Katinka has raised some important interlinking questions about how recent changes at Squidoo are impacting SEO of our lenses. We don’t have all the answers — are these changes temporary or permanent? — but I’ve been pondering interlinking alternatives.
One important method of interlinking on Squidoo is, or was, Squidoo tags.
Fluff explained how Squidoo tag pages work on his SquidUtils blog back in ’09. Squidoo tags sit in our lens sidebar and point to a tags page. For example, here’s Squidoo’s lenses on pirate costumes. That tags page lists all the lenses sharing that tag, including a brief excerpt of the introduction of each lens. If all the lenses are relevant to a topic, and their introduction text reinforces that topic, then, presumably, the tags page acts as a relevant backlink. But if it’s an orphaned tag shared by few or no other lenses, then the tag page may not matter much: it looks really empty, and I don’t see much relevant link juice.
In the past, I’ve occasionally seen Squidoo tag pages appear in Google search results.
Now, the tags pages appear to be unimportant to Google.
It’s hard to explain, so open a spare tab and follow along the steps I took to uncover the problem.
First, Google the following to see how Squidoo pages are typically listed in Google results:
Squidoo birthday party ideas
Squidoo 2011 goals
You’ll see some Squidoo results. Notice they have a “Cached” link next to them. If you click on the cache, you see what Google has stored about that lens. That’s what it will refer to when it’s trying to decide, “So, do I list this page in the search results for ‘weevils in my wheaties’? Ah yes, it’s mentioning weevils and wheaties. Add it to the SERPs.”
So, that’s what normal Google results look like, and that’s what a Google “cache” of a webpage looks like. You can jump straight to the cached version, as I mentioned last post, by Googling something like:
However, something weird happens when I Google Squidoo tag pages. Try Googling the following highly specific search:
allinurl:squidoo tags birthday party ideas
allinurl:squidoo tags 2011 goals
If you get that specific, the search results are Squidoo tag pages. However, the “Cached” option isn’t showing up.
Or try going straight to Google’s cache of a Squidoo Tags page:
When we do this with a regular Squidoo lens, we’d see Google’s facsimile of the lens. But for Squidoo tag pages, we just get a generic Google search listing. It appears that there is no Google cache of these pages, just the blurb/snippet Google displays in search results. I think we have a bona-fide sighting of the Google Supplemental Index!
Google supplemental index results are worth diddly squat for SEO. Links from them don’t count as backlinks. They lurk in the supplemental index like orphaned socks at the back of the drawer: Google knows they exist, but if you ask it to give you a pair of black socks, it won’t bother to mention them unless you specifically tell Google, “No, really, I want the orphaned black sock you’re not telling me about.” Does this mean the interlinking method Fluff described is now obsolete? Are Squidoo tag pages dead?
Even more interestingly, I found a new, different form of Squidoo tag page that is showing in some Google results. Namely: the tags on your lensmaster profile. Click on one of them, and it filters your lenses down to show all of those sharing a tag.
I’m still trying to understand the SEO implications of this change. I think that it is yet another profound way that Squidoo has pruned its underlying site navigation and interlinking structure as far as search engines are concerned.
If Squidoo Tag Pages such as Fluff described have been tossed into the Supplemental Index, then they no longer help SEO. In that case, nichebuilding becomes extremely important– creating a batch of lenses which are interlinked by a common tag on your lensmaster profile– and it no longer helps or matters whether you choose tags used by other lensmasters. (Nor does it help other lensmasters much to snitch your tags.)
EXCEPT that Squidoo tags are used in two other, less important ways. They help determine the order of results when you use Squidoo’s on-site search, which is only used by a minority of Squidoo visitors but yields at least some traffic. And they determine which lenses show up in the Discovery Box in the sidebar of every lens. The Discovery Box option helps only if there’s lots of members like me who prefer not to fill the Discovery Box with their own lenses, and give other interesting, relevant lenses a chance to show up.
But again, unless I’m misinterpreting what Google’s showing me, it appears that standard Squidoo Tag Pages have died as far as SEO is concerned.
It seems to fit the pattern: in the last few months we’ve lost Squidcasts, Lensroll, and Favorites, eliminating our social bookmarking ways of finding other people’s lenses, and had Featured Lenses / My Lenses modules and tag pages hamstrung so they no longer allow search engines to find other lenses. I see the pattern, but I don’t grasp the purpose.