Dear EU -- Leave Google Alone On Jobs

If you want to know when industries complaining about Google went a stage too far, mark this week down in your diary.

Recruitment firms from Britain, and across the EU, have written to the European Commission asking for Google's job-finding service to be suspended while an investigation into possible market abuse is carried out.

Now, let's be clear -- Google does not have a great track record on playing nice. Prioritising its own businesses, such as its shopping service, over rival providers cost it a 2.4bn Euros fine in 2017 and anti-competitive behaviour surround its Android operating system racked up a 4.3bn Euros fine a year later.

The tech giant has form when it comes to prioritising its services above others.

However, as regular readers will know, this column is not always a Google-basher, and today is another case where it appears an industry is complaining about being given a helping hand. Several times recently when I have talked to execs in digital marketing, they have mentioned that Google doesn't always get the thanks it is due for making online business so much easier through free listings. 

This appears to be the case with recruitment and Google. Tap in a search for chef jobs in Norwich and the usual three paid placements will appear. Straight after, and above all other SEO listings, we have an incredibly useful box that lists jobs by area, seniority, date of posting and so on.

Anyone who has ever looked online for a job will instantly get a feel for how useful this is. It is effectively a collation of job ads saving a searcher from diving into a dozen or so recruitment sites. 

Of course, a serious job hunter will probably delve deeper into multiple job sites, but as a quick check to see what is going on in your industry in a location, the Google service is incredibly useful.

What's more, it lists ads from recruitment businesses for free. If someone likes the look of a job, they can click through to the recruitment business. 

What's not to like? Well, The Telegraph suggests the recruitment agencies are concerned that this free service will turn into a paid-for service. Once the job box above the SEO results becomes more familiar, it will gain market share and then being to charge. That's the suspicion. 

Hands up all for those who think this is anything other than an opportunity for recruiters. The industry is being given its own prominent box of results for free.

Even if these begin to be prioritised by who will pay, agencies don't have to. If they see it as a way of getting more responses, they may choose to pay for a boosted mention. It's exactly the same as Google Shopping is now. If you want to go big, give it a go. If you don't, then carry on as before but don't go crying to the EU that there's a new ad format you're not interested in.

That's exactly what we have here. It's a free service now that looks like it will be migrated into a new ad format -- a Google shopping for jobs. If Google ever opened its own recruitment agency and put its job ads in this box, excluding rivals, then the current complaint would not only have merit, it would be the easiest decision the European Commission ever made. 

As long as Google sticks to a box where there is the potential for recruitment agencies to bid to appear and get a click-through, then this is just another very useful service for both job seeker and agencies. 

Sometimes, EU businesses need to be reminded that Google is not a public service, the top of its page will always be devoted to making money and job ads will probably turn out to follow suit. Let's face it -- there are already PPC ads at the top of a results, and a box is just a handy way of sorting through developments in the market. There will always be free positions available below in organic results. 

I can't be the only person left puzzled by the recruitment industry's reaction to what might be a useful new PPC tool. When Google launches its own recruitment offering and promotes that above rivals, then it's time to get writing to the European Commission. When it's just bringing shopping ads to jobs, the only decision is how to get the most out a new route to market, or whether to save budget and not bother.

Complaining is both pointless and unmerited.

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