Monday, August 4, 2014

Still Around ... Just Not Blogging Here Much

For those who wonder, or care ... I am still at Squidoo, Wizzley and Zujava, but haven't created new content for awhile. Been far too busy updating those pages and am only making new work for my websites (leehansen.com, clipartandcrafts.com, parenting.leehansen.com) and my Zazzle shops  (Image Factory Graphics, Teacher's Pet, and Bluestone Designers).

I still have 216 Squidoo articles (lenses) that are live ... and am pleased that my best performer is still in the top 100 (Coloring Pages for Adults).

When I'm not chained to the computer or drawing board, I'm busy with home renovations. Right now I have most of the house in chaos as I paint, remove old carpeting, and generally give this 20-year old Cape a makeover before Winter.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Still hanging in there ...

It's been awhile since I blogged about my online adventures with free publishing platforms. I've been busy updating existing articles and haven't written anything new in 2014. I've got plenty of ideas, but am booked up solid just keeping my existing content fresh these days. What free time I can carve out gets allocated to new artwork, not writing, at least for now.  I'm not getting rich, but I'm not broke yet.


Let's just say I'm not counting on anything  for article income except content I publish to own domains, and I'm looking at publishing more of my art at Zazzle and Lulu.  I have thousands of images I can use; I just need to decide how I want to present them and then get the collections published.

This month I published some fun St. Patrick's Day graphics and new Easter art made into adult coloring pages - all available at Zazzle in my Image Factory Graphics or Bluestone Designers shops.

Where to find my articles and graphics:

LeeHansen.com
ClipArtandCrafts.com



Thursday, January 2, 2014

Working through the muck to find the fun factor

Those high-ranking Squidoo articles (lenses) that were trapped in no edit limbo got out of jail finally and have been updated while still making sales. Once the edit bug was fixed, that #21 lens returned to #10 or so and it remains there. After a few days off for Christmas with the hubster, I've been working my way down the list of 216 pages I've authored at Squidoo to add new content and revise tags. Unfortunately, I've just hit a couple that aren't going to get updates because they're just not worth it and several that are worthy of updates, but when opened in the editor they suddenly drop to low quality, so I'm leaving them alone, too. This one deserves new content, as does this one - and I have the content but not hours to spend on each one trying to satisfy the phantom philters.

I'm making plans to move the content to my own pages and remove them from Squidoo at some point. For now, they're static pages (Google won't like that unless they get popular and into conversational connections) but they're still producing traffic so as far as I'm concerned they can remain in my porfolio until I get my other work caught up. Which may take 6 months or more because ...

Over in the real world, I have major tag changes to develop and implement for my own web sites so that I can use a new system of ad slot management. My web sites contain thousands of content pages that will need hand updates, so it's a big chore.  PLUS I have to learn the software/ad management dashboard before I can tackle the revamp. The ad system changes alone will consume most of the first months of this year.

Besides all the tech work and a possible site design revamp and I need to get more of my creative work onto Zazzle  and may be developing more niche shops over the summer. I would love to make some YouTube videos and even publish some of my coloring pages into a book. So, there's no shortage of work here. I'm trying to prioritize and schedule my income-producing activities based on their short- and long-term potential for payback (time=money). And any project I tackle must include at least a bit of the fun factor. If something's not fun, I tend to procrastinate a bit - unless it jeopardizes income. Ideally, I can have fun, be creative and make a living ... so:

Along with making new art and designing new crafts, I will be writing more new articles to go along with my crafting and gardening projects. Life is never boring - I just wish it wasn't cluttered with unnecessary work every few weeks.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My Best Lens Can't Get an Update

Today I ran into a brick wall when I tried to update my best ranked lens. I can't see anything in the workshop editor when I am logged in and try to edit the page.  I don't even get a ranking, so I am assuming the filters are jamming on the page. I can see the published version fine if I'm not logged into Squidoo, but if I am logged in, the entire page frame that usually appears to surround the content is just gone. Like a simple minded mobile page, but without any Squidoo identity or links or advertising. I've reported this as a weird bug - and of course have tried various browsers and done the usual cache dumps.

Somethings not right ... I can open other lenses and they don't misbehave. So I am stuck unable to update the #21 lens on Squidoo. I hope this gets fixed by tomorrow.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Half a Dozen Lonely Little Stories ... Adrift in the Squidoo Sea

As I mentioned in my previous post, I wrote and published 3 new format articles at Squidoo to requalify as a Giant author. I've since created 3 more, but except for a flurry of activity on the 3 recipes I shared,  those short pages are getting little to no traffic; their earnings are all at $00.00 although they've tripped the link trigger.

Now, mind you, I'm using these primarily as a sandbox exercise, to test whether they're getting indexed in the same manner as regular lenses were formerly picked up,  or simply singing their stories to the choir. I'm also using the restricted format to force myself to write briefly instead of in my usual long article style.

Here's a quick capture of the stats today for the 6 lenslets. Sigh.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Third Time's a Charm, Right?

I'm officially (for the third time) sanctioned as a Giant contributor at Squidoo. The first time I applied about 5 years ago, I was a nervous wreck. The qualifications were daunting - you had to have written and published at least 50 quality articles on the Squidoo.com platform, and your entire account was scrutinized by a quality review team. If your work was good enough and met the standards of the publishing team, you were admited into the Giant Squid Club. I made it and felt honored.

The second time I was required to qualify it seemed a little insulting. I mean, really,  to have to requalify for something I had already done - prove I could write original content and not spam the system - was really  not an honor. The staff created levels of giantness for the second round of qualification. Again, I passed muster, but  from that point forward I was not willing to write dozens of new pages simply to "level up." I'd already created more than 150 pages by then, so I was able to continue writing and enjoying the perks of being in the Giant club,  in the 100 lenses subcategory.

Recently the rules for earning Giant status changed again at Squidoo. That's a good thing, because in the past year or so it became almost a joke to see how easy  it was for a newbie to wear the Giant title. It was just about as meaningless as the Angel program became before it was disbanded.

For consideration to remain in the club,  I had to promise to use the site on a regular basis and pledge (!) to write a minimum number of new articles. I also had to commit to creating 3 new format (some call them lenslets) pages before the end of this year.  These rules are easy for me; I am on the site every day, although I had stopped writing because of the rampant lens-locking and filtering that kept me busy just trying to edit existing pages. The new content creation turned out to be a no-brainer; all I really did was make three new mini-pages using the controlled format templates. Those lenslet articles offer little to no value to me for earning potential unless someone buys the product I've reviewed or finds one of the few related products on the mini-page appealing.  They're easy to read and if you can attract the right target you will probably make a sale.

So long as I can link to my other articles or my web sites and blogs I am willing to write in the new format. The layouts are limited by design, so all I really need to do is choose a topic: (recipe, Amazon product or how-to featurette) and start writing.  They're easy to create but I see some risk for rampant spammers to use these templates if/when they're opened up for general lensmaster use.

Unfortunately none of my new mini pages are getting real Google traction. All the traffic I've seen in the first few weeks is internal to Squidoo or referrals. Less than five hits to each one came from Google.

Singing to the choir isn't going to make any money, which is what it's all about no matter what gets published by staffers/owners as the site's overarching purpose.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Traffic update, week 1

Just checked my web site traffic stats and it's recovered by about 25% over last week. This is aggregate for 3 sites, so it's only a rough benchmark but all 3 sites are doing better. Some of the uptick my be seasonal - school in the northern hemisphere is back in session, August and September weddings.

While it's not a big increase and far lower than it was 3 years ago,  it's an upward traffic trend and that's what I'm looking for. I need a minimum of 10K per day to meet sustainability targets.

So I'll monitor for another week and report back. Analysis over more time may show the disconnect from G+ made a difference - or not. The below graph is from one site only, the past 6 days - Pastiche Family Portal. The traffic dip on weekends is typical for the site.
Traffic Trend Aug 22 to 29 (am) PFP

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Temporary Separation is in Progress

I've decoupled my S-doo profile from my G+ identity, at least on the S-doo end. This is a test to see if my long-indexed pre-S-doo online properties can recover traction that's been lost in the past several months.
That downslide could be a coincidence, or could be related to the P monsters and age of my content, but I doubt it.

The other side of the connection - removal of  links from my G+ profile to lenses - will happen this week. Then I watch the stats at both ends for a month or so.  Not sure if there will be any change, and I realize there are other factors that influence traffic to my web sites and blogs, both seasonal and technical. But at this point, any test provides me with marketing insight.

My S-doo rankings are a bit better, although I'm discovering that if I open a lens that's fine it might not be okay once it's scanned on edit. So, will this get me to do what is obvious the still-there gamers have done (ignore editing/updating lenses and keep stealing lens rank)?  Probably not.

More later on the results of this short-term experiment ...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dastardly Flags

The latest fire drill over at S-doo is dealing with yellow warning flags on lenses. I woke up last week to 32, and over the course of this week have whittled that down to 3. The remaining 3 lenses with yellow flags include two commercial sales-focused lenses created specifically at HQ quest urging, and one in my primary niche (family-friendly arts and crafts).

Both of the "too commercial" articles were written to complete quests. Now they're apparently trash because they have too many product links according to HQ. The links work well with the content and don't overwhelm the pages. Visitors who arrive are shopping - they seek product recommendations.

http://www.squidoo.com/cat-toys-gifts
http://www.squidoo.com/hilarious-halloween-pumpkin-costumes

The two pages below  have been around for years, and offer solid content that's seasonally specific.

The below links are NO FOLLOW so I'll probably get point dings to further lower the 83/84 respective lens  scores.

  • Easy Easter Crafts (http://www.squidoo.com/craftyeaster) was created in 2007, generated nearly 5000 visits in April 2011 alone. It's been SquidLIKED 169 times, Pinned to 41 boards, and has lifetime earnings of $153.09. It's not about making money, it's about content and saving money.  It's a long article with lots of outbound resources and gets monthly updates to remove old content and add new crafts as I discover them. But now this seasonally popular page is considered low quality and apparently  has "too many keywords.". I've edited the page considerably but it won't publish with the changes; I've requested a greenlight and  been ignored so I'm ignoring any more changes. I'll move the article to a better platform soon.
  • Kwanzaa Coloring and Crafts (http://www.squidoo.com/kwanzaa-printables-coloring-crafts) was scored at 84 for too many products and too many keywords. It finally published after I removed hard-to-find Kwanzaa books and decorating supplies, but with a caution that it still has too many keywords. How many ways can you inform people about KWANZAA without using the name? 

Does the anonymous greenlight-awarding reviewer even know what Kwanzaa is?

I think not. I've been doing this longer than they've probably known about email.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

No DMCA Today

Sunday I'd had enough of the TOS violation games played by certain LM on S-doo. My work is protected by very clear TOS and US copyright. I debated on whether to ratchet up my polite abuse report to a DMCA letter to Google, but I took an interim alternate path and requested via email that someone pay attention NOW so I wouldn't have to contact Google to protect my copyright on digital graphic assets.

Well, although I got no reply from HQ or the invisible team behind the mask curtain of fair play, the offending page's status changed to "unpublished" - not locked - unpublished.

If I discover my work used without license, credit or hotlinked from any page on any site, I do not hesitate to report the page, regardless of where it's used. I've filed many DMCA complaints, with Google, Zazzle and a handful of other sites. Here's hoping the walk is in step with the talk ...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What Would You Do?

What would you do if you repeatedly found TOS violations and reported them but no action resulted? S-doo staff have been very clear on multiple occasions about the proper/legal method for use of outbound links from lenses, particularly links leading to content pages offering graphics or PDFs. When I discover my original clip art, coloring pages or PDF content elements directly linked I request a correction from the author and in the past as an angel offered advice on proper use.

Today I discovered yet another case of rampant direct links to many images (mine included)  on a single thin-content lens that's in Tier 1. I've corresponded in the past with this LM, who certainly knows better but continues to edit and 1) not trip low quality filters 2) not get notified/locked about inappropriate content use.

What would you do if you filed a report and got no action? I've clicked the button and filed the standard abuse report. I got the autoresponder mail even though my report noted copyright violations on my own images. I've written directly to contentconcerns requesting action on the lens in question. If that fails to get the appropriate action - locking -  I will question how the lens is being updated regularly and not hitting the low quality filter or being locked.

If all the above fails, I'll be contacting Google to file a DMCA complaint. I own the copyright to at least one of the images and the site that's being hit by these links to non-html pages is my own for which I pay hosting fees. My TOS state very clearly that hotlinking is not allowed.

If S-doo can play hardball, so can I.

What would you do?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Incredible Shrinking Lens List

Once upon a time, back in oh, 2008, I thought I might be creating up to 50 finely curated pages at S-doo per year.  Even as recently as last summer I was thinking I would be expanding my portfolio for many years. I hired my daughter to be my editor so I could tune up my work after I created more than 220 lenses. I even gave her one of my better lenses, then the doodoo started hitting the fan and I decided to just get off the merry-go-round before I got sick.

So now, instead I've been unbuilding my S-doo portfolio. In other words, I have been deleting lenses I only created in response to quests. It's a long process, and I'm still working at it. It's taking longer than I hoped because of all the upheaval with lens locking, but I'm reviewing each one before making the decision whether to obliterate. After all, it is my work and I did considerable research for each one. On the plus side for me: I was never a big sales lens builder. I followed the original premise, writing about what I know and like, and offering tips for helping my readers find what they need/want/desire.


Yikes! How did I miss seeing this?

Have I been on the moon or just preoccupied with trying to make a living for the past six months?  I just discovered a blog that's been posting about S-doo and was surprised to see some of the frank talk in the posts. Granted, it's not been updated since March but even so, there's information over there that many were (privately)  grumbling about at S-doo for months.

Given the latest upheavals over there at S-doo with lens lockings, account shutdowns and the like, I'm wondering if the mystery blogger will start writing again or has decided to just keep quiet. I have no clue who the author is, but he or she holds no punches. Although  I agree with most of the points and some of the ranting  I'm not one to be so frank about anything like this in public or on a blog. Although I did, however, leave a simple question on a lens by the great one a few months ago that triggered an email about my "snarky" comment. That's really the limit of my public outcry except for a few FB comments.

To be perfectly honest, I have better options for my work and other plans for my own future. I don't burn bridges. I don't get even.  I get better, I change direction and I keep moving forward. And that's what I've been focused on since last fall, which is probably the reason why I missed this whole bit of controversial communication in the first place. Life goes on.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

When the boat is sinking ... swim, bail, or plug the hole

I must confess I cannot bring myself to post about the pleasures of Squidoo these days. It's tough trying to just keep afloat over there, and quite frankly, it's been waaaayyyy too much work to try to undo all the work that was previously encouraged pushed by HQ and now is completely prohibited (to the extent that it's destroyed relationships, income streams and respect).  What was once a nice income for me is now a small drop in the bucket, and as the entire web evolves yet again things are looking bleak for that community.

I've done plenty of housecleaning to get rid of lenses that weren't favorites or income-producers, and also have been making drastic changes to previously successful lenses. I've removed curated content, recommended products and quite a few links to quality pages because even though my pages aren't simply link lists and sell modules they aren't up to par with this week's quality requirements. It gets old  ... and I have other places I can publish.

I'm still editing, but no longer writing any new content for Squidoo. I'm much happier with the consistency, quality and content building platforms elsewhere. My web sites and blogs need attention, and I have happy homes on Helium, Wizzley and Zujava. Check out my work on  those sites (just look for Pastiche) - I  will be developing new content for my niche portfolio pages on those sites over the next 6 months.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Have You Missed My Posts?

It's been a long time since I posted on this blog. There are plenty of good reasons (and a few lame excuses) but the main reason is I took a semi-vacation from Squidoo to evaluate whether it was worth my time anymore.

I've decided that, for me,  Squidoo is worthy of some effort, but not full time effort.

And here are the reasons why I'm no longer a big Squidoo cheerleader and not highly visible in the community.
  1. I am disappointed at/frustrated by a huge decrease in my earnings.
    I kept all my lenses fresh and current for years and they were visible in Google, bringing in traffic (and money, and new members) to Squidoo, while earning top payouts. My best performing lenses were mostly long,  informational, evergreen lenses. Then around the time HQ started pushing the monsters and games to generate more pages of sales-focused lenses, my informational and content-rich lenses began to drop in rank while poor-quality pages that were poorly writtent and had very little substance - only designed to sell products - started monopolizing Tier 1.

    The push out of top earning position was not exactly an incentive to someone who creates all original content and works hard to curate excellent lenses. Now.  if this had happened simply because there were better lenses I would have been okay with it. My lenses weren't heavily sales-oriented, but they weren't full of stolen content or content that breaks Squidoo rules.
  2. I am truly disgusted by the reality that reports and complaints regarding cheaters and content issues were and still are largely ignored, or that some in those categories appear to have favored status and so are not reprimanded, banned or having lenses locked, while legitimate contributor lenses have hit that filter over and over again. Let me state that this has not been a personal issue for me - yet.
  3. I got downright angry when I caught high-ranking lensmasters employing dirty tactics but they seemed "untouchable" by HQ or Squidoo rules. This situation really burns me up still. My most popular niche is one I created and at least two lensmasters coattail my most successful work. Fine, just don't infringe copyrights. More than a dozen underhanded lensmasters have been gaming the system and screwing up rankings for well over a year. I'm not the only one affected in this way, but it's easy for me to spot those that have impacted me directly - my best work was a formerly popular niche that's now overrun with crappy lenses, spun content and copyright infringements that go unstopped. Sigh. 
So there you have it. The games are still going on. The protected members are still getting away with cheating and seem to be sanctioned for some reason. And just so you know, I am not alone (far from that!) in my observations or concerns about the quality and ethical issues. But life goes on, and I do what I can do to be productive and satisfied.

And so  I am doing other things besides Squidoo. 

What did I do to preserve income after the attempts to stop these activities fell on deaf ears? Plenty. Here's a bit of what I've been doing since I joined the growing rank of lensmasters who realized that Squidoo became Screwyou for many long-standing ethics-driven members.

I returned to making more Zazzle content for my stores, and added more direct-commission Zazzle products to my lenses.

I started writing in my niche categories at other communities that haven't dropped their standards.

I added more Amazon products to my Squidoo lenses and converted many informational pages to blatant sell-pages with content included. And I really pushed the selling opportunities;  I've added Amazon modules and lists to every lens I can, plus I've added an equal number of sell components using my own Amazon and affiliate links.

Once I got beyond feeling like a pushy sales person, I realized  I can add more products (and more earning potential) to any lens by maxing the Squidoo modules plus adding my own links.  I regularly make as much if not more commissions selling on Amazon with my own links as I do through Squidoo's split commissions program. 

Sadly, I stopped donating to charity on many lenses because I couldn't afford to be so generous after my income was cut by 50%. I've donated more than 10% of my earnings to charity over the past 5 years. Of course Squidoo took those donations as a corporate tax write off. Now I'm taking the money and I am donating directly, and when I make a donation I can use that on my taxes plus I'm not an invisible donor.

And finally, I returned to the original goal I set when I joined Squidoo in August 2007 - to drive traffic to my web site pages.  I'm encouraging click outs to my own sites and to my own Amazon product links. And it's working. I only have half as many Tier 1 lenses these days, but I am getting 200% more Amazon commissions from my own affiilate links.

Despite all this extra work and lack of motivation, I have also continued visiting lenses as a Squidoo angel. and I'm cleaning up all my existing lenses to update modules or fix damaged content sections  (Twitter feeds, Flickr, Zazzle, and so on).\

I don't really give a rats butt about points and games, but  I've participated in a few quests and have built only a handful of lenses in the past year. After I get all my current 223 lenses revamped and heavily  monetized I may resume writing at Squidoo more regularly.

So that's what I've been doing with regard to Squidoo.  In January I'll resume with posting stats and commentary on a monthly basis.  

What have you been up to?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Six Month Hiatus ... OVER

I haven't posted to this blog since October 201l and it's time to come out of hibernation. It's been a very busy winter season for my lenses, blogs and web sites. Google updates, Squidoo changes and affiliate product relationship changes pulled my attention from blogging to more critical code and content work. I've got the code updates under control and am working on the content updates now, so I'll be posting monthly traffic data and marketing insights on a more regular basis beginning this week.