Hopefully this is a bug and not a feature.
Katinka / Spirituality reports in a SquidU post that the My Lenses / Featured Lenses modules which many of us use to inter-link our lenses are no longer indexed by Google. This would prevent duplicate content from showing up — namely, the 150 character excerpt of each lens’ introduction — but also severs cross-links, hampering SEO.
You can verify the missing modules for yourself, as I just did, by Googling the following on a lens with a Featured Lenses module:
replacing the URL above with a lens URL. This will show you exactly what part of the page Google has indexed and knows about. At the moment, the Featured Lenses module just isn’t there.
We don’t yet know whether this is a deliberate Squidoo design change or a bug introduced during recent upgrades. Katinka’s passed this news onto Fluff, who isn’t a Squidoo employee, but sometimes works with Squidoo on a volunteer basis to bug hunt.
So for now, we sit tight.
The reason this matters is that Featured Lenses / My Lenses modules were easy ways to cross-link lenses, allowing search engines to find new pages on Squidoo very quickly through links on existing pages. These cross-links were backlinks, hopefully backlinks from related content to related content, if you used them to point to lenses in the same niche / topic.
IF — big if — this is a new, permanent “feature,” it means we’ll have to do yet another workaround, hand-coding cross links to other related content so that we don’t lose backlinks. The basic HTML code for doing this, which most of you know, is:
<a href="http://www.squidoo.com/example">Clickable text goes here</a>
I will also shameless plug some handy tutorials I’ve written, my old Make a Fancy Table of Contents tutorial for making compact, elegant-looking navigation bars and menus, and the Fancy Featured Lenses module trick I’ve ben using lately for lensographies such as my index of all my graphics tutorials.
Or… once, long ago, when the Featured Lenses Module only let us enter 5 modules and displayed its contents in a random order rather than letting us pick the order of lenses, I figured out how to mimic the Featured Lenses Module’s appearance precisely in a text module.
So there’s several alternatives for cross-linking purposes. And as Katinka noted, cross-linking through Squidoo tags still works.
Let’s sit tight for a few days until we know for sure whether this change is permanent, before we revamp all our lenses to address the problem.
A while back, Google indicated that there were some problems with duplicate content on Squidoo. We suspected that Featured Lenses modules, with their links to related lenses and excerpted descriptions of those lenses, might be a factor. This is especially noticeable for lensmasters who use those modules religiously at the bottom of their lenses, where it could potentially be perceived as “doorway pages.”
We took several steps to remove platform-level duplicate content sources from Squidoo, and this was just one of them. As I mentioned in another post, internal inbound linking is no longer a significant ranking factor, and we figured it would be better safe than sorry.
We may consider allowing Google to crawl Featured Lens modules again at some point in the future. In addition, we are continuing to implement new tools to identify and remove user-level duplicate content.