Greekgeek's Online Odyssey - Hubpages and Online Article Writing Tips

google panda

Looking Back at Squidoo’s Mistakes

Drat. I’ve been trying so hard to focus on the transition to Hubpages and getting on with it, rather than rehashing what’s done and past.

However, I keep see more and more posts by people throwing all the blame on members and absolving SquidHQ of the policies that led it into a death spiral.

Sorry, no. That’s not what happened. I’ve been on Squidoo since 2007. I watched the site change its focus and its approach. HQ erratically tried to backpedal, but even as late as the end of 2013 they were forcing us to create low-content sales-generating pages or lose Giant Squid status.

Here’s my full rebuttal, with more details on what I saw go down when.

And now I’m going to try to get back to looking ahead and slowly getting my transferred articles up to snuff under Hubpages’ QAP standards which, honest to gosh, I want to hug. They’re a nuisance, but it’s the first time since early 2013 that I’ve revamped all my Squidoo articles and have some hope that this will help them.

Hubpages – A Grab Bag of Tips and Observations

I became active on Hubpages again in 2011 and churned out a little over a hundred hubs in two years. I have been next to useless on that site for the past year. So take anything I say about Hubpages with a grain of salt. That said, I may have learned a few useful things.


A Squidoo Timeline: Looking Back at the Past Year

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.

Squidoo traffic, Google panda/penguin updates, 2012-2013

(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 updateBoth 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, EMDSistrix 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 2.0Sistrix 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 moduleAmazon modulesPhoto 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.

  1. 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).
  2. “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.
  3. 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.
  4. After significant changes, there may be a lag before Google and other search engines recrawl pages they’ve visited before and make adjustments.
  5. During holiday shopping season, the full extent of traffic losses on Squidoo may be masked, because Squidoo has so many sales-related pages.
  6. 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.

The Great Squidoo vs. Panda Death Match: Are We Having Fun Yet?

Recent major Google algorithm updates that have helped or harmed Squidoo, according to’s “Google Updates” tracking tool.


So, we all knew that Squidoo had to do some major damage control to rescue itself, since Google’s downranked it for… well, we’re all making educated guesses, but Google’s webmaster guidelines provide us with a list of likely culprits (links are to the specific part of Google guidelines detailing each big no-no):

Most of these are content-related problems which are the responsibility of Squidoo members. Some are in the hands of HQ. Let’s take a closer look at each of these problems and how it’s playing out on Squidoo:


Squidoo After Google Panda 25: How’s It Looking?

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:

Squidoo traffic vs. a similar, comparable article site, Hubpages.

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.

My 6-month Squidoo traffic, Oct. 17, 2012-Mar 17, 2013

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.


Ouch! Squidoo Traffic Went Kablooie on Nov 17

Recent Daily Traffic for my Squidoo Lenses

Around November 17, 2012, Squidoo and many sites across the web experienced major traffic changes. In Squidoo’s case, it was the worst drop I’ve seen in years.

Barry Schwartz of Seoroundtable got a brief nonanswer from Google about it. One thing is clear: it’s not a Panda update. Google said Panda would be updated in the next week.

I don’t think it’s an EMD update, because that specifically targets domain names — the website part of a URL, not the individual page’s filename. ( = domain name, /my-cool-lens = the filename.)  I also don’t think it’s Penguin, because the main target of Penguin is sites using artificial link schemes and other heavy-duty black hat SEO practices which I think are beyond the capacity and budget of even the most spammy Squidoo lensmasters.

So what happened? Here’s a couple half-assed theories. Also, for my own enlightenment, I’ve compiled Squidoo sitewide traffic graphs for the past five years to see how our autumn traffic normally fluctuates. Bad news: there IS no “normal.”

P.S. Credit Where Due: Thanks to Victoriuh for pointing out some of the SEO industry analysis posts that I cite below.


Google Panda 20 Loves Squidoo, Hates Hubpages?

I’m having a little trouble separating out Squidoo’s Happy Traffic Season from impacts by the latest Google Panda update (rolled out on September 27 and the following 3 days), but I think this may be indicative of a Panda blessing on top of the usual seasonal traffic patterns:

Squidoo: “W00t, thanks for sending us more traffic for the holiday shopping season!”
Hubpages: “Why so mean, Google, WHY?”

(Note that it is normal for traffic to rise mid-week and tail off on Friday-Saturday-Sunday; it’s a web-wide pattern.)

Two possible reasons for Hubpages’ Sep. 28 traffic crash were discussed by Paul Edmondson, head of HP, in this announcement post: (1) they’d added a “buy on Amazon” button to the Amazon capsule to try and tweak its utterly ineffective conversions and (2) they just entirely revamped Hubpages’ profile page, adding a “Hubpages activity” section at the bottom that might be diluting the SEO value of the profile by linking to a lot of spammy social chitchat.   (1) is unlikely — I get plenty of Google traffic to pages like this with lots of nofollowed Amazon links — but (2) might be so.

Paul says HP has rolled back these two changes:

We believe it’s possible that one of these two changes started impacting traffic late last week, but aren’t sure which one, or if it’s the cause at all, but to be sure we are going to make some changes to test.

Translation: “We’re flailing, but we’ll test this and that until we find something that seems to help.” (Site outages on Friday and Sunday didn’t help either, but Squidoo has outages now and then and doesn’t show traffic dips). Hub traffic is starting to recover on my own account, but is still off by about 20%.

This was an interesting Panda update. Google was extremely cagey about it as SearchEngineLand’s write-up of Google Panda 20 explains.

On Friday, September 28, Matt Cutts announced a separate EMD Google algorithm update, which removes the advantage the Google algorithm used to give to low-quality websites using an exact match domain name that fit a popular search query. ( took a rankings dive, for example).

Many people without exact-match domain names were noticing significant traffic changes over the weekend, during which time Matt Cutts resisted answering questions, but eventually SearchEngineLand called up Google and got a confirmation that yes, it was a Panda algorithm update.

An algorithm update.

During a regular Panda update, the Panda algorithm evaluates all websites (i.e. domains like, and then uses the overall Panda rating of the website as one big factor in determining how high or low to list pages from that website in search results. This is like colleges getting evaluated annually, after which employers use the college’s rating as one big factor in deciding whether to hire particular job applicants from that college.

However, this was more than a regular Panda data refresh, in which it reevaluates all the colleges, er, websites. Instead, this was an algorithm refresh, which means Panda adjusted/tweaked the criteria it uses to evaluate websites. We don’t yet know what those criteria are— although at least some of them are listed in Google’s Inside Search blog post on Oct 4 (which unfortunately covers dozens of Google’s algorithm changes for the last two months, not just the Panda component).

At any rate, it appears that the new algorithm rewarded Squidoo and punched Hubpages. As usual, my chief reason for comparing these two websites’ Panda fortunes is that I keep hoping I’ll detect differences between the two websites — and how Panda treats them — that shed light on what Panda actually is looking for.

I still believe it was not a wise SEO move to noindex Pending Hubs. “Yo, Panda: from now on, Hubpages will not show search engines any fresh content until it’s stale, and we’re going to expect your searchbots to keep coming back to see when, randomly, we release new content from the noindex penalty box!” Maybe I’m crazy, but that just doesn’t seem like it would earn high marks from Panda. Again, stay tuned.

Hubpages vs. Squidoo Traffic: Sept 2012

Hubpages’ new Idle Status should’ve removed a lot of low-quality hubs from Hubpages around Aug 29-30, giving Googlebot a little time to crawl the website and reevaluate it with some low-quality content cleared out.

A Googler reported a Panda reset on Sept. 18. This is the standard Panda update where Google reevaluates all websites based on their overall spam to useful/unique content and assigns that domain a Panda rating, which then becomes a strong factor (a boost or a dampener) which it uses to rank individual webpages on that site.

Our guess was that Hubpages’ “Idle Status” would give Hubpages a better overall Panda rating, and help it draw more traffic. This is dependent on whether Hubpages guessed correctly— idling the sorts of pages that Panda tends to downrank— and whether Googlebot has re-crawled and removed Idle hubs from Google’s index. Googlebot re-crawls stale pages less frequently than ones that are updated often, so it’s possible that Panda is still judging Hubpages based on what it looked like before a lot of those pages were idled.

What does Quantcast show? Unfortunately, the last date on the chart today is Sept 19, so we’ll have to wait a week to see for sure:

What I still can’t figure out is why Squidoo took off like a shot this August, although it parallels the June sag. Take a look at Hubpages vs. Squidoo traffic on Quantcast:


I mentioned in my last Hubpages vs. Squidoo post one hypothesis: Squidoo appears to me to be oriented much more towards family and kids products, so its traffic may go in lockstep with the parents-and-kids demographic. In the comments of that post, Simon of Hubpages asked me to clarify why I believed Squidoo had a greater lock on that demographic than Hubpages. I answered her at length, explaining the ways I think Squidoo has visibly and officially catered to that segment, but I’d add one more datum: Quantcast rates Squidoo as slightly above average in the “parents with kids” demographic, Hubpages as slightly under. However, the difference between them isn’t all that much.

I’m not sure how Quantcast is able to measure demographics like that. Raw traffic I can believe — embedding a 1×1 image on each page and counting pageloads is a straightforward visitor counter — but I wonder how Quantcast is able to determine details of who is tripping the turnstyle.

Duplicate Content Penalty vs. Spun Content Penalty: Look at This!

Here’s yet another search result puzzle which tickles my curiosity.

Background: A lensmaster posted a complaint about Zujava and Wizzley cracking down on spun/duplicate content.

So I went to look up Google’s official word on spun/duplicate content instead of just saying, “ARGH! DON’T FILL OUR BEAUTIFUL WEB WITH ENDLESSLY REPLICATED JUNK NO HUMAN WOULD READ!”

We know that penalizing sites with lots of duplicate content is an integral part of the Panda algorithm. But wait…that’s a penalty applied to an entire domain. Does the spun content creator care what they’re doing to the host site’s Panda reputation, if spewing out a lot of low-quality junk in a hurry gets SOME traffic and SOME income?

True, Google is sending warnings about duplicate content to some webmasters, but it sounds more like warnings for exact copies of pages, not spun/reworded/paraphrased copies.

In the course of searching for answers, I Googled “spun content penalty” . Look closely at entries 2-4 and 6:


Hubpages vs. Squidoo Traffic: August 2012

Riddle me ree, riddle me roo, why is Hubpages traffic different than Squidoo?

And what the heck happened around August 4/5?

Dates of Recent Google Updates:

Hubpages traffic vs. Squidoo’s on Quantcast, from Aug 22, 2012 (click image for larger-size)

Which just goes to remind us that big, publicly-announced Google updates are only one small factor, and that Google is CONSTANTLY tweaking its algorithm. (In fact, there were about 85 minor algo tweaks announced for June-July. Here’s a good discussion of some of them on Searchengineland.)

At first, my hunch was that this was due to one of the other algo tweaks. But I don’t think it’s that. With past algorithm tweaks, we’ve often seen Hubpages dip afterwards. But this isn’t a dip. Squidoo is climbing. What’s up?

Hubpages has a lot more writerly writers, whereas Squidoo has a HUGE chunk of Rocketmoms, work-at-home moms…. see a pattern? They create a ton of lenses based around kid-related and family-related products. I suspect we’re seeing a back-to-school climb, corresponding to the dip in traffic starting at the end of May .

What’s odd is that Hubpages writers also have mentioned a summer slump, but they’re not seeing a climb yet. I suspect there are more “informational” hubs and fewer sales hubs, or at least fewer sales hubs catering to the Soccer Mom demographic. Squidoo seems to have a lock on those. But that’s just a guess.

Why do I care? Partly, raw curiosity, but mainly, here we have a lab experiment: two sites with very similar models and similar ratios of spam to content. When their traffic diverges, that means there’s some small difference causing the change. If we can understand that difference, then we may begin to get a better grasp of factors that impact search traffic. (I would love for Wizzly and Zujava to grow enough to get directly-measured traffic for Quantcast; then we’d have  four sites with basically similar models to compare and contrast.)