Friday, August 17, 2007

Do You Squidoo?


Do you Squidoo? I do and....
  • a year ago this week I started my suite of lens whose shorthand generic name is "Resources for Artists".
  • Last week I read about how Squidoo is now officially a mover and shaker - in other words one of the 500 most visited websites on the Internet.
  • Today, having been reminded in the last week about how much I've now got on Squidoo, I thought I'd provide
    • a quick review of my set-up for new readers of this blog and
    • some TIPS for people new to Squidoo or maybe thinking of starting a lens.
What is Squidoo?

Following a 'crash and burn' experience (I lost all my links) , I originally started my squidoo lenses to provide a place to house my collection of useful links for artists. I liked the fact each lens was independent - so if anything went wrong then it might just be only the one lens affected. My secondary aim was to develop and maintain comprehensive lists of useful links for aspects of resources for visual artists eg in relation to a specific technique, media or area of business - and then share them. Plus having individual URLS for each lens meant that I could better tailor any links for people wanting more in-depth information. I've subsequentally found that as both Squidoo and my lens got a better profile, they have acquired a steady traffic which now also generates quite a bit of traffic for both blogs and website.

I started my Personal "Resources for Artists" Group ( http://www.squidoo.com/groups/makingamark ) in October 2006 to house my growing suite of squidoo lenses. Today I have eight for artists interested in: You can find links to all my personal lens near the top of the right hand column of this blog, on this resources page on my website and contained in this one link to the Making A Mark - Resources for Artists Group - which you are welcome to bookmark.

I then created the Resources for Visual Artists Group. This focuses on resource links for visual artists who draw and paint (ie it's not about promoting the artwork of individual artists). (You too can apply to have your lens become a member of the Resources for Artists - General Group). Please note criteria for membership - see end).

Below are some links to some of my previous posts on Making A Mark which will explain what Squidoo is and what I've done to people who are new readers of this blog or new to squidoo.
TIPS for making your Squidoo Lens successful

Yesterday I got an e-mail yesterday from Kimberly Dawn Wells, the SquidU Review Newsletter Editor. It contained some recommendations for lensmasters on how they can improve their squidoo lenses based on recommendations by four lensmasters/Squid Angels BlueDolphin, Connie, Flaming Lacer, and Daoine. As the e-mail was long I've summarised the content and added a few spins of my own to its basic recommendations.

1. It all starts with a good first impression
  • DO Introduce your lens - it should read like the first chapter of a book or the start of a presentation - tell them what the lens is about and give them a reason to read on.
  • some alternative ways of doing this:
    • DO Make it focused: short and to the point
    • DO Make it personal: why you started this lens - what it means to you
    • DO Reflect your expertise: let people know why they should read your lens
    • DO Make it individual: maybe through stories, pictures or humour
    • DO consider a catchy and informative title
2. Fix the basics
  • It's a great template (and improving all the time). so:
    • DON'T miss out basics
    • DON'T be lazy and omit to change standard titles to make them personal for your lens; if you can't be bothered then don't use that module
    • DO check spelling.
    • DO Work with it to let it help it work for you. (Note that, following problems with spam and lazy lensmastering, any lens with less than 3 modules will no longer appear as a published lens- see the Squid Blog for more details)
  • DO be accessible to your audience - DO include a lensmaster bio, a picture and a way for people to contact you.
  • DO remember to update your lens. Squidoo say that frequently updated lenses with great content that is promoted smartly get handsomely rewarded acoording to their LensRank formula.
3. Content is King!
  • DO make a reader want to bookmark your lens or come back to it. Content which people can easily find elsewhere does not make for a good lens.
  • DO provide original content - it can make all the difference eg what do you think of the books you are recommending? (Memo to self - finish writing short summaries for all the books on my lenses)
  • DON'T just provide large chunks of text. Think in design terms and break up text and lists with modules for other material
  • DO think about the available modules and different ways you can get information across. ( pictures / videos / books etc).
  • Get the balance right between expertise / opinion and sales modules eg Amazon and e-bay. A combination of enthusiasm for a subject and some credibility in terms of expertise means people are more likely to linger longer (Personally I look for more than two thirds being quality content which adds value)
4. Like goes with Like
  • DON'T over-commercialise your lens and make it look like a refugee from e-bay or a shopping site.
  • DON'T include content irrelevant to the topic of your lens.
  • (These last two points are probably the most frequent reasons why I exclude lenses which have applied to be included in my group)
5 Variety is the spice of life
  • DO use the variety of modules which are now available but DON'T use a module function just because it exists. Use only what the lens needs to spice up your blog.
  • DO try for a good flow to the lens. Make sure the content has a logical progression Monetized modules should be appropriately placed so that they follow the natural rhythm of the lens.
  • DO consider readers' attention span and the length of the lens. Would it work better if some content was split out to a separate lens?
  • DO spend some time making the lens look visually attractive in graphic terms. Scope exists to use some basic presentation tools.
6. Let your passion shine through
  • DO pick topics personal to you - your passion and sincerity will always show
  • DO write in a way which shows why you think the topic is important
  • DO make people want to click another link..........
7. Engage your reader
  • DO make yourself more personable:
    • give them some sort of photo of you.
    • consider personalising your bio for each lens - indicate why this subject is special to you.
  • DO show respect and write for people rather than search engines
  • DO show them how to bookmark the site / e-mail it to friends
  • DO make them want to rate your lens / make it a favourite (I never ask but have been rated anyway)
  • BUT DON'T SPAM (eg rating swaps; asking people to give you a good rating) - squidoo is about authentic pages built by real people with good intentions.
Squidoo does not endorse or recommend ratings swaps. Not only because it's not in the spirit of the site, but also because it just doesn't work. It doesn't earn you loyal readers or customers, it doesn't help people find you in search engines, and it doesn't increase the quality of your content. (Squidoo FAQs)
8. Who are you and how can I contact you?
  • DO make sure people can contact you.
  • DO provide a guestbook for people to comment.
A lot of these recommendations are also ones which very much apply to blogging by all artists.

I encourage applications to join the Resources for Visual Artists group (see the right hand column). However, your request to join the group may be rejected if one of the following is applicable:
  1. its scope falls outside the scope of the group (it leans towards non-visual arts / visual arts other than drawing and painting / commercial art / comics - rather than fine art drawing and painting)
  2. the lens does not emphasise the provision of good quality information about the fields of interest covered by this group (ie the majority of content should be non-commercial links)
  3. the lens is not yet well developed - reapply when it is. This includes any lens which currently contains mainly commercially oriented links.
  4. the lens focuses mainly on the work of an individual artist or artists. (Here's an example of a lens by Karen Margulis which fits in well)
Do please use the comments function to ask any questions - although you might it helpful to check out the Squidoo FAQs page first and maybe take a peek at SquidU.

I'm now off to do a self-audit of my blogs against the recommendations!

Links:

5 comments:

TET (David) said...

Very informative post. I'd heard of Squidoo but didn't really understand the concept to look into it more. Now you've explained it I can see it might be very useful - but then I looked at your Art Business lense and it seems like there's little point in reinventing the wheel (so to speak). How much work did you put into your Squidoo and is it a daily/weekly/monthly or just whenever type thing?

Kimberly Dawn Wells said...

Wow, great information! Thanks for helping new users get acquainted with Squidoo (and glad to hear it's working better for you!)

Katherine said...

Thanks Kimberley and David.

David - Here's the thing:

1) everybody has a different take on the same subject. Your version of Art Business will not be the same as mine. For example, I'd not come across anybody before who was trying to develop a You Tube channel for Art News as you have been doing

2) There are also lots of self-representing artists who are selling online on Squidoo - I just don't feature that particular angle. You might find that something which is interesting to you.

So far as developing my Squidoo lens - I do a little bit of updating on a weekly basis. I also quite often update "as and when" if I want to bookmark a site. Both of these help with the frequent updating which the Squidoo ranking algorithm favours.

In addition, when setting up a squidoo lens I find it helpful to sit down and have a good go at getting it beyond basic before announcing it. This tends to be easiest to do if done in sitting.

I also sometimes have an idea and find and then temporarily 'park' my lens title - but only if it's a series. I currently have a major project which involves a number of new lenses which are unpublished at present.

Otherwise one might just as well sit down and develop a lens beyond the basics straight away.

Madelaine said...

Thanks for the tips Katherine. I have a couple lenses and I know that I have lots of work to do on them. I'm going to sit down with your tips and get to work.

TET (David) said...

Thanks for the additional information Katherine. It sounds like something I should definitely be exploring further as a way of getting myself and my art linked with useful information beyond just what I create.

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