The data is still coming in from Panda 25, launched March 15. We really need to wait a longer time to have a representative sample size, but here’s the early returns from Quantcast:
From now on there will not be discreet dates on which Panda is updated; Panda is now “Panda Everflux,” continually reevaluating sites and adjusting their rankings up or down. This is good, as it means Squidoo won’t have to wait a month or two for Panda to reevaluate it. (The bad news is that we’re only halfway through big changes from Google. There is a huge Penguin algorithm update coming which Google’s Matt Cutts says will be talked about all year.)
Here’s my own traffic. It looks like maybe a 7% hit from Panda 25. All told, I am down 50% since before the November 16 traffic drop that sounded a reversal of my own Squidoo fortunes for the first time since 2007.
Meanwhile, my own Hubpages traffic is plodding along steadily with a temporary traffic spike from a bunch of Tolkien fans discovering one of my articles. I need to do more of those.
Squidoo is now ranked lower than Hubpages on Quantcast for the first time since Panda began in January 2011.
Squidoo took a pretty big traffic hit in summer 2007 from Google, and I feel this is comparable.
Just as back then, Squidoo is doing a thorough housecleaning of spam and thin content, which should help. And yes, it’ll cause some collateral damage, with triggers filtering false positives. I lost some lenses to those in 2007, when it was a crap shoot whether you’d hear back from a human before lenses were automatically deleted by the filters. HQ has made some improvements on the appeals process since then.
Cleaning out garbage content and discouraging the gamification that was rewarding it are both excellent signs that Squidoo is turning a corner. Both are problems that Squidoo lensmasters have raised concerns over for years.
However — yes, I’m afraid there’s still a but — I remain convinced, as in my last post, that thin content is not the sole source of Squidoo’s woes, although HQ seems to be focused solely on the “bad egg user” side of things without examining Squidoo’s internal site structure that may be contributing to its issues.
I would be more sanguine about all of this if I didn’t feel that Squidoo HQ has failed to address two of the issues that seem to violate Google’s webmaster guidelines (CrowdIgnite traffic exchange scheme, large in-body text ads) and added two more (auto-generated product links on Amazon modules, the floating black bar).
These would seem to violate:
- Google’s Page Layout algorithm, which downranks sites with excessive advertising and too much non-content above the fold.
- Google’s plans for 2013 to focus on spammy online merchant practices, just as Panda looked for spammy websites in 2011 and Penguin looked for spammy linking practices in 2012. Also see Google’s old guidelines on affiliate marketing.
- Google’s recommendations against traffic exchanges or any artificial linking scheme designed to manipulate search rankings (which is Google’s own peculiar definition of “webspam” in its quality rater guidelines). The Penguin algorithm is designed to find and downrank link networks and spammy linking practices.
- The “smell test” from Panda’s guidelines, which is subjective, but is all about “does this look like a site you’d trust?” (the black bar looks more like those sleazy sites with “drunk girls on spring break” articles than it re Wired.com).
These problems beg Google to downrank Squidoo.com as a whole, regardless of individual lensmaster efforts to mitigate them (using Amazon Associate links to bypass the Amazon Module’s spammy auto-generated product links, filling in links in the Introduction Module to force out the CrowdIgnite links and bring back the Discovery Box). And even before those four additions, Squidoo was already leading a charmed life as far as the Page Layout algorithm, which tends to downrank sites with very little actual content above the fold. Squidoo has been tinkering with layout in the past few months, so that may be one of the factors behind these traffic drops.
I wish Squidoo would peel back to what it had before the November traffic drop and then methodically add the changes back in, one at a time, trying to determine which ones caused the problem, instead of adding more problematic navigation and layout changes that muddy the waters further.
My other frustration is that while Squidoo is desperately begging us to add more rich content, it still continues to make the site less and less visually appealing for serious content. The aggressive advertising, popups, auto-generated product placement, and floating black bar all seemed aimed towards shallower content and advertorials rather than smart, intelligent, Wired.com content, educational content or original, well-researched content.
My traffic to Hubs is now better, and my HP average earnings per page are now only a little worse than Squidoo’s. However, if I put an intelligent, non-spammy, content-rich article on Hubpages, it looks so much better to my eye. It’s no frills, but the focus of the page is all about the content.
Whereas a Squidoo lens works hard to distract and drive you away from the content. As long as Squidoo continues to do this, I am tempted to put my best content on other article sites or on my own blog, and put my more frivolous and sales-oriented content on Squidoo.
I wish HQ would consider more ways to make content front and center on the page. The Golden Goose is feeling a little peaky.
[ETA: Squidoo has removed the Black Bar. Phew. That’s one less popup liable to incur the Wrath of Google. Now if they could just resist the urge to throw any kind of popups at Squidoo. Try looking out and looking at Squidoo to see the problem.]