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The Goldberg Variations

Posted by Colin Kingsbury

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Jun 12, 2006 11:00:00 PM

Harry the Marketing Headhunter is standing firm on his predictionthat Jobster will change its name to Recruiting.com sooner or later. He makes some great arguments but I'm voting with the Recruiting Animal on this one: highly unlikely.

Harry is on strong ground when he says it's all about the PageRank. On the Internet, every business is an island, and Google runs the ferries. The ability of search engines to steer monetizable traffic is nothing short of epochal in its significance.

The problem I see is that re-branding as Recruiting.com purely for the SEO payoff feels like a great checkers move--when Google's playing chess.

First, this assumes that "recruiting" is really the ideal keyword with which to capture leads. I'm not so sure. Over time, Google (and other search engines) are conditioning people to start by being very specific, and then broaden their queries only if they don't get enough results. So my guess is that the first thing someone is going to type into Google isn't "recruiting," but "AJAX programmer." Search advertising is 100% about feeding impulses. When someone searches for an "AJAX programmer" there is a lot of impulse to monetize.

Then again, Joel Cheesman figured out that Jobster will pay $3/click for "recruiting" so they clearly think it's worthwhile. Who am I to argue?

But the second point is that this seems to assume that Google's index weightings won't change much. After all, if Larry and Sergey one day roll out a version of PageRank that ignores domain names, then the domain name ceases to have any secret-sauce value beyond what Jobster, Jobby, or HRMDirect have. As for the likelihood of such a change, I'd consider it pretty much inevitable. When someone types "recruiting" into a search engine, they are looking for sites which will create a large amount of relevant value. Ultimately, how much does a domain name really tell you? Simply that the owner got lucky. That Jason Davis secured the name recruiting.com in 2002 created no value for people searching on the term "recruiting." But by 2006 the community site he cajoled into existence had huge piles of content and discussion of great value to anyone who wanted to learn anything about "recruiting."

So my bet is on the table that over time, domain names will play an shrinking role in determining search results. Over time, recruiting.com will lose its intrinsic value as the Googleplex figures out more precise measures of relevance. It will just be another name.

And a dull one, at that, for a company that has labored greatly to be anything but dull.