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If you manage a hedge fund, ignore Glassdoor at your peril

By Guest Author

Fri Sep 4, 2015

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Never before have critical voices been so proximal to a company’s digital brand.

By David Andrew Goldman

In certain niche industries like hedge funds, private equity, public relations and software development, top talent is in high demand. Job seekers ‘Google’ potential employers to determine if the pay is right, the environment is friendly, and the management is supportive and forward thinking.

Searchers expect to find the company’s corporate website, social profiles and maybe one or two news articles – your standard search results. What they may not expect to find are search results that offer insight into what it’s actually like to work at the company along with salary expectations made public by current and former employees. Enter Glassdoor.

If you haven’t searched online for almost any hedge fund in the past few years, you may not be familiar with Glassdoor. Composed of content (presumably) generated by employees, Glassdoor reveals details about companies, including salaries, ratings and reviews of the firm and management. Studies have shown that websites like Glassdoor are often used by job seekers. Typically searchers will navigate to a site like Glassdoor, Vault, Simply Hired or Indeed. We focused on Glassdoor because amongst hedge funds it is the most popular career site by several orders of magnitude.

About three years ago, our research team noticed that was beginning to populate the search results of a number of large hedge funds, some of whom were clients. That trend has only continued to increase over time. Why is this the topic for an article? Here’s why.

Glassdoor engagement

Experientially, we all know that third-party content about the company is often seen as equally, or more, influential than the company’s corporate site. Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and the former Editor-in-Chief of Psychology Today recently conducted a study to measure the degree of influence that Google results have over elections.  A BBC article featuring the study results noted:

Search rankings have this powerful effect on votes for the same reason that they have one on consumer behavior: the higher the ranking, the more people believe and trust the content….”

To better understand the power of Glassdoor in relation to specific hedge funds, we conducted some exclusive research for Absolute Return on a sample of the Billion Dollar Club. To keep the data set close to 200 (216 to be exact) we focused on those funds with $2B or more under management. We evaluated the groups’ Google search results with a particular focus on the presence and power of Glassdoor.

Here’s a few trends and statistics we noticed:

  • Larger AUM hedge funds were more likely to have high ranking Glassdoor search results than small and mid-sized funds
  • 48% of hedge funds had at least one Glassdoor site in their top search results
  • 18% had more than one Glassdoor page in their top search results
  • 24% had more Glassdoor pages in their search results than company web assets
  • The average star rating for hedge funds was 3.7 stars (out of 5 stars).

So why does Glassdoor rank so frequently in top search results specifically for large hedge funds? A Search Engine Land article published on May 21, 2014 reported that Glassdoor was among the biggest ‘winners’ in the aftermath of the Google Panda 4.0 algorithmic update. Google’s algorithm perceived Glassdoor to have legitimate, quality user-generated content.

Unbranded Glassdoor company profile
Unbranded company profile.

It’s shocking that third party, user-generated content websites populate at least as much, or more, ‘real estate’ in the search results than the company’s own web assets. It’s true that every company will have disgruntled employees from time to time. What’s new is that never before have these critical voices and personal grievances been so public and proximal to the company’s digital brand.

We collected a sampling of reviews and found many to appear balanced with pros and cons. However, a large percentage of funds have disparaging comments with language strong enough to give some job seekers pause before pursuing a job. Here are just the first few we came across:

  • “Closer to North Korea and you don’t need a passport”
  • “Highly politicized, arrogant culture.”
  • “The work environment is incredibly cold and backstabbing.”
  • "The technology and investing methodology it uses are incredibly old and way short of industry standards.”

Only 23% percent of the hedge fund firms we reviewed have “engaged” or taken ownership of their Glassdoor profile.

So more than 2/3 of the hedge funds with Glassdoor in their top search results aren’t engaged with the site at all. These hedge funds are neglecting an opportunity to create any context for the comments and complaints that are posted, or to offer their side of the story. Another important advantage of engaging or contributing to a hedge fund’s Glassdoor company page is the branding opportunity. A hedge fund would have to pay a lot of money to create an additional company owned website and then optimize it to rank well.  

In short, Glassdoor should not be ignored. It should be engaged with at some level. According to the site, a “Free Employer Account” includes the ability to make basic edits to your company profile page and respond to employee reviews.

Branded or ‘engaged’ Glassdoor company profile.
Branded or ‘engaged’ company profile.
There’s no reason hedge funds shouldn’t be engaging with Glassdoor at this level. It provides the fund with at least a small degree of influence in the otherwise Wild West of reviews on the site. At a higher price point (Glassdoor doesn’t make their exact pricing easily available), hedge funds can buy branding tools and analytics that teach them more about who visits their site and what content is most popular.

I once heard comedian Pete Holmes joke that Burger King had a simple yet effective strategy when it came to deciding on locations for their franchisees: let McDonalds figure it out. McDonalds put a lot of money and research into picking locations. How easy is the signage seen from the road? What is the demographic of local residents and commuters, etc.?

Glassdoor has done a great job convincing Google’s algorithm that its content is high quality. They did the heavy lifting. Now all a hedge fund needs to do is extend their brand and their message onto their company page to help protect its online reputation.

David Andrew Goldman is the chief strategy and content marketing officer at Five Blocks, a technology and digital consulting firm with a focus on online branding and reputation for financial services companies and high net­-worth individuals.

ISSN: 2151-1845 / CDC10004H

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