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Reflections on the First 50: My Top Five Tips, Hubs, and Hubbers Who Have Inspired Me
My last birthday – though not one ending in a zero – was a milestone day. It was the day I published my 50th hub, reached the threshold for my first HubPages payment, and had a hub attain a perfect 100 hubscore and the number one spot on the hot hub list. Because I wanted to get one more "Know It All" contest entry in before the deadline, my 50th hub wasn't one of those milestone hubs that have been so popular here. But I've enjoyed reading others' milestone hubs and want to share some thoughts and tips of my own about writing for HubPages. I decided a good time to do that would be with this, the first hub of my next 50.
I came across HubPages quite by accident in August 2011. I had just left my job in a corporate legal department after 17 years, a decision that was a long time in the making and fueled by my desire to write on full-time basis for at least a little while. I saved up enough money to live on during my "sabbatical" and made the agonizing decision to leave a well-paying job that I enjoyed for the most part, even though it was slowly sucking the life out of me. I knew I wanted to work on my novel, which I had been trying to do for years while putting in long hours at my stressful job, and maybe write some articles on topics that interested me, but had no firm plans other than to write all day, every day.
I was two weeks into my new career and doing some research for my novel one afternoon when I came across HubPages. I signed up that day. A few days later, I published my first two hubs – technical legal pieces like the only other things I had published during my 21 year legal career.
Later that week, I woke early one morning to the idea of writing a hub about a dinner party cooking competition my friends and I had done. With the hub now writing itself inside my head, I could no longer sleep so I got up and cranked it out. I was surprised a couple of weeks later when the hub was nominated for, and then won, a Hubnugget, and even more surprised a couple of days after that when it was featured as Hub of the Day.
Over the next seven months, I kept writing hubs, one or two a week and sometimes a couple in a day. I won two more Hubnuggets, had seven more Hubs of the Day, gained a good number of followers, and made a lot of friends. I learned a little about SEO and back links, terms I never even heard before joining HubPages, and figured out how to do keyword research. I haven't made much money – it took seven months to reach the threshold for my first payment – but I've had a lot of fun.
I've done several "five things" hubs – The Five Best Bad Eighties Rock Ballads, Five Reasons to Love Gardening, and Five Reasons to Shop Local on Small Business Saturday are examples – so it seems fitting to reflect upon my time on HubPages in terms of some of my top fives.
My Top Five Tips for New Hubbers
There are a lot of things I didn't know when I joined HubPages that I've figured out along the way, thanks to the good advice of some helpful hubbers. Here are my top five things that are important for all new hubbers to know:
1. Learn some SEO basics
I had no idea what SEO (search engine optimization) even stood for when I joined HubPages. I published articles without doing any keyword research – heck, I didn't know what that was either – and chose any old word or phrase for a hub's tags. At least I did know, because I read the HubPages FAQ (another must for new hubbers), that I was supposed to have at least two tags for each hub and ideally between six to ten. Eventually I came across a few hubs that put SEO into terms that made sense to me:
- The Importance of Learning SEO by Cloverleaf
- The Benefits of Using a Keyword Analysis Tool by Cloverleaf
- SEO Tips For People Who Hate SEO by Business Time
I started applying these techniques to my own hubs. Now, when I'm in the very early stages of drafting a hub, I spend time doing keyword research using the free Google keyword tool. I've also gone back to revise some of those early hubs to include better keywords and tags. It does make a difference in terms of traffic to my hubs. Here's a helpful guide on how to use the Google keyword tool:
- 5 Minute Guide to Keyword Research for Your Hubs by sashas89
2. Follow and be followed
Success on HubPages is in large part about gaining readership, and to gain readership you need to participate in the community. Read others' hubs, make comments, respond to comments on your hubs, participate in the forums (although I tend to avoid the political and religious forums, which can get downright nasty sometimes), ask and answer questions, and follow other hubbers whose work you admire.
Some new hubbers make the mistake of following a whole bunch of people right away, or automatically following everyone who follows them. Robert Erich has written a hilarious hub on why that sort of blind following isn't a good idea:
- My Hubscore is 1 by Robert Erich
The lesson to be learned from Robert is don't follow simply to be followed and don't mindlessly follow everyone who follows you. I follow those whose work interests me. When someone new follows me, I go to their profile page (it's important to maintain an engaging profile), read a few of their hubs, and leave a comment or two. If I like what I see, I will follow them back. If someone writes on topics that have no appeal to me, I don't follow that person, even if they write well. My time is too limited to spend reading things that don't interest me.
For those I do follow, I make it a point to read their work – maybe not every new hub, but as many as I can, leave thoughtful comments, and share the things I particularly like with my followers and on my social networks. Hopefully, my followers are doing the same for me. It's all about karma.
3. Don't lose your readers
Once you get readers to your hub, it's important to keep them there, with engaging content they will want to keep reading, photographs, maps, videos, etc. A common mistake many hubbers make is to send their readers away via a link in the hub that takes them off somewhere else in cyberspace, never to return again. This can be avoided by using a simple bit of HTML code to open your links in a new window. For people like me who still don't know what HTML means, this may sound complicated. It's not, and can be accomplished easily by using the HTML button that appears at the top left corner of the text box when you are editing a hub. Sinea Pies tells you everything you need to know in her helpful hub:
- Readers – How to Keep Them by Sinea Pies
4. Image is everything (or at least is pretty darned important)
The first few hubs I published were nothing but text, no images. I quickly realized that it's important to use relevant images and photos in hubs both to attract readers to the page and to keep them there. I since have gone back and added at least one image to all of my hubs, and many have five or more images so that they can be viewed as a slide show.
It's best to use original photos you have taken yourself. I keep my camera handy and take pictures of everything now, never knowing what image may spark a great idea for a hub. For example, a photo I took of a heart-shaped potato I dug out of the garden last fall was the inspiration for my most recent Hub of the Day, Celebrate Potato Lovers Month with Fun Facts, Tips and Recipes. I snap a few shots of almost every meal I cook in case I decide to write a recipe hub. (I've learned to ignore my husband's grumbling about dinner getting cold while I style the food.)
I'm considering taking a photography class so I can learn how to make my photos look more professional. In the mean time, I seek out tips from the many talented photographers here on HubPages. For example, Melovy recently shared some tips on food photography in this helpful hub:
If you don't have your own original photos to use, you can use other people's, but only if you have the rights to use them and attribute them properly. Miss Olive has compiled a great list of resources for free photos:
Make sure to check out the HubPages Learning Center for guides on how to attribute others' photos properly.
5. Protect your work from being stolen
There are some bad people out there, I've learned, people who will copy your work word for word and use it as their own. It's happened to me twice that I know of and each time the discovery that my work had been stolen was like a punch in the gut. Fortunately, I used the resources available to me on HubPages to get the issues resolved and the offending sites taken down. So what if this happens to you? Hubber lmmartin has written a useful guide:
- What to do when someone steals your written work by lmmartin
How do you find out your work has been stolen? In my two cases, I made the discovery when searching on keywords in my hubs to see where the hubs ranked in Google. I've since learned from Homesteadbound that a better way is to set up Google Alerts for each of your hubs. Read how in her useful hub:
- Protecting your Written Work Using Google Alerts by Homesteadbound
Read my Hubs of the Day
- DeborahNeyens on HubPages
View my profile page for a complete list of my Hubs of the Day and Hubnuggets.
Five Ways to Get Selected as Hub of the Day
I've had eight hubs selected as Hub of the Day. I know that doesn't make me a better writer than others here; I think it means only that I got the right person's attention at the right time. But I guess that does make me somewhat of an expert on what it takes to be selected, at least by virtue of being able to go back and analyze my own hubs to see what they had in common. From that analysis, I've compiled my top five ways to be selected as Hub of the Day:
1. Choose a topic on which you uniquely are qualified to write
This is probably the most important tip I can give you. I don't think it’s a coincidence that many of my Hubs of the Day were on topics about which only I could have written – a dinner party cooking competition my friends and I created, another dinner party idea I came up with and had been using for years for my neighborhood holiday party, a funny look at some of the cases I handled during my career as an employment attorney, a process for making and canning tomato sauce I have been using and refining for at least the last decade, my own butternut squash soup recipe I developed and have been tweaking for years. Even my two more general Hubs of the Day, about bacon and potatoes, were homages of sorts to two of my favorite cooking ingredients and included my own original recipes. If you want to be selected for Hub of the Day, find a topic you know a lot about and are passionate about and write your own original take on that topic.
2. Participate in the Weekly Topic Inspiration program and in contests
Each week, the HubPages staff suggests a new, search-friendly topic for hubbers to write about. Additionally, every few months there are special contests on HubPages, like the recently completed Know It All contest. Many hubs of the day are selected from contest entries and from the Weekly Topic Inspiration program. This was true for one of my Hubs of the Day, which was written in response to that week's call for Thanksgiving recipes.
3. Use original images
At least one image is required for a hub to be selected as Hub of the Day, but it seems those with original photos are selected more often than not. All of my selected hubs included at least one original photograph, and in most cases more than one. Increase your chances of being selected by including original photos in your hubs. Make sure they are relevant to the subject of your hub.
4. Make liberal use of relevant capsules
All of my Hubs of the Day included at least four different kinds of capsules. In addition to text, photo, and comments capsules, which appeared in all seven, they all included various combinations of polls, tables, link capsules, and Amazon capsules. Also consider using maps, videos, quizzes, and some of the new special layout options for recipe hubs.
5. Take the time to proofread and format your hub
All the fancy capsules and beautiful original photographs won't help you if your hub is full of spelling and grammar errors. Take the time to proofread before you publish. Also, use the preview feature found at the top of the screen when you are editing your hub to make sure it is laid out in a visually appealing way.
Five Hubbers Who Have Supported and Inspired Me
I appreciate each and every one of my followers and all the hubbers I follow. I've learned so much from each of you and have had many laughs (and even shed a few tears) reading your work and your comments. In keeping with my "five things" theme, I do want to mention five people who have provided support and inspiration over the last seven-plus months for which I am particularly grateful.
Arlene V. Poma: Arlene and I have been following each other almost from the beginning of my time on HubPages and she's the first person here I considered to be a friend. I realized that one night after my husband (who faithfully reads all my work) mentioned a comment to one of my hubs. I said, "Oh, that's Arlene. She's a friend of mine." That's when I knew you can be friends with someone you've never met and with whom you've interacted primarily by reading and commenting on each other's work. Arlene and I have a lot in common, from a love of cooking and craft beer to a fondness for travel and photography. If you are looking for a dose of good common sense and astute observations on life, Arlene is someone to read and get to know.
Jenubouka: Jenubouka uses her background as a professional chef to create some really fabulous food-related hubs. I learn something new about food and the culinary arts every time I read one. In fact, one of her excellent hubs inspired a hub of my own as a tribute. Jenubouka doesn't just write about food; you'll also find poetry, fiction, and even some science-related topics among her work. She's a thoughtful commenter, too, and has shown me a lot of support over the last several months.
J.S. Matthew: J.S. Matthew was one of the first people to welcome me to HubPages, one of my first followers, and the very first person ever to comment on one of my hubs (and kudos to him for finding something nice to say about that early, boring legal hub). A number of others also have mentioned how helpful he was when they were new hubbers, so he's clearly providing a great on-boarding service to the community. His support doesn't stop there; he's published numerous hubs on writing for HubPages and freelancing in general that continue to be great resources for me and many.
Randomcreative: Another of my early followers; I felt an instant bond with fellow-Midwesterner Rose, who as it turns out lived just down the road from me in Iowa City until not too long ago. She's awesomely creative and successful, too, with hubs regularly featured on the "hot" and "best" lists. I've bookmarked so many of her craft hubs that I won't be lacking for projects for quite some time.
Sunshine625: Linda has been a big supporter of mine both on and off HubPages. She's introduced me to a lot of other wonderful people on HubPages, too. Her cheerful disposition, as reflected in her up-beat hubs, truly can be a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.
My Own Top Five Hubs
I tend to fall in love with every hub I write, which may explain why three of my personal favorites are among my more recent hubs. Or maybe my hubs are getting better the more I write. In any event, here are my own five favorites from among my first 50:
Throw a "Chopped Challenge" Dinner Party: This was my first non-legal hub, first Hub of the Day, and first in my series of dinner party theme hubs. It's also my top hub in terms of all time page views.
Five Ways to Get Fired: One of my "five things" series, this is a humorous look at my former career as a corporate employment attorney. It also was a Hub of the Day and is my third best-performing hub of all time.
Grammy's Christmas Pie: This started out as a throw-away recipe hub for the Know It All contest, but became so much more as I retold a funny story from my childhood involving my grandmother, my mother, and me.
Women: Top Ten Signs You Are Old: This top 10 list is a departure from my "five things" series simply because I couldn't narrow my list down any further. It still makes me laugh, and some of the comments really crack me up, too.
Impressions and Images of a Costa Rica Vacation: I love to write about the places I visit, and HubPages provides a great outlet for that. I've written several travel-related hubs now, and this is my most recent. I also think it's my best. Someone seems to agree; it was the first of my hubs to attain a perfect 100 hubscore.
One of My Favorite Hub Images
The Reflections on 50 Poll
How long did it take you to reach 50 hubs?
And, finally, a song
This song from Death Cab for Cutie took on special meaning for me as I was making the decision to quit my job. I could no longer ignore the "burning in my heart" to write full time. When I got in the car to go to the office on my last day of work, this song came on the radio as if it had been queued up especially for the occasion. I took that as a sign I had made the right decision.