The Marvels of March Exclusive Titles

We just love this great Hub by Sunday Best from one of our favorite Exclusives last month. We can’t wait to see what you come up with for these, so keep up the great work, Hubbers! Here are our top 10 favorite March Exclusive Titles:

  1. Curing Your Family’s Addiction to Reality TV
  2. How to Make a Wish in a Wishing Well
  3. How to Look Good in Guyliner
  4. What Is an 80s Power Ballad?
  5. How to Respectfully Disagree with Your Priest
  6. How to Eat Vegemite
  7. The Various Headbands of Taylor Swift
  8. What Is the Orange Fungus Growing in My Mulch?
  9. How to Live Comfortably in an RV with Kids
  10. How to Choose Artificial Office Plants

 

I hope you will consider creating a Hub using one of these promising premises. I know I’m particularly curious about the orange mulch mystery fungus, and who doesn’t love 80s power ballads?

Want some inspiration? Here’s a little taste of what talented Hubbers have been doing with Exclusives this past month:

Remember to check out HubPages Exclusives guide in the Learning Center should you want to give Exclusive Titles a try and not be familiar with the feature.

April’s Contest Called; It Needs to Postpone

Due to unforeseen circumstances we unfortunately have had to postpone the Stellar Hub Showdown (April’s contest). I apologize for the inconvenience! We are just as excited about this contest as you are, so you can rest assured that we have every intention of  running the contest in the near future.

In the meantime, I strongly encourage you to get involved with our Weekly Topic Inspiration program, in which a newly created leaf-level Topic Page is featured each week. Hubs published within newly-created Topic Pages have much higher odds of being prominently Featured (and therefore getting more attention).

I also want to remind you that we run a contest each and every week through our Rising Star Program. You can vote for nominated Hubs (written by new Hubbers) that are showcased on three different top level Topic Pages each week. The winners are awarded with special Accolades and showcased in the weekly newsletter.

Thank you for your patience!

Need Some Goals? Visit Your HubTool This Week!

Back in January we released some improvements to the HubTool that included visual tweaks and a more conveniently-located summary box. At the same time, we also introduced a feature that was only rolled out to 10% of Hubbers. Though still in beta form, we will be making this feature available to the community as a whole this week.

What is it? A new box to the right of the HubTool titled “Need Some Goals?”

The Need Some Goals box responds to the content of your Hub in real time, providing helpful feedback and giving you some insights into how you might add more depth and media to your Hub. As you add more words, photos, and other capsules to your Hub, various icons in the box get checked off. The box also features written tips, quick links to Learning Center guides, and a display of your Hub’s current word count (something many, many Hubbers have been asking for).

The numbers of words, images, and capsules we recommend are based on data we have regarding our top performing Hubs. You can learn more about how our research drove the design of this feature in the Learning Center.

Once it rolls out, please let us know what you think of the feature, and feel free to suggest better titles for it as well! Somehow, “The Need Some Goals Box” doesn’t run off the tongue very nicely. 😉

Updates to Featured Hub Grace Periods and Quality Boundaries

Next week, we will be rolling out to updates to Featured Hubs and the Quality Assessment Process:

  1. We will be giving Featured Hubs a longer grace period based on Hubber Score
  2. We will be raising the quality bar applied to newly-published Hubs

 

About the Longer Grace Period

As it stands, Featured Hubs have between 30 to 60 days to prove that they have a heartbeat. We define a Hub with a heartbeat as one that has demonstrated sufficient interest from readers and is getting some search traffic (e.g. a small handful of search hits per week, around a dozen per month, or a little over 50-90 per year, depending on Hubber Score).

Starting next week, Featured Hubs will be given a grace period between 30 days to one year based on Hubber Score. To make Hubber Score a more accurate representation of the overall quality of one’s Hubs, we have adjusted the manner in which it is calculated to factor in human ratings collected through the Quality Assessment Process.

Because new Hubbers tend to have more volatile Hubber Scores, their grace period will be artificially inflated until these scores normalize, so rest assured that promising new Hubbers will not be penalized for having fresh Hubber Scores.

Should a Hub lapse out of Featured status after the grace period has passed (no matter how long it may be), all one has to do is edit and improve upon the Hub (ideally looking at present search competition and tweaking the title and text of the Hub to make it more search-friendly) to have it once again become Featured.

About the Higher Quality Bar

Because we will be giving most Hubs longer grace periods, we are also raising the minimum quality ratings required for a Hub to earn Featured status. This means that fewer Hubs will make the cut, but this does not mean that your Hubs need to suffer. If you make sure that your Hubs meet the substance, organization, and grammar and mechanics criteria of an 8+ Hub on our rating scale (shown below), and are clearly above the criteria of a 6 Hub, you should be fine.

Note: A collective score of eight on all levels is NOT the minimum requirement for a Hub to be Featured; the minimum quality score a Hub needs to become Featured is actually much lower, but given our margin of error with human ratings, we want to make it clear that if you meet the criteria of an eight, you can be very confident that your Hub will be Featured.

Should you publish a Hub to find that it is immediately not Featured (a clear indication that it did not get sufficiently high quality ratings), you are confident that your Hub’s substance, organization, and grammar/mechanics meet the descriptions we provide for Hubs of an 8+ rating, please file a buggy quality assessment report and we will look into the problem.

We hope this adjustment to our Featured Hubs system helps to give your Hubs a better shot at success and also improve your traffic (by improving HubPages’ overall reputation through even higher standards). For more information about the update and what qualifies as search traffic, please visit our FAQ.

Topic Spotlight: Family and Parenting

As part of our ongoing Topic Expansion Initiative, we’ve been expanding overcrowded Topics here on HubPages. Our latest expansions have focused on Family and Parenting, and we’d like to highlight some of the changes and improvements.

Family and Parenting covers everything from baby care to parenting teens. Our most popular Topics in Family and Parenting turned out to be Parenting Skills, Styles and Advice, Kids, and Teens, so we’ve put the most effort into fixing things up under those Topics. Here’s the comprehensive list of new Family and Parenting Topics:

Language Development and Laziness in Teens do not have links because they have not reached the Hub threshold to receive their very own Topic pages yet, which makes them a great choice to write about (You can still choose those Topics under the Hub Topic option when you create a new Hub).

Language Development and Laziness in Teens will get their own pages with just a few more Hubs, and since they aren’t very full, your Featured Hubs are sure to show up on the first page. The major changes in Family and Parenting are finished for the time being, though we may occasionally slip in a few more improvements. Stay tuned to hear about our ongoing progress elsewhere in the Topic Tree.

Highlights from HubPages’ SXSW Talk on the Death of Blogging

Thanks to your support, I delivered a talk at SXSW about the death of blogging as a means of gaining and building traction online. Though I unfortunately have no footage or recording of the event, I would love to share the gist of the talk with you.

What does it mean that blogging is dead?

Blogging is not dead as a format; many people still blog, and most successful online personalities have blogs. Blogs make for splendid destinations on personal websites- places over which the author has complete control and can go into greater detail about his or her projects and goings on.

That said, blogs are no longer an effective means of building an audience online. The primary reasons for this include:

  • Blogs not always being the best means of communicating one’s message
  • Blogs not being convenient for online audiences, who have widely varying means of consuming information
  • Blogs not being a ‘sound’ investment if used alone (especially due to their typical lack of search-friendliness and the variability in traffic caused by the Google Panda update)

What, then, must one do to gain traction online these days? One must build an integrated, multi-platform personality. This involves:

  1. Establishing a clear message (or determining what sort of legacy one wants to leave behind)
  2. Getting to know one’s target audience (what they want and worry about, what makes them happy, what their interests are, and where and how they like to consume information online)
  3. Doing what it takes to reach as much of one’s target audience as possible (this involves building an active presence on the platforms that matter most to your audience)

What changed? What should we focus on now?

What changed to make blogging ineffective as a means of gaining traction? Let’s address the shift from the perspective of one’s message, one’s audience, and one’s reach.

The Message

The online world has grown far more complex since the early days of blogging. Back when blogging was new, the internet was more like a frontier village- a place where one could certainly be present, but have to choose between limited options. These days, the internet is more like a hypermodern metropolis. One can do anything, learn anything, and be anything.

This means that we can do more than just share a simple message through a limited format like a blog. We have the ability to build an entire legacy- to not only share content, but to build a career, directly affect others’ lives, start campaigns, and engage in nuanced, active dialogue.

Blogs are simply too limited to be able to carry the creation of a legacy by themselves.

The Audience

In the ‘frontier village’ days of the internet, people knew where to find you. Your blog, much like one of a handful of small houses in a village, could be easily found. As there wasn’t much else going on, people were happy to swing by and hang out in your house.

Now that the internet has modernized into a complex metropolis, a pan-internet culture has formed. People seek entertainment, education, information, money, products, socialization online. As a result, various social hubs (e.g. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, etc.) have popped up to accommodate growing demand.

While you might enjoy the comfort and control that comes with interfacing with people inside your own house, people in the big city of the internet simply won’t know your house is there. If you want people to hear your message, you’re going to have to leave your home to frequent your audience’s favorite hangouts: the bars, clubs, restaurants, museums, parks, and libraries of the internet.

Yes, people will still visit your blog as they get to know you, but most of the interactions you have will take place in these social Hubs. For this reason, you must be willing to leave the comfort and control of your comfy online home to be where all the people are.

Reach

Independent blogs had more reach in the early days of blogging because there were fewer houses in the village, as it were. Today, the blogosphere is awash in competition comprised of a plethora of small blogs (covering everything you might imagine) and an impressive number of large, well-known blogs that have built up loyal followings over time.

Because your own blog faces so much competition, it is not likely, by itself, to stand apart from the crowd. Only by entering new platforms with room for growth and unmet demands, plus communicating through platforms (sometimes even other blogs) that see high volumes of social traffic can you effectively reach as many people as possible.

What is the best approach now?

By evolving into a vibrant metropolis that reflects nearly all facets of life, the internet has essentially become another dimension of the real world. In the real world, we do not interface with everyone only through phone calls, or only through house visits; we go all over the place and deliver our message in all sorts of formats.

The same must be done online. We must build integrated, multi-faceted online personalities that span across multiple platforms.

The Message

Before you can create a strong online personality, you must establish your goals. What sort of change do you want to enact? What sort of legacy would you like to leave behind? Your online persona, posts, and actions must reflect, augment, and build upon this legacy.

The Audience

Once you have a message, you need to establish which sort of audience it needs to reach. The more you know about those you would like to reach (what they care about, what they struggle with, what sparks their interest, and most importantly, where and how they like to consume information online), the better you will be at delivering your message.

Reach

Your message, however well-constructed and targeted, will not make much of a difference if it does not reach a large number of people. The final (and perhaps most crucial) aspect of building a strong online persona involves finding and using the channels and platforms through which you can gain the greatest reach.

For many, this involves having a presence on major social media networks (and as it happens, we offer convenient guides to using Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter as a Hubber), but the ideal mix is different for everyone. Some audiences don’t use Pinterest/Twitter/Google/Facebook at all.

To really reach those for whom your message is intended, you may have to find small communities through which your audience prefers to interact. Alternately, you might need to establish a relationship with a prestigious blog or publication that your audience really respects.

The right mix of channels and platforms is different for every message and every audience; it is up to you to find the right one. Just keep in mind that the ideal channels will constantly change!

Be a person, not a platform

If you are to come away with one conclusion, it should be this: you must learn to see yourself as a person, not a platform. Do not limit yourself to a particular format just because you are comfortable with it. Be aggressive with your goals and don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone to make a real impact in the world.

We live in an amazing time; one in which the internet can be used to achieve great things. Don’t miss out on that glorious opportunity. 😉

[UPDATE: Postponed] Announcing the Stellar Hub Showdown – Our April Contest!

UPDATE: The Stellar Hub Showdown has to be postponed due to unforeseen circumstances and will not run this April. We’ll get it up and running again as soon as possible!

Our Rigorous Review Contest last year was a real blast, but we’re long overdue for a new bout of healthy community competition! I am therefore happy to announce our latest contest, which will run next month: the Stellar Hub Showdown.

As always, we’ve got some super fun cash prizes to offer:

  • $700 in $25 Daily Drawing Prizes awarded to one randomly selected entry every day of the contest
  • $700 in $25 Weekly Prizes awarded to the seven best entries each week
  • $50 Passion Prize for the entry demonstrating the greatest use of genuine passion
  • $50 Expertise Award for the entry demonstrating the greatest use of unique personal expertise
  • $50 Utility Award for the most extensive, unique, original, and practical guide
  • $50 Media Maven Award for the entry with the most attractive, original, and useful use of media (videos, images, maps, etc.)
  • $200 Grand Prize for the best overall entry

This contest revolves around Hubs that meet (and hopefully exceed) our Stellar Hub criteria. Our entry requirements are as follows:

  • Hub entries must have all the elements of a Stellar Hub (1150+ words, at least three high quality and properly-used photos, at least one video, at least one Map or Table Capsule, at least one Poll or Quiz Capsule, a succinct and compelling custom Summary, and attractive and logical formatting)
  • All images must be legally used (see our Learning Center guide on proper image use)
  • All images (unless original) must come with attribution and link to their source
  • Entries must be published for the first time on that given contest day
  • Hub entries must be entirely original to HubPages

And we’ll be judging the entries against this criteria:

  • The unique value provided by the Hub (i.e. it has information that cannot be found elsewhere online)
  • Genuine demonstration of the author’s passion or expertise on the subject at hand
  • The extent to which the author effectively utilizes the elements of a Stellar Hub (Is the video relevant? Are the photos adding value? Is the table/map useful? Does the formatting help the Hub or make it busy?)
  • The search friendliness of the Hub’s title (it matches common terms typed into search engines like Google – for more on this, stop by our Learning Center guide to creating successful titles)
  • Ability of the Hub’s title to compete with other results for keywords it contains
  • The relevance and usefulness of a Hub (Is it about something other people would care about? Does it help them learn something new or solve a problem?)
  • The presence and quality of original photos and video
  • Excellent writing (proper use of grammar, capitalization, etc.)
  • Lack of plagiarism (the Hub must not have portions copied or paraphrased from elsewhere online)
  • Attractive formatting (avoidance of excessive linking, eBay, or Amazon Capsule clutter, excessive bolding or italics, and all-caps)

More information on how to enter (as well as detailed contest rules) will come out soon- I just wanted to give you a heads up so you have sufficient time to think of super-detailed Hubs you might create addressing the subjects about which you care and know the most!

Upcoming AdSense Changes to Custom Formatted Ads

New Arrow on AdSense Ads

Last week we got a bit of news that Google AdSense has changed the way its auctions work.  This change was rolled out to standard units (in December, we believe). Most folks didn’t notice that lower revenue per click was made up with higher click-through rates because AdSense launched a formatting change that included arrows in the ad format at the same time.

While AdSense hopes this will be good for the long-term health of advertising-supported businesses, it’s going to mean a decrease in the revenue per click that we earn.  Like all of you, we are concerned about revenue.

We have been optimizing the page and running tests to see how we can increase revenues to make up for the loss we will experience.  We’ve been told to expect the change the week of March 11th.  The estimated revenue hit is 10 to 13% of the custom-formatted revenue we earn based on January earnings.  We have made several tweaks to the custom ads we display on Hubs in February (custom ads are the units  you see within the content area of a Hub), so it may turn out to be more than that.  I think the best case scenario would be that we see a total hit in the 5% range (the worst case scenario would be a hit in the 10 to 15% range).  We won’t really know what the impact will be until the pricing changes go through.

When AdSense shared the news with us, they also gave us a new product to try called CSI units.

Custom formatted ad

These units can be sized to non-standard sizes like the custom 520X200 unit we have below Hubs.  The main difference is we can’t blend the fonts as well or have as much control on the layout, but the new units add the little graphic arrows that seems to help the click-through rate.  Our plan is to run the CSI units side by side with the custom ads and see which one performs better.  After a few weeks, we will switch to the units that perform best.

In short, we are going to see a drop in revenue per click and we have a few weeks to see if we can offset the loss with tweaks to our ad layout. Most of the tests are now running on Hubs for the web version of Hubs (not mobile versions).

We are highly dependent on custom ads for mobile, and while there are fewer options available for that format, we are on the beta list for a new type of unit called an adhesive unit that anchors to the bottom of the page which we hope to test out soon.

We will keep you posted as we learn more.