Former Citizen Squid and WoW fanatic Pandrogas reveals his lens building secrets, strategies and his love for the fantasy realm…
Glen: How did you discover Squidoo?
Pandrogas: I found out about Squidoo after reading a post on Seth Godin’s blog about it just after the site had come out of beta. It looked like an interesting website and I decided to take a crack at it.
Glen: You have a lot of WoW lenses. What made you decide to specialize on that topic?
Pandrogas: I’ve been playing WoW for a while now (I own just about every Blizzard game since Warcraft: Humans and Orcs), so it made some sense to go after an area that I not only knew something about, but which had little coverage at the time. Around this time, I had started up GoblinJoe.com (currently on hiatus pending server upgrades), and so I started with the gold making lens. From there it just kind of spread out and I still have a long ways to go to fill in the details for the remaining WoW lenses.
Glen: For these lenses, do you have an ideal number of modules you like to include and why?
Pandrogas: I don’t have an ideal number per se, but I have a general setup that I like to use and then reconfigure it based on what I’m working on. Usually it goes like: Intro, Text / Write (Usually a picture to help draw attention downward), Text / Write (general information, or maybe a small section), so on and so forth, Amazon module, Links module, and finally a guestbook module in most cases (occasionally followed up by another picture for flavor). I like to use this for my lenses, but by all means, mixing it up is also a great way to build lenses. Build a layout around the content and the story you want to present and that’s what’s going to work out best in the end.
Glen: What made you choose to make several lenses on different angles of the same topic, rather than making one very long lens?
Pandrogas: Because nobody reads anything online and nobody likes waiting for the page to load. It’s kind of an older model for designing sites based off news content (from the early days of the web). Kind of like taking a hub with spokes, you give the user control by allowing them to get a general feel for stuff then shifting it to the areas where they want greater detail. Overall it just tends to make more sense and allows more opportunities for rich design spread across several lenses.
Glen: What success secret can you divulge?
Pandrogas: See, now that’s tough because the forums are rather comprehensive on this topic. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but having a passion for what you’re creating and writing about is a big key. If I didn’t like what I was doing, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be doing it. In terms of success, my lenses have mostly been used for promoting certain topics or sites, so money wise, I haven’t made a lot of say, Amazon sales, but I have driven a good deal of traffic to my sites and seem to be doing okay with the ad revenue from Squidoo.
Glen: What are you doing to generate traffic to your lenses?
Pandrogas: Mostly relying on back linking from my sites or using Lensroll.com from time to time. I tend to try and keep my lenses tagged well and adapt those tags based on incoming traffic. In addition to that, I have a couple groups that link back into the lenses (and the lenses link to each other in cross-promotion).
Glen: How often are you updating your lenses?
Pandrogas: Not often enough. Lol. I try to get around to updating them when I can, but work has a tendency to take up a lot of time. Plus there are the games that I play (WoW, Eve, Guild Wars, Pirates of The Burning Seas, etc.). This is the biggest area that I need to work on with my Squidoo lenses and groups.
Glen: Do you have a favorite html trick?
Pandrogas: I have a couple. The first is the larger inset lettering you’ll see leading off the text sections in some of my Warcraft lenses. It’s really great for getting attention from the reader to start on a section. The other is just including pictures and links in sections in a standalone fashion to break up the monotony of the lens. Okay, so it’s more of a design trick, but I’m using HTML to do it.
Glen: Do you have any tricks for encouraging your lenses viewers’ participation through any of the interaction modules?
Pandrogas: Not really, I try to ask for participation in some of the lenses, but mostly it’s limited to guestbook and voting modules. Additional interaction is something I’m going to try to add in more as time goes on though.
Glen: Do you start with an idea and then figure out how to monetize it, or start with a product and then figure out how to promote it?
Pandrogas: A little bit of both. I lot of what I do is generally based around products, so I try to promote whatever side of that product that I’m focusing on, then monetize as I see the opportunity for it. The one exception so far has been t-shirts and some software (via affiliate links) and in those cases, it’s about promoting and showcasing as best as possible.
Glen: Do you focus on a specific, narrowly-defined keyword or phrase, or do you get traffic from a variety of different phrases and keywords?
Pandrogas: I start with very specific keywords and tags, then adapt it as time goes on either from suggestion or traffic. This is the stuff that usually takes a lot more attention to detail, so it may take a while with some lenses.
Glen: What’s your favorite white-hat SEO trick?
Pandrogas: I view SEO as the ability to build a good site. So thus, build a good lens, tag it the right way and stop trying to game the system in really fun (but stupid) ways, and I think that’s about as much SEO as you need.
Glen: What non-Squidoo book or other resource have you found that helps you with your lenses?
Pandrogas: Well, I have a host of books and ideas around me that I try and use for inspiration. Purple Cow was definitely a great way to get started in marketing ideas and so are the Wizard of Ads books. Beyond that, I just look around, blogs, websites, pictures, books, anything that catches my eye can provide a good insight into what I’m trying to accomplish.
Glen: What common mistake do you see even experienced lensmasters make?
Pandrogas: Tough call. Everyone has a different style of doing things. I guess the most common mistake I see is too much content, not enough break points in that a user can get bogged down in a longer paragraph (and people don’t read stuff online in large doses). The solution is pretty simple (break up the longer paragraphs), but the execution is up to the lensmaster.
Glen: What mistakes have you corrected as you’ve built up your Squidoo expertise?
Pandrogas: Building junk lenses for the real estate value of the extension. Not that this is a mistake as much as an “I’ll never do that again” sort of thing. I’m still working through stuff and I still have a long way to go to getting many of the lenses I have up to par quality wise.
Glen: What are your three favorite things about Squidoo?
Pandrogas: The flexibility of the lens building, the great people in the community, and the way the site is run.
Glen: Do you have a schedule or management tip for managing multiple lenses?
Pandrogas: If you have to manage a lens, try not to over manage. It sounds counter-intuitive, but balancing out updates seems to be a pretty effective way to run lenses. Groups can be managed more frequently, but quality is still key, try not to make up for it with quantity.
Glen: At what point did you realize how much you loved Squidoo?
Pandrogas: The day I got the invite for the Citizen Squids. I totally wasn’t expecting it and it made me feel good that they cared about what we thought and did as a community and a set of individuals.
Glen: What is it about Squidoo – be it a person, feature, reason – that has caused you to stick around?
Pandrogas: I could say the money, but more or less the community, the… Ecosystem that is Squidoo is a good thing and pretty tight as a group. A great community and staff is a good enough reason to stick around anywhere, especially a website.
Glen: What is your own favorite lens and why?
Pandrogas: I would have to say they my favorite lens of my own is the Warcraft Gold lens. It’s the one I worked the longest on and it’s one that I’ve had the most creative fun with. Second to that, I could say the warlock lens for pretty much the same reasons.
Glen: Where do you write the content for your lenses? (Home, office, coffee shop, commuting)
Pandrogas: All over the place. Most of the time, I tend to sit down and write, but most often what I’m writing are thoughts and ideas that I’ve cooked up while looking at something at work, pacing around at home, watching TV, reading the news, taking a walk. Everywhere is a good place to start when gathering ideas.
Glen: What’s your favorite module and why?
Pandrogas: The write module. It lets me do whatever I want, no questions asked.
Glen: If you could spend the day with a fellow lensmaster, who would it be and why?
Pandrogas: Hmm… Tough question, can’t we just get a bunch of lensmasters together for a day and decide then? We could call it… Squid*Con. To be honest, I’m not certain I could pick just one person.
Glen: How did you get your username?
Pandrogas: It’s from a book called the Shattered World, which went out of print in 1984. I picked it up in like 5th or 6th grade and it was really the first mature fantasy book I had read at that point. The main character, Pandrogas, was a mage looking to put the world back together while trying to keep it from falling apart. It left a mark on me. Plus, like, nobody else is really using this name.
Glen: What’s the topic of the next lens you’re working on?
Pandrogas: I imagine it will be updates to my existing lenses; most of them need major updates, especially my bio lens, which hasn’t really been updated in like a couple years. The title of that lens is: “Looking Back at the Future.”
Glen: What three words best describes your fondness for Squidoo?
Pandrogas: Ecosystem, flexibility, ideas.