Retailer Marketing Study Has Lessons For Recruiters

Drawing recruiting lessons from a study of conversion rates for e-retail shoppers may seem a peculiar thing to do, and it probably is. But don’t let that deter you from considering what Engine Ready found when it studied the effectiveness of the various ways buyers came to a site.

The just-completed study reaffirmed a finding first reported in January 2008 that visitors who arrive at a retailer’s site by clicking on a paid search ad were more likely to make a purchase than were those who got there by clicking on an organic search result. How much more likely? Sixty one percent more.

The highest conversion rate — 7.38 percent — came from those visitors who arrived at the site by typing in the address or using a bookmark. Those who arrived by clicking on a link in an email or another site, converted at a rate of 6.58 percent.

The Engine Ready study also found PPC (pay per click) search advertising — buying keywords that appear on search engine results pages — yields higher sales volumes than does a user clicking out of the organic (free) listings. In fact, buyers who found the site via PPC ads spent on average almost $8 more per purchase than those who came in by clicking a link from elsewhere, which was the next highest category.

I don’t want to overstate what these numbers might mean for recruiters, but there is a striking similarity between retailers seeking to attract quality (high spending) customers and employers searching for quality workers. Whether you buy that or not, the Engine Ready study is worth considering when debating where to put limited marketing dollars.

Microsoft, as Marvin Smith explained in Thursday’s ERE article “Sourcing Insights: SEO is Not Enough!”, is fully engaged in a program to elevate its job openings to the top of the first page on Google. That effort — Search Engine Optimization — has resulted, he reports, in 97 percent of his division’s jobs appearing on that first page. A success to be sure and one which has resulted in “a significant increase in traffic” to the jobs.

For recruiters without the means to provide a distinct landing page for each job as well as keyword-laden job descriptions, and to simultaneously finance a PPC campaign on the major search engines, the Engine Ready report offers some guidance about the most effective use of online recruitment marketing dollars.

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With the vast majority of companies lacking an effective SEM strategy, according to Arbita’s Recruitment Genome Project, a strategy that at leasts tests the conclusions in the Engine Ready report is an improvement.

Look over the January 2008 report (the 2009 report has not yet been publicly posted). You’ll find that the current findings mirror those of 18 months ago. One curious finding of that earlier report is that the value of every visitor arriving from a referral source — this includes email — was higher than from any other source other than by direct access (typing in the address or using a bookmark).

Here, again, the parallels shouldn’t be taken too far, but the result does suggest that building a relationship with quality candidates can pay off.

Creating an online recruitment marketing strategy based on an e-retail study is not what I’m advocating. Instead, consider the implications of the report before deciding where to invest limited marketing dollars.

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


4 Comments on “Retailer Marketing Study Has Lessons For Recruiters

  1. Interesting findings.

    It stands to reason that users who click on the paid ads at google have already, to some extent, decided to pay for what they get, because they know that they are clicking on a paid commercial advertisement, and probably have given up on the “organic” results after not finding what they were looking for, or not finding it for free. On the other hand, users who seek out and click on organic search results are generally looking for the best fit, which is not necessarily commercial.

    The key metric, which the article leaves out, is how many sales, in total, result from the paid versus unpaid listings. Simply listing the percent conversion obscures the true value of either mode.

    Frank Heasley, Ph.D.
    MedZilla, Inc.

  2. I’m confused by what metric it is you’re looking for. If it is average sales per converted order, the numbers are available simply by clicking the link in the story to the report.

    I didn’t include every data point that’s available out of pity for the reader who would have to wade through number upon number. Hence, the links.

  3. Hi John

    Bottom line. # of visitors delivered by the paid ads vs # of visitors delivered by the “organic” results, and the actual # of resulting sales in each case.

    The percentages are interesting, because they suggest behavioral patterns, but they don’t lend themselves well to making business decisions to buy ads or focus on rank.

    Just theory on my part, strictly from personal observation: “Organic” search results produce quite a bit more traffic than paid ads. I probably click on several hundred “organic” results for every time I click on a paid ad, and from what I’ve observed, this is generally the case for internet users. Frankly, I don’t know anyone who clicks on a paid ad before they look at the organic results.

    Frank Heasley, Ph.D.
    MedZilla, Inc.

  4. All the data is on page 19 of the 2008 study. (As noted, only a summary of the 2009 study has so far been made available. But with the 2009 results aligning so closely to those of 2008, it would be surprising if the visit volume also did not track.)

    From the 2008 data:
    Paid 7,713,880 106,883 $14,754,202
    Organic 4,684,393 54,198 $ 6,346,084

    The data for the other two categories are also on page 19, but this answers your specific point.

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