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Can You Have Too Many Lenses?

13760712845_ac895a22a3Squidoo lensmaster Colin recently posed this question on our HQ forums:

Can you have too many lenses?

It’s a good question that really got me thinking. The short answer is “Yes, you can have too many lenses.”

Now, don’t go running off to thin the herd just yet. The long answer is important and merits your consideration. Everyone has to answer this for themselves on an on-going basis, but thankfully that’s easier than it sounds.

 

First, I need to remind you that it’s important to keep your lenses fresh. Even if you already know what I mean by fresh, don’t skip this next part, OK?

A lens that’s fresh has:

  • Current, accurate information
  • Working outbound links
  • No broken images
  • No missing or deleted video content
  • No missing Amazon, Etsy, Ebay items
  • No spam comments
  • No Twitter modules showing dormant accounts or searches taken over by spam

I’ll stop there, but you get the idea. Information can go out of date, sites you’ve linked to can disappear off the web, items are discontinued and videos get taken down. When something you added to a lens is no longer adding value to the reader, it’s gotta go. If you’re able to replace the missing item or module with something else, go for it, otherwise, scrap it and get on with your day.

This is the basic “Maintenance” that a lens will need during it’s lifetime to stay fresh.

Another habit that keeps lenses fresh is ongoing edits of your written content. Over time, your writing reveals room for improvement, especially if you’re a beginning writer or new to Squidoo. Sometimes edits are small, like corrections of spelling and grammar errors, unclear phrasing or confusing sentence syntax. Ambitious edits are encouraged too: rewrite a paragraph, add content that answers the questions your readers use as search terms or overhaul an entire lens from the ground up.

You can also add new modules of any kind to expand the depth and breadth of your lens, switch out existing content for something better or cover additional points in any way you see fit.

These are the “Upgrades” you can and should do to improve a lens and keep it fresh.

As you can see from my examples, both of these larger categories contain smaller tasks, projects and opportunities for creativity.  Every lens will present a unique mixture – some lenses require more time and effort to add value (like this one) and others are more low-maintenance (like this one). For most lenses quality is more important than quantity. It’s better to make a meaningful change once a month than a trivial one once a week.

In other words:

Maintenance + Upgrades = Freshness

When you’re deciding how many lenses is too many for you, you need to be honest with yourself about the types of lenses you have and how much you need to put into them to keep them looking their best. The actual number isn’t so important, the experience you’re having is. Try these steps to find the right number of lenses for you.

1. Direct your attention where it works

If you get nothing else out of this, I want it to be this:  The next time you get on Squidoo to write or work on a lens and don’t know where to start, take a moment and direct your attention to where  you are succeeding.

What are you the most proud of? Where do you get the most comments, visits, sales?

Is it the subject, the season or where you’ve shared it that’s working? Does it need maintenance? Upgrades?

Could you create a similar lens to address a topic you haven’t written about yet?

Check your “favorites” and keep them fresh and then strike off in a new direction – work on something similar that you know could be better. Use these lenses as jumping off-points, then improve lenses that need some love, start something new or to tackle your oldest half-finished draft. Learn from your successes and apply that knowledge on other lenses.

2. Have a gameplan

If you have a lot of different kinds of lenses and you’re not sure where you should be going, try sorting your lenses into priority groups to help direct your attention where it’s most useful.

You can use Lens Lists for this or just sort them in your head. An obvious “group” are seasonal lenses – don’t stress out if they’re going into Work in Progress because it’s out of season. Sometimes they are low priority, a few months before they come into season, bump them up again. Don’t slave over lenses you don’t enjoy working on or force yourself to work from the oldest updated lens first.

Prioritize by what makes sense for the season, what you want to write about or what you’re inspired by. If you have lots of lenses to visit and freshen up, break them into batches – check 5 today, 5 tomorrow, 5 this weekend instead of feeling like you have to get all of them today or they’re all doomed.

Be patient with yourself and be reasonable. If you find yourself with more lenses than you think you can handle, a little patience with yourself and a plan can make all the difference.

3. Streamline where it makes sense

Before you delete anything or stop writing new lenses altogether, look for the simple ways to lighten the load.

Combine multiple WIP  lenses with a similar topic into one lens that’s more comprehensive. Between two lenses that need work, work on the one you feel more strongly about. Instead of creating a draft for every idea, write them down on a piece of paper for a week. At the end of the week, keep the ones you like the best. Delete or leave in WIP lenses about recent fads or events of the past (but consider resurrecting them years later to see if nostalgia draws new readers!)

I hope all this information has given you something to think about and new ways to approach your lenses, whether you have 1, 100 or even more. There’s a lot to think about whether you’re actively creating, maintaining your existing lenses or actively paring down, so do what works best for you and remember to keep it fresh and have fun.

 

Now it’s your turn – let me know what you think about the idea of “too many” lenses? Does it matter to you? How many lenses do you have now and what’s your plan for the future? If you already have a sizable number, how do you manage keeping them all fresh?  Let me know in the comments!

Photo Credit: eastmidtown via Compfight cc

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/britflorida britflorida

    That’s great advice, Tom. I have 580 (gulp) but that’s because I’m an addict :) Your point #2 appeals to me particularly because it’s so important to have a plan. I have some time-sensitive lenses that spend much of their life outside paying tiers but that’s fine – they perk up for a couple of months when it’s their time.

    I took part in the forum discussion and the way I look at it is that some of my lenses will be impossible to update because they are too topical (that was a good lesson for me!) That’s fine because there are other things to write about. I don’t see my lenses as permanent ‘works of art’ – more like magazine articles. What was right for July 2012 isn’t necessarily right for 2014. Right. Back to work :)

    • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/DaveStone13 DaveStone13

      Jackie, you are a constant source of inspiration. You combine talent with amazing energy, and along with Tom’s tips here, I hope newcomers will look at your work for examples of how to do it right.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/DaveStone13 DaveStone13

    Tom, this is some of the best advice I’ve read from HQ, advice I wish I got more of when I started out. As a lensmaster with 340 and hoping to push 500 by year’s end, the guidance you’ve given here can help anyone get a ton of lenses up, running and earning. Thanks. Just outstanding.

  • http://LifeInOut.com/ Susan Deppner

    Excellent! I like “Direct your attention where it works.” I’ve found that that’s a big part of a great game plan. Thanks for all your very sensible suggestions, Tom.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/partybuzz partybuzz

    Thanks for this great info. I have 120 lenses and try to visit each one about once a month or so. There are a few that I visit almost daily. I like to use the lens labels, and check on a different label group at one time. Lately, I have completely re-done a few of my older lenses, with great results.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/dbodnariuc dbodnariuc

    Great analytical suggestions Tom. I like to see my lenses getting attention, if they don’t get, I weed them out. If search engines don’t like my writings, they won’t be getting much attention, so it’s time to adjust them. Sometimes this means a complete rewrite, it’s not that hard a complete rewrite when you have inspiration, the facts, and the research is there. Sometimes just tweaking the titles and the modules, and adding some relevant content that you missed before is just enough to make it right in the eyes of search engines.
    A good written lens can take up to 18 months to be ranked by Google, (it happened to me). If after that time my lenses don’t get any traffic, they get recycled.

    • http://tommaybrier.com/ Tom Maybrier

      Patience is often rewarded for a quality lens, you never know when they’re going to take off, sometimes after months of seeing only a trickle of traffic. It’s worth it to keep them around if you’re proud of them and work on them if you’re not.

      • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/Kylyssa Kylyssa

        Sometimes it takes years. Then the right person shares the lens and it takes off.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/vallain vallain

    With over 600 lenses, I apply my efforts to ones that are earning, to the tier one and two lenses, to ones with high traffic and to ones currently in season. Guess that matches what you advise. I also take one bottom-of-the-list lens several times a week to see if it can be edited into a productive state.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/thatgrrl thatgrrl

    I’ve been running my own sites for a long time. One nice thing about the blog format is the dated entries. I consider anything dated to be good on the date it was posted. I seldom update anything. It is easy enough to just write a fresh post with new information and updates. But, that is a blog. Squidoo does not work on the blog format so I do peek in on older lenses and check that all is well with them. I often start with those which are ranking higher so they can keep their shine. But, I do get to all of them, eventually. I have thought about the number of lenses too and how many I have the time and energy to maintain. So far I haven’t reached my limit but I do consider maintenance as I write the lens. So I seldom use the eBay module, it runs of out content too easily.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/thatgrrl thatgrrl

    If you have a lot of lenses to sort through for the gameplan start a free Blogger blog and link to your own lenses. Use the tags feature to sort them by content (or popularity/ rank) and then click through to check them via your Blogger blog. This has the added benefit of giving you extra links to your lenses on an outside source which is very well connected to Google too.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/Merrci Merrci

    I really appreciate what you’ve written here, Tom. It is a smart idea to work on the ones that have the most potential, and accept that some (seasonal lens) may be near the bottom of the list most of the year. It definitely helps direct our focus–so important. Thanks so much for writing this.

  • ChocolateLily

    I definitely think you can have too many lenses, but I’m not there yet. I’ve got 70 featured. One thing I do to keep mine manageable is to not start a lens until I’ve got all the photos, information, etc to publish it, or at least know I will within a couple of days. That way, I can just create the entire lens in a sitting or two. I also try to make each one the best I possibly can before I publish it. That way, I have less edits later. I write all of my ideas down and wait until I get “a bee in my bonnet” about one, which helps fuel writing and creativity. I try to keep my less popular ones edited within a few months of the last edit, and more often (weekly at least) on the higher leveled ones. Your tips and those in the comments are great!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/KonaGirl KonaGirl

    LOL! I have created new lens from old ones that were much too large.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/CosmeticMom CosmeticMom

    Yes, there is no way a person can keep up with refreshing a lens if you have 100′s. Personally, I would like to see a limit set to give new members a chance at an URL is taken, but never maintained. Why have so many lenses if you don’t update every year is a mystery to me.

    If the filters would catch broken links and a signal sent to the lensmaster to fix the issue, I believe pages would get a much-need makeover. I often find Amazon products completely disappearing on some of my lenses, whether that is bug, or an OOS item on Amazon, I am not sure. A filter signaling that an Amazon module is blank would also be helpful.

    • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/CalobrenaOmai CalobrenaOmai

      Putting a limit on the amount of lenses one can write and have isn’t a good idea especially with quests throughout the year. I’m holding on to 34 lens which is a manageable amount for me. I try to get to them everyday or every other day.

      • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/CosmeticMom CosmeticMom

        34 is a good number to have, what concerns me is having hundreds of lenses. 500 still sounds like a high number, but could be updated by dedicated lensmasters.

        • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/CalobrenaOmai CalobrenaOmai

          Still can’t see how you can create 500 lenses and keep them all up to date unless they get a constant stream of traffic. If I had 500 I would have probably gone Jason Voorhees on them to bring ‘em down to size.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/chateaudumer chateaudumer

    Excellent Advice!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/Mia-Mia Mia-Mia

    This is wonderful advice. Some of it I am already doing, some I will be doing very soon. I wish I had read something like this when I first became a Squid 3+ years ago. Thanks.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/relache relache

    I’ve been writing on Squidoo since it came out of beta. It’s clear that an entire lens pool is never performing equally, and to me, the smart writers over time reduced their huge pools of “wow, look what came out of my head!” down to what actually works. I used to have three accounts, and now I have one.

    • http://www.squidoo.com/graceonline Kathryn Grace

      relache, you’ve always been one of my Squidoo role models, and I’m grateful to hear you consolidated to just one account. I know a lot of Squids have several. I’ve often wondered which is the best way to go, but always felt I had enough trouble managing just the one.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/Kylyssa Kylyssa

    I was wondering how seasonal lenses can come out of WIP. Don’t lenses that fall into WIP sink until they get down to the millions in lensrank? Or are you encouraging us to scrap them and delete them then recreate them on the same URL?

    I have a lens I tried getting out of WIP just after it fell there a couple months ago but even with updates and shares that got views, it never came out so I just had to give up on it. The lack of like buttons on WIPs makes it even harder.

    The failure to get that lens out of WIP inspired me to write a lens about keeping seasonal lenses out of WIP by writing them to keep getting a trickle of views in their off seasons. http://kylyssa.squidoo.com/tips-for-keeping-seasonal-lenses-out-of-wip

    • http://tommaybrier.com/ Tom Maybrier

      In general, I’m always in favor of keeping a lens rather than deleting it. I don’t think there’s an easy answer to WIP lenses with highly seasonal subjects other than trying to find a way to take the content in a more evergreen direction.

      That might mean merging content, expanding highly focused subjects or re-publishing at a later date. Your lens has great ideas and I think you’re spot on.

    • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/CalobrenaOmai CalobrenaOmai

      I have two seasonal lenses that are popular year-a-round. It took a while for me to get one of my top grossing lenses out of WIP and when I discovered the issue I was thrown off really. The audience rating (G/R) was keeping it in the red.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/Kylyssa Kylyssa

    There’s a huge advantage to having more lenses. Each successful lens is a great advertisement for the brand of you. For me, I hit what I call critical mass at roughly fifty lenses. My views took off at that
    point and my lenses then needed very little self-promotion.

    Your approach to lenses, lens writing, and Squidoo will greatly affect your optimum lens number, too.

    I have around 150 and, while 18 of them are currently not in paying tiers, there’s a lot of mobility of lenses and the ones at the bottom tend to change a lot. That 150 isn’t too many for me because most of them only need occasional minor updates to keep the lensrank algorithm happy with them. I weed out lenses that require frequent massaging or self-promotion to get traffic so it makes the lenses I have kept a lot easier to care for.

    Some of those 18 low performers are what I call sleepers. Some of them have suddenly popped up into paying tiers unexpectedly. A couple of my current tier one lenses were sleepers, one of them slept for more than a year before its rise. So I keep them. The ones that aren’t proven sleepers might go if I bump into my top carrying capacity, though.

    I might mention that seasonal lenses don’t necessarily fall into WIP because mine tend to stay in paying tiers all year because I’ve culled or tweaked the ones that don’t until they are unrecognizable. I’ve got a Halloween lens verging on first tier now because it’s been getting 350-500 views per week for the last three weeks. That’s what can happen if you just keep tweaking until you hit the sweet spot. The rest usually hang out low in tier two or in tier three all year, slipping upwards for their seasons. Don’t take this as bragging, an enormous amount of culling of sometimes embarrassing writing went on inside those lenses and at least one holiday lens has gone bye-bye for me over the years.

    I’m sure I’ll bump into a maximum load eventually but even if I do, I think I can actually keep pushing that number up by culling lenses that require a lot of attention to get views. My hope is to tweak as many as possible of the lenses I have now so they are like my lenses in the top two tiers and get at least 20 views a week on their own without constant fiddling. That sort of lens is almost effortless to carry.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/prosperity66 prosperity66

    Good article with interesting points Tom however, I don’t understand the necessity to build “too many” lenses when the lens threshold is limited to 175,000. The greatest part of these built lenses will never see the light.

    Maintenance + upgrades = freshness :

    Some of my lenses can’t be updated because past History doesn’t move nor evolve… A king who’s dead, remains dead forever. I can’t unveil more secrets then those I already unveiled. Not interested by nowadays people you know… only by those of the past.

    Also for example my 7 tarot spreads can’t be updated unless I want to change some products that ran out of stock. Indeed the 7 featured spreads are what they are and do not change either. So keeping lenses fresh is not always doable.

    Not easy to keep all lenses fresh as some of us run also their own sites and these also need out attention. I reduced my 200 lenses to 87 right now. I had way too many of them. These can get my attention while my focus is my own websites. With 200 it was impossible to do.

    • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/CalobrenaOmai CalobrenaOmai

      I was pushing 50 then the changes came. So I settled on the 30 range. There are a great deal of lenses that can’t be updated on my end because there’s no more to add. If anything some corrections to spelling and word use but that’s it. I have 3 to 4 lenses that can have content added at intervals due to the topic being discussed.

    • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/prosperity66 prosperity66

      Strangely no answer related to having too many lenses with such a low lens threshold…

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/LindaJM LindaJM

    Very helpful, thank you! I will print it to keep it handy for reference while I’m doing updates.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/graceonline Kathryn Grace

    Thanks for this Tom. I am frequently amazed at the people who have four or five hundred lenses, and I wonder how they can possibly keep them fresh. I struggle with my relative few (barely over a hundred). Like the majority of folk, I imagine, Squidoo is not my full-time job, but I do spend a lot of my online hours here, most in fact, yet never feel I am on top of all my lenses.

    One thing I’ve wondered, watching all the folks who post a new lens nearly every day, is whether I invest too much time trying to make the ones I have better, so I’m glad to see your suggestion that we check our content. So often I find verbiage in an old lens that totally embarrasses me!

    • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/CalobrenaOmai CalobrenaOmai

      I can relate. There was one lens I had where I had no idea there was so little information included because it was doing so well. Its already known that I have to go back and make some verbal corrections to my latest lens addition.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/RockinPicks RockinPicks

    You are so right Bonnie.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/sheilamarie sheilamarie

    I haven’t noticed a great deal of benefit to me in the work I’ve done revising lenses. I appreciate your point of working on lenses whose subject matter means the most to you and of making new lenses similar to the ones that get the most visits/activity. It’s hard not to get discouraged.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/CalobrenaOmai CalobrenaOmai

    I’ve been doing maintenance for the past few days and have discovered that 2 to 3 lenses with videos has some that were missing; the good ones too. Not only that but for whatever reason Etsy doesn’t respond the same like on a previous lens but I’m sure that’ll get worked out.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/Snakesmum Snakesmum

    Although I haven’t got there yet, I think 100 will be the cut of number for me. Thanks for the advice Tom – I will be using some of your ideas for sure. :-)

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/artyfax artyfax

    I do not have anywhere near the number of lenses as some of the respondents here, and I have no plans to reach those totals. Even so I do find that keeping all lenses fresh is a problem. This is excellent advice and I will be making a work plan based on these ideas, Thanks

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/goldenecho goldenecho

    I think you can consider the lens topic too when you think of how often to go back and update. Say, if you write a lens sharing a childhood story, or sharing your own poetry, and these don’t have many link-outs to other sites, you probably won’t need to update them very often. But if you write a lens with a lot of amazon links or related to something that changes (like technology), then you might need to go in more often to check for dead links and update outdated info.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/knowledgetoday knowledgetoday

    Tom, I understand what you are saying. As a new person I am not too concerned about having too many lenses, but rather my concern is with how many people are being helped by my lenses. Plus, I still have a learning curve and have allowed myself at least a year to observe how the Squidoo system works.

    At this level of experience I am learning how much time and effort goes into rewriting or updating a lens and learning both my strong and weak points. I have deleted lenses which were going no where.

    I prefer to write evergreen lenses as these lenses have longer staying power. My writing time is limited so I try to maintain a balance of quality and controlled quantity.

    In reviewing some of the lenses I have noticed that some are very lengthy and I cannot imagine a consumer taking the time to read all of the material. Is there a researched study pertaining to the length of a lens?

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/bloomingrose bloomingrose

    Enjoyed this topic – pinned to my Just for Squids board. I have thought about getting rid of some of my lenses, but not just quite yet. :)

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/aneeshasdad aneeshasdad

    Just wondering … what is the highest number of lenses credited to a single individual? I think I came across somebody with over 900 once, but can’t recall seeing anything over the thousand mark. As a 60 year old with 1 single, solitary lens to his name this information is crucial as I plan my assault on the top of the leader board.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/pajnhiaj pajnhiaj

    Love this, thanks!

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