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

Basic SEO

An Extended Riff on SEO as Poetry

Or at least, keyword-based search engine optimization, which isn’t the sum total of SEO any more than backlinking is.

Under a vague sense of “buy low, sell high,” I thought I might give Hubpages another go. Some years ago, I was so discouraged (and annoyed) after they locked all my well-trafficked, educational hubs on ancient Greece for being “overly promotional” that I abandoned HP for years (It also didn’t help that I kept getting idiot comments like ‘u wrote it wrong it wuz better in the movie’ when I was recounting myths based on ancient sources). But despite the frustration over all that work down the tubes, I do understand that you’ve got to submit to the rules on a publishing site, or publish elsewhere. So I did. I moved that content to Squidoo and Mythphile.

However, I’ve been keeping a closer eye on Hubpages since Panda. I think I might learn something by experimenting there and trying out different SEO approaches, niches and/or writing styles on a site that’s built just a little differently than Squidoo. I have a hunch Google traffic will come back over time. I want to see if my hunch is right. Also, since they favor non-practical creative pieces over there a little more than on Squidoo, I thought — hey, let the inner writer off its chains and cut loose a bit.

This is triggered partly by a previous post on Squidbits and partly by seeing a writer over there divide the online publishing world between virtuous writers and SEO black hatters. I fear it’s preachy and a little arrogant to be teaching, but I wrote a hub that’s a tutorial on keyword optimization using the paradigm of writing poetry.

Two Thoughts About Traffic and SEO

These aren’t really big enough to deserve a post, but they’ve been sitting in my “Post Topics” box forever, so I toss them out for whatever they’re worth:

Greekgeek’s Maxim:

Traffic isn’t everything, but everything comes from traffic.

I’ve become more aware that clicks, sales, and other factors are almost more important than traffic. Traffic quantity certainly isn’t as important as some people think: attracting 5 people who are ready to buy what’s on your page is better than 500 people who are just browsing, or even 50 Squidoo members who are ready to say, “Nice lens!”  However, you can’t get clicks, sales, or anything else without first getting at least some people to the page.

Yeah, it’s stating the obvious again, but I kinda like the maxim.

SEO Is NOT Social Media; Both Get Traffic

I’ve stated this before, but never clearly enough.

1) When you’re doing SEO, you’re optimizing your content and links so that search engines notice them. Use specific language, keywords, and keyword research (traffic stats) to refine your SEO.

2) When you’re doing social media, you’re talking to people. People respond to clear, exciting, brief writing, appeals to emotions, and benefits. (What’s in it for them?)

Always ask yourself: which method are you trying to use at the moment? Each requires a different approach. The one you choose to use may depend on your topic:

1) Some topics get traffic most easily through SEO: product reviews, for example, are not very exciting, but when someone needs to replace or buy a Quixtop 234, by golly they’re going to search for Quixtop 234.

2) Certain topics almost can’t get search engine traffic. Your personal story, your opinions, your advice about important issues, your passions may not fit into some neat little label someone might search for. Then you have to rely on social promotion: putting out Tweets and Facebook updates and viral videos and other person-to-person content that stands out enough to tempt someone to click.

Social promotion requires skilled writing and a grasp of psychology. You’re running up against human indifference — they’re busy, so why should they read your page? You need to “be remarkable,” as Seth Godin puts it, in order to attract visitors and word-of-mouth recommendations. It can be done. But it’s not easy. Check out Seth’s blog for one example of how it’s done well.

What to Write on to Get Traffic

Apologies for stating the obvious (again), but yet another “just write on what you love, and the traffic will come” post in a forum inspired me to make this graphic:

How to Pick Topics That Get Traffic

Traffic does not come to read what YOU like to write about. Traffic comes to find what THEY are searching for. The key to getting traffic is to find the overlap between the two!

The Tao of SEO

The most popular form of SEO boils down to:

  • researching popular searches related to one’s topic
  • scouting the competition for those terms and one’s niche
  • strategic use of keywords on a webpage and in links to that page

But “Search Engine Optimization” does not only mean keyword research, even if that’s an important and powerful method. Nor does SEO only mean optimizing for Google, even if that’s usually the biggest source of search engine traffic in the English-speaking world.

“Search engine optimization” simply means techniques for getting search engines to send traffic to your pages. We can talk about linkbuilding (which I don’t do enough of), on-page optimization, image optimization, Squidoo tags, cross-linking — but it all goes back to people searching for things, and finding those things on your pages.


People. Places. Objects. Nouns.

The tao of SEO is speaking in terms that someone else cares about, wants to know about, or might look for. The more concrete, specific vocabulary you use, the more likely your words may intersect with things people search for.

Don’t just say you took your dog to the park. Say your dog is a labradoodle, and you take it to play frisbee at Peppergrass Park. Don’t just say you like fish. Say you’re crazy about ikura (salmon roe) sushi with a dab of wasabi.

Somewhere, somebody might be looking for precisely those things.

They may append certain adjectives and descriptives to the nouns: cheapest, free, unique, homemade, best, review of, top ten. But nouns are common and essential in most searches.

There is another kind of popular search besides noun-phrases: question-phrases like “how can I…?” or “what is the HTML code for…?” or “how many…?” or “how hot is…?” or “When did….?” These often make great section headers or first sentences of paragraphs.

In my creative writing, I find myself snipping out excessive use of names and description, favoring nuanced language that implies more than it says. On my Squidoo pages, I replace pronouns with nouns and say what I mean. Search engines can’t read between the lines.

Of course, people can read between the lines, so you have to be careful not to overdo it. A huge mass of nouns will lose reader interest, like reading the phone book aloud. But usually, you can state the obvious in a way that’s compelling to readers as well as helpful to search engines.

The tao of SEO is to find phrases that express what you want and need to say in concrete, specific ways that search engines notice. Then your pages won’t just rank for one or two big keyword searches. They’ll pick up all kinds of little searches, phrases that perhaps no one has ever searched before,  and that your competition has not tried to optimize for.

You can’t always write concretely. Sometimes you need to write on abstract concepts, ideas, beliefs, opinions, feelings that just don’t lend themselves to specific, searchable language. But when you can, state precisely what you mean. Skip filler. Skip introductions. Get to the point.

The Snowflake Method of SEO

Challenge Lens Status: 3,983 on Oct 17, up from 84,121 on Oct 10

I’d like to talk about the Snowflake Method of lensbuilding, based on the Snowflake Method of fiction-writing (which is a good lesson on how to write content). Your lens topic is the kernel of a snowflake. Like the grain of dust a snowflake forms around, that core idea, its focus, will determine the shape of what’s to come, along with weather and moisture (competition and search popularity) and other external factors.

You can’t control external factors. But you can control what’s inside.

A healthy lens needs six things:

  • Focused, useful, interesting content.
  • Organization and a logical flow from one section to the next.
  • Graphics and visual appeal (CSS, varying text with visual elements).
  • Strong writing: good grammar and spelling; compelling, crisp text.
  • Avenues for conversion: links to click, things to buy, or another action you’re directing your visitors towards.


Make Search Results Sexy: Get More Clicks

In my my Squidoo Search Optimization tutorial, I mention making search results sexy, including a Google Results Optimizer tool to help you do it.

Here’s an example. Note that this is the secondary keyword phrase it’s optimized for; it’s at spot #2 for its primary keyword phrase.

How to Build a KiteSorry about the squinchy screencap, but it mimics what an actual user sees: they are scanning VERY QUICKLY for results, and don’t spend a lot of time reading each entry.

With secondary keyword optimization, it’s even more vital to make sure the blurb stands out from the rest. Note what I’ve got: (more…)

Digg the SEO Vampire: It Drinks Your Backlinks Dry

Just in time for Hallowe’en, I have an SEO horror story that’s happening right now. You may even be a victim!

You think submitting your page to Digg will help SEO, right? Or at least, it can’t hurt, can it?

Ha. Ahaha. Ahahaha.

In September ’09, Digg announced that links would be NoFollow until they proved themselves worthy (lots of Diggs). And I vaguely remember a flap about the DiggBar totally screwing up SEO. I didn’t follow the story closely because I don’t use social media for SEO: social media means promoting your site to people, whereas SEO means promoting your site to search engines.


Simple Experiment: Does Boldface Help SEO?

Does boldface text really have more SEO value than plain text?

I am persuaded by the rigorous testing and skepticism of Michael Martinez of SEO-Theory that when he says emphasized/boldfaced text has some (although not huge) SEO benefit, he’s checked it. He often castigates people for dispensing SEO advice that they haven’t verified using controlled experiments (with all other variables isolated, so one knows for sure which factor is causing the result).

Since I’m guilty as charged, I conducted a few experiments. I discovered that (a) it’s really hard to eliminate all factors but the one you’re testing for, and (b) yes, it looks like boldface gives a SLIGHT seo boost.

Left: The image I used for the lens logo of each test lens, renamed with that test’s keyword.

Click “More” to read the details of my tests and results.


Basic Squidoo SEO Techniques – A Checklist

When I started using SEO for Squidoo lenses systematically, I latched onto Webconf’s 15 Minute SEO checklist.

It was the first recommended resource I included on my Squidoo SEO lens in ’07.

Webconfs’ SEO checklist is oversimplified, of course. It was also written 4 years ago, which is eons in web terms; most search engines will have changed and refined their algorithms since that checklist was written.

Nevertheless, looking back at that page, I still agree with most of their suggestions, even if I think some things are more or less important than they do.


How many Squidoo pages are indexed by Google, Yahoo, et alia?

Addendum — just because I’m curious — how many Squidoo pages have the different search engines got indexed?

  • Google: about 1,340,000 from (This was in JANUARY. In June, it is about 398,000! Mayday! Mayday!)
  • Yahoo: Pages (9,671,276)
  • Bing: 446,000 results
  • Altavista: found 9,660,000 results
  • Lycos: 1,107,211 results
  • Ask: 222,500 (? — I’m not sure if I figured out how to query Ask properly.)

Again, I don’t think Google’s spiders are less effective than Yahoo’s — no WAY — but it tosses an awful lot of pages into the “suppemental index” if they seem not to give any good info that can’t be found on other pages on the same website. I.E. if you make a lens that’s just like a ton of lenses, don’t expect it to get seen in Google search results!

To figure out if your lens is indexed, use one of the searches above, then add the title of your lens!