The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Content Writers
What are the 7 things you ALWAYS do?
My blog post The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Lensmasters stirred some interest among the Squidoo community, even prompting a couple of responses from Squidoo HQ.
I wrote, or rather, sought the feedback of a select group of prominent Lensmasters, and published their feedback. I chose these people because I had been, at some stage of over the course of the last year, in contact with them via email for one reason or another. While not all had been 'Giant Squids' they all share something in common, a passion for Squidoo as well as an excellent track record.
The blog post title obviously came from the book . Which I had sitting on my desk, having bought it for the princely sum of $1 from a local second hand book store. I had heard a lot about the book but I haven't begun to read it. But the title struck me as being appropriate for Lensmasters. We all have ways of building lenses, and I was sure that no matter whether you're slapping together something simple one day or working on a masterpiece the next, that there would be certain things that you'd do each time for every one of them. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
So my question to this chosen group of outstanding Lensmasters was this: "What are 7 things you always do when creating a lens and before hitting the Publish button?"
The responses came back, and while it would have been fantastic if all of them had the same identical 7 basic things (though worded differently) the result did confirm what I had suspected, not all Lensmasters do the exact same thing. They're not following a one size fits all blueprint. That there are many paths to success with Squidoo. You just have to figure out your own.
My 7 Habits
* What am I going to write about? Not everything I do is a home run hit straight out of the ball park. If it's going to be average is there someone already doing something average? If so, I'll repeat the process with a different topic. Or am I going to pull out all the stops and go for gold? Then it doesn't matter who else has done it, I'm not going to see if it's been done, I don't want to be unduly influenced by other peoples work.
* How am I going to write it? I take notes. I gather. I research. I write. I rewrite. This is all about the words. If I am going to borrow from elsewhere I'll put in source links. If for some reason I have a collection of other peoples work (and properly credited) I'll make sure I have an original introduction. That's the first thing the search engines are going to see.
* Non-textual content: photos, illustrations, video... things that help communicate the message I'm trying to broadcast.
* Commerce Module: Finding the right books, or other products, that complement the topic. I like putting in ebay, but I'm an even bigger fan of Amazon. I won't put anything in there that isn't obviously related to the subject.
* Organisation of Modules: The arrangement of information and products is important, as well as aesthetic appeal. It's all about the flow. Do I want further discussion? If so I'll throw in a Guestbook Modulein the third last, second last or last spot. I'll use a Featured Lenses Module somewhere down there if I want to lead the reader to a related lens that I've written.
* Modules: Don't use them just because it seems cool. Make sure each suits the purpose and supports the topic and message you're trying to convey. Too often I see a Netflix module with a bunch of movies that have little or absolutely nothing to do with the intention of the lens. And don't forget to change the Default Title. Default titles are evil. Change them to something meaningful. Or provocative. You need to stay on target and keep attention.
* Sometimes in the process of writing I'll have some leftovers. Some offcuts. Maybe I've written two paragraphs that are too similar, or even a whole slab of text that has wandered off a side road. I've gone off on a tangent, it may be related, but it's not doing the lens in question justice. I'll take these raw, or parbaked ingredients and cook them up or reheat them SOMEWHERE ELSE. I'll publish it elsewhere, and link it back to my lens URL and publish them simultaneously.
Glen aka N376
7 things Lensmaster Christene always does when creating a lens
* First I have to be motivated and excited about my lens topic. If I'm not the lens will not be up to my standards.
* Figure out how I want to organize the lens. What will be the most helpful and easily understood.
* Look through all of my affiliate programs, as well as Amazon and eBay for items that fit my topic exactly.
* Put up an intro image and have all of my module titles filled in.
* Make sure I have relevant tags.
* Add a guestbook at the bottom of my lens and set it for comments from anyone with my approval.
* If I know I will be editing the lens for final touches after I publish I will post *This lens is Under Construction* at the bottom of my Intro module so people know I'm still working on it, and, hopefully, come back again to see it.
7 things Lensmaster Cinetech always does when creating a lens
* Write a outline for the lens.
* Add enough content, so the lens looks finished.
* Support the content with high-quality pictures.
* Support the content with high-quality videos.
* Add high-quality backlinks.
* Check all titles and subtitles so they make sense.
* Verify that all important keywords for the subject are included in the content.
7 things Lensmaster GypsyPirate always does when creating a lens
* I think up a topic and try to talk myself out of writing it. Is it too broad? Is it too over written? What do I already know about it? The argument that I don't usually have is if my subject is too niche, or that it might not have broad appeal. My subjects tend to be very eclectic, and I am willing to go with the "odd" if it interests me.
* I check Google and Yahoo for images on my subject. (Other sources often crop up for me at this point in the research and I follow those.) If I can't find enough interesting images that I can use on my lens, I will double think if this is the right time to make it or not.
* I will now Google and Goodsearch for the topic itself to see what info is out there on my subject and what other sources for information exist.
* Now I have to sit here for a while and think of a really really cool title for my lens. I have been known to go with a "lame" one, often because I really want to make the lens and just can't think of anything witty. But, occasionally not being able to come up with a great title is deal breaker too and the lens goes back inot the pool of ideas to swim around for awhile.
* Once I've thunk up my title, I find a good url for the lens. I prefer to keep it simple and relevant. If my first and second choices are taken, I will try to add dashes if I haven't already used those. If the dash trick doesn't work, I will go back to my original idea and add the word "about" with a dash before it. If that is also taken, then I will go searching in Squidoo to see what all these other lenses are on my topic and see how I feel about them. Sometimes I find that there is a lens that is so well done I just leave them a congratulatory note and go back to the drawing board. Sometimes what I find is so sad that I am even more encouraged to make my lens as I am sure I can do it better.
* Now that I am this far in I have to pick my template, but I guess that is too easy to count as a step. So, here is where I go to "Add Modules" and select all the really cool modules that will make my lens shine. If I haven't been in there in awhile, I will also take a few minutes to stroll through all the tabs to see what is new in there. At this point, I also utilize the reorder modules feature to place my modules in the order I think I will want them.
* Now I build. Along the process I also utilize Wikipedia, whether or not I am including the module itself to see what it says and if there are any other sources I can use or learn from. This step also includes the ever important spelling and grammar self checks. (I find that reading text backwards can help me find typos in text I have written.)
* I think this one is just as important as the previous seven - I always always hit "View This Page" and take a careful look at how the finished product looks in the final layout. What modules may not work next to each other? What module headers don't work due to length or other factors. This is where I check the visuals.
7 things Lensmaster TheFluffaNutta always does when creating a lens
* Keyword research. Before you even start the lens building wizard, you should find out your chosen keyword is going to get any search traffic. If not, then should should look for a different one.
* Now that the Health Check tool has been included in your dashboard, you can use it to check your unpublished lenses. It'll catch some of the common problems early on.
* Module titles. Change them all from the defaults, and include variations of your target key phase where you can (without making it look spammy).
* Include a few CSS Tricks to tweak the content, for example straightening the margin of the Intro and increasing the font size. Don't go over board though, as it can look tacky. (www.squidoo.com/css-tricks)
* Images. Before you upload them to Squidoo, make sure that their filenames describe what they are. A couple choice keywords in your filenames will be appreciated by the search engines.
The 7 things Lensmaster Janet always does when creating a lens
* Write the content including a keyword rich Introduction. Check spelling and grammar.
* Search for affiliate products on eBay, Amazon, Cafepress, Zazzle and my 3rd affiliate sites. Note: When searching eBay, I try to find unique or unusal items because that increases my chances of earning a referral bonus.
* Add a Table of Contents, a Guestbook and atleast one Poll.
* Add images via the following methods:
i) Polaroid module
ii) AllPosters.com affilate program
iii) Large clickable product images
iv) Full-sized Flickr images with permission from Flickr members
v) On some occasions, I purchase stock photos.
In my opinion, good images add a lot to the look and feel of a lens.
* Other modules I use frequently: Amazon Search, MP3 Module, and YouTube, Countdown Module, Black Box.
* Add good keyword tags.
* View the layout making sure all of the modules line up nicely and that the lens is visually appealing. If something doesn't look right, I re-order the modules until it looks good.
The 7 things Lensmaster Loyalis always does when creating a lens
* add 10-15 commonly used tags. By common I mean ones used by at LEAST 10 other lenses.
* Make sure that module titles and subtitles are both optimized and useful but don't repeat themselves exactly.
* add an intro picture
* change guestbooks to moderate.
* change plexos to show full description
* go to 'add modules' screen and make sure the order of the modules is logical.
* close my eyes, click my heels (twice), and say 'There's no place like Squidoo'
The 7 things Lensmaster Bonnie always does when creating a lens
* Make sure I changed my module titles from the generic title. Get rid of the "New".
* Check for spelling and typos.
* Make sure my modules are in the right order.
* Make sure that all my modules are functioning properly.
* Make sure my photos are in the right place.
* Add tags.
* Make sure my Payment is set correctly, either for charity or cash.
The 7 things Lensmaster Mark Nehs always does when creating a lens
* Write down lens ideas as they come to me. If after a couple of days it still seems like a good idea I go for it and make the lens.
* Try to get the best title as possible for my url -- descriptive but not too long.
* Add the basic modules and try to always add either a duel, voting module, or plexo voting to help get the visitor engaged.
* Make each lens a top resource for that topic with a high quality link list. This sometimes will take some research to find the best websites and/or blogs on the topic. I only make lenses with topics I am interested in so this usually does not take too long.
* Check titles and subtitles for keywords. Add some additional tags.
* After editing and reordering the modules I publish after my first run. I know most lensmasters don't but I figure the sooner the better on letting the search engines find it.
* A day later, review, add, edit, re-organize, and look at it again to make sure it all makes sense. If I were visiting this lens would the content be helpful? Does it have a logical flow? Most of the time I do this a couple of days in a row.
The 7 things Lensmaster Ron Passfield always does when creating a lens
* Decide the purpose of the lens - authority site, affiliate promotions, charity support, hobby sharing, local business promotion, etc.
* Develop lens concept - a simulated rainforest walk or art exhibition, an autobiography, product review, case study, shop window, etc.
* Create an appropriate design to meet the purpose and concept - choice of modules, image/video presentation and themes
* Keyword research where appropriate, e.g. affiliate promotions, or create a catchy URL.
* Develop content, including video (e.g. Animoto)
* Source images - own graphics supply, Flickr, own photo stock, etc.
* Revisit, refine, link and promote - ongoing (e.g. Twitter, blog, articles and social marketing)
Send in your 7 Habits!
Have these Lensmasters given you ideas? Are you inspired? Leave a message after the beep!