My Experiences Writing Online: Hubpages, One Year On
Recently I celebrated one year of writing on Hubpages. The year has certainly passed by very quickly. I have learned a lot - and still have an awful lot to learn. To celebrate my one year accolade, I thought this would be the perfect time to publish a hub reflecting my experiences so far.
To begin with, I would just like to add that I am in no way an expert on online writing. In fact, before I started writing on Hubpages, I had never written anywhere else on the internet. Actually I still haven't, although I do believe that broadening one's horizons is the best path to take - don't put all your eggs in one basket, and all that. Anyway, rather than proclaiming vast knowledge on the subject, my story is more a journey of stumbling along, and seeing what happens along the way. When I first signed up to the site, I had never even heard of the terms 'SEO' or 'backlinking'. These days, I do know what these are, but probably don't take a serious enough view of them.
I stumbled across Hubpages after being inspired by a print magazine article about ways to make money from home. With a child under two at the time, working outside of the home was difficult and I wanted to supplement my income without having to worry about childcare. The article in the magazine was more about blogging online than article publishing - it portrayed the story of a woman who made money writing about and taking photos of her outfits, shoes and handbags. Apparently, she had a huge following - in hindsight, I think that she probably began her fashion-blogging career when blogging was new and easier to earn from. Anyway, I did not have even the slightest inkling to follow in her footsteps.
But I have always been a writer, in the depths of my heart and soul. I enjoy writing, and what better way to spend your time than doing something you love. I love writing fiction and have been doing so from a young age, but I enjoy writing articles, too. The magazine article was the inspiration I needed to turn on my laptop and begin searching for online writing sites. Call me ignorant, but even though I had read many articles and reviews online and had often thought that it was something I would like to do, I did not realise that almost anyone can sign up with an online writing site and publish their work. I knew nothing about such sites, but did a fair bit of research and signed up with several. However, in the end, Hubpages was the only one that I ended up publishing on.
I chose Hubpages over other online writing sites because intuitively it felt like the best place for me. Earnings claimed by other hubbers indicated that the site was a better place to make money than sites such as Bukisa and Triond. Suite 101 gave the impression of a rather regimental and controlled place. Plus, Hubpages lets you remain in control of your own work, which is important to me. You can edit it, delete it, move it and do whatever you like with it. Squidoo seemed to be a bit like Hubpages, but I didn't like the pay structure.
I also liked the hugely diverse topics and writing styles found on Hubpages. I read work by some talented authors who really impressed me. Hubpages seemed like a friendly and helpful community. I quickly decided that spending the evenings writing hubs on my laptop was more fulfilling than watching TV.
Writing Product Hubs to Target Amazon Sales
As you can see from my profile page, a lot of my hubs are about products. In particular, I have written a great deal about children's toys - something I feel I am qualified to do so. I chose to begin by writing a lot of product reviews because it was clear from reading about the experiences of others that good product reviews can be a good way to earn money. I also considered my own use of the internet search engines - what did I spend most of my time searching for?
Well, aside from the odd news story and distractions from Facebook, my time online is mostly dedicated to reading other consumer's opinions about products I might want to buy. When I spend money on a product, be it for myself or a gift for someone else, I value other people's opinions, much more than any promotion campaign. As much as I love creative writing, I don't search for it online. If I want to read good fiction, I buy a book.
Writing Product Hubs to Target Amazon, and the Beginnings of Online Earnings
By writing product hubs I was hoping to target amazon sales. I began writing hubs in June and published 20 hubs in June and July. I did not, however, make a single sale.
In August I published a further 11 hubs and also saw my first earnings - a whopping $4.00, earned from 5 sales. I also had a few clicks from google adsense; however, the money made from these was very minimal.
In September I published 17 hubs, which is around a hub every other day and quite a high amount considering I do not often have a lot of spare time. I made just over $4.00 again, from 3 sales.
October showed a shift in earnings and sales from Amazon. Suddenly my hubs seemed to take off a bit more (although not even close to the league of many successful earners on hubpages). I made 21 Amazon sales this month, and over $23.00 This month was probably the turning point in my hubpages career - it showed me that profit can increase, and that if $23.00 can be made, then by increasing traffic that figure can also increase. During October I published 11 hubs, bringing the total amount published so far up to 59.
If October showed promise, then November showed an even bigger step up. From 73 Amazon sales, I earned $146.00, which really pleased me. Of course, this amount cannot compare with money earned from being employed, but since I wrote most of my hubs with my feet up on the sofa, TV on in the background and the freewill to stop and start work as I pleased, I thought it an excellent result. I published a total of 15 hubs in November.
It was, of course, to be expected that December would be the best month when it came to sales from Amazon, and I was very happy with the 115 sales I made that month - it earned me $225.00. I also published a further 10 hubs - quite low actually, but I was busy doing other things.
So, to sum up my hubpages experience so far, between June and December I published 84 hubs and earned a total of $404.00 as an Amazon affiliate, plus a further $94.00 from Google Adsense. Even if I earned nothing else for a year, it would still be enough to pay for all my Christmas presents! It should also be mentioned, and may be of particular interest to hubbers who ponder over how much traffic one needs to make money, that at my peak I have only had traffic levels of around 300 visits a day, across all my hubs. That peak, unsurprisingly, was right before Christmas and has since dropped.
Although my adsense clicks were minimal compared to the dollars I earned from Amazon, I was also almost at the $100 threshold at the end of 2010. In fact, I reached my target just a few days into the new year.
Writing as a Novice, Not an Expert
I remember someone once saying that anyone can make money on Amazon over the Christmas period. Whether that is actually true or not, I have no idea. But I was under no illusion - I knew full well that my sales would be sure to decline in the New Year. After all, most of them were about children's toys, and searches for toy reviews fall significantly after the hectic holiday shopping. As a parent, I know just how little I search online for toys at other times of the year, compared to November and December.
Not only that, but I would never claim to be anyone other than a novice writing on the internet. I have stumbled along, trying my best and then just sitting back and waiting to see what happens. I represent a very ordinary internet user, a mother with a young child looking for a way to make some extra money and then stumbling upon Hubpages. I am not an expert in SEO or backlinking, and I do not know much about page rank. In fact, technically I am pretty useless. I did backlink a few of my earlier hubs, to shetoldme, stumble upon and snipsley - just because some people said I should on the forums. However, I am unsure whether or not this has made any difference. I don't even have my google analytics set up properly. But then, this is a story of what can happen if you just happen to stumble across online writing without having any previous knowledge of earning money on the internet. This is a story that shows you can still earn money, in varying amounts, even if you are not an internet guru, seo genius or master of all things technical. Definitely it is not that easy, and it certainly takes a lot of time to build up a profile, but if you are hoping to make a few bucks by writing online, then there is no doubt that it can be done.
Everything that I now know about writing online - especially on Hubpages - I have learned from reading about other people's experiences and digesting advice posted on the Hubpages forums. Hubpages does have a fantastic community - well-established hubbers and those with experience of writing successfully online have been consistently supportive to new members and those with less experience. I feel this is one of the nicest aspects about the site - there is always someone around to help, and to shed light on any problems one might have.
Post Christmas Period on Hubpages: Earning in January and February
At first, as 2011 began, I decided to try and write about a few items for the home instead of toys. Kitchen items, in particular, were something I thought people might be searching for all year round. I wrote a few hubs like this, but never really felt I got that much from it. Sales were minimal.
I fully expected my earnings and traffic to fall right after Christmas, and of course they did. I still made $87.00 from 32 Amazon sales in January, however. This was actually more than I anticipated, given that I have never been a hubber with high traffic. I noticed that a lot of the products were items I had never promoted - I even sold some gourmet rice snacks! I also netted $19.00 from google adsense.
February saw a larger decline in earnings - 17 sales (almost half that of January) brought me $56.00 from Amazon and a further $17.00 from adsense. This amount of money was much lower than I wanted to see - my goal for earning online is an eventual monthly minimum amount of $350. Why? Well, this is the amount that would replace the part time job I worked at prior to having my second child. Of course, much greater earnings would be most welcome, but for now this is my goal.
Throughout the first two months of the new year I wrote a total of 19 hubs.
Panda Algorithm Change and Earnings From March Onwards
Towards the end of February 2011, Google introduced a new algorithm change commonly known as 'Panda'. Prior to the change, I had never heard of the term 'algorithm change'; since the beginning of March it feels as though I have done nothing else. Basically, Google devalued 'content farms' on its search engine results, and included Hubpages as one such site. The results of the change have meant that many hubs have lost their rankings, and thus have become harder to find for searchers.
Most hubbers have lost a large proportion of their traffic with the Panda algorithm change, and with it their earnings. Money is still being earned, but, it seems, not at the level it once was. Many hubbers have stopped publishing as frequently and some high profile writers have left altogether. Personally, my own earnings and traffic are down a considerable amount. My traffic currently sits at around a third of what it was at its Christmas peak. Some of that is due to the decline in internet shopping, I am sure. However, I am also sure that my numbers have been drastically affected by Panda. This is something that I feel very disappointed about - I have published many hubs since Christmas and currently have 125 altogether. Publishing new hubs, however, has not let to greater traffic levels or any increase in earnings. Hubpages itself claims to be working on solutions to rectify the losses caused by the algorithm change. So far, there does not seem to have been any improvement. I do, however, feel that the staff are working hard to bring back traffic and earnings.
In March I joined the Hubpages Ads Program, which meant that earnings were dependant on impressions rather than clicks. I liked the idea of this, since I haven't been hugely successful at obtaining clicks from Google Adsense ads. I think that the Hubpages Ads Program could produce a nice, steady amount for hubbers with a good level of traffic. My own traffic levels remain low, therefore I receive less than 50 cents per day. As of writing, I haven't even reached the $50 payout yet - in fact, I am only halfway there. In March I made 11 Amazon sales, bringing in $27.00 (my worst month to date since October). In fact, I only ended up with $22.00, because someone returned a guitar and I lost $5. I also made $12.00 from adsense. I only published 4 hubs during March - obviously a sign that my morale was low and I was not feeling motivated.
But if March was disappointing, then April hit a new low. I made just 10 sales from Amazon - not much diffferent to the previous month except that the products were cheap and commission only totalled $11.00. To top it off, Adsense only brought in $5.00. Nothing to write home about there. Typically, income from adsense does fall once you activate the hubpages ads. I did bring in a few dollars from the Hubpages Ads Programme, so in actual fact the combined amounts meant that the total was fairly close to the previous month.
You cannot miss the downwards spiral in earnings, though May was slightly up again, with $31.00 earned from 17 sales. Adsense was appalling at only around $5.00 again. Of course, these figures are nowhere near what I was hoping to see from my hard work and hours spent writing. I am an optimist, however, and in my heart I do believe that Hubpages will recover and that eventually I might accrue the income I was hoping for. Right now, I am rather a long way off the $350 per month that I had set as my goal. In fact, it is so far off it is a bit like trying to pluck a star out of space. Still, some money is better than no money, and by publishing on Hubpages I still get to do the very thing I enjoy the most - writing. Every time I publish a hub, I feel a sense of achievement, and I enjoy waiting for the hub to realize its potential. Some of my hubs have links from organisations, such as a summer camp for children. I feel quite proud to think that they thought my hub worthy enough to publish the link on their site.
Just for the record, June is turning out to be the worst month of all this year, with only 4 Amazon sales to date and commission totalling $15.00. Earnings from the Hubpages Ads Program are barely worthy of a mention; the same is true for adsense. I, however, plan on staying with Hubpages and I do intend to continue publishing on this site. After all, I am useless with technology, as I previously mentioned. I like the layout here, and I have become used to it.
I Still Prefer Amazon
As far as earning money is concerned, I still prefer to target Amazon sales. I think that, for me, it remains my best chance of improving my earnings. People will always search for products online, and the money accrued from just one sale is usually worth a significant number of adsense clicks or ad impressions. The aspect I like best about Amazon is the fact that anything a customer purchases after entering Amazon through your product link is credited to your account. For someone like myself, with fairly low traffic levels, Amazon can be far more of a success than any of the other affiliate programs if you write well-targeted hubs.
I have really enjoyed my first year at Hubpages and look forward with anticipation (and a bit of hope) to see how the next twelve months pans out. It has been an interesting and educational experience, and I also feel it has improved my writing skills - in particular my ability to put together an article more quickly. Here's to the future.