I’ve been enjoying writing for my own sake, being active on social media, and not worrying about traffic. From time to time I stop by Hubpages and add a new article or edit some old ones. I’ve started a new blog recently, vhswhovian, which is probably of interest to exactly one of you who knows what a Whovian is. And I converted an old, early 2000 website into a WordPress format, to make it better for mobile. (And for anyone who cares, my mythphile blog is on hold while I concentrate on other projects, although I still update it once in a blue moon.)
It’s been a year since Squidoo folded and transferred my Squidoo articles across to Hubpages, so I thought I’d check analytics and see what’s happened.
Total Traffic for the year across my hubs and blogs where I’ve installed analytics (which doesn’t include this one, oddly enough):
649,600: Pageviews Sep 14, 2014 through Sep 19, 2015
Surprisingly, that’s nearly all Hubpages.
And I’ve got about 2000 followers between Tumblr and Twitter.
Below is the weekly pageview breakdown. The Squidoo imports (marked with S) perform better on average than my native Hubpages accounts, because I jettisoned about half my articles when they came across so I’d have breathing room to edit the rest. There’s something to be said for a really thorough spring cleaning.
So, the transfer from Squidoo to Hubpages has been a mixed bag. While some lensmasters are reporting good results (including me, so far), others are watching their traffic dry up and wither away. On top of which, a major Panda update just rolled out.
Paul Edmondson has some really, really good advice on affiliate links. Read the top post, then scroll down slightly to find the gold-colored post where he responded to questions. His advice is based on (a) Google Webmaster Guidelines and (b) “example[s] where google applied manual spam action on the account…”
Robin (of Hubpages, not Squidoo) had some pointers which I think are well worth trying to follow, even though we may kick at them.
Again, thinking we know better than Google may result in our not getting traffic than Google. It’s irksome, but if we’re losing traffic anyway, we may have to give in and play the game.
I am certainly ripping out Amazon products left and right as I update hubs. I did not get rid of my Greek mythology books hub, but…we’ll see. Going forward, I will definitely be focusing on my informational articles and not writing any more product reviews unless I really, really hit something that I love enough that I want to share it with my RL friends and family and online friends.
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.
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.*
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 http://www.squidoo.com/ — 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.
Squidoo shutting down shouldn’t be much of a surprise to those who have been watching it for the past year. The only surprise is that it’s giving away member content without explicit permission, despite its TOS which states,
Squidoo does not claim ownership of the Content you place on your Lens. The Content will be owned by you or a third party from whom you got permission to post the content.
I suppose, since Squidoo is merging with Hubpages, a lawyer could argue that Hubpages is now, legally, Squidoo, in the same way that my old bank is now owned by and named something else. Nevertheless, it feels a bit shoddy, especially with the “good news” spin in Seth’s announcement and the incredibly short notice.
That discourtesy towards members also doesn’t surprise me.
In a way, I’m relieved — the death by a thousand paper cuts is over, at long last. Nevertheless, I feel enormous sympathy for the many members who were still active and passionate about keeping the site going. You folks were just kicked in the gut. I wish I could wave pom-poms and give you “good news” and put a positive spin on this. But… I’m worried about those of you whose family budget depended on that Squidoo pay day.
Nevertheless, it’s not all bad news.
Chenhao Tan of Cornell University and his colleagues have completed an extensive study of what types of wording tend to generate the most retweets. There’s not one cookie-cutter template that works in all situations, because, unsurprisingly, you need to adapt your vocabulary and language to the particular community or audience you’re addressing. Nevertheless, the study suggests a few generally successful practices:
- being specific and including some specific information
- picking up on topics tweeted before
- using news headline style copy (hey, I wrote a tutorial about how to draw clicks by mimicking news headlines a few years ago— ahead of the curve!)
- asking followers to retweet
Best of all, for the moment, Mr. Tan’s website has a free tool letting you compose and compare Tweets using the intelligent algorithm he devised, based on this study of what wordings are most effective.
Translation: free Tweet optimization tool, at least until everyone discovers it and he has to shut it down due to traffic overload (just a hunch)! Probably worth using for article headlines as well.
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.
(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 update. Both 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, EMD. Sistrix 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 2.0. Sistrix 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 module, Amazon modules, Photo 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.
- 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).
- “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.
- 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.
- After significant changes, there may be a lag before Google and other search engines recrawl pages they’ve visited before and make adjustments.
- During holiday shopping season, the full extent of traffic losses on Squidoo may be masked, because Squidoo has so many sales-related pages.
- 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.
Recent major Google algorithm updates that have helped or harmed Squidoo, according to Sistrix.com’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):
- 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:
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.