How to Hold Your Own Hub Retreat
I recently had the good fortune to spend the week with my sister, theclevercat, whom I convinced to try hubbing. We decided to spend two days during the week focusing on getting hubs written and doing all we could to promote them. Since neither of us is very experienced here (she's a complete newbie; I'm a veteran compared to her, with three weeks under my belt), we figured it would be a good way to encourage each other and learn together. Here's how we did it.
Day 1: Write Hubs
We decided to spend the first day writing as many long, high-quality hubs as we could. We started off the day by taking our laptops to the coffee shop for a dose of caffeine to get us psyched and stimulate our brains. While we were there, we took advantage of their wi-fi and did a little bit of brainstorming and light keyword research. Before we left, we had each outlined three new hubs.
Back at home, we set up a comfy space to do our work. For us, it was my kitchen, where we could both set up and plug in when necessary, and we had easy access to drinks, snacks, and a bathroom. We both got started writing, but we did so in a collegial way, sharing interesting tidbits and the occasional Lolcat. Both of us usually work alone, so it was nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of. It helped that my sister and I are usually brutally honest with each other; writing doesn't get better without constructive criticism, and that can be hard to come by in the hubbing community.
We wrote in different ways. I went back and forth among my Hubs as inspiration struck, whereas my sister plugged through her first one until it was done. As soon as she finished it, we switched places. I went to town editing hers, and she looked at what I had gotten done so far and made some helpful suggestions. Then we switched back again to continue writing. This went on until we had to break to run errands in the mid-afternoon. We had both been nicely productive, and only needed to add a few minor touches to our Hubs and do some photo research when we reconvened after dinner. We hit "publish," and went to bed satisfied.
Day 2: Polish and Promote
For the second day of our mini-retreat, we decided to focus on making our Hubs the best they could be. We used the Hubs we had written the previous day, because we wanted to see how quickly we could get some real traffic flowing to them. I also chose half a dozen Hubs that I felt could use a little extra juice, either because I had still been getting my feet wet when I wrote them, or I thought they had real potential if only I could get the word out.
Of course, our first step was to go to the coffee shop again. We needed a change of scenery after spending the entire previous day in my kitchen, anyway! Choosing Hubs to work on didn't take long, since neither of us had that many to start with. Instead, we spent our time reading up on SEO, keywords, and backlinks, so that we'd be ready to jump in with both feet when we got home.
Back at home, we started with plumping up our tag sections to the recommended 10–12 tags by checking Google Adwords for relevant keywords with low competition but high search frequency. Then we made sure each of our Hubs had summaries and some interactive element if appropriate, such as a poll. We also searched for some good free photos (I like morgueFile for this purpose).
Finally, she linked to one of my Hubs on Facebook and another on her blog, and I linked to one of hers on Google+ and another on my blog. In order to keep it natural, we didn't post links to all the articles at once, and made sure the topics were things we and our friends were actually interested in.
You Can Hold a Retreat, Too!
The best person to do this with is an actual friend (or sibling, like we did) with whom you can be honest without hurting your relationship. If you don't have any friends who are Hubbers, try to convince one to join (don't forget your referral tracker!). If that doesn't pan out, consider meeting up with a local Hubber whom you don't already know. There is a forum where you can arrange meetups, and there's no reason you couldn't set up together in a coffee shop for a few hours on a Sunday morning for mutual encouragement and tips.
Our retreat lasted two days, but that was terribly indulgent for us. (She works full-time, and I am self-employed and in charge of my family and home.) If you can't spare two whole days, do one day start to finish, with no interruptions. Is even that too much? Arrange with your family to have "me time", and then set up a regular writing date with a friend once a week for two hours. Aim to finish one complete Hub or draft two to finish on your own time. Or save all your drafted hubs for the week, and workshop them together. You may be a great editor, but your friend may have mad SEO skills. Share and help each other, and both you and your Hubs will benefit.
Not that I'm going to toot my own horn or anything, but I'm happy to toot my sister's; one of the Hubs she worked on during our retreat became Hub of the Day on February 3, 2012 and a HubNugget the following week. Working together really made a difference! Check it out:
Update, Six Months Later
My sister and I were lucky enough to spend some more quality time Hubbing together on a recent vacation. We've both been in the Apprenticeship program for several months, so we were able to discuss our Hubs in a more knowledgeable fashion and talk about Google Analytics like pros! It has been invaluable to have a supportive partner to bounce ideas off of, even if we can only write together rarely.