Showing posts with label tutorial. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tutorial. Show all posts

April 14, 2008

Lenscrafting Andrew's way

This time I'll write about how I build my Squidoo lenses. This isn't meant to be a guide as much as my personal opinion, since I expect most experienced lensmasters have already found out what works for them and what doesn't. Here's a list of things I always take into account when building a new lens.

Internal SEO

I try to optimize most of my lenses for search engines. A lens without search engine traffic will have to rely on traffic from social networks, clicks on the links to your lens, angel blessings and such to maintain a high lensrank and make you money. It's still an option, but if your lens doesn't receive significant traffic from search engines, staying in the top tier will be harder.

With Squidoo, you have only a limited control of your page. You can, however, choose the URL and the Title for your lens. The description meta tag will be the same as your introduction, and the Squidoo tags will be added to the keywords meta tag. That's about all you need to know to start.

Personally, I usually try to use longer, more specific (or long-tail, as some call them) keywords. I doubt my lens would be able to rank anywhere in the first page of Google's search results with a keyword 'MMORPG', but I might just be able to do rank well with 'top 10 free MMORPGs'. See what I mean? The title would be just that, and the URL could be top-10-mmorpg or something along these lines, because Google picks up keywords there as well. It is much easier to rank well in search engine result pages with a keyword which has less competition.

Unique content

This is by far, the most important thing to have in your lens - like the popular phrase 'content is king' suggests. I list it in the second place merely because my way of lenscrafting involves finding an interesting, well-defined topic, making sure I have a chance to rank well with it on Google, and only then starting to actually write the content. Now, I have a few lenses which rely primarily on Squidoo's internal search engine to get traffic, but most of my lenses are built with some sort of search engine keyphrase mind.

It is okay to put your own articles which are already hosted elsewhere, on your lens. It is also okay to use content from public domain. Just do not expect to rank well in search engines (if at all) due to duplicate content penalties, and don't expect people to go crazy about your lens. Think about it this way: if someone can get the same information from Wikipedia, why would he go to your lens, with all the ads and moneymaker modules on it? If it's nothing but a copy of a sales letter, who would find that kind of lens interesting? Content you write by yourself will always get you furthest.

External SEO

Optimizing your lens for some specific keywords isn't enough - you also need to get backlinks to it. It isn't so hard as it might sound; if you are, for example, a member of some online forum about MMORPGs, you could put a link in your signature saying 'top 10 free MMORPGs' and linking to your lens. Congratulations, you already have your first backlink!

A lens without any backlinks from external domains whatsoever can also rank pretty well in Google. The reason being that search engines love Squidoo: this domain has a high Google PageRank and so much indexed content that they will pick your lens up regardless whether it has backlinks or not. However, indexing your lens will take a significantly longer time.
Unique content, which I just wrote about, could also get you backlinks - without you doing anything at all, in fact. If your lens is great - and I mean really, really great - people will start talking and perhaps even blogging about it without you even knowing. Until traffic starts flowing in, that is. Once again, 'content is king'!

A part of the reason I started this blog was also to get more backlinks to my lenses. Each time I will review a lens, it will get linked from my blog. There, you know my 'Master Plan' now!
Optimal lenght

I don't have a lens with more than 15 modules. Of course, it's not only about the number of modules in a lens, but also about the length of their content. A lens should have enough content to be informative and interesting, yes; but remember that it's only a single page and putting excessive amounts of 'stuff' on it will make navigating much harder, and increase the loading time, which your visitors will not appreciate. I try not to make my lenses too small or too large. Admittedly, I usually have to battle the first problem and not the second :-)

Feedback

All of my lenses have Guestbook modules for leaving comments and they are always located at the very bottom. These will provide you with feedback and opinions from your visitors, and I see no reason why you wouldn't want to include one (unless your lens is something special and unusual). These will also, I believe, provide some more fresh content which search engines will like, and might even give you good ideas of how to improve your lens.

The Bio field

I wouldn't even think of giving advice of how to use your Bio field (the one that is displayed on your every lens), since it's all about personal choice. Some people list their default Bio, some use it to link to their site, or to tell more about themselves. Personally, I use it to provide my own (often biased) opinion on the topic of my lens, while the lens itself usually contains more objective and reliable information.

Providing opinion on products

This is something I only learned recently myself; if you provide your own opinion on the products you are selling on your lens, people will be more likely to purchase them. Don't just slap a bunch of Amazon and eBay modules and leave them be: select the best products instead, and take your time to describe why your visitors should buy them.

I have been going over my lenses that had old Amazon modules set to 'Let Amazon Pick' (the lazy guy's choice). Now most of money-maker modules on my lenses have descriptions next to the products; in some lenses, I even take my time to provide longer reviews and screenshots next to the Amazon link.

Tags and category

Last but not the least, are Squidoo tags and the category of your lens. The success of your lens depends on these, too. The category is easy: you should choose the one that fits your lens best to make sure people who are interested in the topic of your lens will find it. It's tags that are more complicated.

You should have both one-word tags so your lens is found in Squidoo tag pages, and a moderate amount of longer tags containing keyphrases you want search engine users to find you lens with. The example I gave you before, 'Top 10 Free MMORPGs' lens could use 'mmorpg', 'video games' and 'rpg' as one-word tags, and then such keyphrases like 'best free 10 mmorpg' and 'top 10 freeware mmorpg'.

Now, I know Squidoo has a tool to automatically add search keyphrases to your tags, giving you the idea that it's 'OK' to do so, but after getting several of my lenses removed from Google, I started to wonder if it wasn't due to a large number of keywords in my tags. Tags are, after all, up to 40 keyphrases stuffed in one place and hidden by 'More' link. I can neither confirm nor deny this theory yet, but I have been removing excessive tags from a lot of my lenses; none of them now have the maximum number of tags, and I think the largest number isn't more than 20. I choose a number of fitting one-word tags so my lens would be listed in Squidoo's search results, and I add only a few keyphrases for search engines, preferring to move these to the main content of the page, if possible.

I should also mention that some types of lenses - such as SquidWho, SquidVids and Hey MonkeyBrain - don't have tags listed on the text content of the page. They only use these for keywords meta tag, and for Google AdSense suggestions. Since that's the case, I don't bother adding long keyphrases at all; after all, these would only appear in keywords meta tag, which Google is known to completely ignore. I choose a number of fitting one word tags so my lens would be linked from Squidoo's tag pages, and also for appropriate AdSense ads to be displayed. You might go crazy and add 40 one- or two-word tags to get linked from as many tag pages as possible, but you should know that so many 'suggestions' could make AdSense display completely irrelevant ads, or other search engines beside Google (such as Yahoo) punish you for using so many keywords in your meta tags - unlike Google, I believe they still use those.

Now you know how I create my lenses, and why. If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment and ask.