Tuesday 29 March 2011

Mother Gothel Sold Out

Looking back at my last post on buying a Limited Editon Mother Gothel doll, I realised that my New Zealand location must have allowed me to buy one of the very first dolls.

By the time I went to bed, a few hours later, they'd sold out. And there's at least 50 listings on eBay already - average price about $300, with many starting at over $400. I intend to gloat over mine... but only when I actually get her. And only in limited amounts. Starting to collect dolls (or anything, really) is a very bad expensive habit that I should not start!. Luckily I tend to dislike enough of them that I may be safe - most of the Disney ones have giant eyes, for one thing, and I am opposed to paying for something that annoys me and I consider bad design.

Anyway, if there's any more news, check out Mother Gothel Dolls to see it.
Edit: For example, the UK site had technical issues, and they didn't even put her up for a couple of days. Last I checked, she's still available - but only seems to ship within the EU.

My Mother Gothel Squidoo Earnings Bought Me A Limited Edition Doll

I just ordered one of the Mother Gothel Limited Edition dolls. I think I'm mad. But I've been following them a while, and I'm really pleased with figuring out when they'd be on sale (March 29th, as a secret surprise for the release of Tangled) and I knew they'd sell out, so I'd never get to see one. There's only 1500 - and I estimate about 500 must have been sold in the UK, maybe? Doesn't matter really, as they sold out in a day, however many it was.

 That's the trouble with putting yourself in the mind of a buyer when researching... you end up wanting to buy things yourself! The risks I run for authenticity *dramatic sigh*. And they're very big (43 centimetres high), and they do look pretty. I feel like it's my tribute back for all the content she provided. Also, it is definitely research. Definitely. Expect photos of her turning up on my Squidoo pages! (Actually, as soon as I thought 'awesome photography subject', well... I confess that may be my main reason!).

The advantage of Paypal being that it's all still virtual to me, so I can pretend that I didn't just spend that much money on a doll. And then of course, DisneyStore.com doesn't accept overseas Paypal. Bastards. So I had to use my credit card.

But I justified it :D I think I've earnt enough from all my Mother Gothel related lenses on Squidoo to pay for it (the shipping was nasty, of course, another $55).

Wait, let me just go estimate how much Mother Gothel has actually earnt me yet and see if that makes me feel better. Oh drat, haven't been paid for any yet, but will in a couple of weeks at the next payday! (dratted 2 month delays).

Right, Mother Gothel on Squidoo earnings, for all lenses to date, and predicted for April. For all except the main lens, my first payday for all of them will be in April, so I'll estimate the first payday and the Jan-April earnings (as typically, over time is a better indicator/earning rate anyway). Tier earnings are estimates, and can vary quite a bit.

About $9-10 in Amazon associate referrals from miscellaneous Tangled stuff (the Art of Tangled, the DVD, and the toy figure set) that could have come from any of the lenses.

Mother Gothel Dolls has two months of tier 2 pending, and might make tier 1 this month with the release, but will certainly stay in tier 2 easily. So thats ~$15 or if I'm really lucky, $40 for the first three months of earning.

Mother Gothel Fan Art will start earning in April, and it looks like that might be tier 2. So either 30c or $5.

The Magic Golden Flower is the same as the fan art page, but probably won't make tier 2, so 30c.

Mother Knows Best is a pathetic tier 3, so only ever 30c. So two months pending and no improvement = 90c

The main Mother Gothel page has been around a month longer, so already earnt me $33, and stayed happily in tier 1 - so until the end of April is another ~$90.

Cosplaying Mother Gothel made it into tier 1 for February and March, and will easily stay there all April, so $90. I'll also get a few dollars (estimate of $6 from Amazon Associates for costuming-related sales, including this awesome dagger and a Lined Black-Gold Velvet Cloak)

So total pending Mother Gothel earnings (plus $33 already paid):
This coming payday: $65.30ish which covers the cost of the doll! (but not the shipping)
Jan-April, all finally paid by June:
 Worst case - ~$200
Best case ~$230

It was worth it. And now I know what the title is. And I can't believe I could write so much about a character.

Friday 25 March 2011

The Impact of the Google Famer Update On My Lenses

Well, the Google Farmer update was 23rd Feb, and I think it's been long enough now to step back and see if it actually affected me.

Oh. It really didn't.

My Google Analytics traffic has remained completely steady, with an average of 1,400 pageviews a day (range 1,300-1,600).

Many of my smaller pages are starting to pick up a little more traffic, and  I saw three lenses lose large chunks of search traffic. Otherwise I noticed no difference, and even the differences I saw were within normal ranges for Google fluctuations.

The three pages that I did notice something for were three of my top lenses (all top tier, and averaging 50-100 visits a day)

Mother Gothel: Lost most of it's Google traffic for a while, but stayed steady on image searches and . Now back again, so may simply have been rejuggling, as it's a fairly new lens.

This last week, traffic has picked up again - although the total number of visits doesn't seem to change much.

Cosplaying Mother Gothel: Lost ALL traffic, except for image searches, but was also linked from TVTropes, which fed a steady stream of referrals. Newer than the Mother Gothel lens.

For the last week, I've been seeing regular, if inconsistent, search results.

 These first two are entirely original and without much competition. They're also relatively new - I blame most of the changes on the fact that they're competing with sites like IMDB, that the frenzy of the new release of Tangled is dying down a bit, and because they're well within the 'Google juggling results while deciding where they should go' time frame.

Top Lesbian Media however, is the one that hurt. It had just started raking in traffic from Google (previously mainly referral traffic - a lot of it!), and was steadily over 30 visitors a day (which was awesome, as the first few months it was around 10 a day). The DAY after the update, all traffic vanished.

In the last couple of weeks, it received no traffic at all - except for two completely random, and separate, days when suddenly it would get 20-30 hits from search traffic.I did edit and tweak but I don't really think I did anything worth bringing traffic back - and nothing to explain why it then disappeared again, so clearly Google was literally juggling my lens up and down!

The last few days, traffic is back, and better than ever. This makes me happy, as not only was it a huge amount of work, it actually makes sales.

THIS one I think I can blame on the Farmer update. The vast majority of this lens is just Amazon links (plexos, mostly, because of the number of items I'm listing, and so I can add more, and so people can vote). It is, basically, a nearly pure sales lens. I do have a fair bit of original content, but the ratio of sales stuff to 'me' stuff is markedly different from many other lenses. And I think the fact that it's so wide a niche meant that google needed a bit more overall authority before it would trust it enough to send all the really niche searches to (e.g. lesbian books... okay. What KIND?)

But it's back now. So I'm happy.

There has been one other effect that I've noticed - I'm more motivated to actually write something, add a bit more, make it mine. And editing old lenses, I've been deleting many of the Wikipedia modules - they're fluff, background noise, that doesn't give my lens any extra value or interest or authority. And I KNOW no-one ever clicks the links to read more, whereas they do occasionally in lists of 'further links about this topic'.

Topics people think led to penalties:

  • Duplicate content
  • Content on 'junk/spam' topics
  • Belonging to specific types of website
  • Evil demons
  • Too many no_follow or affiliate or outward links
Personally, I only really think the first two are valid, although I'm holding out for invisible demon lolcats in the internet. But I think they wouldn't be able to resist leaving glowing red pawprints on pages.

Monday 14 March 2011

Squidoo Sales Lenses Are Of The Devil

Frequently a great deal of internal fuss, discussion and worry arises over so-called 'sales lenses' on Squidoo. To distinguish different lenses, the other kind is the 'content lens' by default. I have finally tired of this endless debate and am writing up my thoughts on the matter. (So let this be the end of it! ENOUGH already!).

My credentials in this area, as bias appears to be the main suspicion levelled at lensmasters who join into this discussion: I have 181 lenses as of today. They cover EVERY possible type of (non-Squid Don't!) lens you could create, including some junky ones. I have huge informational lenses, quick focussed sale pages, long list-y sales pages, unfocussed lenses, fan pages, how to pages, book reviews, art pages, pages with nothing for sale at all and pages with nothing else.

My successes and failures span the entire range. I haven't a clue which get the most blessings - although that's probably the Squidoo help lenses (thank goodness, as Squidoo'ers are the only visitors they get!). Writing a variety of lenses, and trying something new, is probably the best advice I could give.

Content Lenses

All lenses are content lenses to me, unless they are basically contentless, in which case they are junk. A useful product and description or curated list of products counts as content. So I will not bother to discuss content lenses further as I consider it a false distinction. Sales lenses are a sub-category, not a distinct class.

Why Do People Care About Sales Lenses?

People care for several reasons.

1. What kind of lenses shall I make?
2. Are the current lenses I have any good?
3. What should I do about this lens I have found?

Number 3 is the one that generates the most discussion, but 1. and 2. fuel it and tend to be a constant background worry. Lensmasters, either while browsing, or in pursuit of Angel duties come across lenses that may worry them. So they come to the forum and say...

Should I bless sales lenses?
I found this really spammy sales lens that...
This category is full of really crap sales lenses, what do I do?
Which types of lenses sell the most?
Can sales lenses get high lensrank?

And then doth the manure impact upon the air-creating and social signalling device.

Now, a lot of this is lazy definition - or in many cases, simply a description of the type of lens that is junky. Whether it's a relevant description... well, it gives the respondents a framework. Unfortunately (in this context!) lenses are not allowed to be identified negatively on the forums, so people often have to be quite circumspect.

What is a 'sales lens'? (Intent versus composition)

I have two mental categories, and I think these are the two main definitions floating around for 'sales lens'.

Category 1. A lens listing stuff for sale
Category 2. A lens intending to sell stuff

Most lenses fall under category 1 - it makes sense to add related books, awesome figures, glue for the crafts project you are describing. But the lenses I think people classify as 'content' lenses, either have nothing for sale, or could stand on their own without promoting any products.

 Personally, when I think of a 'sales lens', I think of a lens that is designed purely to sell something (Category 2). Sometimes they are obvious - the 'pure' sales lenses, consisting mostly of Amazon modules, products, and descriptions.

Sometimes they are less obvious, being perhaps a single focussed page about the merits of a single item, and a lot of content around it. Here, it's a really fine balance - you can classify some easily, but not others. Looking at the content, it's all about selling the product. Looking at the modules and types of content, it's almost all non-sale modules and writing and images.

Lots of lenses are easily both, but people lump them into whichever category is being discussed at the time, and worry even more than they need to!

Why do 'sales lenses' come up so often when people ask if they should report/ding/take other actions?

Now, first, people are mainly asking because they want to do the right thing. Whether they don't want to pass by a lens without reporting it, but aren't sure if it deserves it, or have noticed that they don't usually bless sales lenses. This means that they'll come and ask what to do. And 'sales' lenses come up more often, to the point where people are getting defensive about them.

Spammy sales lenses are easier to catch, but harder to figure out what to do with. (NB: Bad = spammy and/or junky - telling the difference is where most people have problems).

A non-obviously-sale-lens can be: 
  • plagiarised
  • On a Squid Don't topic
  • unnoticed
A 'bad' sales lens is either"
  • pushing Squid Don'ts very hard 
  • or is just completely irrelevant and clearly designed with the thought that 'hey, people buy STUFF from Amazon!' 
(the latter usually being junk not spam).

I mean, a lens about the awesomeness of acai berry supplements is usually a big push to BUY THIS AWESOME PRODUCT - but if it was a different lens, based on content/sales rations, it could easily be classed as a 'content' lens.

What is a GOOD sales lens?

1. To the lensmaster: One that makes sales.
I am not here to explain how to make a best-selling sales lens - while it might be a future post, I'm not the greatest seller on Squidoo!

2. To people searching for that topic: One that offers them what they want.

3. To random browsers and the Squidoo community: Ah. It's complicated. 

These people are the ones who come with questions, and don't really know the answers. I mean, the first two groups are easy - they're simple yes/no type answers. But Angels and other Squidoo'ers are generally not interested in buying anything, so they must judge based on the rest of the lens, based on the same three main factors as they would for any other lens..

  • Content
  • Presentation
  • TOS Compliance (technically not an on-lens factor, but it cancels out the first two)

This may include various media such as text, images, videos and links, or mostly consist of products. The former can be judged as an lens is, on quality and relevance. The latter, the sale items, are very difficult to judge objectively, if you are not interested in the products.

There are some very general guidelines you can follow:
  • Are the products all relevant? Yes? GOOD sign. And really the whole point of the lens!
  • Do they look like a thoughtful selection? You can't judge if the item is any good or not, but if it looks iffy and they don't offer a reason for their choice, then maybe they just grabbed randomly.
  • A good sign that some thought went into it is handpicked items in the Spotlight module, and personalised product descriptions.
  • Failing that, if it's a long list type lens, then that it is organised into useful categories
  • Heck, do you know roughly what you'll get if you click on the items?


This is the same as for any lens. While a sales lens layout might differ, all the usual rules of good presentation still apply. For example:

  • spelling and grammar
  • No default module titles
  • A nice balance of images and text

TOS Compliance
This one should probably have been first, but I'm being alphabetical and hierarchical today. If a lens is plagiarised, a Squid Don't or violates the TOS in any other way, it doesn't really matter how well it's written or how pretty it looks. (Oh, and we 'report happy Squidoo police' are vindicated - it looks like the recent Google Panda Update was aimed at those very Squid Don't topics, so removing them was good for Squidoo as a whole (check out these two articles My Theory on the Google Algo Change/Farmer Update and Google Panda/Farmer Update Cont'd) *na na na na na na na na na na na na BATMAN*)

Whew. Rant over? Feel free to discuss and point out areas I've missed in the comments!

Thursday 10 March 2011

Which is the best Squidoo earning module? From Amazon to iTunes!

This is just a quick overview of the various commission earning modules available on Squidoo and my experiences of them - bear in mind that people who focus on specific niches may find better success with certain modules than me.

Obviously! This is the 'old faithful' module - Amazon has almost everything you might need to offer, on every topic, and people generally trust the site. Due to both the wide range of offerings, and the reliablity and trust value, this is the steadiest, best earner for most people.

The various types of Amazon module allow you to show off your products in different ways, it automatically pulls the prices, and it looks nice on a lens. It's almost always best to select the products yourself, unless you're searching a very specific category that is highly unlikely to produce unpleasant surprises.

The maximum number of Amazon modules per lens is now twenty - You can of course mix it up by using your own affiliate account.

Not quite as big as Amazon (on Squidoo) due to the fact that it slows lenses down a lot more, and the listings can change, eBay is the next main earner for Squidoo lensmasters. How big depends on the topics people write about - eBay is good for crafts materials, rare items and collectibles, and second hand items. These may no longer be sold in stores (or on Amazon), or simply be a great bargain.

There's only one type of module, and it has to search for the latest listings everytime the lens is loaded, slowing it down significantly - this is probably the main reason that the limit is now five modules per lens.

eBay commissions are not as straightforward\. Each click from Squidoo is awarded a certain value by eBay and the total amount paid two months later. Squidoo divides up the payments among lensmasters who make sales - the amount is based on the listing fees, rather than the sale price. Because the click is attributed to the site it comes from, you can't use your own affiliate links.

Once the major print on demand site of the internet, Cafepress has successfully angered and driven away the majority of its affiliates. The module itself can be buggy and only offers one style.

Cafepress is good for the odd products, and the arty ones, designed by 'real people' - however, many are also offered through Amazon now. While Cafepress has a higher commission, it rarely seems to sell anything these days. Reporting is hard to track, as Cafepress only shows up as 'misc pending earnings' on the dashboard.

Zazzle is the new favourite POD site of the net, and it's my preferred spot to sell my own art. Unfortunately, while the Zazzle module is pretty, it doesn't give you a referral. Instead, all referrals go into the general ad pool.

If you want a referral from Zazzle (and they offer a nice 15%!), then you need to build your own links. This lens about using Zazzle lists all the helpful Squidoo lenses available on that topic.

iTunes and Amazon Mp3
Music sales tend to be rare, and the commission is tiny - but some people may be focussing on this niche more than me. I've never, to my knowledge, had an iTunes sale, but the reporting doesn't yet say 'itunes' that I know of. Each module may offer songs the other doesn't, and both look slightly different, so may suit different layouts.

There is currently a bug with the iTunes module (in Chrome, usually) in which the first track of each module on the lens autoplays. This is very bad!

No other module earns a commission on Squidoo.

Lenses that explain the various modules in more (or different) detail:

Monday 7 March 2011

Squidoo Payday Pending Money Stats

About a week before payday (roughly) eBay royalties update on the dashboard, and an estimate of our total pending money appears from the 'Stats' button in the toolbar across the top of the workshop (see some screenshots from michelle89).

Last month however, my mother discovered her first major payout details appearing elsewhere.

The Earnings tab.

Squidoo has improved its reporting - Amazon sales and pending revenue now appears as soon as it's confirmed in this tab! And the pending estimate is consistently about 67% of the final payout (for THIS month)

Payment for January (paid in March)
Tier 1

31/01/11Ad Pool$25.29

Pending in workshop view:$20.53
Total actual: $30.41

Tier 2 with Tier 1 Infolinks & Chitika

31/01/11Ad Pool$4.30

Pending in workshop view:: $6.36
Total actual: $9.42


Tier 2

31/01/11Ad Pool$4.30
Pending in workshop view: $3.49
Total actual: $5.17

Tier 3
31/01/11Ad Pool$0.22
Pending in workshop view: $0.18
Total actual: $0.26

Thursday 3 March 2011

Sketchblog and New Graphics Tablets: Horned Girls, Painted

I got a replacement graphics tablet! Another second-hand one off TradeMe, but an upgrade on the Bamboo from two years ago - I nabbed an 6x11 inch Intuos3 for less than half the new price, and while it comes minus box, CDs, and any other extras, I don't need those anyway, and it looks completely unscratched and works beautifully.

It's also twice the size of my old Bamboo fun (which was great while it lasted, until the pen went AWOL - but also bought secondhand, so it was getting pretty scratched up).

From previous research, there isn't really much difference between the Intuos3 and the Intuos4, so I don't care that it's an older model. Works fine, anyway. I think it is actually better than the Bamboo - which was markedly better than the budget Dick Smith brand one from before that (which started dying after three years).

And of course, I fired up ArtRage and uninstalled the old Bamboo drivers and installed the shiny new Intuos ones - the only real problem with Wacom is that it isn't very good at creating drivers that can simply install over pre-existing versions. Haven't quite got the pressure sensitivity working in ArtRage Studio Pro yet, but I think it just needed one more computer restart... so after I get home from work today. In the meantime, ArtRage 2.5 is still slightly easier and more fun for colouring anyway.

ANYWAY I slept not at all last night, and spent the time watching Castle (Nathan Fillion and... whoever plays Beckett = awesome love). And painted. I've been desperate to paint for ages - and I've finally learnt how to sketch and leave it clear enough, and finished enough, to paint over easily later (without having to redraw the danged thing). With the latest series (the horned girls from this post) I really like the pencil textures. Need to rescan two of them though, on the better scanner.

Thoughts: mostly very pleased. Definitely got a theme going - golds, browns, reds and whites.And purple eyes! Just so happy to be painting again, really. I've had the first one in my head for the last few days, bugging me.
Shading really adds an extra touch to it - the horns, eyes and lips are the most real, and I'm playing with fading out to/contrasting with abstract-background textures for the hair and clothing. I want to keep going with this series - and I know just the face I really want to draw next.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

My Awesome Table Easel

I just realised, while posting up my last batch of drawings, that I hadn't gushed about my easel yet.

So I wrote a lens about it. My favourite Table Easel is the Ravenna Table Easel, pictured with my cat on the left.

I got it for Christmas, and I love it. My traditional art tends to suffer from perspective problems - the far end of the paper ends up too far away to see quite straight on, so my figures get giant heads...

So a nice angled easel that I can carry around the house and set up anywhere, at any height, and any angle I choose? Awesomeness.

Tuesday 1 March 2011

A Year of the Cat: OOC: Return of the Cat

A Year of the Cat: OOC: Return of the Cat: "My cat is back with me, and will be making an appearance again on this blog. She is fit and healthy and happy, and (I suspect) has been thor..."

Just a head's up for anyone who remembers that my cat was rather worryingly ill (i.e. uncontrollable shaking) last week. She's now fine, and my parents have (grudgingly) released her back into my care, so the photoblog will be starting up again.

Sketchblog: Horned Girls

Having fun with some portrait practice - someone nice gave me a new A4 sketchbook for my birthday, just as I reached the last page of my little one. Add in a fantastic Ravenna Table Easel that my wonderful parents found me for Christmas, and I went on a drawing spree (it's awesome, because otherwise I have perspective issues when drawing on a flat surface).

I grabbed various reference images - mostly magazine photos - and practiced some portrait sketching. And then I got creative and had fun adding horns - twisty, ram, deer, bull, imaginary horns. Whichever suited the face. I want to keep going with this series!

I've also got a new tablet arriving soon, so hopefully can paint some of these in ArtRage.

I like doing these because:
1. Portrait practice is always good, and I'm getting better at it (a higher percentage of my drawings actually make the 'is it worth showing online' quality test now)
2. The horns allow me to add my own spin, and engage the creative part of my brain, not just the 'angles and shadows' part.
3. It's interesting thinking up different types of horn!

I do need to make sure my reference picture is large enough though - it's hard to draw properly from a tiny thumb-sized image (as for the last two pictures), and makes it harder to mess around with the composition. Also, the scanner at University (first three pictures) is a hundred times better than the new/old one at work (the old one broke, we have a temporary crappy stand-in).