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


My Thoughts About Hubscore on Hubpages

Many Hubpages members are anxious about Hubscores. I feel almost the same way about them as I did about Squidoo points and levels: they’re in-house metrics that have no bearing on my success as an online writer. From time to time, I’ll glance at my dash to see which of my articles Hubpages scores as the best, partly to feel a tingle of self-satisfaction, and partly to get a general sense of the kinds of articles Hubpages prioritizes. (In that case, I’m judging Hubpages— never mind how it arrives at those scores, are the articles it’s giving 90s to good articles? If  Hubpages starts ranking junk above what I consider quality, then I’ll worry.)

As I mentioned in my previous post, my recent Hub of the Day had a Hubscore of 83. That shows just how futile it is to chase Hubscores. Looking at all my Hubs with better scores, a quick glance showed no obvious patterns. Some had more comments, some more traffic, some more user interaction, some more or fewer words, some more or fewer photos. Maybe I could figure out why they outrank my HotD if I analyzed them all carefully, but it’s just not important. (Especially since I agree that, while it’s a successful article, it’s not my very best work.)

The only reason Hubscore matters is that it’s Hubpages’ requirement for DoFollow links. If your overall Hubberscore drops below 85, or an individual Hub’s score drops below 40, then links in your article are set to NoFollow. That means Google won’t count them when assessing the value of the sites they point to. Many people actively plant DoFollow links as a way to make their own websites rank better on Google— or so they hope.

Personally, I’ve stopped caring whether links on my hubs are DoFollow. My websites, blogs and good articles attract plenty of dofollow links on their own from other people linking to them.  That spares me from worrying about Google cracking down on various kinds of spammy backlinks. What Google wants to see (and use as a ranking factor) is links from other people who genuinely find your content valuable. To that end, Google’s Penguin algorithm is designed to filter out self-promotional links which tell it nothing about how good the content actually is.

Many years ago, I decided that the best thing to do is not to build my own backlinks, but to try to build content that’s worth linking to. As long as I do that, my Hubscore generally stays above 85 anyway. (I just checked, and all my Hubpages accounts are 85 or better except one, which is an old test account.)

Squidoo to Hubpages Transfer: Traffic Increase

I just checked Google Analytics to see how my Squidoo lenses are faring after transfer.

Here’s their daily traffic stats according to Google Analytics. (Scroll down for a visual chart of the boring data).

To create this table, I combined all their Google Analytics daily traffic data. Squidoo or Hubpages, wherever they were, it was the same batch of articles.*

First Week of Squidoo to Hubpages Traffic


Squidoo Lens Transfer To Hubpages Has Begun

Hubpages has set up a new help forum for Squidoo members making the transition to HP.

As expected, HP is transferring accounts a bit at a time, with early opt-ins getting early transfers.

Relache reports on how her lenses looked after import and what happened to modules that work rather differently on HP.

Still waiting for your lenses to transfer? Here’s what I’m doing.

  • One final Traffic Stats compilation. My weekly traffic for all my Squidoo accounts dropped below 9000 this week. Partly because I deleted over a hundred of lenses (Squidoo-related tutorials and community lenses, lensographies, and some product review niches that I’m moving to my own site), but that’s still sad for 259 pages.
  • KEYWORD DATA DEEP DIVE. Last chance! Whatever else one can say for it, Squidoo gave us good data on keywords tucked away in the depths of the dashboard. Really tucked away, since they hid the 90 day data.

You can get it by creating a random bookmark (be sure to add it to your browser toolbar), then editing the bookmark in your browser’s bookmark editor and changing the URL to the following mini script (scroll right in the code box below to make sure you copy all of it):


Click that bookmarklet while you’re logged into Squidoo, and it’ll ask for a lens URL  — just the stuff after — and then it takes you to the 90-day traffic pane for that lens. Be sure to click the “see more” toggle at the bottom of the keywords list to grab ‘em all. Save ‘em to a text document with all the keywords for one niche, and they may give you some ideas about the sorts of things your primary audience is looking for.

I’m trying to collect the keyword data for my favorite niches and top hubs. That’s not something HP is going to preserve.

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.


Why Traffic Stats Are Screwed Up: Google’s “Not Provided” Search Data

I’ve got the Google Traffic blues.

Smart online writers depend on the search queries in our traffic stats to show us what our readers are looking for, want to know, or might want to read more about. This helps us improve our existing content, by tailoring it to our readers’ needs. Search traffic records also help us look for leads about new topics to write on which might get traffic.

Over time, observing search traffic can give you instincts about what kinds of things people tend to search for on the web, and what they don’t. This is very useful knowledge for an online writer to have.

There’s just one problem.

Google is hiding more and more of this information. As a result, traffic stats on sites like Squidoo are starting to look weird:

“Direct” traffic? Just what does that mean, anyway?

Originally, “Direct” traffic indicated visitors navigating to our websites via a bookmark, clicking on a link in a private email, typing the URL in directly, or some other source that provided absolutely no information that our traffic software could track.

To this we may now add Google search queries on iOS6. Google doesn’t usually hide search data this completely, but in some cases, it’s encrypting/concealing search data so much that when a user performs a Google search and arrives on your site, Google won’t even let your traffic software know, “Hey, that visitor came from us.” It’s as if Google were walking behind the visitor with a broom, sweeping away their footprints.

So that’s why our traffic stats now show so much so-called “Direct” traffic. It’s search traffic arriving under Google’s invisibility cloak.

But all the rest of Google’s search traffic is filed under “Google,” right? And then the search queries should show up under the “Keywords” chart?

Sadly, no. In many cases, Google is only telling Squidoo, “Hi, I just sent you a visitor,” without passing along the actual terms/keywords they searched for. So many Google search traffic visits are now filed under the “Referrers” chart, instead of the “Keywords” chart:

If you check Google Analytics, the keywords for these searches are all listed as “Not Provided.”

Unfortunately, since Google is blocking the data from its end, there is absolutely no way to ferret out what words those visitors searched for to find your page.

Not all Google search queries are hidden. In some cases, they still show up under “Keywords.” But more and more of them are not showing up. This has been going on for a while, but it’s getting worse.

In 2011, Google started encrypting (hiding) search data for users logged into Google or Google Plus. At the time, Matt Cutts of Google claimed that this “not provided” data would be a very low percentage of our traffic stats data, “in the single digits.” That was an underestimate, of course.

More recently, Firefox has started voluntarily encrypting searches from users using Google search at the top of its browser. More and more web applications are following suit.

Since more and more third-party browsers and apps are voluntarily using Google encryption when their users do a Google search, the percentage of search terms “not provided” by Google keeps growing. Some websites are reporting as much as 50% of their search traffic is concealed by the “not provided” filter.

Google claimed that blocking search data was done to protect visitor privacy, but it’s a pile of crock. Google advertisers get access to search query data which is “not provided” to the rest of us. Basically, you have to pay Google now to get complete data on what your customers are looking for. If you’re doing it as a commercial advertiser, you get to snoop on people’s web searching habits; if you’re doing it as a writer trying to learn what your readers want, tough.

Luckily, we’re not entirely dependent on Google to help us learn what our visitors want. Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines are still reporting their search data to Squidoo, so we’ll still see plenty of examples of what kinds of searches are bringing visitors to our pages under the “Keywords” column. But we’re missing a complete picture. We may not be seeing the most popular searches bringing visitors to our pages, or, at the least, only a fraction of those searches are turning up in our “Keywords” column, with the rest hidden.

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.)

Panda Update 3.2 Happened January 18

Has your traffic profile changed recently? The culprit may be Panda 3.2, confirmed on Jan 18, 2012. See that link on SearchEngineLand for more info.

To review what this Panda thing is about:

Google’s search algorithm ranks pages’ relevance to a given search query based on over 200 factors. For example, are the words in the search query (“what’s in a hot dog?”) found in the page’s headers, or does that page link to other good pages about that topic? The pages that rank highest on relevance get listed first for that query when someone searches for it on Google. A better Google listing means more clicks, more visitors, more traffic.

Starting last February, Google introduced a new factor, code named Panda. This factor is weighted more strongly than many other factors. Panda is different from most of the factors in that it’s a measure of the domain where the page is found. Are there a lot of spammy pages on that domain (e.g. Are there a lot of pages whose content is found elsewhere? Or is that domain full of unique, useful pages? Panda attempts to determine the overall quality of a website. It then boosts or detracts the raw rank of any page found on that site.

Panda isn’t calculated every day. Instead, it’s recalculated manually whenever someone at Google says, “Time to run a Panda update again.” It then crawls all the sites on the web and re-evaluates whether they’re full of spam and junk or excellent content.

The long and short of it: each time Panda is recalculated, ALL articles on Squidoo may be somewhat impacted, depending on whether Squidoo gets a good Panda rating or a poor one. A good one means that — other things being equal, a page on Squidoo will be listed higher in search results than the same page posted somewhere else. Or, if Squidoo gets downgraded, it’ll give lenses a slight disadvantage, like a golf handicap.

January 18ith is about the time my Squidoo traffic jumped by about 20%. However, I haven’t seen a lot of Squidoo members gloating over a sudden traffic jump, so this is evidently not much of a sidewide change — in which case, my own traffic boost is probably not due to Panda.

There’s another Google update muddying the waters right now, making it difficult to tell which factor is causing what. Search Plus Your World now shows strongly personalized results in Google searches, including things your friends and circle have tweeted and shared. I’m not clear on whether Google has started giving more weight to socially shared links as a ranking factor— one of those 200+ factors mentioned above — or whether it’s still only regarding social signals from “trusted authorities” (say, a link posted by Neil Gaiman) as important and all the rest of our Tweets, Facebook Likes, etc as only significant to our friends.

At any rate, any one of the recent reshufflings of what Google displays as seach results could explain my traffic boost. It’s not just more traffic following a holiday lull, as this is significantly more traffic than I saw in 2011.

ETA: Click the widget below to view the full-sized Quantcast chart for Squidoo traffic. It may show a modest bump in traffic from the latest Panda update, or it may be within seasonal variation. (Here’s Hubpages’ traffic, too, for comparison.)



Thoughts on Squidoo’s Revised Activity Stream

UPDATE: This post is now obsolete, as Gil has continued tweaking the new activity stream and has taken our suggestions onboard. There are now TABS that let us filter our Squidoo activity stream according to sales or other specific info we might want to see, and the data goes back more than 200 entries. YES! THANK YOU, GIL!



Squidoo is testing an update to our Dashboard. Squidoo quests, LOTD, and HQ announcements appear in the Activity Stream. Participation in polls has been removed. Participation in quizzes is still there, for the moment. The stream gets truncated after listing 200 items from our own lens activity, but will show HQ blog posts, LOTD notifications, and other HQ announcements going back a month (I think).

Here’s HQ announcement about the New Squidoo Activity Stream A/B Testing.  Obviously, it’s not finalized.

The revised version has been unrolled for many Giant Squids, so it’s gotten my two big Giant accounts. The sales data that I rely on has now been lost, and cluttered up with a bunch of things I used to filter out using Fluffanutta’s Workshop Add-on from SquidUtils. I wanted to share this comment I made in SquidU’s discussion of these changes, because I think it’s an idea that has broader applications:

I would’ve loved if they’d just made Fluff’s tool canon and then added a set of checkboxes that stuck, so we could set our dashboard up once and for all to show the stuff we care about.

I’m a victim of the A/B testing. It only shows the 200 most recent items from lens activity. For me, that’s 100+ people taking my quizzes, and there’s not even a day’s worth of sales records. Every Sunday, I sit down and review my sales for the week. I’d grab the info right out of the activity stream and GREP it into a tab-delimited chart that I could plunk into Excel. Now there is no easy way to do that.

Every one of us has a different lens profile and different goals. Some people may WANT to track how many quizztakers and polltakers they’ve got. Maybe someone’s built some polls for research purposes and honestly wants to see that. Whereas others of us are here to earn a living and don’t want the quests, monsters, and points cluttering up our dashboard — we’re only interested in real-world results. If we could customize it to fit our needs, instead of being mashed into what Squidoo thinks we should use Squidoo for, that would be really great!

I loved Fluff’s tool because it did exactly that: let us focus on whatever we think is important.

It’s hard to make custom tools that show different information to different users. It’s much easier to extrapolate what most people use a site for, and create an interface tailored to that particular kind of user, figuring that everyone else will manage anyway. Big sites like Squidoo have so many features and stats (yay!) that it’s hit the point where they can’t show everything. That’s a given. But what we’d love is to be able to tailor those features and stats to suit our own needs, instead of being given the options package the car dealership thinks we want.

Silly Squidoo Trick: 3-Month Stats Shortcut

Do you check your long-term (or at least medium-term) stats regularly to investigate traffic sources and keyword trends?

Here’s a fun trick. Make sure you’re logged into Squidoo, then click this SquidStats shortcut (I programmed it myself; it’s safe).

This shortcut skips over the multiple steps I was having to take to see three-month stats:

  1. go to the dashboard
  2. click “Stats” under a lensname
  3. click “traffic” tab
  4. choose “3 month range”

The only catch is that you have to remember a lensname — the part of a lens URL minus — or have the lens open so you can grab the end of its URL. (or, if on the dashboard, right-click to copy the URL, paste it into the entry box, but delete before hitting return.)

If you find this Squidstats shortcut useful, then drag it onto your bookmarks bar.

Important Google News: Panda 2.2, rel=author, analytics

WOW. LOTS of Google news to report to Squidoo users this week: it’s piling up faster than I can digest it. Let me start with the most recent, since it’s the easiest to tell, though it will take you more time to use:

Squidoo Has Added Google Analytics

Finally. If you have Google Analytics, go to your profile right now and edit it to add your tracking number. If you haven’t a clue what Google Analytics and Squidoo is about, see How to Track Lenses With Google Analytics by theFluffanutta. Also see SquidHQ’s official announcement: What Is the Advantage of Using Google Analytics Over regular Squidoo stats?

But wait! Don’t go yet! There is more Google news for Squids.

Google Panda Update News

SMX (Search Marketing Expo) is the big online search convention where all the experts line up to catch pearls of wisdom from Google Spokespundit Matt Cutts. (There’s even a term for his groupies, Cuttlets. Lordie.) A rough transcript of webexpert Danny Sullivan’s interview with Matt Cutts is posted on Searchengineland. Takeaway lessons:

  • Google Panda is an algorithm run less frequently than Google’s daily indexing. Panda re-evaluates sites occasionally for spamminess, content quality, etc, and then the regular Google algorithm uses Panda’s site ranking to boost/lower pages found on that site.
  • Google Panda has yet to be implemented on non-English-based Google (Google has a different search engine gateway and database in each country, so for example, search results by someone using Google in France do not match the search results for someone using Google in England).
  • Expect a Panda 2.2 soon.  No word on what it will entail.
  • ALSO, the “web spam team” is implementing a tweak to cut down on scraped content outranking the original. Huzzah.

Google Pushes Rel=Author Tag

Also from the Matt Cutts interview: Google has implemented two new voluntary tags, rel=author and rel=me, which allow you to link to an author profile page you’ve set up and back.

I was fussing with this post for several days because I’m still not 100% whether to implement the rel=author tag based on this news. But let me try to explain what it means and why it matters, and then you can ponder along with me!

10-word summary: Using rel=author might boost traffic for some sites. Maybe.

[[UPDATE: See Giltotherescue’s comments below. Based on what he says, I suggest you skip this discussion unless you’re interested. I do NOT advise using rel=author on Squidoo at this time.]]

But if you’re curious…