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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

Weekly Traffic

Visits this period: 90 visits   Pageviews this period: 181 pageviews   Pages/visit: 2.01 Lifetime visits: 1,307
Total clickouts this period: 15 clicks on 9 links. Click-through rate (CTR) = 8%

Clickouts are not carrying it, but that helps a bit.

Traffic Sources Breakdown

I maintain that the “traffic sources” pie chart is probably measuring something that impacts lensrank. The SquidooFAQ says “inbound and outbound links” are considered, but I highly doubt they’re counting links (since no backlink checker is accurate), but rather, how many people used those links to reach or leave the lens. Or, possibly, how many different links actually sent traffic to or from the lens. I don’t have proof of either one, but “how many links does Yahoo Site Explorer see?” is not only a less meaningful metric, but also, it would slow down the lensrank calculation. Even if the extra time was only a quarter a second, for 100,000 lenses, that adds up to 800+ additional hours. I think Squidoo is using in-house stats instead.

Here’s what the DASHBOARD measures: Traffic sources!

Source Visits
Referral 48
Google 38
Ask 3
Direct 1

On any given week, my challenge lens gets a few visitors from Ask, Bing, Yahoo. Long-term, that needs to improve– targeting Google alone is short-sighted. But it’s better than NONE, which it was getting before the challenge.

Of those Referrals, there is a broad range of different domains. Does number of different referral domains get factored into lensrank? I think it might, because visitors, sales, and clicks aren’t enough to be holding this lens in tier one, and it’s not gotten blessed recently. But I haven’t isolated all factors, so I can’t be sure.

Analysis of Referral Links

These are all what I call “sustainable” referrals, as opposed to “temporary” traffic spikes from forum posts, social media promotion, or other manual “hey, come look at me!” efforts.

Here’s a breakdown of referrers for this lens:

(1) cross-links on Squidoo, including multiple visitors from half the “sister lenses” on the same topic — showing the importance of cross-linking related pages — a few from SquidQuiz HQ’s gateway and the Top 100 People list. Note that the cross-links are probably NOT from the Discovery Tool, but from a navigation strip I hand-coded at the top and bottom of each of the lenses in the series. See the challenge lens for the example, or my Navigation Bar tutorial for exactly how I coded it.

(2) Outside of Squidoo, I’ve got visits mostly from my other web assets — blogs, Facebook fan page giving status updates related to the topic. Why spam people’s guestbooks and whine for backlinks from many sources when you can built relevant websites elsewhere and hook them together?

(3) A third of all visits are actually image searches, one of my favorite ways to bring traffic (although not necessarily traffic that will click or buy.)

And then there’s a few hits from various non-English-Speaking Google searches, which Squidoo files under “referrers” –ops.

In sum, a good variety of visits from many different domains.

What I still don’t have is many visits from people linking to the page. There are links out there (thanks, Linda!) but they’re not getting followed yet… by people, though obviously they are by search engines.

Then we get to

Search Queries Sending Traffic

Here’s something interesting. Of ALL the search queries sending traffic, 3 hits are for “goddess athena,” and all the rest are for unique search phrases which each earned only one visit.

So what?

This isn’t the “Optimize for one keyword phrase” method that journeymen SEOs including myself teach. Sorry, I lied. Yes, I optimize for one phrase in the page title, URL, lens logo’s image filename, and some anchor text, and it gets more traffic. But what I really did is target nouns and relationships between them, as I explained in my previous “Tao of SEO” post. It’s working.

It’s not the only method. But like many methods, if you use it consistently and strategically, you’ll think it’s “the key,” because it works for you!

We still haven’t entirely discovered the answer to a question: WHY is a lens with 90 visits and 15 clickouts back in tier one?

Well, first of all, it’s not going to stay there. And an Amazon sale on the 24th may render this whole discussion totally meaningless, as that could be what pushed it from 2200 back to 1600. But that didn’t get it to 2200!

There’s a hidden factor which Fluff thinks may go into lensrank, and I’m pretty sure it does, too: clicks on polls and quiz modules. They aren’t clickouts, but they show the reader is engaged in the lens. This lens gets 3-5 quiztakers a day. I think that’s helping it beat my other lenses with hundreds more in traffic.

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