What the Squidoo?

Squidoo is a content publishing site founded by Seth Godin. Users build “lenses” that share their view on a certain topic.

I’ve been a Squidoo proponent and user: I’ve built lenses for my own business and for clients; I’ve often advised that lenses can be part of an internet marketing plan.

But the truth is: I’ve struggled to love Squidoo. That was true back in 2010 when I critiqued Squidoo’s strategy and ranted a bit about why I didn’t like them. Since then, I’ve built some lenses now and then.

One lens that I built a year or so ago was a lens about financial fiction — a genre of fiction about money and the stock market (including movies like Wall Street and Boiler Room). Of all the lenses I built, that one was the post popular, ranking well in search engines. Additionally, it was probably the most fun for me to create, since I would add a review every time I read a financial fiction book.

But then I got an email from Squidoo that changed everything. Their email — sent out to many users at once — essentially said “there are problems with your lens and if you don’t fix those problems, we’re going to ‘lock’ your lens until those problems are fixed.”

I clicked over the Squidoo to find out what the problems are (the email hinted at several possible problems and their goal was to reduce spammy lenses — fair enough). I signed into Squidoo and learned that the complaint about my lens was: “You have too many nofollow links pointing to your lens.”

Then they explained the way to fix it (which I’m paraphrasing): “Avoid posting nofollow links to your lens from forums and blog comments”.

I was puzzled because I have never posted a nofollow link to my lens. In fact, the only places I’ve posted about my lens at all have been here on my blog and over at my Google+ page. Any other links — whether follow or nofollow — were posted by someone else (I have no idea who or where).

Are you seeing the problem here? They have a problem with my lens and are going to shut it down unless I fix it — but the problem they have isn’t something that I control, so their solution is inadequate.

That’s like me telling my friend whose car was wrecked because someone ran a red light: “You can avoid collisions in the future by driving more carefully”. It is A solution to a related problem but it’s not an effective solution to the current problem.

Squidoo runs a forum for its users and numerous threads about this problem have been created, including this thread and this thread and this thread, as well as others that are less specific to this problem. Yet as I write this, Squidoo has yet to respond to the problem on any of the threads.

The moral of the story: I have a decent quality lens that has actually won me back to Squidoo that they now want to shut down because someone else has posted nofollow links to it.

This is an excellent lesson in the realities of posting on media that you do not pay for.

For that reason, I’m shutting down my financial fiction site and posting it here on an upcoming blog post.

And if you’re from Squidoo and you’re reading this (which is highly unlikely: Hey, you have a site that has an active and avid userbase and you are pissing a lot of them off. Your value proposition to some of us (especially B2B publishers) is a little fuzzy and could use some cleaning up but there was so much promise. I respect your desire to reduce the spamminess of the site (and some of the other problems you are addressing in this same sweep are legitimate spamminess issues) but nofollow links are links that your users have little control over and cannot easily correct.

A former user

What I’m working on this week (July 22 – 26)

I’ve got lots to do today and had a late start to the morning. So enough chit-chat, let’s dive right in to the stuff I’m working on this week:

  • Write an article for a mortgage broker
  • Outline a book for the same mortgage broker
  • Write 14 articles for a credit expert
  • Write a press release for a real estate investor
  • Write a couple of blogs for a software company that as developed a mortgage app
  • Wrap up some copywriting for a real estate investor
  • Outline (and perhaps starting to write) a report for a real estate investor
  • Write a sales letter for a
  • I also really need to edit my own book. (Note to self: Apparently that work gets deprioritized a lot)
  • Put together a magazine ad to promote my real estate investor copywriting
  • Pitch proposals #26 to #30 as part of my 100 proposals in 100 days

Aaron Hoos’ weekly reading list: ‘Referrals, ineffective advertising, and encouragement’ edition

Aaron Hoos: Weekly reading list

Here are some things I read this week — applicable to all the audiences I write for (entrepreneurs, financial professionals, and real estate professionals)…

  • 5 proven ways to drive more word of mouth referrals. It’s well known that word of mouth referrals are among the best and most profitable type of “marketing” there is. But it also seems like you can’t control it. But in this excellent article, the writer describes some ways that you can empower others to spread the word about your business. A must-read for everyone!
  • Free exchange: Ad scientists. In this article at The Economist, the writer talks about online ads and how an increase in ad results and sales may not necessarily meant that the ads are working. (The sound you hear is your whole world shattering). I’m spending a lot of time thinking about data, econometrics, statistics, and analytics in advertising and this was a really good (but alarming) read.
  • The dipper and the bucket: A leadership principle. In this article at Realtor.org, Scott Lalli describes how we all have a bucket and we all have a dipper. The bucket (which seems to be shorthand for our psychological/emotional well-being) can be full, which leads to contentment, or can be empty, which leads to dissatisaction. But it’s the dipper that makes all the difference, he says. Lalli says that the dipper can be used to fill our own bucket or to take away from others. It’s a good way to think about how our interactions can impact the people we connect with.

100 proposals in 100 days — Update

For the past 3 weeks, I’ve been rocking out a new challenge — 100 proposals in 100 days.

As the name suggests, I’ve been writing a proposal every single day and sending them out to prospective clients, joint venture partners, or magazines.

I just finished day 21 yesterday, which you can see from my blurry, hand-drawn tracking chart…


It was so satisfying to finish the first row (#1-#20 — one fifth of the challenge!) and it’s just as satisfying to be celebrating 3 weeks of successful completion. (You can see my other updates: Update #1 and Update #2, if you’re curious). I’ve written one proposal every single day for the past 21 days. (Today is the 22nd day and I haven’t written today’s yet).

So how have I been doing? Here’s a quick breakdown:

Of the 21 proposals…
11 proposals are for client work to new clients
2 proposals are for client work to existing clients
4 proposals are to magazines
4 proposals are to joint venture partners

As I mentioned in a previous update, I tend to write really good proposals to clients (new and existing) for ongoing work, and I tend to struggle with writing magazine proposals, because they are less familiar to me and because the turnaround time on hearing back from magazine editors is so much longer than it is for clients.

And how have the results from my proposals been?

4 have asked me to start the work
5 have expressed an interest, asked for more info, or we’re in discussion/negotiation
12 haven’t replied (yet!!!)
0 have turned me down

I’m pretty happy with those results. In the past 21 days, I’ve started on 4 projects — that’s great! I’m not too concerned about the 12 that haven’t replied. Since 4 of them are magazines, it wouldn’t be unusual for them to reply a month or two later. Even if I move one or two more from “discussion” into “start” and 1 or two from “haven’t replied” to “discussion”, that will be great progress. And no one has flat-out told me no, either, which is kind of nice.

I’m planting seeds and loving this challenge. And with the exception of one day that I almost forgot (and just snuck the proposal in under the wire at 11:58!) I wake up excited each day to write a proposal to a new prospect… and that is exactly the mindset I wanted to get back into after being out of it for so long.

Ideas about risk that we have totally wrong

I’ve been reading Aswath Damodaran’s book Strategic Risk Taking: A Framework for Risk Management. It’s a great read and I reluctantly had to put it aside while guests where here; I’ve just picked it up again and am continuing to devour it; I read some of the book and then reflect on how it impacts my business, my clients’ businesses, my readers’ businesses, and my thoughts of the capital and real estate markets… and then I read some more.

As I’ve been reading, I keep coming back to the idea that people can get pretty screwed up when it comes to risk. We think we’re risk averse, and sometimes we act that way, but other times we make decisions that are explicitly (or implicitly) risk-welcoming.

Here are some that I see frequently. (And believe me, I’m not judging people who think these things because I myself face some of these same ideas!)

  • Buying stocks high instead of low and selling low instead of high: Investors see stock prices really low and decide to wait and see if the price goes up before they buy. This mindset is a problem because investors need to buy low and sell high but all too often, investors (especially amateur investors) wait until the stock is high before they buy (because, in their mind, the high price is confirmation that the stock is worth buying). The same is true of stocks that investors hold: They should sell high but instead they see the prices declining and they want to cut their losses so they sell low. We all KNOW that we are supposed to buy low and sell high but we often do the opposite.
  • Buying properties: The same thing happens with properties. Homebuyers may feel that prices are too low to buy (perhaps because they are expecting prices to continue to decline?) and they’d rather wait for prices to go up. But rising prices can make some houses unaffordable. It’s better to buy when the prices are low.
  • Timing the market: Similar to above, many investors try to time the market. They know they’re supposed to buy low and sell high so when the stock is low they think it might keep going lower so they don’t want to buy right now. They wait. The stock goes down. Then the stock goes up. Then the stock goes down. Then the stock goes up. A stock “bottom” shouldn’t be thought of as the lowest point but rather it should be thought of as a window in which the stock price is low.
  • Investing in crazy things: Many investors would say they are risk averse when investing in the capital markets. They buy mutual funds or blue chips because their financial advisor tells them to and they claim to be careful with their investments. But then they hear a “hot tip” from their neighbor about an amazing biotech IPO and their whole risk-aversion flies out the window.
  • Buying lottery tickets: This one is really fascinating to me. If you were to ask someone to throw away a couple of bucks into the trash everyday, they would think you are crazy. And yet, people spend a lot of money in lottery tickets every week without considering the odds.
  • Wanting to quit a job but being willing to take the risk: Wow, I see this so often! People who want to quit their job (because they hate it or their salary is capped or they want some freedom) but they can’t handle the small risk of an unknown paycheck. The weird part is, there are many things they can do in the interim period as they build a small start-up before they quit their job but they just don’t do it. They’re content to watch TV in the evenings and go to work during the day and dream… but that’s it.
  • Wanting to grow a business but not wanting to risk anything: I see this one a lot too! Business owners who start a business and want to grow it but aren’t willing to invest anything into their business. So you get people who want to market their business but they hire the cheapest non-English-speaking writers to create their marketing and then wonder why their marketing isn’t connecting with clients. Or business owners who know they should build a mailing list but don’t want to invest in the software to get them there.
  • Investing in the wrong things: I see this one a lot among real estate investors — they invest tens of thousands of dollars into training over decades but won’t take the risk of doing a deal. (One of my clients calls these people “7 year newbies”).

In all of these examples, you can see how we approach risk in a puzzling way. We claim to be smart about risks but then we act inconsistently, sometimes choosing the risk-averse way and sometimes choosing the risk-accepting way (and sometimes being too much of one or the other)… and often doing the opposite of what we should be doing.

Is there a solution? I don’t think my one measly blog post is going to erase thousands of years of questionable risk judgement. However, whenever faced with a decision that involves risk, we should ask ourselves how we should be acting and compare it to how we really do act and then try to figure out why there is often a difference.