Liz Gannes

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Amid Content Farm Wars, HubPages Starts Paying Writers More

HubPages, a freelance content site, appeared to be one of the biggest losers in last week’s Google search algorithm change, dropping 87 percent of its visibility in search results according to one early measure. It comes at a time when the company is trying to change the incentive equation for writers to make high-quality contributions.

HubPages CEO Paul Edmondson (pictured) said he was highly concerned about and disappointed by the Google algorithm changes, because so far ranking increases and decreases have not correlated with his own perceptions of high-quality HubPages content. But he said he’s waiting for the changes to stabilize, as they commonly do after such shifts.

(See our previous stories on reactions to the Google changes from Associated Content and Demand Media.)

Meanwhile, this week HubPages made a significant upgrade to its payments, bringing on ad networks including Tribal Fusion, AOL’s, Microsoft pubCenter, ValueClick and Glam Media. Previously the site had used Google AdSense and Amazon and eBay affiliate links. The company is also hiring its own ad sales team.

HubPages is treating its whole site as a publication with 46 million uniques, and sharing the higher revenue with its writers.

That means an effective average CPM of $2 to $3, up from CPCs usually in the cents, Edmondson said. In early tests, HubPages authors are reportedly making 60 percent more than their previous average daily earnings.

Historically, HubPages has had a more writer-friendly setup than competitors, giving contributors 60 percent of revenues, letting them choose their topics and even delete stories, and offering content management and optimization tools to maintain their topics on an ongoing basis.

The premium ad program is in invite-only beta for now, but Edmondson said he wanted to roll it out site-wide by June. With more writers and topics involved, Edmondson said he expected CPMs to be between $1 and $12.

HubPages, which has raised about $8 million in funding, last year grew traffic 120 percent to 46 million uniques and brought in revenues of $10 million. It has more than 1.2 million articles from 220,000 writers.