is better here! Eliminate words that add no SEO value such as in, the, a, it, is, etc. An example of a good URL would be www.website.com/staffing-agencies-buffalo/.
- Create links
Include anchor text links in your copy that a user can click on to go to another place on your website. In plain English, this means using keywords as links from one page of your website to another. For example, if you create a link to the contact page, and your contact page is optimized for the term "Staffing Agencies in Buffalo," you might want to use that exact phrase as the text for your link instead of using "contact us" as the link text.
- Use rich media
Search engines prefer pages with rich media such as pictures or video. Don't go overboard, though. We don't want the page to take an hour to load. A couple of pictures or a link to a YouTube video can go a long way in adding SEO value to a page.
- Avoid duplication
Don't optimize several pages for the exact same keyword. Then you'll have multiple pages on your site competing for the same positions in search. Also, do not duplicate content across your website. If you have several pages with the exact same copy, there's a chance that none of them will be indexed. Each page should be completely unique and add value to your website!
I have the on-page optimization down, now what?
Keep going! This is why blogging and content marketing are such effective tools. And for most staffing and recruiting firms, your best SEO comes from adding optimized job posts to your website (which you easily do with a tool like Haley Marketing's job board software!).
When you continue to create optimized content through regular blogging, job posts and other content, you'll see your organic traffic rise over time. Keep that blog going, stay active on social media, and you're well on your way to dominating the search results!
Ready to get started? Contact one of our sales specialists to see how we can help you reach your goals!