I have to admit, when I first heard about Squidoo.com, my immediate reaction was that it was just another flash-in-the-pan Web 2.0 site that promised to suck in my time and give nothing but a headache in return.

Then I looked at the stats. Created by one of the leading minds on Internet marketing, Squidoo is constantly ranked as one of the most-visited sites on the Internet. With millions of visitors each year, Squidoo is just not a site any business owner can afford to ignore.

SquidooWhile you may never become a “Giant Squid” (more on that later) with hundreds of lenses to your name, you just might fall in love with the ease of use and potential for traffic Squidoo provides. In this guide, I’ve pulled together the basics about Squidoo that will have you creating powerful lenses in no time.

Enjoy!

Squidoo What It Is and Why You Should Care

Whether you’re an online entrepreneur looking for more clients, a blogger hoping to build an audience, or an affiliate marketer wanting to expand your reach, there’s an often-overlooked tool that can help you achieve your goals. Squidoo.com is a popular site for people in search of information – in other words, your market.

Founded by Seth Godin (yes, THAT Seth Godin), Squidoo is a user-generated collection of mini-pages, or lenses. There are currently more than 1 million lenses on Squidoo, with more being added constantly. On topics as wide-ranging as beef jerky and building your own chicken coop, Squidoo truly has something for everyone.

From the business owner’s point of view, there are several reasons Squidoo should be on your radar:

Squidoo is a ready source of eyeballs. Hundreds of thousands of people visit Squidoo each and every day, making it one of the most visited sites in the world (ranking in the top 200, according to Alexa.com).

Squidoo can get your content ranked quickly – and highly. Because it’s such a popular site, content you add to Squidoo will get indexed quickly by Google and other search engines. In other words, search engines almost immediately become notified of content you add to Squidoo, and the pages (or lenses) you create are more likely to rank high in the search engine results because of the huge amount of traffic the site as a whole receives.

Squidoo2You can create affiliate sales sites on Squidoo. Squidoo is great not only for redirecting traffic to your own sites, but also for creating stand-alone sites for affiliate sales. Instead of creating an entire website to sell affiliate products, you can create a Squidoo hub and not have to worry about domain names, hosting, or software.

You can make money right from Squidoo. Squidoo features advertising from Google and other networks, and it splits the profits with the lens owner 50/50. You can also donate the proceeds to a charity of your choice, just as long as you select it from a list of charities provided by Squidoo.

And the best part? Its easy and its free!

Getting Started With Squidoo
Now that I’ve convinced you how powerful Squidoo can be, you’re probably wondering how to create your first lens and start cashing in on the traffic and ad revenue. But before you can do anything, you need to become part of the Squidoo community. Heres how it works:

Go to Squidoo and sign up for a free account.

First, pick a username. Make sure it is something that represents you well and/or appropriately. You can either pick your own name, a nickname, or, if youre planning on writing a lot about a specific topic, a keyword type name.

Next, provide your email address and create a password. Dont worry about giving up your email address. Squidoo wont spam you. You can request their daily Lens of the Day emails if you like, but it’s not required.

Once signed up, you will have to confirm your email address. And then youll be invited to build your first lens – a Squidoo-type minisite.

In case youre wondering Yes, you can have more than one Squidoo account, and yes, you can create more than one lens per account. Simply sign up for extra ones using different email addresses. If you’re working in different niches, you may want to create separate accounts and user names for each niche.

Squidoo5On the other hand, there are benefits to building a lot of lenses in the same account. That way, youll be able to accumulate Squidoos special brand of brownie points, which will give you more visibility over time. And once you have at least 50 really great lenses in one account, you can apply to get promoted to be a Giant Squid, a status that comes with special perks and privileges, such as promotion of your lenses, no daily lens limit, a custom lens template, and free advertising.

But that comes later. Right now, you just want to get started. Once you have your account, youre ready to build your first lens.

Creating Your First Lens
Once you’ve created and confirmed your account, head on over to Squidoo and log in with your newly minted user name and password. Then click on the orange Create a Lens button on the left side of the screen, or click on the huge “Create a Lens” button in the middle of the page.

You will be guided through a series of steps. Below, I’ve provided an overview of the steps you’ll go through to create a lens. In further sections I’ll give more detailed information on creating powerful keywords and other things you can do to ramp up your lenses.

Step 1: Type in what your lens will be about. Try to be concise and clear.

During this step, you can also pick a template if you like. I recommend doing a basic lens first so you see how it works. Then, you can go ahead and play with the templates and see which ones you like best.

Step 2: Title your page

During this step, youre asked to pick a title for your lens, and then youll create the URL. You should know the URL you pick, if available, cannot be changed later, so be sure to pick wisely.

Next, youll pick a topic area and sub-topics from a scroll-down list, and finally, you need to indicate whether your lens will be G-Rated or R-Rated. If possible, make it a G-Rated lens. That just gives you a wider audience.

Step 3: Keywords

This is the step where you add your keywords that will help others find your lens. Youll also need to fill in a Captcha form at this stage.

Step 4: Earning money

Here, you need to indicate whether you want to donate your money to charity or not. If you want to direct it to your bank account, youll fill in your Paypal email address so you can be paid once your earnings have reached a certain threshold.

Once you have completed step 4, youll be taken to your first lens. Start by following their suggestions, and youll be on your way. Read on with more information about selecting keywords to make sure your lenses get the most visibility possible.

Keywords The Key to Helping People Find Your Lenses
The more research you do before you create your lens, the stronger it will be. So though you’re probably getting antsy to get started, let’s do a little keyword research. Boring? Not at all. And the pay-off can be huge. So if you want the most benefit from your lenses, do the keyword research first.

When it comes to selecting great keywords It comes down to two steps. You’re basically trying to read the mind of your future audience, determining what words they’d use to search for your content, then using those words to describe your content.

Step 1: Find out what people are looking for

First of all, you need to figure out how people are going to look for the kind of information your plan to provide. When it comes to keywords, the more specific, the better. After all, you wont just make a generic lens about dogs, but one about a specific type of dog, or a specific aspect of dogs care, training, or behaviour, or both.

Lets say your lens is about dog training. For a lens, that is a really broad topic, so you want to narrow it even more, to increase the chance of people finding exactly what they’re looking for. So let’s say you’ve decided to write about how to get dogs to stop barking.

Now, go to the Google Adwords Keyword tool.

Once youve opened the page, type in a few related phrases, i.e., dog behaviour, dog barking, stop dog barking, make dogs bark less, etc. Then enter the Captcha code and click on Search.

Squidoo6Then look over the resulting list of keywords and find ones that a lot of people are looking for. One important tip: In the left bar, youll find the Match Types options, which are broad, exact, and phrase. I tend to select phrase match. That way, you only get the results of people who type in that specific phrase as part of their search.

Now check and make sure you find keywords that are searched for at least a few thousand times a month, or at least more than a few hundred times.

A more powerful keyword analysis tool that I personally use and recommend is Market Samurai. You can download a free copy of it here.

Step 2: Make sure theres not too much competition

Once you have assembled a list of keyword phrases that people are really looking for, you need to make sure theres not too much competition. You really want to find the sweet spot a keyword phrase that lots of people are searching for, but where there is little competition.

So how do you do that? Youve completed the first step. Now, take your resulting list to Google and type in the individual phrases, one at a time, surrounded by quotation marks.

Your goal is to make sure that there are not too many competing phrases. If there are less than 50,000 youre in luck. If there are less than 10,000, build a lens as fast as possible.

If there are more than a million, you might want to start elsewhere. While your lens could eventually show up on the first page of Google results, it is a lot tougher to get ranked for a more competitive keyword phrase, than for one with fewer results.

Once you have picked your keyword or keyword phrase, create your lens around that . Dont overdo it, but be sure to use the keyword in the lens title, the lens URL, the keyword list, and in the titles of your modules as well as inside the modules. That will help your lens rise to the top of Google listings for that keyword, and will help people searching for that keyword find you.

What if you find several keyword phrases that people are looking for and where theres not too much competition? Create a lens for each of them!

Squidoo Modules The Basic Building Blocks
One of the biggest perks about working with Squidoo is that it helps you create impressive-looking lenses quickly by providing you with pre-built modules. All you have to do is add content.

For example, when you first get started with a lens, the template you suggest may offer you an introduction, a text module, an Amazon module, and a Guestbook. Of course, you can add additional modules at any time (the list is over in the right hand sidebar when you are in “edit” mode), and you can delete the ones you dont want. Any new modules will be added to the bottom of your lens. You can later move them around by using the Sort Modules tool, which is right underneath the Add Modules section.

But it wont hurt to fill in the ones you have right now.

The introduction module helps you grab peoples attention and make them want to read the rest of the lens. Be sure to add a suitable image (see the next section on adding images to your Squidoo lens).

Text modules are just what you would think: They allow you to add text to your lens, in nice handy chunks. Think of them as mini article modules. In fact, if you have an article, you can easily turn it into a Squidoo lens by dividing it into two to three sections, which you can turn into separate text modules.

Dont make these modules too long. A couple of hundred words is plenty. If you have more information, you can add an additional.

The Amazon module allows you to pick Amazon.com products to promote. For many lenses, books are the product of choice. However, you can also pick all sorts of other products, from toys (for lenses about popular Disney movies, for example) to gardening tools (for homemaking lenses) to jewelry (for Valentines Day) and so on.

The Amazon modules and others like them enhance the visual appeal of your lens and make it more useful to readers as well by providing easy access to resources. If you sign up to be an Amazon.com affiliate, youll also earn money when people click on the products you included in your module and purchase something

Finally, theres the guestbook. Invite visitors to write in your guestbook, like they would comment on a blog post. The guestbook is one of the many features that makes lenses interactive and increases the “stickiness” of your lens.

Adding Images to Your Squidoo Lenses
You wouldn’t read a newspaper that didn’t include a few eye-catching images, and you wouldn’t stick around on a blog site that was wall-to-wall text. The same goes for your Squidoo lenses. You wont need a whole lot of them, but each lens needs to have at least one image in the intro module. In fact, I have found that Squidoo wont even let me publish a new lens unless I add an image.

The image should be related to the subject of your lens. But sometimes, you can get a bit creative if needed. Either way, images should be in a .jpg format, a common image file format. Here are a few ways to round up the images to decorate your lenses:

a) Your own photographs

When I first started with Squidoo, I went to my own camera. For a lens on organic gardening, I shot photos of my tomato plants. For a lens on car care, I took a picture of my car. Your own photographs are handy because you have complete control over quality, you own the rights, and you can easily customize them to fit your lens.

b) Clip Art

You can also use clip art for Squidoo lenses. Just be sure you have the appropriate rights, and watch out for outdated clip art that may have come with your computer. You dont want your lens to look dated.

c) Stock photos

Stock photos will probably be your main source of images, especially if you create a lot of lenses. There are several sites that sell royalty-free stock photos. Two of the main ones are iStockphoto.com and Dreamstime.com.

Just browse and find photos you like. You can and should get the smallest available size of the photos, which also happens to make them quite inexpensive.

Most of the stock photo places make you buy credits in packages. Before you decide to shop, make sure they have what you want.

iStockphoto.com

Many of the photos cost just 1 or 2 credits, which is very inexpensive since each credit is only about a dollar. Depending on how many you buy at a time, it can be a little more, but not by much.

However, be sure to read the rights closely. It seems that for some of the images you are only allowed to use each photo in one place at a time. If you want to use it somewhere else, you have to remove it from the first place.

Dreamstime:

Dreamstime too has a wide range of photos, and some of them start at 1 or 2 credits.

Once again, check the rights carefully. Downloading works a bit faster they wont make you sign off on the rights for each individual photo since apparently they all come with the same rights, or maybe at least most of them.

The two sites dont necessarily have the same images, or the same images for the same price. So you may want to check out both (and maybe other sites too) as you search for that perfect image.

Another tip: Consider both photos and graphics. Both work well for Squidoo.

You can also find free creative commons rights images on Flickr. Make sure to read through the rights before using anyone else’s photos or images.

Once you have selected your images, keep them in a safe place on your computer, sorted by subject matter, so you can find them quickly when you need them for a lens.

Squidoo Linking Strategies
One of the key benefits of Squidoo is that you can link to external sites, including other websites, your own site, websites you promote, and also websites that provide more information. You can even link to other lenses.

Linking externally is an important strategy because you get and give link juice that is, you can boost the ranking of your own site by linking to it from Squidoo and attract visitors to it, and you can also boost the rank of your own Squidoo lens by linking to it from elsewhere.

You can link to other websites in various ways. You can either use HTML to link to other sites, or you can use special modules to do so (some of which also require HTML). Read on for a short tutorial on how to link to other sites and lenses.

Basic HTML for Linking:

Heres the basic HTML code that allows you to link to any website:

Your Sites Name Here

Just copy and paste this link, and substitute the appropriate domain name for YourSiteHere.com and insert whatever text you want people to click on, i.e., CLICK HERE or a keyword where it says Your Sites Name Here.

That code about target=_blank causes the website to open in a new window, so that your visitors will return to your lens after theyre done with the new site.

Squidoo Modules Designed for Linking

There are quite a few modules that let you link to external websites. Some of them make it really easy, such as the Links modules.

a) Links List

All you need to do is type the URL in the URL box, and a short description in the Description box. Then add another link, and another link, until youre done. Be sure to specify what kind of links they are in the title. Squidoo is not very fond of titles that havent been changed.

b) Big Arrow Link

The Big Arrow Link module is pretty cool. Theyve changed it up a bit, so its not quite as big and bold as it used to be, but its still BIG. And it points to your favorite link. Just fill in the name of the link and the URL, and its ready to go.

c) RSS Feeds

You can also connect your blog to your lens by way of the RSS feeds module. And if you have more than one blog, you may want to use the RSS Mash-up module instead. That one allows you to mash up several feeds. Just add them one after the other, and RSS Mash-up will do the rest.

Its easy to set up RSS Feeds. All you need is the RSS Feeds Module. Click on Edit, and insert the URL of your blog, plus /feed.

Then, you add a title, specify how many posts you want to show, and how much if any portion of the actual post you want to show. Choose how often you want your feed to refresh, and whether you want it to include html, and click on save. Within just a few moments, your blogs posts will appear right inside your lens.

One of the advantages of RSS feeds is that it updates your content in real time, which increases the “stickiness” of your lens. That means people will return again and again, and will stick around longer when they do stop by!

d) Sticky Note

I love the sticky note. Its just like the regular yellow sticky that you write notes on you open it up, give it a title, and then invite the reader to check out a link.

You will need HTML code (see above) for the link in your yellow sticky note. But its so worth it since it stands out nicely and adds a fun touch to your lens.

e) My Lenses

Finally, if you have a number of other lenses, you can link to them in the My Lenses module. That will help get more visitors to your other lenses, and of course you should use that same module in those other lenses too.

How to Boost Your Squidoo Lens Rankings
You will quickly notice that your Squidoo lenses are ranked. They start out very low, and as you add content, your lens rank goes up. Another thing that helps your lenss increase in popularity is traffic, especially if the visitors interact with your lens and give it positive feedback (yet another reason to push that Guestbook module!).

The longer they stay on your lens, the better for your rank. Obviously, this also means that the more visitors you get, the higher your rank will be as well. And of course, the better your lens, and the more popular it is, the more visitors will stop by to check it out, and the longer they stay and so on, and so on.

In order to get the most benefit from your Squidoo lenses, you need to make sure that its a terrific lens and that it gets traffic. Here are some ways to drive external traffic to your site:

1) Social Bookmarking

One of the first things you should do after completing a lens is to head over to the social bookmarking sites such as Digg and bookmark it. Join as many of the sites as you can, from Digg to Stumbleupon to Del.icio.us to Mixx, and if you want to make things more efficient, you may want to include Onlywire as well, as it’s a one-stop shop for social bookmarking.

2) Tweet about it

Every time you publish a lens, and also every time you republish a lens you have just updated, Squidoo automatically invites you to tweet about it. Make sure to do so, but don’t stop there!

Why not send tweets that include a mini tip from the content of a lens plus that lenss URL? If its intriguing enough, you can get quite a few visitors (depending, of course, on your Twitter following).

3) Write articles

Article marketing helps you promote a lot of things, from affiliate products to your own products. But of course, you can also promote your Squidoo lenses. Just write an article about the topic of your lens. Make sure the content is unique, but related. Then, in the resource box, link your readers to your lens for more information.

4) Update your lens

More than anything else, Squidoo loves fresh content. So if you provide lots of quality content, update it regularly, and make sure its visually appealing, especially by adding some suitable images, your lens rank will increase.

5) Get help from Squidoo

Looking for additional ways to jazz up your lenses? Squidoo will help you out! Just visit the My Toolbox area where you can run a HealthCheck. This will show you any areas that could stand a bit of improvement. Just follow the recommendations, and your lens rank will benefit.

6) Send Squidcasts

Squidcasts are special broadcasts to fellow Squidoo members. Send them out, visit and comment on other members lenses, and basically just be a good Squidizen, i.e., a good citizen of the Squidoo community. This will increase your visibility on Squidoo (important if you have any desire to become a Giant Squid), the number of visitors, and your positive feedback. And all that will translate into a higher lens rank.

Getting Promoted How To Be A Giant Squid And Why You Would Want To

Okay, so youve been building lenses for a while. And every time you publish a new one, Squidoo tells you that you too could be a Giant Squid. Sounds kind of cool, but you might be wondering if it’s worth the effort. If you enjoy building lenses, the answer should be Yes! You get a big boost in status and quite a few perks as a Giant Squid. Read on to find out what it takes to be a Giant Squid and reasons you might want to become one.

How do you become a Giant Squid?

First you have to qualify, and the basic requirement is that you have 50 great lenses. If you go to the Giant Squids section, youll find some guidelines that should help.

Many of the criteria are really common sense: create interesting and useful lenses that are regularly updated. You should also have appropriate images and great text without typos.

Be sure to avoid bad or stolen content, empty modules or modules that have expired or that still have their original titles. By the time youve made it to 50 lenses though, you probably know these things.

And theres one more crucial key: All your lenses must be in the same account. So as you decide whether you should get a new account for each niche youre planning to build lenses in, or whether you should create them all under one account, its good to keep in mind that if you dream of becoming a Giant Squid one of these days, better put at least 50 of your lenses into one basket.

Once youve got your 50 plus lenses, you need to wait for the next window of opportunity to apply for your promotion.

Squidoo reviews applications just four times a year. The deadlines are March 31, June 30, September 31, and December 31. You can apply by clicking a big button in the Giant Squids section and following instructions. In fact, once you start building lenses at a steady clip, Squidoo alerts you to the possibility every time you publish a new one. They really want you to become a Giant Squid!