November 20, 2013

Product Review Lenses and "Telling a Story"

I'm going to rant about the new product review lens format for a bit.

I don't understand why Squidoo put so much time and effort into them to begin with (they're short lenses which promote a product - unless I'm misunderstanding something, that's exactly what HQ used to warn against), but let's put that aside for now.

No, the thing that baffles me the most right now, is the strict requirement of adding a personal story to the product review. While that might work for a lot of different products, I don't really see how that's applicable to computer hardware and such.

Look, if I'm buying a new monitor for my PC, I'll look at things like resolution, minimum brightness (so I can use it comfortably in a dark room), whether it uses PWM or not (potential flicker issues), and so on. I couldn't care less if it looks sleek and nice on your Aunt Magda's desk, or if your uncle loves watching cat videos on it. That information tells me nothing of what I need to know.

The format is also quite limited. I can't even use module titles! On the bright side, I don't need to type as much, and I don't need to worry about an intro image, either. I'm just dubious whether this kind of low-text-content lenses are the thing to put Squidoo back on Google's good graces.

April 27, 2013

Plexo and Duel Modules No Longer Indexed by Search Engines

Looking at the cached version of one of my lenses on Google, I noticed that my Plexo and Duel modules are gone. Suddenly, the whole thing about getting "not enough content" warnings on lenses which were fine for years makes sense. HQ made these modules invisible to search engines, so the content inside them no longer counts towards minimum requirements - even if you have 1000s of words in your Plexo.

It makes sense because content invisible to search engines isn't very useful at all. My guess is that HQ wants to reduce the number of outgoing links on Squidoo to fight the recent loss in Google rankings and traffic. What baffles me is that not only Link and Amazon Plexos, but also Text Plexos and Duel modules are affected. Duel is simply a cooler version of Guestbook - yet Guestbook comments are indexed, while Duel entries are not. Text Plexos can also have tons of content and not a single link, and all that content will now be useless. We'll never know the logic behind this because this change, like many others, came unannounced.

My plan is to slowly convert my Plexos into simple Text Lists. Well, I say convert, but I plan to keep the Plexo as well, just without any descriptions (no point in putting any content there since it won't count towards anything). I still think the ability to vote and add new entries is really cool. Sadly, the popular opinion seems to be that it's not content unless it's in a Text module.

So far I've "converted" my lenses on top blogging and forum platforms. 7 or 8 more are on my to-fix list. It kind of irks me to have duplicate lists (one in Text List, another in Plexo for voting) but I don't see a way around that if I want my content indexed, but give the visitors ability to vote as well.

As for Duel modules, there's nothing I can do but avoid using them in the future. I guess my idea of making duel lenses is out of the window as well.

April 22, 2013

April 2013 Squidoo Payout

My Squidoo payouts and traffic continue to drop. At this point my whole account of 200+ lenses is receiving only about 20k weekly traffic. This month's payment was $573.57, the lowest since May 2011. Combined with filter annoyance, I think this is a strong reminder that I should start working on my own sites more.

The tier earnings were pretty low, especially text link ads, which no doubt contributed to the lower payout as well:

Ad pool:

Tier 1: $36.89
Tier 2: $6.27
Tier 3: $0.31

In-Text Ads:

Tier 1: $1.63
Tier 2: $0.28
Tier 3: $0.01

New unannounced change in Squidoo this month is the higher requirement for minimum number of modules. Many of my lenses which were fine for years now get a warning when publishing that I don't have enough modules. This is not related to the "Low quality content" filter.  It is a very basic check for module count that can be "fixed" by adding one or two new Text modules, or splitting existing ones. This can be a problem with lenses like this one which have the bulk of its content in  a single Plexo module. (I have added a very small Text module since then to avoid getting deindexed).

I see it as nothing more than annoyance. At least Zujava's word count requirement makes sense. This module count requirement is pretty silly as you can have a thousand-word lens with all your content in 2 modules, and it will still be deindexed and won't be eligible to earn anything.

But let's end this post on a more positive note. Squidoo's new guide to original content states that visitor-generated content, like comments and user submissions, are "still original and unique to your lens", even if they're not written by you. Great news for the lensmasters who like making debate lenses and Plexo lenses!

March 26, 2013

New Squidoo Filter and Keyword Density

If you're one of the lensmasters hit by the new filter, you should know that it's possible to remove the yellow warning sign by clicking on it in the dashboard, clicking "Fix", and then re-publishing the lens after making some changes. (Thanks to SquidU member mnl7362 for sharing this). If the lens publishes alright, that means it's now fixed and good to go. If you get a warning when trying to publish, it means you have to work on it a bit more.

One thing that I noticed about the new filter when looking at my own flagged lenses is that it seems to take keyword density into account. Those lenses didn't have a lot (if any) affiliate links or duplicate content. However, they were a bit "thin", and had some often-repeated words or phrases. I fixed one lens by simply deleting a few instances of the most used phrase, and another by adding some more content.

Looking at the flagged lenses that other lensmasters have shared at the HQ forum, it seems that many of them have the same problem as I did. I saw several excellent lenses (unique content, no affiliate links, lots of text) which I suspect were caught in the filter because of the same reason.

Frankly, the new filters seem to be a bit overzealous in this regard. Most SEO experts say that keyword density just doesn't matter anymore, and there's no magical percentage that makes you rank well. In other words, I think the filter should flag only lenses with blatant cases of keyword stuffing.

March 14, 2013

March 2013 Squidoo Payout

I've received this month's payment from Squidoo, and with it came the expected drop in earnings. I only got $613, which I guess means I can't just sit on my ass anymore. I have to keep making new lenses just to catch up to what I was making before!

And here are the tier payouts, a lot lower because of the overall decrease in traffic that Squidoo experienced:

Ad pool:

Tier 1: $39.42
Tier 2: $6.70
Tier 3: $0.34

In-Text Ads:

Tier 1: $4.72
Tier 2: $0.80
Tier 3: $0.04

Google is such a fickle mistress. Yes, in the end it's Google that keeps us fed. The good news is, HQ seems to be working hard to get back in their good graces, although some of the methods seem a bit intimidating. I assume if you're reading this you've probably already seen the "important note" from the HQ which you have to agree with or get all your lenses locked instantly. I applaud the initiative to get rid of spun content, but I'm also worried that all these fance automated filters will result in a lot of false positives.