This spring the Squidoo site advised we should limit our Amazon products for sale on a page to 20 items. Grumbling, I started adjusting the items as I continued the chore of adding more text, adjusting keywords and fixing lenses to suit the new guidelines.
This week, the decree came down from headquarters that the limit of 20 was no longer a suggestion, but would be enforced. Yesterday they rolled out the software that hides the links for any excess Amazon products.
On my list of 660 lenses (Squidoo term for a web page), it flagged 50 that needed to go on a diet. It didn’t surprise me that many of them were Halloween lenses. I’d postponed updating those out-of-season pages, but now must buckle down for some hard work.
Over time, I’d identified some terrific products that fit my varied topics. For example, to trim 10 items from my Barely There Costumes for a Nudist Halloween or Costume Party, for the Eve costume I featured tropical leaves, a rubber snake, an apple and a long flowing wig. I needed to drop some of these, but I hated to inconvenience the shopper.
That’s the kind of decision lensmasters are making as they perform plastic surgery on overly plump lenses. Sigh.. I settled for showing a complete Eve costume and talking about the accessories. No links to those extras. Many Internet users are impulsive shoppers and when they find something they like, they click-through to Amazon and go on a buying spree.
The worry is that although the page may look cleaner, be easier to load and be visually less cluttered, will the reader actually buy if the items I’m recommending are not just an easy mouse-click away?
Back in 2012, I bought a whole account from another lensmaster who had almost 200 lenses. That brought my Squidoo account to over 800 lenses which I quickly found crazy-making. Getting the new lenses adjusted the way I wanted was a huge job, so finally I sold off quite a few of them plus some of my own that I’d lost interest in. I gave some away over the years too in my lens giveaway and to entice new Squids to get started.
In the meantime, I kept making lenses on topics, some for quests and some just because they interested me. By February my account was around 600 or so lenses. Then it grew to 666. Is that a bad number??
Recently a few lenses were bumped down to Work in Progress and 1 locked. In my non-giant account (Christmas lenses), 12 suffered locking. Obviously it is worthwhile getting giant status..
As Squidoo more and more discouraged product lenses and frowned on “shopping cart” lenses, I recognized the need to change. Trying to personalize and fatten up so many sales lenses meant I was working nonstop on Squidoo just to keep level. Day after day, new instructions came out to change and adjust lenses. Applying those changes to over 600 pages was a massive chore.
A few days ago I finally saw the light. I’m paring my lens list down considerably. In the last 2 days I’ve deleted 60 lenses. Since I have many personal topics about my family history and lenses that are important to me about library services, the Civil War and my photography, I’m sacrificing many sales pages to protect those.
Recently Squidoo closed some large accounts citing the number of “thin lenses” which is their terminology for sales pages. This purge that I’m doing is to hopefully reach a balance that puts my account less at-risk.
Today Squidoo popped up with this message, “You are a master poll giver. 23,000 of your polls have been taken so far.” When I first started making lenses, I didn’t bother with polls. I missed out on some good information.
Reading other lenses, I began to realize how useful a poll could be. It adds some interaction with the reader that keeps them on the page a little longer which impresses both Squidoo and Google. It adds variety as the eye skims down the page, breaking up blocks of text or batches of products for sale.
Best of all, it gives the lensmaster feedback that can be used to improve the page over time. Ask questions about what people found most helpful on the page or what they were looking for. Ask them their preference on products (colors, features, price range).
Get some demographic information as far as age or gender to tailor the page to the visitor. Is the visitor a kid looking for cool pics of their favorite toy or is it a parent or grandparent looking to buy?
I adjust my pages based on the numbers revealed by the polls. Once I find that more of the visitors are students or history buffs or casual readers, then I can revise my history topics accordingly.
If the article has photos, the visitor to your page can see how the craft is made. Still you need to make the text as clear as possible so there is no confusion.
Some sites have a minimum word count. Wordiness is not the goal. Clarity and thoroughness of the instructions is what is wanted. Make every word useful to the reader. See the examples below.
Check each step. How could it be clearer? Pretend the reader is a beginning crafter and add information for them. If the step says “glue X to Z,” you can give more detail. Tell what kind of glue to use. Does it need to be in a well-ventilated area? How long should it dry? Adding this level of detail helps your reader.
When the instructions say “use XYZ,” expand it to tell the reader where they can get the supplies if they are anything unusual. You can offer alternate materials or mention a preferred brand that you think works best. Example: Use brown paper bags to cover the base. If you don’t have those, use brown construction paper or brown wrapping paper.
If the INTRODUCTION merely says “Here’s an easy way to make XYZ,” then you are skimping the reader. This is the place to tell the origin of the craft, how you learned to make it, why they will want to make it and any background information you know. Example: My sister made these for all of us. Everyone loved them. I’ve changed it a little, to make it easier. They make great gifts for a club or office gift exchange.
Insert a step at the beginning to explain the supplies needed. Give tips for selecting the right materials and tools for the project.
Add a step at the end telling how the finished craft project can be used or displayed. Tell how to take care of it (is it washable?).
A few years ago, I got inspired to put my Mom’s writing into a book for her. I used the print-on-demand site Blurb for this.
It turned out great and she loved having a book with her name on the cover. Actually “loved it” is rather tame. She was ecstatic.
If you want to make your mom really really happy, start today putting together a book for her. It can be photos from her childhood, a collection of family memories, or so many other topics. It may not be done by Mother’s Day, but start it and see what you can accomplish.
The BookSmart software that you download for free from Blurb is really great to use. Here’s my page telling how to self-publish a book using Blurb.
Gail Lee Martin shows off the books with family memories.
It’s amazing the variety of busy work I can distract myself with when I have a big project to do. All sorts of minor activities, from writing a letter to finishing my library book, get my attention. What I should be doing is working on my great-great grandfather’s life story.
I suspect that “writing a book” just sounds overwhelming. What I need to do is break it down into chunks that aren’t so daunting. Airing my concerns to my writing group helped me sort out my thinking a bit.
Here’s how I’m currently picturing the book layout:
- Abraham’s early life/growing up in southern Indiana 1837-1860
- Nancy’s life while Abraham is gone to war
- Abraham’s prisoner of war experience – Andersonville
- The 100 men of Company G
- After the war – Missouri and Kansas 1865 to 1900
- Abraham and Nancy’s children and grandchildren
- Growing old – 1900 to 1930
There’s a ton of research still to be done. I’ve visited southern Indiana and Andersonville in Georgia. I’ve read dozens of diaries of Andersonville prisoners. Connecting with descendants of Abraham and Nancy has turned up further anecdotes and vintage photos. I know there is so much more out there waiting to be found.
I need to give myself some structure, maybe a daily checklist.
- one hour genealogy research
- one hour reading (Civil War history, pioneer history, etc.)
- one hour internet research background information
Worth a try. I’m off to do some work.