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22 Steps to Better SEO for Job Adverts

Tags: Recruiter Toolkit

A while back I wrote about how to write a job advert for the web, and also wrote a separate article proposing a job schema for search engines supporting  For the latter, our proposal was almost entirely supported in’s eventual published schema.
This article goes a level deeper in search engine optimisation (SEO) and describes some of the fundamental techniques in improving how search engines regard your job advert.

There are three people that (can) make the difference in how your job advert is rated by search engines:
i) the author of the job advert
ii) your developer
iii) your online campaign manager / link builder

The author needs to write the text so that it engages the job seeker but is still recognised by search engines.  The developer needs to make sure that the web page (or web site) is “marked up” with relevant information that makes search engines take notice of your web page.  Finally, if you have the luxury of a campaign manager for your jobs then this person makes sure your advert is known all over the web, creating links from other web pages to your job advert’s main page.

Here are the main rules and techniques that these people should follow in order to get your job advert recognised by search engines:

Author guidelines

1. Write the advert for the job seeker and not for a search engine.
“Huh? You’re meant to be telling me how to get my job noticed by search engines, now you’re telling me the opposite?!”  Not quite.  If you want search engines to take you seriously, you need to make sure your readers take you seriously too.  Why?

a) If you focus on the search engine rather than the reader then you might get visitors to your advert but they’ll soon leave your page because the advert doesn’t make sense or doesn’t come across like a human has written it.  This can be very frustrating and annoying to read. Make it human and keep the readers’ interest.
b) The more you make the advert interesting, the more links you are likely to get from other websites (read about the importance of links later).
c) If search engines detect (or are informed) that your web page is overly optimised in favour of search engines, then the search engine may penalise you – which is the opposite effect you’re after!

Check out our new blog with tips on Copywriting for recruiters – a practical toolkit

2. Consider what users will type into search engines when looking for a job similar to yours.
I touched on this in my blog post about web based job adverts.  In it I gave the example  of my mate Dave who would search for a project management job near where he lives in Sheffield.  He might type the following into a search engine:

  • project manager jobs
  • project manager jobs in Sheffield
  • project manager jobs near Sheffield
  • project manager jobs south yorkshire
  • project co-ordinator jobs in Sheffield
  • project facilitator jobs in Sheffield

The recurring words and phrases are important – in the above example, these are “project”, “project manager”, “jobs” and “Sheffield”.  These are what we would term “keywords” or “key phrases”.    These are the words that you want search engines to recognise as being associated with your web page and job advert.  Your number one job in optimising your advert so that search engines recognise it correctly is creating a list of these keywords and key phrases that you believe people will most likely type into search engines while searching for a similar job.

3. Create your list of keywords and key phrases
As mentioned, these are the common words and phrases you would expect users to type into a search engine.  Don’t come up with too many keywords – 10 is more than enough, but 3 or 4 is probably better.  If you have too many then your advert will be diluted and search engines won’t know what your page is about.

To get your job advert noticed you need to make sure you use these keywords as much as possible on your web page – but remembering the golden rule of writing for the reader rather than the search engine.

4. Create the text for the job advert
When writing the advert, don’t fall into the trap of writing all about the company first. The closer to the top of your page that your keywords are present, the more points your page will receive from search engines with regard to those keywords. For your project management job, try to start the advert with something like, “We are looking for a Project Manager to join our growing team”.

Don’t write too many words before you use your main keywords – many search engines expect your first few sentences will be relevant to the theme of your page.  So if you start writing more about your company than you do about the job, then search engines may think the page is about your company rather than a project management job.

Add as many of your keywords as possible, preferably more than once, but remember to write for the reader: if you engage the reader, the search engines will follow.


Developer guidelines

5.  Use the keywords in the job advert’s url
If your job advert is for a project manager, add the word project manager in the url.  Make it easy for search engines to detect word boundaries by using dashes to separate the words.  For example, if Tribepad were to advertise a project manager role, it might use the url /jobs/project-manager

6. Use the title tag
The title tag is one of the most important tags considered by search engines.  Make sure you include the job title / keywords in the web page’s title tag, for example:

<title>Project Manager</title>

7.  Use the descriptions tag
You’ll need the author to help with this.  Although the description doesn’t generally add to your page’s score, it does help with enticing users to click to your page once your page is listed in a search engine’s results page.  Although not supported by all search engines, those that do (including Google) will show the description to the user when listing the web page in the search results.  Therefore, make the description enticing like “Great project management role for £200m ground-breaking project.” For example:

<meta name=”description” content=”Great project management role for £200m ground-breaking project.” />

8. Use the header H1 tag
This is another highly scored tag on a web page.  Make sure that your page has 1 (and only 1) H1 tag and that it contains your keywords – the most natural fit would be your job title.
<h1>Project Manager ( Agile, Scrum )</h1>

9. Add markup for job
We proposed a draft schema for job adverts back in June 2011, and in November 2011 officially released a schema that included much of our proposal.  Using this markup will allow search engines to understand the semantics of your web page – i.e., that it is a job advert for a “project manager” in “Sheffield, UK”, and the salary is £50k.
You can read more about this on’s job advert schema page.  In the future search engines will be able to present information about your job advert in a similar fashion to how it advertises products in the middle of search results.  That means your page will be more obvious to the readers and more enticing.  Using will also make it easier for other sites to scrape your job advert and easily advertise it all over the web.

10. Keep javascript in separate files – don’t embed it.
Javascript can confuse the search engine – the engines won’t try and run the script, but the script will get in the way of the real content if it’s embedded all over the main body of the html.  And do not bring in the job advert using AJAX – otherwise engines may not see any of the advert!

11.  Keep your web page fast!
If your web page loads very slowly then some search engines (including Google) will penalise you and mark your site down.  Speed is an SEO feature.

12. Link to other relevant pages
Add links to other pages on your site or third party sites that are relevant to your advert.  For example, if you have an article like “What’s it like to be a project manager at XYZ Ltd” then link to it.  Don’t add too many links on the page, though, otherwise you might draw your readers away from your page before they have completed their goal.

When creating links, make sure you don’t just show the web page url as the link – show human readable words as the link – and include your keywords.  Google puts a huge emphasis on links, so make use of the points!  So, don’t just show /jobs/project-manager, but instead create the link similar to this <a href=”/jobs/project-manager” title=”Project manager job in Sheffield”>Project Manager job, Sheffield</a>

13. Make use of the title attribute
Most html elements support the title attribute.  Where it makes sense, add a title attribute and include a keyword in it.  For example, your job advert will likely be in a parent DIV.  You could add the title to the parent div, such as “<div title=”Project manager job advert”>”

14. Use keywords in file names
If your job advert includes an image of someone performing the role – for example a project manager may be in a SCRUM meeting, then make sure your image’s file name has the words “project manager” in it.  For example, “scrum_project_manager_meeting.jpg”.  This is all valid, contextual information for search engines.
<img src=”/jobs/project-manager/scrum_project_manager_meeting.jpg” title=”Project manager hosting a daily scrum meeting”
width=”180″ height=”135″ />

15. Make use of the alt attribute
Image tags (IMG) can have an alt attribute that is displayed if the image cannot be downloaded for any reason.  The value may also be read out to people using screen readers. However, this attribute is also considered by many search engines and you can gain points if the alt attribute has relevant information in it.  Although the alt attribute is supported by other tags, the image is the most likely relevant one for a job advert.
A revised example of the image tag is shown below:
<img alt=”Project manager in a scrum meeting” title=”Project manager hosting a daily scrum meeting”
width=”180″ height=”135″ />

16. Be careful of keyword stuffing
There are loads of places you can mention your keywords, but don’t overdo it – add them naturally to add valid and natural context to your page or links. Adding too many of the same keywords will be recognised as “keyword stuffing” by major search engines, and this will have the opposite effect to what you want because engines may well dock points.
In guideline #3, above, you created a list of keywords – use each of them in different places on the page and meta tags. Don’t use the same keyword all over the place.


Campaign manager guidelines

17. Get as many quality links as you can!
Links are one of the most valuable components of any SEO programme of work.  These links should be from within your own site as well as external sites.  However, to be considered relevant, the link must be from a page that is related to the page you are linking to.    For example, don’t put a project management job advert link on a page that is related to paracetamol – make sure it’s about project management!

Some people worry about only linking on “aged” sites but the truth is that, as long as the page is relevant, then most search engines will score the link highly.    What is more important is that the link stays in place for a period of time – the older the link, the more trust search engines will have in the link.   So although older sites have more trust initially, don’t get bogged down by this – it’s the age of the link on a relevant site that really matters.

And look at guideline #12 for details on how to make your link keyword rich.

18. Use social media
Search engines are prioritising social media content more and more these days.  The content on facebook and twitter especially is being indexed by search engines throughout the day, so search results are becoming more and more relevant to the current time period.  Therefore, tweeting jobs and posting jobs on facebook will be recognised as links to your job advert.  Use social channels – many of them are free!

19.  Consider using GoogleAds and other PPC systems
While natural search is free, no one can guarantee your web page will be on page 1, let alone #1 in Google’s results.  Moving up the pages can take time.  Using GoogleAds means your advert is guaranteed to get a top stop (or close) for a period of time for your chosen keywords. If you have the budget, use paid and non-paid-for search tools.  You will get results – just make sure your keywords are strong.

20. Don’t duplicate content
The worst thing you can do is put the same advert on different web sites. This means that search engines have no way of  knowing which is the authority for the advert.  This in turn means that search engines either have to share the points between the 2 pages, give neither of the pages any points, or just pick one at random to give the points to.

If you want to advertise the job elsewhere then you can, but you should do one of two things:
a) change the content of the advert
b) get the host of the target website to add a “canonical” tag to the web page to let search engines know where the authoritative page lives, and to give the points to that page instead, for example:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”/jobs/project-manager” id=”Canonical” />

21.  Monitor your competitors
Look at what your competitors are doing.  If they are ranking higher than you then research what they are doing.  Are they getting more links?  Are they following more guidelines than you?  Are you breaking any rules?

22. Monitor your keywords
Use tools like Google Analytics to determine how successful your keywords are – are they driving much traffic?  If not, change your keywords.

“Hold on, I’ve heard about this keyword tag but you’ve missed that out!”

No, not missed out, just ignored.  This tag does not have any real value in search engines anymore.  This is partly because developers abused the tag and “stuffed” it with keywords – relevant ones or not.  Most search engines now ignore this or give such little weight to it that it is not going to make any difference.    Some people will still insist that you should include this tag, but the reality is you are just making your users’ browsers download needless data.

The most important thing to remember is that SEO is not a one-off activity – it’s continuous.  Stop monitoring and you lose.  Don’t waste a load of upfront effort by stopping as soon as your job advert is published.  Play to win!

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