October 6, 2014
The content world has been monitoring the steady decline in quality of Squidoo and HubPages since 2012. Back then, the query revolved around these two, and all the rage was which one was the better choice. But today, both platforms are giving every indication of going out the door and off the SEO table. But is this really the case? Can platforms like Squidoo and HubPages still be useful, and if so, how?
The Squidoo vs. HubPages Debate
Squidoo is a “community website platform.” Created in 2005, it allows its users to create pages (referred to as “lenses”) to sell products for profit or charity. As of October 2010, approximately 1.5 million “lenses” were in existence.
Wikipedia defines HubPages as a “user generated content [and] revenue-sharing website.” It was initially launched in 2006. As of December 2013, the site encompassed approximately 910,106 “hubs,” which are magazine-style articles covering specific topics that are user created and published. Nearly 74,000 users and 2.5 million forum posts were recorded in 2013.
According to GreekGeek, the debate surrounding which platform offers more value or benefit boils down to a battle of impressions versus interaction. Since 2007, it’s been a fairly hot topic — numerous users of both platforms attempted to compare notes, run content on both sites, and discover which of the two held an advantage and why. At the end of the day, HubPages seemed to be more about content while Squidoo felt more like a sales pitch. Comparing the two was difficult. In 2014, the scene has changed notably.
In a recent report by Matt Southern of SearchEngineJournal, the announcement was made that Squidoo is moving its content over to HubPages. Why the move? HubPages has successfully acquired Seth Godin’s content platform.
Both platforms support content publishing, and they’ve both been labeled as “Web 2.0” sites. The unfortunate truth is that such sites are prone to abuse. As a result, both platforms have had unpleasant run-ins with Google’s Panda in the past.
Southern reports that, according to Godin, the acquisition will lead to “a stronger, more efficient, [and] more generous way to share great stuff online.” Over the coming weeks, traffic to Squidoo will be redirected to relevant HubPages, and transferring content between the platforms is said to be easy and primarily automatic. Squidoo pages are projected to no long be accessible by early this month.
The Controversial Acquisition
HubPages’ acquisition and subsequent transfer of content has sparked some controversy. Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land poses the question of if it’s simply a transfer of content from one Google Panda victim to the next? After all, both platforms were hit hard by the Panda algorithm back in 2011. And although Squidoo is reportedly moving only “the best” of its content, the question of if HubPages is worthy of use is still relevant.
The Facts about HubPages
Just last year a SlideShare review of HubPages was posted. The review tackled two of the most relevant questions:
1. Does the platform provide the opportunity to earn an income online?
2. Should you use HubPages, Squidoo, or build your own website?
HubPages is built around the idea that content is part of marketing, which at face value is a solid plan. After all, content is the backbone of SEO these days. However, how you craft and implement that content is just as important as the who, what, when, where, and why of your copy. According to the SlideShare, the five steps to successfully leveraging the HubPages platform include:
1. Starting with a plan which, basically, is your niche.
2. Writing high-quality articles of approximately 1,000 words each.
3. Inserting some pictures and videos.
4. Picking the right keywords all of the time.
5. Publishing hubs in the same niche and inter-linking them.
Keep in mind that this platform is NOT for clickbank affiliate marketing, competitive markets, copied (let’s just call it what it is: plagiarized) content, or spun articles.
A quick review of HubPages official website can give you a fairly good picture of the advantages and disadvantages to leveraging this content platform. Here’s what our trained eye noted:
• Advantage 1: It’s free. People are attracted to this platform because it’s free. You can publish your content and engage in a bit of advertising (so long as it follows the rules) at no out of pocket cost. Moreover, you don’t have to spend money to make money (apparently).
• Advantage 2: It presents an opportunity to earn. Platforms like HubPages (and previously Squidoo) advertise the opportunity to use their site as a chance or opportunity to earn money. It doesn’t matter what your purpose is, it just matters that you join. What they don’t tell you is that you’ll have to work very hard to make money via the “opportunity” they’re handing you.
• Advantage 3: It’s easy to manage. Setting up and managing a hub is easy. In fact, it’s so easy that they say anybody can do it. They advertise themselves as easily accessible by everyone, and no skills or understanding of anything is needed.
• Advantage 4: It’s easy to register. The registration process isn’t complex, and it will not take a lot of your time. You’ll be up and running in no time flat.
• Disadvantage 1: Earnings are percent based. One of the most talked about cons of this platform is the percent based earning system, which (at last report) is set at a 60/40 split. You will only receive 60 percent of the amount you acquire via online moneymaking methods. It sounds a lot like affiliate marketing, doesn’t it? Let’s put this disadvantage into perspective. Say you had expected earnings of $1,500. After the split, you would receive $900 and lose $600 to HubPages. That’s a sizeable chunk of change lost to a “free” opportunity to make money, and that 40 percent chunk is going to come out every single time.
• Disadvantage 2: There’s no assurance. The primary use of HubPages is to publish written articles of about 1,000 words each. With that in mind, how long does it take you to write a 1,000-word piece? If you can’t write well and decide to hire a writer, you’re looking at a new expense to subtract from the $900 profit you’re set to earn. A quality writer, one that will help and not harm your reputation, isn’t going to come cheap. And to top off the conundrum you’re staring down the barrel of, HubPages doesn’t offer any type of assurance. What does that mean? It means there is absolutely no guarantee that the site will be up for very long. Imagine investing the time in writing your content or PAYING someone to write it for you, and suddenly, out of nowhere, it’s all gone! It’s a horrifying thought, isn’t it?
• Disadvantage 3: Advertising opportunities are limited. Your ability to advertise is limited, and you are bound by the rules set forth by the platform. There’s no true ability to think outside of the box and engage in tailored advertising campaigns. In short, it’s not a platform that lends itself to growth.
• Disadvantage 4: It takes time. Managing your page will take a solid time investment. Set-up is the easy part. Creating and publishing those articles and engaging in the limited advertising opportunities will require a substantial commitment of time—more so than usual if only to recoup the 40 percent loss in profit by increasing your overall earnings. Then again, can you really recoup when you’re putting in double or triple the effort and still bound by that 60/40 percentage split? It just doesn’t make good business sense, at least not for the serious minded businessperson.
The majority of the information about this platform’s unsavory run-in with the Google Panda is dated prior to the 4.0 update. Interestingly, we can’t find any credible information reflecting any positive run-ins since the update. We can only speculate that since the platform is a figurate breeding ground for thin content, it likely hasn’t improved dramatically. However, the update is still relatively recent and improvements may not be seen for a few months.
Our Conclusion: You could consider HubPages to be a content publishing platform with the perks of an online community, but the overall gist reads an awful lot like affiliate marketing jargon. If you’re reading this, we’re betting you’re interested in establishing and/or growing a strong online presence to promote your business and generate leads. Your ultimate goal is to create conversion. Instead of investing your precious time into a platform that’s had unpleasant run-ins with Google, why not invest more wisely? And this leads us to our hard-hitting recommendation:
Don’t Contribute to the Crappy Content Flood
Thanks to the “dollar days” of online content, we’re smack dab in the middle of a quality content drought. Your audience, aka that group of people made up of prospective buyers, is dying of thirst for high-quality copy. That’s why Google has pushed so hard to ensure that websites comprised of useful, highly relevant, and top-notch quality content are the first results search users see.
Unfortunately, the track record shows that platforms like Squidoo and HubPages have contributed to the drought. Moz’s Q&A forum holds a strong example of exactly why you shouldn’t waste your time with platforms like these. Marko poses his situation and asks if he should choose Squidoo or HubPages:
Three out of the four responders all agree that creating and attempting to construct content on crappy free for all’s like Squidoo or HubPages just isn’t the way to go. Instead, they encourage Marko to concentrate on creating informative and engaging content, the kind that’s useful to the customer. One responder even urges him not to feel “afraid of [linking] to outside sources.”
What’s the point? A “quick fix” publishing platform cannot replace an expertly crafted, high-quality, Panda-pleasing website stocked with strong content. Platforms like HubPages are generally not frequented by serious individuals interested in building a credible reputation.
If your goal is to grow your brand or business and earn credibility and authority in your industry, platforms like these are NOT the way to go, if only for the reason of HubPages Advantage 3 (anybody with no skills or understanding of anything can—and will—join). And let’s not even talk about how the lack of assurance encourages crappy content that the creator won’t care about should it disappear into the cyber version of the Bermuda Triangle.
Where Is The Value?
The recent announcement of HubPages acquiring Squidoo has certainly raised some eyebrows throughout the top resource sites for SEO education. Both Matt Southern of SearchEngineJournal and Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land agree that the news is most interesting. Who knows? The acquisition and resulting merge just might result in a content publishing platform that’s more Google-friendly. But until that’s proven, it’s probably best to keep a safe distance and watch what happens.
Are Squidoo and HubPages worth it? Honestly? No. They’re not worth your time or attention. Your valuable time could be much better invested in learning how to create your own Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird friendly online presence. A presence that you will have the ultimate amount of control over; a presence that will only be limited by the boundaries of your creativity and passion.
Believe it or not, learning how to make it all happen isn’t rocket science. The fact that you will go the extra mile to learn, that alone will give you an edge over every single HubPage and soon to be disappearing Squidoo on the Internet, and THAT is well worth your time and every last bit of investment.
Julia McCoy is a top 30 content marketer and has been named an industry thought leader by several publications. She enjoys making the gray areas of content marketing clear with practical training, teaching, and systems. Her career in content marketing was completely self-taught. In 2011, she dropped out of college to follow her passion in writing, and since then grew her content agency, Express Writers, to thousands of worldwide clients from scratch. Julia is the author of two bestselling books on content marketing and copywriting, and is the host of The Write Podcast. Julia writes as a columnist on leading publications and certifies content strategists in her training course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia lives in Austin, Texas with her daughter, husband, and one fur baby.