Guest Post: How We Got HubPages To Scale

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by HubPages CEO Paul Edmondson on how Hubpages succeeded in amassing visitors.

After the recent TechCrunch post about HubPages, we received several questions about how HubPages got to 39 million unique visitors per month.  Here’s how we did it:

Four years ago, during our launch in August 2006, we wanted to do three main things to create a successful social content community: first, we wanted to make it easy for authors to create a one-page topical website; second, we wanted to drive traffic to the author’s content; and third, we wanted to share the majority of the revenue back with the author.

We had planned for natural search to be a major source of traffic, but it wasn’t until November of 2006 that we started to get measurable traffic from search engines.  To this day, we continue to refine our platform to help authors on HubPages to have the best opportunity to show up in the natural search results.  One of the key metrics we learned was about the longevity of content.  Content created on HubPages peaks in traffic on average nearly three years after it’s created.  This knowledge helped our business become more predictable.  For the author, creating a HubPages article is like putting a little bit of money in the bank that is going to increase its value over the next three years and then continue at that level for the foreseeable future.  The large quantity of content that was created early in the life of HubPages dramatically increased in revenue over 3 years, and allowed us to continue to grow the company.

We became a metrics focused company.  The two key drivers of our business are Hub production and revenue per thousand Hub views.  Based on these drivers, we developed a model that allowed us to do sophisticated micro-marketing including search engine marketing to attract writers.  Through analysis of Hubs created by new authors, our models are able to predict a close estimate of the traffic and revenue that a new author will generate over various time intervals. This prediction model has been significant in our growth.

In the early days, we decided we didn’t want to be the arbiter of quality or try to control what people wrote, but we soon discovered that high-quality authors and advertisers did not feel comfortable with the fully open publishing platform that included adult content. So, in July of 2007, about a year after our launch, we modified our terms of service and took leading steps in the social content category to become a porn-free site.  The short-term impact was over a 30% drop in traffic, but it reaped long term gains.  We also continued to build anti-spam technologies and put in place requirements for publishing on HubPages that improves the overall quality.

Then we wanted to give insight to authors about the type of content we saw working well on HubPages so that they could earn more. We started hosting contests about writing on evergreen topics.  We started incorporating analytics into each page of the site that showed authors their traffic sources.

We continue to invest in specialty tools that teach authors what pages to link to with the Interlinking Tool and how to refine the titles of their Hubs with the Title Tuner Beta.  By taking the data we collected, and putting it inline with the tools, authors became more successful on our platform.

HubPages is a set of technologies, but we really are about authors.  We took pro-writer stances by letting the author choose what they wanted to write on, and giving them ownership of their content, so that the revenue they earn can increase over time.  As the author community grew, we built features that fostered communication – like the ability to follow and compliment other authors.  As a result, HubPages’ reputation as a writing community continues to grow.

Now, going on our fifth year of business and with nearly 140% growth in the last 12 months in terms of visitors, I can see the site growing well into the future based on our three original tenets of making it easy to create content, driving traffic and sharing the revenue.