The very first post of this blog kicked off with a mention of Seth Godin and his website Squidoo.
The purpose of Squidoo was for a writer to take one topic, and a very focused piece of that topic, and get up close and personal with it. To put it under a magnifying lens.
These articles were called "lenses". And the writers were called "Lensmasters".
When Squidoo worked best was when a Lensmaster would write about a subject that they were either a) passionate about, or b) researched.
At its worse, and what would cause its ultimate demise, was people cranking out spam articles on things that they had no idea about, but merely copy and pasted content from other sites rather than creating the content themselves.
Squidoo, and its writers, made money by either contextual marketing (eg: Google Adsense ads) or affiliate products (eg: Amazon). If you read a book or watched a DVD and wrote a review about either of those things, you could place that product in your lens, and if people clicked through and bought the item, you got a commission on that sale (which was split 50/50 with Squidoo Inc).
The process of creating (publishing) a lens was to claim the URL. That's the web address. Many, myself included, liked keyword URLs which were simple. Such as "kitchensink". So the URL was www.squidoo.com/kitchensink
I grabbed ktichensink because Amazon had everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink. I decided I would write an article on kitchen sinks.
What did I know about kitchen sinks? I had no experience or knowledge about kitchen sinks, except for using them to wash up the dishes. It wasn't a topic I was passionate about. They were not my obsession. I had to do some research.
One of the things I learned at Squidoo, through the exchange of information and encouragement within the community via the forum, was keyword research. Finding out not just what people were searching for, but also what advertisers were paying Google for a click thru on sponsored ads within their search results and also through the Adsense program (that is their ads being seen on third party websites). These businesses were known as "Adwords advertisers".
When I used Google's Keyword Search Tool to find out what kitchen sinks were worth, one of the search terms being used was "undermount versus overmount sink". And I decided that that was going to be the focus of my article.
I researched it. Found out the benefits for and against each type of sink. And then picked a selection of each from Amazon, and inserted them (this was very easy, just copying and pasting the product number, the ASIN, into the fields) and added a couple of images of sinks to the article, and hit publish.
Publishing was instantaneous, but I can't tell you exactly how long it took Google to find and rank the article according to how much value they thought it would be for their users, but it didn't take long for it to be "indexed".
Because it was fresh and original content it did well quickly. In fact, coming up on the first page of results for a search for "undermount versus overmount sink". The first page of results is great. Top five is better (above the fold) and number one... well that is obviously the crowning achievement.
Millions of people weren't searching for "undermount versus overmount sink". Searches for this term was not in the thousands per month. If I recall correctly, it was in the hundreds. Which is a very small number globally, but the amount of $$$ advertisers were willing to pay for just one click meant that if they could get a person on their site, they felt certain they could sell them a sink. And that, lets say three bucks fifty it cost them for the click, could be converted into a $350 sale, or maybe more. There were some keywords that advertisers would pay $50 for, even more! For just one click!
In that first month of the article being live my lens got quality traffic. These people would have read my article, perhaps understood the subject matter a little better to make a more informed buying choice, and some clicked through to Amazon and a few of those bought kitchen sinks. In that first month I sold 11 kitchen sinks.
I was a kitchen sink salesman and I didn't touch a single one of them. Except for my own.
This was back in 2005.
I can't tell you how many kitchen sinks I sold after that first month, because I'll be honest, it's not a very interesting topic and I didn't keep track. I had gone on to research other areas that piqued my interest, or I continued to write about the things that I knew plenty about. But there was a point where my article did drop from the "SERPs" (Search Engine Results Pages) and the traffic dried up.
That could have been avoided had I made an effort to update the page, added more information, maybe interviewed an actual kitchen sink salesperson. But as I mentioned, I had other fish to fry. And meanwhile someone, somewhere else, published a webpage that had content that Google found more relevant, and rewarded it with a top spot in their results.
This "formula" was successfully implemented by many other Squidoo Lensmasters in selling laptop bags, door mats, bras... you name it. That's one way money was made online, and still is today.
By the way if you want to buy a kitchen sink, I still get a commission on the sale. 😁