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


Hubpages, Squidoo, and Panda 2.2

I was just checking to see how Hubpages and Squidoo are doing, following the latest tweak Panda algorithm, 2.2, which I reported on back in June. Unfortunately, Hubpages’ traffic data has disappeared from Quantcast. [Update: It’s back. Phew.]

Panda 2.2 rolled out back on June 21st. By now we’ve had enough traffic data that we should begin to see a bit of a before-and-after change from that. To my surprise, Hubpages has stopped letting Quantcast report its numbers. I would’ve expected a slight uptick from Panda 2.2, which may be the first chance Hubpages would’ve had to get back in Google’s good graces after spam stomping. ( Panda is a special calculation done separately from ranking individual pages; it’s ranking a whole domain, and that number is then applied as a boost or penalty to pages posted on the domain, like an extra ranking factor. Since the Panda calculation is only performed again when someone at Google manually punches a button, a domain has to wait to be reassessed).

So anyway. Hubpages has followed Mahalo’s lead in hiding its data. A pity.

[UPDATE Aug 13: Hupbages is back on Quantcast! And I see a slight uptick after Panda 2.2. Pardon me for mentioning Mahalo and Hubpages in the same sentence; Hubpages tries to highlight quality content and stamp out spam, even if it sometimes has to mop up the mess created by unscrupulous people taking advantage of its free publishing platform. ]

So how’s Squidoo holding up? I wish I could get a detailed breakdown of past years versus this year, since there’s always a summertime drop. But here’s the 3 year overview:

And here’s the past 3 months.

Not much to tell us, but from what I can see, no drastic change from Panda 2.2.

Just as another interesting comparison, here’s vs. Squidoo for the past six months:

Owie. Again, so far so good for the Squid, but not so happy for Suite 101, an old web 1.0 site that’s got lots of good amidst the bad, from what I remember. (It probably depends on the neighborhood.)

Stay tuned for the next Panda Punch.


I realize some of the upheaval at Squidoo right now is, once again, Squidoo’s attempt to be prepared for the next round. I think the newest layer of spam filters need some fine-tuning, and I’m anxious about the process for dealing with false positives, but I understand the need for even more aggressive spam/scraper filters.

California Lawmakers Reduce Income Tax Revenue, Kill Jobs with Misguided NEXUS Tax

Here we go. California’s just-passed budget includes the infamous NEXUS tax, which attempts to force online merchants to collect sales tax in any state where a single affiliate marketer — someone who gets a tiny commission for the sale — is present. Supporters of this nose-cutting, face-spiting tax claim it will bring in $200 million dollars in sales tax revenue.

Really? Haven’t they been paying ANY attention at all? Does nobody in Sacramento read the writing on the wall? Whenever a state has passed a law like this, Amazon and other online merchants have had a simple solution: they shut down the affiliate program in that state. Amazon doesn’t really need affiliate marketers that much; it’s making a tidy profit anyway!

The victims of this will be Californians.  By throwing down the gauntlet, the state legislature has encouraged Amazon and other online retailers to shut down their affiliate programs. If that happens– and  Amazon has indicated it will happen, just as it has in many other states — here’s the fallout:

  • No income tax will be collected, so the law’s goal will fail.
  • It will kill part-time (or even full-time) jobs for thousands of Californians.
  • It will eliminate millions of dollars of income for Californians, who will thus pay less income tax.
  • It will eliminate the “buffer funds” of thousands of Californians who were using that money to fund shopping, trips, leisure activities like going to the movies or catching a game, or pay bills. This means less sales tax collected than before, by the way.
  • It will put more pressure on one segment of the population: seniors, young people, work at home spouses, and those with health problems which make it difficult to work 9 to 5 jobs. Many of these were finding affiliate marketing an effective way to work and earn money from home.
  • It will cut back on sales of products made by Californian businesses selling their products on Amazon and getting the benefit of free marketing.

Way to go, California state legislature! You may have just killed thousands of jobs and lost your state coffers and local businesses millions of dollars!


Recommended Link: Why California’s Nexus Tax is a Lose, Lose, Lose situation for Californians, the state of California, and Amazon (and why the only winner in all this is, basically, Wal-Mart, which lobbied hard for this law)

Important Google News: Panda 2.2, rel=author, analytics

WOW. LOTS of Google news to report to Squidoo users this week: it’s piling up faster than I can digest it. Let me start with the most recent, since it’s the easiest to tell, though it will take you more time to use:

Squidoo Has Added Google Analytics

Finally. If you have Google Analytics, go to your profile right now and edit it to add your tracking number. If you haven’t a clue what Google Analytics and Squidoo is about, see How to Track Lenses With Google Analytics by theFluffanutta. Also see SquidHQ’s official announcement: What Is the Advantage of Using Google Analytics Over regular Squidoo stats?

But wait! Don’t go yet! There is more Google news for Squids.

Google Panda Update News

SMX (Search Marketing Expo) is the big online search convention where all the experts line up to catch pearls of wisdom from Google Spokespundit Matt Cutts. (There’s even a term for his groupies, Cuttlets. Lordie.) A rough transcript of webexpert Danny Sullivan’s interview with Matt Cutts is posted on Searchengineland. Takeaway lessons:

  • Google Panda is an algorithm run less frequently than Google’s daily indexing. Panda re-evaluates sites occasionally for spamminess, content quality, etc, and then the regular Google algorithm uses Panda’s site ranking to boost/lower pages found on that site.
  • Google Panda has yet to be implemented on non-English-based Google (Google has a different search engine gateway and database in each country, so for example, search results by someone using Google in France do not match the search results for someone using Google in England).
  • Expect a Panda 2.2 soon.  No word on what it will entail.
  • ALSO, the “web spam team” is implementing a tweak to cut down on scraped content outranking the original. Huzzah.

Google Pushes Rel=Author Tag

Also from the Matt Cutts interview: Google has implemented two new voluntary tags, rel=author and rel=me, which allow you to link to an author profile page you’ve set up and back.

I was fussing with this post for several days because I’m still not 100% whether to implement the rel=author tag based on this news. But let me try to explain what it means and why it matters, and then you can ponder along with me!

10-word summary: Using rel=author might boost traffic for some sites. Maybe.

[[UPDATE: See Giltotherescue’s comments below. Based on what he says, I suggest you skip this discussion unless you’re interested. I do NOT advise using rel=author on Squidoo at this time.]]

But if you’re curious…


Partial Recovery of Lost Squidoo Fans List

I don’t like losing useful information (see Spirituality’s blog post on why the Squidoo fans list was useful). I had meant to go on a tour of ALL my Squidoo fans after I hit 1000 fans last month, but hadn’t gotten around to it. I’m not sure when I’ll have time for that, but I can at least provide a backlink at the end of this post to some of you — THANK YOU!

Grab Search Engine Caches of Your Fans List

Many search engines let you view cached copies of their last crawl of each webpage. If they’re not too efficient, their cached copy may be from just before fans disappeared from our lensmaster profiles. Unfortunately, in 2010, Squidoo started displaying only a selection of your fans and hid the rest behind a “more” link which search engines can’t see. So many fans are gone for good. But this will recover at least some.

You’re probably thinking, “What about the Wayback machine?” and rightly so. However, its archives will still be around next week. Whereas search engines’ caches only exist UNTIL the search engine crawls the webpage again. Here’s the ones I found whose cached copies — as of June 2nd — predate Squidoo’s removal of fans. I used a few international search engines since they tend to crawl English sites less frequently:

  1. GOOGLE. Search Google for: cache:
  2.  search for: lensmaster page yourname
    then mouseover to the right hand side of the listing, click the right-arrow that pops up, and scroll down to the bottom to find the cached link. I couldn’t get this to work on Chrome, only Firefox.
  3. Yandex, the main Russian search engine:  search for lensmaster page yourname
    then click the копия link (if you’ve got Google translate turned on, it says “copy”).  This was the most up-to-date one just prior to Squidoo removing fan clubs.
  4. Baidu, the main Chinese search engine. Search as usual, then click the only link right under each search result. It only has some lensmaster pages. (While you’re at it — I don’t normally recommend wasting time submitting your pages to search engines, since most crawl Squidoo very often anyway, but with international SEs it may be worth it. Here’s the submit URL link for Baidu. Keep in mind Baidu will tend to favor content in Chinese and/or content of interest to people in China, plus your content has to pass web censorship, but at least some Squidoo pages are getting through the Great Firewall of China. But do that later. Let’s grab your fans first).
  5. search for lensmaster page yourname as usual and click “cached”. This was a fairly recent cached copy as well.
  6. Exalead:  Who are these people? Donno, but they’re saving caches of the web. Search as usual and hit the “cached” button.

You will note that most search engines give you a date for when their crawled copy of your page was cached.  Make a note of the most recent one to get a fairly accurate estimate of your fans just before they vanished. Ah, vanity.

Find More Fans From the WayBack Machine

Once you’ve gotten all the fans you can find through search engine caches, THEN go to the Wayback Machine aka Internet Archive and punch in into the “Take me back” search box. This will pull up a calendar. Dates with highlights represent cached copies of the page; click on one of them to go to that date. Then you’ll have a menu at the top of the screen that lets you skip forward and back through cached copies. The layout for Squidoo pages from 2010 onwards is too complicated for the Wayback Machine to reproduce correctly, but the fans list is there: scroll down to find it. Note that pre-2010 Wayback Machine caches of your lensmaster page include ALL fans from that time, since Squidoo displayed the whole list until 2010.

Copy that data into your document too. Save it.

Dump your list into Microsoft Excel. Add a row at the very top (row one) and label it “Names.” Then, to hide duplicates:

  1. Select the column of names.
  2. choose “Filter > Advanced Filter…” under the Data menu
  3. Say “OK” if you get a nag popup.
  4. Click the “Unique Records only” box and click okay.

And you can sort the column alphabetically. Alas, the result will be all your pre-2010 fans, but coverage of recent fans will be spotty.

A note on lensrank:

The Squidoo FAQ has long mentioned “lensmaster reputation” as one of the factors in lensrank. In 2009, as part of my comprehensive lensrank study, I guessed — although I can’t be sure — that this included fans as a lensrank factor (probably only a minor one). Right after Squidoo dropped the fans list, I dropped to 5-6 tier one lenses. That represents about a $150 drop in income. Ouch. I’m hoping that drop is due to the fact that everyone is scrambling to update their lenses to cope with all Squidoo’s changes, but maybe it means a more level playing field for newbies.

Backlinks for MY Fans: A Small Thank You

I only recovered half of my 1045-ish fans (wah!) but as a small thank you, here’s all the ones I’ve managed to save. The links will be very minor backlinks. (I’ve added a few more that I know were on there.) Feel free to add yours in comments if you like, and thanks again. :)


Rescuing Page Break Lenses: All Hands on Deck

Non-Giants have been frantically reporting a page break problem for a few weeks: our multi-page lenses suddenly had their page breaks destroyed, so they’re all piled together on one long page that nobody could read. In many cases, the conflation of too many video, eBay, and/or Amazon modules on one page has caused loading problems.

Well, now we know why. In a misleadingly-titled announcement, “For Giants: A special note about the Page Break Module,” we’re told that the page break module “experiment” will be going away for Giants in a week. Apparently SquidHQ forgot that this module was released to ALL members of Squidoo, and they didn’t see the bug reports.

On the one hand, the page break module was not very well implemented. We had to create own page-to-page navigation at the top and bottom of the page via a navigation menu or the “Big Arrow Link” module. On the other hand, some of us had mastered Page Breaks and found them to be powerful and useful.

The Page Break allowed us to write a multi-page article such as my How Google’s Panda Update Impacted Hubpages and Squidoo, which needs to be  that long to cover the topic adequately, but does better broken into pages like a standard news or expert article (think WIRED magazine).  The page break also allowed us to create a themed lens on a big topic, like my Volcanoes lens, which was originally a single-page lens, later divided into subtopics. I used my lens traffic stats to guide me on what sub-topics to focus on in more depth, addressing common visitors’ queries and using the keywords they used most often to title the sub-pages.  Traffic increased exponentially as a result of my responding to my readers’ wants.  I’ve done the same with some of my other most successful lenses, resulting in my best Squidoo traffic and 2 top tier lenses.

In my non-Giant niche account, I used the Page Break to create a holiday buyer’s guide to an entire line of collectibles. There’s no way to do this on one lens, since there were too many products. Instead, I divided them up into the sets in which they were released, groups of six to eight, with personal reviews, photos, Amazon and eBay modules on each item in the set. It took so many weeks to build that I only caught the end of the holiday season, but it’s my top seller in my niche account — or was, until the loss of page breaks killed it.

So, RIP, page break. How do we recover this lost functionality?

Page Break Recovery Plan…


My Lens on the Google Panda Update

Yes, you’ve probably already seen it: I’ve written a 3-page article discussing the Panda update’s impact on Squidoo and Hubpages traffic, and what lessons we can learn from it to stay ahead of the Google wrecking ball.

You may notice that the root message boils down to, “write unique content that your readers find USEFUL,” which isn’t exactly earth-shattering, but it’s amazing how many people try every approach but that one.

Unfortunately, if you publish on an open article-submission site like Squidoo or Hubpages, your content is partly judged by association, so you can get marked down by Google even if that’s exactly what you’re doing. Fight back by encouraging quality content on your favorite sites and leading by example.

I think Hubpages is taking some good steps to put its house back in order (as is Squidoo). We’ll see if Google agrees a few months from now.

Act Now, or We May Lose Our Affiliate Income

ALERT! Will we lose our Amazon and other affiliate income? We might. Many already have.

[Originally posted in SquidU]

In several U.S. states, Amazon has shut down its associates program, in response to new laws passed attempting to collect sales tax from affiliate marketers or internet commerce. I’m guessing that the cost of recordkeeping for so many individual accounts and/or paying sales tax on such minute amounts eats too much of the profits to be worth the trouble.

Most recently, Colorado associates got shut down, following Hawaii, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. Read that link for more info.

Alarmingly, I’m reading old — or new? — news that New York State has instituted such a law, and the only thing holding it back is an appeal filed by Amazon. Here’s a New York Times editorial about it, expressing the opinion that Amazon should lose.

On the one hand, states have the right to tax sales that go on in their states.

On the other hand, every time Amazon shuts down an affiliate program, it’s not Amazon who gets shafted. it’s us. The affiliate marketers. The folks trying to pay bills. The folks trying to make ends meet.

Any of us could be victims of these new state laws, which could take away our Amazon or other affiliate earnings.

Some of our friends and Squidoo members have already gotten burned by this: they’ve lost their associate accounts because Amazon’s pulled the plug in their states.

And it could happen in New York, where Squidoo is based.

I don’t know what would happen then, but I don’t like the prospect.

That New York Times editorial shows that most people think this is just going to impact Amazon’s bottom line. All they see is big bad Amazon getting a tax break while competing with small businesses. They don’t realize that millions of families and small businesses make money on Amazon through affiliate commissions. I’m sure legislators don’t have a clue.

So I think that we should use some of our marketing and writing skills to write EVERY SINGLE state legislator and congressperson, and tell them the other side of the story, which they’re probably not hearing: yours and mine.

Write your state representative. Write your congressperson. Today.

This is more important for your online livelihood than any Tweet, Facebook status update, blog post or other page you do all this month… maybe all year.

I’m not sure what arguments one can use to counterbalance, “we need the sales tax to pay off our looming debts.” But how about, “Amazon will just shut down their associates program in states where the cost of running it is too costly — they already have in HI, RI and CO — so you’re not going to get that money anyway. But Amazon Associates pay income taxes, so if they get shut down, you LOSE revenue, not to mention killing people’s jobs, income, and buying power.”

Share this post. Spread the word.

2011 Squidoo Goals — So Far So Good!

This year I decided to put Squidoo front and center. At the start of 2011, Squidoo HQ challenged us with a quest to make a “2011 goals” lens.

I don’t usually make lensography or “about me” lenses, because quite frankly, their conversion sucks. They seldom even stay in tier three. But it seemed like a good way to focus. So for once I did a quest and made my Five Goals of 2011, where I’m posting weekly progress reports, plus a 2011 lensography for my Greekgeek account.

I was ambitious. Probably too ambitious. I’m still waiting for Zeus to come down and smite me. (Look, I put  Zeus on a T-shirt!)

So far, however, it’s going well, despite my being ghastly sick from January 3-25, with several days of lying in bed unable to spell “phlegm.”

So far I’ve made 24 lenses, 10 Zazzle products, and 3 in-depth posts on my professional mythology blog, Mythphile, which is now for sale on Kindle. Which reminds me, I need to write a tutorial on publishing for Kindle! Once I start getting subscribers, that is.

Also, last week, my niche account quietly passed 50 lenses. There’s a couple lenses I published in it that need a little work before I can submit it for Giant, but phew! Finally. I started that account in ’07.

Anyway, I’m still a long, LONG way from that $2000/month goal. But I’m seeing it’s possible, even when I’ve got a sinus infection putting me in bed for most of a couple weeks.

Here’s why I’m succeeding — so far:

  • Having broad goals, then breaking it down to “how much do I have to do per week?”
  • Allowing myself to do simpler lenses that aren’t the Mona Lisa
  • Spreadsheet time. Gah. I’m starting to resemble my rocket scientist dad!

Speaking of spreadsheets, here. This is the Excel template I’ve created to track my progress. It’s probably far more than you’d ever want to use, but you can always fiddle with/edit it.

My Other Squidoo-Related Blog

Let’s face it; I’m a journeyman when it comes to web traffic and SEO. I know the basics. I know how to do keyword research and how to use keywords.  But I don’t focus enough on linkbuilding. I can get 100+ visitors per week to a lens, but not thousands. Some people can.

So my tips and suggestions here can get you from raw beginner to intermediate, but not expert SEO level.

However, there’s something else I’ve learned a lot about: Squidoo in general! How to build lenses. What looks good. I probably know as much about Squidoo modules as any ordinary member, since I did a test drive of every Squidoo module in 2008 and again this November.

So I’ve created a new “Lensblography” blog: a lensography of all my lenses done as a blog. Partly, as you should guess, it’s to build backlinks to my lenses. Partly it’s to help fans find my old lenses.

But on each lens, I’m going to share THREE things you may find useful:

  • What I Learned Making This Lens
  • What I Didn’t Learn Making This Lens
  • Lens Stats and Milestones

So check out Greekgeek’s Lensblography in the weeks to come. I’ve got two lenses reviewed so far.

I Do Squidoo, and SEO Do I

Welcome to my Squidoo and SEO blog!

Rather than post my musings about How to Squidoo in the Squidoo member forums (SquidU Lensmaster Lounge), I’ve decided to start Yet Another Squidoo Blog. It’s easier to find entries later, and I can use my own lenses as examples without feeling guilty for self-promoting in the wrong forum.

I’m still getting this blog set up, and the grout isn’t yet dry. However, content is king, so I’m just going to launch into one of the Squidoo topics I’ve been batting about the lounge lately.