Indeed, customer service, and job boards: a cautionary tale

Imagine that you’re one of the thousands of job boards that provided Indeed with job postings from its inception. Imagine that in addition to providing those jobs (which turned Indeed into the most visited job site on the web), you also spent money promoting those same jobs – thus providing Indeed with a lucrative source of income. Imagine that, in return, Indeed provided your job board with a stream of inbound referrals (both organic and paid) that grew as rapidly as Indeed did.

Now, imagine that Indeed’s referrals to your site suddenly disappeared – and when you asked why, you were told that Indeed’s Search Quality team had determined that your listings are of ‘poor quality’. That your listings were no longer indexed, and that your money was no longer welcome (for if there were no jobs from your site on Indeed, how could you in fact spend any CPC dollars?). And, ahem, no, Indeed would not tell youwhy your listings were no longer wanted. Your sales contact simply told you his hands were tied, that he in fact did not know why – that the Search Quality team was a black box – nothing was shared with Sales or Customers.

And oh, by the way, traffic from Indeed (both organic and paid) comprised about 50% of your site’s total traffic.

I first heard rumblings about this many months ago. The story kept surfacing, first from one site and then another. The general pattern was the same. I honestly found it hard to believe – until I became directly involved, on behalf of a client. The job site in question had been indexed by Indeed for years. Then literally overnight its feed was pulled and when the site asked why, they received the answer in the example above: “Sorry, we don’t know why, they won’t tell us, look at these rules and see if you violate any of them.” The client asked me to try to get an answer (they were willing to rework their site to get back in Indeed’s good graces) – so I did.

Guess what? I talked to a very nice sales director – who said his hands were tied, who said he knew nothing, and who sounded as frustrated as I was. Next, I tried various other contacts at the company – garnering one of two responses: ‘That’s not in my area’, or ‘I can’t help you.’  Finally I reached out to the founders, hoping against hope that I might get a response.

Nope – nothing.

Well, ok. Indeed is a business and they can treat their customers as they wish. In fact, a few days later, they published a posting on their blog that addressed the issue. The real issue?  ’Search quality’. The internal ‘black box’ team responsible for shutting down job sites is doing so to improve the user experience. OK, seems reasonable.

What doesn’t seem reasonable is the company’s unwillingness to talk to its customers: job boards. What is wrong with telling a newly banned board exactly why they were banned? Doesn’t Indeed want the job sites to get better? Or does it simply not care that much anymore about the job board section of their customer base?

The entire situation seems a bit heavy handed, to be honest, and curious too. Why the sudden push to ‘search quality’ now? As long as Indeed has been in existence, I have gotten complaints from job seekers about the quality of their listings (as well as the infamous multiple-click-bounce that job seekers are subjected to). I suspect there is more to the story.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I counsel job board clients to use aggregators like Indeed with caution – as they are addictive (and expensive). On the other hand, most job boards have benefited from aggregators – just as aggregators have benefited from job boards (in fact, would there even be aggregators without job boards? I don’t think so).

But at the end of the day, Indeed will do what it wants to do – and job boards will have to make their own decisions.

Just be sure to ask yourself: can my site survive without Indeed? If the answer is no, you might want to start working on plan B.

Views: 163

Comment by Suresh on April 12, 2011 at 11:29am
Looks like they are following Google's black box approach (treating adwords or adsense publishers).

They are under pressure from the new kid on the block - Linkedin.

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