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HubPages: Scam or Business model?
I recently read several internet articles concerning HubPages. Some claim that it is a "scam" because it uses "deliberate dishonesty with an intent to profit". Having read these, and investigated the points made, I decided to write my own point of view. This is it.
The General Idea
I am fairly new to HubPages, so I do not have a great deal of knowledge or a particularly high profile in the site as yet, but my understanding of it does actually pretty much agree with some of the articles. This being that your hubs links will be "no follow" until your author score is 75 or higher, the way scores are calculated is not obvious and writers are encouraged to write as much as possible to generate traffic. The difference here is in how I see this compared to these writer's viewpoints.
Initial interest and experience
In one article, the writer says that he signed up for HubPages as a way of promoting a different site. He says that this was extremely difficult to achieve due to the way HubPages operates. To me, this is fairly obvious. Any other business would not encourage you to go to a competitor if it could help it. As I see it, they are merely ensuring that you are an active contributor before you can reap any benefits of the site. This, to me, makes perfect sense.
I have also read that hubpages must be a scam as so many members write articles saying that it is not, which is apparently overly defensive. I was motivated to write this as I read other articles and found them to be overly critical. My question in response is: Why would so many people write in its defence if it were a scam? Personally, I would be the first person to write criticism, delete my account and then tell everyone who would listen how much of a scam it is. I would not want anyone else to be taken in by it, and would also want to damage it by preventing as many people as possible from using it. Only a small portion of users receive compensation as only a small portion write well enough, and contribute enough material, to warrant it. I do sort of agree that it fosters competition between users, but I will cover this point later in more depth.
Why is HubPages not a scam?
HubPages provides three potential benefits:
- Income through google adsense
- Links to your website(s)
- Traffic to your website(s)
In many articles the authors say they receive no traffic to their sites from HubPages. This, from their own information, would appear to be because they do not contribute enough to stay above the 75 author score, therefore links are designated "no-follow". They use many other sites and publish a lot of material. This would likely mean they do not have the time to contribute enough to HubPages. Ezinearticles is quoted as being better for back links. I have read a Hub which makes basically the same claim. I have used Ezinearticles myself and believe it. However there are some major differences between Ezinearticles and HubPages:
- You cannot get paid, at all.
- It offers no tutorials whatsoever on setting up any of the google/amazon etc affiliate programs.
- It's layout is much less attractive and has much less appeal.
- It is very basic generally.
In this way, you could say Ezinearticles is a scam, as it offers only one way of gaining through your writing, and it does not matter what the quality level is.
I have read accusations that HubPages is not open about the cutoff. This, while true, is not really much of a conspiracy. There are many Hubs on the subject, all of which tell you in no uncertain terms what the cutoff is. I found these within an hour or two of publishing my first article. HubPages appears to encourage you to find these by the very nature of its model. Other hubbers find them useful, therefore they push up the score, therefore they are very prominant in searches about improving your hub. If the cutoff was such a big scam, why would HubPages allow hubs to exist with this detail?? One article claims "getting to 75 requires authoring multiple high-quality hubs, and either networking with other hubpage users or promoting your hubs on external sites, in order to drive traffic to your hubs". This would appear to encourage quality writing, and high interactivity. So basically, if you want to get anything out, you have to put something in. This sounds like a fairly obvious business principle to me.
To add an important piece of info to this section, I have managed to get my score to above 75 with only four published articles(including this one), logging in every couple of days and none of my articles have scored more than 80, though my writer score is 85. This would reinforce the idea that getting to 75 is not a particularly difficult feat, as long as your writing meets a certain standard (I would say posting articles which achieve a score of more than 60/70 would do it, based on my own experience).
Fostering competition with other users
We are told that HubPages calculates your score based on the other articles in the same category. This is apparently unfair as it generates competition. Only the best articles in each category get high scores. The articles also point out that author scores will drop unless you continually publish quality material, edit existing hubs or network with other users. So basically, if you write a rubbish article and hardly ever log in, you'll get nothing back, and rubbish articles will get bad scores, whereas quality articles will get high scores. Seems fair to me.
Just to add a little to this section, my writer score is now 90+. I have only ever had a maximum of 10 hubs published at any one time, and each of those score at least 70, most of them higher. This is with very little work on my part.
The "no follow" attribute
The use of the "no follow" is allegedly to punish poor quality. The benefit of only the higher quality pages being displayed prominently is, again, pretty obvious to me. If I owned a website, I wouldn't have the poorest examples from it high up on the main page either. Writers who do it the old fashioned way are in the same position: if your writing is bad, it won't be published and therefore won't make you any money. Yes, there will be some users who will put in hours of time and won't get anything back. These people either don't write well, write about topics no-one is interested in or write one article then don't bother again. These people should treat writing as a hobby. In the real world, you would never ever make money writing in this way. Why should things be different online?
Alternatives to HubPages
Squidoo is often quoted as a competitor. Some of the user comments there make similar claims about squidoo and how it works. Personally, I don't believe squidoo is a scam either, merely a different business model.
For earning income through advertising, (i.e. create your own website) again I find myself in agreement with some of the criticism. However, what these articles fail to note is how much more work this would involve. Before joining HubPages, I had no idea how SEO worked, or how to drive traffic to a site. I did not know HTML code and apparently that is now outdated. I didn't know how adsense worked nor how to sign up to it. Since joining HubPages I have gained a much better understanding of this. Hubpages encourages learning this, as it is in their interest. It is also in yours. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who is a webdesigner, or has a good knowledge of the above, but then I also wouldn't recommend an Italian beginners course to someone from Milan. There are many scams out there that offer to teach you how to make money online for a fee. HubPages is an excellent place to learn it for free. Yes, you do make money for them in the process, but why shouldn't they make money from what is an excellent site?
To sum up
The main point many of these articles make is that you won't get anywhere online without hard work. This is pretty obvious. For some reason, there are some people with the mentality that you can work online and do next to nothing all day, yet earn thousands. HubPages does not say anywhere that you don't have to do anything to make money. It details a lot of things you need to do, and stresses itself that you need to write often, and write quality if you expect to get anywhere. In what way is this a scam? In order to make money from your own website you would be expected to do all these things and a damn sight more to make anything. To be fair, HubPages is not a good idea for everyone. If you are a rubbish writer and are lazy, I wouldn't bother, you will be scammed in the same way anyone trying to get ahead for no effort often is. You can then use this as an excuse for why you never have any money, never do anything and can never be bothered to get anywhere. My conclusion is yes, HubPages are trying to make money. If that is a scam, then yes, it is a scam. As are all the other websites out there that encourage activity in order to generate traffic. So lets all delete our facebook accounts and go to our own websites, then sit looking at them all day worrying about the SEO and traffic. Job done.