me 2012

Reminding myself why I do this...

For my content writing, I often get article ideas from looking at the google search phrases bringing people to the pages/articles I've already created. It helps me focus on on precise topics/keyphrases that might be worth taking on.

It also can make me ragy/depressed/frustrated, especially when I look at the search phrases bringing people to some of my infertility awareness articles. Such as (and seriously, these are straight from Squidoo's Google search analytics:)

annoying infertile women childfree
infertility punishment
friend infertility annoying
my mom doesnt understand infertility depression
why must infertile people take out their problems with families
would men dump a woman if she is infertile
how to tell people about infertility without sounding
i don't like infertile people
infertility isn't a bad thing
infertility large family
going to babyshowers infertile
why don't some infertile people adopt?
why don't people care about infertility
discrimination employment infertility baby showers
infertility made me a horrible person
only infertile person
men against barren women
i hate my infertile body
is there any point in life for an infertile person
how to explain why infertiles don't like baby showers
pain of not being able to have baby
infertile women are not attractive
infertile women are annoying
parents don't understand fertility problems
my infertile friend wont do any treatments
husbans who are crap with dealing with infertility
terrible things people say to infertiles
i dont know how to deal with being infertile
people's insensitivity to infertility
why are so many people desperate to have their own children than adopt
are infertile people annoying
how to cope with infertility around babies

Seriously, reading these search makes me want to hug some people I don't even know across the internet - and also makes me want to bang my head against the wall (or do other violent things) in other cases.

And then I remember...yeah, this is why I write. Even if I can't get through to everyone. Even if some people will be forever clueless. Maybe there's at least someone out there who I can get through to, or someone else who's hurting and needs to know where and how to even begin trying to find support.
me 2012

Recent projects and February plans

I've been tweaking the layout and content of my food blog a bit more, working off a little free advice I got on how to potentially improve its performance. So far I'd say it's working, which makes me happy. I've also been looking at what are the posts that are the big traffic drivers there, and not too surprisingly it's restaurant reviews in my local little area. Obviously this is a topic where there's not going to be a lot of blogging competition as compared to writing about Philly restaurants. That's going to push me to try to get out more in the year ahead and sample some different places, even if just for a lunch bite here and there.

I have started posting a few articles for Yahoo! again as I'm surprised how well some of my old pieces are still drawing in regular traffic - and some $'s every month. I'm not going to make it a big tome commitment but my objective is one short (350-600 word) submission there a week.

I might come to regret this, but I also signed up for Zujava's "28 Leaves in 28 Days" challenge for February. Whether I complete the challenge or not, I figured it would be a good way to push myself to get a real portfolio of Leaves started there and to see what topics may actually have potential to pay off or not. There's very little competition/other writers there yet in my main areas of writing interest, so I feel like I do have a good opportunity to get in "early" there (and grab good URLs) before the competition is so over-saturated like on Squidoo.

We shall see!
me 2012

Welcome to 2013

I'm late with posting any kind of year-end wrap up - actually late to updating this blog at all for the past few months. To say it's been busy is an understatement. I won't bore with too many details, just try to hit on some of the major things...

In October I spent two weeks in Venice and the surrounding area, a topic I've been writing about in numerous Squidoo articles (including my one on Torcello which was selected as a Lens of the Day) and also in my food blog (under the Venice 2012 tag.) Of course, by the time I was getting exhausted writing about Italy and travel, I had to head deep into holiday promotions and updates for my various Christmas lenses and gift guides.

The work did pay off as I'm expecting a pretty good payout from affiliate sales over the next two months, and I ended up in December with my highest Squidoo payout ever to date: just a little under $500! I finished the year with 198 lenses published, meaning I'd completed actually exactly 100 new lenses in 2012. That's a lot of writing! I had two writing goals for 2012: one was to get to 200 lenses by the end of the year, which I just missed, and the other was to be regularly earning over $200/month from on-line content publishing. Well, I made that payout goal by August, so altogether I consider 2012 a successful year.

What are my writing goals for 2013?

1. I'd like to make it to over 250 Squidoo lenses so I can apply for "Colossal Squid" status. At that point, I think it's going to be major work just keeping my existing lenses regularly updated (at least the ones that perform well enough to deserve it) so I do plan on slowing down my Squidoo lens creation and try to branch out to a few other sites.

2. I really need to work on my Zujava portfolio, including getting back to finishing/publishing those author/artist/musician profiles I'd done initial Q&A's for back in the fall.

3. Keep up the work on my food blog by posting at least once a week there, if not more regularly. I just updated the theme/layout in a way that I find much more visually to hopefully finally make it to some ad revenue payouts this year...

4. Consider either starting another for-profit blog on a niche topic, or perhaps go back to occasionally writing articles for Yahoo. Although I haven't published there in almost 2 years now, I still get a nice little payout every month from those old articles, and Y!CN in general seems to be doing better in Google's eyes lately than it was when I stopped publishing there. Since some current events-type writing has more potential on a site like than vs. Squidoo, I might start dabbling in the waters there again. (I'm just going to avoid the snark-filled/aggravating community there like the plague).

5. I'd like to be earning a steady $500/month from on-line content by the end of 2013. I know I almost made that goal last month, but given that was thanks to a lot of holiday traffic (and sales) boosts, I know it's going to take some work to meet that target even during "slump months."

What are your writing goals for the year ahead? Did you make your goals for 2012?
me 2012

Daily update for September 10

I've been terrible about keeping this blog regularly updated. Time to do something about that.

I'm going to try to use it more as a daily update page, to share my daily writing progress: new leaves on Zujava/lenses on Squidoo, updates in the food blog, etc. So with that in mind...

Published today:

* Peroni Beer Gifts and Accessories - a new gift guide on Squidoo

* An Interview with Emily Davies - a spotlight feature on Zujava

By the way, I'm still looking for artists, musicians, crafters and other creative people to spotlight in my new Zujava interview series. Interested in being showcased? Please drop me a note!
me 2012

Now that's a screencap moment...

...because it surely can't last for long, but, as of this morning my What is Gelato? lens on Squidoo is the Number 1 Lens on the Entire Site.


That's...something I always kind of dreamed about hitting, but never thought I'd ever manage. Especially about a specialty Italian dessert instead of laptop bags, coloring pages, or Justin Bieber. :)

It's really kind of amazing when you consider that there are typically about 400,000 active, published pages on Squidoo daily (and over 1.5 million more in progress, unpublished status, etc.)

Seriously. 18 months of work on Squidoo, but I really feel like it's starting to pay off.
me 2012

Testing new publishing waters at zujava

So, it's been about 18 months since I joined Squidoo and in that time I've managed to publish just over 150 lenses, which is no small achievement. I'm definitely a Squidoo junkie and fan, even while I am fully aware of some of the (many) ways manipulate rank, publish dubious content, get away with it and in effect "steal" profit from lensmasters who play by the rules. But, you know, I figure it happens just about everywhere and I'm not a Squidoo-naysayer like some on the forums are these days.

But I also know it's not a good idea to keep all of one's eggs in one basket. With that in mind I've finally put the time this week into starting to publish a bit at zujava, a similar platform which is going to look awfully familiar to anyone who's read or published on Squidoo before. Indeed, they almost look so similar I kind of wonder how they get away with it, but that's not for me to figure out. Zujava only launched earlier this year and is still working on developing a lot of coding features, more advanced modules, and key affiliate programs (right now while you can add eBay modules to your "leaves", you earn no affiliate commission on any sales. But you do for Amazon products.)

There are some things I definitely like about the set-up and ethics of zujava as compared to Squidoo. For one, they are EXTREMELY concerned about having quality contents. New members who sign up cannot publish live to the web until they've submitted three Leaves for review by the site admins. That way spammers, con artists and people just looking for cheap and quick backlists don't get past the front door. Certain topics which are woefully abused and full of copyright abuse at Squidoo, namely coloring pages and Wallpapers, are completely banned at zujava.

Also, right now ALL leaves earn a slice of the tier rank profits every month. Of course the top 10% get the highest cut, the next 20% a lower amount, but even "the other 70%" are still added in the revenue pile.

There are a lot of things I can do on Squidoo lenses that I can't do (yet) on zujava leaves, so it's not like I'm going to pack up and move completely - or even primarily - there anytime soon. But I think it's worth exploring and building upon, especially right now when someone can still get in the game very early on, and not have to fight so hard to get a top-ranking position on site. Here are the first three leaves I've experimented with creating (I'm sure I'll be tweaking and adding to them more in the future) - and if you're interested in trying out zujava for yourself, just click on the banner below and get started exploring for yourself!

* Being a Convention Dealer
* 5 Secrets to Authentic Italian Cuisine
* Infertility During Halloween: It's No Treat

Sign up for Simple online publishing.
me 2012

But what exactly IS Squidoo?

I realized last night that while I talk a lot (ok, primarily) about Squidoo here, some of my friends don't actually really know what Squidoo IS. What's a lens? Who is a lensmaster? What's all this about, anyway?

Let me see if I can summarize quickly and simply :)

Squidoo is a platform for publishing on-line, individual webpages - which in Squidoo-language are called "lenses". Anyone who publishes a page on Squidoo is a "lensmaster" - just like "webmaster" elsewhere.

Squidoo lenses can be about virtually any topic you want (although some topics are prohibited for legal reasons, and due to past spam abuse.) You can make a fan page for one of your favorite musicians, blog about personal experiences, share a favorite recipe or even publish a travelog. There is a large assortment of modules you can add to a lens: simple text modules (write anything you want!), photo gallery modules (share your pics!), quizzes and polls, formatted recipes, rss feeds, Twitter streams, Google news search results, link lists, voting lists, you name it! With the variety of modules available, you can really come up with a unique-looking and varied spotlight on a particular subject - part of why Squidoo pages are called lenses.

A successful lens in many ways combines not just your own original content but serves as a gateway for the reader to then go out and explore the topic from your lens. Indeed, my top-performing lens at the moment, about MasterChef US, combines both my own episode recaps and polls with lengthy link lists of where you can find all of the contestants on-line (their blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter streams, etc), YouTube preview videos, and yes a few products and cookbooks by the Master Chef judges themselves.

Because that's the other type of module you can add to your lenses: sales modules. Ebay, Amazon, CafePress, Zazzle, Etsy...these all have preformatted modules you can add to your lenses to promote related products (even your own, if you have say an Etsy shop!) If something sells from most of these modules, you earn a commission (split with Squidoo) on the sale. There are other ways you can earn sales commissions as well on Squidoo, by joining affiliate marketing programs like those offered by or Commission Junction. Doing so is perfectly fine with the Squidoo TOS, as long as the affiliate program is on the up and up and not selling products against Squidoo's TOS.

But it's not just via sales that you can earn money with a Squidoo lens. Every lens earns a "Tier rank" on the site, and at the end of the month you can earn a payout based on Squidoo's overall ad pool revenue for the month (any clicks on Google and Infolinks ads on Squidoo lenses go into the general ad pool, not directly to the person who created the specific lens.) Lenses in Tier 1, the top 2,000 or so lenses on the site, earn the highest payout - these days around $50. Lenses in Tier 2, which have ranks between 2,000 to 10,000 approximately, earn around $10. Lenses between 10,000 and about 80,000 are in Tier 3 and still will earn perhaps $0.50.

If you rank worse than 80,000, you won't earn a tier payout - put you still get any sales commissions you might have earned. So it's different from other content sites which pay directly by the "hit", or by ads clicked on your pages alone. When Squidoo overall does well, the top lensmasters do well.

This system naturally makes Squidoo a bit of a competitive environment - everyone is out for one of those coveted Tier 1 positions, and at first it can seem impossible to achieve (at least if you want to play by the rules and avoid BlackHat techniques, which can get your account closed if caught immediately.) But there are many great lensmasters at Squidoo who work to encourage new lensmasters to do well, and to encourage good lenses to improve in their rankings by "Liking" lenses or even "Blessing" them (SquidAngels are lensmasters given "extra powerz" to Bless lenses they consider exceptionally good.) Yes, there are people who don't understand copyright and intellectual property, and Squidoo HQ hasn't always been the best at following up on content abuse unless directly served with DMCA notices. But they're getting better about it, particularly as Google continues to try to push down "junk" and promote Unique, Updated and Useful information (which are in fact the "three U's" of Squidoo lensmaking :) ).

You aren't going to make thousands of dollars overnight joining Squidoo. In fact, you have to have a lot of patience because payouts are 2 months delayed, and it can take quite a few months to learn the tricks of good keyword research, promotion, and lens structure to start building your rank. I can say that after about 18 months on Squidoo, I'm earning a steady 3-digit amount from them monthly - enough to pay at least a few household bills regularly, which is nice. My to-date best performing lens on Squidoo has earned over $400 alone since I published it last year. Squidoo is also a great tool for promoting my other businesses and activities, like my artwork and jewelry. I would recommend that some of my friends who are fiction authors might want to investigate setting up a Squidoo account, as you can easily create pages to promote your writing blogs, published books, or just continue to create a web presence for yourself in a different environment.

Some would say "Why not just monetize a blog, why use a platform like Squidoo?" Because getting high enough traffic to a personal blog, unless you devote an EXTREME amount of time to it, can be difficult. And generally a blog needs to have a tight focus to do well from ad revenue, so if one wanted to write, say, about 10 different topics (art, music, food, travel, etc etc) you'd need 10 different blogs to maintain. That gets to be a lot of work. In over a year of having a personal food blog, I haven't even earned enough to get a threshold payment from Google Ads. Compare that to how the money comes in from Squidoo, and...yeah. There's good reason I like the platform.

Does Squidoo sound like something you might want to try for yourself? If so, just click thru to Squidoo here and see how easy it is to set up an account. And be sure to let me know your lensmaster name once you get started!