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


Woo Hoo, Another “Squidoo Surprise”!

Hopefully this is a bug and not a feature.

Katinka / Spirituality reports in a SquidU post that the My Lenses / Featured Lenses modules which many of us use to inter-link our lenses are no longer indexed by Google. This would prevent duplicate content from showing up — namely, the 150 character excerpt of each lens’ introduction — but also severs cross-links, hampering SEO.

You can verify the missing modules for yourself, as I just did, by Googling the following on a lens with a Featured Lenses module:


replacing the URL above with a lens URL. This will show you exactly what part of the page Google has indexed and knows about. At the moment, the Featured Lenses module just isn’t there.

We don’t yet know whether this is a deliberate Squidoo design change or a bug introduced during recent upgrades. Katinka’s passed this news onto Fluff, who isn’t a Squidoo employee, but sometimes works with Squidoo on a volunteer basis to bug hunt.

So for now, we sit tight.

The reason this matters is that Featured Lenses / My Lenses modules were easy ways to cross-link lenses, allowing search engines to find new pages on Squidoo very quickly through links on existing pages. These cross-links were backlinks, hopefully backlinks from related content to related content, if you used them to point to lenses in the same niche / topic.

IF — big if — this is a new, permanent “feature,” it means we’ll have to do yet another workaround, hand-coding cross links to other related content so that we don’t lose backlinks. The basic HTML code for doing this, which most of you know, is:

<a href="">Clickable text goes here</a>

I will also shameless plug some handy tutorials I’ve written, my old Make a Fancy Table of Contents tutorial for making compact, elegant-looking navigation bars and menus, and the Fancy Featured Lenses module trick I’ve ben using lately for lensographies such as my  index of all my graphics tutorials.

Or… once, long ago, when the Featured Lenses Module only let us enter 5 modules and displayed its contents in a random order rather than letting us pick the order of lenses, I figured out how to mimic the Featured Lenses Module’s appearance precisely in a text module.

So there’s several alternatives for cross-linking purposes. And as Katinka noted, cross-linking through Squidoo tags still works.

Let’s sit tight for a few days until we know for sure whether this change is permanent, before we revamp all our lenses to address the problem.

Squidoo Setbacks

Since Squidoo’s removal of favorites, Squidcasts, fanclubs, page breaks, bio box content, lensrolls and so many other  changes, it’s impossible to tell which are the contributing factors in lensrank changes. A slight drop in Google traffic  muddies the waters further.

But now that we’re past the flurry of updates precipitated by these changes, and Squidoo is starting to stabilize, I see that this is not simply a temporary lensrank churn. I’m down to 5-7 regular tier one lenses from 10-12 before these changes. That represents a loss of over $150 a month. I’ve got tier 2 lenses with 500+ visitors. All together, about 30 lenses have tumbled down into the “dud” range, making nearly a third of my lenses non-earning. (See my Squidoo Stats.) Sales are down slightly too, although some of that is seasonal.

I had guessed, but was never sure, that number of fans was a minor lensrank factor. My lensrank drop across the board seems to confirm it. If so, that’s good news for newbies. But I can’t be sure that’s the cause. Many lenses which dropped were page break lenses and/or received visitors from Squidcasts, since I used to use them to share Squidoo tips or interesting news related to the topics of my lenses. And all these changes have shaved about 2000 weekly visitor total from my lens portfolio. Therefore I’m left guessing: too many factors, no way to know which is the cause.

On Squidoo, the cause doesn’t always lie in your lenses, but in everybody else’s: lensrank is a comparison between all lenses on the site. Many members had to do a tremendous amount of updating as a result of Squidoo’s recent changes, and all those updates mean different content, which Google will have noticed. There may be other Google factors, too: Google may have reacted to the changed structure of Squidoo brought about by the loss of lensrolls, navigation links in bio boxes, the extra Adsense above the fold, or other changes.

And just because many of us have experienced drops does not mean there haven’t been gains elsewhere.’s Squidoo traffic measurements suggest no more than typical seasonal variation. So I don’t think it’s just Google traffic. Other members may have good lenses that were overlooked under Squidoo’s old system. I’m not seeing any more spam or junk lenses than usual at the top levels of Squidoo. Just stiff competition.

So now what? My personal goal to have Squidoo earning me $1500 by the end of this year has been set back by all these changes: I’m still not through fixing all my page break lenses, and I have created almost no new lenses apart from repotted page breaks. Some are getting traffic, and may in the long run be successful, but for now they are struggling to get onto Google’s radar; it still has some of them filed under their old page breaks. I was hoping to get my niche account up to Giant status this month, since it was rejected in April, but I’m still working on page break repairs there, too, and will probably miss the June deadline.

Beyond Squidoo, I’ve been seeking other baskets for my eggs, but each requires a learning curve that’s difficult to climb while at the same time doing Squidoo triage. is a possibility. I see Hubpages as a sleeper opportunity: Squidoo got hit hard by a Google slap 2007, got written off by many, and came back stronger. Print-on-Demand sites like Zazzle continue to have untapped potential. Self-hosted blogs or sites are probably the most viable long-term option. The closure of Amazon Associate programs in many states is worrying me: it may make the only monetization of my main blog obsolete. Longterm, the answer for me is to get my first novel published, but I was hoping to use Squidoo and other online earnings to provide a base income while I buried myself in writing.

In short, this is a rough time for all of us. I don’t have the answers, and in fact I can’t post many Squidoo tips right now, since the strategies that used to work for me seem to be sputtering. I just wanted to share my own experiences, to let others know that you’re not alone: even experienced Squids hit rough patches. Like any job, the test is to persevere, find and identify what you can work on, and look for and test alternatives.

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.

This Lens Makes Sales: How Can I Make Others Like It?

When it comes to sales lenses, I’m  a newbie. I’ve been writing on whatever the heck I feel competent and compelled to write about, going with content first and the odd Amazon Spotlight as a complement to my lens.

It should be possible to modify that approach to include reviews of things I genuinely use, know, and recommend. I’ve done it on a few lenses. I’ve got one that has made sales almost every month for years. Not in huge volume compared to our more seasoned affiliate marketers, but consistently enough to call a success.

So why does this lens work, and how can I apply its lessons to other lenses?


CSS, Graphics, and Lens Design: My Best Design

I think that to date, the Squidoo Museum is my best lens as far as presentation, although the Fancy Table of Contents lens comes close.

I’d like to talk about how I put together the Squidoo Museum. It demonstrates everything I know about graphics, color, fonts, and CSS.


Updates to Squidoo Modules List

There have been a few recent modules added to the Squidoo module browser. They’re listed under “new” at the bottom, but haven’t been filed under any category, so the only way to find them is to click “Browse all modules” and then search for them by name. They are:

  • iTunes – earn commission, feature iTunes tracks
  • My Lenses – show your lenses filed under a certain category or topic.
  • RSS Mashup – show recent posts from several RSS or blog feeds.

Click links above to see them demonstrated on my “Secret Squidoo Modules” lens!

NOTE: All of these have NoFollow links, so “My Lenses” isn’t the best way to get link juice from a lensography. But the content is crawled/indexed/seen by search engines.

Also, did you know? The Netflix module is commission-earning too!

I’ve been adding and updating my complete list of all Squidoo modules, so you might want to stop by and browse the list or download a new, updated version.

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.

My Purple Stars and Other Squidoo Awards

Wow! Where are these purple stars coming from! This is a HUGE huge huge thank you to everyone who has nominated my lenses for purple stars, Lens of the Day, and other Squidoo awards.

I also feel like bragging, although I am actually a little surprised at one of the purple stars I just found in my inbox. It’s not my best lens. I suppose it’s unique content, though!

So here are all my Purple Stars and other Squidoo awards, plus a few personal benchmarks for which I am proud.


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.


My Squidoo Successes

A lot of Squidoo members post in SquidU when they reach various milestones. I’m too shy do that, although I’m not too shy to plug a lens when it answers a question somebody’s asked!

However, for a week or so now, I’ve hit a new threshold that I want to toot my horn about:

18-20 lenses in the top tier, every day, and
Four lenses in the Top 100.

That’s out of about 80 lenses.

I want to thank Squid Angels profusely. You’re not the only reason my lenses are doing well (I hope!), but I know that the current batch of Squid Angels has been very, very actve. I’ve seen a lot of you stopping by some of my successful lenses and showering pixie dust — openly or (I suspect) covertly. Thank you so much.

Finally, my Jackie Robinson lens, which has spent two years wandering around in the 20,000-50,000 lensrank range before my recent efforts got it into the 1000-2000 range, is now rank six.

I feel guilty about submitting it for Lens of the Day. But I always thought it was one of my best lenses, and I knew from clickouts it had been submitted before. With Jackie Robinson Day coming up again this year, I couldn’t resist plugging it! Now, thanks to the LOTD nomination and recent traffic, that lens will finally be sending more than eight cents a month (or a bit more if someone buys memorabilia) to the Jackie Robinson Foundation.  Thank you again, everyone!

For far too much info on my Squidoo traffic, tiers, stats, see my Greekgeek’s Squidoo Stats lens, which is probably pretty typical for an experienced Squidoo user who’s not doing affiliate marketing.