Squidoo: A Review:
Rating: (3/5), previously 4/5
Squidoo is a self-publishing website that has a very different format from most other websites that allow self-publishing. Highly flexible in features and format, and providing numerous opportunities for direct income-earning on the site, Squidoo has the potential to appeal to casual users, to side-income-earners, to marketers looking for a free platform on which to promote their businesses.
I have updated this review because of recent changes in Squidoo's policies that I found made it highly frustrating to work with as a publisher. I downgraded my rating from 4 to 3 out of 5.
My Experience with Squidoo:
I maintain quite a few pages on Squidoo; you can find them through my squidoo profile, or, for a more detailed summary, About Alex Zorach on Squidoo. My experience with the site has been generally good. In particular:
- Fun to use - The site is very fun to use and makes web publishing seem more like games than like a chore.
- Outstanding interactive features - Squidoo has a tremendous diversity of available features for allowing users to interact with your page, including polls, discussions, quizzes, and more complex interactive features. The ease of including polls and discussions in the middle of an article is what really sets Squidoo apart from other publishing platforms like blogs or article sites.
- Ease of integration with other sites - Squidoo can be easily integrated with other sites, such as listing products for sale in Etsy shops, or pulling dynamic content from other sites via RSS feed.
- Good search ranking/authority and visibility - High-quality pages can rank well in Google searches with little or no outside promotion. When I first started using Squidoo, the ranking tended to be good, but lagged behind key article directories like EzineArticles and Buzzle. Since the google farmer / panda update, Squidoo began (in the case of my pages) to perform equally or better relative to those sites. Some time around late summer in 2012, Squidoo began to strongly outperform EzineArticles in terms of search visibility.
- Good click-through and sales - When I have linked to my sites from pages published on Squidoo that were receiving regular traffic, I have seen a substantial click-through to my sites. The click-through rate tends to be higher than in article directories, but the quality of the traffic tends to be a bit lower, which suggests to me that Squidoo draws more casual visitors through.
- Positive, supportive community - The community, both on the site and the squidu forums, is very supportive and there is a positive culture and cooperative spirit on the site that I think brings out the best in the users.
- Responsive staff - I have found Squidoo's official staff to be very responsive to inquiries. For example, when I suggested a new category, they added it immediately, and when I have reported pages as spam, they have deleted them and banned the offending users immediately.
Downsides of Squidoo:
- Automated content filters can be aggravating - In response to a massive spam problem, in 2013, the Squidoo admins implemented a number of automated spam filters. These sometimes result in pages getting "locked" (and ultimately deleted if the problem is not fixed), but more often, they just prevent publishers from updating their pages. I have never had a page locked or deleted, but I have had numerous pages get blocked from being updated.
The content filters give no specific feedback on what tripped them. I have heard from discussions on the forums that duplicate content (elsewhere on the web), and keyword density are the #1 reasons that these filters get tripped. I find the filters very aggravating because they don't give me enough information to know how to fix or address the problem.
From trial and error, I found that in my case, keyword density was the #1 problem causing the filters to be tripped. However, I found that the filters were so strict that they required me to actually change my writing into a more unnatural style. For example, I have a page of calculus book reviews and I had to remove some of my mentions of words like "calculus" and "books", instead using synonyms like "texts" in order to get the site to save my update.
- Squidoo can be a bit of a time-sink - Creating pages on it is more time-consuming than you might expect (especially when site responsiveness is an issue), and if you are primarily interested in earning cash, I think there are much better ways to use your time.
- Minimal local traffic - I have found that material published on Squidoo does not tend to attract much local traffic unless you spend time actively participating in the community. This stands in stark contrast to some other self-publishing platforms. For example, EzineArticles and other article directories generally attract some local traffic without any promotion or participation required. I have also found that a catchy and well-tagged post on a wordpress.com blog, even one with no subscribers, will often attract a significant amount of local views from people scanning posts with certain tags.
What would make it 4 stars?
I think that Squidoo would be back to a 4 star site (and I would start publishing new works on it again) if they would make two changes:
- Make automated content filters give more feedback. - It can be agonizing to try to wrestle with the filters, trying to fix a page when you don't have any specific information on what has tripped the filter. This guesswork takes a great deal of time and I think it would be more respectful to publishers to give specific feedback, the way EzineArticles does.
- Remove "nofollow" attributes from links. - Around the same time Squidoo introduced their aggressive content filters, they also slapped "nofollow" attributes on all the links on the site. I felt this was a slap in the face to me, a highly respected publisher who has exclusively published my own original writing on the site from the beginning. Nearly all my pages are informational and many of them donate money to charity, rather than earning cash for me. I felt that it was reasonable to get some compensation in terms of live, dofollow links back to my websites, like this and RateTea. Having these links changed suddenly and without any input or consideration from me really undermined my trust in the site and was probably the biggest factor in my stopping publishing there.
What would make it 5 stars?
Squidoo is a very good site, and it is in that zone where it would be tricky to improve it substantially. But I feel it is not quite yet at the 5-star zone. Here are some thoughts of what could place it there:
- Better spam control and slightly higher quality standards. Spam control is pretty good on Squidoo, but some overly promotional lenses still slip through the cracks, and some are up for a little longer than would be comfortable. Squidoo has also, in my opinion, been weak on checking for duplicate content. Some lenses get published and listed on the site, which consist exclusively or almost exclusively of content taken from elsewhere on the web. While Squidoo takes these lenses down ASAP if you report them, I think a five-star site would have better checks in place and would not let them slip through to begin with.
- Slightly fewer ads. Squidoo is flexible in terms of the amount of ads that it allows on a page, but I think it allows you to go too far in the ad-cluttered direction. The worst culprits, in my opinion, are the text link ads (Squidoo previously used Infolink, I think, but now uses Vibrant Media), an exceedingly annoying flash-popup over a fake "hyperlink" embedded in the lens text. However, some pages consist mostly of links to Amazon modules and come across as overly promotional. I think that requiring a greater portion of actual content or interactive modules to product-selling modules would enhance the site slightly.
- Faster site responsiveness. There is a noticeable delay when clicking just about any link on the site, and sometimes the delays can be several seconds long. Squidoo has substantially sped up the site since I've been using it, but I think they could do better. This will be a continued point of concern until the response time is instant for most of the clicks, especially while editing pages on the site. Even a delay of 1 second can slow you down substantially, especially when you need to make dozens of clicks while working on a page.
Since writing my review, Squidoo has substantially improved the site's speed and responsiveness. But, from my perspective (and as a programmer who has written my own content management systems from scratch in PHP), it is still unacceptably slow. Better, but still too slow. Basically, if a content management system is so slow that it slows me down, it's too slow.
A Sampling of My Work on Squidoo:
I recommend checking out some of these pages, to get an idea for what you can do with Squidoo.
- Tea vs. Coffee - My highest-traffic page, and top-performing page on the site.
- Calculus Books - My top-performing sales page on Squidoo.
- Colorado River Delta - An example of a page that, in spite of looking great, being information rich, and having good editorial approval both on and off the site (good number of both internal and external likes and shares), is not performing well on the site. Worth checking out to see the site's limitations.
Alternatives to Squidoo
My preferred alternative to Squidoo is Wizzley; for an in-depth coverage you can read my article on Wizzley: A Review and Comparison to Squidoo and HubPages, in which I explain why I prefer Wizzley to both of these two other sites.
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