Elance Blog

Use the Search Engine To Win More Jobs

Looking for ways to gain bettter visibility in contractor search results? What exactly does it take to move up those rankings?  Freelance writer and Elance veteran Cathy Reed explains how she learned to utilize the search engine from the client's perspective to improve her visibility, which translated into more success working on Elance.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been one for reading directions; I tend to jump into something and read the directions later, and that’s exactly what I did when I joined Elance. I succeeded in getting a number of projects in the first few months, and then was caught completely by surprise when I started getting invitations to bid on jobs. It was then that I realized that Elance had a search engine (I’m sure some of you reading this will be aghast that I could be so ignorant!) and I decided to find out how it actually worked.


How do clients search?
To find out what it’s like to use the Search Engine as a client, I clicked on the Hire button drop-down in the navigation bar and posed as a client looking for an editing contractor.

Here’s what I discovered:

  1. In the left-hand column, the client can choose his Elance Category; in this case “Writing & Editing”
  2. In the Search Bar, the client can enter a Keyword like “academic editing” or “ebook editor” or whatever else he’s looking for
  3. In the left-hand column, the client can choose to include other options:
    • If he has a preference, the client can select between an Individual or Business
    • By Tested Skills. For example, he may want his would-be contractor to have tested Editing Skills and Proofreading Skills and Grammar Skills
    • Location—North America, Eastern Asia, etc. which can be narrowed it down to a particular country, state or city
    • Feedback Scores—contractors with 5 stars, at least 4 stars, etc.
    • By minimum number of Reviews—at least 5, at least 10, and so on
    • Hourly Rate, e.g., from $10 to $20, or from $30 to $50

Why is it important to know this? Because then you can set up your Elance profile so that the search engine can actually find you (see below). But before you do that, I would highly recommend going to the top Elance menu bar and clicking on Hire button drop-down so you can see for yourself how clients search.

How does the Elance search engine work?

Let’s say the Elance client enters the Keyword “business writing.” In that case, the search engine will search for that Keyword and then further refine the search by taking into account the Skills you’ve listed in your Profile and the same Keywords and Skills that show up in your Elance Job History. Therefore, it will help if you have “business writing” in your Keywords, “business writing” listed as a Tested Skill, and a number of “business writing” projects that you have completed and received feedback for.

Elance describes that part of the process as a Match and the member’s Elance Reputation magnifies the Match score (and therefore determines the order in which Profiles are displayed)” to the client that is doing the search.

The Reputation factors include number of jobs completed, quality of Feedback received (6 months only), amount earned (6 months only), as well as number of Tested Skills, number of Verified Credentials, and number of repeat clients.

How do I get noticed by the search engine?

  • Keywords: At the very bottom of your Elance Profile, you can add 10 Keywords—they can be a word or a short phrase describing what you do, from sales pages, press releases, ghostwriting, direct mail campaigns, manuscript editing, etc. Or you can include the subject matter you specialize in—fitness, dog training, law, real estate, social media, etc. When you think about Keywords, think about what your ideal client might be searching for.

  • Skills: As part of your profile, you can list up to 10 Skills from a pull-down menu that is arranged by categories, like Writing & Translation, Web & Programming, Design & Multimedia, etc. If you’re an editor, for example, you can list such Skills as English Editing, English Proofreading, and English Grammar. I would advise dealing with Skills in two separate steps:

    • Step 1: When you first create your Profile, find up to 10 Skills and list them; you can test them later when you have the time. Meanwhile, they’re there for your clients to see and for the Search Engine to take into account. At this point they’re identified as “Self-rated.”
    • Step 2: When you have time, take the tests for each of the Skills. Is it worth taking the time to do the testing? I would definitely say yes, because a) clients have the option of searching by Tested Skills and b) clients have mentioned to me that they like to hire providers with Tested rather than Self-rated Skills. In fact, skill tests can prove to be one of the key differentiators between being awarded a job or not—there’s something about scoring in a certain percentile that showcases your expertise front and center.
  • Verified Credentials: The search engine also likes you to have Verified Credentials, as do many clients. You can get both your Education and your Reference credentials verified. This is organized by Elance and done by a professional verifying organization with a small cost attached; you can have up to four Verified Credentials. 

  • Your Profile: A couple of other things to consider in your profile:

    • Many providers leave their hourly rate blank, but since it is a search criterion for buyers, you might want to include it.
    • In the header of your Overview, rather than something like “Words just for you” or “Always reliable,” think of something that will be picked up by the search engine, like “Web content and social media” or whatever services you offer.
  • Invitations: Paying attention to what the search engine looks for means that you’ll be more likely to get invitations once you’ve completed a certain number of jobs. The benefits of invitations are tremendous: you do less job searching, you pay no Connects, and you have a better chance of winning the job. And then when you’ve built a great reputation on Elance, sometimes the buyer invites only you!


About the Author
Cathy Reed
has been writing and editing on Elance for 2 ½ years and to date has worked for clients in 35 countries. She loves the variety of the work and the opportunity to be immersed in the global economy that we now live and work in. She lives on the British Columbia coast and when she’s not working she loves to hike, cycle, kayak and ski.

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Very good information Cathy! I don't always read directions either, LOL! Thanks for this.

Found this very educative and revealing.


very informative thanks.