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!

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.

HubTool is Getting Its Hair Did

It has been a while since the HubTool has gotten some TLC, so we decided to spend a little time giving it a makeover, which will go live next week. We have made no big changes to the way things work, just a few cosmetic tweaks to clean things up and take advantage of some of the new capabilities of modern web browsers.

The first change you may notice next week is that the summary field has been moved and is now located under the title. Summaries are used on the HubPages Topic Pages and, if you write one, included in the meta description tag that search engines may show in search results. We haven’t changed how the summary is used on the site or in search engines; only its placement in the HubTool has been adjusted. We hope the box’s new placement makes it a bit easier to find for our new (and long-time) Hubbers.

Another change we have made is that capsules’ edit buttons now only appear when you move your mouse over the capsule in question. This provides cleaner view of the Hub and more effectively indicates which buttons act on which capsule. What’s more, alerts and messages have been reorganized, the tips that used to appear have gone away (perhaps to resurface in a different form in the future), and the buttons have taken on a fresh new look that makes it easier to tell when you can use them.

There’s still work to do and we’re not stopping with these changes alone. Some of you may also notice a few other changes as we begin being beta testing some new ideas. If you spot one of these features, we’re looking for feedback so please feel free to provide it through the link provided.

A New Improved Slideshow

The best of Hubs feature gorgeous, interesting, useful photos. We would like to make it as easy as possible for readers to enjoy them more thoroughly. For this reason, Edward Zhang has been working hard on improving slideshows on HubPages. The original feature allowed readers to view a slideshow of images on a separate page so long as:

  1. There were more than five images in that Hub
  2. The author did not have the slideshow feature turned off

While this was a nice option, it did not provide readers with the best experience because they were taken away from the original Hub.  If you can’t remember what the original slideshow looked like, here’s a snapshot (minus the ads posted to the side of the page) of a slideshow  from a beautiful Hub on making decorated Easter eggs by Sherry Hewins: Great photo, less-than-ideal slideshow! The new and improved slideshow has several benefits:

  • It appears in an overlay, so readers are not taken away from Hubs
  • It has an improved, streamlined appearance
  • It has built-in social sharing options, encouraging readers to share your Hub with their friends
  • It keeps readers on your Hub longer by not only giving them a peek at your photos, but by enabling them to look at slideshows from other Hubs- all in the same overlay

The new slideshow also appears by default on all Hubs with more than two images. There is no longer an option to disable the feature because it no longer involves directing readers away from the actual Hub.

Have a look at how it appears on Stephhicks68’s magnificent photo Hub on autumn foliage: We hope you like the improvement!

Testing a New Hub Design on Technology Hubs

A couple weeks back, we rolled out a new Hub design on Fashion and Beauty Hubs and have been monitoring its performance while making small tweaks. Before we settle on a new site-wide Hub design, we have decided to test out another new Hub design that adopts a radically different approach.

The new Hub design that we are rolling out as a test on Hubs within the Technology Topic is a clear departure from the Fashion and Beauty design. In this case, we have stripped away all but the most essential features on the page, leaving the look as streamlined as possible. This is done in an effort to reduce the time it takes for the page to load, eliminate distractions, and allow the content of the Hub itself to truly shine.

While we have removed all unnecessary components from this experimental design, we have also made some attempts to make the page more attractive. Notice the new background, which has been given a tech-related treatment. Should this new look be adopted site-wide, each Topic on HubPages would have its own distinctive but subtle background image.

As we experiment with this new design, we will slowly add back elements to the page to see what mixture of features leads to optimal performance. Because there are fewer ads in this initial test, you may see a slight drop in the ad revenue you earn from your Technology Hubs. Then again, you may see an increase in earnings as fewer distractions may lead to higher clickthrough rates. Keep in mind that this is a test, and that in the end, we will settle on whatever design leads to the best user experience- both for readers and Hubbers.

Big thanks to MickiS for championing this test, props to Fawntia for quickly executing the change, and a hearty hat tip to Amy Liu, who created the new Hub’s design!

Comments on Answers

Ari Lamstein has been working on a new feature for the past couple of days and it is nearly finished. Here are the soon-to-come developments in his words:

We will soon be rolling out a feature where you can comment on Answers to Questions.  Many Hubbers have said that they would like to have a deeper level of interaction on the Q&A portion of the site.  You will be able to use the commenting feature to thank a user for a particularly good Answer, as well as to ask for further clarification.Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 12.02.41 PM

The commenting feature will work very similarly to how comments on Hubs work: you will have a short window where you can edit your comment, and the person who asked the question will be able to moderate comments.  While you will be able to leave multiple comments on a single answer, to prevent spam you will not be able to leave multiple comments in a row.

Here is a close-up look at the new and improved options below each Answer:

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 12.04.35 PM

Additionally, you will be able to see the number of comments associated with each of your Questions on the stats page for Q&A under My Account.

This feature will roll out within the next day, so keep a lookout! You will be able to thank Hubbers for good Answers, ask follow up questions, and build upon Answers left by others very soon.

Thanks, Ari!

Introducing the HubPages Apprenticeship Program

Many Hubbers have trouble making the jump from online obscurity to significant earnings and a strong online presence. We are happy to announce the public release of a special program that can help you bridge that gap. The HubPages Apprenticeship Program is a rigorous six month course in which Hubbers are taught basic and more advanced aspects of Hubbing, online writing, and building a strong, multi-platform, online brand and portfolio.

In addition to working closely within a team of 30 peers, getting access to exclusive online lessons, and receiving personalized feedback from HubPages staff, Apprentices are given a bonus of over six dollars for every Hub they publish while participating in the program. This bonus is, of course, just an up-front perk given in addition to the long-term ad revenue Apprentices will earn from each Hub, so we’re essentially paying Hubbers to learn and thrive online.

Apprenticeship Lessons

Apprenticeship lessons cover subjects ranging from basic keyword research and SEO to making money, working photos and video into your work, analyzing your traffic, getting established on multiple social networks, and developing a following.

The lessons come in the form of written guides, video tutorials, and mp3s that you can download and listen to on the go. We also hold semi-regular Hangouts on Google+ in which Apprentices can speak to a live Mentor (a HubPages staffmember leading the program) face-to-face.

Program Requirements

HubPages Apprentices enjoy quite a few privileges, but are also expected to adhere to strict standards. Each Apprentice is expected to publish a minimum of eight Hubs per month and those Hubs must be entirely original to HubPages, contain at least one image, only use legally used images, be at least 500 words long, and include any additional requirements that might pertain to a particular month’s focus. Apprentices who fail to meet minimum requirements are kicked out of the program.

Applying for the Program

Everyone is welcome to apply for the Apprenticeship Program. You can do so by visiting the Apprenticeship  section of My Account.  Before applying, make sure that you have some quick links to any online writing samples that might exist off of HubPages, as well as a list of subject areas you would like to cover in future Hubs.

Keep in mind that each month we can only accept 30 new entrants into the Apprenticeship Program. Preference will be given to the applicants who show the most promise (specifically, a demonstrated ability to regularly publish high quality online articles, a willingness to learn, and an eagerness to provide team feedback and develop new skills). Only Hubbers with at least one published Hub, a Google AdSense account, and enrollment in the HubPages Earnings Program can be accepted into the program.

Testimonials

The Apprenticeship Program has already been running for one month, which means that one team has just finished their first month of the program and another team has just begun. Are you curious to know who has been participating? A couple Apprentices from the first month of the program have this to say about their first month in the program:

My first month in the Apprenticeship Program was not only a ton of fun, but it improved my writing in so many ways!

Shanna11

The HubPages Apprenticeship has sharpened my online writing acumen. It has taught me that good writing is only the threshold in the online writing process. There are search engine fundamentals that must also be applied to generate traffic and make money. The Apprenticeship is invaluable in helping the serious student learn to make writing both enjoyable and lucrative.

ithabise

Since joining the Apprenticeship Program, I discovered that there are niche categories in which my writing and expertise excel. The quality of my writing has improved tremendously and my Hub traffic has increased. In my first month in the program, my page views increased by more than 29% and the number of comments in my Hubs increased by more than 46%.

Daisy Mariposa

My experience in the Apprenticeship Program has been beyond words. I have learned so much about what makes a Hub successful, met a wonderful group of writers, and was in constant awe over the helpfulness and support of the HubPages staff. In the last month alone, I have seen a major increase in both page views and earnings so that to me is proof that this program works!
I will forever be grateful to the staff for allowing me to be a part of this program and want to encourage everyone to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

Alissa Roberts

Only one month in and my perspective on writing has already changed dramatically. Google’s perspective on my writing has also changed dramatically. 😉

mattforte

The Apprenticeship Program has been an incredible journey filled with lessons, videos and mentorship. I have learned an enormous amount of valuable information in the one short month of my participation. The mentor team and my colleagues have been instrumental in my growth and development as a successful online writer. I look forward to building my skills and brand as I continue to learn and evolve with the Apprenticeship Program. I strongly recommend it to any HubPages writer that has the opportunity to participate in this challenging, but rewarding experience.

MissOlive

When I was invited to participate in the apprentice program, I knew that this was a fantastic opportunity for me. Even though I enjoy writing and have definitely improved my craft since joining HubPages a little over a year ago, I am definitely keyword and SEO challenged. I knew that this would be a chance to learn more about these skills that have continued to elude me. With one month down in the program, not only have I already learned so much about creating an effective Hub, but I have learned a great deal about how to create great titles and subtitles to generate search engine traffic. I have started to go back and apply these new skills to old Hubs and I am already seeing results. I can only imagine the wonderful things that I will learn in the months to come and am very excited about the journey ahead.

Cardelean

For more information on the HubPages Apprenticeship Program, stop by our Learning Center guide. If you’re passionate about online writing and want to improve your skills, we hope you consider applying!

 

Heads Up! We’re Going Wide!

In a couple of days, we’ll be rolling out the first in a series of design updates on HubPages by widening the site.  The width of all our pages will increase by 120 pixels- from 850 to 970 pixels.

We're getting a teensy bit wider!

We're getting a teensy bit wider!

One of the reasons we’re making this change is to accomodate premium, high-impact ads that typically have high CPMs (which means more income for you as a writer).  You will first be able to see an example of these  ads in the plumbing category when the Clogs to Coins contest starts.

Another reason why we’re implementing this change is we’re going to be giving Hubs, profile pages, and some other aesthetic aspects of the site some design updates.  We’ll be sharing some of the preliminary designs for these updates to get your feedback next week, so keep an eye out for them!

I’m really excited about the changes we’re making. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Come and Get Your Subdomain!

As many Hubbers knew, a Google search algorithm update which rolled out this spring (dubbed the Panda update) hurt just about everyone’s traffic. The problem was that the poor quality of some Hubs on the site hurt everyone’s reputation.  About a month ago, Paul posted a blog post and forum post recapping our response to the Google Panda algorithm update (which included raising site standards) and announcing our test of moving Hubber accounts to subdomains (which should allow each author to be judged by Google separately).

To test the success of moving accounts to subdomains, we ported over several accounts over with the expectation of some traffic improvement based on an earlier experiment, but with the understanding that there was some risk involved. We have concluded the test, and after 2 weeks of observing Google’s response, we saw a dramatic recovery among many accounts, validating the decision to move each Hubber’s account under his/her own subdomain. We expect that, with the move, some accounts will recover traffic, while others won’t.

Based on these positive results, we have opened up the option to move Hubber accounts over to subdomains to the entire community.  Moving to your own subdomain will comprise 2 steps:
  1. Selecting your subdomain, and
  2. Activating the move.
These are two separate steps, and can be done together or separately.  If you would like to read through a more detailed walkthrough of the subdomain shift, visit the Learning Center guide.  If you’re ready to claim your subdomain, do so now

What will your subdomain be? In most cases, it will be your username, or your username without spaces, periods, underscores, or other characters that we’ve allowed for usernames but are not possible in subdomains. For example, the subdomain for the account Paul Edmondson is pauledmondson.hubpages.com. If the subdomain most similar to your username is not available, then we’ll present another option that is also similar, or allow you to suggest a few options based closely on your username.

The Your Subdomain page will be available for about a week or so, after which we will automatically assign you a subdomain based on your username. Please use the Tool before August 10, so you can be sure your subdomain is the one you want.

One bonus benefit of this subdomain shift is that your username gets much more visibility on your Hubs, as it will appear in each Hub URL.  This means that in addition to allowing you to build an online reputation that is unique to your Hubs alone (and hopefully get more traffic), your subdomain allows you to turn your profile on HubPages into something that will more adequately showcase your personal brand.

We hope you are happy with the change and see a healthy recovery in your traffic if your account was adversely affected by the Panda update.