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


Squidoo Lens Transfer To Hubpages Has Begun

Hubpages has set up a new help forum for Squidoo members making the transition to HP.

As expected, HP is transferring accounts a bit at a time, with early opt-ins getting early transfers.

Relache reports on how her lenses looked after import and what happened to modules that work rather differently on HP.

Still waiting for your lenses to transfer? Here’s what I’m doing.

  • One final Traffic Stats compilation. My weekly traffic for all my Squidoo accounts dropped below 9000 this week. Partly because I deleted over a hundred of lenses (Squidoo-related tutorials and community lenses, lensographies, and some product review niches that I’m moving to my own site), but that’s still sad for 259 pages.
  • KEYWORD DATA DEEP DIVE. Last chance! Whatever else one can say for it, Squidoo gave us good data on keywords tucked away in the depths of the dashboard. Really tucked away, since they hid the 90 day data.

You can get it by creating a random bookmark (be sure to add it to your browser toolbar), then editing the bookmark in your browser’s bookmark editor and changing the URL to the following mini script (scroll right in the code box below to make sure you copy all of it):


Click that bookmarklet while you’re logged into Squidoo, and it’ll ask for a lens URL  — just the stuff after — and then it takes you to the 90-day traffic pane for that lens. Be sure to click the “see more” toggle at the bottom of the keywords list to grab ‘em all. Save ‘em to a text document with all the keywords for one niche, and they may give you some ideas about the sorts of things your primary audience is looking for.

I’m trying to collect the keyword data for my favorite niches and top hubs. That’s not something HP is going to preserve.

Keyword Research and Competition: Something Else to Consider

A lot of us do a basic form of keyword research of one kind or another, using tools like Google’s to learn what search phrases are relevant to our topic and how often those phrases are searched.

By using the words real people use to search our topic, we have a better chance of getting search engines to send us those visitors. Obvious, right? Keyword research is all about finding a common language with our readers.



Google Is Now Hiding Our Keyword Traffic

So, last week, the SEO industry was abuzz with Google’s October 18 announcement that it would no longer report visitors’ search queries in any of its tools IF the visitors doing the search were logged into Google.

Say what? Let me show you.

BEFORE THIS CHANGE (this is an actual example from my own content):

  • A user searches the web for “where can I find a pet sea hare?” and lands on my page.
  • Google records the “where can I find a pet sea hare” query in its tools and sends it to Squidoo stats
  • I see in my Squidoo stats “where can I find a pet sea hare?” brought a visitor
  • Amused, I do the research and find some C. aplysia suppliers and add them to my sea hare  fanpage in hopes that info will be useful (or at least entertaining) to future visitors.
  • A user searches for “where can I find a pet sea hare?” and lands on my page.
  • Google’s webtools record the search as (“not provided”)
  • Squidoo doesn’t report the search query in its traffic stats. (In fact, it may not even know that’s a visit… I can’t tell, but my visits have suddenly dropped on my Squidoo dashboard stats without a corresponding drop in Google Analytics).
  • I don’t know what my readers are interested in, want to know, or need me to clarify.
In this case, it’s a one-time query that won’t tell me much. But how about more common queries? Looking at Google Analytics, the third most common search phrase people use to find my content is now listed as “not provided,” so I no longer know what hundreds of my visitors are looking for, and I can no longer respond as effectively to what my readers want.

Again, Google claims this is to protect users’ privacy. However:

  • Search queries don’t tell me who is doing the searching. They’re like words shouted from the back of the room, except you can’t hear the voices. So this doesn’t protect privacy.
  • The only search queries Google is concealing are those from logged-in Google members. It’s a protection racket: “Join Google, and we won’t spy on you!”
  • EXCEPT that Google still shares all the search query data with its paying advertisers, which is why the SEO industry is rife with articles like Google Puts a Price on Privacy and Google Invests in Privacy For Profit .
  • And speaking of privacy, Google is NOT concealling referrer data — where the visitor comes from — which is more private than search queries.
If  Google said they were going to start charging for valuable data they’ve hitherto given away for free, that wouldn’t annoy me, but these self-righteous claims of protecting user privacy offend me.

Some parts of the internet are gloating about this, because they consider all SEO to be dirty tricks, and they have swallowed Google’s white lie that this change will help protect users’ privacy. But I was using that data to improve my content for my readers. And see Matt Cutts’ video from this week:

Matt Cutts: “Does Google Consider SEO to be Spam?”

Well, at least that’s a little reassuring.

I am also concerned about how Squidoo is handling this change. If Google isn’t reporting a significant number of search queries to Squidoo’s traffic stats, does Squidoo still count them as visits? This impacts Lensrank.  Yes, Google claims the cloaked data represent only a fraction of visits, but on the other hand, it’s everyone logged into Google from, say, Gmail, YouTube, Picasa, Reader, Google Plus, or a ton of other Google services. My third-most-common search query is now cloaked, and you can bet a bucketload of long-tail queries are (Analytics only gives me my top 500 queries, and one of my top lenses used to get more than 500 unique queries a week).

This change will also impact Hubpages and other sites that rely on Google’s API to report keywords that brought visitors to your site.

Bing Still Uses the Meta Keywords Tag!

Uh, oh! Bing still uses the META keywords tag!

META tags. Gotta love ‘em. They are pesky bits of HTML code hidden on (some) webpages to give information about each page. Ten years ago, search engines consulted META tags to help them learn what search phrases each page was relevant for. Then people started manipulating META tags to try and convince search engines their pages were the best pages for particular topics by virtue of their META tags saying so. Search engines wised up to this elementary trick (or went bust).

Not that META tags are completely, utterly, totally dead. On rare occasions, Google still uses the META description tag as the page excerpt it quotes in search results. That is, if there’s not a better and more appropriate quote that fits the search query better.

The META keywords tag, however, was buried several years ago, when even Yahoo/Bing apparently had abandoned it. Keywords as in…

<META name=”keywords” content=”spam, spam and eggs, spam and bacon, spam spam spam and bacon, and oh hey bing this is the greatest webpage ever on spam, so let me repeat the word spam a few more times, spam spam, spam, spammity spam”>

Squidoo fills in the META keywords tag on each lens with your Squidoo tags, by the way. It’s quaint that way.

However — wait! Stop the presses! Our old friend Danny Sullivan has checked with Bing and discovered that Bing still uses the META keywords tag as a signal! 








SEO Tip: Is That the BEST You Can Do?

For obscure reasons that Glen and Janet will understand, I’m going to call this the Potato Chip Challenge.

In the past, we’ve learned that adding “unique” to gift-related keywords captures long-tail searches. I have also observed that the word “stuff” can collect people who are searching vaguely for interesting, er, stuff. As in “stuff about volcanoes.” “Review” gets people looking for “[product name] review” before making a purchase, and as I noted in a previous post, people often search for types of products, news, movies, etc by appending the year to the search (“lcd TVs 2011″).

Well, here’s another to add to the list. I’d been doing it already, for some topics where keyword research suggested a match, but I hadn’t consciously added it to my toolbox of pointless yet useful qualifiers: “best.”  I’ve got Best Books on Greek Mythology, for example.

Here’s the Potato Chip Challenge: Take a lens where you’re reviewing several of the same kind of thing — or even one thing, if you’re really sure it’s a good one — and open its traffic stats, the detailed stats where you’ve got all the keywords that have brought visits to your lens. Set the time span to “90 days.”

Now, open another window to edit the lens. Add “Best” to the title. Work in “best” next to the main keyword in a few places on the lens where it sounds natural. IMPORTANT: As you edit, keep an eye on your traffic stats to make sure you don’t accidentally delete/screw up a phrase that’s bringing you traffic.

Publish and use SquidUtils’ workshop add-on to ping the updated lens.

Wait! You’re not done yet. Look at the traffic stats again. Open a text document, jot down the date, and record the weekly and monthly traffic totals. Copy and paste the complete list of keywords. Save the document as “potato chip” in your Squidoo projects folder.

Come back in a month and compare traffic stats (keeping in mind that shopping-related traffic often dips in summer and rises in the fall). Hopefully, “Best [thingie]” will now be part of your lens traffic.

I don’t know how successful this will be, but based on observations, it looks like an experiment worth trying. Please report results one way or the other, if you give this a try!

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.

Keywords Mean Speaking Your Readers’ Language

A post in SquidU dismissed keyword research in this way:

Keyword research is for writers who are not interested in what they write, they are interested to collect traffic and then the money by selling things. So they skim the net for keywords and if they think the keywords can bring profit they use them and start to write about the topic.

Unsurprisingly, this elicited some strong responses. I understand the point the author was trying to make — content farms have shown the worst of keyword research, and really DO follow the approach described above — but that’s not how keyword research should work, nor does it have to.

As a poet, writer, and sometime student of languages (BA and MA in classics), I have been fascinated by the concept of keywords, the use of words as signposts to to help people find what they’re looking for in a nearly infinite sea of words, the web. It’s a powerful new use of words whose potential we’re still figuring out. In some ways it reminds me of the moment in cultural evolution when writing itself began to play a major role, when knowledge was no longer limited to what you could memorize and repeat in rhyme. The storytellers were appalled that oral traditions were dying, but writing unlocked a new potential of language which was not possible before.

The thing that fascinates me about keywords is that they are at the same time distilling a whole page down to a phrase which like a yantra, and on the other hand, they are words which function not simply as units of meaning, but as functional links, like the parts of a chromosome which are not there simply to contain genetic information but which serve to buffer the chromosome from damage or otherwise serve in a functional, utilitarian way. Keywords are like the labels on file folders. You reach for them to find what’s contained inside.

Keywords have been much on my mind these last few years. The final chapter of my abandoned dissertation was going to discuss keywords. Therefore, I wrote an impassioned rebuttal to the claim that writers who use keywords don’t care about their writing:

Keyword research is understanding what language people use to talk about the topic you are interested in, and speaking their language.


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.


SquidQuiz — A Great Way to Build Relevant Backlinks

SquidQuiz is a fun, quick kind of Squidoo lens. Create a trivia quiz on a topic you love, add a Featured Lenses module to your other quizzes, and you only need one more content module to get the lens featured. For those of us who tend to make long, involved lenses on topics, this is a great way to force us to be brief.


But WAIT! Back up. See what I said back there? Add a Featured Lenses module to your other quizzes. Or any sort of links to your lenses on related topics!

I think this could be very powerful for SEO. I didn’t figure out the system until lens #3, but I soon realized there’s an SEO trick staring us in the face.


Squidoo Tags and the Meta Keyword Tag: SEO or No?

Squidoo tags are funny beasts. They work in two entirely different ways: on Squidoo, as a way to cross-link lenses together, and in search engines, they help target search traffic. Just to be more complicated, we’ve got some conflicting info on how, exactly, search engines handle meta keywords, which for our purposes are Squidoo tags.

It’s time to sort out Squidoo tags and how to use ‘em.