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published five simultaneously-Featured Hubs, new Hubs that do not pass the Quality Assessment Process (QAP) will be unpublished rather than simply being not Featured.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published five Featured Hubs and passed Boot Camp, Hubs that would not otherwise be Featured will be moved back to an unpublished state after going through the QAP.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  • Hubs that were unpublished because of quality reasons before you met the five Featured Hub threshold will remain unpublished until you change them and re-publish them (we recommend making significant improvements or else they’ll just not be Featured, which is somewhat of a waste).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!

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!

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.

New Developments in Our Emphasis on Quality

Our long-term goal is to make HubPages the go-to place to write in-depth, media-rich pages on topics you’re passionate about.

We are not alone in our emphasis on quality and engagement. Hubbers recommend that we improve the overall quality of Hubs we present to the world. Search engines, not to mention sites like Pinterest, Reddit, Facebook and Twitter, also actively seek to improve the quality of content people discover through their services. We all want quality, we have the same goals, and we believe that those who focus on quality will see great success in the long run.

How does HubPages highlight good content?

One of the ways we maintain a reputation for quality content is by only showcasing great long-form, media-rich Hubs on Topic Pages, related Hubs, and making them available to search engines. We announced the first part of this effort a few months ago as Featured Hubs. Our initial version of Featured Hubs does a good job with basic, broad evaluations of quality, but it is mostly driven by assessments of reader engagement, which by no means offers a complete picture of a Hub’s quality.

How does HubPages decide what is quality content?

Identifying quality content is no easy task. Computer algorithms, though useful in identifying very poor content, are not capable of the depth of understanding needed to reliably assess the quality of “good” content. Human beings can truly understand the content but have widely varying assessments of its quality. While researching this problem, it became clear to us that even highly-qualified and knowledgeable people can disagree fairly drastically on the quality of an article for very valid reasons.

In an attempt to address these challenges, HubPages is evaluating the effectiveness of several potential approaches to solving this problem. We refer to this effort as our Quality Assessment Process (QAP), which addresses three primary factors:

1. Automated computer-based quality ratings through intelligent learning algorithms

HubPages employs some of the brightest minds in artificial intelligence and machine learning to help develop and refine computer algorithms to reliably identify and rate the quality of content. These algorithms constantly monitor their own success and perform adjustments to a multitude of variables to optimize their own performance. Additionally, whenever available, these algorithms ingest ratings from human raters to identify successful patterns and provide suggestions for improvements to the automated algorithms.

2. Hubbers assessing content quality via the Hub Hopper

A few months back we made some changes to a feature we call “The Hub Hopper” to allow the data gathered there to inform our assessment of a Hub’s quality. This combines a feature that Hubbers frequently use to discover new content with an easy means of providing actionable feedback on the quality of the content in question.

While Hub Hopper ratings are very helpful, the current HubPages volume is not sufficient to assess the quality of the huge quantity of content published on HubPages on a daily basis, which is why we have reached to external sources for help.

3. Paid quality assessments via Mechanical Turk

Our most recent addition to the Quality Assessment Process is the inclusion of paid quality assessments. We currently acquire these assessments from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. We are garnering Hub ratings from Mechanical Turk because ratings through the app are available at a scale capable of handling the volume of content published on HubPages. In order to mitigate the inherent variability of these assessments, raters must pass a qualification process and go through ongoing assessment. In addition, learning algorithms are applied to compensate for each individual rater’s specific biases. As long as sufficient volume is met, the result is a surprisingly reliable quality assessment.

We welcome Hubbers to use this app (and receive compensation for Hopping). If you are interested, check out HubPages’ HITs on Mechanical Turk and consider creating an account.

So, what’s changing?

 

At this point, the following things happen when you publish a Hub:

  1. Ads are shown on your Hub and its status is Pending for approximately 24 hours as it is assessed to see whether it meets our publishing standards
  2. So long as the Hub meets our basic publishing standards, it is Featured
  3. Should your Hub not see continued engagement from readers over time, it might lapse out of a Featured state, but editing it can bring it back to a Featured state within 24 hours

 

Starting early next week, when you publish a Hub, the flow will be a little different:

  1. When you publish a Hub, its status is Pending as it undergoes the Quality Assessment Process, which should take approximately 24 hours; this process includes a quality assessment in addition to a check as to whether the Hub meets our basic publishing standards
  2. After a Hub undergoes the Quality Assessment Process, ads will be added to the page; Hubs that meet certain Quality Assessment Process criteria will also be Featured
  3. After being edited, Hubs go through the Quality Assessment Process once more, hence each time a Hub is edited, it is given a new chance to be Featured

 

Put simply:
Hubs are now being assessed by real people (including Hubbers such as yourself), and their evaluations will contribute toward your Hubs’ chances of being Featured
Ads will not be shown on new Hubs until they are no longer Pending (this should prevent Featured Hubs from seeing delayed coverage in search engine results)

We are excited about the direction in which we are going and hope these changes will help to make you a stronger, better, more successful Hubber.