Google Panda Update Victim HubPages Tweaks Approach to Boost Search Visibility

By: Chris Crum - April 21, 2011

HubPages, one of the big victims of Google’s Panda update announced that it is making some changes aimed at getting back in Google’s good graces to bring its content back up to a better level of search visibility.

“Enhancing readers’ experience on the site will improve our visibility with searchers, and reward those Hubbers who spend the time and energy to publish truly remarkable Hubs,” writes HubPages’ Jason Menayan. “We are about to implement a few more changes to improve the overall experience of our site, aimed at removing content that offers dubious value to the HubPages community of writers and readers.”

Of course this is not the first time HubPages has addressed content quality for its users. In fact, shortly before this most recent roll-out of Panda (the global/English language one), a Google staffer actually wrote a guest post on the HubPages blog, giving users tips on how to make their content better for AdSense. Then the site got hit by Panda again.

Now, HubPages is removing its “News Capsule” feature.

The feature, originally deemed a way to make hubs (HubPages articles) more relevant, has now been determined to add little value to users and the page. Menayan says the links it generated often were only distantly related to the topic.

The News Capsule from HubPages on Vimeo.

They’re also tightening up on affiliate links. With the exceptions of Amazon and eBay, they will no longer be allowed in HubPages articles if they point to sites that sell eBooks, promote dubious offers (like watching TV online for free), contain a lead capture form, contain pop-ups, pop-unders or other features that interfere with site navigation, or redirect users to unwanted sites.

“Redirects themselves are innocuous, but we will be able to track the full path of redirected links, and if any of the redirects pass through or to a prohibited link, then that redirected link will also be prohibited,” says Menayan. “So, if a link passes through a clickbank link (a prohibited affiliate link), for example, then that specific link on that Hub will be not allowed.”

In addition, all affiliate links are being disallowed in certain topic areas that are becoming “saturated with low-quality Hubs published by affiliate marketers”.

This is in reference to topics like acai berries, forex, and six-pack abs, though articles about these topics will still be allowed – just not with affiliate links.

Finally, HubPages will send out automatic alerts to authors if their hubs don’t comply with the new guidelines.

Earlier this week, HubPages CEO Paul Edmondson raised an interesting point about the Panda update and its impact on HubPages vs. its impact on Googles’ own YouTube (that would be the opposite impact – YouTube was a clear winner, as were several other video content sites).

“It appears HubPages has been impacted by this while YouTube has not, despite HubPages having a more strict content policy,” he wrote.

YouTube itself then dropped an interesting stat in an unrelated blog post of its own, saying only 30% of All YouTube Videos Make Up 99% of Views.

Another interesting point of note is that eHow (The Demand Media-run content site, which escaped the wrath of the initial U.S. Panda update, but was hit in the most recent version) is the biggest supplier of video to YouTube.

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

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  • Dana

    I write for Hubpages, and my traffic has not recovered yet either. I had a huge drop initially, and then my best hubs have slowly risen to about 3/4ths of what they used to be.

    I am very pleased with Hubpages’ strategies to make Hubpages a higher quality site, as there are many many serious writers there.

  • Ellen B.

    Some years ago I attempted to take my notes from a college art history seminar I had taught as a graduate student — my own notes, my own lectures — and convert them into Hubs so I could earn a little adsense money from them. The only link I had was to my own travel diary of a trip I took to Greece, as a photo credit to demonstrate proof that my photos were my own (and, yes, some visitors might be interested in my trip to Greece, where I nattered a lot about Greek art).

    They were wildly successful on Hubpages, but eventually every single one got shut down as overly promotional. I was selling NO PRODUCTS on them.

    Meanwhile, I wrote similar informational, educational articles on Squidoo, and some of them earn $30+ a month. There are more ads, which I honestly don’t like, but I can’t knock the traffic and take-home pay. My Squidoo pages include links to many more educational resources and sites I’d recommend to students studying Greek art.

    The Panda update knocked Hubpages traffic below Squidoo’s. This honestly surprised me. But one thing I wonder is whether they’re shooting themselves in the foot. As far as I can tell, you can barely link out to anything… even before this latest policy was put in place. Linking to sound, informational, un-spammy, and above all RELEVANT content which is related to your topic provides value and content. Hubpages won’t let its users do that. Squidoo does. There’s also Squidoo’s long-time aggressive internal system of banning, deleting, and taking down spammy topics and duplicate content, but I think Hubpages has similar policies… or does it?

    I’m unsure why Hubpages got hammered harder than Squidoo. It’s a good idea not to keep all eggs in one basket anyway, so learning and posting on both is surely a good idea. Also, it’s good that the two sites operate differently, so you’ll never get burned on both. Yet I fear Hubpages may be learning some of the wrong lessons from all this.

    • Chris Crum

      Interesting story. We’ll see how HubPages’ new policies impact its Google traffic in the coming months.

    • rebekah

      I currently write on HP, and while my traffic has decreased, I haven’t had to make changes to my hubs except to remove a few Amazon products and get rid of a few news feeds.
      In response to your account being tagged as overly promotional, it sounds like you may have had links on each of your hubs back to one site, which HP considers overly promotional. You could include your website link in your profile and on some of your hubs, but not each one, or if you had more than two links going to the same site in one hub, it’s overly promotional. That may have been the issue.
      HubPages DOES encourage AND allow the use of links to RELEVANT, informative, authoritative sites, including YouTube, Viveo and other helpful video sites. There are guidelines to follow, such as number of links to one site, but it is certainly encouraged, especially post Panda.
      What I appreciate about HP is their continual upgrades to the site and publishing platform. While Google leaves site owners somewhat in the dark, HP is taking the initiative to move forward and do what they believe is the best for their business. I support them.