Hey everyone! Welcome to The Truth About Travel Nursing Podcast. My name is Kyle Schmidt and I’m your host. Thank you so much for joining us for episode 30 of the podcast. In this episode, we’re going take an in-depth look at the tools that healthcare staffing agencies use to find you, the travel nurses and other travel healthcare professionals.
Now, this might seem like a topic that doesn’t necessarily pertain to travelers directly. Instead, it might seem more like an episode for agencies and recruiters. But I assure you that it most certainly pertains to travelers. In fact, I think that knowing this information will help travel healthcare professionals find the right agencies for their unique needs. At a minimum, it will definitely help travel healthcare professionals recognize exactly what’s going on out there when they set out to conduct their search. And this will be a big advantage. And most importantly, I think you’re going to find it really interesting.
Okay, so let’s start with search engines. Search engines like google are a great for agencies to find healthcare professionals who are interested in travel healthcare. This is because search engines are the place that most people start their search these days.
Now, you might be wondering how agencies are going to use search engines to find you and we’re going to explain exactly that. But first, we need to know just a little something about how search engines work.
Most people are surprised to find out that search engines are indexing every page of every website on their own servers. In other words, search engines essentially copy the basic text-based content of every page on the internet and store it in their own servers. Then, they use certain methods, often referred to as algorithms, to determine how the websites will be ranked when someone conducts a search.
Now, in the early days, search engines were pretty stupid. They were programmed to rank the sites based on the number of times that the search term was used on a particular page. So, if you were searching for the term “travel nursing” then the search engine would rank pages that used the term “travel nursing” the most as the highest ranked pages. Obviously, this is pretty silly because that doesn’t necessarily mean the page provides good information.
Then Google came along. And what they did revolutionized search. They still considered key word usage, but they also started tracking backlinks. A backlink is when one website links to another. And Google said, “Hey, if a website is getting a lot of backlinks, then they must be an authority because everyone is citing them.” Of course, Google was right, so they offered up much better search results and everyone started using them. Now, somewhere along the lines of 70%-80% of all search traffic goes through google.
That said, other search engines eventually followed Google’s lead and did the same thing. And they all now use a ton of other ranking factors as well. Like, they look at the amount of time people are spending on a page. They look at the subsequent behavior. Does the person continue searching, or do they stop searching which indicates that they’ve found what they’re looking for? So, there are many ranking factors now.
So, why is any of this important? Well, being on the first page or two of the search results for the key search terms in any industry is major deal. This is a key way for a company to get leads. And being the number one result is huge. I mean, the drop off between just the first and second result on the first page of search terms is tremendous.
So, any company that’s in the travel healthcare industry really wants to be ranking for about 4 or 5 key search terms. Now, there is a lot of competition to rank for these terms, so most, if not all of the companies that rank well for these terms are engaged in what is commonly referred to as Search Engine Optimization. This is a phrase that refers to optimizing our website for search engines, optimizing it to rank high in the search results.
So, how do they do that? Well, there are many different ways they can do that, but the one we’re going to discuss has to do with providing useful content. Like I said earlier, if a website has good information, then hopefully they get other websites linking back to them, visitors stay on the site longer, they find what they’re looking for and so on.
So, this is why many healthcare staffing agencies have blogs or provide highly detailed information about travel nursing on their websites. Now, that probably comes as no surprise. However, many agencies create or purchase websites that aren’t actually the same as theirs….I mean, unless you looked really close, you wouldn’t realize you were on an agency’s website. These websites look like they’re independent.
Now, this strategy works and it works extremely well. In fact, I’ve always been convinced that this strategy has been largely responsible for American Mobile’s success in advancing to become the single largest healthcare staffing company in the business. Of course, there are other many other important factors for AMN’s success, but they are masters at this particular strategy.
So, let’s take a look at AMN as an example. They started in 1985. By 1996, they had 1,000 travelers on contract. So they were already fairly large. But that’s right around the time that the internet really started taking off. So, in the year 2000, they launched their first portal website called NurseZone.com. In 2001, they launched NursingJobs.com and TravelNursing.com. In 2002 they purchased RN.com. In 2007 they launched NurseConnect.com and AnesthesiaZone.com. In 2013, AMN purchased a company called ShiftWise which owns a website called MightyNurse.com.
Now, these sites are all pretty different. However, make no bones about it; they are all created to get visitors funneled into American Mobile’s database or towards American Mobiles staffing services. I’m willing to wager that these sites are the main way that American Mobile finds interested candidates.
I mean, some of them are obvious, NursingJobs.com for example. Clearly, that’s a site where you would go to apply for jobs and, in doing so, you’d transmit your contact information to the company. The site essentially advertises jobs only from American Mobile Companies. In case you’re not aware, AMN owns many different companies. They own American Mobile, Onward, NursesRX, Medical Express, NurseChoice, NurseFinders and those are just the nursing companies.
Some of these sites aren’t so obvious as lead generators. In other words, you might be saying, “Hey, these guys are just providing good information. There’s nothing else going on here.” However, a site like NurseZone.com is referred to by American Mobile as a “portal site”. A portal site is a site that is there to funnel visitors onto other sites. And the other sites in this case are the healthcare staffing agencies owned by American Mobile.
Okay, so how does this relate to search engines? Well, these websites are really robust. They have tons of content, tons of information and services on them. So they end up ranking really high for the key search terms they’re after. For example, if you type “travel nursing” into Google, the number one organic result is TravelNursing.com. When you visit the site, it will ask if you want to sign up for job alerts, it will ask if you want to apply for a travel nursing job with all of the top agencies in the business and so on. It’s a lead generator for American Mobile.
The rest of the sites all do this. Some are more subtle and others, like travelnursing.com, are more overt. Now, I don’t want to make American Mobile sound bad or shady for doing this. This is a very common practice, used in every industry. It’s just smart business. And tons of other staffing agencies do it as well. For example, Medical Solutions owns travelnursingblogs.com, travelnursingcentral.com and healthcaretravelbook.com.
Now, I think every agency wants to do this. The only thing that’s stopping them is the cost. These websites are really expensive to maintain and keep updated, so most agencies just don’t have the budget for it. I mean, they don’t even have the budget to pay all those people to write all that content, let alone the budget or the expertise to manage the technical aspects of these sites.
So, there are two ways that most other companies go about accomplishing the same result. The first is through paid advertising on search engines. This is commonly referred to as paid search. The way that paid search works is pretty interesting.
Basically, the advertiser selects search terms that want their advertisements to be displayed on. The search engine will then display advertisement on what they call the Search Engine Results Page. Simply put, this is the results page that the search engine returns when you conduct a search. In the online advertising world, they refer to this by its acronym, S E R P, or SERP.
Now, just like with the organic search results, it’s really important to be at the top of the results for the paid search results too. Again, the number one advertisement that’s returned will have the highest click rate. So, search engines have a bidding system for their advertisers.
For example, if an agency wants to advertise for the search term “travel nursing”, then they can bid on how much they are willing to pay for a “click”. That’s where the term “pay per click” comes from. The advertiser only pays if someone clicks on their advertisement. And the search engine will let the advertiser know how much people are bidding for that search term. For example, Google is recommending a bid of $7.55 per click for the term “travel nursing”.
Now, that’s a lot of money, $7.55 per click! And this is where we get into some of the technical aspects of online advertising, but I think you’re going to find this interesting. It’s going to give you an idea of how much your contact information is worth as a travel nurse, and ultimately how much you’re worth to agencies as a customer.
Okay, so here’s how this works. So, $7.55 is Google’s recommended bid. Let’s assume that an advertiser decides to bid $7 per click. That bid might put their ad on the second page of the SERPs, but we’re going to use that figure because it’s a nice round number. So, ever click that the ad gets, the advertiser pays $7.
Now, the click is going to take you to whatever web page the advertiser has set the link to go to. This page is commonly referred to as the “Landing Page”. The landing page should be designed to get you to take some action, whether it’s to apply online, enter your contact information, sign up for job alerts (which basically requires that you enter your contact information). I mean, the primary goal of any landing page in the recruitment industry is going to be to get you to enter your contact information.
Some people are going to do this and others are not. You know, some people will take the desired action and others will just bail on the page without doing anything. Now, when someone takes the desired action it’s called a conversion. And the rate at which people take that action is called the conversion rate.
According to an industry website called SearchEngineLand the average conversion rate for landing pages across all industries is 2.35%, the top 25% are converting at 5.31% or higher and the top 10% are converting at 11.45% or higher. Now, that sounds really, really low to me. So for our example, we’re going to assume that travel nursing landing pages convert at 15%.
So, for every 100 clicks, the agency gets 15 sets of contact information and that cost them $700. And those people aren’t even working for them yet! They still need to convert them into customers. That’s a lot of money!!
Now, the last thing I want to point out about paid search is that there are portal pages on paid search as well. You see, some agencies and advertisers will have their ad direct you to a page on their own website. It might be the “About Us” page and it’ll have an “Apply Now” link on it, or something like that. The point is that it will be clear that it’s the company’s page.
However, some companies advertise portal pages. Again, these are pages that give the appearance of something else, but they’re really a portal to the agency or the business. I saw one really good own today from a company called 24/7 staffing. They have the domain name “KaiserTravelNursing.com”. It’s a single landing page with a blurb about Kaiser Permanente and statement that 24/7 Staffing is a trusted partner for Kaiser that is hiring for multiple nursing specialties, and it has a form for you to apply by entering your contact information and uploading your resume. I think that’s pretty awesome!
Anyway, again, the big problem with this approach is that it’s really expensive, $700 to get 15 sets of contact information. And that’s assuming that the landing page converts super well, like, much better than the average landing page, right?
So, because of this high cost for both the advertising and the website building that we discussed earlier, most of the smaller to mid-sized agencies utilize another type of service if they want to get in on this type of lead generation. These are services that I refer to as broadcast services. Their sole purpose is to get you to enter your contact information so they can sell it to agencies.
Obviously, one of the advantages for agencies is that they’ll get your contact information. But more importantly, they should be able to get it for cheaper from the lead generator than they can on their own. This is because the lead generator sells your contact information to multiple agencies. So, essentially, the lead generators sort of spread the cost of obtaining the contact information over a larger number of agencies and then turn a profit in the process.
Now, the typical way that these lead generators work is that they have a website where they advertise that they’ll connect with the top agencies in the business so you don’t have to spend all the time researching and reaching out to them on your own. Their slogans are things like “Get travel nursing companies competing for your business” or “All the top travel nursing companies with one simple online form”. And typically, they’ll even show you a list of their 15 to 20 agencies.
Now, they engage in both website development and advertising so they’re doing both of the things we discussed earlier. They have blogs, try to provide some useful information and they do a lot of search engine optimization. They have sneaky ways to get backlinks and some of them rank pretty high in search results. And they advertise as well.
So, it’s tough to tell how much they’re paying per lead, or how much it’s costing them to get your contact information. But I ran the numbers one time for a blog post I wrote titled “The Economics of Travel Nurse Contact Information” and my guess is that they pay about $20 to $40 per lead. Now, at the top end of that, $40, that’s not much different than paying $700 for 15 leads like we discussed with the pay per click for google advertisements. So, how do they make their money?
Well, again, they sell the contact information to multiple agencies. Typically, these companies cap the number of agencies that they sell your contact information to at 15 to 20 in the first month. This is where the disadvantage is for the agency that is on the broadcast service’s list of the “Top Agencies”. You see, if they obtain your contact information on their own, then they’ll be the only ones who have it. However, if they obtain it from a lead generator, then many different agencies have it and they’re competing to be the one you speak with.
And that’s the real issue here. When you submit your information to a lead generator, you’re going to get called by tons of agencies. I guarantee you won’t speak with every single one of them. There just isn’t enough time. So it really comes down to a competition between the agencies that you actually speak with. That said, all the agencies get to keep your contact information, so they can keep trying to contact you in the future.
So, as you can see, this competition aspect can become a problem. The more agencies that have your contact information the less of a chance they all have of getting to work with you. This is why lead generators cap the number of agencies they sell your contact information to. However, they typically have the cap only on the first month that they get your information. So the first set of 15 to 20 agencies will essentially have a 30 day head start.
Okay, so how expensive are these things? Well, I priced out several of the main lead generators about 5 years ago. One of them quoted me $1,200 per month and they said they received between 150 and 300 leads per month. So that comes out to about $4 to $8 per lead.
That’s in line with what other broadcast services sell their leads for on a per lead basis. For example, I checked out a website called healthcaretraveler-lounge.com recently and they sell RN contact information for $5 per lead. RNTravelWeb.com sells their leads for $12 per lead.
Okay, so now we can see how this is starting to work out. Instead of paying $40 per lead, the agency is able to pay $4 to $12 per lead. The only caveat is that they know you’re contact information is also being sold to other agencies. And the broadcast services, well, they’re selling your contact information to about 20 agencies in the first month and who knows how many other buyers after that. But even in the first month they’re doing really well. I mean, if it costs them $40 to generate the lead and then they turn around and sell for $100, which would be $5 each to 20 different agencies, then they have a 60% gross profit margin. That is really good.
I mean, even if I’m totally wrong and it’s costing them $70 to get that lead, which I highly doubt it’s that much, then they would still be at a 30% gross profit. I still think that’s good.
Okay, so who are these lead generators? Well, there are tons of them. Everything I think I know them all, I find another one. The main ones are TravelNursing.org, RNVIP.com, and TravelNurseSource.com.
Okay, so another way that agencies find travelers is with job boards. Now, we discussed travel nursing job postings in great detail in episode 23 of the podcast. And one of the things that we mentioned was that agencies have a really difficult time keeping their job postings updated because they’re constantly in flux and coming from so many different sources, in so many different formats.
We also pointed out that agency job postings on big job boards, like Indeed and Monster are not a really good way for travelers to find jobs when they need them. In other words, if you’re looking for a job to start now, then third party job boards like this aren’t really a great way to find them because the jobs posted there are probably old and stale. And this is true of any third party job board, not just the big job boards.
Now, that’s not to say that you should never look on these job boards. The jobs are sometimes fresh and they’re always a good way to get an idea of which market an agency has jobs in.
Okay, so why do agencies use these services at all then? You guessed it…lead generation. They want to get your contact information. In fact, I’ve had agency owners and CEOs tell me just that on numerous occasions. One of them put it this way, “Job boards are nothing more than brand management and lead generation”.
Now, the nature of the market matters when it comes to this. During hot job markets, like the one we’re experiencing in 2015, jobs tend to stay open longer. So job postings can work out okay for actually getting jobs filled. But the big thing with job posting is to get you to submit your contact information.
So, it’s important to remember this if you ever intend to upload your resume to a job board. Job boards always have a feature that allows employers, or anyone who pays for that matter, to access the resumes in the job board’s data base. Some job boards let their customers download a huge number of resumes at once. Others limit customers to viewing a certain number of resumes per month. Either way, this is one of the ways that agencies find candidates.
Another way that agencies find you is by purchasing huge lists of contact information for medical professionals. I know I’ve mentioned this before. Basically, there are companies out there that just collect and sell contact information. I had one contact me one time offering to sell me the contact information of 800,000 healthcare professionals for less than $1,000. They sent a sample and it was broken down by license, RNs, Physicians, PTs, OTs, and others. The problem with these lists is that the data is often stale, they include work numbers and email addresses and they aren’t guaranteed to be prospects who are interested in travel healthcare.
Okay, so the next method that we’re going to discuss is social media. Social media has become a major recruiting tool. In fact, there is a whole big thing in recruiting call “Social Recruiting.” It’s all about leveraging social media to help find and hire the talent you’re looking for.
Some of the most popular new recruitment tools, like a company called Jobvite for example, are built around the use of social media to improve the hiring process. Now these types of tools are much too expensive for most agencies to use, but agencies are using social media to recruit.
Now, it’s important to first discuss the biggest difference between social media sites and the other types of recruitment tools we discussed earlier. So, the biggest difference with social media sites for agencies is that they don’t sell your contact information. That is a huge negative for them. Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook do not and will not release member information to third parties. And, as I’ve mentioned before, BluePipes is a networking website and we don’t release contact information to third parties either.
So, how do recruiters and agencies use social media to find you? And why are these platforms so popular? Well, I think that the main reason they’re so popular is because travelers are using them. Agencies will pretty much follow their target market where ever they go. Seriously, I mean anywhere.
At the end of the day I don’t think they like it as much as they like job boards and lead generators, because they don’t get your contact information, but they make do. And here is how they make do; here is how they use it.
Well, one of the popular ways to use social media for recruitment is to use the Groups feature. For example, there are several LinkedIn Groups and Facebook groups devoted to travel nursing with more than 10,000 members, and all of them a really active. I think it’s fair to say that the Facebook groups are the most active. People seem to engage in conversations more on Facebook than they do on LinkedIn. This means that that they’re actually exchanging dialogue as opposed to just posting and reading posts. There is an actual conversation going on.
Now, the vast majority of Groups out there on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are wide open for recruiting. So, recruiters will post jobs and attempt to recruit new candidates in those groups.
Now, many of the Facebook groups prohibit recruiting within the group. But many of them don’t. You see, anyone can start a group. And when you start a group, you’re the group moderator or administrator. You can invite more moderators and administrators as well. Essentially, the moderators have access to some extra features that help them moderate the group activity. Essentially, the group moderator or moderators can delete posts that are geared toward recruiting. And if a recruiter is guilty of multiple recruitment posts, then the moderator can ban them from the group. That said, again, there are tons of groups out there on social media where the moderators allow job postings and recruitment.
Okay, so one of the main things that recruiters and agencies like about social media is the potential for communication on the platform. So, if a recruiter posts a job, then they might get a candidate or two to engage with them in a conversation via the platform.
Recruiters also have the potential to build a good reputation in a group that could ultimately get candidates to work with them. So, they participate in conversations and answer questions. Basically, if they’re helpful and they come across as knowledgeable and professional, then they can ultimately attract candidates to work with them.
Now, another way that recruiters will use social is media is by trying to connect with you. I mean, that’s what social media is all about, connecting with people and building your network. Now, different social media sites have different settings when it comes to your connections. For example, on Facebook, you can create “Lists” for your connections. In fact, there are already some lists that are there by default. You can then add your connections to different lists and then control who sees what you share on your timeline.
The reason I point this out for Facebook is that I see many travel nurses expressing frustration that recruiters are sending them friend requests on Facebook. And that’s understandable; you’re net necessarily friends with recruiters, especially the ones you haven’t even spoken with yet. So, you could add them as a connection but add them to a list that prevents them from viewing the stuff you share with your friends. Or, you could deny the friends request and even mark the request as spam. Of course, you have to know how to do all of this and we’re not going to be able to go into all of that in this episode because it can get really complicated. But it’s important to know that these options are there.
Now, it’s also important to know about the privacy settings for any groups that you are a member of. Facebook has three privacy settings, Public, Closed, and Secret. A secret group is one that can’t be found via search. You can only find it by getting invited to it. And only the group members can view your posts in the group. A closed group can found through Facebook’s search feature, and the members of the group can be viewed, but the posts in the group can only be viewed by group members. A public group is wide open. Everything you post in a public group can be searched, found and viewed by anyone on Facebook. So, that’s just something to know for privacy or security reasons.
Okay, so, recruiters also like to use social media for referrals. You know, depending on the way things are set up, a recruiter can potentially view all of your connections to see if you’re connected with any potential candidates. If you are, then they could ask for a referral, to see if they can get that person working with them.
Now, the last social media recruitment method we’re going to discuss involves company pages. So, sites like Facebook and LinkedIn let companies create pages. Then, they can try to get followers. When the company posts a new status update, then there is a chance it will show up in their followers’ news feeds.
And companies can also run lead generation programs off their Facebook page. For example, they could offer a chance to win some prize. In order to qualify, you have to enter your contact information. And they do all of this through their Facebook page. Basically, Facebook has an API that lets page owners set this stuff up.
Okay, so those are really the main ways that agencies and recruiters use social media to recruit. Now let’s take a quick look at referral programs. The vast majority of agencies offer some sort of referral bonus. Essentially, if you refer a friend, then you can qualify for a referral bonus. Now, most bonuses require that the person you refer completes a 13 week contract before the bonus is paid. In any case, these programs are a big source of new candidates for agencies.
Okay, so the last recruitment method I want to discuss has to do with rating services. As we’ve discussed in previous episodes, there are a couple of rating services devoted to ratings for travel nursing agencies that are quite popular. One of them is at TravelNursingCentral.com and the other is at HighwayHypodermics.com.
Now, many agencies are aware that travelers review these websites before they choose an agency to work with. And some agencies are really smart and they promote these websites to their current travelers. Essentially, they go out of their way to ask their travelers to submit reviews for them. And of course, they’re only going to ask travelers who are having a wonderful time, so they agencies end up getting a lot of great reviews. When travelers go to review the ratings, they see the great reviews and they contact the company. I think this is genius! I mean, kudos to those agencies.
Now, here’s an example. FlexCare Medical Staffing is a small to mid-sized company. They have 80 evaluations on Highway Hypodermics and over 400 ratings on TravelNursingCentral. By contrast, American Mobile, by far and away the biggest agency in the business, has 32 evaluations on Highway Hypodermics and 117 ratings on TravelNursingCentral. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if American Mobile worked with more travelers last year than Flexcare worked with in the last 10 years. Clearly, Flexcare is promoting these sites to their travelers and that’s a smart thing to do.
Okay, so that’s probably a good place to wrap up this episode. We’ve covered a lot of information. Basically, we discussed how travel nursing agencies and recruiters find you as travel healthcare professionals. I think that knowing about these methods can help you navigate the system better and avoid some of the various pitfalls.
As always, I hope you found this information useful and interesting. We’ll have the transcript of the show as well as links to tons of useful information up on the show notes page. The show notes will be at blog.bluepipes.com/episode30. While you’re there be sure to create you free BluePipes account so you can take advantage of all the useful networking and documentation management tools designed to make your travel nursing job searches easier.
Again, I want to thank you for listening to the podcast. You are the reason we’re getting this information out there. If you’ve been enjoying it and you think that other travelers would benefit from it, then please provide us with a review on itunes or whatever platform you’re listening on. It goes a long way in helping us get the word out so more people can benefit from the information and we can keep the show going.
Alright, until next time, have a safe and prosperous travel healthcare adventure!
LinkedIn Travel Nursing Groups:
Facebook Travel Nursing Groups
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