HubPages and Squidoo are sites where people can write short articles about topics they care about. Squidoo was founded by Seth Godin, a famous marketer whose blog I follow religiously. Despite rapid initial growth, HubPages was languishing a year later, and trailed far behind Squidoo in terms of traffic as well as revenue generated for the company and its authors.
So what did HubPages do to beat Squidoo? They list 7 things:
- Remove all adjult content: At the time they did it, adult content was 1/3 of all traffic. Clearly they had to choose to get rid of one audience in order to encourage others to step up. Would you company give up 1/3 of its sales for the promise of much larger sales later? Something similar keeps a lot of companies from going SaaS.
- Disallow spam: No aggressively promotional articles were permited, and links to sites being promoted had to be toned down. You couldn’t just publish your ads as pages.
- Purely personal articles (like blogs) were eliminated: The feeling was they were less likely to be useful to readers or to attract search engine traffic.
- Copied content was penalized: Ever come across content that is just a blatant republication of some other content? Sometimes there is an issue of rights to use the content, but even if there is a right to republish it was felt that original content was more valuable. Hence article scores were penalized though the article itself was not removed.
- Articles Linking to Questionable Sites Were Flagged: If they could see that a site might potentially phish, display obnoxious popups, or redirect to a different site immediately, the site is marked as such. I just noticed Google doing a bit of this too, and appreciate it. It’s never been a pleasant surprise to land on one of these obnoxious sites after clicking on an innocuous-looking search result.
- Added a discussion forum: This encourages real community and conversation, which was evidently lacking. With a forum, users can help each other out, share advice, and socialize beyond simply publishing articles.
- Up front payments for very high-quality articles: Great articles attract significant traffic and create success stories that are a good example for others to emulate. I’m not sure how those success stories are propogated, but I would make the propogation in some way very easy to make this more viral.
These are all ways of increasing the quality fo content and incenting people to build a quality-focused community around the content. There is a lot to be learned from this for would be purveyors of content. What is your strategy to increase your content quality?
Somehow I find this message to be strangely ironic. As I mention, I follow Seth Godin religiously. The idea to focus on content quality is definitely one of his core themes. His book “Dip” is all about finding out what you can be the best person in the world at and focusing on that one area. Yet, a competitor has gotten more focused about it than Squidoo.
In the face of infinity, many of us are panicking and searching less, going shallower, relying on bestseller lists and simple recommendations. The vast majority of Google searches are just one or two words, and obvious ones at that. The long tail gets a lot shorter when you don’t know what’s out there.
Organizations that can help us manage the infinite are facing a huge (can I say it? nearly infinite) opportunity.
To the issue of getting yourself hooked into “shallower” ways of finding content, one should add that when there is infinite content, it can be particularly differentiating to have better content. This is something that has always bothered me about the crowd that says, “Content is a commodity.” This has been such a popular meme lately, but it is so hollow.
The next time you’re going through pages of Google search results just trying to find one good read about you topic, ask yourself, “Would getting to quality sooner have mattered to you on that search?” I’ll bet the answer was “yes” for most searches.
P.S. Why should Enterprise 2.0 take note? Because these folks are going to be particularly sensitive to the kinds of content that HubPages eliminated. Does your Enterprise 2.0 solution have a way to do that automatically, or are you going to leave it up to your customers to police their sites?