Web 2.0: Sell-Side Job Advertising

I was on the Web 2.0 search innovation panel: Search by Another Name: New Ideas in Search. It was moderated by John Battelle and the other panelists were Rahul Lahiri from Ask Jeeves, Michael Tanne from Wink, and Bob Wyman from PubSub.

Each panelist presented a different perspective on search innovation. Mine was “sell-side job advertising” – the application of the sell-side advertising concept to job search, with Indeed’s advertising system as an example.

The concept of sell-side advertising was originally posited by John Battelle on the back of Ross Mayfield’s notion of cost per influence. The idea is that new online advertising models will evolve that give more control to publishers. In the traditional advertising model, power lies principally in the hands of the advertiser who determines where ads are displayed. In the sell-side model, publishers get to decide which ads are displayed on their sites and advertisers pay for performance. Advertisers will post ads to a single place such as their own websites, where they will be picked up and displayed by publishers. Because publishers will be better than advertisers at matching advertisements to their content and audiences, the advertising marketplace should become more efficient.

The sell-side advertising model appears to fit the online job market well. Fred Wilson was the first to blog this in his explanation of Union Square Venture’s investment in Indeed (Fred is a partner of Union Square). In short, because companies generally post all their open positions to their own websites and receive resumes via applicant tracking systems, they can easily buy targeted applicant traffic to those job advertisements on a pay-for-performance basis. Search engines, including Indeed, are well-placed to deliver this performance-priced traffic both directly and indirectly via their advertising networks.

We have been beta-testing Indeed’s advertising system for the last few months. Indeed’s organic search results will remain unpaid, while paid ads are being included in the right hand margin. A starting point to understanding our advertising system is to realize that when it is jobs that are being advertised, the advertising content is exactly the same kind of content as our organic search results – i.e. job advertisements. So, Indeed’s Sponsored Job System automatically generates a text advertisement in the right margin whenever a job that has been sponsored is returned in our organic search results. The ad text is generated on the fly and links back to the full job listing on the advertiser’s website. The advertiser just has to decide to sponsor its jobs and has little else to do. What could be easier?

Note: Another panel called Web 2.0 Ad Models: A New Approach to Marketing? was moderated by Jeff Jarvis and addressed related issues. Jeff tells us that it was covered by Red Herring.