Videos Can Now Include an Embedded Timestamp!

I have quite a nifty new feature to announce today. (It’s extra special, too, because it’s Oren’s first project at HubPages. Go Oren!) YouTube videos that you embed in your Hubs can now include a timestamp! For people who are less tech-savvy like me, this means that when you add videos to your Hub, you can make the video start playing at a particular time. This feature is extra useful in situations where you want to show the reader a specific part of a really long video. By including the timestamp, the video will automatically start playing right where you want it to.

Here’s how it works. When you want to share a specific part of a video with your readers, follow these steps:

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  1. Pause the YouTube video at the spot where you want it to start playing in your Hub.
  2. Click the “Share” tab below the video. Sharing options should appear right underneath the tab.
  3. Click the check box beside the “Start at:” option.
  4. Copy the link from the box into your Hub.
  5. The video in your Hub should now start wherever you paused it on YouTube.

 

To learn more about embedding your video with a timestamp, check out the HubPages FAQ entry. Happy Hubbing!

Introducing the New Mobile Hub

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I’m super excited to announce an all new mobile Hub architecture and design for smartphones.  We’ve all read and heard about the switch to mobile and our traffic numbers indicate it’s happening quickly.    Over the last 30 days we’ve had over 14 million visits from smartphones.  A year ago in the exact same time period, we had 9 million.  By this time next year, I estimate that 50% of our traffic will be to smartphones, 15% to tablets, and 35% to desktop.  This is a huge shift that demands we focus on our mobile experience.  We aim to bring to you a service where you don’t have to worry about what screen a reader is using, so you can concentrate on your Hubs.

I’m not going to go into the details of responsive design for mobile, but I will tell you the tangible benefits you will see on HubPages.

  • Hubbers are the center of HubPages.  The new design reflects an author-centric design where topically related content by that author is easily accessible.

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  • The smartphone readability is enhanced with all mobile Hubs being single column in portrait view (vertical).  Simply put, when capsules were placed side-by-side, the text lines would often only fit two words.  This made reading mobile Hubs difficult.  Now, the full-width line lengths are much easier to read.
  • In the HubTool, there is now a mobile preview button where you can see how your Hub looks before publishing.
  • Mobile Hubs should earn more.  There are still three ads on the new layout, but responsive design now lets us use standard ads and a permission to anchor an ad at the top of the Hub.  We will do more mobile ad optimization, but we are confident that this will be a significant lift to mobile revenues.

What about the rest of the site for smartphones?

While we focused on the Hub first, many of the pages have been redone, e.g.,  signing in to My Account pages are now designed for smartphones.    Our product development style is iterative.  That means we move fast.  With such a major change, there are bugs to find and fix.  We’ve fixed many in limited testing in the office, but we are hoping our world-class community will find and report them in the Report a Problem Tech Forum.

A couple of things we didn’t do:

  • The data shows that there are very few mobile searches, and we wanted to make the new Hub design available.  We still think mobile search is important, but we want to improve it for the entire site.  A new search function is in the planning stages that will work for mobile and desktop.
  • We want a desktop design that is closely related to the new mobile design.  We are focusing on smartphones first, but we will bring the desktop and tablets along as well.

This is a big effort and I want to thank the Team and the Community for the amazing teamwork and input.

 

Editor’s Choice Accolade/Nominations and Bing Webmaster Tools Verification

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We have three quick announcements for everyone!  First, starting today we will be awarding the Editor’s Choice accolade to all Hubbers who have five or more EC Hubs!  Your accolade will be displayed on your Profile Page along with your other HubPages accolades.  Congratulations to those who receive the accolade; it’s not an easy one to earn!

Second,  several Hubbers have requested the ability to nominate Hubs for Editor’s Choice, and we agree!  Hubbers can now nominate EC candidates by submitting a Hub’s url in this Google form.  Be sure to leave the entire Hub URL (not just the title) and we will try to take a look at these Hubs as soon as possible.

Third,  thanks to our HubPages engineer, Edward Zhang, you are now able to verify your subdomain in Bing’s Webmaster Tools.  We have updated our Google Webmaster Tools Learning Center entry to include instructions for Bing.  Why should you verify your subdomain with Google and Bing?  Here are a few reasons:

  • Get an inside view into how Google and Bing view your subdomain, e.g., crawl and indexing rates
  • Analyze your link and query traffic, e.g, what sites link to your subdomain the most and your most linked content
  • Share information with Google and Bing
  • Check if you have a manual action against your account

Have a great Thursday and Happy Hubbing!

How to Check Your Subdomain for a Google Penalty and an Update to Amazon and eBay Products

In the past week, Google launched a feature that allows webmasters to check if their domain or subdomain has been penalized because of spam; publishers now have the ability to check whether or not Google has placed a manual webspam action on their account.  With this information, Hubbers can remove or fix their content and ask for reconsideration by clicking the “Request a Review” button.

To check if your site has been hit with a manual webspam action:

  1. Go to Google’s Webmaster Tools (If you don’t have a Webmaster Tools account set up, we have a Learning Center entry that can help!)
  2. Sign-in to your account and click on your subdomain
  3. Click on Search Traffic > Manual Actions in the left toolbar
  4. Google will list any manual actions that have occurred on your account

 

The webspam-detection feature is incredibly beneficial to Hubbers and to HubPages.  In the next few days, we will make a change to our product capsules because of the results that we found in our Webmaster Tools account.   When analyzing the Hubs that were penalized, one of the factors that we were able to isolate was the use of products.  Other than multiple products, many of the penalized Hubs were high quality.  We concluded that a large block of products will negatively influence Google’s assessment of an otherwise fantastic Hub.  Our analysis has instigated the following changes to product capsules:

  1. We are reducing the number of products per capsule to one on all new Hubs (your older Hubs where you have chosen a specific product will not be effected unless you edit and change the capsule).  If you have a Hub where readers would benefit from seeing more than one product, you are welcome to add another product capsule.  We hope this reduces the number of tangential products within a Hub and reduces the number of webspam actions on new Hubs.  When including products in your Hubs, a good question to ask yourself is:  will this product be incredibly useful to my reader, and would I include it even if I didn’t receive any monetary benefit?  If the answer is a resounding yes, then include it.
  2. We are reducing the number of keyword or search-driven products on all old Hubs to one product per capsule (this effects all eBay products and Amazon products that are chosen with a keyword).  Many Hubs have multiple products that are exact matches because they are chosen by a search driven keyword; reducing the number of products per capsule will help Hubs with duplicate or extremely similar products.  We realize that this may cause some formatting issues with older Hubs; we are incredibly sorry for the inconvenience, but with the new information that Google has provided, we feel it is in the best interest of Hubbers to make the change.

 

Overall, the new information that we have received from Google has been very beneficial.  We know that the changes that we have recently made have been on the right track, and this new resource is affecting the changes that we will make in the future to help reward our great Hubbers and deter spam.  Cheers!

 


Announcing Editor’s Choice Hubs

We want to continue rewarding Hubbers who create content readers enjoy with a new designation highlighting their achievements. Today we are excited to announce Editor’s Choice Hubs. These are exceptional Hubs that are selected by HubPages Editors and are available to readers on the HubPages.com domain.

Hubs provide value in unique ways.  Editors consider many elements when making the Editor’s Choice selections (from how well written the Hub is to if we have already selected a similar piece.) Good Hubbers should expect some of their Hubs to be selected, but shouldn’t expect all Hubs to be chosen.  We will be using a variety of measures to assess your Hubs, but ultimately Hubs on HubPages.com will be editor approved; hence the name Editor’s Choice.

Quick Facts on Editor’s Choice Hubs:

  • Only a very small percentage of Hubs will be selected; don’t be disappointed if most of your Featured Hubs are not Editor’s Choice Hubs.  All Featured Hubs that aren’t Editor’s Choice Hubs will remain on your subdomain.
  • Editor’s Choice Hubs will be phased in slowly over the next few weeks. It will take us time to get through all of the potential candidates, so please be patient with us.
  • Editor’s Choice Hubs will receive greater social exposure on HubPages’ social media profiles.
  • Being Featured is a basic prerequisite to becoming an Editor’s Choice Hub, but there are many more factors that candidates are evaluated on, e.g., uniqueness, quality, engagement, intent, a good search experience for the reader, and whether the content is trustworthy, reputable, and authoritative.
  • Hubs that lose their Featured status will also lose their Editor’s Choice status.
  • An opt-out option is available in My Account > Profile > Edit Profile. However, each time you toggle this setting, you will need to wait 60 days before you can do so again.  You can only opt-out at the account level, not on a Hub by Hub basis.
  • Editor’s Choice Hubs will not lose their status if they are edited; in fact, we recommend regularly editing and improving your Hubs.
  • The Editor’s Choice status is not necessarily permanent.  At any given time, only a small percentage of Hubs will be designated Editor’s Choice.
  • An Editor’s Choice accolade is in the works!

Want your Hubs to have an Editor’s Choice designation and be showcased on HubPages.com?  Here are a few criteria to shoot for:

  • Write high-quality Hubs.  Check out our Learning Center entry on Stellar Hubs for guidance.
  • Follow our HubPages Style Guide.
  • Make sure your Hub has passed the Quality Assessment Process.  Again, passing the QAP doesn’t automatically move you into the Editor’s Choice bucket.  Hubs will have to be of even higher quality to make the cut.   Shoot for that 8, 9, or 10 on the quality scale.
  • Remove any promotional links or links to websites that aren’t high quality. Linking should be natural and every link should benefit your reader; the intent of your Hub is considered during the evaluation process.
  • Use the Grouping feature on HubPages instead of including large blocks of links to your own Hubs.
  • Only include relevant and useful Amazon and eBay products and limit their number.
  • If you are writing on a topic that is already extensively covered online, be sure to go above and beyond the best articles on the web.  Rewording the same content won’t cut it.
  • Titles should be descriptive and concise.
  • Proofread:  Grammar and spelling should be perfect.
  • Use high-quality images that are either original or legally used and attributed.
  • Please note:  all of the above criteria are not mandatory for an Editor’s Choice designation, but you increase your chances of your Hub becoming Editor’s Choice if you implement these suggestions.

For more information, please visit our FAQ.

 

Summer Product Improvements: There’s a lot going on at HubPages HQ!

Today we will be implementing four enhancements to HubPages that we hope will have a positive effect on our community and readers: a new HubPages Style Guide with in-line tips displayed in the HubTool, a more streamlined HubTool, a revised Hubber Score that is more reflective of quality, and a change to how profile links work in comments.

HubPages Style Guide and Style Tips

We are excited to introduce our HubPages Style Guide as well as specific Style Tips in the HubTool.  Our Style Guide Learning Center entry breaks down the different components of online writing and best practices, e.g., proper title case in titles and subtitles, appropriate use of Amazon and eBay Capsules, etc.  In addition to the Learning Center entry, we will be showing tips that are specific to your Hub in the top right corner of the HubTool.  We hope that you find these tips useful!

HubTool Improvements

To streamline the HubTool, we have implemented a collapsable option for each section in the right toolbar.   Going forward, your toolbar will be organized under the following headings:   Needs Some Goals, Add Content Capsules, Display Options, and Organize your Content.  To view the content under each heading, simply click the arrow.  One addition to the Display Options section is the ability to add copyright information to the bottom of your Hub.  Since one of our Style Tips suggests removing custom copyright notices, we felt we should offer our Hubbers that want to include this information with a HubPages-approved copyright notice.

Here’s a view of the old HubTool right toolbar.

Each section in the sidebar is collapsable. A much cleaner look! 

Hubber Score Improvements

Our new enhanced Hubber Score substantially reflects the data we have on the quality of Hubs and the intent of the writer.  One significant change is the threshold for the following of links; only Hubbers with high Hubber Scores will have their outbound links followed.  Whether a link is followed or no followed doesn’t affect the reader’s experience, but a stricter policy on link following is an effective deterrent to spammers.  We hope this encourages our writers to only include links in their Hubs that are relevant and useful to readers.

Comment Links

We have found that Hubs with many comments were crossing Google’s Webmaster Guidelines for the number of links in a page.  To address this issue, we changed the way that signed-out readers view profile links in comments: usernames are no longer hyperlinked.  This change will reduce the number of links in Hubs and keep us within Google’s guidelines.

Ultimately, our goal is to continue to improve the site and provide our Hubbers with the best tools to create high-quality content.  Thanks for being the best writing community on the web!

Update to the Quality Assessment Process: Improving the quality of ALL Hubs!

As you may recall, in late March we raised the quality bar for all newly-published and edited Hubs. This heightened bar has not been applied to older Hubs that were published before the QAP. Beginning this week (and continuing gradually over the next few months), older Hubs will be subject to our quality thresholds.

What does this mean? All Hubs on HubPages, new and old, will be assessed in accordance to the same high standards. But don’t fret, we all have Hubs written in our first days on HubPages that aren’t of the same quality as our Hubs of late. Hubs that are no longer Featured because of quality reasons can be updated, improved, and reassessed. Hopefully you see this as an opportunity to improve those older Hubs in need of a good spring cleaning!

There will be some Hubs that appear decent that will not pass the QAP and some Hubs people feel shouldn’t pass that will.  These Hubs are on the border.  To ensure Hubs pass, it’s a good idea to shoot for above an 8+ on our rating scale.  Hubs rated in this range  are the type our community is proud to have Featured and are rated well beyond passing.

You may also want to revisit two of our most helpful Learning Center guides on the subject of quality – Elements of a Stellar Hub and How To Improve the Quality of a Hub – to get an idea of what standing your Hubs are currently in and how you might go about improving them.

Alongside this update, we’re releasing a couple of new features with regards to alerts on Featured and non-Featured Hubs:

  • Two new icons in My Account > Statistics showing which Hubs are de-Featured for getting low quality (orange icon) ratings and which are de-Featured for low engagement (blue icon)

  • Email alerts when Hubs lose Featured status for quality reasons

These changes are part of our ongoing efforts to improve the quality of content on HubPages and ensure that original, long-form, media-rich Hubs see the success and attention they deserve!

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. 😉

Topic Pages, HubNuggets, About Us, and Forum Styling Get a Makeover

After redesigning the Hub and Profile pages, the hard working team at HubPages Headquarters has turned their focus to Topics and special programs, hence today we are excited to roll out new designs for Topic Pages and HubNuggets Program, as well as an updated About page and some improved Forum styling.

Topic Pages

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 11.06.52 AMTopic pages have been given a sleek fresh styling by Derek Gulbranson that has been expertly implemented by Edward Zhang. Though most of the elements present on the pages remain the same, the page now has a greater emphasis on images, as well as a more tangible feel (see, for example, the shading that makes these pages look like open books).

As Gulbranson puts it, “I wanted to bring richer browse experience for articles, full titles and descriptions and larger photos, more of a magazine feel. Less focus on the navigation and topic hierarchy and more of a place to explore and find something you’re interested in. We also wanted to highlight the community more and give the sense that stuff is happening here.”

In short, our main objectives with this update were to:

  1. Create a great browsing experience for Hubbers and casual visitors alike
  2. Better showcase our community and make it easier to both discover great content and connect with the authors who created it
  3. Create pages that are better designed to drive traffic from search engines to your Hubs

HubNuggets: Now Rising Stars

Because HubNuggets voting takes place on Topic Pages, we took the Topic Page redesign as an opportunity to update the HubNuggets program as well so that it can be easier to interact with and more clear to those who are not yet familiar with the more esoteric ins and outs of the high power HubPages community.

This design update includes a new voting interface on Topic Pages (also designed by the Venerable Gulbranson), as well as some logistical changes (voting will no longer also take place in a roundup Hub).

Finally, to make the program more clear, we are changing its name from HubNuggets (which, while meant to evoke the sense of discovering nuggets of gold on HubPages, often evoked mental images of chicken nuggets) to the Rising Star program. Hence “HubNuggets Wannabes” will henceforth be known as “Rising Star Candidates” and HubNuggets winners will be known as Rising Stars. You can learn more about the new program in the Learning Center.

About Page & Forum Styling

In addition to significant stylistic changes with Topic Pages and the HubNuggets Program, you’ll also see that our About page now offers more of an explanation of what HubPages actually is (before, it focused primarily on staff bios) and also has a much more visually-oriented presentation.

Derek has also applied some more polished styling to forum posts by giving them a gradient and a drop shadow as well as making them a bit easier to expand and collapse.

 

We hope you’re pleased with these changes! Let us know what you think. 🙂

Extra! Extra! Read All About HubPages Exclusives!

While it is fairly easy to create high-potential titles with a bit of research, we know that many Hubbers (HubPages staff included) would prefer to focus mostly on Hubs themselves- not their titles. We’ve also heard again and again that if there’s one thing Hubbers would like more of, it’s writing prompts and title ideas.

Having worked long and hard to find an optimal feature to address these preferences, we are happy to announce Exclusives: high-potential titles that appear right on the Create a Hub page.

Exclusives are available to Hubbers with a Hubber Score of 80 or above, so once you reach that level, you will be able to access these titles by typing a keyword into the title bar of the Create a Hub page. Though you will only be able to hold on to four drafts of Exclusives at one time, there is no limit to the total number of Exclusives you can ultimately claim and publish.

The body of Exclusives from which you can draw is continuously growing, which means that you’ll see new and different titles over time. If you don’t like the Exclusives that pop up, you can rest assured that in a couple of weeks, there will be new titles draw from.

If you have a HubScore of 80 or higher, we hope you enjoy this new feature. If you’re not yet to 80, here’s another reason to build up your HubScore- you can do so by regularly publishing high quality Hubs. For some tips on doing so (and some inspiration), stop by our Learning Center guide to creating a stellar Hub.