In the last few weeks Squidoo members have been rocked by a series of policy changes on the free publishing platform. I say “rocked” because these changes came like a blast out of nowhere, followed by a huge wave of relief that problems, which members have been raising for years, were finally being addressed.
These problems included high ranked pages that were doing well due to gaming, poor quality, “content thin” pages that members were worried would attract a Google “slap” and the use of automation to “update” and create pages. Spun and duplicate content were also worrying issues.
High profile members have had their wings clipped, with special statuses being removed and others have left the site. And it is clear that Squidoo HQ is now acting very quickly when they receive reports about activities by members that risk bringing the site into disrepute.
OK, so this has been a long time coming but the immediate results have been very heartening. Members are reporting that their pages, which had been pushed down in the Squidoo rankings, by the gamers’ pages, are now rising in ranking and we are optimistic that within a relatively short time the site will be much improved and a place where cheats no longer prosper.
But why should this be of interest to online writers who are not members of Squidoo?
I mentioned that this has being going on for years but it is only over the last few months that the damage predicted by many started to become apparent, when members reported drops in traffic last November.
At first it was assumed that the cause was the post-Halloween slump and that traffic would recover once the Christmas Shopping season started. A trend established in previous years. However, it soon became obvious that traffic was NOT recovering as well as it used to at that time of year.
But it was not until the end of February/early March that concrete action was taken by Squidoo HQ followed by various policy-change announcements. The first shock was a ban on page transfers between members, followed by sanctions against specific members. And in a conference call a couple of weeks later Seth Godin confirmed what we had been thinking, that the activities of a small number of members were threatening to spoil it for the many.
As a result new filters were announced that would weed out thin content lenses in a drive to improve the quality of the site. Seth acknowledged that traffic was down but was adamant that it will recover.
Anyone who is writing online with a view to earning an income needs to sit up and take note and learn from what is currently happening on Squidoo.
It is clear that content that exists purely as a means to make sales is going to be punished. Not just on Squidoo, but everywhere.
Content really is becoming “king” and anyone who thinks Google will be OK with a curated list of products, that offers nothing but Amazon or affiliate links is going on a road to nowhere. They may work now, they may be what we think our visitors are looking for and are content with that (because some of these pages make sales), but Google is no longer content with that. And given that we are totally reliant on Google for our traffic, it is time for us to raise our standards.
So how do we avoid being penalised by Google?
Micro-niche sites need to be particularly careful. Just like publishers of pages on platforms like Squidoo and Hubpages. But it is not just the small sites. Internet Giant Interflora got hit so hard by Google that for a time even if you searched for “interflora” the site did not feature in the search returns!
The reason? All to do with offering free flowers for backlinks. This was deemed unethical back-linking by Google.
So if you are tempted to pay for, or offer inducements for, backlinks – think again!
Your pages need to not just have relevant content – they need to be interesting if they are not to be labelled Spam. One method I use to assess a page is to imagine it without any products at all. Take away the links and what are you left with?
We must give our visitors something so that if we were to remove those links, they still get something to take away with them, that does not depend on them clicking through to another site. This can be in the form of a tip, like how to choose a planner, how to clean a shower curtain or the considerations when trying to choose a laptop from the thousands available.
So add in some extra information, don’t just be satisfied with an introduction and some brief product descriptions. These days, as I improve my content, I am aiming for at least 700 words in each article if the article contains any affiliate links.
The time of cutting corners in order to get as much content out there as quickly as possible is over. Gone are the days when 30 brief pages peddling the same or similar products on a micro-niche site was acceptable. And providing we accept that and get out of the bad habits we have adopted, as we attempt to replicate the perceived success of others who managed with “bare bones” articles and sites, then we should be OK.
More information: How Google Is Fighting Spam