Kelly Services employs paid search to attract customers, job seekers

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Objective: Kelly Services wanted to drive traffic and leads, including businesses needing staffing services and viable job candidates.
Strategy: The company placed and continually optimized paid-search campaigns on major search engines and on two Internet Yellow Pages sites.
Results: Kelly doubled the industry-average conversion rate and halved its cost-per-conversion.

Temporary staffing and recruitment company Kelly Services has a dual marketing challenge: Appeal to companies that need its staffing services and find candidates to fill jobs.

Increasingly, the Troy, Mich.-based company has come to rely on search marketing to handle both tasks.

“We dabbled in search marketing in 2004 and 2005 but didn’t spend a lot of money on it,” said Brent McConnell, director of e-business at Kelly Services. But as search became ubiquitous, he said, “We started in the latter part of 2006 to research how our paid search advertising, Internet Yellow Pages and local listings are all accurate everywhere.”

The logistics behind this effort were daunting. Kelly has 600 local offices around the U.S., as well as locations in 37 other? countries and territories. The $5.7 billion company had to make sure it could easily be found online by both prospective clients and potential workers, and ensure that all its local listings were accurate.

“There’s a lot of bad data that gets out there,” McConnell said. “A ton of people look us up, but it’s a highly local activity. They don’t want to come to Troy, Mich.”

To help set up a search marketing program, Kelly turned to New York-based TMP Directional Marketing, one of the largest local search marketing agencies.

Together, the client and agency focused on paid search across all the major search engines. In addition, Kelly advertised on the two main Internet Yellow Pages sites—, run by AT&T, and, owned by Idearc Media. Finally, Kelly and TMP worked to ensure that all local branches across the country were listed properly.

“Kelly seeks to reach a lot of vertical b-to-b audiences where they have to help customers find staff,” said Gregg Stewart, senior VP at TMP. “So they had to use not only gross, overall search techniques but also ones that work well with vertical industries.”

On its own Web site, meanwhile, Kelly Services made sure to include both a branch locator and a search function for specific jobs.

“The beauty of paid search is it’s highly targetable,” McConnell said. “If you want to target accountants, say, in a certain area, you can geo-target your ads. One client of ours needed to find chemical engineers in the Gulf region, so we targeted the Gulf States region for people searching for jobs in this part of the country.”

The companies continually tweaked keywords, prices and creative messages, with search campaigns continuously optimized to enhance effectiveness. Campaigns were also tested and optimized across various verticals such as typical office-service type positions, accounting, engineering, information technology, law, science, marketing, creative services, light industrial slots, education and health care.

In addition, the company discovered that search habits varied depending on the searcher, and it worked to optimize search words and phrases for different people doing the hiring. These often included human resources, of course, but also other specific decision-makers, including department heads, directors of finance, and small-business owners.

After almost two years, Kelly’s conversion rate is “well above industry average, which is about 1%,” said McConnell. He said the company’s conversion rate, both for companies seeking employees as well as people looking for jobs, is in the 1.5% range, and often above 2%.

“And we’ve seen our cost-per-conversion shrink in half, which means we can get more prospects in the door for less and allocate the budget for something else,” McConnell added. “Our cost-per conversion numbers are continually going down.”

The company also adds qualitative yardsticks for measuring its search marketing ROI, performing due diligence on customer satisfaction and the successful placement of its leads.

“If the lead quality isn’t good, then we know we’re not using the right keywords in the right regions,” McConnell said.

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