Hub Pages Two Year Progress Report - Adventures in Blogging and Beyond
Beware the Mad Mongrel
April 22, 2013, a date which will die indifferently, is the day I launched the Mel Carriere brand on Hub Pages. I had been tinkering with another account here under my real name prior to that, but I really didn't know what I was doing, I had no goals or objectives in mind, and I eventually let that first profile die a natural death. I believe that account was recently suspended for disuse, but there was no weeping or hand wringing at that particular funeral. Nevertheless, it represented my first tentative baby steps into the world of blogging.
I discovered Hub Pages in an ad I came across while searching through a local job site while sitting in a coffee shop. The announcement was highly exaggerated and very tempting, making it sound as if a writer could start raking in the bucks immediately. I submitted an application and was thrilled when I got approved, perhaps thinking I had been accepted into an exclusive writing elite.
I have discovered since then that while there are plenty of world class writers and poets here on Hub Pages, pretty much anybody and everybody with a rudimentary grasp of the English language can get an account. I also painfully discovered two years ago to the day that there is no immediate money to be made here. Developing income on Hub Pages is a painstaking process that requires inexhaustible patience, and while I have enjoyed a few paydays now it is nowhere near the steady, consistent revenue stream that I would someday like it to be. There is still a lot of work to be done, and I have written this two year summary to report upon the steps I have taken so far, what I have learned in my first two years, and to speculate upon how I think Hub Pages will fit into my writing future.
A Writing Epiphany
My first significant blogging brainstorm occurred when I realized I could create my own writing niche based upon my experiences as a letter carrier for The United States Postal Service. I first used Mel Carriere as my nom de plume in a novel I wrote several years ago, and decided to resuscitate the mysterious masked mailman; the former poet laureate of the now defunct Republic of Colapzistan, as my blogging identity. I figured there weren't that many people out there writing articles about Postal topics and with a little work I could gain a captive audience among my coworkers across the country.
It turns out I was right, but it took a lot of work to cultivate this audience. I started out sitting down with a copy of The Postal Record, the monthly magazine for The National Association of Letter Carriers Union, from which I pulled a few notable names and searched for them on Facebook. It took me a while to gain the trust of my fellow letter carriers; particularly because "Mel Carriere" cannot be found in any employee database that many highly placed Union members have access to. All the same, with a great deal of effort and diligence they eventually accepted the reasons behind my anonymity and embraced me into the fold. I now have over a thousand Facebook friends, most of whom are letter carriers, and the natural suspicion I was regarded with in the beginning has disappeared.
So having decided to blog about letter carrier issues on my Hub Pages account, I made my first awkward scribblings, which I can liken to the earliest crude efforts at crayon writing made by a kindergarten student. I had no idea about the power of images or other multimedia in blogging. I also did not understand the importance of breaking up my writing into short, digestible blocks of text. Therefore, my earliest hubs were fairly plain, threadbare, and tedious, but I had started along the path and little by little my nebulous strategy and style began to gain from.
Coming of Age?
It is interesting going back through my list of almost 60 hubs to see how my work has evolved and perhaps matured over the last two years. Heck - 60 hubs is a month's output for some of you; but hubbing, holding a full time job, and writing extensively on other writing platforms at the same time is burning the candle at both ends and sticking a wick in the middle as well.
My hubs maintained a mostly Postal flavor in the beginning, and I had my own unique title style using only words that began with the letter "M." For example, the name of one of my first hubs was "Mel's Most Misbehaved Mutts." Of course this was sheer idiocy from a search engine perspective, but entirely satisfying to the poetic portion of my writing brain. After about two and a half months I dropped the all M requirement in my titles, but I continue to engage in SEO blasphemy whenever and wherever I write. If I can't have fun doing this, if I am forced to straightjacket my writing into a sterile, lifeless SEO mold, then I will just get another much more profitable part time job working the coffee crank at a Starbucks or punching the cash register at the 7-11. A minimum wage part time job will certainly pay more, no matter how proficient I get at tapping into the secret, arcane knowledge of appeasing the search engine gods.
Even though I wasn't trying, I nonetheless stumbled upon some search engine gems along the road. While obsessively perusing my hub stats, which I do at least once a day, I realized about four months into this endeavor that one of my hubs containing the key word CCA, which stands for City Carrier Assistant (a type of entry level Postal Letter Carrier), was doing pretty well getting search engine hits. Therefore, very early in my Hub Pages experiment I started writing hubs containing this search term in the title, and well more than half my traffic comes from the five or six hubs I have composed on the subject. Another fruitful keyword for me has been "204b," a category of Postal Supervisor in which capacity I once served. But for the most part I am still banging my head against the inspirational shower wall searching for additional proprietary keywords I can corner the blogging market on. Until I get better at SEO, for the time being about half of my traffic still comes from social media hits; Facebook by far being the largest source, with Twitter coming in a distant second.
Frustration, Flight, and the Return of the Prodigal Son
One thing I admire about Hub Pages is that it does not censor information about its rivals, or even criticism about itself. It graciously publishes articles about competing writing platforms and other types of money making websites that could siphon off the efforts of its writers. Thanks to Hub Pages I have dabbled with Bloggmutt, Fivver, and some painfully tedious site where the user rates business phone calls for a penny a pop. For a while I also became a transcriber, again in response to an HP article, but because this just tired out my typing fingers and returned too little bang for the buck I eventually gave it up to focus more on writing. The point is, I learned about all of these money making enterprises from Internet savvy writers sharing hubs.
It was also on Hub Pages that I was turned on to Bubblews, a site that does ruthlessly censor negative information about itself. For a time Bubblews was stealing away a large percentage of Hub Pages users; indeed I encountered many of my hubbing friends over there. This is certainly because in the glory days of Bubblews it was very easy for new writers to make money, much more money than the average Hub Pages newbie was able to earn.
Hypnotized by the allure of easy cash, I too was drawn to the gold bricked streets of the Bubbleland utopia. My Hub Pages posts were earning but a trickle of money, so I threw most of my efforts toward the rival site, where with some diligent commenting and liking of the posts of other bubblers I was able to earn some relatively substantial bubble bucks. But the voice of reason in my head that had been temporarily muffled by the enchantment of false riches told me that Hub Pages was better, that Hub Pages would stand the test of time, and for this reason I kept up my activity here, albeit in greatly reduced fashion.
A few months ago the bubble did indeed burst. Bubblews quit paying users for views, and because I just did not have the hours in the day to sufficiently comment and like other user's posts, which was really the only way to make money from that point forward, I withdrew quietly from Bubblews and came sneaking back to Hub Pages in the middle of the night like a repentant, prodigal son.
I can't remember exactly when it was, I don't think there was a particular moment or day that I could put my finger on, but at some point my tired, hopeless, topped out Hub Stats began to take a significant upward swing. Although I had been at the point of making a clean break from this writing venue and focusing my limited time elsewhere, the trickle of money I had been making picked up significantly enough to encourage me to keep me writing here. Don't get me wrong; it's still a trickle, but it's a trickle that promises a larger flow to come with a bit of diligent drilling.
During this time I also began to gradually branch out my writing from purely postal propositions into other fields. I have now written several hubs about politics, one with a religious flavor, an article about birds, a piece I can only describe as inspirational advice for writers, and two short stories. These haven't gathered many views outside of fellow Hub Pages authors, but they are fun to write and I hope they eventually serve as a springboard toward a broader audience for the mad mail blogger Mel Carriere.
Blogging and Beyond
Before coming to Hub Pages I had never heard about Google Ad Sense, and it had also never occurred to me that a writer could monetize his or her own website and actually earn a little pocket cash doing it. But once again, through the power of Hub Pages articles and contact with other Hub Pages users I was motivated to launch my own blogs, which I am slowly cultivating as a potential revenue stream as well.
My first blog attempt was "The Postal Provocateur," launched on Word Press in February of 2014. Although I applied for a program called Word Ads there, after 9 months of futile waiting I was never accepted. In search of greener pastures, green of course meaning money, I decided to crank up an old, unused Google blog I owned that was sitting in my writer's broom closet gathering dust. Such was the birth of the current "Postal Tsunami," (melcarriere.blogspot.com) which seems to be giving encouraging early results. Unlike what had occurred with the stingy ad Gods on Word Press, after about three weeks of applying I was accepted by Google for Ad Sense, and have made a bit of cash there that gives me teasing hints of picking up now that the site is bringing in a growing number of residual views.
Encouraged by my early returns on the Tsunami, I launched two more Blogspot blogs, these being The Truth Bomb (thetruthbomb.blogspot.com) and Birds by Mel (birdsbymel.blogspot.com). The Truth Bomb is my voice of political, philosophical expression, whereas Birds By Mel is a verbal outlet for my bird watching hobby. Both of these blogs were almost immediately accepted for Ad Sense and I hope to eventually turn them into money makers.
Apart from opening my eyes to the potential of blogging, I really think that more than anything else Hub Pages has helped me to hone my writing skills. The neuronal wiring that connects the writing part of our brains with our typing fingers becomes moldy and rusty with disuse, but the liquid moving through these pipes has a remarkable cleansing effect that actually increases the volume and speed of the flow when the valve is opened consistently. As such, I was satisfied that my skills improved enough through Hub Pages to pick up the pen to try my hand at novel writing again. I am about a third of the way through a mailman novel entitled "The Crucifixion Age," and I am having an awful lot of fun with it.
When I first joined Hub Pages I thought I would be like Tom Hanks in Castaway, living on my own isolated writer's island where it would be just me, the coconut trees and my pet volleyball Wilson searching the horizon in vain for a passing ship. But then I discovered that there were other inhabitants on this island too, all of them castaways like me from one walk of life or another, and all searching that same empty, cruel ocean for a tempting flicker of writing hope.
I can't say enough about how much I enjoy interacting with the people here. Even if Hub Pages crashes and burns tomorrow I am still going to continue following quite a few of these lovely, intelligent people through the various social media sites that we share. Hub Pages demonstrates that the world is a very tiny place and there is no isolated coconut pincushion of a rock on Earth where a writer can hide in complete solitude, even if for whatever misguided reason that writer chooses to.
Although many of my writing friends here on Hub Pages have now turned away from the site, either in frustration that they aren't making the money they would like, or out of frustration that they aren't making the money they used to, I believe I will stick it out and enjoy the ride for a while. For one thing, I wasn't part of those "pre-Panda" glory days in which certain writers had to haul their Hub Pages loot to the bank in a Brink's truck. My earnings have never been much more than a trickle, but it's a damn intoxicating little trickle and if I keep my ears open to that still, small voice of inspiration, and maybe get a little help from my friends, I am pretty sure that eventually I will figure out a way to tap the glorious mother lode it springs from without putting my imagination in storage.