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.]
You are always such a great source of detailed factual evidence! I haven’t published any Squidoo lenses yet, I’m still working on the content if a few unpublished articles.
But reading this I’m wondering if I might not do better putting the time and energy into Hubpages instead. Any advice which way you feel is best for a for newbie?
Autumn, I’m afraid that the short answer right now is that I really don’t know anymore!
A few months ago, it would be Squidoo hands down, and my instinct is that it will be again. Yet I’m not confident of that, for the reasons I outlined above.
The good news is that SquidHQ is making a concerted effort (finally!) to clear out the spam and junk and get back in Google’s good graces, while making the system a little more rewarding for those who are focused on creating good content as opposed to playing social games. So I’m hoping Squidoo is turning a corner, and that it will recover and prosper as it did from a 2007 Google slap. HQ just seems to be making about a 27-point-turn to do it, knocking over a few mailboxes in the process.
Hubpages has problems as well. If pages don’t get enough traffic, they become “Unfeatured” after a while, which adds a noindex tag to the code telling search engines not to crawl or show those pages in search results. You can get those articles “featured” again if you republish them, share them on social media, and work on getting more traffic to them, but that’s hard for newbies, and there are some kinds of pages that just don’t get much traffic.
Also, on Hubpages, they are very picky about what you can link out to: no linking to your other related pages, or it may get locked as overly promotional. You have to use Hubpages’ Amazon capsules, which are small and unobtrusive and don’t make many sales because it’s so easy to miss them. The two-outbound-link-per-domain limit means you can’t showcase Zazzle designs or any kind of affiliate links, unless it’s just one. So income opportunities on Hubpages are fewer, and in general, despite the downturn in Squidoo’s fortunes, I still see more earnings potential on Squidoo.
But at this point, neither Hubpages nor Squidoo is earning that well for me. At which point I start looking at audience and aesthetic factors. For example, more serious readers of an article on women in ancient Rome may be turned off by Squidoo’s cartoonish interface and aggressive ads, while an article on collectibles will look boring on Hubpages where one can’t embed images into Text Modules or tailor Amazon Associate Links to look their best.
The problem there is that neither site will pay you until you reach your payout threshold. On Squidoo you can set it low in payout settings, but on Hubpages it’s $50. So you may wait longer on HP for your cash, and if you do a little on both sites you will have to wait longer.
The other options I’m looking into are Zujava and Wizzley. Zujava has tier payouts like Squidoo, and it’s a sensible site without a lot of the craziness and stress of Squidoo’s constant jerking from pothole to pothole. On the other hand, for the moment, the earnings are low — a little like Squidoo some years ago! — but growing. Wizzley lets you plug in your own third party payment programs like Adsense, Amazon Associates, Allposters, Zazzle and so on, so the nice thing there is that if you’re already making some money on other sites with Adsense or Amazon or whatever, then your Wizzley pages can help add to the total and bring you up to your payout thresholds with those programs faster.
If I were a newbie, I think I’d pick two of those four sites that seemed to look good to me and experiment for a while to see which one feels right to me, brings me traffic, and starts to pile up a bit of income. I know Hubbers who make more money than Squids (although the reverse is true more often, in my experience), and there are some people who swear by Wizzley or even Zujava. So you may find that the community, the interface, and your own style of work just clicks with one site or another. The important thing to remember is that you can make money with your writing on any of the four, so don’t think, “Oh, no! I should switch to the other site now that it’s doing better!” unless you’re really frustrated with the platform you’ve chosen. You’ll get there. It’s just…a slow process, dictated more by your own learning experience and (let’s face it) the number of good articles you’ve got out there than anything else.
Side note, typo in your Tolkien page: “but my the mid Third Age”
Well said, I wish they would read your blog and take notice of it!
Thanks Ellen for another update and analysis. I always find your viewpoints to be spot-on. The black bar really is a oddity – I can’t figure out what good it is supposed to do – unless there is a plan to get rid of the related lenses section in the sidebar?
Although I don’t understand the CrowdIgnite links, something is clearly going wrong at Squidoo. I hope the site can get rid of the spam and become more of a serious contender. I’m concerned that people who land there won’t want to stay because it looks so commercial. I have to agree with you that content-rich articles will probably do much better on other sites.
What worries me about the future of Squidoo, is the number of major changes – both in policy and technical – occurring at a rapid rate. I’ve never observed a high traffic site do so many in such a short period.
From my experience in managing websites, and from what I’ve read, after the inevitable rankings loss, it’s next to impossible to determine which changes had a negative (or positive) effect. It’s all guesswork.
Plus, there’s a kind of ‘Russian Roulette’ factor. If you keep making major changes, like no-follow all your outgoing links, it’s not surprising if one of those changes bites you in the…
I have the same feeling: this is flailing, and it will be impossible to measure each change’s impact or tell what’s helping.
A lot of sites flail like this when hit with huge traffic and financial losses.
If it were my site, I would’ve rolled back all site changes since Panda 22, when the first traffic drop happened, then re-implemented each of those changes one at a time, sloooowly, to see if any of them were the culprit. And/or implemented new changes more carefully and systematically so that one would have some idea whether each new change worked, before throwing in further modifications.
On the other hand, that could take months, even a year. Perhaps that’s too long to turn the ship around, so instead they’re performing open heart surgery, a long transplant and brain surgery all at once, hoping to fix it in a hurry.
I think the net result of all this flailing about will be positive, because most of them are moves towards what Google recommends. But there is certainly a risk that they could accidentally axe some of the very advantages that made Squidoo survive earlier Panda and Penguin updates unscathed.
Yes, your comment above describes the situation perfectly, they are ‘flailing’ about and in risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater in their never-ending knee jerk reactions…
I notice that they are still sinking in the rankings according to my Alexa bar… not gone to look for details, but it does not appear what they have done this month has actually improved anything… it has just lost them a heap of content pages and not much else.
Re: Zujava, I saw a notice that they are not allowing any personal direct affiliate links to Amazon any more, so that will be a disincentive for a lot of people planning to use the software created display boxes on their leaves or any direct text links.
So it would appear that Wizzley is now the more flexible profit share platform left to affiliate marketers.
What I would like to know Ellen is what is the CURRENT situation with the traffic status on squidoo… any updates on the way for us?
The best way to check traffic for Squidoo overall is to take a look at Quantcast’s directly measured Squidoo traffic tool.
Alexa’s a bit unreliable. It estimates traffic, patterns and ratings only by tracking visits and behavior from users who voluntarily install the Alexa toolbar. A certain segment of stats geeks and SEOs use it, but it’s not representative of web audiences as a whole.
Whereas Quantcast uses a digital turnstyle to measure traffic: sites that participate voluntarily embed a 1×1 pixel graphic on every page of their website, and Quantcast can see and measure each time that the graphic loads because of a visit to that page.
Quantcast clearly shows that Squidoo traffic got clobbered by the March 15 Panda update, and that it’s been sputtering a bit ever since Panda 22 back in late November.
I think, despite the flailing, that Squidoo’s recent changes on balance should put it on slightly better footing with Google. There is a wildcard, however: just as 2011 was when the Panda algorithm changed traffic patterns across the web, and 2012 saw the Penguin algorithm, this year, Google’s going to be unleashing a new major component of its search algorithm that attempts to evaluate and reward/downrank websites that are SELLING things, depending on customer satisfaction, ratings, and other (who knows what) variables. The big question is: will this algorithm change include pages with affiliate sales links? And my guess is yes, it will. A lot of Squidoo’s flailing right now is trying to batten down the hatches in anticipation of that update, even though we don’t yet know exactly what it’ll be looking for.
Yes, I have a pragmatic view of Alexa rankings, its useful to see at the bottom of my page as I scroll around on websites, but it certainly can never be a true indicator of ALL web traffic.
Well Quantcast shows the site as still sinking as of today, so who knows?
I also have a sinking feeling in my stomach that all the auto generated sales page sites for Amazon and CB and co that have flooded the market will meet the same fate as the old Adsense sites.
They are succeeding at the moment to convert into sales, but if google downgrades them, or even de-indexes them, since they are just page after page of nothing but product links, then they will be sunk.
And Squidoo would have a wary eye out for signs of that happening. I also suspect that they want to secure their revenues for the future by reducing or eliminating amazon links on pages that are not part of the shared revenue income modules.
We’ll see when we see… there won’t be any warning or notice of the changes if they happen, based on the usual non-communications to date.
Loving your blog, never miss an update!
Well done with great research. I think it’s more than thin content, too. Not sure what it is but Squidoo will continue the beatings until morale improves. BTW think you meant to write “resembles” instead of “re” before Wired. Love your writing!
Squidoo’s main problem is the architecture of the site. The way the internal pages are structured, a lot of the content NEVER gets indexed. If you compare that to Hubpages, they do a much better job. Almost all of the Hubs are linked together and easily found by search engines. Its no wonder Hubpages now gets as much traffic from Google than Squidoo. The ‘spam’ issues are only a part of the problem.
The irony is that Squidoo used to have a fantastic internal site navigation system: well-organized (reasonably) category tree feeding pagerank from the top down, plus tags that linked to tag pages and back to related lenses, plus the “Related lenses” box on the side with six lenses showing similar tags. The categories and subcategories and tag pages were arranged in order of lensrank, so as long as the lensrank algo couldn’t be gamed too much, the best content tended to appear at the top of the list — and lensrank also depends on user interaction, unlike hubpages, which further increased the chances that good, relevant, things-Google-wants-to-see lenses occupied the top of the categories and tag pages. The “Related lenses” box rotated to give more different lenses a chance, but still weighted somewhat by lensrank.
As a result, Squidoo used to edge out Hubpages slightly by giving the more user-attractive “related” lenses lots of cross-links and giving every lens in the category a boost by having it linked to GOOD related content. (Google likes to see cross-links to good, relevant content).
However, Squidoo has hobbled its top-down directory by taking many categories off the front page (which used to be an index of the categories), it’s taken out the “Related lenses” or made them nofollow on the sidebar, and it’s systematically allowed more and more irrelevant links to creep into the sidebar while making it harder and harder for us to cross-link to related lenses. The magazines are particularly notorious for this problem. [Update: Okay, most of the categories are back on the homepage, and the magazines are a separate mess…never a dull day in Squidland!]
Meanwhile, Hubpages, which used to have too much marketing about writing for Hubpages at the top level of its site with hidden links to its topics tree, and whose topics and subtopics pages used to be cluttered up by big ads for the writing contests, has cleaned UP its internal navigation to make it more SEO-friendly.
I think Squidoo started tumbling as soon as it started tinkering with its internal linking structure. And I’m pretty sure that Bonnie and Robin have no idea what we’re talking about. I really lost patience when they ripped out the “Related lenses “box and replaced it with paid links to a traffic exchange site that promised to send Squidoo paid traffic in exchange for getting ALL the rights to repost our content on its other affiliate sites (Cloudignite). [Update: Okay, that has finally been removed, but people were sounding the alarm on it from late November through at least March.]