Changes to the Weekly Topic Inspiration Program

I’ve really enjoyed leading Weekly Topic Inspiration in its current iteration and seeing the amazing Hubs that participants have produced and shared each week. You guys are awesome!

I’m very pleased to announce that the program is undergoing a major overhaul. We’re making a lot of changes to streamline and simplify the Hub-sharing process and to give you more options and freedom, dear writers. Why the sudden change, you ask? While we love the idea of creating Hubs together as a community around a shared theme, we have found the current Weekly Topic Inspiration lacking on a few fronts. Here are the major issues we are working on rectifying:

  • Low Hubber engagement
  • A complicated system that makes sharing difficult and confusing (the need to post Hubs as Answers to a Question, which trips a lot of Hubbers up)
  • A lack of options for Hubbers who aren’t interested in a given week’s theme
  • Difficulty in reaching many Hubbers at once with the program

Here’s how the new version is going to work. Each Friday I’ll make a Forum post announcing Topic Pages where you can vote for the week’s Rising Star nominees (to make it easier for you to find Topic Pages with open polls). In that post I’ll also mention three newly-created promising Topics that seem particularly fun and interesting. Any Hubber who wants to write about one (or more) of the week’s Topics can simply post his/her Hub directly in that Forum thread.

I’ll still be browsing your posts for Hub of the Day material and commenting occasionally, but I also strongly encourage you to organize themed Hub Challenges on your own with your fellow Hubbers. It’s an awesome way to get motivated, stay in touch with other Hubbers, and meet writers with similar interests. If you’re still hungry for more inspiration, don’t forget to check out our Exclusive titles. Just type a word or short phrase into the Hub Title field of the HubTool and see what comes up!

Boot Camp: A Five Featured Hub Barrier to Fight Spam

Heads up! This week, we are implementing a new quality-related policy change.

Until you have published five simultaneously-Featured Hubs, new Hubs that do not pass the Quality Assessment Process (QAP) will be unpublished rather than simply being not Featured.

The period before one has published five Featured Hubs will be known as Boot Camp, as Hubbers who have yet to reach the five Featured Hub milestone have to engage in some training and hard work before passing.

While this policy is designed primarily to help us deal more efficiently with spam, we hope it will provide new Hubbers with a gentle notice of HubPages’ high quality standards and to help them produce the sort content that is likely to succeed.

More on the Five Featured Hub Minimum to Fight Spam

Until you have published five Featured Hubs and passed Boot Camp, Hubs that would not otherwise be Featured will be moved back to an unpublished state after going through the QAP.

Additional details on how this works:

  • Before you have met the five Featured Hub minimum, Hubs you publish that pass our Quality Assessment Process will still be published and Featured on the site. Only Hubs that do not pass the QAP will be transitioned back to draft mode.
  • Once you have five Featured Hubs and have passed Boot Camp, Hubs you publish that do not pass the Quality Assessment Process will no longer be blocked from publication (though until you improve their quality, they will not be made available to search engines or be shown on related Hubs and Topic Pages).
  • Hubs that were unpublished because of quality reasons before you met the five Featured Hub threshold will remain unpublished until you change them and re-publish them (we recommend making significant improvements or else they’ll just not be Featured, which is somewhat of a waste).
  • Should you reach a point at which you have five Featured Hubs but then dip down to a point at which you only have four Featured Hubs, you will still be able to publish Hubs that aren’t Featured (in other words, you only have to prove yourself once).

This new policy will keep spammers from progressing on HubPages by preventing their work (which very rarely passes the minimum quality threshold required to be Featured) from being published.

A New Accolade for High Quality Hubbers

In addition to using Boot Camp to hinder spammers, we are using it to reward awesome content creators on HubPages who really do want to improve their skills and make a name for themselves online. We are doing this via the introduction of a new Accolade that highlights the number of Featured Hubs you have.

Our Featured Hub Accolade, shaped like a bullhorn (because we like to amplify Featured Hubs by making them available to search engines and featuring them throughout our site) is HubPages’ newest badge indicating a Hubber’s ability to create useful, valuable, and high quality content.

You will first earn the Accolade as soon as you reach the five Featured Hub minimum. The Accolade’s number will continue to climb as you create and publish more Featured Hubs. As we care ten times as much about the great articles people write, we’re far more interested in seeing how many Featured Hubs authors have versus their total number of Hubs. For this reason we find the Featured Hub Accolade to be a helpful reference point (not to mention a good motivator). We hope you find it to be rewarding, informative, and motivating, too!

Topics and the Importance of Proper Hub Categorization

With our ongoing Topic Expansion Initiative, new Topics are constantly being created to address specific niche subjects in overcrowded categories. With the creation of new Topics, it’s more important than ever that Hubs be correctly categorized. Here’s why:

Topic pages are visible to search engines and show up in search results just like individual featured Hubs. Basically, Topic pages are a second opportunity to boost your Hub traffic. By ensuring that your Hubs are published in the most appropriate Topic, you are:

  • Providing a user-friendly experience
  • Making your Hubs easier to find
  • Boosting engagement with your content
  • More accurately addressing the needs of niche searches
  • Ensuring that related Hubs that show up on that Hub are more likely to actually be related

What’s more, if you publish a Hub in a very specific leaf-level page that does not have many other Hubs, you will also have better odds of getting your Hub featured on the first ‘page’ of that Topic Page, which leads to more exposure and readers.

How can I categorize my Hubs as accurately as possible?

You can easily ensure that your Hubs are under the best possible Topic by taking a few moments to review the Hub Topic suggestions in the Hub Tool when you create a new Hub. If none of the Topic suggestions make sense, you can manually select the Topic you think is the better fit or run some searches using related keywords to see if the best-fitting Topic uses a different set of words than those used in your Hub’s title.

Why are the suggestions sometimes wrong?

Our Hub Topic suggestions are created using keywords, which means the suggestions are sometimes inaccurate (occasionally wildly so). For example, if I want to create a skateboarding Hub entitled “How to Do a San Francisco Flip,” our “Search” function for Topic suggestions has no way of knowing that “San Francisco Flip” is the title of a skateboarding move. None of the suggested Topics that show up involve skateboarding.

If I publish my Hub under the suggested Travel and Restaurant Topics, people searching for and viewing those Topic pages are unlikely to read my Hub, since they want to read about San Francisco restaurants and attractions, not skateboarding. But by taking a moment to manually categorize my Hub under the Skateboarding Topic or typing “skateboard” or “skateboarding” into the search box to look for better matches, I am ensuring that users who are looking for skateboarding Hubs will find mine easily:

Does categorization really matter that much?

Yes. You may have written the best carburetor installation Hub of all time, but if it’s categorized under Wire Wrap Jewelry, you’re losing all the readers who land on the Fuel System Topic page looking for Hubs just like yours. Don’t miss out on that audience!

You No Longer Need to Report Purely Personal Content (Yay!)

We have long emphasized that HubPages is not a blogging platform as it is not designed to be a place where people talk only about themselves or their personal lives or publish articles around a fixed theme (HubPages is instead a place to share informational articles that are not necessarily related).

For quite some time, we have actively moderated Hubs that qualify as being “Purely Personal” (we define “Purely Personal” content as that which would most likely only appeal to someone who already knows and cares about the author). Because our Quality Assessment Process now dictates whether or not a Hub gets prominently Featured on HubPages and made available to search engines, these moderations are no longer all that necessary, except for extreme cases in which the Hub in question also borders on being “Low Quality”, a separate publishing policy violation.

Why have we stopped worrying so much about Purely Personal Hubs? If nobody cares about a Purely Personal Hub, it will simply get low ratings, not be Featured, enjoy a peaceful life of solitude, and not run the risk of lowering the perceived quality of HubPages’ collective content*.

We are therefore removing the Purely Personal option from our reporting interface. This will save moderators’ time and spare you the hassle of reporting that which you think may be Purely Personal**.  Worry not; those Hubs will take care of themselves.

 

*I do not mean to say that personal articles are inherently of low quality; they simply do not make sense on a site designed for sharing didactic articles.
**We still very much appreciate your help reporting other Hubs that do not meet HubPages’ publishing standards. Thank you for having our backs!

Community Spirit is alive and well on HubPages – A Guest Post by Suzie HQ

Though many join HubPages to build a robust online portfolio and earn an income from their articles, most stay for the community- the comments, the feedback, and the friendships. Just one Hub can make a surprising impact, leading to all sorts of conversations, connections, and even additional Hubs. In this guest post, Suzie HQ shares how one of her Hubs and a  fun exchange in its comment thread produced a delightful result.

We hope Suzie HQ’s story reminds you of the small but numerous impacts your Hubs, comments, and posts have on fellow Hubbers and the world at large. 🙂

Hubpages is what you make of it.

Imagine leaving a reply to a fellow Hubber’s comment only to have them act on it and turn that suggestion into an actual product. That would be an awesome feeling right? That is exactly what happened here when I replied to Jamie Brock, who had posted a comment on my article on How to Make Homemade Layered Lip Gloss. Jamie and I had met on HubPages some three months previously. I use the term ‘met’ metaphorically speaking, as we have never met in person with us living on different continents! Jamie resides in the great state of Texas, USA and I on the tiny island of Ireland.

It was due to us both writing on this site that we ‘met’. Jamie is a creative lady who writes tutorials on inventive crafting ideas from Cute and Clever Cereal Box Crafts to How to make Fabric Flowers from Old T-shirts and these certainly sparked by interest immediately. So what was my suggestion I hear you ask?

As Jamie loves using rhinestones in crafts, I suggested she recycle her old contact lenses case and make a blinged lip gloss container.  Cool, funky and very hip . . . what girl doesn’t love a touch of bling in her life? So she jumped on it and before I knew it, her Hub DIY Blinged Out Contact Lense Case was born, showing the finished article. I was totally gobsmacked and speechless, a definite WOW moment. Before I knew it, Jamie had posted me my very own Jamie creation which left me speechless, apart from the expected ‘OMG”!

Since I have been on HubPages, just 11 months to be exact, it has turned into more than I could have ever dreamed of. I am not an experienced writer of many years, I have not worked within the profession anywhere but I was drawn to writing as primarily an income source from home but also the fact I had always harboured a secret desire to write.

The community here is exceptional and friends are waiting around every corner to greet you, welcome you, and help you if you get involved. I have had a few Hubs of the day much to my amazement, got accepted into the Apprenticeship Program (which I have just completed) and had an article published with Epilepsy Ireland. None of these would have been possible without HubPages and the community here, supporting and encouraging me.

My time on HubPages has inspired me and given me the confidence to venture down other writing avenues and challenges I never thought of before. I have made lifelong friends from all over the world who I know would welcome me into their homes for a coffee and a chat should I be visiting their hometown. If you make an effort to mix, comment, read and write regularly the rewards are there and wow moments are just waiting to happen.

Heads Up! Updates to the Amazon and eBay Capsules

As of today, the number keyword or seller-based products that can be featured per Amazon or eBay capsule will be lowered to two. We have decided to reduce the upper limit to fight clutter in Hubs, help Hubbers present their pages’ visitors with a better experience, and (hopefully) boost Hubbers’ Amazon and eBay earnings.

Capsules featuring more than two keyword or seller-based products will not be affected unless edited (when you edit a commerce capsule featuring more than two keyword or seller-based products, the limit gets brought down to two).

The total number of manually-entered Amazon products one can feature in an Amazon Capsule (entered by ASIN or URL) remains capped at ten, however we do not necessarily recommend featuring ten items in the capsule just because you can.

With many features on our site, we have found that when we present fewer options, we see an increase in the total number of clicks. By paring down the total number of keyword or seller-based items featured in commerce capsules, we hope that we might also help Hubbers drive more clicks and boost their earnings.

Generally speaking, Amazon and eBay Capsules perform best when the products they feature are of very direct interest to the readers of a Hub. For example, an Amazon Capsule featuring a wind-proof umbrella in a Hub about different types of wind-proof umbrellas is going to perform much better than a Hub featuring a book about parenting in a Hub sharing general parenting advice. For this reason, we recommend featuring products sparingly and only featuring products when they are directly alluded to in the body of your Hub.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Controversial HubPages Issues but Were Afraid to Ask

When I was in Austin attending SXSW Interactive, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Marcy Goodfleisch for some coffee at Whole Foods flagship store, which I find to be one of the world’s closest equivalents to heaven.

Over some tasty tea and coffee Marcy asked a lot of really good questions on behalf of herself and Hubbers with whom she is acquainted. After we both acknowledged that it would be best if someone beyond just Marcy got our open, honest answers, we decided it would be best to compose a Q&A blog post featuring all the burning questions y’all have that we have yet to answer in a prominent manner.

We’re hoping this will be the first in a series and can help clear up your major questions and concerns. Enjoy!

Does Google penalize us for Hubs that aren’t Featured?

No. Hubs that are not Featured, though perhaps still known to Google, do not count against your online reputation with regard to Panda. It is as though they do not exist (though your friends and followers can still access them).

Many Hubs that are not Featured would be a liability to their owners should they continue to be Featured, simply because they may not be particularly high quality or because (even if they are of high quality) Google’s search algorithms, for some reason, decided they were not particularly important or useful and did not give them high rankings in search results (hence these Hubs saw very little traffic).

Do un-Featured Hubs lower our rankings within HubPages?

Featured status does not affect rankings, but both rankings and Featured status are a product of the quality of one’s Hubs.

‘Rankings’ on HubPages (whether or not your Hub is featured prominently on a Topic page or on others’ Hubs) are influenced by Hubber Score and HubScore.

Your Hubber Score is a product of:

  • The collective quality of your Hubs (as shown through HubScore, which factors in human and algorithmic ratings received through the Quality Assessment Process)
  • Your activity within the HubPages community (i.e. whether you regularly publish, provide high quality Questions and Answers, leave insightful comments on Hubs, and help other Hubbers in the Forums)

Should you have many Hubs that are not Featured because they get particularly low quality ratings, your Hubber Score and HubScores might be lower, and in this case, it does mean that your rankings will be a bit lackluster.

That said, if you write high quality Hubs that get high quality scores, and many of them happen to not be Featured, your rankings on HubPages should not be negatively affected.

What does it take to get Hubs automatically approved without going through QAP? Why are some Hubbers given this benefit?

All Hubs by all Hubbers go through the QAP. Sometimes the process is faster than other times. It depends on the time of day and our present load of Hubs to process.

How important is the HubScore (the number related to each Hub), and what, if anything, is it used for?

HubScore is a general reflection of a Hub’s success and quality (this includes human quality ratings as collected during the Quality Assessment Process). We do not recommend paying that much attention to it. Think of HubScore and Hubber Score as a rough reference point and a means of gauging the experience of other Hubbers.

How significant is Hubber Score? Can you share the factors that go into it?

Hubber Score is basically an average of your collective HubScore with a few additional behaviors (like your activity on the site) factored in.

Things factored into a Hub’s HubScore include:

  • Human ratings collected as part of the Quality Assessment Process
  • The amount of traffic your Hub receives, including traffic from HubPages as well as other outside sources
  • The length of your Hub
  • The uniqueness of the content within your Hub (copied content typically scores lower than more unique content)
  • The number of comments
  • Your overall Hubber Score

Things factored into Hubber Score include:

  • Your collective HubScores
  • Whether or not you have signed in recently
  • Whether or not you are active in the community (by regularly publishing Hubs, commenting on others’ Hubs, asking and answering good Questions, and posting to the Forums)

Does Google care about HubScores or Hubber Scores?

Google does not care about Hubber Scores or HubScores, but it does care about quality, and HubScores and Hubber Scores are a reflection of that.

What’s more, HubScores and Hubber Scores affect a Hub’s placement within our internal link structure in ways that Google is liable to notice, so while these scores are not something Google explicitly ‘reads’, they are tied to factors that matter to Google’s search algorithms.

What is the best recommendation for dealing with Hubs that have are no longer Featured?

It depends.

Seasonal Hubs that have not had traffic in the off season often just need to be updated (though if you have a particularly high Hubber Score, your seasonal Hubs may remain Featured for up to a year, meaning that even if they get very little traffic during the off season, they may still not lose their Featured status- more about that in another blog post).

Poor quality Hubs that otherwise offer great resources need to be fixed up (improve grammar, formatting, substance, organization, and media).

Hubs that are of high quality that do not get any traffic may need a different title or spin so that they address an aspect of their particular subject that is not already flooded with competition. With proper competitive research and adjustment, these Hubs can definitely be redeemed.

Hubs made ‘just for fun’ that were never really meant to act as useful or particularly detailed and informative online resources might just be left alone. If you want them to enjoy more prominence, they might find a more appropriate home on a personal blog or a platform more oriented toward that type of content.

If keywords are no longer reliable, what do you recommend we do to make a Hub competitive in search engines?

The Google AdWords Keyword Tool no longer shows accurate figures, so what we recommend is using it only to get a rough idea of the terminology people use when conducting queries on specific subjects.

We created a Learning Center entry detailing the new title creation process we recommend, which involves:

  1. Creating short, descriptive titles that mirror a likely search term
  2. Running competitive research on that likely search term to make sure you can beat the competition (check to make sure there are not a bunch of product or place results and that the top results are not flooded with results from popular, trusted brands or already-very-good pages and articles)
  3. Making sure you are genuinely passionate and knowledgeable about the subject at hand. If you are just creating a Hub because you think it will drive traffic, but do not know much about the subject or have much interest in it, stop.

What has HubPages learned from the Panda and Penguin experiences?

Quality matters. Passion matters. Thin articles designed to drive traffic and clicks don’t cut it anymore.

To make it now, you have to be even more patient, passionate, and knowledgeable than before. Ultimately, this is a good thing. True experts and enthusiasts win!

What does HubPages have in mind for the future?

Our journey to provide the best platform for creating content online continues. Our plans and projects revolve around making it easier for Hubbers to earn more, get larger audiences, build a stronger online brand, and become even more savvy as online content creators.

What is being done to rid the site of very old, very bad content?

The first thing we did with the Quality Assessment Process was address new Hubs that are being published, to ensure that, going forward, we are on the right track. All we did with already-published Hubs was remove Hubs from Google’s index that got next to no traffic, as it was quite clear that Google did not see them as worthy of getting much traffic (hence it was a quick way for us to hide Hubs that might be acting as a liability to their authors).

We are presently working through our backlog of older content with the Quality Assessment Process. This takes time and money, so the going is slow. We are being careful to ensure that what we see as high quality reflects what Google apparently sees as high quality. We are also making an effort to target and remove from Google’s index our lowest quality, old content first.

Why would HubPages or Hubbers want high-quality Hubs that aren’t getting much traffic to not be Featured?

We actually do want very high quality Hubs to be featured more or less indefinitely, even if they have low traffic. In fact, Hubs that get top ratings are permanently Featured (it is just very rare for a Hub to get a perfect ten on our rating scale).

The problem is that it is difficult for us to be confident that a Hub is superb, because for cost reasons we stop collecting rating on Hubs as soon as we’ve decided that they are “good enough”. To mitigate this problem, we are looking into ways in which we can permanently feature more high quality Hubs.

Nevertheless, even though we clearly see those Hubs as being of high quality, Google’s search algorithms, for some reason or another, have decided they do not deserve much prominence in search results (therefore they get little search traffic). Perhaps it is because they cover a topic that has already been exhausted online (e.g. getting rid of belly fat, making apple pie, etc.), or perhaps there is something else about the Hub that Google determines to be of low quality that we currently do not factor into our Quality Assessment Process.

If a Hub is not particularly exceptional, and if it is not getting a lot of search traffic, we therefore figure it would be safer to not have it count towards a Hubber’s reputation as determined by Google’s search algorithms.

The current topics on HubPages seem a bit out-of-date; is there any plan to update them?

Christy Kirwan is updating and expanding the HubPages Topic Pages right now (and has been for several weeks). We welcome new suggestions!

Does it help drive traffic in any way to have Topics associated with Hubs? What use are they?

Organizing a Hub within a leaf-level Topic Page increases its odds of being Featured on that Topic Page’s front page, so we recommend publishing Hubs within very specific leaf-level pages and on new Topic Pages (many of which are featured in the Weekly Topic Inspiration Program).

How can I be a better Hubber? How can I help the site?

Keep publishing high-quality Hubs on subjects about which you are particularly passionate and knowledgeable.
Focus on quality, not quantity
Hop and rate Hubs through the Hub Hopper
Point people toward official HubPages resources (the FAQ and Learning Center) when they have questions

This Isn’t Over!

We hope to publish more posts like this in which we set the record straight about anything you might be wondering about as we further refine and develop the new-and-improved HubPages. Should you have any particular questions that ought to be answered in a blog post like this, please send me an email.

Big thanks to Marcy Goodfleisch for sharing these questions with me and inspiring this post!

Sponsored Featured Hubs and Communication Improvements

We understand that it can sometimes be frustrating to publish a Hub only to find after that first Pending period that it is not Featured, and therefore will only be available to your friends and followers via social media shares, the HubPages Feed, HubPages search, and your Profile. While we have always presented the option of editing a Hub to improve its quality score and be re-assessed by our Quality Assessment Process, many of us find the prospect of improving the quality and utility of our work to be cumbersome.

We are therefore introducing the option to sponsor non-Featured Hubs so that they are Featured. Sponsorship fees will vary depending on the Hub’s quality rating; very low quality Hubs may cost as much as $100 to Feature, Hubs that are just on the edge of the quality rating threshold can cost as little as $5 USD to Feature.

The Price Breakdown

A breakdown of the price scale is as follows:

  • $100 USD: Hubs with low quality scores that would also otherwise be moderated for having Overly Promotional content
  • $100 USD: Hubs with low quality scores that would also otherwise be moderated for having watermarked and pixelated images
  • $75 USD: Hubs with a quality score between one and two
  • $50 USD: Hubs with a quality score between two and three
  • $25 USD: Hubs with a quality score between three and four
  • $5 USD: Hubs with a quality score of five and above that do not meet our minimum quality score threshold

Though we do not show quality scores on Hubs, we will show prices on Hubs that are not Featured. The minimum quality threshold is above a five and below an eight, but because human quality ratings have a margin of error, we recommend striving to create Hubs that meet our criteria of an eight on our Hub rating scale (this will give you a very safe margin of error).

As you can see, we present two options in which Hubs violating our publishing standards may be both published and Featured for a fee. Unfortunately, enabling other publication standard-violating Hubs to remain published on our site would endanger our ability to host ads, so as we would like to protect Hubbers’ ability to earn money from their work, we have to leave these off the table.

How Payment Works

Members of the HubPages Earnings Program are eligible for this program as their HubPages accounts have been connected to their PayPal accounts. While Hubbers who have accumulated sufficient ad earnings have the option to simply pay with accrued but unpaid earnings, those who have not yet earned much money can simply pay through PayPal- without leaving HubPages.com.

Quick Responses from the HubPages Staff

As we are now making it easier to purchase services through HubPages, will be rolling out an additional feature with this update to the Quality Assessment Process: the ability to pay HubPages for responses from our support team and the HubPages staff.

Again, the price breakdown:

  • $10 USD: Response from the support team (about Hub moderations and account issues)
  • $10 USD: Response from Matt Meyer (about technical issues on the site)
  • $10 USD: Response from Marina Lazarevic (about ad issues)
  • $10 USD: Response from Robin Edmondson (about improving one’s Hubs)
  • $0.10 USD: Response from Simone Smith (discount on account of bad advice and outright lies)
  • $50 USD: Response from Paul Deeds, who knows HOW EVERYTHING WORKS
  • $50 USD: Response from Paul Edmondson, HubPages’ CEO

Unpaid communications will go unanswered.

Please stop by this page for more information on these new features and to ensure that you are properly set up for payment.