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


Looking Back at Squidoo’s Mistakes

Drat. I’ve been trying so hard to focus on the transition to Hubpages and getting on with it, rather than rehashing what’s done and past.

However, I keep see more and more posts by people throwing all the blame on members and absolving SquidHQ of the policies that led it into a death spiral.

Sorry, no. That’s not what happened. I’ve been on Squidoo since 2007. I watched the site change its focus and its approach. HQ erratically tried to backpedal, but even as late as the end of 2013 they were forcing us to create low-content sales-generating pages or lose Giant Squid status.

Here’s my full rebuttal, with more details on what I saw go down when.

And now I’m going to try to get back to looking ahead and slowly getting my transferred articles up to snuff under Hubpages’ QAP standards which, honest to gosh, I want to hug. They’re a nuisance, but it’s the first time since early 2013 that I’ve revamped all my Squidoo articles and have some hope that this will help them.

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.


What Happened to SquidU? And a NEW, unofficial forum by and for members!

As most of you know by now, the Squidoo community woke up to find that the SquidU forums, aka the Lensmaster Lounge, were shut down by HQ. To replace them, HQ has set up a new forum on the HQ Blog site. Read their announcement here explaining why.

For various reasons, this change didn’t work for all of us. (Square pegs, meet round holes.) So Christene set up a totally-unofficial by-and-for-members community here:

Squid∩ Community

There’s a lot of familiar faces. Some folks are also on the new, official HQ forum, while others are sticking mostly to Squid∩. (Either is fine. We’re real big on “different things work for different people.” )

It’s also got subforums for people to discuss Wizzley, Zujava, or wherever else you’re active.

There’s a help forum where people can ask other members for tips/advice, plus an FAQ section where we’ve rescued a few of the most in-demand tips and Tricks of the Trade posts written by members who have migrated to Squid∩. Hopefully these forums will continue to serve as a place to get support and tips, as well as camaraderie.

(The upside-down U symbol is the mathematical sign for “union,” but really, we just like being upside-down.)

Keeping up with new lenses by some good lensmasters

It’s no substitute for SquidCasts, but Mimi has her own personal Google Reader page keeping up with the RSS feeds of 100+ good Squidoo lensmasters. This will show new lenses by these lensmasters.

If the Nexus Tax Killed Your Amazon Associate Account

… you can change your Amazon Associates links on Squidoo to Squidoo’s Amazon associates ID instead, and then get at least some commission. You know the drill: Squidoo collects about 8.5% commission due to its high volume, then pays us half of that, so you’ll be making less than before (assuming you were making 6% or more). But at least it’s something.

Flynn got on the ball before I did and wrote a Tutorial on How to Change Amazon Associate Links to Use Squidoo’s ID. Obviously, this will only work on Squidoo, which means “eggs in one basket” syndrome all over again, and we’re screwed if Amazon shuts down its New York program (where Squidoo is based).

Squidoo’s Beginnings: How It Started

On my sticky notes of Squidoo lens ideas, I’ve had one grandiose note sitting in the idea box forever: “Squidoo then and now  — how to realize Seth’s vision.” This week, I finally got around to tackling it.

I found more questions than answers. And then I realized that of course, we all have different ways to realize Seth’s vision, because if we all did the same thing, it wouldn’t match his vision.

Therefore, I made THIS lens:

Squidoo’s Beginnings: A Look Back

And what we can learn from them.


My goal with this lens is to look back at how Squidoo started, and learn what it was like then, what it was for, and what Seth Godin’s original vision for a lens actually was.

Then I trace some… just SOME! … of the way the site, the community, and our concept of a lens developed.

It’s shaped by my own experience of Squidoo’s growth and changes. Your experience will be different, and that’s good. Examine your own memories of how Squidoo’s changed and think about them. Consider the threads I’ve picked out. Especially, consider the questions: what is a lens? What is it for? What is Squidoo all about?

Over time, the answers to those questions have changed… but not entirely. Some things have remained constant. What are they?

Those answers may help guide you in finding your very own way to Squidoo.

On Squidoo Success Stories

With the biggest payout yet for many people — including me! — and the end of the year, Squidoo members are pondering Squidoo success stories…and failures.

MikeEssex created a Squidoo Success Stories lens reporting on the real-life successes of several members, plus links to stats and earnings lenses by many members who maintain lenses or blogs to track their Squidoo progress. (Here’s mine.)

In response, three-year Squidoo member SisterCaren wrote a tongue-in-cheek lens which I think is just as important: her Squidoo Failure Story. She shares tips and insights on what doesn’t work.

We need to know about both Squidoo successes and Squidoo failures. I included both when I created my “Is Squidoo a Scam?” lens several years ago. I also demonstrated (I hope) that success on Squidoo can be defined in many different ways: traffic, successful promotion of a blog, business, or cause, moneymaking, gaining an online following.

However, there is one way that most Squidoo members and the rest of the world define success: earnings.  And Kimberly’s announcement on 12/16 that ONE member earned $2000K for the month through Squidoo earnings alone is a story of  both success and failure at the same time.


Survey of Tier One Challenge Lenses (Pt. 2)

Phew! It’s so easy to get caught up in your own lenses; I really admire all the generous squids who manages to make lens reviews on a weekly basis!

Before I forget: SquidooHQ recently invited us to nominate three LOTDs, and I’m delighted that my picks got featured! One lens you all know, and two you probably didn’t.  (one, two, three).

But now let’s get back to the Tier One Challenge. To recap, these are lenses people have never gotten above tier 3 that they’re trying to get to tier one. I’m trying to review all of them. So far I’ve done just five. Eek!

Drifter’s Traditional Books vs. eBooks

Great Stuff: Alex always uses crisp CSS to make effective-looking lenses, and I love his left-side border images. His active, engaging, eloquent language pulls you into the story, which is important on a lens that has something to say instead of just something to sell or info to offer.  He frames it as a debate, which helps convert casual web surfer into someone more mentally involved in the lens. And the content is just plain fascinating, varied, well-presented with a variety of ways to intereact with the lens. (It’s also one of the few Amazon Plexos I’ve felt like submitting to.)

Possible Tweak: I might move the video farther down on the page. It was in danger of distracting me from the meat and main topic of the lens. Then again, it did wake me up!

RANDOM CSS TIP: Have you ever tried putting a border around the Introduction Module or a Text module, only to have the lens logo or module graphic overlap the border? I’ve got two techniques for dealing with the problem, which I’ve seen on several Challenge lenses.


Survey of Tier One Challenge Lenses (Pt. 1)

I’ve been tardy getting to all of the lenses in the Tier One Challenge. So to make up for it, here’s a lightning tour. I’ll give off-the-cuff comments on what make these lenses tick, suggestions if I’ve got any. Of course, I’m no expert– take my comments if they’re useful, or ignore them!

Here we go!

Linda’s  Top Ten Horse Movies Christmas Gifts lens

(not the official title … here, have some related anchor text.)

Great stuff: She’s been busy with CSS to make it visually sharp (slightly larger type for grandparents, good call),  calls to action and benefit-specific copy (kids love horse movies and watch them again and again), and careful keyword research for both headers and body text.  Also she’s doing all the backend work, off-site backlinks and promotion.

Possible tweaks: With review lenses, especially Top Ten lists, reviews can start sounding the same, so how do you encourage visitors to choose? Personally, I listen more closely to “I saw this great movie, and what I loved about it was…[something unique to that movie]”  rather than, “Oh, I loved it! It was my favorite! It’s just fantastic!” Linda’s got specific, thumbnail blurbs on the first six, which gives me a tiny taste of them. But say I’ve been living under a rock and I’m Sammy the 10 Second Surfer who’s too laaaazy to click the videos (which are nevertheless a great hook for more leisurely surfers), I’d love to know more about the last 4.

EclecticEducation’s File Folder Math lens

Great stuff: This Homeschool Club lens was the first to crack tier 1, and it’s staying there– no surprise! Eclecticeducation is an experienced teacher with a whole batch of great homeschooling lenses, building up a reputation and visitors who know what quality they’ll find and come back. This one explains a homeschooling activity, has one (1!) quick video for people like me who had never heard of File Folder Math (Oh, now I get it!), suggests a few choice Amazon File Folder games (just a few!), gives a hand-picked list of File Folder websites (clickouts!), and then a featured lens module sending visitors onto closely related lenses in the same niche — now that is a simple, well-organized lens firing on all cylinders.

Possible tweaks: *drool* Sorry, I got nothin’.

Timehacker/Nnaij’s Nokia X-6 Review

Great stuff: Product-specific reviews are great: people don’t tend to Google “phone” so much as “I want to know about THIS phone.” This lens is well-optimized for the phone’s name and related searches like features, apps, parts, details. LOTS of details. After all, geeks are one segment of this market, and geeks want details. Details are also good for search engines, which (I think) tend to prioritize concrete nouns (“[product] [model number] review” rather than “my incredible personal story which is an a great read but no one would ever think to Google for it.”)

Possible tweaks: I’m always half afraid to say anything about product review lenses, since I know nothing about marketing. But I find this lens to be so full it’s a little intimidating. It’s got everything one can find on the net, even Facebook fan pages and Tweets about the phone. But I think I’d like a more brief, focused, personal review of the phone. Possibly the best thing there is a video demo of the phone, but I wonder if it would work better to have one demo than 5?

JollyvilleChick’s 40+ Things My Husband Does Right

Good stuff: This is one of those “my incredible personal story which is a great read but who’s going to think to Google for it?” lenses that I really want to see succeed. The writing is fun, the list is a great list of real, authentic things one can relate to in one’s own life, and the underlying message is so good: keep that relationship going and stop to enjoy it by noting what he/she does that you love. It even manages to slip in a few products that will appeal to the spouses (especially gents) who might be reading this lens. Also, it’s well-presented (lovely but understated CSS). She manages to slip in a few “selling stuff” modules like an apt iTunes theme song that are so appropriate that one forgets it’s an ad. I think social media and word-of-mouth may help this lens have legs to make up for the challenges of SEO.

Another great thing is that by following excellent blogs and Tweeters on her topic, they may actually follow the social juice back and find the page. Which has good enough content that they might pass it on.

Possible tweaks: hmmmmm. Maybe when the challenge is over, I’d move the critique/challenge-related modules off the lens onto a blog post as a keepsake, just because this lens is a little long. But maybe not. It’s a great lens.

Photahsiamirabel’s Cute Cartoon Hedgehog Gifts Cards and Calendars

Good stuff: Oh, they ARE cute, and that lens logo graphic plus the simple yellow/green theme really draw you right in. This is a personal recommendation for someone’s hedgehog art, which is best (yay for promoting a Zazzle artist), and there’s excellent shopping opportunities interspersed with personal notes and comments that fit, plus one adorable hedgehog video module. There’s some Hallowe’en art to catch seasonal traffic; I’m betting this will get fresh content for Christmas.

Possible tweaks: Tiny nitpick; I had no idea what “spinewise by mothlight” meant in the introduction module. Maybe quotes plus a link to the painting? Or save cryptic jokes for a little further down. Also, possibly, a poll module right after that video module on which hedgehog is the cutest– but this would require hand-picked videos rather than letting YouTube pick. I would’ve been receptive to a poll right after watching those . (I click polls on things I don’t have strong feelings about, whereas I don’t participate in duels unless I have a strong opinion and something to say.)

Okay, it’s late and I’m getting sleeepy. I will get to them all though, I promise! Stay tuned for part 2.

Great Ideas from the Tier One Challenge Thread

Since LindaJM started the Tier One Challenge on Oct 10, the challenge thread has grown to 15 pages. Way back at the start, Fluffanutta said:

People in this challenge need to think about how they are going to get their lenses to the top.
It won’t be enough to simply drop a link in the forum – you need to work on the content of the lens: update it and add some fresh quality text. Add plenty of clickout opportunities and sale modules where relevant. Also, check the tags and build some new links from other related and authoritative websites.

That is an excellent, succinct summary of lens improvement and promotion. Take about 30 seconds to ponder it!

Besides that nugget of distilled wisdom, the thread has become a compendium of brief or not-so-brief notes on techniques we’re using to improve and promote lenses. Here’s a quick survey / summary of tips from all fifteen pages of the thread so far:

  • Write on-topic blog posts featuring a link to the lens.
  • Linda asked us to consider Three Key Questions in tweaking our lens.
  • Work on Keyword research, SEO, and Squidoo tags.
  • Add more interactivity (Polls, Duels, Plexos).
  • Add Amazon Spotlights, Zazzle, eBay, etc. (See my “Selling Stuff” Module list for which are commission-earning, and which simply invite clickthroughs).
  • Cross-link with one’s other lenses via Featured Lenses module, Squidoo tags, or links in the body of the lens. Links from Squidoo’s co-brand may be treated as backlinks from a different domain.
  • Post article on your topic, with link to lens, on Hubpages, Gather, Ezine, or other article submission sites.
  • Alex is pinging “reader services” with (I assume) the RSS feeds of lenses, and I need to know what he means by a “bookmark drip” (perhaps bookmarking on places like del.ici.ous and Tagfoot?)

Another Fluffanugget:

Send a SquidCast. Write a good paragraph or two telling people what the lens is about, and why it they might be interested in it. Something juicy that grabs them. If you’ve syndicated your SquidCast feed properly, then this message will go out across the blogosphere and social networks giving your lens more exposure and backlinks.

  • Promote lens with social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc). [Remember: social media is usually more effective as a way to reach people, not search engines.]
  • Look for places to post backlinks (comments on related blogs, but be careful to be a good contributor not a spammer), related subject directories.
  • Hard-core backlink building.
  • Modify module subtitles to target keywords, or alternate keywords (related searches).
  • Utilize Sidebar Widgets, especially Amazon Spotlight.
  • Tidy/tweak appearance, graphics, content!
  • See Jollyvillechick’s Lens Promotion Followup Checklist and a whole slew of good ideas and another slew.
  • Join a discussion forum related to topic, participate meaningfully, include link in profile.
  • Add outbound links from the lens to excellent, relevant blog posts, or lensroll related lenses (says Fluff: these links add keyword-rich anchor text AND invite clickouts).
  • Twitter Search module to get updated, related content on lens (NOT Twitter Follow, which is not indexed by search engines).
  • Use to promote across all your social media accounts quickly.
  • Break lens into multiple, more focused pages using Page Break Module.
  • Add more clickable, specifically-named images for clickouts and image search traffic.

Finally, CCGAL has created a lensography for the challenge featuring all the challenge lenses.

And in fact, this post was GOING to be a survey of all those lenses, but I got distracted. So stay tuned!