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Wouldn’t it be great to have a job you can do from home, even in your pajamas, working as little or as much as you want, and when you want?
That’s basically the promise when you work as a search engine evaluator.
I did this work for a while, and in some ways it was great. I made more than $13 per hour, I worked as little as fifteen minutes at a time (and never more than three hours), and I worked any time — day or night — that the mood struck me.
Usually that meant working in the morning, in my pajamas, after a ten-second commute from bedroom to home office.
For me it wasn’t the perfect job, but I’ve never enjoyed any job for more than a few months. In any case, for some readers this might be a great way to make some extra money or even make a living.
So let’s take a look at the good and the bad, and where to find these gigs. But first we need to answer the question…
What Is A Search Engine Evaluator Job?
Suppose you enter “make cat food” into a search engine. Millions of pages are quickly analyzed using complicated algorithms, and within a second or so you get the results; links to the content that’s most relevant, like pages on “The Best Homemade Cat Food Recipes,” along with various videos on the topic.
Of course, Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines want to know if the results they deliver actually are relevant, and if they could be improved. So they contract with companies who in turn hire you as a search engine evaluator.
The work is more varied than you might think. You do look at a lot of web pages, usually ten at a time, rating each according to various criterion, the ultimate one being how likely the page is to satisfy a searcher entering the designated search term into the search box.
But there are many other tasks. For example, I listened to and evaluated audio results (for people who search using a smartphone). I also watched and rated YouTube videos.
Sometimes you might evaluate websites for professionalism, according to criteria like whether they have easily-accessible contact information and privacy policies.
I won’t say too much more about the specifics of the tasks because, like all search engine evaluators must do, I signed a non-disclosure agreement. But you can read Amy Baum’s Leapforce Review to learn more about working for that particular company.
Is it a good gig? You can decide that for yourself, after you read through the following pros and cons of being a search engine evaluator.
Search Engine Evaluation Gigs – The Pros
I liked the work (for a while), and many other people really love these gigs. Here are some of the reasons why…
1. You Can Work Entirely At Home — Or Not
I love working from home, and you typically never have to leave the house to do this work, not even for the job interview (if there is one — I didn’t have one).
You can roll out of bed and work without getting dressed, and use the bathroom when you need to, and eat as you work if you like (probably not encouraged, but how would they know?).
On the other hand, if you prefer to work at a coffee shop or at the beach, those are options too. As long as you have an internet connection and a laptop, you’re good to go. For some specific gigs you can even work using your cell phone.
2. The Pay Is Decent
You won’t get rich doing this work. Glassdoor pegs the average salary at Appen at $14 per hour, and the other companies hiring for this work pay about the same. I made about $700 my first month, but that was without putting in more than fifteen hours in any one week.
When comparing search engine evaluation to other work, keep in mind that you spend no time commuting, and you have no commuting expenses. Also, there are sometimes opportunities to earn bonuses.
3. You Can Work The Days And Hours You Choose
I used to work in the morning, and sometimes again later in the day. I took off a week at a time without any complaint from my “employer” (client, actually; you work as an independent contractor). It was easy to make the work fit around my writing schedule.
You might be asked to work on certain days, but typically you can work the days and hours of your choosing. You just login to your account and see if there is work to be done.
4. You Can Choose How Many Hours To Work
The most I worked in a week was fifteen hours, and some weeks I didn’t work at all. I could have worked 40 hours weekly if I chose, although there were a few times when there was no work available for most of a day.
You will usually have a minimum commitment. For example, my contract specified a minimum of 20 hours monthly, which I eventually failed to meet, and so my contract was not renewed.
5. The Work Is Not Difficult
Your work will be evaluated regularly for speed and accuracy, and you may be asked to improve your performance (I was), but the tasks themselves are not difficult.
Follow the guidelines, pay attention to your work evaluations so you can correct course as necessary, and you’re not likely to be let go for doing a poor job.
6. You Learn About The World
This was a benefit I didn’t expect, but in the process of evaluating the results for thousands of search terms, I learned a lot of new stuff. Did you know there are wild dogs in the southern U.S. called American Dingoes? I also learned where to go online to create presentations for free.
7. There Are Some Tax Advantages
There is a tax disadvantage to working as an independent contractor (see the cons below), but there are also some tax advantages.
For example, you can deduct many work-related supplies, and maybe part of your internet cost, as business expenses (check with a tax professional), thus lowering your tax bill.
Search Engine Evaluation Gigs – The Cons
As much as I enjoyed the work at first, it eventually became too tedious, and I worked so little toward the end that the company didn’t renew my contract. Here are some of the things myself and others don’t like about the job…
1. You Get No Job Benefits
This is not really a job. You’re an independent contractor. As such, you get no health benefits, vacation pay, unemployment benefits, etc. Nothing. Oh, and you can be fired for any reason at any time.
I was fine with this aspect, because I hate all the requirements that come with along with the benefits of “real jobs,” like showing up for work every day and dealing with supervisors.
2. You Pay Your Own Taxes
Your income is business income, so you’ll be filling out a Schedule C at tax time. That means you have to keep track of your income and expenses. I didn’t find this to be difficult, but as a freelance writer I already had to do a Schedule C every year.
In addition to income taxes you’ll pay a 15.3% self-employment tax, which covers your Social Security and Medicare contributions. An employer normally pays half of that, so as a contractor paying the whole amount, your after-tax hourly rate is not quite as good as it seems.
3. You Have To Carefully Document Your Hours-Worked
The company that hires you will have a record of your login times, which they use to verify the hours you work, but you are responsible for submitting an invoice for your work.
If you forget to include a few hours, they probably won’t correct you or let you re-submit the invoice, so be careful and keep good records.
4. There May Not Be Enough Work
I occasionally logged in to discover that there was no work available. Sometimes I worked for twenty minutes or so before running out of tasks. Then I would have to check in later in the day to see if there was more work available.
This can be a problem, especially if you’re hoping to make a living as a search engine evaluator. You may find more than enough work, but this is not a regular full-time job.
5. The Pay Comes Monthly
If you don’t budget well, you may not like the fact that monthly pay is typical. In fact, it may take more than a month to get your first paycheck, because you send your invoice after the month ends, and then wait a week or two for payment.
6. The Work Is Hard On The Eyes
Unlike when you browse the internet, you really need to focus your attention and eyes. Search engine evaluators often complain of eye strain, and I’m right there with them. My eyes were burning if I worked for more than a couple hours at a time.
7. You Don’t Get Paid For Training Time
To get hired you’ll have to take at least one qualifying test and you’ll also have to work through a training manual and complete some sample tasks. You don’t get paid for the time you spend on training and testing, and it can take a few hours.
Getting Hired As A Search Engine Evaluator
Even though you’ll probably be working (indirectly) for Google, since they get more than 70% of search traffic, they don’t hire directly for most of these positions. They contract with companies that who then hire you. Here are some of the typical qualifications you’ll need:
- At least 18 years-old
- Decent internet research skills
- Decent communication skills
- Fluency in the language in which you’ll be working
I wasn’t required to have college degree, although that’s usually preferred. It also helps if you have a wide range of knowledge and are very familiar with the internet, including social media.
A decent smartphone is a common requirement now (some tasks can only be completed using a smartphone).
Of course you’ll also need a computer and high-speed internet connection.
You’ll have to fill out an application and answer a lot of questions. I applied online and never once spoke to anyone in person or by phone, but a telephone interview is a possibility. You’ll also have to take at least one qualifying test.
There are a number of companies that hire search engine evaluators, sometimes under a different job title, like “web search evaluator.” Here are three of them:
These companies often have other work-at-home positions as well.
If you look over reviews search engine evaluators post online, you’ll find that their complaints are often about matters that are completely foreseeable.
For example, you now know you won’t be paid for training time, and you might not have work available when you want it — but both of these are common complaints.
Most people who have done the work find it worth the pay. If you understand the limitations and nature of the work going in, and you still want to do it, it can be a great way to make some extra income.
Is it the perfect work-at-home job? Maybe there’s no such thing, but search engine evaluation is decent work for decent pay.
If you’ve worked as a search engine evaluator, please share your experiences below … and keep on frugaling!