Backed by the New York Times, the company has gone from strength to strength, and now indexes ads from more than 5,000 jobs boards.
I caught up with CEO Paul Forster to find out more about the company’s progress to date, and plans for the future…
1. Indeed.com is a great example of vertical search in action. Can you give our readers an overview of how the website works?
The first thing we suggest is to visit www.indeed.com and try it! Just enter a job title, keywords or company name, together with your location, and click ‘Find Jobs’. Our search engine returns jobs matching your query from over five thousand unique sources – mainly company websites, job boards and newspaper classifieds.
We’re adding over one million new jobs per week to our index, making us the most comprehensive search engine for jobs.
2. What kind of tools have you developed for users, to help them better manage their job searching?
We want job seekers to find exactly the right jobs that fit their skills and interests. Our proprietary search algorithm is very effective at doing this with just a few keywords and the location of the job seeker. Users may refine their searches by job title, company name, location and other criteria; and more sophisticated users may conduct advanced queries.
Job seekers can easily save their searches by email alert or RSS feed to receive new jobs matching their criteria. They can also set up a my.indeed account to track their job searches. This allows them to save jobs, add notes to jobs and manage their job alerts. These are great ways for both active and passive candidates to track and apply for jobs they are interested in.
3. Your homepage has remained a model of simplicity since you launched. What are the benefits of this approach?
When people visit our homepage, we want them immediately to think ‘search engine’ and we want to make it very easy for them to conduct searches. We don’t have the drop-down and category menus that job boards typically have – we learned that these make searching harder and don’t add a lot of value to the search.
Our search results pages have the look and feel of general search engines for the same reasons – it gives people the idea of comprehensive search and it has proven to be a very effective user interface.
4. Since many job sites do not provide APIs how are you accessing their data? Crawlers? RSS?
We include jobs in our index in one of two ways. We accept XML feeds of jobs from job publishers and we encourage them to provide such feeds. We also index publicly available pages on the web that contain job listings.
We get contacted every day by job boards and companies wanting to include their jobs in our index.
5. And how do you go about making sense of unstructured third party content, to extract meaningful metadata, presumably needed to automate categorisation?
The job data we use is semi-structured rather than unstructured. Structured elements include job title, company name and location. We have that for all our jobs, but we also conduct pre-processing to add various kinds of meta-data. We are continually refining and improving our aggregation and search technologies to give job seekers the most relevant results.
Another important thing we do is spam-filtering. People don’t generally associate spam with classifieds listings, but it is a very real problem. So, we don’t just want to surface the good results, we also actively get rid of bad data.
6. I thought it was very smart of you to design the website’s look and feel in accordance with Google Adsense ads / Google. Do you get any sense of whether this has improved click-throughs? Any metrics / revenue figures to share in this area?
We distinguish clearly between organic and paid advertisements in our search results, just like many general search engines. The positioning of our paid advertisements is also similar – above and to the right of our organic results. We now have over 200 advertisers and hundreds of thousands of sponsored jobs.
Our pay-per-click job advertising system is unique. We have made it very simple for job advertisers to sponsor their jobs on Indeed.com – they don’t have to pick keywords or write advertising copy, nor do they have to post jobs to us. Advertisers specify a maximum amount per click they are willing to pay as well as a daily or monthly budget, and they can monitor the performance of their campaigns online.
Sponsored jobs are only displayed when the jobs are a close match to users’ search queries, so advertisers receive highly targeted and qualified candidates to their jobs from Indeed. Sponsored jobs also appear on our partner websites, including About.com, NYTimes.com, Boston.com, Local.com, Mamma.com, Info.com and hundreds of others.
7. Are there any plans for indeed.com to roll out its own contextual paid search programme, to replace Adsense and presumably earn more money from those clicks?
We do have a proprietary keyword advertising system in addition to the sponsored job network. Keyword advertisements that we sell are displayed in the right rail of our search results pages together with keyword ads from third party networks.
And yes, there’s the potential to earn more from advertisements we sell ourselves as we don’t have to share revenue with a third party, but right now the bids in our own network are pretty competitive which gives our clients great value for money.
8. How many unique users do you have? Average searches per user per month? Page impressions? How have these metrics changed over time?
We have over 2 million unique users and 30 million searches per month. These figures have both doubled over the last six months.
9. Are you doing anything clever with data mining yet? Any plans for the future?
Job Trends allows you to plot a graph showing the trend over time in the number of jobs in our index matching a query. For example, you can see the trend for any job title, skill, qualification, or company name.
Our Salary Search similarly allows you to search on job titles, skills or other keywords to find the average salary of jobs returned in that search. The salary data is extracted from over 50 million jobs indexed over the last 12 months.
10. Why did you develop an API and how has (or hasn’t, god forbid) it helped the business?
Our API is used in several ways. Many of our partners use it to integrate Indeed job search into their websites, giving them the flexibility to use our job search results in customized ways. Other partners, on the other hand, prefer to integrate Indeed job search using our products that don’t require customization – such as the Indeed Jobroll, a continuously updating listing of jobs that can be put on any website or blog.
Other uses of the API include organizations that want to do job research using our data. So, we’ve gained a lot from having an API and I can’t think of any drawbacks.
11. Right now Indeed.com seems to focus on jobs, but are there any plans to launch a resume/matchmaking service (i.e. helping recruiters, as well as job seekers)?
We’re really focused on job search, on building Indeed as the most comprehensive and effective search engine for jobs. One thing that differentiates us from a job board is that you don’t view and apply for jobs on Indeed. Once you click on a job in our job search results, you are taken out of Indeed.com to the website hosting the job and it is there that you apply for it
By providing comprehensive and accurate job search, we’re in turn serving recruiters by enabling qualified candidates to apply to their jobs. Our pay-per-click advertising programs also enable recruiters to increase the visibility of their jobs on Indeed to source even more qualified and targeted candidates.
We’re also adding ancillary services to help both job seekers and recruiters, such as our recently-launched forums which provide a venue for discussion amongst job seekers and recruiters. Our company-specific forums allow employers to respond to questions from job seekers, for example about the company culture or hiring process. The forums are starting to be quite popular.
12. Last August you bagged $5m in funding from Fred Wilson at Union
Square Ventures and the New York Times. Great investors to have onboard. Can you tell us more about this – percentages, valuation, what has the money been used for, and have you taken on a second round since then?
We’ve had one round of institutional funding – for $5m in August 2005, as you correctly say. The investors are The New York Times, Union Square Ventures and Allen & Company. The funds have gone towards operating expenses. We’re not disclosing the valuation.
13. How active have your investors been? What roles do they play in helping to drive the company forward? Or are they ‘hands off’?
Our investors are very well connected in the finance and technology communities and have all played important roles in helping move the company forward. Representatives from Union Square Ventures and The New York Times sit on our Board.
Somewhat separately, we have an operating agreement with The New York Times whereby Indeed powers job search for About.com and provides job search results from the web for The New York Times Job Market and Boston.com.
14. I regularly check to see if you’ve made it over the Atlantic
Ocean. When can we expect to see indeed.co.uk launched? Are there any plans to roll-out overseas?
We launched Indeed Canada (canada.indeed.com) last year, but haven’t yet launched in any other countries. I’ll let you know as soon as we do!
Paul talked to Chris Lake, E-consultancy’s Editor (