Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reflections from one year at Squidoo

Buy at Art.comToday marks my first anniversary at Squidoo. My green chile lens is one year old today and I've made a whopping $10.41 in that year on it. Whee!! But you know, I had absolutely no clue when I started about the money-making aspects of Squidoo. For me I just saw it as a place to finally do something with all the research I did on various topics. And a place to write again. And have some fun with web design and layout.

But in the past year, I have gotten so much more out of this experience than I ever would have dreamed possible. As I hit the first birthday of my first lens, I started pondering just what I have learned and where I was going to take it from here.

SEO
I think I knew what SEO stood for just because I always ended up being the website guru at work. But that didn't mean I really understood what it meant. In the past year (really more like six months), I've gotten a crash course in keyword research, on-page optimization, developing backlinks, meta tags and all the various elements that help make a website more successful. I learned I have fairly good instincts on how to do some of this, but that making my writing SEO-optimized just goes against my natural style. (Really, who repeats a keyword phrase like Sesame Street birthday that many times?)

Much of my actual learning in this regard has come away from Squidoo, although I was introduced to the concepts I needed to learn about via SquidU. I'm still rather unsystematic about my SEO but have definitely seen results as a result of paying more attention to these particular points.

New HTML and CSS skills

I actually started learning HTML way back in the ancient days of the internet, right before there were WYSWYG editors like HotDog and FrontPage. So I had to learn the hard way by hand coding everything. I remember having a cheat sheet at the time to help me with all the language before it became second nature. This has stood me in good stead over the years (making me the default website person wherever I work), but I have really picked up the skills since joining Squidoo. CSS has particularly been a new one for me, but I'm getting to the point where I can actually read and understand my blog templates enough to make tweaks and changes and not crash everything. Many thanks to Glen and Tim for their fabulous lenses that make things so much easier!

Affiliate marketing

I will admit that before I started on Squidoo, I had no idea just how this worked. In fact, I looked down on links that I could tell were affiliate links. I would purposefully go to the URL and type in the address rather than click on your link so that you wouldn't get credit for anything I did. I know! Where did that come from? I have no clue. But I was quite down on them. So here I am now, a member of five different programs with numerous companies each that I now promote. Ha! So I probably am suffering from bad karma I sowed before when I don't get clicks or sales, right? So what I've learned is that it really doesn't cost you anything in any way to click on someone's affiliate link. You aren't getting a different price, you aren't going to get shafted in anyway. In fact, using the links they provide when you're interested in what they're talking about makes it possible for them to keep sharing with you long term. You're helping to pay their salary by buying through them. I just never understood this before I started doing it myself.

Along with that, I'm learning that while I'm great with the marketing copy for work, writing sales copy is a different beast. I have a tendency to back pedal or leave out the call to action. But as I'm learning about internet marketing, I think I'm getting better at this point now.

New friends

My favorite thing about the past year? I have so many new "friends" from all over now. And I put it in quotes because I've never actually met any of them. We don't chat on the phone. We don't interact on a truly personal level for the most part. But I know if I were to show up in Arkansas, Susan would welcome me over, and Glen has a place for me to stay in Australia. And I know people in England, Seattle, the Phillipines, Florida and Maine now as well. This has been the most amazing thing to me, despite the fact that I've been involved in online communities for more than 10 years. I don't think I've gotten this entrenched into any of them before.

New online places

Thanks to the SEO lessons, I've been introduced to all kinds of new places around the Internet that I might not have visited otherwise. I have a (neglected) Gather account and a (soon to be used) Hubpages account where I can actually do more straight writing work. I started a Facebook page that has helped me connect with high school and college friends and people who can help me restore my Norton. I'm on Twitter (and tweeting up a storm!) and FriendFeed. I've even done an online video profile. None of this would ever have happened (or would have happened much more slowly) if it hadn't been for Squidoo and pushing myself to find new ways to interact with people online. Oh, and I started blogging again! I now have nine of them! Stop me now!

Things I can use for work

One of the big things for me is the ways I've been able to take all this knowledge and use it for work. I am able to have intelligent discussions with my web design people and fend off the three to four calls a week I get from SEO companies. (I scare them because I actually understand keyword research, meta tags and on-page optimization.) I am able to take what I'm learning online and translate it into the copy I write for work and my management of our web pages. I'm able to make wiser choices about how I spend my marketing budget and my time. And I'm able to suggest new ways that we can use the web to do our marketing. (We have a Facebook page for our accounting firm! Wow!) I'm still quite haphazard about how I utilize it, but I'm starting to get my legs under me on this one.

As a side part of that, I also am putting what I've learned to work helping my husband promote both his Track Addict forum and the application he's developing for the iPhone. (Don't worry, you'll hear about it from me when it goes live.) I love that I can be a part of helping him be successful as well.

So that's my year. I've shared many of the milestones on this blog during that time – first lens of the day, charity lens of the month, Giant Squid, 100 lenses. This has been a fabulous creative outlet for me at a time when I had few thanks to most of my crafting and sewing stuff being packed away for the remodel. Thanks to those of you who have been reading along with me since this blog started last November. Where I go from here? Improving my skills, utilizing them in ways off of Squidoo like my husband's ventures and my blogs and hitting my earning goals. I'll do another post after I ponder the future a little more.

(This is officially the longest blog post I have ever written by a factor of four.)
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