Important Update: On August 15, 2014, Squidoo announced it was merging with Hub Pages. Writers have the ability to transfer their articles to Hub Pages. Squidoo no longer exists, but I am saving this article as an historical reference, just in case anyone wonders what happened to the site.
For a couple of years, it was clear Squidoo was floundering. It was difficult to figure out whether to stop writing there, or continue, as, at times, it appeared as if recovery was imminent.
This article was originally going to be about my decision to stop writing for Squidoo, and possibly moving my work elsewhere. But I've decided to give this platform another chance. That's because this large player seems to be showing signs of improvement.
Early in 2013, I joined the site with high expectations. This was back when it was the biggest and most influential revenue-share site on the web. It was fun to see all the little prompts and contests, although I always through the monsters were silly.
Even with just a few articles, I started to get a little search engine traffic. My lenses were well-visited by other Squidoo writers, who left comments. There was a lively and friendly community. But things quickly changed.
Very soon after joining, a large Google slap rocked the site. That's because it was littered with spam. Some of the articles were nothing more than advertisements. You might find a paragraph or two at the top of the page, but then you'd have to wade through seemingly endless affiliate links to get through the end of the "article."
For a time, this formula worked. The search engines were sending plenty of visitors, who arrived with their wallets opened.
Squidoo headquarters, or HQ as everyone called it, was generous with options to "monetize" your lenses. (This is what the articles are called.)
You could use the in-house Amazon modules, but you could also work with Viglink and some of the other affiliate networks. There was a positive vibe on the forums.
There were two very lively forums. One was an official forum, sanctioned by HQ. The other was the Squidoo Yuku forum, created and maintained independently.
Sticking it Out
For months after this happened, I tried to stick it out. I had written a total of nine articles and I hoped to add more. However, putting up just a few articles on a site, and never updating them, is a good way to get the search engines to ignore you. But I didn't want to keep publishing there if the site was in trouble.
Many long-time contributors (they were known as "Giant Squids") had their lenses "locked," because they didn't pass muster with the newly installed or newly revamped filters. These authors had just a short period of time to improve these articles before they were erased.
Some of these decisions I could understand. Others seemed to happen for more mysterious reasons.
However, I also sympathized with Squidoo staffers, who needed to take swift and painful steps to save the site. Having search engines sending so many people elsewhere is not a good business model. Unless something was done, the platform would likely sink under its own weight.
But I couldn't write more lenses under these circumstances. So I waited for new signs of life.
Arrival of the Lenslets
Sometime last year, Squidoo introduced a new format known as a "Lenslet." This was a template in which you could create a mini article. Squidoo lenses were often long, but some of them were amazing well written, and illustrated with gorgeous pictures. Once you get used to this format, you really start to enjoy the highly visual, interactive articles written in this style.
Whether this new template helps still remains to be seen. But I'm hoping the "Lenslet" format catches on, because it's a good way to test the waters of Squidoo, without getting your whole body wet. Writing these mini-reviews is quick and easy, and your compensation is through affiliate sales.
I want to think that things will get better. I'm hoping things turn around. The Squidoo system is perfect for new writers, because they don't need their own affiliate accounts to start earning money, from either Adsense or Amazon.
(It should be noted that a number of others sites, including this one, now allow writers to share in the advertising revenue, without having their own Adsense account.)
Squidoo's Payment System
One of the problems that might have contributed to Squidoo's troubles is its payment system. Only the highest-ranked articles are compensated in the form of ad-share revenue. So any money to be made is earned through affiliate sales. This greatly increased the temptation to write commercial, rather than informational articles.
Moving away from the pay-per-view model seems to have spawned the plethora of pages that became nothing more than a few lines of advertising copy.
But there's a new rule now that each article can have no more than 20 Amazon links, which is a good thing because even that many is a lot.
I'm sure everyone is hoping that these drastic measures will bring the site back to its former glory.
After a period of increasing traffic and revenue, and some excitement that this large site was finally gaining its bearing, more changes were announced. Many writers, this one included, are not happy seeing recently published articles being killed off. I've already move one, and have made a firm decision not to add more copy to this site, at least until this latest storm passes and trust is regained.