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


Squidoo Setbacks

Since Squidoo’s removal of favorites, Squidcasts, fanclubs, page breaks, bio box content, lensrolls and so many other  changes, it’s impossible to tell which are the contributing factors in lensrank changes. A slight drop in Google traffic  muddies the waters further.

But now that we’re past the flurry of updates precipitated by these changes, and Squidoo is starting to stabilize, I see that this is not simply a temporary lensrank churn. I’m down to 5-7 regular tier one lenses from 10-12 before these changes. That represents a loss of over $150 a month. I’ve got tier 2 lenses with 500+ visitors. All together, about 30 lenses have tumbled down into the “dud” range, making nearly a third of my lenses non-earning. (See my Squidoo Stats.) Sales are down slightly too, although some of that is seasonal.

I had guessed, but was never sure, that number of fans was a minor lensrank factor. My lensrank drop across the board seems to confirm it. If so, that’s good news for newbies. But I can’t be sure that’s the cause. Many lenses which dropped were page break lenses and/or received visitors from Squidcasts, since I used to use them to share Squidoo tips or interesting news related to the topics of my lenses. And all these changes have shaved about 2000 weekly visitor total from my lens portfolio. Therefore I’m left guessing: too many factors, no way to know which is the cause.

On Squidoo, the cause doesn’t always lie in your lenses, but in everybody else’s: lensrank is a comparison between all lenses on the site. Many members had to do a tremendous amount of updating as a result of Squidoo’s recent changes, and all those updates mean different content, which Google will have noticed. There may be other Google factors, too: Google may have reacted to the changed structure of Squidoo brought about by the loss of lensrolls, navigation links in bio boxes, the extra Adsense above the fold, or other changes.

And just because many of us have experienced drops does not mean there haven’t been gains elsewhere.’s Squidoo traffic measurements suggest no more than typical seasonal variation. So I don’t think it’s just Google traffic. Other members may have good lenses that were overlooked under Squidoo’s old system. I’m not seeing any more spam or junk lenses than usual at the top levels of Squidoo. Just stiff competition.

So now what? My personal goal to have Squidoo earning me $1500 by the end of this year has been set back by all these changes: I’m still not through fixing all my page break lenses, and I have created almost no new lenses apart from repotted page breaks. Some are getting traffic, and may in the long run be successful, but for now they are struggling to get onto Google’s radar; it still has some of them filed under their old page breaks. I was hoping to get my niche account up to Giant status this month, since it was rejected in April, but I’m still working on page break repairs there, too, and will probably miss the June deadline.

Beyond Squidoo, I’ve been seeking other baskets for my eggs, but each requires a learning curve that’s difficult to climb while at the same time doing Squidoo triage. is a possibility. I see Hubpages as a sleeper opportunity: Squidoo got hit hard by a Google slap 2007, got written off by many, and came back stronger. Print-on-Demand sites like Zazzle continue to have untapped potential. Self-hosted blogs or sites are probably the most viable long-term option. The closure of Amazon Associate programs in many states is worrying me: it may make the only monetization of my main blog obsolete. Longterm, the answer for me is to get my first novel published, but I was hoping to use Squidoo and other online earnings to provide a base income while I buried myself in writing.

In short, this is a rough time for all of us. I don’t have the answers, and in fact I can’t post many Squidoo tips right now, since the strategies that used to work for me seem to be sputtering. I just wanted to share my own experiences, to let others know that you’re not alone: even experienced Squids hit rough patches. Like any job, the test is to persevere, find and identify what you can work on, and look for and test alternatives.

Oh No, Should I Update More Often?

Ugh. There’s a part of the Squidoo lensrank algorithm I’ve been ignoring, because it’s not what I want to be doing. From the Squidoo FAQ:

Wikipedia has a system with one entry per topic. We don’t. Instead, we encourage multiple lenses on a topic. Then, we use an automated algorithm-LensRank-to rank the lenses. We look at community ratings, lensmaster reputation, clickthrough rates, frequency of updates, inbound and outbound links, revenue generated, and lots of other factors and give the lens a number.

Fine and dandy. But I have over 200 lenses! I generally don’t update unless I’ve heard some news, discovered a product, or found some interesting tidbit to add to an existing lens. Only rarely do I go back and substantially tweak/improve lenses. A photo here, a caption there, adding a new featured lens or widget, sure, but most of my updates are cosmetic. I republish each lens every sixty days, since lenses sitting longer than that appear under the “needs to be updated” label, but beyond that, it’s ad hoc.

However, I’m beginning to suspect that republishing lenses once a week really does give a lensrank boost, especially to bottom-of-the-heap lenses. Check out this week’s lensrank on Sunday, two days after I actually did republish all my lenses:

Most of the tiers haven’t changed that much, which is good: they’re holding position through performance. However tier 4 (“dud”) shows a distinct improvement between last week and this week.

IS it worth it? Republishing every lens takes a lot of time, and updates are meaningless unless one looks at every lens and edits/improves each one. I’m sure most of those updated tier 4s are just going to earn 25 to 30 more cents as tier 3 lenses, at best. Whoopie.

I don’t want to just republish for the sake of republishing. It’s time consuming and perhaps not as valuable as making another lens. However, I may be doing it more often than every sixty days, now.

Fooey. I honestly hope the results turn out to be “it doesn’t make much difference,” but that uptick is troubling me.

And in more cheery news, my 2011 goals are on track so far. Can’t wait for the next payout.

Tier Three Marathon: Results

On Dec. 4th, Timewarp asked if Tier Three lenses really mattered, since they get so little income. We discussed it in SquidU.

More recently, I made a chart of Tier Three payments and how they’ve grown:

squidoo payouts tier 3

Now we’re getting somewhere, especially if that trend continues.

Back on Dec. 4th, I reasoned that if tier 3 lenses really are worth something, then it’s worth taking 20 minutes with each lens below tier 3 and trying to make some changes that could make it a steady tier 3 lens, without any maintenance. (If it requires constant updates just to keep it in tier 3, it’s not a good return on time.)

Spending 20 minutes to half an hour apiece, overhauled 15 “dud” lenses. It’s time to check on them and learn what we can.

4-Dec 28-Jan January
Lens Lensrank Traffic Lensrank Traffic Clickouts avg LR
About Squidbits 224,041 0 223,235 0 0 152,001
Matt Holliday Song 223,022 0 144,691 2 0 124,605
Henry the Hexapus 223,021 0 65,179 3 2 84,343
Alex De Campi 223,020 0 223,237 0 0 163,249
Around the World 210,838 0 223,236 0 0 161,908
Get Rid of Ants 202,803 0 41,549 9 8 104,067
Nauplion 184,469 0 62,441 6 1 129,670
Fluffunutta Fans 180,666 1 107,151 4 2 127,130
Traveling Squid 178,986 0 222,354 0 0 138,390
Ann Brundige 161,985 0 91,317 3 4 117,695
Facing Fears 161,336 1 158,183 1 0 147,300
Travel Threads 160,519 0 115,463 6 0 129,985
I HATE COWS 158,377 0 134,711 3 0 137,784
Squidoo Widgets 91,541 1 91,541 1 0 129,447
Photo Gallery 143,910 0 107,503 2 2 68,083

As you can see, 2 of 15 made tier 3 payouts. In addition, I believe from trends that Nauplion and Ants may soon be permanent tier 3 members.

The few lenses that reached Tier 3 now have reliable clickouts + traffic of 5-6 or more. That combo is significant. Clickouts multiply, or at least add to, the lensrank-boost of traffic.

So what’s helping those lenses cling to tier 3 now, when they were duds before?

The Hexapus lens now gets some traffic through very specific image searches: I’d added images of a particular species of octopus, and it’s getting image searches for that species. People are also clicking on those images. Conclusion; I turned a static “news” page into a “here’s what you want…click it!” page.

The Ants lens now gets improved traffic through search queries targeting its topic better. I’m not sure whether my slight tweaks to image names, headers, and body text improved on-page optimization, or it just needed one backlink (my last blog post), or whether this is just the typical in-and-out Google dance, but apparently the page is now ranking in Google and other search engines, and it wasn’t before.

Take-home lesson: one quick way to boost bottom-rung lenses is to add images and label them with alt-tags.

The lenses that failed were all narrow-interest topics that few people beyond Squidoo care about.

Many were “my story” or “I have something to say about…” type lenses, which in my experience don’t do well. Whether it’s things you love or hate or are thinking about, people may find them interesting if they ever discover your thoughts, but there just aren’t many people searching for your thoughts. Traffic isn’t everything, but everything starts with traffic. (Gee, I need to bronze that quote somewhere — did I just say that?)


Professional bloggers like Seth Godin and Arianne Huffington eventually get lots of people reading what they have to say. But they didn’t get their following through search traffic. They got there by saying more clever things, and/or providing more information, than 99% of the web, and then depending on word-of-mouth. In other words, social media, the alternative to search engine optimization.

Two tools for two different kinds of content. But I think on Squidoo, or anywhere, you have a harder time getting traffic to idea-based content than person-place-or-thing content (which is easier to SEO).

Tier Three Lens Marathon, Part 2

  • In my last post, I got inspired to take all my dud Squidoo lenses at the bottom of the dashboard and see how many I can improve enough for them to earn a tier three payout.

I quickly rediscovered why each lens was doing so poorly. They weren’t on very popular search topics, so trying to earn visits to them is quite challenging. Many will remain duds.

Nonetheless, I have set myself this challenge, because even when I fail, I often learn something. In this case, I’m learning what one can do QUICKLY but meaningfully to update a lens, when you don’t have time to do lots of keyword research and SEO, beautiful graphics and CSS, hours of researching/improving content, or tens of minutes doing self-promotion in places that probably won’t give much (or any) longterm traffic anyway.

Once again, I’ll be slowing myself down by spending 5 minutes telling YOU what I did for 20 minutes to improve each lens. I’m trying to share tips you can adapt for your own lens updates, although, of course, part of the reason for these posts is to create some (very low-quality) backlinks.

BACK TO WORK! Next lens up is…


My Tier One Challenge Lens: FAIL! But also success

First Tier One Payout for a one-year-old lens

Soooo. My Tier One Challenge lens reached Tier One on Nov. 11, dipped DOWN to lensrank 2119 on Nov 29, and is back up to 1624 today due to an Amazon sale. That fails the challenge to keep it in tier one a month, but I don’t mind, as its average for November is 1800, early its very first tier one payout! Not bad for a lens which averaged in the 100,000+ range for all but 2 months Nov ’09 to Sep ’10.

It’s still not a tippy-top lens, but I’m noticing a few trends that we can learn from, maybe.

So let’s take a tour of Dashboard Stats. First of all:

Vital Squidoo Statistics (12/2/10)

  • #1,624 overall
  • #49 in People Note: I am sneaky! Its content also fit in How to & Education, but “People” had less competition, and Athena is a person…well, sort of. ALSO it’s a SquidQuiz. Optimization gave it a chance to get to the front page of the People category AND the SquidQuiz co-brand, both of which are “top of the hierarchy” pages which should have good pagerank.
  • Highest rank achieved: #918 overall
  • Days on the Top 100 list: 0


My Tier One challenge lens is puttering along…

Well, my Athena Greek mythology quiz is still puttering along. I love looking at this graph on the dashboard:Tier One Challenge Lens Stats

Its traffic is only 15-25 a day, and I’m still not sure how much of its lensrank is due to likes (although they’ve slowed down — everyone who’d like it has Liked it.)  I am also wondering if the number of different referrers sending it traffic helps. I’ve always wondered what exactly they mean in the Squidoo FAQ by:

We look at community ratings, lensmaster reputation, clickthrough rates, frequency of updates, inbound and outbound links, revenue generated, and lots of other factors and give the lens a number.

Source Visits
Referral 93
Google 28
Direct 13
Ask 2
Yahoo 1

Every single visitor who arrived through search came with a slightly different search query. That’s the on-page SEO, optimizing for related searches, and content-rich approach at work. The referrals are visits from 18 different domains, half of them image searches or Google in other countries.

As for outbound links, I’ve got that covered: 66 clickouts in a month, 28 clicks on 18 different links in the last week, clickthrough rate of 8%. I’m sure this is part of why a low-traffic (for tier 1) lens performs well. What I don’t know is whether the lensrank algorithm counts any kind of user intereaction — comments or taking a quiz — as significant.

As for the whole group of 10 lenses (the challenge lens and its siblings), they’ve all prospered since this challenge began. All were in the 100K range with almost zero visitors and likes before. Now:

In other news, I’ve had 10 steady top tier lenses all month and a few more playing musical tiers with the bottom end of the tier (i.e. they’re tier 1 some days but not enough to average above it. )

Tier One Challenge: We Have a Winner!

Lensmaster DinosaurEgg’s Dinosaur Coloring Pages for Kids — Raah! is the first lens in the Tier One Challenge to rise to Tier One (after never being in tier 2, as per the rules) and stay there for 30 days. Stop by to visit it and congratulate this fairly new lensmaster, who joined in late July!

I am not the expert — DinosaurEgg is, after getting this lens to the top! But off the top of my head, I can see several components of this winning strategy:

  • Combining THREE popular niches: coloring (kids fun), education, and teachers/homeschooling resources
  • Title includes keywords for search engines, tells people exactly what’s on the page, and has a little personality to draw the click!
  • Lens logo graphic is personal: it’s a real kid’s coloring job, messy lines and all, which gives the page so much more personality! Some studies show that a “credible” webpage logo or graphic is the most important thing in getting a visitor to look at the rest of a page
  • The introduction is short, tells what’s on the page (with keywords), but again includes a personal touch: she mentions her kids using the coloring pages she’s found
  • Excellent, simple CSS to make the page look good
  • Navigation system to help people find their way around the page, which also shows it’s been organized in a logical way
  • Hand-picked links and resources. Forget writing lots and lots of your own content. Get people to what they want with a guarantee you’ve picked out good links and products!
  • Well-targeted things to sell.
  • TONS of really good links, which means a ton of clickouts.
  • Occasional personal touches throughout — reinforced with the author’s own, original assets (actual coloring examples by the author’s kids)
  • PAGE BREAK MODULE: lots of closely-targeted pages means more “fishing nets” for visitors, doubling, tripling, even quadrupling traffic potential. Clickouts and sales are the bottom line, but both depend on traffic!
  • Cross-linked with a ton of other dinosaur niche lenses by the author (Yahoo site explorer sees 99 links from the rest of to the page).
  • Backlinks, schmacklinks: of the 138 backlinks Squidaholic (Yahoo site explorer sees), 18 are outside of SquidU posts (mostly Squidom, lensroll, squidUtils, but one hub, and a few blog posts).
  • Weekly traffic: 438 today. You don’t need thousands. You need hundreds who are willing to click and/or buy.

Well done, Dinosauregg! Thanks for the lesson in how to Squidoo!

Thad Has a Thought

(Yes, I am Thad)

I’ve avoided posting this because I’m afraid it might set off a kerfluffle.

But ostrich mode is boring, so.

It has always been true that a lens published mid-month will probably not earn until the next month, because however strong its launch, its average lensrank for all the days it didn’t exist should be estimated as…what…? two million?  Lower than any lens that had a single visitor However, I think it was once possible to get a payout for a lens’ first month of existence, if it did phenomenally well.

However, if I’m understanding Fluffanutta right — and he knows Squidoo’s guts as well as anybody — a lens now earns nothing from the Ad Pool during its first partial month of existence, full stop. (It is eligible for affiliate sales through modules like Amazon from day one.)

This raises a question.


Great Ideas from the Tier One Challenge Thread

Since LindaJM started the Tier One Challenge on Oct 10, the challenge thread has grown to 15 pages. Way back at the start, Fluffanutta said:

People in this challenge need to think about how they are going to get their lenses to the top.
It won’t be enough to simply drop a link in the forum – you need to work on the content of the lens: update it and add some fresh quality text. Add plenty of clickout opportunities and sale modules where relevant. Also, check the tags and build some new links from other related and authoritative websites.

That is an excellent, succinct summary of lens improvement and promotion. Take about 30 seconds to ponder it!

Besides that nugget of distilled wisdom, the thread has become a compendium of brief or not-so-brief notes on techniques we’re using to improve and promote lenses. Here’s a quick survey / summary of tips from all fifteen pages of the thread so far:

  • Write on-topic blog posts featuring a link to the lens.
  • Linda asked us to consider Three Key Questions in tweaking our lens.
  • Work on Keyword research, SEO, and Squidoo tags.
  • Add more interactivity (Polls, Duels, Plexos).
  • Add Amazon Spotlights, Zazzle, eBay, etc. (See my “Selling Stuff” Module list for which are commission-earning, and which simply invite clickthroughs).
  • Cross-link with one’s other lenses via Featured Lenses module, Squidoo tags, or links in the body of the lens. Links from Squidoo’s co-brand may be treated as backlinks from a different domain.
  • Post article on your topic, with link to lens, on Hubpages, Gather, Ezine, or other article submission sites.
  • Alex is pinging “reader services” with (I assume) the RSS feeds of lenses, and I need to know what he means by a “bookmark drip” (perhaps bookmarking on places like del.ici.ous and Tagfoot?)

Another Fluffanugget:

Send a SquidCast. Write a good paragraph or two telling people what the lens is about, and why it they might be interested in it. Something juicy that grabs them. If you’ve syndicated your SquidCast feed properly, then this message will go out across the blogosphere and social networks giving your lens more exposure and backlinks.

  • Promote lens with social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc). [Remember: social media is usually more effective as a way to reach people, not search engines.]
  • Look for places to post backlinks (comments on related blogs, but be careful to be a good contributor not a spammer), related subject directories.
  • Hard-core backlink building.
  • Modify module subtitles to target keywords, or alternate keywords (related searches).
  • Utilize Sidebar Widgets, especially Amazon Spotlight.
  • Tidy/tweak appearance, graphics, content!
  • See Jollyvillechick’s Lens Promotion Followup Checklist and a whole slew of good ideas and another slew.
  • Join a discussion forum related to topic, participate meaningfully, include link in profile.
  • Add outbound links from the lens to excellent, relevant blog posts, or lensroll related lenses (says Fluff: these links add keyword-rich anchor text AND invite clickouts).
  • Twitter Search module to get updated, related content on lens (NOT Twitter Follow, which is not indexed by search engines).
  • Use to promote across all your social media accounts quickly.
  • Break lens into multiple, more focused pages using Page Break Module.
  • Add more clickable, specifically-named images for clickouts and image search traffic.

Finally, CCGAL has created a lensography for the challenge featuring all the challenge lenses.

And in fact, this post was GOING to be a survey of all those lenses, but I got distracted. So stay tuned!

Old Squidoo Lens Rises from Lensrank 100K to 10K in 7 Days

This is why SquidQuizzes need extra content.

Take a look at what happens to the lensrank of an old SquidQuiz when I supplement it with new content for search engines to pick up. A little promotion doesn’t hurt either.

Average Lensrank –  Nov ’09 to Sep ’10: 105,197

Lensrank – Oct 5 2010: 101,282

Lensrank – Oct 12 2010: 13,824

Ten months in the life of a Squidquiz:

Squidquiz Lensrank by MonthBreakdown from SquidUtils:

Date Lensrank Visits
November 2009 127,995 1
December 2009 93,938 36
January 2010 103,854 66
February 2010 121,585 47
March 2010 110,926 53
April 2010 80,809 51
May 2010 118,422 48
June 2010 89,571 35
July 2010 122,344 43
August 2010 106,551 49
September 2010 103,974 52

Lensrank Last Seven Days:

Squidquiz Lensrank By Day

Breakdown from SquidUtils:

Date Lensrank Visits
30 September 2010 104,110 0
1 October 2010 108,284 0
2 October 2010 109,855 4
3 October 2010 106,819 4
4 October 2010 103,502 6
5 October 2010 101,282 4
6 October 2010 69,496 3
7 October 2010 75,158 1
8 October 2010 80,357 3
9 October 2010 84,138 4
10 October 2010 84,121 6
11 October 2010 25,125 18

So far so good, although most of this is not sustainable since it derives from SquidLikes which wear off in a few weeks.

However, as outlined in the first post for the Tier One Challenge, I’ve been laying the foundations for longterm improvements; the Squidoo social stuff is a side effect and not what I’m targeting. I see single search traffic results from Yahoo, Google, and Ask targeting the new lens content, and a couple visits from the LJ* post I made yesterday.

Today I’m going to work on syndication of Squidcasts and RSS feeds.

I already have a syndicated PR2 Livejournal blog that’s several years old where I announce updates to Ancient Greece Odyssey, so I just announced the quizzes there, and I’ll announce it on as well, a PR3 site that’s 2.5 years old.

I’m also going to finish updating related lenses, the other Squidquizzes in the series. I did most of them last week, but there’s two still awaiting my attention. They all cross-link to each other, so they need uniform look-and-feel plus good content on all of them, which will attract traffic and drive some to the test quiz.

*(I’m both surprised and relieved that Livejournal, forerunner of MySpace and Facebook, has never registered on SEO / Social Media radar; it’s only a huge social blogging community that’s been around since the 90s! But it’s not designed in an SEO-friendly manner like modern blogging software and sites.)