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.
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):
- Spam, thin, and duplicate content that’s not useful to visitors (Panda algorithm, starting in Jan 2011. Squidoo took modest hits from Panda, offset by other Panda update boosts, until Panda 22 update in November 2012 killed 60% of Squidoo visibility.)
- Affiliate links that sell without giving users something that helps them. Google’s quality rater guidelines show that it has evaluated affiliate-link pages critically long before Panda, but I think Panda has raised the bar.
- Mass backlinking to boost a site (Part of Penguin “webspam” algorithm, starting at the beginning of 2012. Squidoo has actually been treated kindly Penguin, for reasons I’ll explain below.)
- keyword stuffing (Part of Penguin “webspam” algorithm).
- Overly aggressive advertising (especially “above the fold”) (Page Layout algorithm, starting Jan 2012. Squidoo has taken mild hits from this one.)
- Link schemes like traffic exchanges and paid links (was already in Google algorithm before Panda and Penguin, but Penguin has emphasized it more)
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:
META tags. Gotta love ‘em. They are pesky bits of HTML code hidden on (some) webpages to give information about each page. Ten years ago, search engines consulted META tags to help them learn what search phrases each page was relevant for. Then people started manipulating META tags to try and convince search engines their pages were the best pages for particular topics by virtue of their META tags saying so. Search engines wised up to this elementary trick (or went bust).
Not that META tags are completely, utterly, totally dead. On rare occasions, Google still uses the META description tag as the page excerpt it quotes in search results. That is, if there’s not a better and more appropriate quote that fits the search query better.
The META keywords tag, however, was buried several years ago, when even Yahoo/Bing apparently had abandoned it. Keywords as in…
<META name=”keywords” content=”spam, spam and eggs, spam and bacon, spam spam spam and bacon, and oh hey bing this is the greatest webpage ever on spam, so let me repeat the word spam a few more times, spam spam, spam, spammity spam”>
Squidoo fills in the META keywords tag on each lens with your Squidoo tags, by the way. It’s quaint that way.
However — wait! Stop the presses! Our old friend Danny Sullivan has checked with Bing and discovered that Bing still uses the META keywords tag as a signal!
I just made a new lens on a popular funny YouTube video, the “Antwerp Train Station Sound of Music” prank.
If you haven’t seen the video, you need to– it’ll make you smile. VERY effective. So far it’s gotten nearly 13 million hits, and that’s not counting all the duplicate copies floating around on YouTube plus a few million more on various European YouTube sites.
It’s a great case study in “linkbait,” content that’s so good people start linking to it. (Also known as “viral,” since linkbait this good can spread by word-of-mouth to millions of web users within days, even hours).
It also illustrates an SEO blunder.
In SEO Blunders: Very Un-sexy Search Results, I showed off my first Stupid SEO Trick! I’d decided not to worry too much about optimizing this blog, since I don’t want to shell out the money for a second webhost and domain name (a URL is the best spot for keyword optimization after page title). However, I did at least want to optimize well enough that people searching for my blog by title would find it– all the more important since the domain name doesn’t match.
Unfortunately, I forgot one of my favorite tricks: make sure your keyword’s first appearance on your webpage is in a sentence that reads well when Google excerpts it in search results.
I took steps to correct the problem. To some extent, my corrections helped, but I still haven’t got it quite right. So here’s another quick lesson in how to shape your search engine results to make them look sexy– or at least what NOT to do.
Remember how I talked about “making your search results look sexy” in my lens on Squidoo and SEO?
I noted that the two-line blurb that shows up in Google search results is your big chance to “sell” your page to the searching public:
A juicy, “I want to read more!” excerpt is what you want people to see. You can’t necessarily bait every possible “long tail” search phrase with juicy verbal bait, but at least make sure your keywords first appear in a sentence that shows off what your page has to offer.
Did I pay attention to my own advice when making this blog?
Look! Look! It took 1 day to get my Squidbits blog to the top spot on Google, even though there’s a surprising number of webpages out there about “Squid bits”!
There’s just one… little… problem…