In this exclusive interview with Ryan Hupfer, The Content Wrangler explores the world of HubPages, a user-generated content portal that’s helping writers get noticed—and paid.

TCW: Ryan, thanks for taking time out of your day to share a little about yourself and the company for which you work. For those who don’t know you, tell us a little about yourself and your experience in the content industry.

RH: Hey Scott, thanks for having me and thanks for not being afraid to butt into a conversation that I was having in San Jose at the User-Generated Content Conference event. You know, without that, we probably would have never met up—I guess that it was fate. Anyways, I guess that you could say that I’ve had some type of experience with most of the types of content that are out there. I’ve done work for a TV station in Indianapolis, I’ve written a book, launched online communities and now I’m living in the amazingly fascinating world of self-publishing, online advertising and content management at HubPages.com.

I would say that I’m a guy who really understands the web from a human perspective and how it can be used to better connect people and tell their stories to different audiences on the web. I used to be an engineer, but busting out code all day just wasn’t for me because I was way too social to sit in a basement in front of a computer all day with headphones on. Instead, I now sit in front of a computer all day in an office while talking to engineers. Not sure if this all has worked out like I had planned, but I’m having an awesome time, so who really cares?

TCW: What is HubPages and why does it exist? And, perhaps to avoid confusion, what is a hub?

RH: As far as HubPages goes, we pride ourselves on being the best possible place on the web for anyone to monetize their passions, loves and expertise from writing quality, original content. It’s basically a very efficient and transparent self-publishing ecosystem that creates a win-win for our authors as well as ourselves through an easy-to-understand revenue sharing model. It allows us to take care of the things that many content creators don’t enjoy (finding traffic, managing advertising, etc.) and lets them focus on the things that they actually do enjoy—writing great content. It may sound simple, but that’s because it is. smile

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HubPages exists simply due to the fact that there are lots of people out there who have some type of expertise in—or a passion for—specific topics and love to write about them. These types of people are literally scattered all over the world and may or may not be professional or published authors, but nonetheless enjoy writing about the various topics that they know and care about. They’re writing about anything from how to make your own yogurt to choosing the best iPhone Bluetooth headsets. They’re utilizing the HubPages platform to easily publish and monetize them. It allows writers the freedom to write about any topics that they want, all while giving them a chance to get rewarded for quality, original content.

Oh, and a Hub is what we call the individual pieces of content that you publish on HubPages. Think of them as a single article or web page that is created in one, specific topic. Currently there are over 260,000 Hubs that have been published and that number is growing very quickly considering that we hit 200,000 Hubs at the end of October.

TCW: What types of content does HubPages seek?

RH: This one’s easy—HubPages seeks original, quality and evergreen content. Allow me to elaborate a bit on this.

  • Original Content: We stress that all content that you publish on HubPages is completely original so that it has the best possible chance to get the search traffic from the search engine powers-to-be. As I’m sure most content creators already know, duplicate content is penalized heavily on Google and other search engines, so we see it as a major no-no. Plus, no one likes a copycat, so write your own stuff!
  • Quality Content: This is pretty straight forward—the higher the quality, the better the opportunity for getting traffic, backlinks and of course, earnings. This means that one misspelled paragraph isn’t going to cut it, so we expect our writers to publish the highest quality Hubs possible. It might require more of a time commitment, but the results will be make it all worthwhile.
  • Evergreen Content: One of the great things about HubPages is that as long as you’re writing what we call ‘evergreen’ content (content that will be relevant for a long time), whatever you earn this month you’ll most likely earn next month, too. This is why we urge our writers to stay away from ‘newsy’ or ‘time-sensitive’ topics and instead focus on topics that will be able to generate traffic for months and potentially years to come.

TCW: Many of our readers are professional communicators with domain expertise with specialized knowledge—and lots of experience writing quality content. How does one become a contributor to HubPages? What’s involved and what are the benefits?

RH: Did you say that your writers like to create quality content? Wow, that’s like sweet music to my ears. smile

Contributing to HubPages is really easy, all someone needs to do is create an account, think of a topic they’d like to write about and get to Hubbing. It’s always free to join and anyone can start writing as soon as they’d like—it’s pretty much the easiest thing, ever.

The benefits of creating content on HubPages are that we are monetizing user-generated content better than any other self-publishing platform that’s currently available. We have an amazing community of skilled and helpful writers and we allow anyone to create content about any topics that they feel like writing about. Also, there’s no rush to get content out the door on a daily basis due to the fact that our writers don’t need to put in a ton of effort into creating momentum and organically building an audience like you would when writing on a blog. All our writers need to do is simply create quality content and let HubPages take care of the rest.

TCW: Most writers write because they enjoy it. Making money off of sharing content is often not the motivating factor. But, how does one make money by writing content for HubPages?

RH: We allow every writer to associate various affiliates to their HubPages Account (Google AdSense, Kontera, Amazon Associates, eBay Partners, etc.) and as their Hubs begin to get traffic, they’re given 60% of total amount of revenue that the traffic generates and we keep the other 40%. We feel that this method is very fair and it rewards the writers that end up creating the best Hubs.

The one thing that writers need to realize when they’re writing on HubPages is that just like with any other legitimate revenue generating opportunity, being successful isn’t necessarily that hard—it just takes a little bit of time. For instance, I just wrote a post over on the HubPages Blog where I interviewed one of our writers named Dorsi who had just received her second $100 payout from Google, which was generated by having AdSense set up as an affiliate on her HubPages account. It was an interesting interview because it talks about how she stuck with it and had persistence when it came to writing Hubs. While writing at about an average of about 2 Hubs per week, it took Dorsi nearly 10 months to earn her first $100. However, due to her consistency and persistence, it has only taken her another 3 months to get get her second $100 payout and she’ll most likely be making her $100 payout every month in no time.

Now, Dorsi’s not going to retire on this extra revenue stream, but having an extra $100+ each month is pretty sweet if you ask me. Also, I bet if you asked 100 bloggers to raise their hand if they’re making $100 a month I bet that you wouldn’t see many hands waving around. Not to mention that she hasn’t had to go promote her content all over the web and deal with her advertising and all of that other junk—she simply wrote some great content and we helped her with everything else. Aren’t we nice?

TCW: What type of content is the best type to create if your primary motive is profit? Are there some types of content that get more traffic and click-throughs than others? Can you provide a few examples?

RH: You know, it’s really hard to say what the best types of content are to write Hubs on because trends are changing all of the time, but mostly our money-generating sweetspots are the same as any other website or blog that’s out there right now. We see our highest CPMs come from money and finance based Hubs, with cars and auto and travel coming in second and third. But, just like anywhere else on the webm those categories aren’t always the easiest to find traffic over on Google and other search engines.

One example of a high-earning Hub that I use a lot is written on Wu-Yi Tea, which you’ve probably never even heard of. That single Hub has made over $200 in a single day, which is pretty incredible. if you go to Google right now and search for Wu-Yi Tea, that Hub will be #1, which means that it attracts a ton of traffic that results in a ton of revenue.

Another great Hub that generates a good amount of earnings is the one that I linked to earlier called Five Best iPhone Bluetooth Headsets. It gets some great traffic from Google as well and it also utilizes our Amazon Capsule very well within the content, which allows anyone to buy one of the headsets directly from the Hub. When purchases are made directly from the Hub via an Amazon (or eBay) Capsule, the writer generates royalties from it every single time.

TCW: I’ve a firm believer that if you build it, they (whoever they are) won’t necessarily come. In other words, the presence of content on a website is not enough to guarantee success. How does HubPages attract attention to its site from Google and from human readers? How does HubPages rank compared to other sites on the internet? And, if it ranks highly, what do you do to promote the site content and keep those Google rankings high?

RH: Great question Scott—this is a question that I hear a lot from people once they hear about the business model that we’re running and the amount of search treaffic that we’re getting. The real key for the entire thing is being able to create quality and original content on a consistent basis. Once we had the writers bought into the fact that they could actually earn some money by creating content on out platform, it didnt take long for the word to get out to the rest of the Internet. But, once we started getting the attention of more and more writers there was more and more of a need to ensure that the content that was being created was staying at a certain level of quality.

Google and other search engines place a major emphasis on quality and originality, so we had to make that our number one priority when as we began to grow faster over time. If we grew, but our quality suffered because of it, we knew that we wouldnt be successful. Also, something that any content creator needs to keep in mind is that getting traffic is great, but not all traffic is created equal. We not only wanted to get traffic, but we wanted to get traffic that we knew could be monetized at a very high level. To ensure that the quality stays at the level that we’re comfortable with we are constantly creating automated ways to automatically flag, deny or alter content that doesn’t live up to our standards. Also, since everything can’t be automated, we also have team members whose jobs are to go through the content with a human eye. It’s a tedious process, but it’s one that we feel is absolutely necessary.

At the time of me writing this, HubPages is currently ranked #181 in the US on Quantcast and we’ll have 10+ million unique visitors land on HubPages in the month of February. So yeah, we’re getting up there. One thing to note too is that we have done all of this with a staff of 5 people—talk about running things tight, eh?

TCW: Do you provide any materials online that would help first time contributors get started?

RH: Absolutely! We try to help our new writers get used to us as quickly as possible and we do that through a few different ways. First, we have the HubPages Guide, which is basically like a HubPages For Dummies and will help walk any new writer through the ins and outs of what all we have to offer and how everything works. The second way to learn more about HubPages is to check out our Forums. If anyone asks some questions over there you’ll find that many other members of the HubPages community are more than willing to help out. Finally, if anyone would like to get an answer straight from the source, we also have a support email address that we actually respond to (wow!). We’re very hands-on at HubPages and I think that carries over to the community as well, which makes for a very helpful and friendly learning environment.

TCW: One last question. I noticed your title is pretty interesting—Communicator of Awesomeness—can you help our readers understand what you do in that position—and were you able to select you own title?

RH: Well, I guess that getting to make up your own job title is one of the perks of working at a start-up in San Francisco, CA and as you’ve noticed, I decided to take full advantage of it. I call myself the Communicator of Awesomeness! because when we have a lot of amazing things going on and the rest of the world needs to know all about it. So, I’ve made it my mission to make that happen and I thought that I should choose a job title that reflected that.

Oh, and I think that you forgot an exclamation point up there in your question—it’s the Communicator of Awesomeness!

Plus , Marketing Manager is just way too damn boring, don’t you think?

TCW: Thanks for taking a few minutes to help our readers learn a little about you and about HubPages. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers before we sign off?

RH: Well, I think that for once in my life I really have nothing left to say…well, except that you’re awesome for having me on your blog and that I love the Internet. I think that pretty much takes care of everything. Oh, and for all of those out there who need an easier way to understand what HubPages is and how we can help you make money, check out this quick video that I made a couple of weeks ago.

TCW: Thanks again, Ryan. Look for some fresh content from me on HubPages soon.