Special Layout Options are Live!

We are happy to announce that you now have access to our new review and recipe-centric capsules. The next time you visit the HubTool, you will be able to add Ratings, Cook Time, Ingredients, Instructions, and Nutrition Capsules to your review and recipe Hubs, and doing so, as we mentioned in our previous blog post about this feature, can give those Hubs a leg up in search engine results.

In addition to starting new Hubs that utilize these Special Layout Options, you can add our new capsules to existing recipe and review Hubs. For some tips on using these capsules, check out the new guides in our Learning Center.

Helpful Guides to Get You Started

You’re probably excited about publishing new recipe and review Hubs as well as adding these new search-friendly capsules to your existing recipe and reviews. To do so with the greatest success possible, we recommend checking out the following Learning Center guides:

We hope you have fun using these capsules!

New Hub Design On The Way

Soon we will be introducing a new design for Hub layouts. This re-design has been a long time coming; those of you who follow our blog know that we have been discussing new Hub layouts since last summer. Now, with the help of our fantastic new Head of Product Micki S, and the ever brilliant Fawntia, we are on the cusp of making this design change live.

The new layout incorporates the following changes:

  • The Topic Page breadcrumb has been made smaller and moved to sit above the title of the Hub
  • The size of the Hub’s title is increased
  • The HubScore has been made smaller and now has a mouseover explanation
  • Author attribution has been moved to below the title to more closely connect authors with their work
  • Social sharing options have been changed (Google+ was removed) and given greater prominence
  • Related Hubs to the right have been made larger
  • More related Hubs are presented at the bottom of the Hub, after the first five comments, and are presented in a more engaging and attractive format
  • Tags have been removed (the section gets very few clicks)

We can give you a peek at how these changes look with some screenshots of Dolores Monet’s Hub on Renaissance Fashion presented with the new layout. Above and to the right, you can see how the sidebar is much simpler and more attractive (blue and green squares indicate where ads go).

The Hub’s title is also more streamlined. By presenting the author beneath the title, we’re following the lead of many major news sites who use the same format. This gives Hubs and their authors are more professional, as opposed to blog-like, presentation.

The box at the base of the Hub has been pared down as well.

The new related Hubs presented after the first five comments are perhaps the most dramatic visual change that comes with the new Hub layout. These related Hubs will continue infinitely as readers scroll down the page (if readers want to see the full comment thread, they can expand it at the top of the Related Hubs section). This will keep readers with your Hubs for longer periods of time, and can also introduce them, in a more compelling manner, to more of your Hubs, because preference is given to related Hubs by any given Hub’s author.

This new layout will first be tested within the Fashion and Beauty Topic on HubPages (what better way to try on our fashionable new design?), so when the change goes live, you will only see it on an isolated set of Hubs.

There may be small tweaks in the layout based on performance, but once we are confident everything is polished and bug-free, all Hubs on the site will be given the new look.

We hope you like the look!

Why do Microformats Matter?

Microformats are, simply put, open data formats built upon widely accepted standards. Microformats are somewhat like MLA bibliographies in that MLA-style bibliographies share different specific pieces of information (such as citations to movies, books, radio shows, talks, etc.), while following a common, standardized format.

In the case of microformats, the common standards involve specific tags that are added to particular types of information, such as thumbnails in videos, star ratings in reviews, ingredients, instructions, nutrition, and cook time information in recipes, dates and times in calendar events, and names and employers resumes. These tags make it easier for search engines to recognize and present (not to mention filter) this format-specific information.

Online videos, recipes, reviews, and other articles and posts that incorporate microformat tags enjoy several benefits, especially when it comes to the attractiveness of your work in search results. Listen in to this week’s podcast (Why Microformats Matter) to learn more about these perks.

We hope this podcast gets you excited about microformats, and that you take advantage of the easy-to-use special layout options we’ll soon be offering that make it easy to add review and recipe microformat tags to recipe and review Hubs!

Is there another online-related vocabulary word or standard that you’re unfamiliar with? Tell us about it in an email to podcast-at-HubPages-dot-com! We may very well discuss it in a future podcast.

Introducing Special Layout Options for Reviews and Recipes

One big perk associated with publishing Videos as opposed to traditional Hubs is that your Videos get special treatment in search engine results: next to Videos’ titles and summaries, online searchers see an enticing thumbnail image that makes them more likely to select your work over that of the thumbnail-less competition.

We are now rolling out an additional feature on HubPages that applies this same search-friendly principle to recipes and reviews. In the HubTool, you will soon see several new Capsules organized under Special Layout Options.

  • These Capsules include:
  • The Ratings Capsule
  • The Cook Time Capsule
  • The Ingredients Capsule
  • The Instructions Capsule
  • The Nutrition Capsule

You will also see an option to add all of the Recipe Capsules in bulk.

By using the Ratings Capsule when reviewing products, places, and services, and by using the Recipe Capsules in your recipe Hubs, you will be adding cool features such as star ratings, thumbnail images, cook time to Hubs presented in search engine results.

You can see what these special search results like by Googling a recipe. Aren’t you more interested in the recipes that are presented with star ratings and attractive photos? By using our Special Layout Options, you’ll be able to give your Hubs the competitive edge enjoyed by those other review and recipe-optimized search results.

The new capsules will be available soon, so get your recipes ready for publication- and consider which recipe Hubs you might like to update!

An Interview with Marcy Goodfleisch

Many Hubbers come to HubPages at the very beginning of their writing careers, using the publising platform as a place to experiment, and leveraging our supportive community as a sounding board.

Marcy Goodfleisch, on the other hand, has come to HubPages after working as a professional writer for years! She brings a unique perspective to our community that many Hubbers can learn from.

In the following interview, Marcy Goodfleisch shares some of the fascinating insights she has gained from being a long time professional writer, as well as some resources she has created for Hubbers and other amateur writers seeking to develop writing careers. Enjoy!

In addition to being a professional writer, you’re a mother of two, have worked as a Communications Consultant, and have held several senior management positions at places like the State Bar of Texas and the University of Texas at Austin, plus you enjoy travel, music, and volunteering. You’ve only been on HubPages for around two months, and already you’ve published 51 Hubs. What’s the secret to your amazing productivity?

The more you write, the faster you become at putting facts, thoughts, quotes and other things into words. I had several demanding writing positions (the newspaper and TxDOT, for example) that required productivity and the ability to meet short deadlines. It was excellent training, and I am thankful for that experience. Eventually, you can predict exactly how long it will take you to write a given piece, which helps in budgeting your time for family and other activities.

Many of our Hubbers hope to someday have their work published in magazines or books. As someone who has had over 600 articles published in newspapers and magazines, what advice can you give to those looking to get started?

It would be great to see every writer on HubPages realize their highest dreams! Because fellow Hubbers asked about this early on, I wrote several hubs about it. Here are a few that answer this question:

What first sparked your interest in writing?

Writing was important to me even as a child; I used to weave fiction stories for my younger brothers and for friends. Later I wrote for my college paper, which helped me become a fast keyboarder. Eventually, I knew I wanted a career in writing. I brazenly contacted the local paper one day, and it turned out they were actually looking for someone to write a small column.  Writing has been the backbone of my career ever since.

You share on your profile that you have been writing for over 30 years. Has your writing style changed much over that time?

Oh, gosh – I certainly hope my skills have improved over the years!  Most new writers need to learn to take themselves out of their writing and focus on the topic. That lesson greatly helped write with a viewpoint or a position without resorting to words such as  “I got upset about . . .” or  “It makes me mad that . . .”  However, when you write an editorial (by nature, an opinion piece), you can get blasted for it.  Many readers took a Hub I wrote about Rush Limbaugh personally, and some comments were fairly biting.

Many Hubbers struggle when considering writing as a purely fun pastime versus a source of income. As a professional writer, would you say it’s possible to walk the line?

Yes, but writers need to distinguish between practicing their craft as a business and writing for pleasure or as an artistic outlet.  When writing commercially, give the editor  of the publication what they want, which is a literate, well-written piece about a specific topic, often of a specific length. If you pay a landscaper to plant a few trees, you don’t expect to get roses just because the landscaper thinks those are prettier. Sometimes, writers are lucky enough to get paid for writing that is also a fun pastime  – HubPages somewhat offers that opportunity, if the ‘for fun’ writing also follows site guidelines. Otherwise, writing is like any other job; it’s work, but it can also be fulfilling and enjoyable.

On HubPages, you cover all sorts of topics- from advice on selecting digital cameras to tips on fighting germs during flu season and an exploration of the meanings associated with various flowers. What inspires all this varied coverage? How do you decide what to write about?

For years, I had to write about a wide variety of subjects (cat shows, zoning laws, belly dancers, bridge design, legal issues – you name it). That helped me see stories in just about anything, and to notice unique and interesting things in every situation.  I’ve actually written a Hub on finding inspiration in everything around you.

What inspired you to join HubPages? What are your future HubPages plans?

For the past few years, I’ve wanted to write about topics that appeal to me rather than whatever editors currently need. I also wanted to begin writing online as well as in other venues.  I saw an ad about HubPages in my local paper, and immediately signed up. I’m very glad I did; this site has allowed me to accomplish both goals and to meet other writers, whom I already consider good friends.  My goal is to build a solid inventory of hubs, and of course to make HubPages a significant player in my income stream.

You Can Now Opt In to Moving Questions to Your Subdomain

Last week, we announced that Questions would soon be coming to subdomains. By visiting My Account > Q&A you can now make this change on your own account early by clicking the “Transfer” button.  Doing so will move all of your Questions under your personal HubPages subdomain and give you the ability to earn from the ads posted on those pages.

Keep in mind that moving your Questions to your subdomain is an irreversible process that cannot be undone, so only opt in for this preview if you are fully committed to the change.

Whether you make the transfer take place early or not, you can most certainly benefit from the features in this new section of My Account. The Statistics section enables you to view all of the Questions you have asked, as well as the number of answers and views they’ve seen. You can also see Questions that have been asked of you, as well as all of the Answers you have given.

For now, only AdSense ads appear on Question pages. If you would like to track the Google AdSense revenue you have made through your Questions:

  1. Visit Google AdSense
  2. Click on the My Ads tab
  3. Click on URL channels in the left hand navigation bar
  4. Click the”new URL channel” button
  5. Enter the following URL  (but using your username): http://yourusername.hubpages.com/question/

Big thanks to Ari Lamstein who built this new My Account section and made the transfer possible!

How to Choose Topics to Write About

Online Writing InsiderWe often hear from Hubbers that the hardest aspect of online writing is finding topics to write about. When in doubt, we recommend writing on…

  • Your areas of expertise (specifically skills, hobbies, and activities in which there is significant interest online)
  • Day-to-day tasks and activities in your life (such as fixing healthy meals for teens, improving your swimming skills, and learning how to housetrain new pets)
  • A subject of which you have many photos and images (chances are you already have great photos- why not create Hubs that put them to good use?)
  • A subject on which you have already done research (for example, a major purchase you made, the subject of a recent college paper, or the focus of a lot of inquisitive Googling)
  • A subject that you have searched for online that is not well-addressed by existing online articles

For a more detailed explanation of these areas, listen in to this week’s podcast (Choosing Topics to Write About). Here’s hoping your writer’s block is short and fleeting.

Is there some other online writing issue that is keeping you from happily writing new Hubs? Tell us about it! Email questions, comments, and suggestions for future podcasts to podcast-at-HubPages-dot-com.

Bookmarks being phased out

As Simone had mentioned last year, we’ve been working on updating the design of HubPages in an effort to enhance readers’ experience interacting with your Hubs and the site. The recent header revamp was the first rolled-out step in this process.

Part of this process involves retiring features that aren’t popularly used, in order to minimize distraction and engineering maintenance work, and to make more room for those features that readers and Hubbers will find useful. One of the features that hasn’t been used that much and will be retired soon is bookmarks. As of today, the ability to bookmark a Hub by clicking on a link on the Hub has been phased out.

Any bookmarks you have are still accessible, but we will eventually be discontinuing this feature, too. We will provide a facility for you to download all of your HubPages bookmarks, for importing into your browser, before that time. This will be made available to any Hubber with bookmarks before we sunset the bookmark feature. We don’t have an ETA on this yet, but we will give you ample warning as the date approaches.

Thank you for your understanding in the matter, and we look forward to unveiling an updated Hub layout in the near future.

UPDATE: You can now download your bookmarks by clicking the “Export Bookmarks as HTML” button in the Bookmarks section of My Account > Activity.

The Kids Cook Monday on HubPages (And So Can Yours!)

Kids Cook Monday logoOne of the best ways to educate children about food is to cook with them.  Here on HubPages, we have a thriving community of both cooking enthusiasts and parents.  A partnership between HubPages and the Monday Campaigns (who brought you the now-ubiquitous Meatless Monday) brings these communities together for The Kids Cook Monday.

Why the Kids Cook Monday?

The reasons for cooking with your kids are many.  Not only does it provide an opportunity for nutrition education, it helps children feel ownership of their food, cutting down on the pickiness factor that plagues so many a family dinner. It builds confidence both inside the kitchen and out, and provides an easy way to set aside time to catch up with your kids, too!  The Kids Cook Monday is a campaign to encourage anyone with children in their lives to set aside an evening once a week to prepare and enjoy a meal together, and then to write about it!

Kids Cook Monday on HubPages

Over the past month, ten fantastic Hubbers have been publishing a weekly Kids Cook Monday Hub, and the results have been amazing.  In fact, the first 9 Kids Cook Monday Hubs were visited over 525 times in the first week! But the benefits aren’t only in terms of traffic. You need only check out a Hub like leahlefler’s Sunshine Granola Bars or Melovy’s Fluffiest Pancakes Ever to see how a Kids Cook Monday spurs comments and connections!

Ready to participate?

It’s easy! Just browse the wonderful Kids Cook Monday Hubs already published by our early adopters, check out the Kids Cook Monday resource kit, and start publishing your Kids Cook Hubs every Monday (with the tag “kids cook monday”)!  Please include the Kids Cook Monday logo, which you can download and save from their site, or this blog post.

Then, submit your recipes for possible feature on the Kids Cook Monday site, as well as around the web with their partners. They’ve got an submission form to make things easy-breezy.

Not on HubPages yet?

Sign up now to join in on the fun!

An Interview with JKenny: A Hubber with a Flair for Fiction, History, Nature, & More

JKenny may have joined HubPages a mere two months ago, but don’t let his newcomer status fool you! This inquisitive Hubber, whose real name is James, has already published 45 Hubs on a wide range of fascinating subjects- and shows no sign of slowing down!

In an attempt to discover more about the man behind some of HubPages most interesting new Hubs, we asked JKenny for an interview. The following exchange reveals a Hubber well worth following.

How did you find HubPages? What inspired you to join?

I’ve harbored a passion for writing and telling stories for as long as I can remember, and was desperate to try and turn my passion into a career. I was on the internet one evening and decided to conduct a search for ghostwriting jobs on Google; after a little browsing, I came across this site called HubPages and clicked on it out of curiosity. After taking the time to investigate what the site was all about, I thought ‘Wow, what a great idea.’ So I signed up and started writing straight away.

You share in the bio on your profile that your main passions in life revolve around natural history, flora, fauna, and environmentalism.

Yes, like writing and storytelling my passion for the natural world harks back to my early childhood. Whenever I study, write or simply immerse myself in the natural world, it helps lift my spirits, especially when feeling low. I love how you can go to the same places loads of times, and yet see or witness something you’ve never seen before. The biggest thing I love about nature is that you never quite know what to expect, it makes you want to go back more and more.

You also express an interest in history- particularly the Classical, Medieval, and Napoleonic eras. What about these particular time periods attracts you?

My fascination with the Napoleonic era derives from reading about the adventures of Horatio Hornblower and Richard Sharpe. I loved the stories, the locations, the weapons, and the way people spoke and dressed back then.

Living in England means that I’m never too far from a medieval castle, and as a child my imagination used to run wild whenever taken on a day out to one. I’m fortunate enough to live within ten miles of three famous English castles, Warwick, Dudley and Kenilworth Castle. I used to enjoy watching reenactments of jousts and sword fights, and then holding my own pretend sword fights with my brother; I’d always have to let him win though.

My interest in Classical history centers mostly on the Romans. I studied certain elements of it at school, but it wasn’t until I watched the film ‘Gladiator’ and taken a trip to Rome to see things like the Coliseum for myself, that my interest really fired up. I loved learning about legendary characters such as Caesar, Mark Antony, Claudius and Nero and reading stories originally written down 2000 years ago.

In addition to writing, you’re an avid reader. Do your reading and writing lives overlap?

Yes, definitely; I read almost as much as I write, if not more. One of the things I love about being on HubPages is reading books and articles for research that I normally wouldn’t have given a second look at. Every time I learn something new, it’s as though I’ve uncovered my own personal mystery, and the sense of enlightenment it gives you is awesome.

You have been publishing some creative writing on HubPages- namely your Temple of Cabal series, which you’re releasing in chapters. Could you tell us more about this?

The Temple of Cabal is a novel that I began working on before I joined HubPages. It’s a fantasy novel about how an ordinary student and his eccentric professor end up journeying into a fantasy world, full of weird and wonderful creatures that exists within a mirror in the professor’s basement. They have to rescue a family being held captive in the Temple of Cabal by an evil dark spirit. My inspiration comes from a variety of sources, but is mostly drawn from stories that captivated me as a child like ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’ and ‘The Lost World’ by Arthur Conan Doyle.

What are your goals for the next six months on HubPages? What sorts of Hubs might we expect to see from you in the future?

At the moment, I’m simply enjoying the experience of writing about things that I’m truly passionate about, and having people appreciate and take pleasure in reading my work. I’ll admit that money was one of the reasons I joined HubPages, and I hope to be earning a fairly decent amount in six months. Other than that, I intend to simply continue writing quality Hubs about subjects that interest me and enjoying the feedback that I get from them. When I’ve gained enough confidence, I may give myself a real challenge and trying writing about a topic that doesn’t naturally draw me in.