I joined Squidoo back in October of 2010. The site seemed potentially lucrative due to the success that so many of the authors were having. It was a general content Internet site that provided revenue sharing to member authors. When I joined, they had just instituted a new system of "monsters". Many members complained about the change. The response of the site administrators was pleasant, but the changes were retained. Since then, many more alterations have happened, for better or worse.
Look and Feel
In the earliest days, Squidoo used a squid-like cartoon character as a logo. This was later followed by a series of cartoon monsters that signified various achievement levels for members. From the beginning, the articles were referred to as "Lenses". Each was said to be an individual author's view of a topic. Multiple lenses were allowed, even encouraged, per topic. The only stipulation was that a lens had to have a unique title since it specified the final URL.
Because the site was cartoony, and different, member authors were called "lensmasters". Each would have a portfolio of lenses that they published and maintained. Success depended on many factors on this revenue sharing site. The stated objective was to pay 50% of earned amounts to members. Income was based on advertising and commissions from product sales.
A fairly complicated system was implemented for revenue calculations. Earnings were based on the lens rank or on commissions earned through product purchases. Lens rank was implemented as a numerical list running from #1, (best), to the highest numbers, (worst). Tiers were established in three sections for the top 80,000. Lenses in a given tier received a share of a pool amount. Over the years, quite a lot of changes have been made to the tiers.
Lens Rank Tiers
All lenses on the site are ranked automatically from #1 and up. The lower the number, the better. If the site has 5,000,000 articles, then the worst one would get the highest number. All others would fall somewhere in between. The ranking algorithm ran every day as a background process, early in the day. It would make adjustments to the scoring, raising some articles and lowering others. All new submissions would be ranked on the day after they were published.
The exact scoring algorithm used for ranking has never been fully explained. A lot of general tips were given from site administrators to help members improve their success. Well written content was encouraged. Images were important. At first adding images was completely optional. In time, at least one image became mandatory for every submission. Content tags were important. Using more of the site content blocks, (text, video, comments, etc), seemed important as well. Ultimately, traffic from viewers was vital for ensuring that a lens performed better.
Many site members complained that the structure of the ranking algorithm was flawed. While the published tips seemed helpful, many rankings were not consistent with the supposed guidelines. Many low quality submissions seemed to rank very highly. Many topics were given preferential ranks, depending on the time of year. This was shown when poor quality Christmas content suddenly started to become featured in December. Other date specific topics, like Valentine's Day, were elevated as their time came.
Other factor often had a very large bearing on performance. On at least a couple of occassions, internal errors with the algorithm caused large swings in ranks. Sometimes these were later adjusted manually, sometimes not. As a result, confidence in the revenue sharing became lower. Quality suffered.
Search Engine Effects
In time, Google, and other search engines, began to alter their indexes with respect to Squidoo content. In some cases, related to index adjustments, the site was completely slapped. This would result in a huge drop in traffic delivered to the site as the index was purposely lowering the importance of the lenses. Administrators started to make drastic changes in order to improve the search engine performance.
Where Squidoo had originally ranked all submissions, and publish them in the site directory, the decision was made to not update the directory for "poor" work. While there were about two million author submissions on the site, those poorer than about number 400,000 were deemed to be unworthy of publication. This allowed the site to concentrate publicity on a much smaller portfolio. It was hoped that the search engines would regard all content as important as the worst was suddenly hidden.
When lopping off the worst content did not stem the punishing treatment from search engines, more alterations were deemed necessary. Various programs were implemented that examined content for quality. Using various guidelines, submissions that were poor under the new rules were flagged. Authors were advised that their work was not of high enough quality. In many cases, authors following established site guidelines were flagged as having poor work. A short amount of time was given for content to be improved. While many articles were improved and re-published, others were removed by the authors, or summarily deleted by administrators.
Squidoo continues to change in order to answer changes implemented by search engines. Where the ranking system was previously capped at 400,000, June 2014 saw the high bar lowered to 175,000. Members who had previously qualified for advanced standing were forced to re-apply, and be re-evaluated for their existing memberships. Rather than comply, many authors abandoned the site.
Through the years, Squidoo has managed to stay fairly well regarded by Alexa, the Internet index, although they have slipped significantly. While the site was once about the 200th best, by June of 2014, it had slipped past 1000. Interestingly, however, it held position number 559 for American Internet viewers.
Authors submitting works to the site want to know what may happen in the future. There is, of course, no way to be certain. The collective earnings of authors has been decimated over the years. Some report that their monthly revenue had been well over $1,000 only to be cut to less than $50. Where top tier payments once approached $40 for each top rank submission, it now amounts to barely $1. Notably, other content sites like Yahoo Contributor Network and Orkut have shut down. Time will tell whether that fate happens here, but it certainly could.