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


Scientific Study Discovers What Gets Retweeted More Often

Chenhao Tan of Cornell University and his colleagues have completed an extensive study of what types of wording tend to generate the most retweets. There’s not one cookie-cutter template that works in all situations, because, unsurprisingly, you need to adapt your vocabulary and language to the particular community or audience you’re addressing. Nevertheless, the study suggests a few generally successful practices:

  • being specific and including some specific information
  • picking up on topics tweeted before
  • using news headline style copy (hey, I wrote a tutorial about how to draw clicks by mimicking news headlines a few years ago— ahead of the curve!)
  • asking followers to retweet

Best of all, for the moment, Mr. Tan’s website has a free tool letting you compose and compare Tweets using the intelligent algorithm he devised, based on this study of what wordings are most effective.

Translation: free Tweet optimization tool, at least until everyone discovers it and he has to shut it down due to traffic overload (just a hunch)! Probably worth using for article headlines as well.

Making Search Results Sexy, Revisited

I’ve talked about making search results sexy before. By this I mean tweaking your lenses so that whatever shows up in Google or other search engines tempts your target audience to click on YOUR webpage, instead of all the other search results that come up.

This is vital. Getting your webpage to appear in search engine results is important. But what you want is those clicks! Whatever appears in Google is your billboard, your front door, your commercial that will get people off the street and into your article.  Your search engine listing is the number one way to attract search traffic — forget backlinks! — so you want it to look its best.

Here’s an example:

Search results for 'Free Web Graphics' on Google

Search results for ‘Free Web Graphics‘ on Google

Suppose I’ve landed the #4 spot for the search “Free Web Graphics.” (Actually, I haven’t; that’s Google’s personalized results which tend to favor Squidoo in my case.) While searchers tend to click the TOP results on a page, a photo can draw the eye down. My photo is more appealing than the one above it, simply because of the contrast and vibrance of the colors (mine is a professional portrait). Also, my snippet’s excerpt sounds a lot more friendly — doesn’t it? — while still showing that I’m covering the search query.

So, let’s take Google’s search results step by step.

1) Title: You know the drill: include your keyword phrase AND something to engage your audience.

2) Breadcrumbs (green links in above screencap): make sure the category you file your article under suits  your keyword, if you possibly can.

3) Photo and Google Authorship links.

Set up Google Authorship if you haven’t. Once Google has crawled your lenses with authorship included, it will often place your Google Profile photo in search results for your articles. The photo can draw the searcher’s eye — or repel them if your photo is off-putting.

See the bottom part of my Is Your Profile Picture a Zombie? article for tips on how to tweak  your profile photo. Or see this recent SEOMoz post, which reminded me of this topic: How Optimizing My Google Profile Pic Increased Traffic 35%. Take a look at the examples he tried and discarded. That will give you more ideas about what works!

4) Google snippet (excerpt) from your lens, usually 156 characters.

I’ve covered this before, but just in case you missed it:

Google will give a short excerpt: either the first sentence of your post/article/lens, or the first place where the searcher’s query shows up on the page. You can’t optimize every single snippet on the page, but you can optimize the first sentence plus the place where your top keyword (or the 2-3 most common searches) appears. Do this by Googling for your article — assuming it’s already been indexed — and see what snippet comes up.

Tweak it. Use SEOMofo’s Snippet Optimizer to rewrite it so that the excerpt accomplishes two things: (1) shows that the page covers the search query and (2) show that the page is well-written and competent. (This means proofreading, crisp language). If possible, make the snippet engaging, intriguing, fun, depending on your topic. Be un-boring.


Two Kinds of Reviews: Know Which You’re Writing!

Trial and error has once again revealed a useful insight for affiliate marketing: there are two kinds of reviews, and if you write wrong kind for your product and target audience, you can kiss sales revenue goodbye.

Hard-to-Find Products

Examples of this are my review of a cheap hard case for an old Macbook whose polycarbonate case was known to crack, a special kind of baits to kill the little black ants invading California, or collectible figures imported from Japan that are hard to find in the states. Here, the buyer has a problem or an idea what she’s looking for, but either doesn’t know the exact brand and model name (what to type into Amazon to find it), or it’s not available on ordinary retail sites like Amazon.

With all of these products, I use the products’s very specific name for the article to help it get picked up in search engine results, or, more often, (“hard case for old Macbook”) I did some keyword research with Google’s keyword tool to discover what people type when looking for that kind of product.

The “specific name” approach works for products that are difficult to find, or are sought by collectors. The “keyword research” approach works very well if you can zero in on a question or phrase people tend to Google when they’re looking for the solution to a problem.

However, there are several examples where the “specific name” approach failed to get much traffic. See if you can determine a pattern:

What’s the problem? People aren’t liable to type out “review of Herman miller Aeron chair.” Either they already have the Aeron chair and have formed an opinion about it, or they go straight to Amazon or some e-merchant they trust and look for product reviews on the site where they intend to buy the product.  Why Google for a product review when there’s already dozens right on the product page on Amazon?  I still get some traffic on these kinds of lenses, but no more than 10-20 a week.

So think about your buyer. Do a simulated run of buying it on Amazon yourself. Is it an item lots of people know the name of? Are the Amazon reviews informative, and the product page tells you everything you need? Does the Amazon listing turn up at the top of Google when you search for it on Google? In that case, you probably won’t have much luck, because the typical buyer is going to go to Google > Amazon > Amazon reviews > Buy as opposed to Google >Webpage  Review > Amazon > Buy.

That doesn’t mean don’t do the review, because you might get lucky. However, for the most part, I recommend focusing on products that fit the criteria I mentioned above: they solve a problem, answer a question, are difficult to find, or are sought by collectors. Those get searched on Google, not just Amazon, and users may actually do a little research before heading to Amazon.

The Buyer’s Guide

Often, web users trying to compare a bunch of products to pick the best one. Then they need a concierge to steer them to likely products. These articles take more knowledge and experience to write well, because you can’t get away with reviewing just one product: you have to be familiar with the niche and give an honestly useful report and comparison of a bunch of different products. But these articles can be very useful to customers, because they can’t just go to Amazon and read a few reviews to find what they’re looking for.

I make a few sales a day on these lenses: Best Books on Greek Mythology, Great Books on Celtic Mythology, Best Books on Egyptian Mythology. I had discovered these kinds of searches in my old Greece-related lenses’ traffic stats. On the same principle, I tried the Best Ice Compresses and got good results.  So if you know a subject, and you’ve done your own comparison shopping to figure out which are the best, write a lens on it, with mini-reviews of the pros and cons of each and comments about what each one is good for.

I’ve also had tremendous luck with collectibles guides where I showcase all the items in a collection. People don’t always buy those things, but they often go to Amazon to browse them, then they buy something— not necessarily any of those items, but those items lured them into the store like a shop window display!

The key with buyer’s guides is that you’re trying to attract people who are interested in a certain type of thing, they don’t know exactly what product name to type into Amazon to find it. This kind of buyer’s guide is especially effective for products that turn up a lot of four-to-five star rated products in Amazon search, so many that it would be bewildering and time-consuming to dig through all the customer reviews to find the best one (e.g. celtic mythology). If a search for, say, “eco-friendly Christmas lights” turns up only 5 products that are better than 3-star-ratings, then you’re probably not going to get too many visitors to a webpage on that product; it’s easier for visitors to skim those five products on Amazon, read the reviews there and make a choice. Again, this isn’t an argument not to write such a review, but it’s less likely to succeed. This problem is happening more and more, as apps and online retailers provide people many ways other than a generic Google search to learn all they need to know before making a purchase!

Here’s a special case of the buyer’s guide which is worth considering.

App Store Concierge

Right now, there’s no easy way to SELL apps — at least, I’m not finding an affiliate program with Apple that gets down to the app level — unless you go for the Android apps available on Amazon. [EDIT: See below; Christene’s got tips.] But since Squidoo rewards lenses that get lots of clickouts, there’s an opportunity to make some money playing app concierge. There’s a real opportunity here, at least for now, because the iTunes App Store isn’t really good at turning up items unless you know the name of the app you’re looking for. It’s got no tags, too few categories, and only shows the top 100 in each category. It’s a really inefficient way to find apps. For example, I couldn’t really find an app that let me keep track of miles and calories for a treadmill, exercise bike, etc, because Apple’s search tool is too inefficient.

So I’m creating a few guides to different kinds of apps. Right now I’ve got one on creative people’s drawing apps, although I put that on Hubpages because I’m trying to diversify.

Basically, if you’ve had to do some research on, “What’s the best app to do X?” make a lens about it, and be sure to make prominent links to the app’s page.

Don’t Listen To Me

This is an unsolicited, sincere, enthusiastic endorsement of a site on writing marketing copy and killer online prose.

But don’t listen to me. Listen to Copyblogger.

For instance, check out the Magnetic Headlines ten-part lesson.

The site is chock-full of actionable, useful advice you can use right now to grab, hold, and tempt your readers to buy and click.

Make yourself a cuppa tea, coffee, or your favorite beverage. Take a break and explore the copywriting tips on this site. You’ll be so glad you did.

The Most Powerful Way to Get Clickouts

I’ve had a lens that’s been driving me nuts. My Aligning Images tutorial was getting 500, 600, now 700-800 visitors a week, but it was always tier 2. Why?

Simple. People read tutorials, and then they leave. No clickouts means no tier one for you. I had included links to a free HTML editor and various other resources, and still, the fish weren’t biting.

I changed one graphic which I had created for my How to Get More Clicks, Sales tutorial. I didn’t really expect it to make that much of a difference.

Kapow. Tier one, baby. You can offer people freebies, useful resources, and printables on a silver platter, but they may not click. You need good clip art to get the clicks. (My favorite two are OpenClipart and

That, or everyone is too curious when they see a random URL of a YouTube video not to check it out.

I’d think that’s a joke, except that I’ve seen a similar “What’s in the box? I have to poke it!” effect when I use the Amazon module in thumbnail mode. Normally, people are less likely to click on small images than large ones. But if it’s a “what the heck IS that thing?!” type graphic, they click, because they want a closer look. Sometimes they buy it. More often they buy something else. Or, maybe, they don’t buy, but at least you scored a clickout!

I’ve seen a similar phenomenon on bizarre images with humorous captions that are slightly too small to read. Demotivational posters on Zazzle are very effective for clicks.

But of course, the most powerful way to get clickouts isn’t a killer, you’ve-just-got-to-click graphic.

The key is that you have to link to the Extreme Shepherding video.