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Upwork needs to improve their online marketing

I have noticed a steep drop in data science, surveys, geospatial and segmentation jobs since January.  Normally, when this happens at companies, it's a result of losing paid or earned search talent or a decrease in advertising spend.  As a result, I just now logged into SpyFu.com and here's what I'm seeing - it's not pretty:

Take a look at what has happened to ORGANIC since January. 

Organic Traffic Collapse.PNG


Also, here are the top PAID KEYWORDS:  Do you see a problem here?  I do.  The top job titles are "Graphic Designer" and "Personal Assistant".  I'm a data scientist who specializes in customer segmentation and targeting, as well as predictive models.  These paid keywords do NOTHING for me.


Paid Keywords.PNG


Graphic Designer and Personal Assistant might create some volume, but they are generally lower-paying jobs than data science.  The keyword "Predictive" makes me wonder if the analysts at Upwork are even aware of this deficiency.




Their Inbound Links (Back Links) seem to lack any strategy or propagation efforts.  For example, the fifth best inbound link is "Nations on the Jewish question"  Really?  How does that make sense as a top in-bound link? 


Inbound Links.PNG


In conclusion: I have noticed a steep drop-off in high-paying analytics jobs since January.  You can argue that Spyfu isn't reliable or that you should use another service and get the paid subscription.  That said, it appears to me from these cursory results that the paid and natural (earned) search team at Upwork is failing both consultants and clients with their lack of investment and strategy.

I'm not here to do Upwork's job for them, nor do I want to, but when a company charges as much as Upwork does on commissions and other fees, it's their responsibility to use that revenue wisely for the benefit of their community, especially as a publicly traded company.

I invite you to add your thoughts.  Also, if you use another paid service other than SpyFu, I welcome your findings, since I just used their free online version for this article, and I have no allegiance to SpyFu, nor do I earn any money from them.

Hopefully, this article serves as a wakeup call to their CMO and CEO.  LinkedIn and new competitors are eyeing this lucrative market and improving their platforms every day, while Upwork continues to struggle for market share.

Community Member

I think this has to do with Upwork's shifting priorities in terms of the clients it wants to draw in. Those clients, unfortunately, do not seem to be your clients (or mine). This writing has been on the wall for quite some time.

Thank you Tiffany, as a Community Guru, I know that you have invested significant time and effort to improve this platform for everyone.  People like you are opinion leaders, and C-Level executives should take note when you express your views.  Best wishes!

I wonder if historically the vast majority of traffic is from freelancers and with Upwork actively discouraging new freelancers, (no doubt also by not spending money on attracting new freelancers) we are seeing a drop-off of freelancer traffic rather than client-traffic?


We can't separate freelancer- and client-traffic from those results, so they are not necessarily meaningful as far as client traffic (specifically) is concerned.

You could be right, since negative sentiment on YouTube is likely a contributing factor.  I have not done analysis on negative sentiment related to changes to the Upwork pricing or platform.  What you are suggesting is supported by several videos.  If I were Upwork's CMO, I would pay attention to any YouTube video having over 10,000 views, and especially those by former Community Gurus or TOP RATED consultants.

I'll list a few with 10,000+ view counts that were uploaded this year for illustrative purposes.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree with these people, and I'm not listing these here to be negative.  I hope Upwork doesn't censor or banish me because anyone can find these on YouTube, especially new contractors and those of you who are frustrated for one reason or another.  It's no secret that there are both positive and negative reviews about Upwork on YouTube.  The comments can be especially insightful to management.

89,726 Views > Why I Quit Freelancer and Upwork?


35,000 Views > [Freelancer Warning] Top 3 Reasons NOT to Freelance on Upwork

15,046 Views > 10 Reasons why UPWORK SUCKS! (+Better Alternatives)


Negative YouTube videos are like bad restaurant reviews.  A good restaurateur will pay close attention to every bad review and reach out to the customer to make things right.  They will also look for trends and commonality in bad reviews to identify key areas for improvement.

Similarly, bad YouTube video reviews about Upwork are very useful to Upwork executives (assuming they are smart).  A poor executive will simply write off the YouTube video as a disgruntled former contractor or competitor.  They will take offense at the video instead of learning from the video, prioritizing improvements and then effecting positive changes to increase value, usefulness, brand loyalty, and stock price to consultants, clients and shareholders respectively.



Gregory John G wrote:

You could be right, since negative sentiment on YouTube is likely a contributing factor. 


Negative videos from freelancers.

I think you are missing the point. Freelancers leaving the platform is a good thing as there are far too many and when they leave voluntarily and warn other freelancers not to use Upwork, that saves the platform having to do another painful purge of underperforming freelancers like they did a few years ago.

Freelancers leaving and less new ones joining is not a problem, it is most likely intended.



There's a lot more Upwork could do to get the right mix of contractors to clients such as optimizing paid and natural search (the point of my original message).  It's outside the scope of what I could suggest here, but purging non-performers is probably a good thing. 


In my specific area of interest (data science), I might be open to Upwork charging freelancers $10-$15 to bid on data science projects as long as they also lowered the commission charge to 5% on projects over $X,XXX.  As long as they also provide greater visibility into whether our proposals are viewed by the client it might work well for top rated consultants.  $15 to bid on a project may seem absurdly high, but the cost could be offset by eliminating 95% of those contractors who simply do not measure up (back to your point).  Also, a reduction in commission fees could produce a win-win-win for everyone.


That's a different discussion.  Thank you for your thoughts, and I agree with you.

Gregory John G wrote:


....Also, a reduction in commission fees could produce a win-win-win for everyone.

Upwork is unlikely to consider reducing its commissions before reaching profitability, if then. Seismic changes in Upwork's target client focus notwithstanding, commissions are, and arguably should be, its core revenue source for the foreseable future.

Community Member

I'm in SEM and my proposals and revenue has decreased significantly since May. Something is wrong here like the OP said.

Community Member

How does a third party know inbound search numbers for Upwork?

it doesn't it estimates based on search term volume from Google

Tom Z wrote:

it doesn't it estimates based on search term volume from Google

Oh, so it takes a guess based on some average click volume and rank? How does it know search volume? Is this another tool that bases its numbers off of Adwords data?

Search volume for a keyword is through Adwords API.

Tom Z wrote:

Search volume for a keyword is through Adwords API.

ah, ok. That's what I thought. Thanks.

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