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

testing and experiments

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.


New Hub vs. New Lens: an Experiment

Query: How fast can new content on Hubpages and Squidoo start getting significant traffic and earning income? Which platform is best for publishing on trending, buzzworthy news and events?

When Hubpages introduced Idle Status, I wrote a hub about how Idle Status worked and possible ramifications. I drew comparisons with Squidoo’s WIP status.

A debate came up in that article’s comments about new hubs vs. new lenses. Squid∩ forum discussions helped me understand how the two sites deal with a newly-published article. This is important, because it determines whether a new article can get any search traffic or catch the wave of a traffic spike from a trending topic.

What happens to a newly-published article on Squidoo:

  1. A newly-published lens is visible to visitors who are sent to it via a link
  2. Search engines will index it if  they see a link to it and crawl it
  3. So it’s possible (and not difficult) to get search traffic coming in, before…
  4. Around midnight, Squidoo turns the lens red on the dashboard and marks it as WIP, but does NOT put a noindex tag on it.
  5. And about 6-8 hours later, Squidoo runs the lensranking algorithm, features the lens, removes the WIP status, plugs the lens into Squidoo’s directory, at which point search engines will find it if they haven’t already

What happens to a newly-published article on Hubpages:

  1. A newly-published hub is visible to visitors, but has a NOINDEX tag
  2. A search engine may find it if you share the link, but will NOT index it because of the NOINDEX TAG
  3. This will remain true until Hubpages removes Pending status AND search bots return to the page and recrawl it.
  4. Also, if you edit the hub after it’s been published, it will reset the Pending clock, and it could be another day before Hubpages moves it out of Pending status.
I believe that once a searchbot sees a new hub with a NOINDEX tag, that search engine may not return or recrawl the article for several days, but it could be a few weeks. (Recrawls happen more often on pages that searchbots expect to be updated frequently). This makes it dangerous to share a link to a new hub anywhere, even on Twitter, where searchbots may see the link.

My experiment: new lens vs. new hub

Thursday at midnight, I created a hub about the Friday morning shuttle flyover of California. The next day, when I realized it wasn’t getting search traffic, I created a lens about the same topic on Friday afternoon after I got home from watching it (written from scratch, so there’s no duplicate text.)

Publicity: On first publish for both hub and lens, I tweeted the URL using the event’s official hashtags and shared a link to it in a Squid∩ forum post. I retweeted the hub on Friday after I edited the hub and added my photos.


Remember, the hub is one day older than the lens. Also, the hub was published the night before the event, whereas the lens was published after it. Nevertheless, three days after the event:

  • Hub traffic from GA as of Monday 8:30AM - 130 pageviews, 79 unique, from sources: 49 Squid∩, 40 hubpages, 21 Twitter, 10 from Twitter widgets on online newspapers set to display latest Tweets from #spottheshuttle hashtag, 10 direct (probably me reloading).
  • Lens traffic from GA as of Monday 8:30AM – 163 pageviews, 114 unique, from sources: 104 Google search, 29 Squid∩, 6 direct (I emailed it to relatives), 15 Twitter (including, 8 other search engines.
  • The hub finally came out of Pending Mode on Sunday, over 48 hours after first publish.
  • As of Monday 8:30 am, 56 hours after publish, the hub is still not in Google’s cache, although a Google search shows that Google indexed Tweets pointing to the hub AND a link to the new hub on my profile page:


Obviously, this is a very small sample size. We can’t extrapolate much from the actual numbers of visitors from different sources, but they can tell us what’s possible for a new hub or a new lens:

  • A new hub won’t get search traffic. However, a new hub gets internal traffic (visits from other hubbers), due to the fact that Hubpages has a “followers/activity stream” inviting other hubbers to come by.
  • If you promote a new lens immediately after first publish, it will be indexed by Google and has the potential for instant search traffic.
  • By using official hashtags related to the event, I not only received direct Twitter traffic during the height of the buzz, but also, traffic from automated Twitter widgets displayed on various websites — newspapers, — displaying the latest Tweets for a topic they were covering.


To recap:

This whole experiment is basically addressing, “Can you make money publishing on a trending/buzzworthy topic that gets an initial traffic spike which peters out later?”

PRIOR to Hubpages implementing Idle status, the answer was “Yes, but only on Hubpages, not Squidoo.” I had hit upon this as a great Hubpages strategy, sucking in thousands of visitors during the height of an event (e.g. the Mars rover landing) which petered off to 5-20 visits a day longterm.  Hubpages pays for ad impressions and ad clicks, so a traffic spike like that could result in a crunchy payout. Whereas on Squidoo, the answer was “not unless you can drive affiliate sales,” because a new lens isn’t eligible for advertising revenue until the first of the month AFTER it’s published.

Pending status changes this. On Squidoo, you might at least get some sales from a big, trending-topic traffic spike, especially because most of the traffic will be search traffic which came specifically out of an interest in that topic. Whereas on Hubpages, you’ll get social traffic and a lot of hubfollower traffic, who may be coming because they like your writing rather than because they are really interested in the topic.  Ad clicks and sales are less likely with this audience. (Also, in practice, I’ve only gotten one sale EVER from a Hubpages Amazon capsule, as opposed to dozens per week on Squidoo.)

Basically, now neither site is an effective platform for publishing fresh, new, buzzworthy content on a trending event. Either you get zero search traffic for the first week or so (Hubpages) or zero advertising revenue (Squidoo).

My hunch is that Hubpages will respond to member concerns about Pending Status = NOINDEX and fix this problem. However, as long as “Pending” status means no search traffic for days or weeks after first publish, I am disinclined to publish new hubs.

Which is good news for Christene, my Zujava referrer: it’s time for me to start learning what kind of content works best on Zujava.  :)


[UPDATE: It occurs to me that once “Pending” status is removed from a Hubpages hub – a day or two after first publish — you can probably force Googlebot to recrawl the hub by submitting its URL to Webmaster Tools.  But it may take another day for recrawl, and it won’t help with other search engines.]


Update2: I just tested: what about a new lens from a non-Giant Squidoo account? Same result…

  1. I published J.R.R. Tolkien’s Artwork  at 8:10 PM Tuesday night.
  2. On first publish,  sourcecode shows no sign of “noindex,” and lens is blue, not WIP, on dashboard (Screencap at 9:26PM)
  3. To get Googlebot’s attention, I Tweeted, cross-linked with related lenses, and link dropped on Squid∩ and Dreamwidth.
  4. Googlebot crawled at 9:08 PM (Screencap).
  5. As of 9:47 PST, lens was still blue, still NO noindex tag.
  6. At 10:40 PM, lens turned red on dashboard (screencap)
  7. BUT a search of the sourcecode at 10:40 revealed no sign of noindex (screencap).  I checked again at midnight; ditto. Compare with sourcecode (screencap) of this old, fallen-into-WIP lens whose sourcecode includes noindex/nofollow meta-tags.
  8. First search traffic from Bing at 1AM. (Which shows why we shouldn’t only consider Google).

The Long Tail in the Age of Semantic SEO

I recently did a long tail experiment to catch a few different search phrases.

See my introduction to the long tail, The New Long Tail of SEO, if you don’t know what I mean by that term.

Okay. Here’s the story.


Traffic Trick: Give Something

You know the trick: Free Prize inside. Give people something. Rewarding visitors encourages clicks (we’re programmed to reciprocate), and it gives them a reason to read your article. Besides, the internet was built on free stuff  — commercial enterprise was actually illegal on the internet until relatively recently — and it still grows largely based on free stuff: our content, our ideas, our comments, which are an indirect return for the massive infrastructure invisibly keeping the net running.

But beyond that. Doing something for customers is a marketing trick used by everyone from the IWearYourShirt guys to scantily-clad people in front of web cams. So many newbies ask, “Why aren’t I getting any traffic?” When the answer is, “Why SHOULD traffic show up on your doorstep?” What creative, original thing have you done to bring that traffic? And what are you giving your visitors? You should ask yourself this question with every page for which you want traffic: what are you giving people they can’t get anywhere else?

I have a good online friend who’s just turned thirty. To celebrate being 30, she created this website: Experiment30.  For the next year, she’s going to be putting up polls inviting the internet to tell her what to do. Crazy stuff. Silly stuff. Not R-rated stuff, mind, but just…well, go see what her first poll asks.  She’ll be posting photos or results as she acts out whatever people tell her to do.

Will she get visitors? No guarantees. She’s not doing it to get lots of traffic. She doesn’t know squat about SEO. She has no idea I’m posting this as a signal boost. But it’s an interesting experiment. It’s also authentic. She’s just doing it….because why not?

Happy birthday, you nut. Good luck.

More Experimenting: Boldface and SEO

I’m really pleased that Michael Martinez of SEO-Theory dropped by to check out my fledging experiments in boldface and SEO, although his shrewd comments remind me yet again why it is so much easier to parrot “common SEO wisdom” than test it.

Anyway, in my test pages, I’ve been flop-flopping which page of each pair has the boldface. At first, it took one to two weeks to see any shift in SERPs, but now Google has decided they are regularly-updated pages, and it’s picking up the changes within a few days now.

I’ve done 4 flip-flops where the only changes were switching which page of the pair was bold, and sure enough, each time I’ve done it, Google soon changes which one of them is listed first, which listed behind a “Similar results” link. I cannot be absolutely sure I’ve isolated all factors, but I think that’s enough for me, Jane Q. Blogger and Squidoo author, to be fairly confident that Google gives a little extra weight to text in boldface.

Of course, in this case, the biggest confirmation is that Matt Cutts of Google said that Google treats <b> and <strong>, <i> and <em> “with exactly the same weight.” Taken literally, “the same weight” could be zilch, but he wouldn’t have mentioned them unless Google gave them some significant weight. The only question is how significant. I’m guessing not much, but — here we go again — I haven’t tested enough to tell.

Note that <b> is actually a bad habit. I should have been testing <strong>. Back in the day, HTML mixed up two fundamentally different things: how to display something (bold, italic) versus what it is (a paragraph, a title, a header, a key word or important point). <b> and <i> are like specifying that you want medium rare without specifying that you’re talking about hamburger. It’s better to use tags to specify THINGS, and CSS to specify (if you must) how they look.