This is my attempt to round up a year’s worth of changes on Squidoo, with particular focus on which Squidoo changes and which Google algorithm updates may have caused traffic gains or losses.
As usual, I’m using Hubpages as a reference, because it’s a comparable site, although its traffic trajectory has been quite different. (Hubpages took its big Panda hit in Jan 2011, and has been climbing back ever since; Squidoo was mostly unaffected by Panda until Nov 2012).
Quantcast Chart of Squidoo & Hubpages traffic, July 2012-2013
I’ve marked specific dates of Google algorithm changes plus significant events at Squidoo.
(Also available on YouTube, where you can pause and move the playback position, but video is a little fuzzy.)
Squidoo Timeline July 2012-2013
- Jul 5, 2012: START. Squidoo and Hubpages both draw ~1 million global unique visitors a day; Squidoo is on top.
- Jul 24, 2012: Panda #17. Sistrix shows both Squidoo’s and Hubpages’ overall visibility in Google search results DOWN 10%. [See Google’s guidelines on what Panda rewards].
- Aug 10, 2012: Pirate / DMCA update. Both sites unaffected.
- Aug 15, 2012: Departure of Megan Casey, Squidoo co-founder and Editor-in-Chief.
- Aug 20, 2012: Panda #18. Sistrix shows Squidoo UP 3%, Hubpages UP 9%.
- Sep 18, 2012: Panda #19. Sistrix shows Squidoo UP 1%, Hubpages DOWN 2%.
- Sep 27, 2012: Panda #20, EMD. Sistrix shows Squidoo DOWN 4%, Hubpages DOWN 12%. [Hubpages uses subdomains, which might trigger EMD downranking; Squidoo does not, so it should be immune to EMD.]
- Oct 5, 2012: Third Penguin Update. Sistrix shows Squidoo UP 13%, Hubpages DOWN 32%. [Searchengineland explains Penguin, Google’s explanation].
- Oct 9, 2012: Page Layout Algorithm #2. Sistrix shows Squidoo unchanged, Hubpages 17% DOWN. [Info on Page Layout Algorithm, also called “Top Heavy”]
- Oct 31, 2012: Squidoo implements Postcards.
- Nov 5, 2012: Panda #21. Sistrix shows Squidoo 35% UP, Hubpages unchanged.
- Nov 12-16: Sporadic Squidoo traffic drops. Several veteran Squids report significant traffic drops at a time when traffic is usually increasing due to holiday shopping season. I have never been able to correlate this to a known Google algorithm update, unless it was a Nov. 15 change in Google Image Search.
- Nov 21, 2012: Panda #22. Sistrix shows Squidoo 60% DOWN, Hubpages 33% UP. [FWIW, some Squidoo members were reporting spammy ad popups at about this time.]
- Nov 26, 2012: Squidoo implements Crowdignite Ads. These have finally been replaced with “related” Google ads; not sure when that happened, but it’s after Mar 1.
- Dec 7, 2012: Squidoo implements “Responsive Layout“ redesign. Quizzes, polls, and some Amazon and eBay modules break or lose content, and new ads appear in the middle of lens body content for mobile devices and on some web browers (Chrome OSX).
- Dec 21, 2012: Panda #23. Sistrix shows Squidoo 14% UP, Hubpages 9% DOWN.
- Jan 22, 2013: Panda #24. Sistrix shows Squidoo 15% UP, Hubpages 3% DOWN.
- Feb 28, 2013: Bonnie posts about Spun Content problems (the day before, Bonnie warned against thin sales lenses, but that “Showercurtain” blog post was removed.)
- Mar 5, 2013: Squidoo adds “You may also like” with 5 supposedly-related products to the bottom of every Amazon module. All Amazon module content blocked by Adblock on Mar 6, and on Mar 7, Squidoo discontinues “You may also like,” but Adblock continues to block Amazon modules for several weeks.
- Mar 12, 2013: Squidoo implements new “Discovery Bar”, at first covering part of first screen of content, then moved down, then removed on Mar 18. On May 28, HQ replaced it with a popup for non-logged-in visitors.
- Mar 18, 2013: Panda #25. Sistrix shows Squidoo 17% DOWN, Hubpages 3% DOWN. (From this time onward, Panda is ongoing.)
- Mar 19, 2013: Giant Squid conference call with Seth, Bonnie & Gil.
- Mar 21, 2013: Squidoo bans most coloring pages.
- Mar 25, 2013: Squidoo’s new filters announced, giving members 7 days (Giants 21? days) to fix flagged lenses before they’re locked. Some members choose to delete/move flagged lenses. Thousands of lenses must have been locked after this window. Since then, many members have reported finding lenses locked without warning.
- Mar 28, 2013: Squidoo Nofollows all outbound links.
- May 7, 2013: widespread reports of “Phantom” Update, unconfirmed by Google.
- May 13, 3013: In response to many people bewildered by “thin content” flags and locks, Bonnie posts about Keyword Density.
- May 16, 2013: New Squidoo Homepage. At first it’s missing links to categories, making them unfindable to search bots, but now those links are restored.
- May 22, 2013: Penguin 2.0. Sistrix shows Squidoo 25% UP, Hubpages 8% UP.
- May 29, 2013: Subdomain testing.
- June 10, 2013: Outbound link limit more strictly defined.
- June 18, 2013: second Seth Godin/ HQ conference call.
- June 25 , 2013: Squidoo adds Scorecard. (See Q&A.)
April-June: Squidoo changes or retires “About Me” and “My Lenses”, Poll module, Amazon modules, Photo Gallery, Twitter, Video modules. After each of these changes, many lensmasters report lost/deleted content from these modules, which searchbots may notice.
A few caveats.
- There’s seasonal cycles. Squidoo usually had a shopping-related traffic swell starting in September, cresting at Halloween, peaking again just after Thanksgiving, and staying more or less elevated until Christmas, with a lesser peak at Valentine’s Day and then a slight summer slump. (Part of the reason that veterans started sounding the alarm in November was that traffic was dropping at a time when it normally increased).
- “Correlation does not equal causation.” Sistrix measures when a site has gained or lost a lot of search visibility by checking to see where it ranks on a huge database of search terms that Sistrix keeps re-checking. It assumes bit traffic shifts are related to the most recent known Google update, but there might be other causes.
- If Squidoo is tinkering under its own hood or purging a lot of content, that may result in traffic changes on that site which have nothing to do with Google updates.
- After significant changes, there may be a lag before Google and other search engines recrawl pages they’ve visited before and make adjustments.
- During holiday shopping season, the full extent of traffic losses on Squidoo may be masked, because Squidoo has so many sales-related pages.
- Google does not announce all updates; it’s making smaller updates and adjustments all the time. (And sometimes, as on May 7, many websites may report traffic upheavals without Google confirming an update.)
Also see: Yuku forum thread where various lensmasters are sharing their May 2012-May 2013 and June 2012-June 2013 traffic stats and changes.
Thanks for this timeline. It helps put things into perspective.
Noticed just yesterday when trying to update lens, a lot of my Amazon modules were empty. When I clicked on them sometimes they showed what was supposed to be there and sometimes they were devoid of items. If I clicked save without doing anything, they would reappear. Sometimes it took 2-3 tries to get them to show up. I filed a bug report.
When I was looking back through the official Squidoo forums to double-check dates for this timeline, I was struck by the number of reports of content lost from different modules after each module update, bugs that sometimes didn’t appear to be resolved even weeks later. There were so many such module changes that I had to drop them from the timeline and allude to them in a footnote.
Meanwhile, many members are are afraid to update existing lenses, after finding content warnings popping up when we hit publish on an existing, hitherto “safe” lens. (I keep hearing of people who update long-established lenses, only to find them locked the next day.)
Lots of lost content + people reluctant to fix the damage suggests to me that Google is seeing an awful lot of empty modules and incomplete lenses, which may be treated as “thin” content by Panda.
I think the bounce rate from all those locked lenses has got to be hurting also.
On the other hand, to put a slightly less pessimistic spin on this: a lot of spam and garbage must have been locked as well, so at least in some cases a bounce is still better than what was occupying those URLs before.
That’s the goal HQ is striving for, and it’s a valid one, even if I’m sounding the alarm on other problems that I fear may continue to dog Squidoo in the SERPs.
Have you seen the latest? http://hq.squidoo.com/squid-news/new-amazon-link-limit/
Um… So you suspect what I also have tossed around in my head: that a site that removes a lot of its pages will bring the whole site down?
It would increase bounce rate in google’s eyes
It raises a flag that google “thinks” that if this website has removed a lot of pages of crap, than maybe the whole site is crap?
That’s my two cents
I don’t know enough about Google to speculate whether the benefits of removing low-quality content and showing a commitment to crack down on spam outweigh the downside of having a high bounce rate.
One of the problems is that we’re all more or less performing interpretations of what we think Google is doing by reasoning and guesswork which may or may not match what Google actually does.
I’m already pushing a point by suggesting that we look very closely at the timing of Google algorithm changes and Squidoo design changes vs. traffic fluctuations. But “correlation does not equal causation.” It’s just a slightly more rigorous approach than “what do I think it would be logical for Google to do?” I also base my guesses on anecdotal evidence: (1) on multiple occasions, I’ve seen Matt Cutts and the Google team recommending that a site suffering from Panda or other content-related penalties take a long hard look at its content and purge the junk. (2) When Squidoo was hit by a Google penalty in summer 2007 for too much spam, and Squidoo acted quickly to install spam filters and tidy up the site, Google responded favorably, and all the search traffic came back.
Which leads me to think that Google takes into consideration whether the deleted pages were poor content and whether the cleanup seems to be an attempt to improve the site. The problem is, I’ve seen an awful lot of high-quality, original, well-researched articles that were getting good search traffic locked and deleted on Squidoo, while some of HQ’s projects to push mini reviews and lenslets appear to me to be doubling down on some types of pages that are discouraged by Google guidelines.
A side note: Bounce rate may not be quite the ranking signal we often assume it to be. See Michael Martinez’s essay on bounce rate for some perspectives that made me adjust my own thinking about bounce rate.