The concept worked very well. Over the years, millions of articles were hosted on Squidoo. These were organized into various categories. Top articles earned significant amounts of money per month. Those who profited most from the site were also able to link to revenue earning sites. They could easily make even more affiliate revenue through these links.
The Early Days
In the beginning, the site hosted articles and tried to become popular. As content was published, the administrators decided to differentiate the site from others. As a play on the "Squid" portion of the name, a series of sea creatures was developed. The entire site was transformed into a cartoon world of squids and monsters.
A lot of distinct terminology was adopted to increase diversity from other content sites. Articles were referred to as "Lenses". Each was an individual view on a particular topic. When many people could write about "Skiing", for example, each was unique. It was like a focused view of the topic from one person's point of view. The published content was then known as a "lens".
Authors were similarly differentiated. Because the authors wrote lenses, they were termed "lensmasters". Anyone who published even one lens was so referred. Alternatively, they could be called "squids" since they were obviously well connected to the site.
At about the same time, achievement trophies were incorporated. These were awarded for various types of activities. A newly registered person received the "Newbie" award. This was added to the person's profile as an electronic badge. When the first lens was published, another award was given. Other awards were given for completing a number of quizzes, giving comments to other lenses, liking lenses, and many other participatory actions.
The awards did not provide any particular benefit to early members. Each award, however, did come with a quantity of achievement points. All new members were assigned to level one. As they earned points through participation, they would be promoted to higher levels. At certain levels, benefits would come to members. Such perks are additional lens building and promotion tools would become active.
When the transformation of Squidoo was happening, many veteran authors were dismayed. They did not like the change as they felt the transformation was too childish. Others liked the change so opinions were quite mixed in the user community. Empirical evidence of whether Internet viewers liked the switch was gathered. No formal query of the public was gathered to gauge effectiveness.
The quality of the hosted content was a big concern with site organizers. The site became a repository of very poor lenses over time. During the early days, this didn't cause noticeable problems. Visitors still came to the site and interacted with the content. Revenue was earned as they visited, clicked on ads, or purchased items featured on screen. The fact that the lenses were poor quality, and essentially spam, they were effective.
While many wrote junk lenses to capitalize on the site, others deplored the practice as they strived to increase the quality of their work. The administration quickly began to site with those wishing to increase quality of content. In fact, steps were taken to impose restrictions designed to increase quality.
The administration declared that they were striving to enhance the entire library of content through new requirements. Popular practices were outlawed. Initially, a period of transition was imposed. Those lenses that were now in violation of a requirement were allowed to persist. Lensmasters could update these for compliance over time.
Unfortunately, the requirements began to increase the difficulty of authors. Many common practices became unsupported. The quality may have been increasing but the amount of content was decreasing over time. Authors were very upset over the new requirements. Due to the transition rules, it often seemed that the worst spam offenders were spared difficulty which active authors were heavily penalized.
As the administration was taking radical steps to improve the overall level of quality, the search engines, particularly Google, struck. A search algorithm update rendered much of the site irrelevant to many search terms. This had the effect of greatly decreasing traffic to the web pages.
More modifications were made by administrators. This time the response was rather more desperate since revenue was decreasing rapidly due to the great loss of visiting traffic. The library was pruned. Many hundreds of thousands of lenses were summarily de-indexed in an attempt to focus search engines on a smaller set of higher quality work.
The pruning of poorer content happened in stages. At first, only the top 400,000 works were indexed. This value was lowered over time to less than 200,000. Active authors complained that the decision was quite arbitrary. Spam content was still being indexed while newer work was not.
The authors began to complain vehemently about the Squidoo modifications. While everyone agreed that the quality needed to be improved, they were in disagreement about the methods. Spam work was shown to be largely unaffected while new work was quite restricted. Complaints to the user forum increased.
Authors began to reduce the amount of material published on the site. Many left the site entirely. Partly this was due to the new content restrictions, but it was also in response to decreased earnings. Where some had previously earned thousands of dollars per month, circumstances had conspired to drop these figures to less than $100 in many cases. The amount of return for effort was low. As a result, authors left.
Transfer to Hubpages
In August, 2014, the management announced Hubpages was taking over the library of work. Content would be transferred to Hubpages. The original web pages would be taken offline. The result of years of library construction was to be erased in barely a month. The authors, who were not consulted, were taken aback. Time will tell whether they will earn better sums at Hubpages.