What I’ve Learned about HubPages

Which is the better writing site? Squidoo or HubPages? Where can you earn the most with your writing? In which atmosphere will you be most likely to thrive? Maybe this comparison will help you decide.

I'm a Squidoo LensmasterBack in 2009 I started a series in which I introduced the various on-line writing communities I belong to. I got as far as Squidoo and stopped.  I stopped because I got so busy writing at Squidoo that I lost interest in the other communities. Now, after becoming a member of the Giant Squid 100 Club and becoming a Squidoo angel, I decided to go back and take a closer look at HubPages. I had not really done much on the site, and I wanted to determine if it was a good fit for me. It has much in common with Squidoo, and I read a very good hub that compares the two sites. You might want to look at Hubpages vs Squidoo if you are not familiar with one or both sites for writers and those who would like to be.  It is objective and will give you a viewpoint other than mine. Its only fault is that it’s not up to date, so I decided to write an update on the recent changes at Squidoo.

Today I would like to discuss what I have learned about HubPages and its potential for earning income by writing. In August, 2009, I wrote four hubs at HubPages on unrelated topics. Then I moved back to Squidoo, and didn’t come back to HubPages until September, 2010. A writing contest lured me back. I was extremely lucky and won a total of $150 in prizes for this hub: Great Short Hikes in San Luis Obispo County. I decided there might be a future for me at HubPages after all. After writing a couple more hubs about living in wine country, I concentrated my time at Squidoo again to participate in a Rocket Moms session. For the past two weeks, most of my time and writing energy has been focused on HubPages so that I could  learn more about the community. I spent several hours over two days reading all the hubs that would help me get more familiar with the policies, tools, people, and techniques on the HubPages site.

One happy discovery was that they had added a few more writing capsules to work with . When I first joined there was no poll, no quiz, no table, no map capsule, and no video capsule. These new tools make writing a creative hub much easier.  One reason I like Squidoo so much is that it has so many different types of modules or lens building blocks.

Another thing I found at HubPages were many fine writers, and I read as much by them about the HubPages Community as I has time for.  I begin to interact in the comments on interesting hubs, and was reminded again how much more interactive the comments section of hubs is than the guest book on Squidoo lenses. Hub authors not only read and approve comments as lensmasters on Squidoo always do, they return to reply to most comments, and conversations start. This doesn’t happen as much on Squidoo. It does happen on Gather, which is a cross between a social networking and a writing site, but many people on Gather leave generic comments just to collect points and a comment like “nice” doesn’t inspire many replies. I will discuss Gather in a future post.

So, if we are comparing Squidoo and HubPages, a writer will find more varied writing tools at Squidoo than at HubPages, but he will find more interaction on his hubs than he might on lenses at Squidoo. As a writer, I find this refreshing, since every writer thrives on feedback. A writer wants to know he’s been read and understood, or to have a chance to clarify if his reader has not understood something he wrote.

A very subtle difference between the two sites is Squidoo’s emphasis on charity. Most contests at Squidoo give half your prize to the charity of your choice — as long as you choose a charity they partner with.  You are encouraged to give at least some portion of what you make through your writing to one of these charity partners. Because so many do give some or all of their Squidoo earnings to Squidoo charity partners, you can feel a great deal of pressure to do likewise, whether you can afford it or not.  It’s the same kind of guilt you might feel when you see solicitors collecting for the homeless as you enter the supermarket.   You might rather feed the hungry in your own community through a local program than donate to the charities  Squidoo partners with, but there is a certain amount of pressure if you’ve been around Squidoo long, to donate parts of your lens earnings to their charity partners.

At HubPages, it’s more like any other kind of job in that it’s assumed that the main reason you are there is to earn money, and there’s no pressure to give part of it away by donating all or a percentage of your hub earnings automatically to anyone through your hubs. That’s up to you when you get it. If you want to tithe it to your church or give it to the local animal shelter or homeless program, it’s up to you.

The policies at HubPages reflect the reality that most people work for pay as well as satisfaction and that they naturally tend toward self-interest . Example. If you are a salesman (and most squids and hubbers are affiliate salespeople, if only for Amazon), you don’t normally encourage your prospective customers to go to the store down the street to buy a product you also sell. Squidoo encourages lensmasters to do something very similar by encouraging them to link to other people’s lenses and recommend them. This is supposed to promote cross-traffic. But affiliate programs normally leave a cookie on a visitor’s computer so that when he makes a purchase, the affiliate (the one who wrote the lens or hub) gets a small commission. It is the owner of the last site through which a visitor clicks who gets paid, even if the review he first  read on a previously visited site actually convinced him to buy. Let’s say Jim is thinking of buying an I-MAC. He does a search and lands on Pete’s Squidoo lens with a great review of an I-MAC.  He is pretty sure he wants one and has already clicked through to check it out at Amazon. He comes home after work and goes back to the lens he visited earlier, and sees a link to my lens about what one switching from a PC to an I-MAC needs to know.  He follows the link to my lens and has his last question answered and clicks through my link to buy the I-MAC. I get the commission. Pete doesn’t. He doesn’t even have the satisfaction of knowing he helped Jim make up his mind.

At HubPages, where it’s easier to earn AdSense money, you get a non-monetary referral fee, so to speak. If Pete links to a Hub I wrote and Jim follows it, Pete will at least profit from a portion of my page views that come from HubPages’ share — not mine. If you use your special link to send someone to another Hubber’s site, HubPages shares some of the pageviews for that hub with you. This gives Hubbers lots of incentive to promote the hubs of others — not just their own, and they may not mind so much sending prospective customers down the street.

About Links
About Linking to Affiliates

One big difference between Squidoo and HubPages is your ability to sell from your lenses and hubs. Neither site will put up with a lens full of spam, but at Squidoo it’s understood that people are often writing lenses to promote the products of their affiliates, or maybe even a business they own. They allow you to have up to 9 links to any one top level domain that’s  on their white list. Only very well known sites that are pretty much accepted by everyone as reputable are on the white list. There is also a black list of sites you can’t link to because their reputations aren’t as sterling.

HubPages allows only two links to the same top level domain in a single hub, and they also watch to see how many of your other hubs link to that same domain. So if your primary reason for joining a writing site is to promote affiliates, you are better off at Squidoo — as long as you write original content that explains why the products you are promoting are worth while. If your lens is full of spam, you may have your article locked at either site, and if too much of your work is locked, your account will be deleted. Spam is not welcome anywhere.

If you were to join the Squidoo community today, you might feel a bit of culture shock. You would be entering a world where friendly monsters pop out to tell you that you just got points for doing something good. You would hear other lensmasters referred to as squids, and you would be considered a fresh squid. If you write a better than average lens, you are likely to be blessed by a Squidoo angel. Sometimes you will be invited to go on a quest, which is a kind of game that encourages you to visit more of other people’s lenses and write more of your own.

You do not experience that same culture shock at HubPages. HubPages has a more businesslike atmosphere, with no gimmicks. Policies and guidelines are clearly stated as they might be in a workplace. At Squidoo there is a whimsical flavor to even many policy announcements. It’s more like an amusement park atmosphere than an office. Sure, you work. But it’s also supposed to be a bit fun.  There are more creative outlets and game-like activities.  When I want to write in a straightforward, no frills fashion, I go to HubPages. I’m not expected to do more than write at HubPages, unless it’s to make my hub more attractive by adding pictures, maybe a video, or, if appropriate, a map, quiz, poll, table, link list, or Amazon capsule. But when I want promote my Zazzle store or do something really creative or innovative, I write a lens at Squidoo or take a quiz or go on a quest. Variety is the spice of life. All work and no play gets monotonous.

HubPages, however, has  frequent contests instead of quests. It appears that they happen quarterly. During a contest, there are lots of daily and weekly cash prizes, with a grand prize at the end of a contest month. When you enter, you have a fair chance to win something. This makes up for the fact that it might be some time before you get a payout for your Google AdSensse earnings.

What I’ve learned about HubPages in this last two weeks has encouraged me to spend as much time writing there as I do at Squidoo. Between the two sites there is enough flexibility to happily write anything I choose. There is potential for earning at both sites. At Squidoo you will probably earn more through affiliate programs than through AdSense,  since you won’t get a piece of the AdSense pie there unless your lenses rank among the top 80,000 out of at least 340,000 — and that was last week. New lenses continue to be written every day to compete with yours for that place in the top 80,000. Any money you earn from lower-ranking lenses will be through affiliate income.

At HubPages, you can expect to make more through AdSense than through affiliates, since you can’t link as much to your affiliates. You do not, however, have to compete with other hubs to get a share of the AdSense earnings. You get all the income from 60% of your impressions, and any affiliate income through HubPages capsules that occur during your share of the impressions. HubPages gets all the earnings from the other 40% of the impressions.

I hope this comparison will help other writers who are trying to find an audience for their work on line and make a supplemental income at the same time. On either site it takes more than a few articles to build up this income. I recommend at a minimum to have 50 articles posted on a site before you expect to get to payouts monthly, and that’s assuming they are quality articles — not rewrites of something you have published elsewhere. Both sites reward original content — not overly promotional pieces you might have used software to generate.  If you plan to work hard, write well, and be patient, you will finally see your payouts coming in. If you would like to join Squidoo, please click my referral link here and have an idea ready to start writing.  If you’d like to join HubPages, please click here for a great article by another Hubber that will be very useful to you: What I Wish I Knew When I Joined HubPages.

Update on April 17, 2013:  Many more changes have taken place at both HubPages and Squidoo recently. I will be addressing these soon.