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Some lessons from the Squidoo Slap of 2007

  1. Silver Rose profile image66
    Silver Roseposted 6 years ago

    Because Squidoo was set up by the marketing guru Seth Godin, it was famously open to all sorts of marketing. You could post iframes onto your lens. You could post p***. You could have as many do-follow outgoing links as you liked, and you could write about whatever you pleased. It was a truly "open" platform.

    But like all these idealistic free-for-all places, it soon got colonised by the spammers and on July 7th 2007, Google brought down the hammer.

    Squidoo reacted immediately - within a week they banned iframes. They introduced the ability to strip HTML out of your comments and brought in pre-moderation of comments, so that the lensmaster could moderate for the first time. They introduced length requirements - your lens had to have at least three modules. They put in a Bayesian spam filter at the point of publishing to remove the p***.  They set up a volunteer angel system to get lenses policed by humans. They introduced an IP-based tool to pick up multiple accounts by spammers and ban them en masse. They put report spam buttons on every lens and a new "featured lens" listing, so that spammy lenses weren't even featured on category pages (so no internal link juice for them).

    All this was done within a week of the slap.

    And the result? Nada.

    Squidoo remained slapped till July 2009 - exactly two years. During that time, the only lenses that ranked were those with external backlinks. Lensmasters quickly learned that they couldn't rely on domain strength for ranking, you had to create the support for your lens yourself.

    If people are thinking that whatever changes Hubpages makes will get them back in the SERPs within a month, think again. It's like being convicted and sentenced - no matter how much you bat your eyes at the judge and say you've reformed, you still have to do your time.

    In fact G has confirmed this. See the following account of a conference that took place March 12th:

    http://searchengineland.com/lessons-lea … ding-67838

    "Matt said that many more changes are queued up for the year. He said the focus this year is on making low quality content and content farms less visible in search results".

    Keeping content farms less visible is their focus ALL YEAR.

    So if you want your income to return, you have two choices: either concentrate on your own sites, or knuckle down and build good external links to your hubs (NOT links from other content farms). The Squidoo experience shows that when a domain is under penalty, you cannot rely on domain strength to help you rank at all. In order to rank you need SOMETHING to support your page. In Squidoo's experience, this was external links. That's likely to be hubpages experience too.

    1. bgamall profile image82
      bgamallposted 6 years agoin reply to this

      So, don't link to shetoldme and others right? Link to real websites, with real traffic and pr. The international application of this algorithm will be hurtful.

      One more thing, the original source should be higher in search. I have syndicated articles which the editor asked me to repost on the high traffic, authoritive site, that were first hubs that now rank higher the hubs. That is wrong, Google, just plain wrong.

      Syndication was a window to the world, and actually started to increase hub traffic, but now hubs are stuck. While big websites continue to syndicate to their hearts content with no fear of losing their place in search, hubs no longer have that privilege and it was wrong for Google to do this, both ethically, and because the source should be more valuable.

      But if this company can steal the social security numbers of children, then what is a little unethical behavior to them anyway?

      I hope they make it right and fix this.

      1. tritrain profile image85
        tritrainposted 6 years agoin reply to this

        My thoughts exactly.

    2. J Sunhawk profile image70
      J Sunhawkposted 6 years agoin reply to this

      Good work, Silver Rose.

      By digging a bit more into your link, I found this little gem:

      "The Online Publishers Association, a group of content producers comprising many of the Internet's largest properties (including CNN.com), estimates that the algorithm change shifted $1 billion in annual revenue."

      http://money.cnn.com/2011/03/08/technol … /index.htm

      What that means is that the small businesses doing affiliate marketing took big financial hits, while the dying dinosaur media - CNN, Reuters, New York Times, AP - landed a big payday. I won't even go into the stupid claim that these "businesses" deserve the title "authority" sites. These four spew out more duplicate content spam than any 20 content farms.

      That, of course, brings up the question of the "vote" on Google Chrome over the past year or so that found "content farms" were spammy, not authoritative and needed to be ranked downward.

      Just who voted? I'd bet the "voters" were employees in the dinosaur media who just picked up a billion dollar windfall.

      I smell collusion and probably violations of anti-trust laws.

      I think Google running all over, flapping its arms and blaming the new algorithm that punishes legitimate sites is just cover for its own illegal conduct.

      And what about the recent revelation that Google has a secret "whitelist" that protects certain websites from new algo changes?

      For example, how did cultofmac miraculously recover its previous traffic and income levels after it got smashed by the new algo? Did it win a spot on the "whitelist?"

      1. bgamall profile image82
        bgamallposted 6 years agoin reply to this

        Not suprising from a company that uploaded social security numbers from children.

    3. Greekgeek profile image96
      Greekgeekposted 6 years agoin reply to this

      I'm surprised you say the Google slap lasted on Squidoo for two years.

      My own stats, and those of many lensmasters who experienced the Squidoo Slap of July '07, showed that traffic dipped for two months. It was picking back up-- and exceeding previous levels --by the end of September.

      I've never made a huge practice of backlink building, believing that quality and on-page optimization are sufficient, if you've got effective site structure and cross-linking. I don't think that's the only answer to the Farmer updates.

      I would tell this story a little differently: Squidoo got penalized by Google for two MONTHS in 2007, worked to address the problems, and moved on, and the traffic came back. I believe Hubpages can do likewise!

  2. Silver Rose profile image66
    Silver Roseposted 6 years ago

    You need to get links from places not deemed to be content farms. Others have written tons on this subject so I needn't go into it here. But in-content links from posts on other websites help, comment links that have been approved from quality related websites help, profile links help, a good social profile on Facebook and twitter helps.

    Links from Ezine, shetoldme and the rest are junk.

    Here's what they said at that conference about article links:

    "How Valuable is Article Marketing?
    Not very.  Both Duane [Forrester of Bing] and Matt [Cutts of google] said that articles syndicated hundreds of times across the web just don’t provide valuable links and in any case, they aren’t editorially given. Duane made things simple: “don’t do the article marketing stuff.”

    He suggested contacting an authority site in your space to see if they would publish a guest article that you write particularly for them. If the authority site finds your content valuable enough to publish, that’s a completely different situation from article hubs that allow anyone to publish anything."

    Now guest posting works best if you have your own domain to link back to (other sites are going to be a bit wary if you just have a hub to link back to), but you could create variations on this yourself - set up a network of related blogs and link back and so on. Oh, and don't plaster Adsense on your related blogs.

    1. bgamall profile image82
      bgamallposted 6 years agoin reply to this

      I was just going to post that. Article marketing is dead. You should be able to syndicate to an authority site, which I did, but even that was punished.

      Yet authority sites can syndicate with each other to their hearts content and no one cares, apparently. Am I reading this right?

      1. Silver Rose profile image66
        Silver Roseposted 6 years agoin reply to this

        No. You have syndication on the brain!

        Guest posting is about contacting an authority site and asking if you can post a UNIQUE article on their site. The article will have a link back to your domain/hub. But it is NOT a syndicated article, i.e. it is NOT going to appear everywhere. It's unique.

        Why on earth would an authority site with high pagerank and trustrank accept syndicated content that appears everywhere?

        If you can't guest post, then set up a network of small blogs on places like blogger, wordpress.com and so on, and post articles on there with links back to your hubs. But again, they need to be unique articles, and NOT syndicated. And your network of support blogs should not be monetised.

        It works best if you divide your websites into niches, and set up your network for particular niches, so it's related links that you are getting.

        1. bgamall profile image82
          bgamallposted 6 years agoin reply to this

          I wrote some hubs on Business Insider, with the editor's invitation. I continue to write but no longer copy hubs to the site. I do link back to some hubs.

          But there are authority sites that continue to totally copy Huffington and other works without punishment because they are authority sites also.

          An example is commondreams.org.

          1. Silver Rose profile image66
            Silver Roseposted 6 years agoin reply to this

            Well keep writing for them, and keep linking back, but make sure that your hub is unique, and the article on Business Insider is unique - that way you have a better chance of getting both indexed and ranked. Then bookmark your business insider articles, to make sure they stick too.

            But don't duplicate/syndicate stuff. Are you able to edit your old business insider articles that were copies of your hubs? Check a) if they are still indexed, and b) edit them to make them unique, send a link back to the relevant hub and then c) bookmark the life out of your new article to make it stick.

            You basically only want one copy of your hubs out there and one copy of your business insider articles out there. It's more work but less grief in the long run.

            1. bgamall profile image82
              bgamallposted 6 years agoin reply to this

              I will look into that, but while I can edit, I don't want to make BI mad.

            2. bgamall profile image82
              bgamallposted 6 years agoin reply to this

              At least there are links to hubpages from the higher ranked copies from Business Insider. So there is some link juice from these to Hubpages.

              And these business terms are not major traffic drivers anyway.

        2. bgamall profile image82
          bgamallposted 6 years agoin reply to this

          Ok based on this article, are pligg sites that have voters of any value anymore? Or Digg, etc?

          1. Silver Rose profile image66
            Silver Roseposted 6 years agoin reply to this

            From what I can tell pliggs still work (as they are do-follow). Digg is no-follow and I don't bother with them. How long pliggs will continue to work, no one knows. All we know for the moment is that content farm links don't work and syndicated articles don't work as well as they used to either.

            It's actually very good for you that you have an "in" with Business Insider - if I were you I'd milk it for everything it was worth - put up high quality unique articles on there, link back to relevant related hubs, promote both the articles and the hubs.

            1. bgamall profile image82
              bgamallposted 6 years agoin reply to this

              Thanks. I thought shetoldme was a voting site. I don't understand why they are included in link farms?

              1. Silver Rose profile image66
                Silver Roseposted 6 years agoin reply to this

                Think about how shetoldme looks. Each page consists of a few sentences, a link and is surrounded with ads. Why would Google want to index that page? And if they don't index the page, then the link to you has no value at all. And if they've deindexed a lot of shetoldme pages, then links to you will have suddenly disappeared...

                When selecting pligg sites, try to go for those that don't have too many ads. There was definitely an ad-to-content ratio aspect in this algo change.

  3. JimmyTH profile image60
    JimmyTHposted 6 years ago

    Hi, Silver Rose,

    I think what you've said here explains what I'm seeing in regards to my own hubs and sites. Some of my hubs have been popular enough to acquire good external backlinks -- I've checked them out to see if the hubs themselves conform to the new Hub guidelines and they do, so I didn't need to update them. Other hubs are not getting the random hits they used to get, but the backlinked hubs aren't doing badly. I think part of the drop I saw at first was related to the news in Japan, people found that more interesting than the things I write about. On my own sites I saw a small drop in traffic, cut down on the number of Amazon ads there, and they seem to be recovering quickly.

    But what this means for me is that I'll be spending more time on my own sites, not writing Hubs. It'll be a choice between writing and building my own sites, or writing a new hub that nobody will see unless I spend extra time hunting for backlinks. I'd rather write than do the networking.

  4. Misha profile image75
    Mishaposted 6 years ago

    I agree mostly. Though I think that hubpages (and other web2 sites) links are not devalued all the way down to zero, they still have some value in them, albeit lower than it used to be. So it is not completely pointless to build links using web2 sites. smile

    1. Silver Rose profile image66
      Silver Roseposted 6 years agoin reply to this

      Agree - but there are degrees to it. I wouldn't bother with Ezine though a link from Squidoo still has value.

      1. White Teeth profile image59
        White Teethposted 6 years agoin reply to this

        Could you elaborate a little more on this Squidoo > Ezine thing?

        1. Silver Rose profile image66
          Silver Roseposted 6 years agoin reply to this

          Squidoo only took a small hit in the Farmer algo, whereas Ezine articles was hammered. I guess G thinks Squidoo is a better quality site than Ezine

          1. Misha profile image75
            Mishaposted 6 years agoin reply to this

            If Squidoo internal links already were devalued as a result of 2007 slap, and most of its power was from external links, devaluing the links of Squidoo and Ezine to the EQUAL level will give that picture. Cause Ezine does not do revenue sharing, so people don't build that much links to the articles there.

            In other words, nowadays Ezine link is likely worth exactly what Squidoo link is worth. And Hubpages link, to that matter. smile

            1. skyfire profile image74
              skyfireposted 6 years agoin reply to this

              I'm sure that squidoo is not completely recovered from the previous slap. It takes lot of backlinks for lens to rank high(even today).

            2. bgamall profile image82
              bgamallposted 6 years agoin reply to this

              That makes sense.

            3. Silver Rose profile image66
              Silver Roseposted 6 years agoin reply to this

              Squidoo recovered from it's 2007 slap in July 2009. So their situation prior to the Farmer/panda algo change was like Hubpages and Ezine - i.e. normal domain strength. Post the Farmer/Panda change, hubpages and Ezine have dropped sharply, but Squidoo dropped only a little. Which is why I am assuming they have more strength left than Hubpages and Ezine.

              1. bgamall profile image82
                bgamallposted 6 years agoin reply to this

                Squidoo is crashing again: http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/squidoo.com#

                But so is Ehow, so it may be Japan. http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/ehow.com#

                Watch these.

                1. skyfire profile image74
                  skyfireposted 6 years agoin reply to this

                  Alexa stats are not accurate and most of the time based on estimated data. We get accurate data for hubpages from quantcast because yieldbuild platform runs two analytics javascripts before loading the page - quantserve and google analytics.

                  1. bgamall profile image82
                    bgamallposted 6 years agoin reply to this

                    I don't have access to those. I think Alexa random sample is probably in the ballpark.

              2. Misha profile image75
                Mishaposted 6 years agoin reply to this

                How do you know it did? I would guess nothing changed on goggle side, just squids finally built enough links for it to float again - and this fits the picture very well...

                1. Silver Rose profile image66
                  Silver Roseposted 6 years agoin reply to this

                  Well I had some lenses at the time (2009), and G suddenly started sending them traffic mid-way through that year. So I am assuming that the penalty was lifted at that point.

                  Of course your reasoning (that sufficient links had been built to lift the domain as a whole) could be correct too. In which case Hubpages has even further to go to get itself out of it's hole. Maybe six months of denial that links have to be built, and then then the die-hards building links while everyone moves onto the next sure thing, and maybe a resurrection in 2013...

              3. lakeerieartists profile image76
                lakeerieartistsposted 6 years agoin reply to this

                From what is being said in the Squidoo forums, Squidoo has not had a hit at least in the vocal lensmasters.  My own Squidoo account has had no change at all before and after the Panda changes.

  5. Mark Ewbie profile image87
    Mark Ewbieposted 6 years ago

    Hi guys - two of the foremost experts in one place.

    I have a Squidoo thing.  Do I write an article about X and then somewhere in it explain that there is also an article on Hubpages about X?

    1. Silver Rose profile image66
      Silver Roseposted 6 years agoin reply to this

      Say you have an article on hubpages on "where to buy blue widgets". You can write a related article on squidoo on "the history of blue widgets" and then put a link in Squidoo lens anchored on "blue widgets" or whatever keyword you are targeting.

      The important thing is that both your lens and hub are unique. Then you will have to go and backlink your lens as well, to give it "strength".

      I always get annoyed when people claim backlinking is an "easily gamed aspect of G's algo" because in reality it is a ton of work.

      1. Mark Ewbie profile image87
        Mark Ewbieposted 6 years agoin reply to this

        Thanks Silver Rose.  It sounds like you need to write on a whole lot of sites and blogs, etc. - lot of hard work as you say.

  6. relache profile image90
    relacheposted 6 years ago

    What happened to Squidoo in the summer of 2007 did not greatly reduce my lens traffic there, nor did it have a serious impact on my earnings from my lenses.

    And the impact from the algorithm change in the Panda update has showed almost no change in my stats there at this time.

    Which does not appear to be the case on HubPages now.  I do think this site will eventually recover but it's going to be a lot uglier during that process.

    1. Silver Rose profile image66
      Silver Roseposted 6 years agoin reply to this

      But was your experience typical of the domain as a whole, and had your lenses acquired external backlinks?

      1. relache profile image90
        relacheposted 6 years agoin reply to this

        I don't to backlinking myself, so if my lenses had them, they were purely organic.

        And I have no idea what the experience was across the site as a whole.  But the spammers sure took a huge hit.

  7. tritrain profile image85
    tritrainposted 6 years ago

    I wonder what the big G considers to be a content farm.


    Both are Google products.  Hmmm.

    I wish we knew where the line was drawn.

    1. Mark Knowles profile image60
      Mark Knowlesposted 6 years agoin reply to this

      Blogger put their blogs - as do wordpress.com - on subdomains instead of subdirectories.

      Just set up a multi user site myself and thought long and hard about why they did that.

      I went with subdomains. wink

  8. HealthyHayden profile image55
    HealthyHaydenposted 6 years ago

    Thanks for the read, interesting perspectives all around. 

    I don't believe "article marketing is dead", but naturally the backlinking benefit is questionable at best.  However you can still generate good traffic from a GOOD article. 

    This shakeup is certainly making many IMers re-evaluate their business model.

  9. Dolores Monet profile image100
    Dolores Monetposted 6 years ago

    So, does this mean that we should take down our stuff on places like shetoldme, snipsley, ezines, etc.? (Hate to do that, some of my ezine articles were actually good.
    Just when I start to make a bit of money, learn to write myself some back links, the whole thing goes kaplooey.

    1. Silver Rose profile image66
      Silver Roseposted 6 years agoin reply to this

      Just make some new backlinks from other places. There's a ton of places people can get links from that are not content farms. Just search this site for information, and it's all there.

      P.S. I would also add, don't spread yourself too thin. Go through your stats, identify the ten hubs that made you the most money pre the panda update, and focus on getting those ranked as highly as possible. It's better to build 100 links each to ten hubs and earn well from them, than to try to build a few weak links to hundreds of hubs. You have to perform triage on your hubs and focus your time on where it's most profitable.

      1. Misha profile image75
        Mishaposted 6 years agoin reply to this

        Very sound advice, I totally agree smile

  10. Dolores Monet profile image100
    Dolores Monetposted 6 years ago

    Well before this last big bruhaha, I never heard of a content farm. And but for a few days, my better hubs have been doing fine.

  11. BobbiRant profile image59
    BobbiRantposted 6 years ago

    For one thing, if I, like Google, owned more than 65% of query volume in the United States, would you rank your own stuff below Your competitors?  Probably not.  Google could not fulfill it's 'pact with the Devil' meaning the Verizon deal months ago, so now it has a new algorithm? Strange at best.  Bigger, more money offering companies see to get to the top, plus Google's own companies do too.  The 'gateway' to the Internet does have the ability to impact the Internet economy in a big way.  Is it truly 'search neutrality'?  I, for one, wonder.

    1. tritrain profile image85
      tritrainposted 6 years agoin reply to this

      It is steadily becoming "advertiser influenced". 

      It's akin to Walmart swallowing up the small Mom and Pop shops.

      Metaphor Key
      Big Google advertisers = Walmart
      Small websites/affiliate marketers = Mom and Pop Shops

      1. Dolores Monet profile image100
        Dolores Monetposted 6 years agoin reply to this

        yes - sort of like the industrial revolution all over again. large companies put an end to small, cottage enterprises, where the little people make lace, or whatever.

  12. Misha profile image75
    Mishaposted 6 years ago

    Well, unless government, inc. will mandate all use google for search, we still have yahoo and bing, and other ones surely will emerge, too.

  13. BobbiRant profile image59
    BobbiRantposted 6 years ago

    Google used to love affiliate marketing for a long time.  Affiliates helped them discover who buys what and they helped Google gain an edge over other companies.  But now Google doesn't need the affiliates anymore so they are basically in Google's way and considered to be unnecessary, I'm sure.   Google wants to be the Only seller and advertiser. Of this, I have no doubt.  Google and Bing had a very visible, and childish war of words a few weeks ago on Twitter.  Google accused Bing of 'stealing' Google's searches (spying on Google) and we know there is no love loss between Google and Microsoft. Google also had to take some drastic measures because it has seen some top executives do an exodus to Facebook and other areas.  Google does not like to compete with anyone.  But since Google owns over 65% of search queries in the U.S. alone, it has the dilemma of a conflict of interest.