4 Reasons Why Comparing Google Flights’ Failure to Google for Jobs’ Future Won’t Fly

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Jun 13, 2017

I know, I know. Google fails. A lot.

Base. Buzz. Plus. Glass. They’ve all come and gone, in like a lion and out like a lamb.

And as Google dives into the world of employment with Cloud Jobs API, Google Hire, and Google for Jobs, the naysayers are already digging a grave for Google’s next colossal flop. Ready the eggs and aim them squarely for the face.

One of the most popular arguments supporting a future flop goes something like this: Google Flights didn’t kill Priceline, Expedia, Hipmunk, and all the other travel sites, and Google for Jobs isn’t going to kill Indeed, CareerBuilder, Glassdoor, and the rest.

While popular, this camp is misguided. Here’s why:

  • Brand loyalty. The first time I used Priceline was 2000. Remember “Name Your Own Price”? Back then, you actually submitted a price you wanted to pay, and it would either get accepted or you’d get a counteroffer. The process was clunky, so I moved over to Expedia in the early 2000s and haven’t left since. It has my information and my credit card, and I feel confident the prices are competitive. I assume a lot of others feel the same. In contrast, job seekers don’t have the brand loyalty to a job site.
  • Mind the gap. The time between jobs is much longer than the time between travel. People look for a job every two or three years. In that time, remembering what site led them to their employer is unlikely. Chances are, they looked at a handful of job sites and resources during their search and can’t really remember which site helped them land a job. In contrast, professional people travel much more regularly, and need plane reservations frequently enough to support a level of loyalty to a particular site where they’re comfortable.
  • Dollars and cents. There’s a lot more money that goes into advertising travel sites. How many Kayak commercials do you see every week? Captain Kirk didn’t pitch Monster; he pitched Priceline. Job sites can only dream of having such gargantuan marketing budgets.
  • Fragmentation. Contrary to popular belief, no job site has all the job openings. Indeed, for instance, still doesn’t index Craigslist jobs. And like Craigslist or not, it represents a lot of job openings. Job seekers will turn over a lot of rocks to find employment. In contrast, all travel sites have all the flights, so bouncing around to many, hoping to find a secret flight that isn’t on all the other travel sites have, is sort of a waste of time.

Ultimately, it’s oranges and apples. To simplify it, there’s much less certainty that I can go to one travel site and get what I need than there is that I can go to one job site and find exactly what I’m looking for.

Job search is more akin to dating. Single people will visit and join as many sites as possible, because a potential mate is the reward. And nothing helps consumers make sense of all the noise like Google does.

If single people could go to Google and find singles from all the other dating sites, they would. Of course, most dating content is behind paywalls, and popular apps like Tinder are closed off from Google, so the model doesn’t work. Jobs, however, have a consistent format and are freely available.

Time will tell. Google has failed many times in the past, and it’s very quick to dump losing businesses. And most of its initiatives do not kill all the existing businesses. Google may fall on its face with employment and job listings, but to say Google for Jobs will mirror the challenges it has had with Google Flights just doesn’t quite take flight in my book.