Value-adding Hubs: Boosting Content and Quality by Focusing on Specifics

Hub Pages encourages writers to be prolific and seek financial rewards for their hubs. Unfortunately, in their enthusiasm for boosting scores and earnings, many hubbers crank out hubs with little new or useful content. Hubs promising lessons on cooking a great steak, learning a language or making money in the stock market turn out to be loaded with such vague advice as to be meaningless, e.g. buy good meat, immerse oneself in the language, buy low and sell high. Sure, everyone could be a better writer, but when you have an idea for a hub, how do you put it together in a way that goes beyond off-the-cuff fuzzy-headed advice? What changes will turn a mediocre, forgettable hub into a memorable, useful hub that’s more likely to become an evergreen?

Pick Topics You Have a Passion About

Google Analytics, the keyword tool and other monetizing techniques are great for fine-tuning titles and suggesting elements to include in a hub, but they shouldn’t be your primary content driver. If you pick topics based on money-making clues alone, it will show. Not only will you be confined to reading about and researching topics you may care little for, your hubs are unlikely to be more than rehashes of what can be found elsewhere. If you don’t have a personal interest in the topic, how can your writing be anything but dressed-up details from others’ work?

If the Devil is in the Details, Don’t Leave Them Out

Let’s take a closer look at our three examples of good ideas gone bland: cooking a great steak, learning a language, and making money in the stock market. Our imaginary bland cooking writer has told us to “use good meat”. Not bad advice in itself, but is this really useful? Would we have purposely chosen bad meat? Of course not, and that is precisely why more is needed. What does “good meat” mean? He could suggest specific cuts, for example, filet mignon, porterhouse, T-bone or sirloin. Maybe the writer doesn’t want to specify because he is afraid readers might be put off by suggesting too expensive a cut. Rather than dodge the whole issue with the uninformative “good”, the writer has an opportunity to discuss what makes a good piece of beef good; this could be a jumping off point to discuss beef grades and the differences between USDA Prime and Choice. He could discuss marbling, bones, fat and connective tissue. The point is, if you are going to advocate something, give your advice enough detail to act on it immediately.

Keep it Focused

Our imaginary language learning hub also suffers from a shortage of detail, but there are other problems. I have studied roughly a dozen languages, but aside from my native English, I don’t speak any of them particularly well. Why? Because learning a foreign language is a huge undertaking; the average language learner spends years just to surpass basic proficiency. Consider the shopkeeper or neighbor who has lived in our country for decades, but still speaks broken, error-ridden English. Clearly, immersion isn’t enough. Complicating matters, people learn in different ways – for some grammar is impenetrable, others stumble over speaking or their vocabulary is too limited to be useful. In short, the topic is too large and too difficult for a single, reasonably-sized hub. But that doesn’t mean our writer has to abandon writing about language learning.

Instead of teaching the encyclopedic topic of language learning, our writer could share resources that helped him improve his listening and accent. Whereas his previous title might have overpromised and underdelivered with a title like, “Mastering a Foreign Language”, his revised, focused hub makes it clearer with “Using the German Radio Service Deutsche Welle to Improve Listening Skills in German.” Without a doubt, this narrowed topic does not carry the potential audience of the previous title, but the breadth of the previous title’s promise would automatically raise many potential readers’ doubts about its merit. The new title, on the other hand, may make a real contribution to German language learners who didn’t know about this resource – making it a bigger fish in a smaller pond. Perhaps he could assemble a list of online radio programs for select languages in another hub. Previously, it was a vague something in a huge sea – not likely to attain much in page rank, or garner attention after a few initial viewings.

Our stock market guru offers us the answer everyone dreams about – making money just by being smart. He’s given us the rock-solid advice of buying low and selling high. Perhaps he has even given us other advice, such as to diversify our investments or told us that now that since the real estate bust, real estate is now cheap (i.e. low), so it must be a good investment again. How good is this advice? Certainly if one buys a stock at $10 per share and later sells it for $12, it looks like we’ve made $2. But how did we know that our stock was going to rise? And how is it that we invest in real estate? Do we start buying homes or do we add a garage to our existing home? We don’t know.

Inform or Advocate?

Personally, I believe advocating specific investments is never a good idea. The potential for conflict of interest is great. Even if you have no financial interest in the investments, two months after you advocated a stock do you want to see that corporation embroiled with an accounting scandal?

Perhaps our budding stock guru used to work selling mobile phones and noticed that year after year one carrier was offering better, more popular phones. A few minutes on Yahoo finance and he’s surprised to see despite this competitive advantage, the stock price for the phone carrier with the superior phones has barely budged in years. He may hazard a prediction of increased profits or stock price based solely on his one fact or he may go to the various carriers’ websites and review their quarterly statements. Low and behold, he discovers that the carriers have vastly different levels of debt and dividend rates. Now he has put together a collection of facts that could be part of a short profile of these firms – insightful information on products, stock price history, debt and dividends. Information investors may find interesting, and precisely the kind of information an investor might use in estimating whether a stock was priced too low or too high.

Obviously, no one strives to write forgettable content. Write hubs on topics you care about; add detail, and avoid the vacuous adjectives “some”, “any”, “kind of”, “rather” and “many” – they don’t contribute anything. I have not mastered the Hub system yet, but if weeks after reading a hub I remember a story, a fact or an anecdote from it, I know the writer has succeeded.

Getting the Details You Need

Details give your hub credibility. When you can, provide details. Marshalling facts into your writing demonstrates that you know your subject. Perhaps you have strong feelings about the problem of poverty and want to share. A hub or blog posting that never offers more detail than "millions of Americans go hungry" and "many working families are homeless" only reminds readers of facts he/she already knows. So where do you go when you need to bolster an argument with facts?

A stop by Wikipedia is never a bad idea for finding facts. Economics and finance are fields that love numbers and any hub on those fields that omits them risks low credibility. For these, you can research the Bureau of Labor Statistics for things like unemployment and consumer price index (inflation). There are dozens of other governmental resources for economic date (some listed below). When I've written about food and cooking, I've used reference books, especially On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee, but also searched for trade groups' or professional organizations' websites for statistical information or facts not widely known. For instance, I wrote a Hub on food thermometers and found some information from the website of The Institute of Food Technologists.

Below are a list of places to find facts fast that will help add credibility to hubs:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics An excellent source for facts not just on unemployment and inflation, but details on income, wages and productivity.
  • The CIA World Factbook, Organized by country, the factbook provides a snapshot of the history, geography, government, economic, communications, transportation and political state of every nation. Unlike most statistical resources, information is presented in a summary form rather than tables and charts.
  • U.S. Census Bureau So much more than just a headcount of Americans, the Census Bureau does an economic census, reports on education, health and diversity. One of the best places to learn about the U.S.
  • Data.gov Started by the Obama administration to make government more transparent, Data.gov tries to be both a hub for links and a huge data base for government-collected information. There is a ton of information here, but it can be hard to find and utilize.
  • Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Since 1961, the organization of large economies, mostly European countries has collected data to help countries work together.
  • United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) This is a good resource for finding comparative economic information about European nations.
  • Wikipedia When you aren't sure where to start, Wikipedia is a great place to get a background.


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