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Google Panda/Farmer Update Cont’d

I thought I’d check back in on Squidoo and Hubpages now that the Google Farmer Update (Panda update) has had some time to work. Short-term results can suggest major upheavals, but it’s the long-term stats that really mean something.

Here’s today’s traffic charts from Quantcast, showing that Hubpages traffic has stabilized:

Google Panda Update Impact on Hubpages and Squidoo

Keep in mind that the update was only for Google’s US search engine. It hasn’t yet been unleashed globally. The drop in U.S. users is included in “global” as well as “local” results.

My prediction, based on what I’m seeing, is that after this change, Hubpages’ traffic is going to be nearly the same as Squidoo’s. It already is within the US.

The Spam’s the Thing?

Jennifer Ledbetter of made a mini study of specific spam phrases confirming by the numbers my guess in my last post on the Farmer Update: Squidoo’s ongoing spam crackdown means it has fewer (but alas, still some) pages on the most spammy topics than Hubpages and several other sites. This DOES explain why didn’t lose places in the SERPs: it has even fewer pages matching these spam phrases.

Jennifer didn’t test this, but we both also argued — in different ways — that Hubpages’ much, much stricter policy on outbound links may be causing it some trouble. She pointed out that links on Hubs are nofollowed until you’ve reached a certain status. I related my experience of having all my hubs locked for having one link on each of them to cite the source of my photos. Squidoo’s got a nine outbound link per domain limit, instead, and it nofollows affiliate links in its merchant modules.

Various other ideas have been thrown out to explain the change. Another thing I pointed out is the significantly lower bounce rate of Squidoo compared to Hubpages, ezinearticles, and (of course) mahalo.

There’s just one problem.

The Quantcast traffic charts show Hubpages U.S. traffic simply dropped back to Squidoo’s levels.

If my explanations and Potpiegirl’s  guess about outbound links were correct, Squidoo should now be outperforming Hubpages. But it’s not. They’re now about the same.

Jennifer’s spam study shows that Squidoo has fewer pages than Hubpages on the spammy topics she chose to test, but not all that much less. The last phrase she checked (“tv for pc”) actually had more pages on Squidoo than Hubpages. (It really shouldn’t be filtered as spam; how to watch television on a PC is a reasonable query. It’s just gotten targeted by a lot of spammers trying to cash in on a popular search).

So my vote is on the spam being the deciding factor — as it should be — about how Google’s picking “quality” sites.  Let’s keep reporting and flagging it when we see it, folks, and for goodness’ sake don’t write on a Squiddont topic! Also, don’t give up on Hubpages. It’s gotten humbled, but it’s no worse off than Squidoo. And keeping eggs in different baskets is always a good practice.

The Google Farmer Update and Squidoo

Google Farmer Update: Early Returns

So, the manure has hit the rotary blades, and we’re starting to see some results from Google declaring war on so-called “Content Farms” in 2011. (When even mainstream news media hears about it, you know it’s big.)  Various pundits and industry experts had ideas on what content farms are, but until we saw the traffic shake-up, we couldn’t be sure how Google defined them.

Of course, I hear the little Michael Martinez devil’s advocate on my shoulder screaming “insufficient sample size, short-term data is inferior to long-term data”! but with that caveat, we’ve already got some apparent results.

Squidoo users, for the most part, haven’t seen any changes in traffic:

Squidoo Traffic Farmer Update


Hubpage users are feeling some pain (it’s all over their user forums), which is reflected in the Quantcast traffic data:

Hubpages Traffic Google Farmer Update


Go play with Quantcast to test your own favorites. Some aren’t available yet (ehow, ezinearticles), or are CLOAKED (, surprise surprise) so Quantcast can’t measure them.

For the big picture, see Danny Sullivan’s “Number Crunchers: Who Lost In Google’s “Farmer” Algorithm Change?” on SearchEngineLand, although Squidoo is too small a squid to have attracted detailed stat analysis by the experts, unfortunately.

My own traffic stats reflect what Quantcast saw: in fact, my traffic has been increasing slightly since the change (repeat: limited sample size) not dropping.

So what does this all mean for Squidoo users, most of whom publish on a variety of other platforms as well (including Hubpages)?


The Latest Google Update and Squidoo

A Squidoo Parable:

When I moved to a little condo by a lovely small park of grass and trees, I met my aged hippie neighbor taking a walk with weeds in his hand. He explained he weeded the park each day so that our homeowners’ association would not spray chemical herbicides. We all benefitted from his effort, because we never had to inhale or walk on poison. Institutional solutions tend to be overkill.

I have always considered the “Report Abuse” button at the bottom of every Squidoo page to be our version of volunteer weeding, with one crucial difference: Squidoo HQ double-checks to confirm it’s a weed before yanking it.

Since January, I have been concerned about Google’s widely-discussed updates to weed out low-quality and scraped content. I’m glad Google is doing it: search results were getting junked up by content from the “build crap and slap ads on it to make money” brigade. At the same time, I’m worried my baby may be tossed out with Google’s bathwater.

Obviously, I don’t consider Squidoo a content farm, or I would not be turning my old academic papers into Squidoo lenses (revised for the general public), receiving random plugs from Washington Post columnists needing a source for ancient Greek military history, or making Squidoo into my main platform for publishing articles on everything from volcanology to CSS help to personal product reviews. I have been publishing articles on the web since 1993, because I’m committed to the web being a place where you can find out and share what you know on anything. But the reality is, I need to earn money on my content, so I began posting it on Squidoo where I would earn a passive income for my work.

There are thousands of others like me who put a lot of pride, research, and work into our Squidoo articles. After all, we don’t earn a cent unless our pages actually perform with traffic, clicks, ratings and/or sales!

Yet on any open publishing site, there are always some who take short cuts. They’re the ones that worry me. We don’t want shoddy, low-quality pages eclipsing all our hard work. Thankfully, Squidoo has had mechanisms for years from spam filters to the Squid Angel volunteer program to ordinary members who report copied and spammy content so it can be weeded out. So hopefully Google has noticed our efforts, and will continue to rank good-quality Squidoo articles well. But we cannot be sure.

The good news is that (unsurprisingly), Squidoo HQ has also been watching developments at Google Webmaster Central. Read Megan’s post in the official Squidoo announcements forum on additional steps Squidoo is taking to help detect and remove bad apples quickly and proactively.

We can all help, too, by continuing to tweak and improve our own lenses. Make sure you do not have content plucked from elsewhere (we don’t know which copied content Google penalizes, and anyway it’s against Squidoo’s TOS). Look at the search queries on your traffic stats and ask, “Did my page answer what that person was searching for? Really?” Read your lens and ask, “If I found this as a random page on the web, would I read it? Would I click on some of these links? Really?”

Watch out for and report any copied content or spam you find. The “report abuse” button is at the bottom of every Squidoo page. Use it. I’m sure, in light of these developments, SquidHQ will be looking at those reports even more closely.

Google understands there are sites like Blogger (which it owns) where some people produce better quality than others, but the best content is unique and outstanding. Let’s keep proving that Squidoo is a similar site.