Greekgeek's Online Odyssey - Hubpages and Online Article Writing Tips


Looking Back at Squidoo’s Mistakes

Drat. I’ve been trying so hard to focus on the transition to Hubpages and getting on with it, rather than rehashing what’s done and past.

However, I keep see more and more posts by people throwing all the blame on members and absolving SquidHQ of the policies that led it into a death spiral.

Sorry, no. That’s not what happened. I’ve been on Squidoo since 2007. I watched the site change its focus and its approach. HQ erratically tried to backpedal, but even as late as the end of 2013 they were forcing us to create low-content sales-generating pages or lose Giant Squid status.

Here’s my full rebuttal, with more details on what I saw go down when.

And now I’m going to try to get back to looking ahead and slowly getting my transferred articles up to snuff under Hubpages’ QAP standards which, honest to gosh, I want to hug. They’re a nuisance, but it’s the first time since early 2013 that I’ve revamped all my Squidoo articles and have some hope that this will help them.

Squidoo to Hubpages Transfer: Traffic Increase

I just checked Google Analytics to see how my Squidoo lenses are faring after transfer.

Here’s their daily traffic stats according to Google Analytics. (Scroll down for a visual chart of the boring data).

To create this table, I combined all their Google Analytics daily traffic data. Squidoo or Hubpages, wherever they were, it was the same batch of articles.*

First Week of Squidoo to Hubpages Traffic


R.I.P Squidoo: A Long Time Coming

Squidoo shutting down shouldn’t be much of a surprise to those who have been watching it for the past year. The only surprise is that it’s giving away member content without explicit permission, despite its TOS which states,

Squidoo does not claim ownership of the Content you place on your Lens. The Content will be owned by you or a third party from whom you got permission to post the content.

I suppose, since Squidoo is merging with Hubpages, a lawyer could argue that Hubpages is now, legally, Squidoo, in the same way that my old bank is now owned by and named something else. Nevertheless, it feels a bit shoddy, especially with the “good news” spin in Seth’s announcement and the incredibly short notice.

That discourtesy towards members also doesn’t surprise me.

In a way, I’m relieved — the death by a thousand paper cuts is over, at long last. Nevertheless, I feel enormous sympathy for the many members who were still active and passionate about keeping the site going. You folks were just kicked in the gut. I wish I could wave pom-poms and give you “good news” and put a positive spin on this. But… I’m worried about those of you whose family budget depended on that Squidoo pay day.

Nevertheless, it’s not all bad news.


Squidoo NoFollows Links to Strangle Spam

Once again, spammers pooping in Squidoo’s sandbox have caused inconvenience for the rest of us. Squidoo has now followed Wikipedia’s example and nofollowed all outbound links.

My opinion: it stings, but on the whole it’s a reasonable move. There are some drawbacks to nofollowing all outbound links. But those drawbacks are outweighed by the benefit: this will discourage those using Squidoo as a place to drop self-serving links, and encourage the use of Squidoo as a place to post actual content. For obvious reasons, Google prefers the latter.

Lakeerieartist concurs, in this succinct post on SquidLog: Spammers Be Gone.

Let me see if I can explain nofollow/dofollow links in plain English for those who don’t understand what this is all about.

Squidoo After Google Panda 25: How’s It Looking?

The data is still coming in from Panda 25, launched March 15. We really need to wait a longer time to have a representative sample size, but here’s the early returns from Quantcast:

Squidoo traffic vs. a similar, comparable article site, Hubpages.

From now on there will not be discreet dates on which Panda is updated; Panda is now “Panda Everflux,” continually reevaluating sites and adjusting their rankings up or down. This is good, as it means Squidoo won’t have to wait a month or two for Panda to reevaluate it. (The bad news is that we’re only halfway through big changes from Google. There is a huge Penguin algorithm update coming which Google’s Matt Cutts says will be talked about all year.)

Here’s my own traffic. It looks like maybe a 7% hit from Panda 25. All told, I am down 50% since before the November 16 traffic drop that sounded a reversal of my own Squidoo fortunes for the first time since 2007.

My 6-month Squidoo traffic, Oct. 17, 2012-Mar 17, 2013

Meanwhile, my own Hubpages traffic is plodding along steadily with a temporary traffic spike from a bunch of Tolkien fans discovering one of my articles. I need to do more of those.

Squidoo is now ranked lower than Hubpages on Quantcast for the first time since Panda began in January 2011.

Squidoo took a pretty big traffic hit in summer 2007 from Google, and I feel this is comparable.


Add Photos to Tweets to Get More Clicks!

When I browse Twitter, I see PICTURES with some Tweets, which help draw the eye to them:

Why, yes, Twitter thinks I’m weird. (Here’s the Sea Slug Article and my phone book article.)


Hubpages, Squidoo and other websites usually have Tweet buttons, but one thing they DON’T usually do is incorporate a photo or graphic into the Tweet. If you’re Tweeting your own stuff, be sure to add a graphic! Here’s how:

  1. Save a graphic from the article (or some appropriate graphic) to your computer.
  2. Go to the article and click the Tweet button to compose a Tweet.
  3. Instead of sending the Tweet then and there, COPY the text of the Tweet, so that you grab the article’s URL.
  4. Go to and paste the Tweet in the Compose box.
  5. Click the camera icon at the bottom of the Tweet box to upload the photo.
  6. NOW Tweet it!

Wait— WHERE will these graphics show up, anyway?

  • Sometimes they’re thumbnails in people’s Twitter stream.
  • They appear in the “Gallery” area on the left side of your Twitter Profile Page.
  • They are big and bold in the “Discover” part of Twitter— click the “Discover” link at the top for a demo!
  • Twitter is evolving. I suspect these pictures are going to grow more prominent with time, so get in the habit, right now.

Obviously, be careful of copyright. Remember that the image may be shared in retweets. Do you have the right to share/publish/distribute that graphic? Or, at the least, is it Fair Use?

P.S. I’ve just found two treasure troves of vintage, out-of-copyright images that require no credit: Vintage Printables, which includes this odd balloon illustration, and OhMeOhMy Vintage. There you go!

Leopoldo Galluzzo’s illustration for an 1836 hoax purporting to depict discoveries of life on the moon by famous astronomer John Herschel.

Updating Squidoo Lenses: My 2013 Checklist

Squidoo progress Excel Spreadsheet

My yearly progress spreadsheet helps me track progress and seasonal trends.

Whew, 2012 was quite a roller coaster of a year for me on Squidoo and beyond.

The good: I achieved a 68% increase in online earnings, and I began an earnest push to diversify beyond Squidoo, and succeeded at least a little (see bottom of my payouts chart).

The bad: Pinterest members began copying and uploading our photos en masse, so that we were competing with ourselves for image traffic, and third-party websites began using pinned images to make money. Hubpages, where I’ve had the most luck in diversification, had its Google ups and downs and its share of disruptive policy changes. Later, along with many Squidoo members, I lost 34% of my Google traffic to Squidoo around November 15. Accordingly, my November Squidoo earnings saw a 33% drop, when normally my November earnings are up. December saw a couple of Squidoo Surprises that required emergency triage to all our lenses. Also, the old by-and-for-lensmasters SquidU community was closed down by HQ and resurrected by Christene.

I’m tired. I’ve been tired. All of the above, plus arthritis, have left me exhausted and discouraged. So I’ve been taking a break from Squidoo and article sites in general. However, January’s almost over, and it’s time to get back in the saddle.

This year, rather than writing new content on Squidoo, I’m mostly going to write elsewhere and just do maintenance on my Squidoo portfolio.

Here’s a checklist of what I do to update each lens. I’m not gonna do all these changes on every lens all at one sitting. Instead, I’ve created an “Update log” spreadsheet with “type of update” as the column headers, lenses as the rows. When I make an update, I’ll note it in the appropriate column/row with the date.


Cheat Sheet for Dealing With Squidoo’s New Flexible Layout

My CSS Cheat Sheet for Converting Fixed-Width into Flexible Layouts

Originally posted here. (Now tweaked and revised.)

  • The first thing you should do is ask yourself, “Is this CSS absolutely necessary, or can I drop it?” See the postscript below for tips about how and when to use CSS. Usually, the best solution is, “Drop it!”
  • Testing: Try Screenfly Emulator or Responsive Layout Emulator, or if both of those are being crabby, drag the right-hand edge of your window around to simulate different screen sizes.
  • Replace font sizes and line heights in pixels with points or percentage. (E.g. 110% = “a little larger than the standard font size.”)
  • To center an image or a paragraph horizontally, use style=”margin: 0px auto;”
  • <br style=”clear:both;”> breaks you out of float-mode and usually stops things from spilling into places they don’t belong. (The “zigzaggy” stairstep effect, e.g. For that problem, put <br style=”clear:both;”> between each “step” of the staircase.)
  • Convert your old fixed-width dimensions by doing a little math. Say you used to have a paragraph 250 pixels wide. Squidoo’s old column width was 590 pixels. 250 ÷ 590 = .42, so change width:250px;   to width:42%; 
  • If all the widths of elements in a horizontal area add up to more than 100%, the last item will wrap onto the next row. This sometimes happens if you’ve got small elements like borders adding a few pixels of width to your total. In that case, trim the width of the elements you can control by 1-2% to leave more wiggle room.
  • You may need to set the outermost container width to 100%. If something’s shrinking to fit, and you want it to extend to the margins, that’s what to do.
  • When using percentages, you usually have to specify a paragraph or image’s size in width rather than height. Percentage of the containing area’s height is meaningless, because the bottom of the page is usually off the bottom of the screen. Percentage of the containing area’s width makes sense, because the right margin of a page is usually visible.
  • The only time you dare specify height is with graphics small enough that they’re not likely to spill into the margin even on phone-sized screens. Use Dee’s handy-dandy Screenfly emulator to check.
  • Let borders and rounded corners remain fixed-width (pixels). They are usually not big enough to spill over onto the margins, and they behave quite oddly when changed to percentages.
  • Advanced: When doing side-by-side layouts, consider using the style attribute min-width: 200px; to say, “don’t shrink this image (or design element) smaller than 200 pixels.” On small phone screens, which are 240 or 320 pixels wide, this will force side-by-side layouts to switch to a single column, so you don’t end up with teeny tiny images. You may also set a max-width, if your images start looking silly at large sizes.
  • Advanced: If you’ve got a colored or bordered paragraph containing a floated graphic and text, you will find that the floated graphic tends to spill out past the bottom of the paragraph when you switch dimensions to percentages. The best solution is to get rid of the color or border on the paragraph. But if you really, really have a good reason for the colored paragraph, this worked for me: <p style=”background-color: #eee; width:100%;”><span style=”display: block;”><img src=”blah” style=”float: left; blah blah;”>Text text text</span><br style=”clear: both;”></p>
  • Advanced: 3-items-across layout for Zazzle & other affiliate items: <p style=”width: 25%; padding: 2%; margin-right: 2%; margin-bottom: 2%; text-align: center; font-size: 80%;”><a href=”productLink” rel=”nofollow” style=”text-decoration:none;”><img src=”imgURL” alt=”altname” style=”width: 90%; margin: auto;”><br>ProductName<br><b style=”margin:auto;display:block;width:60%;line-height:110%; font-size: 70%; color:#fff;background-color:#f90;border-radius: 4px; padding:2%;”>View on Zazzle</b></a></p>

Postscript: How and When to Use CSS

CSS commands, the style=”blah blah blah”  part tucked inside of an HTML <tag>, let you control visual decoration and layout separately from HTML. If HTML says, “this is a hat,” CSS says, “size 10 with a red brim.” If HTML says, “this is a brick,” CSS says, “move it two inches to the right.” If HTML says, “this is a paragraph,” CSS says, “200 pixels wide with a dashed border and gray background.”

People tend to use CSS for decoration, but in fact, it’s better to use CSS only to indicate units of the page that function in a special way.

For example, adding color to links is more than mere decoration; it informs the reader that these words are links. A side-by-side display of product images with captions under them acts like a store display, telling the visitor, these are products, and allowing the customer to compare, browse, pick and choose. It’s functional, not just for pretty.

I have mostly avoided using colored or shaded paragraphs except for one special purpose: quotations or excerpts, when I’m alternating between quoting something and commenting on it. What’s the function of that CSS? Its purpose is to make clear which words are mine, which words are someone else’s. And I’m only going to do that on a page where I’m alternating between the two, not a simply one-off quotation or occasional quotes.

I also use CSS for navigation elements, on rare occasions. Usually, the navigation options like the “Table of Contents” in the introduction module are adequate, and don’t need to be replaced.

I wasn’t always this strict about CSS. So in reviewing old lenses, I’ve been asking myself, “Is this CSS providing useful information to the reader? Is it functional? Or is it just a paint job?” I’m dropping 99% of my “decorative” CSS. That very especially includes colored and bordered paragraphs, which are the web equivalent of a reader marking a book’s text with  colored highlighter pens and underlines.

Recovering From a Squidoo Surprise

Here we go again

As most members know by now, Squidoo just unleashed a dramatically different layout two weeks before Christmas. This fits a pattern: Squidoo typically launches changes with little or no warning (that one was released on December 21, 2010, and it managed to throw some top-earning lenses into WIP, hiding them entirely from view and killing their tier earnings for the month.) Clearly, Squidoo thinks we have far too much time on our hands during the holidays.

If you’ve got hundreds of lenses, it may take days to salvage and check all of them. So how do we prioritize? Well, I’ve discovered a handy Excel trick to list all our lenses in order of how much they earn, which can aid in triage assessment.

But first, let’s look at some possible ways to repair layout problems caused by this so-called “Responsive” update (as a major iPad user, the old Squidoo layout gave me no trouble, whereas this one does):

  • [UPDATE] SquidTool’s creator A3 Labs has been on the ball and has updated SquidTools to work with Squidoo’s new layout. See this announcement post from A3 Labs explaining the fixes, and/or Annie’s tutorial on how to get these repairs to fix old Squidtools layouts.
  • For what it’s worth, most of my templates from my Amazon Associates Links Tutorial seem to be working under the new layout. Exception is the five-items-across. The rest are flexible enough to cope with varying screen sizes.
  • Create smallish fixed-width building blocks that flow and wrap around like the words in this paragraph when they hit the right-hand margin. By “building blocks,” I mean a box-shaped unit such as one image plus its caption underneath and maybe a “buy” button. My How to Align Image Side-by-Side templates all work this way, and as far as I can see, I think they’re all still behaving correctly.
  • One might be able to change dimensions to percentages, so that layout elements stay proportional to the page width. For instance, with a three-in-a-row layout, set the width of each of the three “building blocks” to 30% with a margin-right of 2% to give a little padding and still leave a smidge of wiggle room for borders.  But there’s a problem with this, too, as kburns notes: 30% of the screen width on a smartphone is tiny, too small for images. [UPDATE: See my next post: Cheat Sheet for Converting fixed-width to flexible-width Squidoo layouts. I think I’ve gotten the hang of it now.]
  • People who really know CSS backwards and forwards may find that some percentage-width problems are solved by adding max-width or min-width: making bits of a layout stretchy and flexible, but not infinitely so.

WHATEVER YOU DO: Keep in mind that Squidoo’s width and font sizes now vary on the fly to fit people’s screens and devices, so you can’t assume anyone else’s column width will be the same as it is on your computer. One quick way to check is to grab the lower right-hand corner of your browser window (if you can) and drag it left and right to view the lens resizing itself to fit the new window size. Also, check Screenfly (thanks, dee) to see how it will look on an iPad and other devices.


This was what I was going to post before I got distracted trying to solve layout issues (note: I cannot answer any more questions now, as I’ve only managed to check/repair 11 of my 431 lenses since yesterday and I’ve gotta get back to them).

If you have over a hundred lenses, it seems daunting to figure out where to start. Here’s a five-minute exercise you can do with Excel to help you find and prioritize your top-earning lenses on Squidoo.

  1. Go to the big blue Dashboard Stats tab. (that link takes you there.)
  2. Choose “My Payments” and “Life to Date” in the pulldown menus at the bottom, and click “go”. Go to the bathroom while that loads in. [UPDATE: you might want to set it to “Previous 3 months” instead; old lenses may have earned more historically, but may not be top earners now.]
  3. Click “Download report as TSV” at upper right-ish.
  4. Open the result in Excel.
  5. Select All, then, under the Data > Sort… box, Sort By Lens Title (or URL).
  6. Choose “Subtotals” under the Data menu and click OK.
  7. Now at the top of the left-hand corner, you should see buttons for “1 2 3.” Click the 2, and it should hide all the different month-by-month payouts for each lens and show you just the total lifetime earnings for each lens. (If you can’t find the numbers, under the Data > Group and Outline submenu, choose “hide detail” to collapse everything and then “show detail” to get the summary. This is dumb but it works.)
  8. Under the “Data” menu, choose “Sort” again and Sort by “Total,” Descending.
Of course, this only tells you about Squidoo earnings, not lenses that earn most of their income through affiliate sales with third party programs like Amazon. On Amazon, you could perform the above procedure on their Earnings Reports, which could at least tell you what items are selling most on your lenses.

How to Post a Recipe Lens on iPad

…Mostly so I can remember what the heck I did later.

So there’s this recipe I kept meaning to write up. I can’t lug the desktop computer down to the kitchen, and I’ve basically switched over to doing work on the iPad.

Turns out writing up the recipe was as fast as cooking it, so I could do both at the same time.

Needed apps: Pages (there’s also a desktop version of this which may have the same template). Something to transfer files over to one’s desktop computer (like Dropbox) or to the web (like FTP Client Pro).

  1. In Pages, I chose New and the Recipe template.
  2. I filled in and erased the text.
  3. I snapped an iPad camera photo and plugged it into the image placeholder by clicking on it and choosing Camera Roll.
  4. When done, I chose Share and Print. Then…
  • Open in Another App
  • Choose PDF
  • Choose App: FTP Client Pro
  • Upload
  • Rename to something without spaces in it.

At this point I had the PDF uploaded to my website’s server. That’s the “Printable Recipe” link on the lens.

Alternatively, at the “Choose Another App” stage I could’ve chosen Dropbox and uploaded the file to my Dropbox. It then would’ve been accessible in the cloud via any of my computers with Dropbox installed. From there I could’ve uploaded it to my web server like any other file. But FTP Client Pro saves a step.

I then wrote nearly all the lens on the iPad, copying the instructions from my Pages file to the Recipe module. (I used a Big Arrow Link to point to the PDF version uploaded to my server for the printable version because it looks better than Squidoo’s printable. Also, clickouts.)

Unfortunately, for the lens photo, there’s still no way to upload a graphic on iPad: you have to go to a traditional computer and upload the photo there. (I just sent a suggestion to SquidHQ to work on this.)

Everything else is incredibly easy to do on iPad.