The HubPages Cookbook Contest

Can you believe it’s May already? With the weather getting warmer and a variety of fresh foods in season, we’ve decided to celebrate with a new contest: the HubPages Cookbook Contest!

This June contest will revolve around use of our new Recipe Capsules which include dedicated capsules for recipe ratings, yields and cook time, ingredients, instructions, and nutrition. The Recipe Capsules help to make your Hubs easier to read, plus more attractive search engines (we posted a special blog post with more thorough explanation of how that works)

To enter, all you have to do is publish a recipe Hub using at least the Ratings Capsule (set for recipes) between June 1st at noon (Pacific Time) and June 28th at 11:59 am. By entering, you’ll have a chance to win one (or more!) of 62 prizes worth $3,600.

14 prizes will be awarded each week during the contest, and six prizes will be awarded at the end:

  • $1400 in $50 Daily Drawing Prizes awarded to one randomly-selected recipe entry every day of the contest
  • $1400 in $50 Weekly Prizes awarded to the seven best recipe Hubs each week
  • $100 Best Dessert Recipe Prize for the best dessert recipe Hub
  • $100 Best Drink Recipe Prize for the best drink recipe Hub
  • $100 Best Family Recipe Prize for the best family meal recipe Hub
  • $100 Best Healthy Recipe Prize for the best healthy recipe Hub
  • $100 Best Budget-Friendly Recipe Prize for the best budget-friendly recipe Hub
  • $300 Grand Prize for the best overall recipe Hub

To qualify for these prizes…

While there is a good chance that you might win one of our 28 Daily Drawing prizes randomly, you’ll be able to boost your chances of winning a Weekly or Final Prize if you consider our judging criteria while crafting your entries. Our judges – experts in the culinary writing field – will be looking carefully for:

  • How well the Recipe Capsules are used (see our Learning Center guide to Recipe Capsules)
  • The usefulness of the recipe (summarized steps followed up by detailed instructions with step-by-step photos, variations, demonstrations) (see our Learning Center guide to writing successful Recipe Hubs)
  • The overall value of the recipe (additional background or history associated with the dish or recipe, use of the Recipe Capsules to share detailed nutritional information and ingredient information, etc.)
  • The presence and quality of original photos and/or video
  • Whether the entry is on a long-tail, niche recipe that has not been extensively covered online
  • Whether the entry has a search-friendly title (mirrors common search terms)
  • Excellent writing (proper use of grammar, capitalization, etc.)
  • Uniqueness of the entry (that it is not copied or paraphrased from elsewhere online, full of details, examples, names, and figures)
  • Attractive formatting (avoidance of excessive link, eBay, or Amazon capsule clutter, excessive bolding or italics, and all-caps)
  • Judicious use of other relevant Capsules

We’ll be announcing our special judges as the contest launch approaches. In the meantime, get cooking! You can always start drafts of your entries now and publish them throughout the month of June.

Personal Finance Writing Tips from Money Grows on Hubs Contest Judge Gyutae of Money Crashers

As you may know, the Money Grows on Hubs contest is now in full swing, and we have been introducing you, over the past months, to our contest judges!  One of our contest judges is Gyutae Park, an Editor for MoneyCrashers.com, a personal finance blog and community of authors that exists to educate readers on financial topics and help them make financially sound choices with their money. As an editor and admin for the site, Gyutae sees a lot of personal finance articles and knows what it takes to write the best of the best.  Check out the interview below for some great tips – and also to get to know more about what Money Crashers is all about.

HubPages: What inspired the creation of Money Crashers?

Gyutae: The first version of the Money Crashers site was created back in 2006 by Erik Folgate, who wanted to help college students, recent graduates, and young single or married people understand some of the essentials of personal finance.  While in college, Erik racked up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt in just 2 years.  He later managed to get out of debt and improve his finances, and made it his mission to help others make wise financial decisions and avoid the same mistakes he made early on.

There’s clearly a large void in the US when it comes to teaching personal financial education in high schools and colleges.  Sadly, this leads to the majority of young people not having sufficient knowledge to make some of the most important decisions in their lives including college enrollment, marriage, career, buying a home, and starting a family. Money Crashers and sammycouponcodes.com was created to help fill that void.

Has the format or direction of the blog changed over time?  Do you think it is making the impact on readers that you had hoped to see?

As I mentioned, Money Crashers started off as a one-person blog with Erik sharing his thoughts and experiences managing his finances.  Erik has a lot of interesting and helpful insights for readers, but the site was more of a personal blog about money back then than anything else.

Since that initial start, Money Crashers has evolved quite a bit.  Andrew Schrage, who’s currently another editor, and I took over as the main admins in ’09 and we focused on growing the site and spreading financial education awareness.  We knew that there were a lot of people out there struggling with their finances, especially after the start of the big recession in 2008, and we wanted to use Money Crashers to help these people get back on their feet and improve overall financial literacy.  The timing was great too because all of a sudden personal finance and frugality were “in”.

It’s really a shame that personal finance isn’t taught in schools here in the US.  I would say it’s one of the most important life skills to have, especially at an early age when it matters most.  Our target audience consists mainly of young people in their twenties and thirties, fresh out of college and looking to improve their financial situations and build wealth for the long term.

We’ve brought on quite a few different writers to cater to this audience and discuss a variety of financial topics like budgeting, getting out of debt, smart shopping, best uses for credit cards, insurance, careers, small business, and more.  Basically, we’d like Money Crashers to be a comprehensive resource about personal finance where readers can learn more about the options that they have based on their own unique preferences and situation.

I think we’re definitely making some good progress.  We frequently get emails and comments from readers thanking us for the information and of course healthy discussion and debate is always a good thing.  We’re also looking to partner with other similar sites in the community to further promote the cause of financial literacy.

Would you say that people are more or less informed about personal financial matters today than they were fifty years ago?

Well, it’s tough to say since I wasn’t around 50 years ago to truly understand what the financial awareness was like back then.  However, I do know that history often repeats itself (e.g. wars, depressions) so it’s likely that our parents, grandparents and even great grandparents went through very similar things we’re going through now when it comes to finances.  The biggest difference is that we now have technology and a wealth of information at our disposal through books, TV, and the Internet.  It’s never been easier than now to learn about a subject and connect with like-minded people around the world.

So theoretically, we should be much more informed about personal finance matters today.  The real question is, will we make an effort to actually learn and use all of the tools available to help ourselves?  That’s really what it’s all about.

Which types of articles on Money Crashers are the most popular or useful?

We’ve experimented with a lot of different content on Money Crashers and we’ve found that the most popular and useful articles are usually those that tie in the personal experiences and opinions of the author.  The more unique and interesting, the better.  It definitely helps to be controversial and go against the grain at times.  This is a good way to differentiate and stand out amongst other writers and blogs.  For example, here’s an article that drove a lot of interest: 8 Reasons Why I Quit My Dream Job to Be a Stay At Home Mom & Parent.  Not many people quit their dream jobs, but the author made it work for her.

Additionally, there are 3 types of articles that do particularly well.

Reviews: There are tons of financial products and services out there and it’s usually tough to cut through the marketing and advertising lingo and find out how useful they really are.  For this reason, we try to do a few reviews per week on Money Crashers covering everything from credit cards and savings accounts to tax preparation software and even gadgets .  As you may have guessed, there’s usually a pretty high demand for reviews since readers want to make smart buying decisions and get the most bang for their buck.  As an example, here’s a Lending Club review and a TurboTax review.

Comprehensive How-To’s: In addition to buying, users go online to learn and educate themselves on how to do something.  Create a comprehensive how-to article on a niche topic that people want to learn more about, and readers will naturally be drawn to it.  This is especially effective if your guide is truly all-encompassing and the best available.  Here’s one on Money Crashers that turned out particularly well: How to Find the Perfect Apartment For Rent – The Ultimate 5-Step Process & Guide

Long Lists: Readers like options, lots and lots of options.  So naturally, articles with long lists usually do pretty well, especially since they can easily be scanned and tucked away for reference.  Our list of over 400+ top personal finance blogs was received extremely well by the community and still gets a lot of traffic each day.  And here’s another example: 11+ Uses for Vinegar You Need to Know About

Do you have any tips for our Hubbers on how to go about writing about personal finance if they’re not particular experts on the subject?

In my opinion, there’s no such thing as a true “expert.”  No one knows everything there is to know about a subject and there’s always going to be something new, especially in personal finance where everything changes so fast.  Be content with being a student and always be learning.

At the same time, everyone is an “expert” to someone else who knows less.  Don’t get down on yourself because you “don’t know enough.”  I’m sure someone out there would love to hear or read what you have to say.

Know your audience and pick your spots based on your strengths and unique experiences.  If you’re great at research, create a long list or uncover some new insights that have never been revealed before.  If you’re a good storyteller, share an anecdote and tie that in with your main points.  Don’t try to do too much and stick with what you’re good at.

Sure, this is a writing competition, but you shouldn’t compare yourself with other writers and follow the crowd.  In fact, being different is what will set you apart and increases your chances of being noticed.

Good luck everyone!  I’m looking forward to reading the entries.

[Thanks, Gyutae!]

Gyutae shares some really GREAT advice – here’s the summary in case you are reading this post in haste:

  • Be willing to constantly learn
  • Draw on personal experiences and add a personal aspect to your articles
  • Write good reviews
  • Write comprehensive how-to’s
  • Compile fun, long lists

And if you are out of ideas and feeling writer’s block with the contest, perhaps you can gain some inspiration from the great guides on Money Crashers.  Gyutae shares some wonderful ones above, and we also love these:

The submission portion of the contest is now in full swing, so you can get started right now.  Good luck!!

5 Ways to Fight Writer’s Block

There comes a time in every writer’s life where ideas don’t flow quite as easily as they once did.  Being faced with writer’s block can put a huge damper on life, but luckily, there are ways to fight back!

Here are some great ways to fight writer’s block on HubPages:

  1. Participate in the weekly HubMob: Every week, the HubMob team shares a new topic and challenges Hubbers to write Hubs on it!  These topics are search-friendly and perfect for getting your writing back on track when you are running out of inspiration.  To see each week’s new HubMob theme, simply go to the Forums section of the site – the weekly topic will be stickied.
  2. Participate in HubPages contests: HubPages periodically hosts contests related to a particular category.  Participating gives you something to write about, plus you’ll have the chance to win prizes! Our current upcoming contest, Money Grows on Hubs, is related to the Personal Finance category.
  3. Try your hand at keyword research: By doing a bit of keyword research, you can discover absolute treasure troves of great subjects to write on.  Check out our Learning Center to learn how to get started.
  4. Get academic: We recently launched a page for Students on HubPages and are showcasing new academic Hubs every week.  Why not research something interesting to you and publish your findings on HubPages, or edit and publish some of your old school papers on the site?
  5. Read the work of other Hubbers for inspiration and ask for ideas in the Forums: The HubPages community is wonderfully supportive and always willing to give helpful advice, plus reading other Hubbers’ Hubs may give you some ideas for your own!

Other simple actions such as working on something else for a while, going for a walk, talking with friends, and simply taking some time to relax can make a big difference, too.

The best thing about writer’s block is that it is temporary – and it might be just what you need to refresh your style or start exploring a new subject!