The Mobile Candidate Experience — It’s Already Too Late

googleAre you prepared to lose up to a third of your job applicant traffic?

One of Google’s recent search algorithm changes will have a major impact on your recruiting efforts. It sends a clear message to recruiters that it’s already too late to be proactive about your candidate experience on mobile devices.

Here’s what’s happening:

On June 11, 2013, Google announced changes in rankings of smartphone search results. This mobile search algorithm change is designed to demote web pages in the organic search results that are not built with a responsive mobile web design.

If your website isn’t built to render a mobile-optimized version of each page, your career site and job posting pages are going to start ranking lower and may even be removed from Google’s mobile search results.

Pure Oxygen Labs, a mobile consulting and technology company, recently released a mobile SEO risk assessment of the Fortune 100 companies. In its report, Pure Oxygen Labs found that 94 percent of the Fortune 100 are going to trigger the new Google mobile penalty. The majority of these companies have mobile sites; however, their sites are not designed responsively enough to meet the new Google standards.

Let’s take a look at job search giant to gauge the impact. Indeed is leading the way when it come to searching for jobs online. It is visited by more than 100 million unique job seekers per month. At a volume of three billion job searches per month, Indeed holds the record for half of all U.S. job searches. Indeed even boasts that it delivers more hires than Careerbuilder, Monster, and LinkedIn … combined!

Now let’s take a look at job search trends. Indeed states that a third of its three billion job searches per month are coming from mobile devices. That’s about as impressive a statistic as you can get — one billion U.S. job searches per month are performed on mobile devices, just on Indeed. You can clearly see the recruiting industry trends at play here.

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Go to your favorite mobile device (iPhone, Android, tablet, etc) and start experimenting. Do a Google search on the device and try to find your career site and job posting pages. Sample searches are; careers at (your company), jobs at (your company), sales jobs at (your company), engineering jobs at (your company). Hunt around as much as you can.

Don’t just click on a home page search result. Try to search for internal pages and see how they render. You can even copy and paste your site URLs and email them to yourself, for access on your phone.

Anything less than a perfect mobile experience in now considered bad, and Google will be demoting and possible removing your pages from their search results. Here are three examples of common causes for generating the new penalty:

  1. If you do not have mobile-optimized webpages: In other words, when someone goes to your career site or job posting pages on a mobile device, they are served a regular HTML desktop version of the page.
  2. If you have a mobile site, but when a searcher clicks on a search result for an internal page (for example, a specific job posting or job category landing page) and is then redirected to the “Home” page of your mobile site. Again, that’s bad — all of your results except for your Home page will be demoted.
  3. If you have Flash video or any other content that has difficulty displaying on smartphones, tablets, or other mobile devices. Again, a bad experience for users. Google will demote all pages with that type of content.

The official Google mobile algorithm change announcement is here.

Here’s more from Google about building search optimized mobile sites.

As SEO Strategist for NAS Recruitment Innovation, Larry Engel (here on Google+) oversees the research, design and implementation of search engine optimization (SEO) methods for client career sites. His recruitment agency experience includes 12 years in account management, 5 years as a Certified Google Advertising Professional (AdWords GAP Program) and 2+ years’ concentration in SEO. Larry also has OMCP Master Certification in Social Media Marketing (SMM) and recently completed a mini MBA in SMM from Rutgers University.


38 Comments on “The Mobile Candidate Experience — It’s Already Too Late

  1. I understand this article is centred on mobile, and I enjoyed it. And my goal isn’t to discrediting indeed by anymeans, but these numbers seem super inflated:
    – 100 Million Unique Job Seekers per month?
    – Delivers more hires than CareerBuilder, Monster and LinkedIn combined

  2. Frank, I was as surprised and skeptical as you are. Thats why I include links to those claims by Indeed in the article.

    The main take away here is that Google has changed the mobile game on us. You can no longer think of mobile content as being proactive or simply “best practices.” If you don’t prepare your site for mobile, users will no longer find your pages in the Google mobile SERPs, period. It’s now a reactive issue for recruiters.

    FYI: I just ran analytics on 3 clients Career Sites and Job Postings. The average traffic from mobile for June 2013 on all sites is 32%. That’s right in line with what Indeed is stating (percentage-wise at least).

  3. Larry, I’m curious about your statement “…Google will be demoting and possible removing your pages from their search results.” Do you have any quotes from Google mentioning possible removal? I’m not finding this referenced anywhere in the links you provided.

  4. Hi Phil. In Google’s blog article regarding the algorithm change they state, “To improve the search experience for smartphone users and address their pain points, we plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.”

    Google never clearly and/or plainly states any threats about sites being removed from their SERPs. This is exactly how they state their algorithm changes. It’s always more of a ‘oh, and by the way’ type of statement. Anyone who works closely with Google understands what “roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users” means. It means shape up or lose traffic.

  5. We work with a niche of job seekers that illustrate this point perfectly. Truck drivers – interestingly one of the most aggressive technology users because of their proximity to home – are showing where this is going as more people move toward mobile as their primary web access point. Over the past three months, 58% of the postings in this industry on Indeed have been on a mobile device.

  6. “At a volume of three billion job searches per month,…”
    I’m curious about what they mean by “job searches”. Does it mean a click on some site?

    I can’t imagine that it means applications to individual positions. Here’s why: there are ~ 25 million un(der)employed people in the US right now ( If only they were the applicants, they’d have to each apply to ~120 positions/mo. Even if an equal number of fully employed people were applying, that would still be about 60 applications/mo for each. Also, there were 3.1 unemployed people/job opening in may ( and since it looks like the underemployed/”marginally attached” is about the same, that means about 6 folks/job opening, or about 4 million open jobs recently. If the 3G quotes figure related to individual job applications, each open job would have received 750 (3,000,000,000/4,000,000) online applications. That doesn’t make sense.

    Your thoughts, Folks?


  7. Hey Keith –

    First off, 3 billion job searches per month is a GLOBAL figure, not just the US. So you wasted a lot of time on your research and math.

    Second – Indeed calls their pageviews, “job searches” meaning the number of URLs that are viewed on their site as a result of entering in search criteria “What” & “Where.” If someone is looking for a “Sales” job in “Atlanta, GA” and runs that search, that would count as one pageview/job search. If they go to the second page of results, they count it as 2 pageviews/job searches; sooooo, if a person runs a search and goes back 20 pages, they would count that as 20 pageviews/job searches.

    Third – not every job search ends with an application; a job search that leads to an person applying to a job is called a conversion. A decent conversation rate for many organizations is ~10% – meaning that 1/10 people that click on a job actually apply. Thus, 30,000,000 applicants per month, GLOBALLY, would be a more accurate number.


  8. UPDATE TO THE ARTICLE: In speaking today with SEO expert Glenn Gabe, we discovered some good clarification points to add to this article.

    Google’s primary objective here is to improve the mobile user’s experience. They are demoting pages that provide a poor mobile experience, throw errors to mobile users, or that redirect all mobile visits to a single page.

    This means if you have a good enough mobile user experience with your regular desktop version of your pages (AKA pinch & zoom), you may be ok or at least not get hit as bad as the sites that are throwing errors or mass redirecting to a single page.

    The figures in the Pure Oxygen Labs risk assessment are still true… 94% of the Fortune 100 are going to get hit in some way by the new mobile search penalty. So the obvious next step for all of us is to test our career sites on mobile devices and see what kind of problems or issues we uncover – then fix them.

  9. Exactly. There’s no reason to assume Google will remove your site from their index because you don’t use @media queries or device detection redirect. But if you throw 404 errors at mobile users or redirect to your homepage, of course Googlebot-Mobile will downrank THAT PAGE. It also doesn’t mean an overall SiteRank hit… it only means MobileSearch. Obviously mobile users don’t want to hassle with sites that don’t serve the content they want to see, therefore mobile users would EXPECT Google to step in and adjust their results based on these points.

    Understand that the *majority* of extant sites are non-compliant, do not use ANY media detection at all, and many still use table-based layouts. Does Google care? Not at all. Their rankings system has never been based on format; it has always been based on content and query relevance, and the only sites that lose out on the SERPs have issues with irrelevant content and accessibility.

  10. Googles own documentation highlights the common mobile optimisation mistakes that it may well penalise sites for in the rankings. I have not read anything from Google that states if any down ranking is mobile search only or overall ranking. SEO is full of rumour so until there is a Google article or clear proof take you pick!

    It is clear that the mobile search is becoming more important to Google, more mobile optimised sites will help them make more money. The changes around mobile targeting in AdWords illustrates this. I forecast that IF it doesn’t impact desktop search today, it WILL do eventually.

    Here are the areas to consider to avoid any negative Google scores:

    1. Unplayable video, they recommend using the HTML5 standard tags
    2. Faulty redirects – there is a guide of how to tell Googlebot what your redirect method is or if it is responsive to include if javascript is used to change content (javascript adaptive)
    3. Smartphone only 404s
    4. App download interstitials (aka the doorslammer)
    5. Irrelevant cross-linking
    6. Page speed. Speed has always been high up for SEO, and they recommend that mobile pages render in under one second. On average most sites take 10 seconds to load on mobile, so most people have a lot of work to do on this one!

    To be clear, a responsive vs device detection vs adaptive approach makes little difference. Delivering a good user experience ie content is visible and it load fast does make a big difference.

    Delivering on the speed goal with pure responsive and no adaptive javascript or server detection will be a big challenge depending on your site design, content size etc.

    For more info goto

  11. Great points, Dave. However, I think we’re starting to get way too technical for the average HR person.

    For HR/recruiter folks, the FIRST STEPS you should take are in the article:
    Go to your favorite mobile device (iPhone, Android, tablet, etc) and start experimenting. Do a Google search on the device and try to find your career site and job posting pages. Sample searches are; careers at (your company), jobs at (your company), sales jobs at (your company), engineering jobs at (your company). Hunt around as much as you can.

    Don’t just click on a home page search result. Try to search for internal pages and see how they render. You can even copy and paste your site URLs from your desktop browser and email them to yourself for access on your phone.

    When you discover issues, take a screenshot and go to your Webmaster/IT dept head and see if they can fix the issue. Some folks in larger companies may need to address these items with Marketing. Whatever the website technical hierarchy situation is for you and your company, it’s imperative to get this on your list of things to do and address soon.

  12. I don’t agree that non responsive sites will lose their rankings. Yes, Google prefers responsive design (and that’s the direction we should be moving) but they also say if responsive design is not the best option for your users they support different HTML on the same or different URL. Googlebot WILL handle both setups appropriately as long as you follow their recommendations.


    My understanding around the mobile algorithm update is that it targets sites that are using common misconfiguration mistakes. These misconfiguration mistakes happen when you are using a non-responsive career site.

    If you are using a non-responsive career site, which most folks are these days, you need to make sure, your site is not misconfigured. If it is, then you risk the chance of having your site demoted in the search results.

    Of all the new recommendations, the one that will most impact career sites is how they are interlinking between desktop and mobile sites. Best practice used to be to use a generic footer link that simply said link to mobile site or link to full site. This link was on ALL pages and linked to the home page of either the desktop or mobile site.

    Google is putting their foot down on that. Now want each link to link to it’s corresponding equivalent page. (home page desktop links to home page mobile / about us desktop links to about us mobile)

    Anyway that’s my two cents

  13. @ Jack: Thanks for the explanation. Research to clarify things is rarely wasted.

    ISTM that a good mobile-friendly application process is the most important aspect of having a good mobile site. As I frequently mention, spending a lot of time, money, and effort, to POSSIBLY get viable candidates to come to you is a very weak, passive, and *slow way of recruiting. It’s far better to directly go after the people YOU want and have them apply using your super-easy, super-quick mobile-friendly application process. While your competitors are quaking in fear at what the Goog may do next to your humble recruiting website, you’re hiring people…


    Keith “If You Aren’t Sure You Can Win, Play a Different Recruiting Game” Halperin

    *It’s called “The Latest Way to ‘Post and Pray’!”

  14. HR Shoppers Beware: Test a product before buying!

    Folks also need to be very wary of HR technology company claims. There are people/companies posting references to this article stating that all their products are compliant with the new rule – they aren’t. I’ve been mobile search testing the past two days and most of these claims are now false… their client’s pages are gone/not found on page one of the Google mobile SERPs.

    I am not endorsing any product here. I am just stating the fact that there plenty of companies providing career site and job posting SEO help that just don’t pass the Google mobile test. It’s up to you to test their products before purchasing. Just find five of their client’s sites and do your own mobile testing – it’s that simple.

  15. Nicole be careful what you ask for when you say we should be aiming for responsive.

    You really want adaptive which is responsive 2.0! Google has a guide to tell google bot your site is using adaptive JavaScript. Sites focusing on transactions still aim for device targeted HTML because it runs faster and speed equals more transactions.

    RWD is cool, it has its place and coupled with device detection (clientside or server side) will deliver stronger return. Please remember it’s not just about screen size but processor power , memory, bandwidth, touch ux and device capability!

    And getting the seo right! When talking to a potent emits vendor get them to explain how they solve all the problems not just RWD. Also very important is maintenance mobile devices change fast!

  16. From this article: “On June 11, 2013, Google announced changes in rankings of smartphone search results. This mobile search algorithm change is designed to demote web pages in the organic search results that are not built with a responsive mobile web design.”

    As far as I can tell, you’ve completely misinterpreted Google’s blog post. Google do not mention anything about responsive design, it only says that sites with bad redirects (eg. redirecting deep links to the mobile home page) and other obvious flaws will be ranked down.

  17. @ Larry: “HR Shoppers Beware: Test a product before buying!”
    Heresy! Next you’ll be saying that Recruiting Thought Leaders should provide proof that what they say to do actually works!



  18. In Google’s official statement they say, “…we plan to roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.” Focus on the key phase of “…misconfigured for smartphone users.”

    They do provide several examples of what they call the “most common mistakes,” i.e., generating 404s, redirects to a common page, flash, etc.. However, nowhere do they officially state that those are the ONLY specific reasons for getting the penalty. They are just the most common issues with sites.

    As I and several commentators have stated previously, Google’s primary objective here is to improve the mobile user’s experience. They will be demoting pages that provide a poor mobile experience, throw errors, or redirect all mobile visits to a single page.

    The take away from this article for the HR community is that you MUST start working on achieving a decent mobile experience for your candidates now, or you may get penalized in the mobile search results.

    If your mobile experience is good, but not great, that demotion may be negligible – like losing only 1 position on the SERP. However, if the pages that show in the search results provide a really poor mobile experience, Google may drop you all the way down to page 10. It really depends upon how poorly your pages are performing and how well your competitor’s pages are performing.

    And remember, you aren’t required to do anything with this Google announcement. You can play the wait & watch game and see what happens. However, you may end up being forced into playing Google’s “recover” game, and that’s never fun.

    FYI: For those who are unfamiliar with Responsive Web Design (RWD) – it’s a web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop down to mobile phones). You can find this info at Wikipedia:

  19. If you read all of Googles guidelines around mobile experience you will see that many (poorly) implemented RWD (responsive) sites could suffer rankings! They specifically highlight video support and speed. Many RWD implementations are aimed at desktop users on broadband with computers capable of high speed processing and large memory, these do not load on mobile in any where near Googles target of 1 second.

    The issue is many RWD sites were just implemented to look right on a small screen not perform well!

    Google support multiple urls, adaptive a server side, adaptive client side, RWD and a mix!

    To get into the details of why RWD (the @media query) is not enough on its own is a very tech discussion but it results in faster websites on mobile. Google ranking has always been impacted by speed

  20. You’re absolutely right Dave. (hat-tip)

    Reiterating Dave’s excellent point above… you could even have what LOOKS like a great mobile experience, yet still not rank very well due to a different technical issue.

    From an SEO’s perspective, there are many individual factors that go into Google algorithms (I believe it’s over 200 factors for desktop search). As Dave mentions above, one of the primary search algorithm factors is page load speed.

    I didn’t mention page load speed because this article is mainly for HR folks, and they really don’t have any control over that aspect of their career sites. However, it is another factor they could test for and report back to their webmaster. A good benchmark is probably 1 -1.25 seconds. If it takes longer than that for your mobile pages to load, you may have a penalty issue (remember, this also depends upon your search competition and their speed as well). Mobile page load speeds of longer than 3 seconds will definitely have ranking problems.

    Think of page load speed as being like your “time to fill” a position… the faster, the better!

  21. Thanks, Larry. I try, and sometimes I succeed.
    As Fat Tony said in “The Simpsons”:
    “It’s funny because it’s true.”

    Happy Friday, ‘Cruitaz!

  22. Great article and discussion in the comments. It’s time to do something but HR teams should still do their full due diligence before they buy.

    Some people are still struggling with SEO performance for regular browsers.

  23. That statistic by Indeed is very misleading… indeed! Everyone should know by now that Indeed is an agregator (similar to Kayak for flights). While you can purchase postings from them, Indeed pulls jobs from all other websites like CareerBuilder, Monster, and LinkedIn. What they also don’t tell you is that they have a partnership with CareerBuilder that puts CareerBuilder postings at the top of their search results. So believe whatever statistic you want. From what I’ve read, CareerBuilder remains the highest trafficked website when it comes to this type of business.

  24. Brian
    Regardless of potentially inflated figures, it remains true that Mobile traffic is on the up.

    Last time I talked to LinkedIn they saw 27% of total traffic on mobile, in my recent interview with Sodexo shared that one in three hires look at them on mobile and chatting with PepsiCo they shared a 800% increase of mobile traffic when supporting mSites as well as native Apps. I interviewed CEO of SimplyHired (similar business to indeed) he shared that their mobile traffic was circa one third.

  25. Hey Larry,
    Great article! Very informative. Do you have any insight on whether or not this effects paid advertising/sponsored searches? My guess is no, as ads are not necessarily tied to the organic searches–but would be interested in knowing either way.

    Thank you!

  26. Excellent question, Emily. The answer is a resounding, YES!

    Google is already blocking certain devices from paid campaigns. We’ve been experiencing client’s ads getting blocked from iPhones due to Flash content on their landing page. That kind of AdWords behavior has been going on for months now. You’ll also have your ads blocked for sending the traffic to a desktop page then redirecting to a common page (e.g., mobile Home page – the same problem detailed above).

    This Google push toward mobile friendly is HUGE. Google recently changed their entire AdWords platform to help accommodate this mobile push. That’s why they are forcing everyone into the new “Enhanced Campaigns” platform… because of mobile.

    Webmasters, SEO and SEM all have to move quickly. It’s a whole new ballgame with Google right now.

  27. Thanks for the quick response! Does this mean text ads that are set at a max. budget in AdWords will be subject to the same demotion as any other webpage? Good news for sites that are responsive, I guess that gives them less competition for the top slots.

    Thanks again!

  28. Let me give you a couple scenarios…

    Slow mobile page load time: the ads may be blocked, but your Quality Score will definitely go down, resulting in lower positioning and higher cost per click (CPC).

    Flash on the landing page: the ad should end up being blocked and not show at all.

    Redirecting the landing page to a non-correlated mobile page (different content): the ad should end up being blocked and not show at all.

    You may want to connect with me on LinkedIn to chat or at least follow my articles & shares:

  29. Great scenarios–thanks for helping to clarify. Was doing some research for a piece of communication we were writing for our clients. It’s mostly internal, but I hope you’ll check it out on our blog site! Thanks again, and would love to connect and will certainly continue following your articles.

  30. Interesting article but I read all the Google docs you refer to when they were released and chatted with SEO experts plus Googlers. Where does it say not being responsive will cause penalties?

    Facebook, Twitter and Google mainly employ non responsive design. I am assuming by responsive you are referring to squishy sites using media queries? The guide provides clear instructions on how to tell google your site has server side adaptive device support (using a header vars) or to tell google you have an MSite. I think this is very mis leading as many ere readers may not be engineers and will walk away with the wrong ideas.

    The big issue clearly highlighted in the guide and in video with Matt Cutts is speed. The guides says the average site takes 10 seconds but they expect download in 1 second. The typical (basic and unsuitable) responsive web sites never deliver the content to mobile in 1 second – you need progressive or adaptive technical approach to achieve 1 second or a text only site with no java script.

    You can keep SEO rank with dual sites and with adaptive server side code – but it must be done properly.

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