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


When Squidoo (or any) website is glitching…

We’ve endured about two weeks of connection timeouts and edits that refuse to take. You may want to give up entirely and work on some other site. But if you’ve got work on Squidoo that can’t wait, get in the habit of this simple, VITAL technique:

Right before hitting the “Save” or “Post” button on a field of text, ALWAYS click Control-A (Command-A on Mac) to Select All, then Control-C (Command-C) to copy the contents to the clipboard.

That way, no matter what, you’ve saved what you just wrote and can copy it to a text document or try again. It’s an imperfect solution — and I advise working in a text document for longer chunks of text and pasting them across — but it will save you at least a little screaming.

My Five Key Methods of Squidoo Success

…which aren’t quite as successful as they were due to Squidoo setbacks, but that’s another issue. Even so, while I’m panicking at having my Squidoo income dropping from $600 to $400 in the next month or so due to lensrank drops and recent upheavals, I have not abandoned five key methods I use for being moderately successful on Squidoo.

Most of you have seen me rant about all of these before, but I see some new Squids coming aboard who are asking “so, how do you do it?” Also, I wanted to do a self-check and see which methods I’ve discarded, which I’m still using. These are the clear winners:

1. Choose Topics that Meld Your Passions & the Web’s

I created this diagram a while ago for Squidbits, and it still holds true:

How to Pick Topics That Get Traffic

If you write on what you love without considering your audience, people may never read it, because they may not be interested in what you have to say. But if you use the “content farm” method of looking up what people are searching for and churning out half-hearted content, they won’t read it either, because your material won’t satisfy them. The trick is to figure out which parts of your interests, expertise and passions overlap with what lots of people on the web care about, and then use YOUR knowledge to give them what THEY want.

To figure out what YOU know (the left side of this chart), see my Ten Suggestions for Squidoo Lenses, which is NOT a list of specific ideas, but a brainstorming aid.

To find out what THEY want, do this:

2.  Keyword Research and On-Page Optimization

See my “New Long Tail SEO” tutorial for how I research keywords before creating a new page, and how I use traffic stats on existing pages as leads to refine my content or as ideas for new articles.

3. Encourage Clickthroughs

See my “How to Get More Clicks, Sales” tutorial.

Squidoo lensrank rewards lenses that get lots of clicks and interaction, on the theory that, hopefully, they’ve found something useful or interesting enough to click on. Clicks aren’t the only proof that your visitors have found something they like on your page, but it’s hard to gauge readers’ reactions unless they interact with the page in some manner.

4. Attract Visitors With Graphics

See the “attracting visitors with images” section of my Uploading Images tutorial. I love this method because it’s so easy to do; you can incorporate it just like capitalization and punctuation.

5. Cross-link Related Content

Once I’ve landed a visitor, I try to make the most of that visitor by sending him/her to more of my content. You can’t cheat by creating a virtual scavenger hunt sending visitors from one page to the next looking for real content—if you don’t give visitors what they want, they leave in ten seconds or less. But if you’ve provided good content that your visitor likes, you have then earned his/her trust enough to recommend other related content.

You’ve seen one way I’m doing it in this article: when I refer to something I’ve talked about before, I link to it. I also make heavy use of Squidoo tags for cross-linking. And I create clusters/series of articles in the same area or niche, linking them together with fancy tables of contents, the “Featured Lenses” module, the “My Lenses” module (giving all the lenses in the cluster a unique tag), or the “Rollover Feature” trick I figured out for Squidoo.

All of These are Making the Most of One’s Assets

You’ll notice that I don’t focus on social promotion, backlink building, or external strategies more than I absolutely must. I tweet new material, yes, but I don’t submit to directories; I don’t look for places to advertise my articles other than online communities where I’m active anyway.

Instead, I concentrate on maximizing my content with on-page optimization, on-page graphics, on-page links, and pointing to my other work where and when it’s relevant and useful. Rather than taking time off to advertise, I spend as much time as I can making more content and enhancing existing content. This method takes time. It results a slow build-up of real, useful, interesting assets and content on a variety of subjects.

You can do this in different ways: blog posts, more articles on multiple publishing sites, even posting photos on Flickr or videos on YouTube and linking back to related lenses. (For example, see this YouTube video where I share a Magic Trick pointing to a lens that explains the trick).

The key for me is to spend my time discovering what content I have (I’ll actually dig through my hard drive looking for old school papers and photos that might be seeds for a new lens), creating unique and interesting content, and hooking it up to other nodes of my ever-growing network of content.

Whch is why I kick and scream when people tamper with my content through “site improvements” or by removing the channels through which I’ve been sharing tips and content. (See: Squidcasts. ;) ) I do not want to have to use social media separately to promote. As much as possible, I want my content to be its own promotion! (RSS feeds are lovely for this.)

Finally, notice that this method absolutely depends on creating original, unique, interesting and/or useful content — MY content, MY passions — rather than simply collecting and curating content. Curation can be powerful and helpful, and I’ve got a few lenses that are simply curation lists in fancy packaging. But the majority of my lenses hook visitors with interesting and/or useful content that they won’t find elsewhere.

Rescuing Page Break Lenses: All Hands on Deck

Non-Giants have been frantically reporting a page break problem for a few weeks: our multi-page lenses suddenly had their page breaks destroyed, so they’re all piled together on one long page that nobody could read. In many cases, the conflation of too many video, eBay, and/or Amazon modules on one page has caused loading problems.

Well, now we know why. In a misleadingly-titled announcement, “For Giants: A special note about the Page Break Module,” we’re told that the page break module “experiment” will be going away for Giants in a week. Apparently SquidHQ forgot that this module was released to ALL members of Squidoo, and they didn’t see the bug reports.

On the one hand, the page break module was not very well implemented. We had to create own page-to-page navigation at the top and bottom of the page via a navigation menu or the “Big Arrow Link” module. On the other hand, some of us had mastered Page Breaks and found them to be powerful and useful.

The Page Break allowed us to write a multi-page article such as my How Google’s Panda Update Impacted Hubpages and Squidoo, which needs to be  that long to cover the topic adequately, but does better broken into pages like a standard news or expert article (think WIRED magazine).  The page break also allowed us to create a themed lens on a big topic, like my Volcanoes lens, which was originally a single-page lens, later divided into subtopics. I used my lens traffic stats to guide me on what sub-topics to focus on in more depth, addressing common visitors’ queries and using the keywords they used most often to title the sub-pages.  Traffic increased exponentially as a result of my responding to my readers’ wants.  I’ve done the same with some of my other most successful lenses, resulting in my best Squidoo traffic and 2 top tier lenses.

In my non-Giant niche account, I used the Page Break to create a holiday buyer’s guide to an entire line of collectibles. There’s no way to do this on one lens, since there were too many products. Instead, I divided them up into the sets in which they were released, groups of six to eight, with personal reviews, photos, Amazon and eBay modules on each item in the set. It took so many weeks to build that I only caught the end of the holiday season, but it’s my top seller in my niche account — or was, until the loss of page breaks killed it.

So, RIP, page break. How do we recover this lost functionality?

Page Break Recovery Plan…


Squidoo’s Beginnings: How It Started

On my sticky notes of Squidoo lens ideas, I’ve had one grandiose note sitting in the idea box forever: “Squidoo then and now  — how to realize Seth’s vision.” This week, I finally got around to tackling it.

I found more questions than answers. And then I realized that of course, we all have different ways to realize Seth’s vision, because if we all did the same thing, it wouldn’t match his vision.

Therefore, I made THIS lens:

Squidoo’s Beginnings: A Look Back

And what we can learn from them.


My goal with this lens is to look back at how Squidoo started, and learn what it was like then, what it was for, and what Seth Godin’s original vision for a lens actually was.

Then I trace some… just SOME! … of the way the site, the community, and our concept of a lens developed.

It’s shaped by my own experience of Squidoo’s growth and changes. Your experience will be different, and that’s good. Examine your own memories of how Squidoo’s changed and think about them. Consider the threads I’ve picked out. Especially, consider the questions: what is a lens? What is it for? What is Squidoo all about?

Over time, the answers to those questions have changed… but not entirely. Some things have remained constant. What are they?

Those answers may help guide you in finding your very own way to Squidoo.

How I Got an Old Squidoo Lens from Lensrank 100,000+ to 2000

After nearly a year of lensrank 100,000+, my Tier One Challenge Lens has climbed to lensrank 1,872 today,

a month and a day after I entered it in the Tier One Challenge. Of course, getting there is step one. Holding it there for a month is the actual challenge. But I’m encouraged by the fact that it’s been hanging around in the 2000 range for over a week now, and has not dipped below 3900 in 3 weeks.

Here’s a quick overview of the before-and-after stats, and the chief things I did to improve it.


Get Traffic By Designing for Visually Impaired Web Users

Enhanced web accessibility means enhanced SEO

Visually impaired users use screen readers, i.e. voice software, to browse the web. There’s a lot more people surfing the web this way than you’d think. They are dependent on the text we use and the organization of web pages to help them navigate.

Search engines, too, are text-dependent. They need keywords to help them analyze page content. They need structure like headings and  image file names to tell them what each section and image is. They use words in bold, links, and certain key parts of each page to help them learn their way around.

Designing for human users and search engines often forces us to juggle two conflicting priorities: human readability versus targeting keywords. In this case, we’ve got a win-win situation: designing for people will help search engines get what we’re trying to say.

A Squidoo Example

A Squidoo page which I just critiqued in SquidU’s Critique Me forum got me to thinking about all this. It’s a simple page: Funny Pie Charts. It’s a collection of funny pictures. The page’s author did a good job of making the page more accessible for search engines by choosing a short phrase and using it in the image’s file name, alt text, and title text. (Title text is optional text that pops up when you hover your cursor over a link. You put it into  link tag like this:  <a href=”link goes here” title=”hover text goes here”>clickable text</a>. Each image was linked back to the page it came from, so there was a place to include title text).

I suggested that the “Funny Pie Charts” author could leverage search engine traffic even more by varying the phrase in the image file name, alt text, and title text. Then I thought about people using screen readers. They won’t get the jokes, because the jokes only appear in the graph itself. For example, there’s a graph on “What Zombies Do” that includes “Dance with Michael Jackson”.

If the alt-text for each image included the funniest two or three options from the graph, then people using screen readers could enjoy the page too. And search engines would see those words. Win!

The Long Tail, Again

If you write humor or any content with web accessibility in mind, you’re chasing the long tail: that large untapped reservoir of niches, under-served target audiences, and people with special interests and intense passions who will care more about your page on wombat widgets than the huge mainstream population who read any sort of widget webpages or buy any old widgets. You may not be able to compete in the widgets market, because the widget market is saturated. There’s a million widget webpages and widget producers and big-name widget brands out there. But by golly, you can compete on wombat widgets.

So write for the screen reader crowd. Give them content to read and funny pages to laugh about which they’ll share and like and email to their friends. The next time you make a Lolcat, give it an alt-name that includes the caption found in the graphic, and let them enjoy the joke.

How to Design Pages for Screen Readers

How do we design for screen readers? There’s a lot of good guides out there, but here’s a lengthy yet incredibly information-packed Guidelines for Accessible and Usable Websites that includes all kinds of tips about how people with screen readers navigate webpages and how to shape your content to help them along.

Here’s five things which we can do:

  • Use alt-text to make clear what’s in a picture, especially any text in the graphic. Exception: don’t waste time identifying a decorative graphic that provides no content, only a visual accent.
  • Start each paragraph, header, and link with words that give readers a clue what’s in the rest of that section.
  • Establish patterns and repeat them. For example, cookbooks present recipes in the same order on every page: ingredients on the left, graphic on the right, step-by-step instructions below.
  • When possible, avoid terms that voice software is likely to mangle. Abbreviations, cute spellings, and compound words often come out funny.  For example, “homepage” gets mispronounced, so use “home page,” two words. In this post, I’ve used “web page” and “file name” instead of running them together as I usually do.
  • Don’t waste readers’ time. Be brief. (Oh, I have a hard time on this one.)

Speaking of which:


Squidoo Graphics and Image File Types

I was  discouraged when I found a Squidoo lensmaster taking designs from my Squidoo Graphics lens and selling them on Zazzle, ignoring the Creative Commons license I posted on that lens. I didn’t feel like making new graphics, after that. However, I’ve recently been inspired again.

Recently, a newbie asked if there were Squidoo banners one could download. I started to send him to the official Squidoo banners downloads lens, but I saw that none of those graphics are really banners. So I made some and posted a new Squidoo Banners For You lens.

So what? Is this just a transparent link-drop? No, actually, I want to teach you a little about graphics, so you understand what I’m doing, and more importantly, so you understand what you are doing when you resize, save, or use a graphic.

Disclaimer: The Squidoo logo is a trademark of Squidoo LLC. This blog is not endorsed by/affiliated with Squidoo LLC.


CSS, Graphics, and Lens Design: My Best Design

I think that to date, the Squidoo Museum is my best lens as far as presentation, although the Fancy Table of Contents lens comes close.

I’d like to talk about how I put together the Squidoo Museum. It demonstrates everything I know about graphics, color, fonts, and CSS.


Advanced CSS Tricks and Tips: Borders and Backgrounds and Captions, Oh My!

I finally got around to updating my Advanced CSS lens, where I used to post crazy “lab experiments” in CSS.

Now I’ve reorganized it and made it more dignified (slightly), and added all the tricks I tend to use most on my lenses: rounded corners, background-images for paragraphs, captions under aligned images, drop caps, dramatic numbered lists, and most of all, playing around with the introduction module to make the first thing visitors see look great.

I’ve moved the old lab experiments to page 2. There’s another use for a Page Break!

(My “crazy lab experiments” lens is now ZEE CODE SCRATCHPAD. Once I’ve got things working nicely there, I may move the “finished products” to the AdvancedCSS lens for prime time viewing.)

Updating Squidoo Lenses: Staying Fresh

After 60 (?) days, a lens loses lensrank because it’s not fresh.

Also, Google rewards frequently updated content.

These are two separate things, but they go together.

What are your techniques for keeping lenses fresh?

Here’s some of mine.

Quick Fix — do one of the following

  • While watching TV, I’ll sort my dashboard by date (click the date column at top), then edit and re-publish. Don’t do all of them on the same day — stagger them so you’re doing 10 or so on different days.
  • (more…)