Fixing the 'Questions' Section on HubPages - Some Suggestions

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  1. Paul Maplesden profile image76
    Paul Maplesdenposted 11 years ago

    All of us that have visited the question section know that much of the content there is of very questionable quality. It's difficult to see how many of the questions really contribute to the community or discussion on HubPages at all, ranging as they do from mediocre to banal.

    Of course, there are some gems in there; insightful, well-reasoned, supported questions, with great, well thought out answers. I also understand that the Questions section is a valuable place for newbies to ask questions and get responses.

    However, we know that Google indexes these pages as a whole and applies penalties due to thin, invalid or questionable content on a site; I would imagine that some problems with HPs performance in organic search could be alleviated by sorting out some of the problems in the questions area.

    I've given quite a bit of thought to potential solutions, as you’ll see below. I'm not suggesting that all or some of these need to be implemented, I'm just offering a starting point for discussion from someone relatively new to the community and trying to offer a rational, objective way to begin to solve the problem.

    But, where do we start? Well, I have a few ideas:

    As far as I can see, there are five main types of people that ask questions on HP:

    1. New hubbers that want answers to specific hub related questions (e.g. issues with AdSense, getting traffic etc.)
    2. Other hubbers conducting genuine research or gathering opinions, perhaps for a hub or other article
    3. People that have interest in a particular topic and want to ask questions about it
    4. People that want to make money off of the ads that appear with questions
    5. People that are bored and just like posting 'stuff'

    Any solution needs to deal fairly with people in the first three categories and reduce people in the last two (as it's questions in those categories that are generally the worst offenders.)

    What are the ways that we could improve the 'Questions' area?

    I think there are several:

    i. Have much clearer links to existing resources
    ii. Limit the number of questions that can be asked over a specific period of time
    iii. Force people to categorise - Why are they asking the question?
    iv. Archive / No Index questions after a specific period of time
    v. Have a section of 'Great' questions as a knowledge base that people can visit (as voted by hubbers)
    vi. Remove advertising from some / all questions (reducing incentive to post for monetary reasons)

    I'll go through each of these in turn:

    i. Have much clearer links to existing resources

    - Before people ask questions, there should be very clear links to the Learning Center and the most popular tutorials there (we all know the ones, get me traffic, get me approved for adsense etc.)
    - There could also be links to relevant forum threads as well as other questions
    - Make people tick a box saying that they have reviewed the LC, other questions and forum threads before continuing. (I know it already asks about looking at other questions, but this could be expanded out)

    ii. Limit the number of questions that can be asked over a specific period of time

    Some people often post lots of questions in a short period of time, in effect 'spamming' the question section; again, not ideal for Google algorithms or user experience; we could reduce this by placing a limit on the number of questions that could be asked, perhaps based on Hubber score as follows:

    Score: 0-25 - At most 1 a day, no more than 3 in a week
    Score 26-50 - At most 1 a day. no more than 7 a week
    Score 51 - 75 - At most 2 a day, no more than 10 a week
    Score 76+ - At most 2 a day, no more than 14 a week

    That would make people really have to think about the questions that they're asking and would also incentivize them to ask questions that are likely to get lots of views / responses as it will only be those that get ad revenue.

    I know that some newbies will have lots of questions that need to be answered and might have lower HubScores, so we can direct them to the appropriate sections on the forums / learning center as necessary.

    iii. Force people to categorise / ask themselves why they are asking the question

    There could be an option that asks *why* people are asking the question in the first place, e.g.:

    - This is a HubPages related question
    - I have a problem that I need an answer to
    - I'm doing some research for a hub / article
    - I want to hear other's views on this / curious
    - I'm bored

    etc. The answer to this question could then be used to rate the overall quality of the question. Perhaps some types of questions don't get ads shown on them...

    iv. Archive / No Index questions after a specific period of time

    Once a certain amount of time passes, a question automatically gets archived, no indexed and removed from the questions stream to elsewhere; this archival / no index could be based on the following:

    - Unanswered questions - Archived after 1 week
    - Questions because I'm bored - Archived after 2 weeks
    - Questions because I'm curious - Archived after 3 weeks
    - Questions from problems - Archived after 4 weeks
    - Questions about hubpages - Archived after 2 months

    When questions are archived, they also have the ads removed from them.

    This would then remove all of those thin content quality questions from Google's index, helping the site as a whole. This could also be done alongside...

    ...v. Have a section of 'Great' questions as a searchable knowledgebase

    Just as there are some poor questions and answers in the 'Questions' section, there are also some great ones, with well thought out, thorough and interesting answers.

    The best of these (perhaps as voted on by hubbers or some other means) could become part of a permanent 'Questions and Answers Knowledge Base' that exists alongside the current Learning Center. This would become an additional resource for hubbers and questions / answers could be categorised into relevant sections (again, possibly by vote from hubbers). Sections could include: Getting Traffic, getting approved for AdSense etc.

    This knowledge base would not be no index / archived and would be searchable by Google (and also possibly have ads in it so that people that ask great questions continue to get a few pennies from ad revenue, incentivizing more of us to ask questions that solicit great responses).

    vi. Remove advertising from all / some / some types of questions

    I'm certain that the fact people can earn small amounts from ads on questions without having to go through QAP is one of the reasons there are so many; one way to get around this might be to put some checks in and only enable ads when certain crieria are met, e.g:

    1. HubberScore is above x
    2. Average hub score is above x
    3. Only get ads on first x number of questions posted by you in a week
    4. Only get ads if they come under a certain category
    5. No ads on archived / no indexed questions

    These are all just ideas that I want to throw into the pot to generate more discussion. I think we all want to work together to make HubPages a better place for all of us, including getting us better search engine results, so I am sure any suggestions would be welcome!

    Thanks for listening,

    Paul M.

    1. Kathryn Stratford profile image90
      Kathryn Stratfordposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      Wow, this is a very thorough set of suggestions. You must have put a lot of thought into it.
      I've only been here for a few weeks, so didn't understand the Questions section much until today. Very interesting.

  2. Horatio Plot profile image75
    Horatio Plotposted 11 years ago

    Wouldn't it be possible to archive/no index/idle certain Hubbers instead? Might be easier.

  3. Simone Smith profile image87
    Simone Smithposted 11 years ago

    Thanks so much for sharing such thoughtful suggestions, Paul Maplesden!

    I am happy to say we're in the midst of working on:
    "i. Have much clearer links to existing resources"

    And that we already:
    "iv. Archive / No Index questions after a specific period of time"

    But I especially love the idea of asking people WHY they are asking questions and redirecting those asking for HubPages-related help or to spark a conversation get redirected to our help guides / the forums.

    I've taken note of *all* of these ideas and will bring them up in the next community meeting I attend.

    P.S. (Questions having "questionable quality" = playfully put. Yay!)

    1. Paul Maplesden profile image76
      Paul Maplesdenposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      'P.S. (Questions having "questionable quality" = playfully put. Yay!)'

      As a Brit, I have to retain a certain level of tongue-in-cheek decorum wink

      1. AMFredenburg profile image71
        AMFredenburgposted 11 years agoin reply to this

        I like the idea of asking "Why are you asking this question?" too. If the answer is displayed and the question categorized for the readers to see, that would be helpful, too, so the reader could decide whether to focus on that question or move on, at least at that time.

    2. Howard S. profile image89
      Howard S.posted 11 years agoin reply to this

      This is news to me. What is the specific period of time? I periodically go back to my earlier questions to close one or select a best answer. The only reason I leave some of them is for the penny-views. It would be nice to know that I'm wasting time with most of them. How long before they are no-indexed?

      Just like when you removed tags. I would be embarrassed to tell you how much time I spent researching similar tags within HubPages when I start a new hub. I sincerely wished you had told us a year ago or whenever your algorithm actually stopped using them. Sometime before the page format change, those tags had actually determined which "related hubs" were associated with mine, especially in HubPages searches.

    3. Marisa Wright profile image86
      Marisa Wrightposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      It's good to know they're no-indexed.   

      It would be great to have a line somewhere that says something like "got questions about Hubbing?  we recommend you ask them in the forums" (with a link to the appropriate thread).

  4. tillsontitan profile image82
    tillsontitanposted 11 years ago

    Some of the questions asked are totally ingenious...others that seem empty or silly sometimes spark hubs as people see them as an inspiration.  I've been on HP for almost two years and had no idea asking questions generated any kind of income from the asker.  I think one of the biggest qualifiers is how many answers a question gets.  For example, if after three weeks a question only has one or two answers, it's not something people are interested in and could then be removed or moved to a "dead questions" area.  Just my opinion.

  5. Marcy Goodfleisch profile image84
    Marcy Goodfleischposted 11 years ago

    I agree with the concerns here and on another Questions thread that's currently active.  As one person put it, Google can't tell the difference between a Q&A page and a hub.  For that matter - I'm not sure Google can tell the difference between a profile and a hub - which may be an even bigger issue.

    Twice in the past several months, I posted questions, because we were somewhat encouraged to do so.  Both times, my traffic took a nosedive.  So I'm reluctant to use that section (as in, creating questions) at this time. 

    Many of the questions posted are drivel - they're immature, have no information value, and are either space-fillers for someone trying to use HP as a social site or are weak efforts by someone wanting to up their views & revenue here. 

    Unlike Yahoo (or even our hubs), there are no categories llisted in an easily accessed place.  It appears this section of the site may have been a way to mimic the popular Yahoo Answers thing, but it doesn't seem to be working well, and is not fully integrated into this site.  People go to Yahoo to see threads about various topics.  I doubt that happens here, because the real meat of this site is in hub content.

  6. Howard S. profile image89
    Howard S.posted 11 years ago

    iii.) Categorizing is there, but I wish that it were possible--as with a hub--to change the category after a time. I am a professional copy editor, so when I caught an error in the legalese from my bank, I posted a question quizzically in a language category, intending to change it to banking after a week or two. Can't do it. I can't even reply to it, giving the correct answer. No replies recognized it as an editing problem; all tried to second-guess the intention of the banking industry.

  7. melbel profile image94
    melbelposted 11 years ago

    I would like to see questions that ACTUALLY ask questions. Whenever I ask a question (which is usually something I've keyword researched), I get something like "Google it. Why are you asking that here." My personal reason for asking a question is so that Google searchers can find it.

    However, it seems users don't have an issue with, "What do you want for your next birthday?" "What's your favorite ice cream flavor?" Stuff that neither the asker, the answerer, or Google searchers really care about.

    I don't comment on these questions, though, and say, "Hey, your question is dumb." I figure HubPages is already negative enough and perhaps the person will eventually find that there's (probably) not much profit in asking those types of questions.

    I, on the other hand, get (and see on other questions) a lot of rude, "Why are you asking that here? You should just get off your *** and Google it" responses.

    I think people would be more likely to ask profitable questions if there weren't "Google it" question police.

    Again, I ask questions purely for traffic (and thus I keyword research my questions which is WHY "Google it" is a likely response... it's a question that is intentionally perfect to search for on Google.) Not that I really make much from my questions, but, when I ask them, I keyword research them, because, hey, a few of them have worked out.

  8. WriteAngled profile image75
    WriteAngledposted 11 years ago

    There is one major problem with the Q+A set up here: it does not result in mutual benefit to those asking and those answering.

    The person answering the question in the answer box gets no reward for it, while the person asking can potentially earn money through views if searchers stumble on the question in search results.

    Therefore, there is no incentive to produce a researched and well thought-out answer unless it is extensive enough to be turned into a hub, since a hub will have its own revenue potential.

    However, presumably if an answer is submitted in the the form of a hub, this will take precedence in search results over the question, since it has more content, and thus will deprive the person asking the question of potential income from the question.

    Therefore, there is no incentive, unless it is a question to which the asker genuinely wants an answer, to ask questions which could generate answers detailed enough to form a hub.

    With such a situation, it is not surprising that most questions and answers are unsatisfactory.

    One possible way around the dilemma would be to have questions set up so it is only possible to answer them in the form of a hub. Obviously this would limit the questions asked to those which require a detailed answer.

    The asker could then be rewarded by being given a share of that hub's revenue.

    Provided this was made very clear when someone started to answer a question with a hub, I think it would be a fair scheme. After all, authors who do not wish to share revenue have the freedom to generate their own hub ideas rather than look for them in the Q+A section.

  9. tillsontitan profile image82
    tillsontitanposted 11 years ago

    Many hubbers do take questions and answer them in a hub.  They always turn out to be interesting hubs!

    1. WriteAngled profile image75
      WriteAngledposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      I know.

      The point I am trying to make is that this probably then decreases the asker's revenue because the hub will take priority.

      Therefore, if someone is asking questions just as a way to get revenue, rather than because they want an answer, such a question will be less useful to them. They would be better off making a note of the question and producing a hub on it themselves at some point rather than throwing it out to the world.

  10. wjack2010 profile image60
    wjack2010posted 11 years ago

    When i was still writing Hubs here, I used to base as many Hubs as I could around questions, they were just more likely to be read.

    One move is, completely block search engines on the Questions pages, using a no-index tag.


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