Hub Pages One Hundred Report Card
100 Dollar Bill
It's my party and I'll yawn if I want to
On July 31st, 2016, I celebrated the publication of my 100th article on Hub Pages. I got a neat little medal on my feed that looked like a Purple Heart /Iron Cross hybrid, but other than that the event quickly vanished into obscurity. One gracious person commented upon the achievement, probably out of politeness. Then the deed vanished like a popped balloon at the yawnfest party it spawned, attended by me and that one well wisher, where we sat making awkward small talk in an echoing, empty party hall until we could find a polite excuse to leave.
Truth is, by Hub Pages standards 100 is not much of a feat. For three and a half years of service, 100 hubs is a meager output. My Urban Farmer friend Bill in Olympia has 1,151 hubs to his credit in four years and counting, and he'll probably write four more before I launch this. My Preacher friend Eric, living across the lake from me in the lovely, verdant, blooming garden spot of Spring Valley, so close I could hit him with a rock if the wind was blowing right, has produced 714 articles. The writing output of these two gentlemen is breathtaking, stupendous. In comparison, my own efforts are downright embarrassing, and I offer no excuses or explanations. Yes, I have a full time job, but Farmer Bill has five or six things going on at once in addition to writing, and Preacher Eric has a dynamo of a young son bouncing off the walls. Anyone who has fathered children knows what kind of work that is.
Therefore, I am not writing this article in celebration of 100 hubs, but to give an update on my Hub Pages experience to date. What have I learned? How is Hub Pages changing? What does the future hold? Should I cut losses and bail from this crazy train before it derails?
100 Hubs Accolade, but Where is My Missing Medal?
Fish For Your Niche
The most important thing I have learned here at Hub Pages is to find a niche, crawl inside, then defend it like a snarling, hissing wildcat backed into a corner.
Truth is, I invented my Mel Carriere alter ego here three years ago with such a Postal niche in mind. Although it was slow to gather steam, the idea is now bearing some scrawny but tasty fruit.
To analyze the performance of my niche vs. non niche hubs, I made an Excel spreadsheet. This might not fit into your conception of what a dude who humps the mail in the hot sun does after hours, but I pretty much spreadsheet everything in life, from what I had for dinner to the makes and models of birds I spy. Perhaps my spreadsheet obsession is why I can't get any writing done.
I copied and pasted my Hub Pages stats into Excel, then collated some pretty interesting data from it. It turns out I have published 55 niche (postal-related) hubs. That's exactly 55% of the 100, for the mathematically challenged.
22 out of my AP top 25 hubs come from this postal niche. It is not until the 11th spot that one of my non-niche hubs cracks the top 25 in traffic. What really astounds me, however, because I never realized the extent of the niche domination, is that niche hubs account for 91.1% of total traffic to date. My top 10 alone bring in 71.8%.
If my hub followers scratch their heads and wonder why I continue to write these postal yawners no one can relate to, there's your answer. I love you all and I value our interaction, but the truth is that my non-niche hubs, like the one you're reading, are mostly going to fall on deaf ears. You're checking in tit for tat, just like I'll read yours quid pro quo, but outside Hub Pages this will die a slow and lonely death in cyberspace.
On the other hand, lots of people read my Postal hubs. I have cultivated a large cadre of Postal Employee followers on Facebook, and they are the folks who keep the lights on and the 40 weight motor oil coffee hot in my dilapidated, low rent writing closet.
100 Years Of Solitude
Get Your Niche on a Niche
When I use the word "niche" among Hub Pagers these days, I have to qualify it. When I spoke of "niche" in the preceding section, I was referring to my personal writing niche, a specific specialized territory I have delineated for myself, staking a claim along a small stretch of a potentially ore bearing stream. On the other hand, a few months ago Hub Pages introduced the fabulous new "niche," or "vertical" websites (or is that horizontal?). Whatever dimension they properly belong to, each site caters to a specific range of topics.
In the grander Hub Pages Universe, where I am but one obscure, uncharted rocky planet in a vast cosmos filled with supernovas, "niche" has multiple connotations, the concept producing different reactions from different people. Here is what the "Niche Site" term means to me.
When I heard of their impending creation, I scratched my head and ignored the announcement as unrelated to me. The news then became immediately relevant when I received an email saying that one of my hubs was being moved to a niche site, but would be clipped first!
This immediately set off a knee-jerk firestorm of protest in the vestigial reptilian portion of my brain that governs the staking out and maintenance of territory. I am extremely possessive of my meager body of work here, and don't want any holier or smarter than thou do-gooder with a dictionary editing my stuff without permission. I was indignant, because my hubs are my babies. I immediately fired off an angry email to Hub Pages staff asking how they could have the audacity to meddle with the way I raise my children.
When I saw what "clipping" actually entailed, I calmed down. For the most part, Amazon capsules had been cut out. That's okay, they are not good for much besides decoration. A word or two had also been chopped off a title here and there, but my hub titles are lengthy, verbose behemoths that probably profited from streamlining. In one case, the clippers corrected a misspelled word that had escaped me, even after three edits. Mr. or Mrs. Clipper brought to my attention that there is no such thing as a Flag-Riaser. The correct term is Flag-Raiser. Thank you Mr. or Mrs. Hub-Pruner, you veritable beautician of the writing world, you mower of literary lawns, you. Thank you for using your hub disinfectant sparingly, so as to not sterilize the vibrant, wriggling, beneficial bacteria along with the bad germs.
The thing that really sold me on the niche preparation process was that my hub traffic, and consequent earnings, increased significantly afterward. In May my earnings doubled. In June they quadrupled, thanks also in part to a hub was a big hit among my postal friends. July was not as lucrative as June, but was still about treble my pre-niche earnings. The early returns for August also look promising.
I don't know why the Vertical Sites make a difference. Could my improved traffic be coincidental? My Postal articles that were doing well before are doing much better on the niche sites. On the other hand, my non-postal articles moved to the niche sites continue to be ignored by the alleged larger audience over there. For some hubs it has worked well, for others not. Perhaps Google indexes the niche hubs higher, meaning that articles that were already getting traffic are now going to get more. Who understands the necessary spells and dark magic that go into these things? Altogether, I can't complain about the result.
100 Years War
Rate Your Experience
Is your Hub Pages life better since the advent of the niche sites?
Pennies from Niche Heaven, or Grab the Dough and Go?
So what are my future plans for Hub Pages? Will I simply accept the status quo and dive for passive income pennies that fall my way, or should I start picking pockets for better bucks?
I believe in the adage that if you don't go forward, you go backward. For this reason, I would like my non-niche hubs to do better. I take a great deal of pleasure writing them, but it would be real spiffy if they could pull their weight.
What I refuse to do is sacrifice creativity for Search Engine Optimalization. It would be more fun writing obituaries than painstakingly piecing together stale, SEO-friendly sleep aids. About three years ago, that same sage Urban Farmer friend said writers need to breathe without the SEO oxygen tank. I take these words as my mantra. It's good sometimes to take a long hit off that tank, though.
One can skillfully employ SEO and have fun writing. Trying to be witty and entertaining might not grab you the top spot on Google, but it can get you on the bottom of page one or the middle of page two and still bring decent traffic, using the right title and keywords. Of course, SEO doesn't do any good if 5000 writers are using the same worn out search phrases. I think the key is to find a phrase that is almost exclusively ones own, but still popular enough to draw traffic. I have found one or two such words, but the trick of expanding this beyond my postal niche evades me. The answer is jammed in the back of my brain, where the practicality pipes are clogged from disuse. Someday I'll get a plunger in there to get the water flowing, but for the time being proper SEO remains a mystery.
I think the message I want to shout to the Hub Pages Universe can be conveyed in two words - "DON'T QUIT!." I almost abandoned the site for Bubblews once because of abysmally low earnings, and what a disaster that turned out to be. Hub Pages is not a place where you are going to make money overnight, unless you are some SEO Messiah who can turn water into wine, or toilet paper into hundred dollar bills. But the laws of probability dictate that one day you will stumble upon your winning formula either by trial and error, or by complete accident. In the meantime, stick around. Fumbling about here in the dark you are liable to stub your literary toe, but there are scads of lovable, cuddly people to help get you through the night.