A Squidoo Parable:
When I moved to a little condo by a lovely small park of grass and trees, I met my aged hippie neighbor taking a walk with weeds in his hand. He explained he weeded the park each day so that our homeowners’ association would not spray chemical herbicides. We all benefitted from his effort, because we never had to inhale or walk on poison. Institutional solutions tend to be overkill.
I have always considered the “Report Abuse” button at the bottom of every Squidoo page to be our version of volunteer weeding, with one crucial difference: Squidoo HQ double-checks to confirm it’s a weed before yanking it.
Since January, I have been concerned about Google’s widely-discussed updates to weed out low-quality and scraped content. I’m glad Google is doing it: search results were getting junked up by content from the “build crap and slap ads on it to make money” brigade. At the same time, I’m worried my baby may be tossed out with Google’s bathwater.
Obviously, I don’t consider Squidoo a content farm, or I would not be turning my old academic papers into Squidoo lenses (revised for the general public), receiving random plugs from Washington Post columnists needing a source for ancient Greek military history, or making Squidoo into my main platform for publishing articles on everything from volcanology to CSS help to personal product reviews. I have been publishing articles on the web since 1993, because I’m committed to the web being a place where you can find out and share what you know on anything. But the reality is, I need to earn money on my content, so I began posting it on Squidoo where I would earn a passive income for my work.
There are thousands of others like me who put a lot of pride, research, and work into our Squidoo articles. After all, we don’t earn a cent unless our pages actually perform with traffic, clicks, ratings and/or sales!
Yet on any open publishing site, there are always some who take short cuts. They’re the ones that worry me. We don’t want shoddy, low-quality pages eclipsing all our hard work. Thankfully, Squidoo has had mechanisms for years from spam filters to the Squid Angel volunteer program to ordinary members who report copied and spammy content so it can be weeded out. So hopefully Google has noticed our efforts, and will continue to rank good-quality Squidoo articles well. But we cannot be sure.
The good news is that (unsurprisingly), Squidoo HQ has also been watching developments at Google Webmaster Central. Read Megan’s post in the official Squidoo announcements forum on additional steps Squidoo is taking to help detect and remove bad apples quickly and proactively.
We can all help, too, by continuing to tweak and improve our own lenses. Make sure you do not have content plucked from elsewhere (we don’t know which copied content Google penalizes, and anyway it’s against Squidoo’s TOS). Look at the search queries on your traffic stats and ask, “Did my page answer what that person was searching for? Really?” Read your lens and ask, “If I found this as a random page on the web, would I read it? Would I click on some of these links? Really?”
Watch out for and report any copied content or spam you find. The “report abuse” button is at the bottom of every Squidoo page. Use it. I’m sure, in light of these developments, SquidHQ will be looking at those reports even more closely.
Google understands there are sites like Blogger (which it owns) where some people produce better quality than others, but the best content is unique and outstanding. Let’s keep proving that Squidoo is a similar site.