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


Squidoo After Google Panda 25: How’s It Looking?

The data is still coming in from Panda 25, launched March 15. We really need to wait a longer time to have a representative sample size, but here’s the early returns from Quantcast:

Squidoo traffic vs. a similar, comparable article site, Hubpages.

From now on there will not be discreet dates on which Panda is updated; Panda is now “Panda Everflux,” continually reevaluating sites and adjusting their rankings up or down. This is good, as it means Squidoo won’t have to wait a month or two for Panda to reevaluate it. (The bad news is that we’re only halfway through big changes from Google. There is a huge Penguin algorithm update coming which Google’s Matt Cutts says will be talked about all year.)

Here’s my own traffic. It looks like maybe a 7% hit from Panda 25. All told, I am down 50% since before the November 16 traffic drop that sounded a reversal of my own Squidoo fortunes for the first time since 2007.

My 6-month Squidoo traffic, Oct. 17, 2012-Mar 17, 2013

Meanwhile, my own Hubpages traffic is plodding along steadily with a temporary traffic spike from a bunch of Tolkien fans discovering one of my articles. I need to do more of those.

Squidoo is now ranked lower than Hubpages on Quantcast for the first time since Panda began in January 2011.

Squidoo took a pretty big traffic hit in summer 2007 from Google, and I feel this is comparable.


Squidoo Takes a Page from Facebook?

There are two different Web 2.0 approaches.

One is to provide tools, widgets and open-ended features that let users share their content. This is an “opt in” model, in which you provide really useful tools, and users find powerful ways to use those tools which you didn’t even dream about. That creates goodwill and draws more traffic to your site.

The other is to repurpose users’ existing content, mining and exploiting it and redistributing it in new ways that users may not have imagined. Following Facebook’s lead, this approach is usually presented as a fait accompli. If there’s enough user pushback, the company may add an “opt out” option.

Squidoo has provided us with many handy tools and new modules — building blocks — and let users find great ways to use those blocks. It’s also taken some building blocks away, including powerful ones we still miss. (Squidcasts and favorites.)

Other building blocks have broken, or never worked properly. I keep hoping Squidoo will shift from the attitude of, “If you can’t put up with a site that’s got frequent glitches, bugs, and nonfunctional tools, then Squidoo’s not the site for you” to “Our site has fabulous tools, more than any other publishing site, and we’re going to nurture and cultivate that edge. Tell us what’s broken so we can fix it and maintain Squidoo’s superiority over other user-generated content sites.”

Instead, in the past year, Squidoo has been moving in the Facebook direction.

  • Our lenses get featured in Squidoo magazines — except, in practice, our lenses don’t actually appear in these magazines. Our lenses simply get links across the top promoting the magazine, boosting its search engine rankings, and diverting traffic away from our lenses. Lenses hijacked by Squidoo magazines also get yanked from the SEO-friendly Squidoo category tree. For example, Google search results will display a lens under the breadcrumb trail “Happy Snowman” instead of “Holidays > Christmas > Christmas Tree Decorations.” “Happy Snowman” is less informative, so less likely to get clicked on, and it undercuts search relevance for “Christmas Tree Decorations.”  After a user pushback, Squidoo gave us the ability to “opt out,” but refused to change it to “opt in.” That means that every month, more of our lenses are hijacked by Squidoo magazines, so we have to keep “opting out” if we care about SEO.
  • The Facebook Gift Guides mined our Facebook friends’ personal information to create for-profit pages which implied our friends had endorsed them. Member pushback, pointing out the illegality of this, convinced Squidoo to make Gift Guides “opt in” rather than “opt out.”
  • Now Squidoo’s added a “pin it” button to the top of each Squidoo lens, granting members of a third party website, Pinterest, permission to copy, share, repost, redistribute, and embed full-sized images from our Squidoo lenses not just on Pinterest, but on any blog or third party website. I’m not sure that the temporary traffic spike of a social media share will compensate for having my best photos posted who-knows-where on the web, forcing me to compete with myself for image search traffic (which is responsible for most of my lenses with 500+ visitors a week). Pinterest’s TOS  also claims the right to redistribute, manipulate, or sell images posted on its site. That’s against the TOS for Zazzle images, affiliate images such as Allposters and Amazon, or images that we have paid license fees to use on our own articles.

What other ways will Squidoo repurpose our content?

I’m concerned that Squidoo’s focus is shifting from creating and maintaining tools for us to publish content to finding new ways to use and exploit our content.  

That approach may well work for lensmasters who aren’t getting much return out of their content. However, for me, it’s a reason to reconsider which kinds of content to post on Squidoo, which elsewhere.

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.

2011 Google Quality Raters Guidelines (Oops!)

Google did something wrong. I did something wrong. Yet I believe that good will come of this. Let’s recap what happened with the 2011 Google Quality Raters Guidelines:

  • Step 1: I see a post in the Squidoo forums noting that Potpiegirl (aka Jennifer Ledbetter, WAHM affiliate marketer) ha a new post up about Google.
  • Step 2: I read Jennifer’s lengthy (and fairly useful) post on How Google Makes Algorithm Changes.
  • Step 3: I notice that Jennifer’s post links to Google’s 2011 Quality Raters Handbook.
  • Step 4: Classics major training kicks in: Wait, hang on, is this real? Is this legitimate? Why aren’t the major SEO websites like searchengineland, seomoz and seobook salivating over this carcass like a pack of rabid hyenas circling a dying zebra?
  • Step 5: I share the tip with SearchEngineLand, asking if the document is legitimate. Barry Schwartz seems to think so and posts about it.
  • Step 6: Lots of people download the 2011 Quality Raters Handbook.
  • Step 7: Google contacts Barry Schwartz and asks him to take down SEL’s mirror of the document. Google also contacts PotPieGirl and asks her to remove the link from her blog.
  • Step 8: Too late: the guidelines have gone viral. As a result, various SEO bloggers and experts discuss ways to make content more relevant and useful. (There, Google, was that so bad?)

I owe Jennifer an apology for tipping without thinking. Hopefully the amount of traffic that has landed on her blog as a result of this offsets the inconvenience of having to delete that link. I also feel guilty for my part in spreading the leak, but I honestly think that having the Quality Rater Guidelines out there will encourage people to focus more on the quality of their content, which is not a bad thing.

So, well, Mea culpa. Now, what are these Quality Rater Guidelines? Simply, they are the rating system that Google beta testers use to test, refine, and improve Google’s automated algorithm. They are not the algorithm itself. But in order to create a computer algorithm which can detect and rank sites relevant to a given search query, Google first needs to know which sites real people judge to be the best ones for a given search query.

The reason these raters guidelines are useful to us is that they give us some idea what Google considers “quality content.” I can’t talk too specifically about what’s in the guidelines, but here are three takeaway lessons:

  • The rating system is based on relevance to a topic. Content is king, but relevance is queen. And “relevance” here means “gives the searcher what they wanted when they typed in that search.” Is a site absolutely THE go-to place for a particular search query? It wins. Is a site incredibly relevant for that query, satisfying most people who search for it? It ranks pretty well. Does the site only have some relevant content, or is it from a less trustworthy source? That’s going to lose points. If it’s only slightly relevant, fuggeddaboudit.
  • Google defines webspam as anything designed to trick search engines into getting more traffic. So while backlink spamming, keyword stuffing, or other sneaky tricks may work for a while, sooner or later, Google will tweak its algorithm to negate those practices. If you’re doing something only for search engines, it’s probably not worth doing it (save, perhaps, making your content structured, organized and clear enough for search engines to comprehend it). If you’re doing something that really is for your readers, hopefully, long-term, you’ll win.
  • Google doesn’t define all affiliate marketing as spam or “thin” content, but it’s extra wary of affiliate marketing. Raters are told to watch out for warning signs like a product review on one page that sends people to buy things on another domain entirely, suggesting the review is there to benefit the reviewer (with commissions) not the visitor. If you’re doing affiliate marketing, you have to create relevant content that is useful to your readers — price comparisons, pros and cons, your own photos of the product in use, etc. If you only excerpt/quote customer reviews and info from the site selling the product, then your page has provided nothing of value to the reader that cannot be found on the original product page. That’s thin, that’s shallow, and it’s asking for Google to bury your page so far down in search results that no one sees it.

In sum, Google is trying its best to design an algorithm that rewards pages which are useful to readers and relevant to the search query.  Over time, the algorithm gets more and more successful in doing this (we hope). So, if you want your pages to rank well on Google, take a page from Kennedy:

Ask not what search traffic can do for your webpage, but what your webpage can do for search traffic.


UPDATE: I discuss this topic a little more here: Google’s “Quality Content” Guidelines: Do You Make the Cut?

“What Do You Want?”

That headline won’t make any sense unless you’re a Babylon 5 fanatic. (And if you love any science fiction, fantasy, or thought-provoking fiction whatsoever, go find it and watch the first four seasons).

Ahem. I had a really good pow-wow with a couple of Squids yesterday, 2muchtrash and her partner. We talked about successes and failures, and about the challenges of making money and getting traffic to our articles. We picked our collective brains. I coredumped everything I know about succeeding on Squidoo (which alas is still too scanty on earnings; I spent 3 of the last 4 years experimenting with ways to increase traffic).

For all my tips, advice, and tricks, once again I was making the same error most of us do. We discuss the power of backlinks, the use of nofollow, the use of rel=”author”, SEO, encouraging clickoutsinterlinking content, time spent on lens, boosting lensrank, article marketing and keyword research and all these other little techniques for maximizing traffic and profits and lensrank and…


Even as we start to get comfortable with our skills, search engine algorithms and the way people browse the web keep changing. Even if they did not change, we never know exactly what Google, Bing, or all these different browsing platforms are optimized for: they never tell us, so people won’t game the system. All we know is (a) our own areas of expertise and (b) what visitors are doing on our pages, more or less.


So once again I return to lens stats and traffic stats, digging up whatever information I can about user behavior. Because that’s where the staying power is, the one thing we can master that will survive the web’s inevitable evolution. We need to keep asking ourselves: What do our visitors want? What do web users look for, and need, and enjoy? What do the comments we receive tell us about our visitors?

To turn it around, because those questions still sound like, “What can I get out of my visitors and how can I use their behavior to my advantage?” let us ask: What are we giving them? What function do our webpages serve? What GOOD is our content? Not “how good is it?” but really, truly, what purpose does it serve? What can people get out of it?

Why do we spend so much time pondering backlinks and stats and keywords and Tweets and not what are we doing, what are we creating, and how can we make our content more useful, readable, interesting, and/or entertaining?  What about article structure and form: not simply heat maps and click maps, but “How can I make this page as functional as possible?” the way Apple did when it designed the iPhone/iPad interface. We know content quality matters. So how can we improve our content? And why do we spend so little time thinking about it?

Look at your own articles with the eyes of a total stranger who has the whole web to browse. Why yours? Is your content really good enough to hold somebody’s attention? If not, what’s missing? What kind of webpages appeal to you, and why do you find yourself reading them, visiting them, clicking links on them, or buying from them?

I don’t have great answers, how-tos, or tutorials on how to make fantastic, useful content. All I can do is suggest we be a self-observers of our own web behavior, looking to see what we like and use. We can also monitor visitor stats, trying to discover what visitors like and respond to. It’s psychology (deducing what users want); it’s research (building exceptional content that isn’t simply rehashing what’s already all over the web); it’s writing craftsmaship.

Quality isn’t everything: the web is so vast that people may never stumble across it. But really unique, excellent, useful pages have at least as good a chance of long-term success as ones put together strategically, following certain tips, checklists, techniques and “how to” rules.

My Five Key Methods of Squidoo Success

…which aren’t quite as successful as they were due to Squidoo setbacks, but that’s another issue. Even so, while I’m panicking at having my Squidoo income dropping from $600 to $400 in the next month or so due to lensrank drops and recent upheavals, I have not abandoned five key methods I use for being moderately successful on Squidoo.

Most of you have seen me rant about all of these before, but I see some new Squids coming aboard who are asking “so, how do you do it?” Also, I wanted to do a self-check and see which methods I’ve discarded, which I’m still using. These are the clear winners:

1. Choose Topics that Meld Your Passions & the Web’s

I created this diagram a while ago for Squidbits, and it still holds true:

How to Pick Topics That Get Traffic

If you write on what you love without considering your audience, people may never read it, because they may not be interested in what you have to say. But if you use the “content farm” method of looking up what people are searching for and churning out half-hearted content, they won’t read it either, because your material won’t satisfy them. The trick is to figure out which parts of your interests, expertise and passions overlap with what lots of people on the web care about, and then use YOUR knowledge to give them what THEY want.

To figure out what YOU know (the left side of this chart), see my Ten Suggestions for Squidoo Lenses, which is NOT a list of specific ideas, but a brainstorming aid.

To find out what THEY want, do this:

2.  Keyword Research and On-Page Optimization

See my “New Long Tail SEO” tutorial for how I research keywords before creating a new page, and how I use traffic stats on existing pages as leads to refine my content or as ideas for new articles.

3. Encourage Clickthroughs

See my “How to Get More Clicks, Sales” tutorial.

Squidoo lensrank rewards lenses that get lots of clicks and interaction, on the theory that, hopefully, they’ve found something useful or interesting enough to click on. Clicks aren’t the only proof that your visitors have found something they like on your page, but it’s hard to gauge readers’ reactions unless they interact with the page in some manner.

4. Attract Visitors With Graphics

See the “attracting visitors with images” section of my Uploading Images tutorial. I love this method because it’s so easy to do; you can incorporate it just like capitalization and punctuation.

5. Cross-link Related Content

Once I’ve landed a visitor, I try to make the most of that visitor by sending him/her to more of my content. You can’t cheat by creating a virtual scavenger hunt sending visitors from one page to the next looking for real content—if you don’t give visitors what they want, they leave in ten seconds or less. But if you’ve provided good content that your visitor likes, you have then earned his/her trust enough to recommend other related content.

You’ve seen one way I’m doing it in this article: when I refer to something I’ve talked about before, I link to it. I also make heavy use of Squidoo tags for cross-linking. And I create clusters/series of articles in the same area or niche, linking them together with fancy tables of contents, the “Featured Lenses” module, the “My Lenses” module (giving all the lenses in the cluster a unique tag), or the “Rollover Feature” trick I figured out for Squidoo.

All of These are Making the Most of One’s Assets

You’ll notice that I don’t focus on social promotion, backlink building, or external strategies more than I absolutely must. I tweet new material, yes, but I don’t submit to directories; I don’t look for places to advertise my articles other than online communities where I’m active anyway.

Instead, I concentrate on maximizing my content with on-page optimization, on-page graphics, on-page links, and pointing to my other work where and when it’s relevant and useful. Rather than taking time off to advertise, I spend as much time as I can making more content and enhancing existing content. This method takes time. It results a slow build-up of real, useful, interesting assets and content on a variety of subjects.

You can do this in different ways: blog posts, more articles on multiple publishing sites, even posting photos on Flickr or videos on YouTube and linking back to related lenses. (For example, see this YouTube video where I share a Magic Trick pointing to a lens that explains the trick).

The key for me is to spend my time discovering what content I have (I’ll actually dig through my hard drive looking for old school papers and photos that might be seeds for a new lens), creating unique and interesting content, and hooking it up to other nodes of my ever-growing network of content.

Whch is why I kick and scream when people tamper with my content through “site improvements” or by removing the channels through which I’ve been sharing tips and content. (See: Squidcasts. ;) ) I do not want to have to use social media separately to promote. As much as possible, I want my content to be its own promotion! (RSS feeds are lovely for this.)

Finally, notice that this method absolutely depends on creating original, unique, interesting and/or useful content — MY content, MY passions — rather than simply collecting and curating content. Curation can be powerful and helpful, and I’ve got a few lenses that are simply curation lists in fancy packaging. But the majority of my lenses hook visitors with interesting and/or useful content that they won’t find elsewhere.

The Google Farmer Update and Squidoo

Google Farmer Update: Early Returns

So, the manure has hit the rotary blades, and we’re starting to see some results from Google declaring war on so-called “Content Farms” in 2011. (When even mainstream news media hears about it, you know it’s big.)  Various pundits and industry experts had ideas on what content farms are, but until we saw the traffic shake-up, we couldn’t be sure how Google defined them.

Of course, I hear the little Michael Martinez devil’s advocate on my shoulder screaming “insufficient sample size, short-term data is inferior to long-term data”! but with that caveat, we’ve already got some apparent results.

Squidoo users, for the most part, haven’t seen any changes in traffic:

Squidoo Traffic Farmer Update


Hubpage users are feeling some pain (it’s all over their user forums), which is reflected in the Quantcast traffic data:

Hubpages Traffic Google Farmer Update


Go play with Quantcast to test your own favorites. Some aren’t available yet (ehow, ezinearticles), or are CLOAKED (, surprise surprise) so Quantcast can’t measure them.

For the big picture, see Danny Sullivan’s “Number Crunchers: Who Lost In Google’s “Farmer” Algorithm Change?” on SearchEngineLand, although Squidoo is too small a squid to have attracted detailed stat analysis by the experts, unfortunately.

My own traffic stats reflect what Quantcast saw: in fact, my traffic has been increasing slightly since the change (repeat: limited sample size) not dropping.

So what does this all mean for Squidoo users, most of whom publish on a variety of other platforms as well (including Hubpages)?


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!

How I Got an Old Squidoo Lens from Lensrank 100,000+ to 2000

After nearly a year of lensrank 100,000+, my Tier One Challenge Lens has climbed to lensrank 1,872 today,

a month and a day after I entered it in the Tier One Challenge. Of course, getting there is step one. Holding it there for a month is the actual challenge. But I’m encouraged by the fact that it’s been hanging around in the 2000 range for over a week now, and has not dipped below 3900 in 3 weeks.

Here’s a quick overview of the before-and-after stats, and the chief things I did to improve it.


My Top Ten Suggestions for Squidoo Lenses

Have I not mentioned this lens on Squidbits? A while back I created a lens with Ten Great Ideas for Squidoo Lenses.

I’m not talking “write a lens on [insert celebrity name, dog breed, or specific product].”

I’m talking ten general areas you can use to combine what YOU know and love to write about with what OTHER people are searching for.

I’m talking ten methods that will generate lenses with a good chance of getting search traffic.

I’m talking ten ideas that will tend to get clickouts and/or sales, both of which boost lensrank.

I’m talking ways to create unique Squidoo lenses on topics that haven’t been done to death, so you won’t have huge competition.

I just tossed in a few edits/tweaks based on winning strategies I’ve observed among Top 100 List lenses.

Go look, if you haven’t. This is a toolbox that should help you brainstorm.