It’s wise to get eggs in multiple baskets — that is, income streams from multiple online sources — to protect oneself against Google penalties or policy changes on any one site. Whereas last year I decided to make a go of treating Squidoo as a full-time job, this year I’m trying to diversify.
So far, I’m having a hard time getting traction anywhere else, but then, it takes a while to discover what works best with each service and website. Here’s my breakdown for January-April 2012:
Here’s what I’ve been doing lately.
Squidoo has changed, as I noted in my lens on Squidoo’s Beginnings: A Look Back. Whereas educational, informational, creative and reader-centric content was once endorsed from the top down (as Seth Godin showed in his recap of Squidoo’s first five years), Squidoo now seems to have a narrower, more commercial focus. Compare the content categories recognized by the old Lens of the Year and Giant Squid awards competitons with the new SquidCademy quest, which is limited to lenses with an Amazon Spotlight module.
In the past year, I’ve found that Squidoo demands ever more work and ever more lenses to maintain the same level of income. This is partly due to competition from the ever-increasing numbers of top performing lenses. Also, for some reason, the impact of updating a lens every week seems to hold more weight than it used to. When good lenses require constant maintenance to make a profit, and the profit is only a few dollars a month, the ROI is just not worth it: one spends too much time polishing existing work instead of creating new content.
I’m also frustrated with HQ’s confused response to duplicate content and copyright and fair use — requiring credit and a link does nothing to resolve duplicate content or copyright issues. I’m dismayed by HQ’s refusal to address the copyright problems with the “Pin It” button, (see this lawyer’s discussion of Pinterest’s legal pitfalls).
Therefore, I’ve stopped using Squidoo to post photo essays and original content like Ancient Greece Odyssey. Instead, I’m using Squidoo for more “lightweight” content: product reviews, gaming tips and help, and galleries of random fun things that get a lot of clickouts. Clickouts are what Squidoo rewards that other sites don’t, so I keep that in mind when deciding where to post what.
Hubpages quickly responded to members’ concerns about Pinterest, offering a nopin code option for those who prefer it and a “Pin It” button for those who find Pinterest useful. Therefore, I’ve been posting essays and educational articles on Hubpages. It doesn’t pay as well, but payouts are commensurate with how my hub is performing, so it really is passive income: I can create a good article, and as long as it keeps attracting traffic, clicks, and sales, I’ll be paid directly for those things.
Once I’ve got my Hubpages income up to a dependable $50/month so that it meets the monthly payout threshold, I may take another stab at Wizzley (the last time I checked, Wizzley had too much advertising “above the fold” for my taste, but other than that, it’s addressed most of the issues that have made Squidoo more difficult for me.)
I’m enjoying being able to write the kinds of articles I really love to write on Hubpages: cool science, quirky educational topics like The Meaning of Expecto Patronum, archaeology and fascinating stories, and photo essays. Hubpages’ clean, professional-looking interface is a better fit for that kind of content. I’m also enjoying the positive feedback from both the community and staff on the content I’m most proud of.
The one thing I don’t like about Hubpages is that it gives me less information about keywords and what’s earning money. I use detailed traffic and earnings stats on Squidoo to figure out what’s working and build on it. I may continue to use Squidoo for research purposes no matter what (I do use Google Analytics, but it can’t give me keyword, traffic and earnings data on a per-URL basis the way Squidoo does.)
I have Amazon Associates links on my Mythphile blog, but that blog tends to attract readers rather than buyers, so my associate sales are only from links embedded on my Squidoo lenses. I need to focus more on my Mythphile blog and get the readership up (which is a good idea for many reasons: I don’t have to worry about site policy changes or revenue sharing; all I have to do is create excellent content.)
My old pre-Squidoo stores still make a little income. I’ve also got some Cafepress affiliate links embedded on some of my game lenses. It’s not much income, but every bit helps. Now that I know more than I did when I started these stores years ago, it’s time for me to spruce up my products, add more, and promote them better. Except I enjoy and spend most of my efforts on writing, nowadays!
Other Income Sources:
I haven’t spent enough time on my Zazzle stores to make consistent income. Ditto Allposters. Both of these yield less than $100/year. But again, they’re building up bit by bit.
Adsense on my blogs is yielding just a few dollars a month. I briefly tried adding Project Wonderful ads instead, since they have more relevant ads for education and writing blogs, but I haven’t spent the time I should to figure out what works best with that Adsense-alternative program.
I need to move some of my Tolkien-centric articles back off Squidoo to my old Tolkien website and upgrade it before the next Hobbit movies come out. That should help with Adsense, Amazon Associates links.
I’ve joined Commission Junction, but was disappointed to find that I couldn’t sell iPad apps (I wanted to review my favorites). I haven’t spent the time to investigate what other CJ products might suit my niches. I am still not really a marketer at heart; I’d rather be creating excellent content.
I ponder chucking all of this and working on an eBook, but then I’d be earning nothing while I devote my energies to that. And, frankly, I’m enjoying the challenge of learning what works and doesn’t on the ever-evolving web. SEO, semantic search, the social web— these are topics that I find myself constantly chewing on and studying, through the vehicle of all my different kinds of web content. Most of all, I enjoy the challenge and luxury of being able to exploit and make use of all my interests, knowledge and passions, instead of having to limit myself to one thing.