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Challenges With Products in Hubs

Updated on November 6, 2015

We've had a lot of Feedback on Products

As HubPages evolves, we try to make sure we are building a high quality site and adapting to standards that will help the overall health of HubPages. There has been a long history with products placed in Hubs and over the last several weeks we have collected guidance and best practices to help the overall site from very authoritative sources.

A quick look back.

  • Product Hubs with long lists of products were effective at getting traffic and converting sales
  • Panda crushes the site
  • HubPages gets manual spam actions for products
  • HubPages makes policies limiting the placement and number of products allowed in Hubs
  • Hubs with products get defeatured for spammy elements

I believe that there are at least three challenges with adding products to Hubs that can adversely impact the health of the overall site.

What we Believe Now

In general we believe, Google's algorithms look poorly upon articles with Amazon affiliate products.

There are multiple reasons why this may be the case. I'm going to share my current beliefs and reasons.

#1 The Page Looks like a Traffic Funnel to Amazon

When a page has lots of Amazon products, it appears to look like a doorway page. We know that pages can have substantial information supplemented with an Amazon product for each item listed. These types of guides can be very helpful with lots of depth, a high level of curation, or just helping people decide quickly what product is best for them.

Even with these positive benefits we believe that there are multiple issues with pages like this, although we can't be sure if this is assessed by a page layout algorithm or by the actual clicks that are sent. What we do know is that Google prefers to send people directly to the page on which they will transact. Putting several Amazon products in a page will make the page look and function like a doorway page with the appearance that it's purpose is to send people quickly through to Amazon.

If you think the user performed a query, clicked through to your page with the intent to transact, and the use of the Amazon capsules is placed on the page to quickly send them to Amazon, that is highly likely to be spam.

HubPages is primarily informational. Users need to be educated, informed or guided in so after they have spent significant time consuming the information, they may click through to purchase a single well chosen product because the guidance is so high quality. That would be a good use of placing an Amazon product guided by today's standards.

Keyword Stuffed Product Titles

Not until it was brought to my attention did I realize how keyword stuffed a syndicated product title from Amazon may be. Previously I mentioned we had hired some folks to help us with SEO. One of the things that has been identified as an issue is keyword stuffed Hubs. We've done some early work and I believe this is a significant issue impacting the health of the entire site.

Each Amazon product has the potential to add a keyword stuffing penalty to Hub.

Amazon cookbook KW Stuffed Example

Products inserted into Hubs act differently than ads because their contents are part of the page and indexed by Google. Each product title that is keyword rich has the potential to take a fine Hub and move it into a low quality spam bucket. It's a fine line, but our advice is only add essential products and look closely at the product title to make sure it's clear and concise and only has essential information. Tip: Choose products with concise titles.

A few things to keep in mind.

1. Product titles are all linked so it is even more problematic to have long keyword rich anchor text titles linking out. Tip: For essential products, consider adding a direct link instead of the capsule if the data is overly keyword rich.

2. Every product added to a Hub may compound the keyword stuffing problem. Tip: Avoid overlapping products.

External Content Duplication

One of the things Google's algorithm does is filter out duplicate content. For ecommerce sites that receive factory descriptions they can get filtered out of the search results because they are essentially showing the exact same content that many other sites are showing as well.

On HubPages, we are essentially adding products with the exact same meta data that are shown on thousands of other sites. Each time we add a product, our content is less unique.

Tip: Limit syndicated products to 1 or 2 tops (most hubs shouldn't have them at all).

Over Monetizing the Page

We've heard directly that the value a site extracts from a visitor relative to the value it provides can influence the rankings of the entire site. What this means for us, is we have several ads on the page and when several products are added, we are likely on the wrong side of the algorithm.

Ideally, we would know how many ads to put on a page or whether or not to display products on a Hub by Hub basis. If you look at Google search as an example, many queries return no ads. Some queries return a few ads, and for really commercial queries there can be so many monetized elements that the average consumer doesn't even realize they are clicking on an ad.

We need to figure out a way to do this better. It's something we are working on and in the meantime, it would be helpful if folks were very judicious with their use of products.

Tip 1: If a Hub is regularly converting with Amazon sales, turn off ads. There are two benefits of this. Hubs without ads load much quicker. Ads often cannibalize clicks on products for a much lower value. I've done this for my best performing Hubs with products and anecdotally, I believe I'm making more per visit than I was with ads on.

Tip 2: If your Hubs aren't producing sales or if a certain product is never selling, remove the product from your Hub.

Closing Thoughts

Amazon provides a significant chunk of our revenue and it's a fantastic partner. At the same time we believe that it's a relatively small number of product placements that are the most effective at driving sales.

My hope is we can become smarter together on how to use Amazon products surgically in our Hubs to provide great value to readers and to help monetize the site effectively.

Happy Hubbing,



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