On April 21st, Google made an important change to its search algorithm: mobile-friendliness now plays a bigger role in mobile search results. Mobile-friendly sites will rank higher in the results of searches carried out on mobile devices, whereas sites that don’t play well with mobile technology will suffer a significant hit in their rankings.
This change shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise: not only were bloggers talking extensively about the change in the weeks leading up to its occurrence, but mobile technology has been on the rise for years now. There are now more mobile devices than people in the world, and the number of mobile devices on earth is growing five times faster than the number of human beings. Early last year, mobile Internet usage surpassed desktop Internet usage for the first time.
We’ve seen the rise of mobile technology in the world of recruiting, too. According to research compiled by iCIMS, 70 percent of people have used their mobile devices to search for jobs, and 51 percent have applied for jobs via their mobile devices. Moreover, 65 percent of those who conduct their job searches on mobile devices will leave a company’s website if the site is not mobile-optimized, and 40 percent of those same people view companies more negatively when their career sites aren’t mobile-optimized.
“There are a few reasons why mobile has become important,” says Susan Vitale, CMO of iCIMS. “The fact is that mobile is important, and we’re seeing that job seekers would be turned off if companies have not embraced mobile.”
What the Algorithm Change Means for Employers
Whether or not Google’s decision to give preference to mobile-friendly sites in mobile searches is a good thing for employers depends on whether or not they have been keeping up with mobile technology.
“A lot of organizations have put mobile on the back burner,” Vitale says. “If [a company's] site is not mobile-optimized, it runs the risk of performing more poorly than it has in the past.”
For example, if an employer’s career site is not mobile-optimized, the many job seekers who search for jobs via mobile devices will be less likely to come across that employer’s site. The employer with the non-mobile-optimized career site will watch as its applicant pool shrinks and shrinks — unless, of course, the employer takes swift action to improve the career site’s mobile functionality.
On the other hand, companies that have been embracing mobile may see their applicant pools grow, as more and more job seekers come across their career sites via mobile searches.
“We see this [situation] as another example of how recruiting is becoming a lot more like marketing,” Vitale says. “If a marketing organization doesn’t have a website that is mobile-optimized … that really turns consumers off. Similarly, if recruiters aren’t prioritizing mobile … they’re turning off candidates.”
Advice for the Laggards: Create a Mobile-Responsive Career Site ASAP
According to Vitale, many companies have tried to serve the mobile crowd by creating branded apps. This, she says, is a huge mistake.
“What we’ve seen is that using an app for a career site is not really a turn on for candidates,” Vitale explains. “Most job seekers don’t want to go to the app store just to browse jobs.”
Instead, job seekers will hop on Google, search for jobs, and land on employers’ career sites that way. In fact, in June of 2008 alone, Google saw 100 million job-related searches. By now, it’s likely that even more people are using Google to conduct even more job-related searches every month.
Given that job seekers don’t want apps, and given that Google is boosting mobile-friendly sites in mobile searches, it should be clear to employers what they have to do: build browser-based, mobile-friendly career sites using responsive design.
“Because so many candidates are running mobile searches for jobs on Google, [mobile-responsive career sites] are really the best case,” Vitale says. “Candidates are going to find career sites through organic searches, and therefore an employer’s career site itself needs to be optimized, as opposed to something that is app-driven.”
Moreover, Vitale notes, going the responsive design route should be easier for employers than building career apps: responsive design causes a website to automatically render properly for the device via which a user is accessing the site. Employers don’t have to worry about creating an app for every mobile device or mobile operating system: just one responsive career website, and every base is covered.