I thought I’d check back in on Squidoo and Hubpages now that the Google Farmer Update (Panda update) has had some time to work. Short-term results can suggest major upheavals, but it’s the long-term stats that really mean something.
Here’s today’s traffic charts from Quantcast, showing that Hubpages traffic has stabilized:
Keep in mind that the update was only for Google’s US search engine. It hasn’t yet been unleashed globally. The drop in U.S. users is included in “global” as well as “local” results.
My prediction, based on what I’m seeing, is that after this change, Hubpages’ traffic is going to be nearly the same as Squidoo’s. It already is within the US.
The Spam’s the Thing?
Jennifer Ledbetter of Potpiegirl.com made a mini study of specific spam phrases confirming by the numbers my guess in my last post on the Farmer Update: Squidoo’s ongoing spam crackdown means it has fewer (but alas, still some) pages on the most spammy topics than Hubpages and several other sites. This DOES explain why ehow.com didn’t lose places in the SERPs: it has even fewer pages matching these spam phrases.
Jennifer didn’t test this, but we both also argued — in different ways — that Hubpages’ much, much stricter policy on outbound links may be causing it some trouble. She pointed out that links on Hubs are nofollowed until you’ve reached a certain status. I related my experience of having all my hubs locked for having one link on each of them to cite the source of my photos. Squidoo’s got a nine outbound link per domain limit, instead, and it nofollows affiliate links in its merchant modules.
Various other ideas have been thrown out to explain the change. Another thing I pointed out is the significantly lower bounce rate of Squidoo compared to Hubpages, ezinearticles, and (of course) mahalo.
There’s just one problem.
The Quantcast traffic charts show Hubpages U.S. traffic simply dropped back to Squidoo’s levels.
If my explanations and Potpiegirl’s guess about outbound links were correct, Squidoo should now be outperforming Hubpages. But it’s not. They’re now about the same.
Jennifer’s spam study shows that Squidoo has fewer pages than Hubpages on the spammy topics she chose to test, but not all that much less. The last phrase she checked (“tv for pc”) actually had more pages on Squidoo than Hubpages. (It really shouldn’t be filtered as spam; how to watch television on a PC is a reasonable query. It’s just gotten targeted by a lot of spammers trying to cash in on a popular search).
So my vote is on the spam being the deciding factor — as it should be — about how Google’s picking “quality” sites. Let’s keep reporting and flagging it when we see it, folks, and for goodness’ sake don’t write on a Squiddont topic! Also, don’t give up on Hubpages. It’s gotten humbled, but it’s no worse off than Squidoo. And keeping eggs in different baskets is always a good practice.
Looks like these predictions failed to completely pan out. Alexa shows eHow falling off sharply in traffic now that there has been some time to test this.
Squidoo, however, has performed very well. I find it interesting that Squidoo held its ground with this update, whereas HubPages, viewed by many as a very similar site, took a very hard hit.
What are the main differences between HubPages and Squidoo? I would not point to the spam control…it is true that Squidoo has somewhat better spam control but it also has, like you remark, quite a few spammy lenses left. The main difference that I saw between these two sites, before the update, is that Squidoo is very generous with its external linking policy, whereas HubPages has a rather draconian policy about links.
I’ve found that google weighs what you link to much more heavily than most people realize. HubPages is stingy with its links, in an attempt to hoard web traffic. It tries to be as much of a “sink” as possible. I think this is hurting it.
I also think HubPages suffers from more negativity and a generally more competitive attitude in its community, whereas squidoo is extraordinarily positive and supportive–the whole site seems to be designed to favor this. This can’t hurt Squidoo and I suspect it may be a driving force for people contributing better content, and specifically, attracting people who are not just self-promoting…which would then help it out immensely.
I think you are quite right on all counts: Hubpages hoarding links, and Squidoo members supporting one another and sharing tips and ideas more frequently (not always the wisest advice, but people do TRY to share their experiences and learn from one another). There is definitely a constant reminder that Squidoo is a coop. I think it makes a big difference that our earnings are pooled, and then handed out via the tiered payout system — there is a certain amount of enlightened self-interest in boosting that pool for everybody, to offset the fact that we are also competing with one another! But some of it is just the particular flavor of the community that has grown over time. Every group is different.
I am still a journeyman in SEO, but after further investigation into Hubpages vs. Squidoo, I wound up making a more in-depth Squidoo lens about Panda’s impact on Hubpages vs. Squidoo, covering things like bounce rate, user behavior, spam filtering, the incentives/payout system, outbound link policies, affiliate marketing policies, duplicate content, and site navigation which I think put Hubpages on the losing side of things.
As for eHow, it survived the FIRST Panda update, but the second one cut it down to size. Which is a warning to Squidoo: Google isn’t finished tweaking, and it’s still gunning for low quality and content farms, so we’d better make sure we have enough excellent quality not to get dinged!