Screenshot, Feb. 2010.
Is Hubpages a scam?
HubPages is a well-known website that is marketed as a way for people to earn money and/or promote their businesses by writing articles / creating webpages called "hubs". Scam is a strong word--it communicates deliberate dishonesty with an intent to profit. I don't think I'd go as far as to outright say that HubPages is a scam, however, I don't like the way the website is run, and after experimenting with it, I chose not to participate in it.
When I signed up for HubPages, I felt like there was a certain spirit of dishonesty in how the site was presented to potential authors in an attempt to recruit them to write and publish on the site. This selective presentation of information involved failing to mention certain key facts about how the site works, facts that would probably drive many users away from contributing to the site. I think honestly is more than just making each statement be literally true--I think it involves having the big picture you are presenting be accurate and consistent on a deep level.
My experience with HubPages:
I used signed up for HubPages primarily as a way of letting people know about a tea rating and review website I designed, RateTea. At the time, I had had some success using other sites, especially EzineArticles, to drive traffic to my websites.
After signing up for hubpages and using it briefly, I started to wonder whether or not the site was a scam, once I began to understand both its policies and practices, and the way they were presented. After some time, I deleted my hubs and my account, and started searching for discussion of hubpages being a scam. I found many articles written by the most successful hubpage users, hosted on Hubpages, talking about how HubPages is not a scam--this said something to me...if it weren't a scam, why would its users need to be so defensive about it? Disappointed with the material out there, I decided to write this page to offer a more balanced perspective.
Why was I interested in Hubpages to begin with?
Besides writing material on cazort.net and various blogs, I am an active author and contributor on a number of interactive websites. I also have designed and maintain two interactive websites, including a site for tea ratings & reviews. I'm eager to participate in various online communities in order to see how they work so that I can hone my own skills. I am interested in the interface and technical components as well as the business model.
It is the business model of hubpages that I think tends in a scammy direction. This model, and certain key policies and features about how the site works, are downplayed, unmentioned, and hidden from users in the official documentation. I think the fundamental basis of the business model is to foster competition between users in order to spark contribution of more material, when only a small portion of users are receiving any worthwhile compensation.
What does HubPages share in common with outright scams?
Hubpages draws people in and motivates them to contribute writing to their website, but it is not up front about its scoring system and its use of the "nofollow" attribute as a punitive measure to coerce users into continually contributing new material by threatening to take away the search engine value of links in the hub. As of Feb. 2010, their homepage boldly reads: "Publish easily, Attract readers, & Earn rewards". The "rewards" are:
- Earning income through Google Adsense
- Links to your website(s)
- Traffic to your website(s)
Does hubpages deliver traffic?
My own personal experience is that I received no traffic--zero visits--through hubpages, in spite of the number of views on my hubs approaching 100. This is in stark contrast to other self-publishing websites which, at the very least, provided a few visits shortly after publishing new material. Ezinearticles.com, for example, averages a click-through rate of over 6% for me, and is often higher (12-15%) for the first article views. Buzzle had a lower rate but was still measurable in the first few days of publishing a new article.
Does Hubpages have SEO (Search Engine Optimization) value, by providing links?
Yes, but only for top users. What hubpages does not tell you when you sign up is that the links in your hubs have a "nofollow" link added to them if your author score is below a certain threshold. Furthermore, even if your hubs have had the "nofollow" attribute removed by exceeding this threshold, the minute your author score drops below the threshold, "nofollow" is immediately reapplied. Hubpages does not mention this policy in their help documentation, and in fact, the explanation of the policy is left to speculation among users, who write a number of "hubs" and forum posts about it. Most discussion seems to say the cutoff is 75 out of 100.
Getting above this threshold requires a considerable investment of time and effort on a continuous basis, because of how the score is calculated. However, like the cutoff, Hubpages does not openly publish how the Hubscore is calculated. This highlights how the company's business model is based on withholding information, and begs the question: if there weren't something objectionable about the algorithm, why wouldn't they be open about publishing it?
From what I've read (which is nowhere backed by systematic studies, it is only anecdotal evidence, nearly all on hubs or the Hubpages forums--which makes me wonder how much it can be trusted), 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.
Fostering competition with other users:
Hubpages calculates your author score based on the popularity of the pages (hubs) you author. The score of each hub is based on the traffic to the hub, and is calculated relative to other hubs in the same category. Users are thus pitted against each other in competition for the highest scores--the system thus guarantees losers. What this means for you is that your hub scores (and author score) will drop over time unless you continually edit your hubs, write new hubs, or put effort into networking with other users or promoting your hubs on other sites...and if you don't do this, hubpages will slap a "nofollow" attribute on your links, making it so that these links do not benefit your website with respect to search engine optimization (even if the links are generating traffic to your site). The competitive aspect of the site is a brilliant but unethical business model that exploits human psychology to drive users to work to enrich Hubpages.
Abuse of the rel="nofollow" attribute:
The rel="nofollow" attribute was invented as a way to discourage or control spam, mostly spam links in blog comments, and it also has a legitimate use in identifying affiliate links (for example with the link to 1and1 internet below). Read Google's explanation of rel="nofollow" for more information on the history and purpose of this tag.
Using nofollow as an incentive, and adding it after the fact (as a punitive measure to punish users who don't meet Hubpages unwritten policies of what is "good enough"), is an abuse of this attribute. Furthermore, the fact that Hubpages deliberately hides and downplays this policy, and does not clearly explain exactly how hubscore is calculated, shows their dishonesty--they want to rope people in, getting them to sign up, and then they want them to learn about this policy only when they've invested considerable effort in writing hubs. They then want to pit users of the site against each other, competing to drive traffic to the site in order to keep their author scores up. Hubpages prominently displays the hubs with the highest hub scores...so new people to the site see a lot of hubs that are performing well, but they don't see all the failed hubs, all the users who have put hours of time in and haven't gotten much in return. All the time, HubPages is deriving profit from hubs, including ones with "nofollow" links on them. Why work so hard to enrich someone else? There are numerous other websites that allow you to reap the full benefits of your work--and that do not require continual work in order for a live, dofollow link to be permanently added in your pages or articles.
Alternatives to Hubpages:
- The most similar site to HubPages was Squidoo, which unfortunately declined, closed, and had some of its pages merged into HubPages. Squidoo was very similar in structure, but the site was more generous about allowing live hyperlinks to your sites. Squidoo also had been designed so as to create a supportive and positive community, and the culture of the site is much less competitive and much more supportive, making it both a more enjoyable place to publish, and a better place to learn and grow as a writer or web publisher.
- For writing articles to promote your website, I recommend Ezinearticles, running a blog, and/or writing guest posts on other blogs.
- For earning income through advertising, I recommend either creating a blog or hosting your own website. For hosting I recommend 1and1 internet (affiliate link).
- Blog services I recommend are Blogger, Wordpress, and LiveJournal. All three have both free and paid options. There are many other good blogging platforms out there--another good option is to install the wordpress software on your own website.
All of these options have the benefits of having permanently dofollow links. In addition, blogging or hosting your own site also have the benefit of reaping the full revenue from advertising, as compared to the partial amount (about 60%?) that Hubpages allows you to earn.
Thank you for reading!
If you read this far, I am impressed. If you agree with the conclusions of this article, please share it and help spread the word. Also, you may want to boycott hubpages by refraining from linking to them, by deleting your hubs and account (and if you'd like, putting the same material up on another website), and by adding your own "nofollow" attribute whenever you do link to hubpages.
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