As my Squidoo Bio says, I joined Squidoo on 10 July 2008 – Seth Godin’s birthday! Entirely a coincidence but how cool is that?
My reasons for joining Squidoo were similar to many but I also had a different motivation. I was ill.
After a very scary few months that involved loss of co-ordination, severe headaches and extreme fatigue plus various medical tests that included an MRI scan on my brain, I was diagnosed with Otosclerosis in my right ear. A condition from which I could never recover, but believe me the diagnosis came as a relief when you consider what it could have been.
I had to give up my well paid, work from home, part time job, which was not only a huge financial blow to us but as my husband said, I had to find something to occupy myself or I would “climb the walls”.
I needed something that I could do at home and that did not involve much physical effort. Bending down gave me headaches. Moving around a lot made me dizzy. I knew I was facing a period of adjustment as my brain retrained itself to cope with the imbalances due to the damage to my right ear so a lot of my normal activities, including playing tennis, would be difficult if not impossible.
I had always wanted to write (and yes, I have an unfinished novel) and I had always wanted to set up a website but had no idea how to “get found” on the net. I also wanted to write for therapy, to get something off my chest (more about that in a moment).
It was when I was doing some searching on “making money online” and “writing online” that I stumbled on Squidoo and was immediately taken with what the platform offered: free hosting to publish more or less what I wanted and make some money too. Everything I was looking for.
It took me a few days before I signed up and another few days to publish my first lens: Janey Lee Grace. This was quickly followed by my “therapy” lens: Bullying at Primary School. I call it my therapy lens, because I badly needed to write about the horrendous experience we went through when one of my daughters was bullied at school. But not only did I need to get it off my chest, I knew that I had learned so much that could potentially help others.
If I have one regret on Squidoo, it is that I allowed myself to get sidetracked by the Janey Lee Grace lens and did not publish the bullying lens first. To date Bullying at Primary School is one of my most successful lenses as far as traffic is concerned. It has made the Top 100 and is consistently in Tier 1.
As I have previously mentioned, like many people who join Squidoo, making money from my writing was one of my reasons for joining but I have to admit I had conflicting feelings about it. Somehow (and again like many other Squidoo lensmasters), I found I almost felt guilty about wanting to earn from the topics I was writing about. It was as though I was betraying an ideology to want to “write from the heart” but also make an income.
I wanted to help people but again, there was an inhibition to wanting to earn as well. Which is crazy when you consider my personal circumstances: I had a life changing illness and I was also in dreadful debt due to the failure of my Property Renovation business, caused by a big drop in UK Property values as we tried to sell two properties bought before the crash.
Part of this conflict was my own way of thinking, but it was also exacerbated by some of the comments I would see in the SquidU Forum. “Affiliate sales”, “Clickbank” – these were just some of the phrases that were associated with derogatory comments about making money on Squidoo.
However, the person who probably straightened out my thinking better than anyone else was Chef Keem, with whom I was developing an online friendship. I have to add that Paula Atwell’s ethical approach to earning online had a lot of influence on me in those early days too.
So while I was getting my thinking about making money online straightened out, I continued to publish lenses but soon realised that to actually make money on Squidoo, would take a huge amount of time, learning and effort. That was OK – thanks to the effects of my illness, I knew I had plenty of time and set about reading and absorbing as much as I could as I stumbled through the process of lensmaking and making all the mistakes that most people make when they first arrive online, wanting to be found by Google.
Keyword Research and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) were huge mysteries to me. I had always wondered how anyone, other than well known people, got found when writing online. I did not know anything about HTML, CSS or blogging either.
However, I am a natural Pandora (I will open any box and take a peek inside) who comes from an IT background. I already knew it is very difficult to “break” any robust IT system. So I clicked on links, I checked out Squidoo modules, I experimented but most important of all, I learned to search on Squidoo for the information I needed about “How to”.
And if I could not find something, or there was something I did not understand, then I headed over to the SquidU Forum and asked questions. These questions would be answered by people like Poddys, Thefluffanutta and Spirituality.
I also started getting visits from fellow lensmasters, the first one ever was Everything Mouse. She was followed by Debnet, a fellow Brit who I count among some of my best friends I have found through Squidoo.
Then I threw myself into Networking – well I am a Gemini, a compulsive communicator, what do you expect – ha ha!
And Networking often leads to another big mistake. There’s just so many networks. There’s almost a fear attached to Networking and that fear is that if you don’t keep up, then you may just miss out on a torrent of traffic.
Take Facebook as an example. A lot of people, including Squidoo Lensmasters, have serious concerns about Facebook, but once Squidoo made it clear that it was aligning itself with Facebook, Lensmasters started joining in droves – including those who had reservations and this included me.
However, I always felt like a child who had accepted a party invitation from someone they did not like. You know the feeling – scared not to go, in case you miss out on something. As an adult, it is easy to worry about missing out on traffic from large platforms like Facebook, but in the end too many of my Facebook friends were getting their contacts hijacked by Third Party Apps. I felt my privacy was at risk (from others’ lack of privacy settings not my own) and a few weeks ago I deleted my Facebook account.
And no, my Lensrank has NOT tanked as a result!!
Actually, the biggest mistake you can make as far as Networking is concerned is to network so much that you neglect publishing. Your outputs can reduce and then this will impact on your earning potential. These days I stick to a few networks in which I participate a lot and leave the rest.
Something else I learned in my first year on Squidoo and that is NOT to write for a Squidoo audience, NOT to spend much time promoting my lenses on Squidoo and NOT to write too many “Squidoo help” lenses. Much as I love and treasure every single visit from my fellow Squidoo lensmasters, it is EXTERNAL traffic that arrives on my lenses from the Search Engines that will maintain lensrank in the longer term and Squidoo help lenses, while being commendably altruistic, do not get a huge amount of traffic.
Yes, from time to time, I continue to make Squidoo help lenses, because it is one of the ways I can give back the help I have received, but these days my lens topics are a lot more SEO focussed and it is this that has helped me become more successful on Squidoo in achieving the targets I set myself.
The other big lesson I learned in my first year on Squidoo was to not get sucked into a race to make Giant Squid in the first few months. I know I am capable of making 50 lenses quickly, but for me the priority was to make lenses that would get traffic. So I went slowly, learning as much as I could as I went along. And it paid off.
Some of my lenses were not just climbing the rankings quickly only to drop off, once the boosts from within Squidoo had worn off (new lens boost, Squidoo Angel blessings, Squidoo visits etc), they were starting to maintain their lensrank.
This was because of the SEO: I was researching keywords, I was getting quality backlinks, I was allowing the lenses to naturally gain authority as they aged and as I updated them. Nothing major. A tweak here and there, adding things like relevant RSS and Twitter feeds to keep content fresh.
In February 2009, after seven months on Squidoo, with approximately 25 published lenses I set myself the target to go for Giant for the June deadline. I also wanted to get blogging.
You can see what happened next in Part 2 in what I think may be a series of three posts on my Squidoo Experience.