Sunday, November 29, 2009

Another thing I like about Squidoo: helping out my friends

I'd like to think I'm making some headway in promoting some causes that matter to me - or matter to my friends...

For instance, I wrote a lens on Chai Lifeline, an organization that provides help to many families with desperately sick children, including a summer camp called "Camp Simcha." My son went twice - it was the only place he could go, sick and weak as he was after his cancer treatments, where we knew he would be taken care of.

My lens, Chai Lifeline - helping sick kids make it through, is quite modest but it meant a lot to me to write it, and I hope it provides another way for people to find Chai Lifeline when they need it.

Another example: there is a really worthy but little known rescue center for carnivores in our area. My friend Mark is a donor and is trying to get them more publisicty so I made a lens about the Conservators' Center which is on the first page of google results just now.

A few more examples:

I encourage you to think of somebody - or some organization - that could use a new arena of publicity, and make a lens about him, her, or them. It's fun and probably helpful.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Popshops and Your Shopping Website

As I recently reported, I have made a Footed Pajamas website to accompany my footed pajamas lenses. As you may know, I have several lenses focused on Footed Pajamas, including:

* Footed Pajamas For Adults
* Footed Pajamas for Boys
* Footed Pajamas for Girls
* Matching Pajamas

My new website has pages for all of those things as you can see here:

* Adult Footed Pajamas
* Boys Footed Pajamas
* Girls Footed Pajamas
* Matching Footed Pajamas

I have built the new page with modules from Popshops. If you are selling stuff via your own website, I encourage you to find out about Popshops. I learned about Popshops from the affilate manager of a company I affilate with. I complained about the fact when I click on a link for a product, I often get "out of stock" messages. I told him that we are both losing alot of sales. He wrote "Sorry for the inconvenience. Have you tried popshops? They are datafeed driven, and I believe they have the option you're looking for".

I did a Squidoo search about Popshops and came across a fellow Squid named Casey who made a few lenses about Popshops. Casey has several beautifully made websites, which are based on Popshops such as this Plus Size Shopping site. I exchaged a few emails with Casey who gave me some very helpful tips such as: "I consider Enterprise level PopShops to be one of the best investments I make in my business". Thank you for your help Casey!

What I leaned from Casey and my own experience is that Popshops is:

* Very easy to use! If you want to change the products being offered on your site, you do not need to copy and past code. You simply go to the Popshops desktop and click on a product and instantly that product is added to your site! It is very simple and very fast!

* If a product goes out of stock, it will automatically be replaced with a similar product. No more "Out of Stock" links.

* If you offer products from various manufacturers, popshops makes them all look similar. Your website looks like one company rather than a patchwork of offers from various companies.

There are some limitations with Popshops, however:

* Popshops basically does not work well with Squidoo. Popshops offers many different types of coding possibilities (Javascript, PHP, ASP, Atom, RSS, HTML, etc, etc). The problem is from that list, it seems that only HTML works with Popshops. And HTML does not have all of the cool features that I have written above. This is a REAL pity and limitation with Squidoo.

* Not all companies you will work with offer their products via Popshops. But many, many do. Both of my two most important companies offer products via Popshops.

So, I created my own website. I quickly began creating my own Popshops modules. I was worried that there would be a steep learning curve, but soon realized working with Popshops was VERY simple. Wow! I had my first "shop" installed in a few minutes.

With Popshops making my website was FAST! Creating a Popshops Shop is very similar to creating an Squidoo Amazon module. You simply:

* Do a keyword search for products
* Click on the programs you are approved to affilate with
* Click on the products you want to offer in your shop
* Select the type of code you want
* Copy and paste the code into your website.

Once the code is in, you can return to your shop and click and change the products being offered at any time. You never need to change the code on your website again!

I am still a Popshops newbie and am probably not getting everything out of it that I could be. But I already see alot of advantages of Popshops in addition to the ones I mentioned above. I am making more money. My Squidoo commissions from Amazon is around 2% of sales. My affilate commission is around 12% of sales. Of course, I can have affilate links on my Squidoo pages. But I have to live with those links that constantly go "out of stock" and the only way to discover those deadlinks is to click on all of them. Who has time for that?

After a few weeks of using Popshops, like Casey, I am now convinced that Popshops EXCELLENT for building shopping websites. I plan to be making more websites soon and I have every intention of using Popshops to offer my products.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More fun with rss feeds

Did you know you can make an rss feed out of almost any page at all? I have an rss feed in my newsreader now, for instance, that shows me the newest purple star lenses as soon as they're awarded. You can use it too: just paste the following url into your newsreader.

You could also make one, for instance, for your fan club. That way you'd know when somebody new joined you. Want to learn how? I made a lens about it: Making an rss feed from your fan club.

You're welcome!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Touring the "purple star" lenses

Since I've received three purple stars (one for my Mexican mask lens, one for my deer fence lens, and one for a lens about my Uncle Shlomo's Pushcart Zazzle Store, I got curious about the program and looked into it.

Did you know that as of today there are 640 purple star lenses, out of the hmm, maybe 900,000 lenses at squidoo?

Here's a list of all the purple star lensees. I visited most of them - starting from the bottom up - and I've done two lenses showcasing my favorite purple star lenses - there's a plexo so folks who've won purple stars can add their lenses to the list. It's fun to see which of the many excellent lenses by giants have gotten this award.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Squidoo gives you lots of reasons to grow.

I'm a member of the "Fresh Wonders" group on Ning - a community willow created to encourage quality lens-building - and there is the occasional weekly challenge.

This week's challenge: to make a lens using illustrations which are not photographs. It was posed by MeltedRachel; she wrote:
I want you to make that lens that you always wanted to make but thought you couldn't because you didn't have any photos of it. It could be a holiday that you lost all the photos to or a ghostly encounter.

I've made lenses about art exhibitions that I couldn't photograph, imaginary places and places I've never been and I want you to be able to do the same.

This made something click for me. I had been wanting to do a lens about Chai Lifeline, the organization that helped my son when he was in treatment for brain cancer, but I couldn't bear the idea of using photographs - it seemed like a privacy issue.

So I used Rachel's idea and drew pictures instead. Here is my tale of Chai Lifeline and its wonderful summer camps for kids with cancer and other mortal illnesses:

Chai Lifeline.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Learning by doing: I discover the benefits of irfanview by doing a lens on it

I hadn't really been planning to go for the 100 club, but I'm so close I've started thinking about ideas for lenses again.

Today I was using Irfanview, my favorite (and FREE) image editing software, and I thought: this would make a good lens. So I started building one, and that made me peer into all the menus, and DANG! I found lots of way wonderful features I'd never even noticed!

I wrote some of them up but not all. I'll be able to revisit this topic over time and try out some more features I wouldn't have seen if I weren't making a lens.

This lens had the added benefit of showing off some of my stuff I (theoretically) sell at Uncle Shlomo's Pushcart Zazzle Store - I used my images as examples when I illustrated features (here, I made a text box on a photo of a tshirt with a celtic knot I painted).

I used the "PoweredBy" class to label the images, with links to the store.

So you can visit my Irfanview lens and see what I'm talking about - and download the free software through the link I provided - and see how I used my images in the course of explaining the program!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Writing up a project for squidoo: The Day of the Deerfence

I've been thinking about writing about my marathon couple of days erecting a deer fence around 1550 feet of my property, but I finally got to it yesterday and finished at 2:30 am! Here it is: Build your own deer fence.

It was fun re-living the experience, going back in my mind and remembering what tools and equipment I needed and how I'd researched the project. Research wasn't quite as easy eight years ago. Now practically everything you need is on Amazon so I loaded the lens with Amazon spotlight modules and used the "description" text box to describe the way I made the fence.

Do you have deer problems? Maybe this would help!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Footed Pajamas For Adults: Now a Website!

Dear Fellow Squid Giants: Are you still focusing all of your time making Squidoo Lenses? Have you thought about creating your own websites to market your products?

As some of my fellow squidooers know, I have a popular lens about footed pajamas for adults. My Footed Pajamas For Adults Lens has been quite successful, selected as lens of the day and voted by my fellow squidooers as best marketing lens of 2008.

Recently I have taken the next step and have created a website, The Footed Pajamas Shop, dedicated entirely to footed pajamas. The new Footed Pajamas Shop has not only footed pajamas for adults but also footed pajamas for the entire family. The new Footed Pajamas Shop is still in its early days, but I can tell you it was REALLY easy to make it; just as easy as making a Squidoo Lens. I plan to tell you all about it soon.

I have many plans for developing the Footed Pajamas Shop. And in the days ahead, I will be posting about my experiences of creating and developing my new footed pajamas website. I will tell you what is working and what is not working. I also hope that you will give feedback concerning my footed pajamas website with ideas about how to improve it.

Do I plan to stop making Squidoo Lenses?? No way. Squidoo will always be a part of my online marketing campaigns. In the days ahead, I will tell you why.

What can you do?
* Have a look at The Footed Pajamas Shop and make suggestions for improvement
* Ask questions about developing The Footed Pajamas Shop which I can address in my upcoming posts
* Post about websites that you are creating and what you have learned
* Post about how Squidoo is fitting into your online marketing plans.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

More SEO and Marketing advice

I have been outgrowing my blog at squidtop for a while, but it took someone asking me to create an e-book to go and create my own blog about SEO and online marketing. The result is my Marketing Spiritual a blog about Online marketing with spiritual integrity.

The most popular posts there so far are:

The free online marketing e-book itself has also been downloaded a whole lot already. 

The e-book is basically the information from my SEO and Keyword research lenses, plus the most important content of my blogposts about SEO and online marketing, plus the basics about online publishing in general.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A great to use Squidoo: learn as you go, and document.

Here's another reason I love Squidoo: it gives me a second motivation when I'm thinking about launching a project.

For instance, not too long ago I got very interested in giant puppets, and went to see a local show given by the Paperhand Puppet Intervention troupe, and thought it would be a fun thing to do with my young friend Jeimy (I'm a mentor through the Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate Program: here's a lens about mentoring).

It seemed like a lot of work, though, and I might have sighed and not done it, but then I thought: "Oh, I could take photos of the process and make some lenses!" and so I did.

While I was on that kick, I thought about the song I sing with my musical partner Bob Vasile (we're the Pratie Heads British Isles fiddle tunes and songs duo). The song is about that blood-thirsty villanous puppet Punch and his antics; I made a lens about Punch and Judy so I could put our song on it and that got me started learning how to cast a plaster mold for paper-mache heads. I love paper mache. And that got me into a series of paper-mache heads for Halloween!

One more example... about twenty years ago when I was just starting to direct an a cappella vocal ensemble (the Solstice Assembly), we made a Skylark Productions recording called Three Log Night: Uncommon Music for the Holiday Season. I made a songbook to go with it. Twenty years later, I still get emails ordering the cd and songbook! So I decided to re-issue both, mainly because I could also make a lens about them: A Christmas Songbook.

Sometimes - you need a reason to get up and do something. The happy prospect of making a lens has often spurred me to get something done.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New blogger says hello, and: Why *I* love Squidoo (part one)

Hello friends (taps microphone to see if sound system is working) -

Thanks, Gene, for inviting me to join your Valley here... here's one of the reasons I love Squidoo:

I'm using Squidoo as a filing cabinet of my interests. And when I learn something new, I make a lens about it.

So, now, when I'm trying to remember how to use Yahoo pipes to format an rss feed - instead of digging around my messy desk for the notes I took when I first figured it out, I just look at the lens I compiled as I was learning!...

Same with using the "Wimpy Player" to put music on a lens. It takes about 17 clicks to do it, and I'd have forgotten how by now - except I wrote it up in a lens, so now I can look it up any time I forget ...

I was given a miniature horse in partial exchange for building a website for the best divorce mediator in Greensboro, NC - and people kept asking me about him (the horse, not the divorce mediator) and wondering if he's actually a Shetland Pony - so I looked the matter up online and wrote a lens about it!

I loved the wattle-and-daub houses I saw in Bulgaria and England and wondered about them, so I looked them up and found a bunch of good pictures - and wrote a lens about them. Now, everything I know about wattle and daub is in one place.

Do you use Squidoo this way?

I'm Chapel Hill fiddler, and you can see all my Squidoo lenses here.