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


Check-In Jan 2015: Where Is Greekgeek?

Personal Chatter

‘Lo, folks. Back from adventures.

The good: I managed to make a solo trip to the UK, including Scotland, Ireland, and northern England, which I haven’t visited before. I had a ball at a classic Who convention, indulged in geology and mythology geeking at the Giant’s Causeway, poked around old castles and ruins, and rambled around in the British Museum saying hello to all the bits of Greece that aren’t in Greece. (Sooner or later I need to post about the Elgin Marbles controversy.) Also, Flynn the Cat and I hung out. Thank you, Flynn, for putting up with my being so ragged!

The bad: Bleeding ulcer. I was too stubborn to cancel my trip, but boy howdy do I never want to travel again while feeling that awful. I’m now on the mend, and finally able to sit at the computer for enough time to work.

Also good: My Buzzfeed-style listicle, 25 Funny Things on Google Maps, picked up Hub of the Day on Jan 4.  Mind you, I’ve always mixed feelings about that article. In 2012-2013, it was my top-ranked Squidoo page, thanks to high traffic and clickouts. I’d like to think that my educational articles are better quality. On the other hand, I did go the extra mile (so to speak) to hunt down interesting information about each item on the list. So thanks, HP. I hope someday one of my meatier articles earns an HotD nod.

For what it’s worth, even when it was Hub of the Day, its hubscore still hovered around 83. [See my thoughts about Hubscores.]

My Hubpages To-Do checklist

I gather that transferred Squidoo articles were given a two week extension before they undergo the full Hubpages Quality Assessment Process? At least, when I was working on revisions last week, the warning messages on those flagged with “overly promotional links” said that I had two weeks to bring them up to snuff.

Here’s my checklist.


Hubpages Dashboard: Sorting Hubs to Help You Batch Edit

SPIRITUALITY WROTE [on the hubpages forum]

GreekGeek – any idea how hubs are organised on our profiles? What determines their order?

Yep! By default, they’re sorted according to [Hub]Score, but there’s lots of other ways to sort & filter. Pardon my scribbles…

Hubpages Dashboard

Click the top of any column to sort by that column. “Published” is original publish date (Hubpages will keep our lens creation dates). “Changed” is the most recent update. Or sort by traffic to tackle popular articles first.

Export as csv” creates a tidy list you can import into a spreadsheet and use as a to-do list.

Hubs > Groups  Create new groups. Scroll down on that pane for “orphaned hubs” which you can add to groups. You can also add a hub you’re editing to groups in the “Display Options” pane in the workshop sidebar.

Warning: Hubpages asks us to limit groups to hubs that are relevant to one another. Each grouped hub gets a “Next” and “Previous” link at the bottom, passing traffic to the adjacent hubs in the group like a webring. Therefore, we can’t set up groups for our own organizational purposes. (i.e. no “hubs I need to work on” group.)

The filter pane  (beige box) has some useful sorting functions for finding hubs that need work. For example…

designation > Not Featured – Engagement 
…lists all hubs that have fallen out of “Featured” status because not enough traffic or reader engagement

designation > Not Featured – Quality
… lists all hubs that need more work to pass QAP.

capsule > Amazon
…lists all hubs with an Amazon capsule. Or look for hubs with eBay capsules, or hubs with Photo capsules (although that’s probably all of them).


As we revamp our imported lenses, the sort by “Changed” (last edit) is going to be the most helpful option, and I also highly recommend “export as csv” and plugging the result into a spreadsheet, which you can then use to cross off those you’ve updated.



EDIT: AND I TOTALLY FAILED TO ANSWER SPIRITUALITY’S QUESTION. Hubs on our profile are displayed to the public according to creation date, newest to oldest. I have found no way to sort them.

A Squidoo Timeline: Looking Back at the Past Year

This is my attempt to round up a year’s worth of changes on Squidoo, with particular focus on which Squidoo changes and which Google algorithm updates may have caused traffic gains or losses.

As usual, I’m using Hubpages as a reference, because it’s a comparable site, although its traffic trajectory has been quite different. (Hubpages took its big Panda hit in Jan 2011, and has been climbing back ever since; Squidoo was mostly unaffected by Panda until Nov 2012).

Quantcast Chart of Squidoo & Hubpages traffic, July 2012-2013

I’ve marked specific dates of Google algorithm changes plus significant events at Squidoo.

Squidoo traffic, Google panda/penguin updates, 2012-2013

(Also available on YouTube, where you can pause and move the playback position, but video is a little fuzzy.)

Squidoo Timeline July 2012-2013

  • Jul 5, 2012: START. Squidoo and Hubpages both draw ~1 million global unique visitors a day; Squidoo is on top.
  • Jul 24, 2012: Panda #17.  Sistrix shows both Squidoo’s and Hubpages’ overall visibility in Google search results DOWN 10%. [See Google’s guidelines on what Panda rewards].
  • Aug 10, 2012: Pirate / DMCA updateBoth sites unaffected.
  • Aug 15, 2012: Departure of Megan Casey, Squidoo co-founder and Editor-in-Chief.
  • Aug 20, 2012: Panda #18. Sistrix shows Squidoo UP 3%, Hubpages UP 9%.
  • Sep 18, 2012: Panda #19. Sistrix shows Squidoo UP 1%, Hubpages DOWN 2%.
  • Sep 27, 2012: Panda #20, EMDSistrix shows Squidoo DOWN 4%, Hubpages DOWN 12%. [Hubpages uses subdomains, which might trigger EMD downranking; Squidoo does not, so it should be immune to EMD.]
  • Oct 5, 2012: Third Penguin Update. Sistrix shows Squidoo UP 13%, Hubpages DOWN 32%. [Searchengineland explains Penguin, Google’s explanation].
  • Oct 9, 2012: Page Layout Algorithm #2. Sistrix shows Squidoo unchanged, Hubpages 17% DOWN. [Info on Page Layout Algorithm, also called “Top Heavy”]
  • Oct 31, 2012: Squidoo implements Postcards.
  • Nov 5, 2012: Panda  #21. Sistrix shows Squidoo 35% UP, Hubpages unchanged.
  • Nov 12-16: Sporadic Squidoo traffic drops. Several veteran Squids report significant traffic drops at a time when traffic is usually increasing due to holiday shopping season. I have never been able to correlate this to a known Google algorithm update, unless it was a Nov. 15 change in Google Image Search.
  • Nov 21, 2012: Panda #22. Sistrix shows Squidoo 60% DOWN, Hubpages 33% UP. [FWIW,  some Squidoo members were reporting spammy ad popups at about this time.]
  • Nov 26, 2012: Squidoo implements Crowdignite Ads.  These have finally been replaced with “related” Google ads; not sure when that happened, but it’s after Mar 1.
  • Dec 7, 2012: Squidoo implements “Responsive Layout redesign. Quizzes, polls, and some Amazon and eBay modules break or lose content, and new ads appear in the middle of lens body content for mobile devices and on some web browers (Chrome OSX).
  • Dec 21, 2012: Panda #23. Sistrix shows Squidoo 14% UP, Hubpages 9% DOWN.
  • Jan 22, 2013: Panda #24. Sistrix shows Squidoo 15% UP, Hubpages 3% DOWN.
  • Feb 28, 2013: Bonnie posts about Spun Content problems (the day before, Bonnie warned against thin sales lenses, but that “Showercurtain” blog post was removed.)
  • Mar 5, 2013: Squidoo adds “You may also like” with 5 supposedly-related products to the bottom of every Amazon module. All Amazon module content blocked by Adblock on Mar 6, and on Mar 7, Squidoo discontinues “You may also like,” but Adblock continues to block Amazon modules for several weeks
  • Mar 12, 2013: Squidoo implements new “Discovery Bar”, at first covering part of first screen of content, then moved down, then removed on Mar 18.  On May 28, HQ replaced it with a popup for non-logged-in visitors.
  • Mar 18, 2013: Panda #25. Sistrix shows Squidoo 17% DOWN,  Hubpages 3% DOWN. (From this time onward, Panda is ongoing.)
  • Mar 19, 2013: Giant Squid conference call with Seth, Bonnie & Gil.
  • Mar 21, 2013: Squidoo bans most coloring pages.
  • Mar 25, 2013: Squidoo’s new filters announced, giving members 7 days (Giants 21? days) to fix flagged lenses before they’re locked. Some members choose to delete/move flagged lenses. Thousands of lenses must have been locked after this window. Since then, many members have reported finding lenses locked without warning.
  • Mar 28, 2013: Squidoo Nofollows all outbound links.
  • May 7, 2013: widespread reports of Phantom”  Update, unconfirmed by Google.
  • May 13, 3013: In response to many people bewildered by “thin content” flags and locks, Bonnie posts about Keyword Density.
  • May 16, 2013: New Squidoo Homepage. At first it’s missing links to categories, making them unfindable to search bots, but now those links are restored.
  • May 22, 2013: Penguin 2.0Sistrix shows Squidoo 25% UP, Hubpages 8% UP.
  • May 29, 2013: Subdomain testing.
  • June 10, 2013: Outbound link limit more strictly defined.
  • June 18, 2013: second Seth Godin/ HQ conference call.
  • June 25 , 2013: Squidoo adds Scorecard. (See Q&A.)

April-June: Squidoo changes or retires  “About Me” and “My Lenses”Poll moduleAmazon modulesPhoto Gallery, Twitter,  Video modules. After each of these changes, many lensmasters report lost/deleted content from these modules, which searchbots may notice.

A few caveats.

  1. There’s seasonal cycles. Squidoo usually had a shopping-related traffic swell starting in September, cresting at Halloween, peaking again just after Thanksgiving, and staying more or less elevated until Christmas, with a lesser peak at Valentine’s Day and then a slight summer slump. (Part of the reason that veterans started sounding the alarm in November was that traffic was dropping at a time when it normally increased).
  2. “Correlation does not equal causation.” Sistrix measures when a site has gained or lost a lot of search visibility by checking to see where it ranks on a huge database of search terms that Sistrix keeps re-checking. It assumes bit traffic shifts are related to the most recent known Google update, but there might be other causes.
  3. If Squidoo is tinkering under its own hood or purging a lot of content, that may result in traffic changes on that site which have nothing to do with Google updates.
  4. After significant changes, there may be a lag before Google and other search engines recrawl pages they’ve visited before and make adjustments.
  5. During holiday shopping season, the full extent of traffic losses on Squidoo may be masked, because Squidoo has so many sales-related pages.
  6. Google does not announce all updates; it’s making smaller updates and adjustments all the time. (And sometimes, as on May 7, many websites may report traffic upheavals without Google confirming an update.)

Also see: Yuku forum thread where various lensmasters are sharing their May 2012-May 2013 and June 2012-June 2013 traffic stats and changes.

Updating Squidoo Lenses: My 2013 Checklist

Squidoo progress Excel Spreadsheet

My yearly progress spreadsheet helps me track progress and seasonal trends.

Whew, 2012 was quite a roller coaster of a year for me on Squidoo and beyond.

The good: I achieved a 68% increase in online earnings, and I began an earnest push to diversify beyond Squidoo, and succeeded at least a little (see bottom of my payouts chart).

The bad: Pinterest members began copying and uploading our photos en masse, so that we were competing with ourselves for image traffic, and third-party websites began using pinned images to make money. Hubpages, where I’ve had the most luck in diversification, had its Google ups and downs and its share of disruptive policy changes. Later, along with many Squidoo members, I lost 34% of my Google traffic to Squidoo around November 15. Accordingly, my November Squidoo earnings saw a 33% drop, when normally my November earnings are up. December saw a couple of Squidoo Surprises that required emergency triage to all our lenses. Also, the old by-and-for-lensmasters SquidU community was closed down by HQ and resurrected by Christene.

I’m tired. I’ve been tired. All of the above, plus arthritis, have left me exhausted and discouraged. So I’ve been taking a break from Squidoo and article sites in general. However, January’s almost over, and it’s time to get back in the saddle.

This year, rather than writing new content on Squidoo, I’m mostly going to write elsewhere and just do maintenance on my Squidoo portfolio.

Here’s a checklist of what I do to update each lens. I’m not gonna do all these changes on every lens all at one sitting. Instead, I’ve created an “Update log” spreadsheet with “type of update” as the column headers, lenses as the rows. When I make an update, I’ll note it in the appropriate column/row with the date.


Recovering From a Squidoo Surprise

Here we go again

As most members know by now, Squidoo just unleashed a dramatically different layout two weeks before Christmas. This fits a pattern: Squidoo typically launches changes with little or no warning (that one was released on December 21, 2010, and it managed to throw some top-earning lenses into WIP, hiding them entirely from view and killing their tier earnings for the month.) Clearly, Squidoo thinks we have far too much time on our hands during the holidays.

If you’ve got hundreds of lenses, it may take days to salvage and check all of them. So how do we prioritize? Well, I’ve discovered a handy Excel trick to list all our lenses in order of how much they earn, which can aid in triage assessment.

But first, let’s look at some possible ways to repair layout problems caused by this so-called “Responsive” update (as a major iPad user, the old Squidoo layout gave me no trouble, whereas this one does):

  • [UPDATE] SquidTool’s creator A3 Labs has been on the ball and has updated SquidTools to work with Squidoo’s new layout. See this announcement post from A3 Labs explaining the fixes, and/or Annie’s tutorial on how to get these repairs to fix old Squidtools layouts.
  • For what it’s worth, most of my templates from my Amazon Associates Links Tutorial seem to be working under the new layout. Exception is the five-items-across. The rest are flexible enough to cope with varying screen sizes.
  • Create smallish fixed-width building blocks that flow and wrap around like the words in this paragraph when they hit the right-hand margin. By “building blocks,” I mean a box-shaped unit such as one image plus its caption underneath and maybe a “buy” button. My How to Align Image Side-by-Side templates all work this way, and as far as I can see, I think they’re all still behaving correctly.
  • One might be able to change dimensions to percentages, so that layout elements stay proportional to the page width. For instance, with a three-in-a-row layout, set the width of each of the three “building blocks” to 30% with a margin-right of 2% to give a little padding and still leave a smidge of wiggle room for borders.  But there’s a problem with this, too, as kburns notes: 30% of the screen width on a smartphone is tiny, too small for images. [UPDATE: See my next post: Cheat Sheet for Converting fixed-width to flexible-width Squidoo layouts. I think I’ve gotten the hang of it now.]
  • People who really know CSS backwards and forwards may find that some percentage-width problems are solved by adding max-width or min-width: making bits of a layout stretchy and flexible, but not infinitely so.

WHATEVER YOU DO: Keep in mind that Squidoo’s width and font sizes now vary on the fly to fit people’s screens and devices, so you can’t assume anyone else’s column width will be the same as it is on your computer. One quick way to check is to grab the lower right-hand corner of your browser window (if you can) and drag it left and right to view the lens resizing itself to fit the new window size. Also, check Screenfly (thanks, dee) to see how it will look on an iPad and other devices.


This was what I was going to post before I got distracted trying to solve layout issues (note: I cannot answer any more questions now, as I’ve only managed to check/repair 11 of my 431 lenses since yesterday and I’ve gotta get back to them).

If you have over a hundred lenses, it seems daunting to figure out where to start. Here’s a five-minute exercise you can do with Excel to help you find and prioritize your top-earning lenses on Squidoo.

  1. Go to the big blue Dashboard Stats tab. (that link takes you there.)
  2. Choose “My Payments” and “Life to Date” in the pulldown menus at the bottom, and click “go”. Go to the bathroom while that loads in. [UPDATE: you might want to set it to “Previous 3 months” instead; old lenses may have earned more historically, but may not be top earners now.]
  3. Click “Download report as TSV” at upper right-ish.
  4. Open the result in Excel.
  5. Select All, then, under the Data > Sort… box, Sort By Lens Title (or URL).
  6. Choose “Subtotals” under the Data menu and click OK.
  7. Now at the top of the left-hand corner, you should see buttons for “1 2 3.” Click the 2, and it should hide all the different month-by-month payouts for each lens and show you just the total lifetime earnings for each lens. (If you can’t find the numbers, under the Data > Group and Outline submenu, choose “hide detail” to collapse everything and then “show detail” to get the summary. This is dumb but it works.)
  8. Under the “Data” menu, choose “Sort” again and Sort by “Total,” Descending.
Of course, this only tells you about Squidoo earnings, not lenses that earn most of their income through affiliate sales with third party programs like Amazon. On Amazon, you could perform the above procedure on their Earnings Reports, which could at least tell you what items are selling most on your lenses.

Lens Updating Tip: A Google Spot Check

Keeping 400 lenses reasonably updated is serious business. We can do a quick scan for broken images, links and videos, but here’s a meaningful update you can do in five minutes: a quick tweak that can improve traffic to a lens.

  1. Click “Stats” under the lens name.
  2. Click the “Traffic” tab.
  3. Change the “Date Range” pulldown menu to 90 days.
  4. Look at the “Keywords” chart that shows what searches have brought people to the lens. Figure out which is the top keyword phrase (often combining a couple different variants from the list). For instance, here I tried “wooden rack oven puller,” whose words include a few of the other top searches:

  5.  Do a Google search for that phrase and turn OFF personalized search results (which are tailored to your own web browsing habits) by clicking the globe button at upper right:

  6. Look closely at the blurb / description. This is what the majority of people searching for your lens will see. Is it as good as it could be? Or is there something you could do to add a Call to Action, encourage people to click on the link (see How to Get More Clicks, Sales)?

    In this example, it’s a “how to make your own X” page, which is very obvious from the lens title and link. In fact, the page is also a “where to buy X because you’re too lazy to make it” article! But the blurb gives no indication that I’ve included “where to buy” as well as “how to make” information. Therefore, I improve that sentence very slightly, taking care not to disturb the keyword search phrase (or popular variants):

    It’s a clumsy tweak, but now the blurb should attract buyers as well as DIYers.

  7. Ping it with the ping tool added to the lens workshop’s sidebar by SquidUtil’s workshop add-on.

The wording of your blurb depends on (a) your goals for the article (sell something, inform people of something, get them to click on a free download button, get them to visit your website — to name a few) and (b) what your audience is looking for. Make sure your page has what they’re looking for, then make sure your blurb tells them you have what they’re looking for!

The above steps can be done fairly quickly: (1) check traffic stats (2) search the top phrase(s) and see what the blurb looks like (3) edit your lens in that spot to make sure the wording is as good as possible.

Over time, this may be a simple but effective way to boost traffic to the lens.

When Squidoo (or any) website is glitching…

We’ve endured about two weeks of connection timeouts and edits that refuse to take. You may want to give up entirely and work on some other site. But if you’ve got work on Squidoo that can’t wait, get in the habit of this simple, VITAL technique:

Right before hitting the “Save” or “Post” button on a field of text, ALWAYS click Control-A (Command-A on Mac) to Select All, then Control-C (Command-C) to copy the contents to the clipboard.

That way, no matter what, you’ve saved what you just wrote and can copy it to a text document or try again. It’s an imperfect solution — and I advise working in a text document for longer chunks of text and pasting them across — but it will save you at least a little screaming.

Oh No, Should I Update More Often?

Ugh. There’s a part of the Squidoo lensrank algorithm I’ve been ignoring, because it’s not what I want to be doing. From the Squidoo FAQ:

Wikipedia has a system with one entry per topic. We don’t. Instead, we encourage multiple lenses on a topic. Then, we use an automated algorithm-LensRank-to rank the lenses. We look at community ratings, lensmaster reputation, clickthrough rates, frequency of updates, inbound and outbound links, revenue generated, and lots of other factors and give the lens a number.

Fine and dandy. But I have over 200 lenses! I generally don’t update unless I’ve heard some news, discovered a product, or found some interesting tidbit to add to an existing lens. Only rarely do I go back and substantially tweak/improve lenses. A photo here, a caption there, adding a new featured lens or widget, sure, but most of my updates are cosmetic. I republish each lens every sixty days, since lenses sitting longer than that appear under the “needs to be updated” label, but beyond that, it’s ad hoc.

However, I’m beginning to suspect that republishing lenses once a week really does give a lensrank boost, especially to bottom-of-the-heap lenses. Check out this week’s lensrank on Sunday, two days after I actually did republish all my lenses:

Most of the tiers haven’t changed that much, which is good: they’re holding position through performance. However tier 4 (“dud”) shows a distinct improvement between last week and this week.

IS it worth it? Republishing every lens takes a lot of time, and updates are meaningless unless one looks at every lens and edits/improves each one. I’m sure most of those updated tier 4s are just going to earn 25 to 30 more cents as tier 3 lenses, at best. Whoopie.

I don’t want to just republish for the sake of republishing. It’s time consuming and perhaps not as valuable as making another lens. However, I may be doing it more often than every sixty days, now.

Fooey. I honestly hope the results turn out to be “it doesn’t make much difference,” but that uptick is troubling me.

And in more cheery news, my 2011 goals are on track so far. Can’t wait for the next payout.

A Small Update on that Tier Three Marathon

I cut short that Tier 3 Lens Marathon abruptly because of real life ickiness hitting the fan right after I signed off. I alluded to it in a Tweet and won’t rehash, but suffice it to say I was in no mood to work on Squidoo for a few days, and when I came back, I had other things to work on.

So the question is, did 20-30 minutes of work on my bottom-dwelling lenses lift them up enough that they would at least earn pennies a month, which isn’t much but adds up long-term?

That was…let’s see, 15 lenses:

  1. moved from rank 224,041 to 97259. NO.
  2. moved from lensrank 223,022 to 115,816. NO.
  3. moved from LR 223,021 to 86,437. MAYBE.
  4. moved from LR 223,020 to 176,095. NO.
  5. moved from LR 210,838 to 113,621. NO.
  6. moved from 202,803 to 176,092. NO.
  7. moved from LR 184,469 to 96,551. NO.
  8. moved from LR 180,666 to 91,101. MAYBE.
  9. moved from LR 178,986 to 173,659. NO.
  10. moved from LR 161,985 to 115,814. NO.
  11. moved from LR 161,336 to 142,165. NO.
  12. moved from LR 160,519 to 101,840. NO.
  13. moved from LR 158,377 to 126,461. NO.
  14. moved from LR 126,461 to 90,548. MAYBE.
  15. moved from LR 123,718 to 71,414. YES – BY PAGE BREAK.

Conclusion: it’s not worth updating lenses below tier 3 hoping they’ll get to tier 3, unless you’ve really got some new material.

However, I did learn one thing! With #15, I took two related lenses that were getting tiny bits of traffic, but both were in the LR 100K range. I deleted lens B and copied its contents into a Page Break page for Lens A. That combined the amount of traffic, clicks, etc that two lenses were getting enough to create a single tier 3 lens.

NOTE: Frequent updates can continue to lift lensrank a little more each time. I know some lensmasters improve their chances by republishing all their lenses frequently. But that is time-consuming for the amount of return you’re getting. I was looking for simple ways to improve lenses so they would earn at least a few pennies AND maintain themselves.

I think it is better to sink most of one’s time onto more successful lenses. I was simply willing to try to sink a day into least-successful lenses, if it meant that long-term, they’d pay more. It looks like they don’t.

It might be worth doing this not on the bottommost lenses in your dashboard, but on the lenses that over in the 70,000-90,000 range. It’s possible that with minimal improvements,they could consistently pull in a tier 3 payment (all of a quarter).I may try that as an experiment at some point.

Tier Three Lens Marathon, Part 2

  • In my last post, I got inspired to take all my dud Squidoo lenses at the bottom of the dashboard and see how many I can improve enough for them to earn a tier three payout.

I quickly rediscovered why each lens was doing so poorly. They weren’t on very popular search topics, so trying to earn visits to them is quite challenging. Many will remain duds.

Nonetheless, I have set myself this challenge, because even when I fail, I often learn something. In this case, I’m learning what one can do QUICKLY but meaningfully to update a lens, when you don’t have time to do lots of keyword research and SEO, beautiful graphics and CSS, hours of researching/improving content, or tens of minutes doing self-promotion in places that probably won’t give much (or any) longterm traffic anyway.

Once again, I’ll be slowing myself down by spending 5 minutes telling YOU what I did for 20 minutes to improve each lens. I’m trying to share tips you can adapt for your own lens updates, although, of course, part of the reason for these posts is to create some (very low-quality) backlinks.

BACK TO WORK! Next lens up is…