Squidoo Conference Call – Recap

Hey everyone!  I just got off the conference call that Seth Godin, Bonnie, and Gil from Squidoo HQ held for Giant Squids so thought I’d recap some highlights here for everyone.  As most Squidoo lensmasters know, Squidoo has been going through some changes so HQ decided to give us some of their time to tell us a few details about what all is going on.

 

The conference call only lasted about 20 minutes.  Not very long, but long enough for HQ to get some points across.  I took notes as I listened so I could share some highlights with y’all.

Just to note:  these “highlights” are not exact quotes so please don’t quote anything as “Seth said” or anything like that.  These are the things *I* heard and my thoughts on each.

First off, Seth thanked everyone – not just his staff but the 97% of lensmasters that are doing a good job and have helped make Squidoo awesome.

Seth mentioned that there are now over 3 MILLION lensmasters!  Unreal.  Even though I’ve been with Squidoo since February 2007, it’s still hard to believe how much the site has grown.  I also want to mention that Squidoo has not only survived all these years, but they have thrived – and that is virtually unheard of these days.

Seth did mention that Squidoo is having “trust issues” with Google.  I don’t think that shocked anyone – heck, it’s the reason the conference call happened at all (well, indirectly).

In short, the signals that the Squidoo.com site has recently been sending to Google are putting the site in danger of losing that precious “trust” from Google.  Again, anyone that has bounced around on the site and seen some of the pages cranked out lately knew that this would/could happen – and those types of pages are what HQ is wanting to bring to a halt.

Seth did point out that other very popular sites online like Squidoo… sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc, that Squidoo was the ONLY site that allowed it’s users to make money.

HQ folks all agreed that about 97% of their users are all doing a good job, but there is that 3% or so that is messing things up for the rest of us and for the site.  To battle this, Squidoo will be implementing a new filter to weed out the most serious problems Squidoo is facing right now – spun content and overly aggressive products links.

Yes, there are also those that are gaming the system, and as Seth said – they don’t have time to deal with the gamers.  If found, their account is locked with no discussion about it. (note: they did not define “gaming” from their perspective.  While I think many of us have seen it, it is still not clear what HQ defines it as.  However, Seth did mention that if your thinking when using Squidoo is ‘how can I game the system’, you’re going about it all wrong.)

Seth mentioned making lenses that could NOT be ‘built by a robot’.  To me, that makes sense and should make it easier for each of us to look at our lenses and figure out what needs to change.

He also mentioned that they will not give a “cookie cutter set of rules” because there aren’t any.  If they had a cookie cutter set of rules, they could just hire a dozen folks to make pages on their site and leave the lensmasters out of it.  That makes sense to me.  I know we all like clearly defined rules, but we’re not going to get it at Squidoo.

An example Seth used was this – he brought up the now infamous shower curtain lens.  He found it hard to believe that someone could be THAT passionate about shower curtains, however he gave an example of how that same shower curtain concept could be made into a great lens.

He said (to paraphrase) that say someone is wild over the movie “Psycho” and put a YouTube clip of the Psycho shower scene on their lens and then linked out to some shower curtains they liked.

Seth stressed personalizing our lenses – again, the whole “not built by a robot” concept.

Another important point that Seth made was looking at your lens and asking yourself why Google would send someone to your lens instead of sending them straight to Amazon.

I think that is a big point to pay attention to – it’s important to remember to add value to your lens that the reader would not get from Amazon (or without searching all over Amazon).  Seth also said that if you’re not ‘proud’ of your lens then you might need to be nervous about it.  That’s open to interpretation, in my opinion.  Basically, work you’re happy to put your name on as opposed to hiding it behind multiple anonymous accounts (just to note, nothing was said about it being BAD to have multiple accounts).

Next up was Gil (Chief Engineer with Squidoo).  Gil does all the on-site work, coding, developing of the lensrank algo etc.  Gil talked about the new filter that Squidoo will be implementing soon (as for WHEN, that was not mentioned unless I didn’t hear it).

Gil mentioned that new spammy problems on Squidoo are spun content and overly aggressive product links.  While the product links used to be fine, now they need to be more personal (as in, add your thoughts about products, etc).

From my understanding of what Gil said, the filter has NOT been run yet – but it’s coming.

If your lens gets hit by the filter, you will get notice and have 1 week to correct it (Giants will get 3 weeks).  The warning is something you will be able to correct on your own – in other words, it sounds as if you will not have to request a “greenlight” or anything to have the warning removed.  How exactly that will work, I don’t know.

The question of “ugly buttons” and “too many links” was brought up, but not answered exactly.  The answer was more of a “you know it when you see it” type thing.

The question of “what’s so special about being a Giant Squid” was also brought up.  This part kind of amused me and made me want to high-five Seth through the phone.

Giants should be the ones to lead by example.  Seth mentioned all the “snarky” comments people leave for him and put in the HQ forum.  In short, and to paraphrase, Seth said that if you don’t have something nice and/or positive to share, shut up.

As a community built site we are all in this together.  There is no “me” in Squidoo  – it’s about all of us collectively as a whole that determine the success of the site.  Giants should be the first to encourage that and to lead by example – and leaving ‘snarky’ comments does not accomplish that.

As my Grandmother always told me, ” if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” – to me, that really, REALLY applies now… ESPECIALLY now when so many are in such an uproar over what Squidoo is doing to THEIR web pages.  Thing is, they do not belong to any individual – they are all part of the Squidoo site.  In my opinion, if you don’t like what’s being done with your content, take your toys and move on.  No one is forcing me to put content on Squidoo – I do it because I love it.  If I ever start to UNlove it, I’ll start putting my content somewhere else.

And that, right there, brings me back to the ‘snarky comments’ discussion – I’ve read many online and in the HQ forum threaten that if Squidoo HQ doesn’t do this, that, or the other thing, that the lensmaster will take all their content from Squidoo and go somewhere else.

First off, totally any of our right to put our content anywhere we want to online, but my question is this – WHERE else can you take it that it does as well as Squidoo?  Even if you have your own site, what other supporting site works as well as Squidoo?  I LOVE using free sites as either stand-alones or to support my own sites and I’ve used plenty of them… none work as well as Squidoo and no other sites are as powerful as Squidoo.

While I totally understand the frustration and confusion many are feeling as Squidoo goes through these changes, I don’t feel it gives the right to be “snarky” to the people that ARE working to keep the site powerful.  Feedback is good – constructive criticism is good…but nastiness is not called for.

Maybe I have this opinion because I know what it’s like when people feel free to be snarky and downright rude to you so I can empathize with how defeating and demotivational it is.  Bad energy makes nothing better and sharing your thoughts with bad energy behind it causes your words to fall on deaf ears.

That bad energy has been rampant in the HQ forum lately and it’s gotten to where I don’t even want to go in there to keep up with what’s going on.  That and the “witch hunting”/finger pointing is so demoralizing.

I will say I was not pleased at all to see HQ point out one lens/lensmaster as the “what not to do” poster child.  In fact, I thought it was really wrong.  The whole ‘what not to do’ could have been accomplished by an HQ member making a quick example lens to get their point across.  But pointing out one member of the site as a ‘what not to do’ when, as Gil said, it USED to be fine, just might have been the catalyst for all the finger pointing and what I call “witch hunting” (meaning, to me, hunting down other lenses that a fellow lensmaster considers spam and using them as an example or turning them in, etc).

Yes, it is up to all of us to watch out for the site, but seriously, it appears people are spending more time on hunting down other lenses than working on their own.  While some real violations of Squidoo’s TOS will slip through, most will be caught by the impending filter.  Based on that, I really wish that the negative energy will be toned down.  I know that’s wishful thinking because when that filter hits, all you-know-what will probably break loose and make the current tone feel like a party.

I’ll step down from my soapbox regarding all that because in the end, the site belongs to Squidoo – it does not belong to me.  *I* have the option of being there and HQ will be working on making the site better with or without me – with or without ANY of us.

 

In fact, and this is something to really think about before choosing to be “snarky” – Squidoo has plenty enough content to just turn off the ability for anyone to make new lenses.

I know it’s hard to feel any appreciation of that fact when you fear all your work going down the drain, but really think about it.

As I said earlier, I know this is a confusing and frustrating time.  Those that have been with Squidoo as long as I have (or longer) know that these types of “massive clean ups” happen to the site from time to time.  They ARE needed and ARE the reason the site is so great that we DO get upset when things change.  If the site was useless, would you really care about ANY changes they made?  Think about it.

While I am a huge proponent of Squidoo – especially when you’re new to online writing and money-making – I also do not advocate ONLY using Squidoo.  In other words, if all your income is dependent on Squidoo, you might want to consider expanding – even more so if your lenses make money.

I’m not saying or even implying that Squidoo is going anywhere, but to me, having all your income dependent on ONE site that you do not have any control over is like putting all your money under your mattress.  Sure, it’s easy…sure, it usually works just fine… but what IF the house burns down?  Money – poof.

There isn’t a way any ONE site can be protected from being a lost income stream – not even if it’s your own site.  Heard of Google Panda, or Penguin?  Yeah, those can destroy your own site just as easily – actually it’s easier because our own sites don’t have near the power or authority that Squidoo does.  And with your own site, YOU have to figure out how to recover and implement the recovery process hoping it works eventually.  At least with Squidoo, we have one heck of a team doing that and worrying about that FOR us.  All we have to do is what they ask to help them achieve it.

As someone who owns/ has owned many, many sites and worked on client sites, etc, I am personally very relieved to NOT have to worry about it.  I only have to worry about my own contributions to the site and that’s it.  Sure, I might lose some lenses during all this, but I also know I will have at least a week to make corrections so I DON’T lose them.  I really appreciate that.  I know how easy it is just to use the delete button as opposed to taking the time to allow someone to make edits let alone all the extra member support that will come with it.

In the end, it’s their site.  If they use the delete button on you or allow you to make corrections, it’s up to them.  I’m quite thankful for at least a week without an automatic delete.  I’d like to think the majority of us are as well.

If you are nervous about what will happen to a money-making lens… diversify and expand.  There is no rule that says you can only have ONE web page that ranks for your target phrases.  No, it can’t be the SAME content, but it’s easy enough to diversify without copy/pasting.

This is something I am getting together for my One Week Marketing members.  Oddly tho, Squidoo is not the only site making changes – many sites I use are making changes and those changes combined with Google’s changes this month have made me slow down a bit and see what happens when the dust settles.  The only thing consistent online is changes and Squidoo is FAR from the only site, or only algo, that will change on us constantly and consistently.

To my members, I am working on it and watching how it all works out.  Thankfully, all the other free sites I use are coming thru just fine and their changes seem to also be good ones.  So hang tight for me.  In the meantime, be sure to have a backup of any lens you care about just in case something happens to the lens and you’d like to take that content elsewhere.

Otherwise, that rounds up my recap of the conference call and my thoughts on all going on surrounding it.  I absolutely understand that many folks will say that all this is “not fair”, but in the end, it’s not about what’s “fair” to any of us individually, it’s about what’s best for the site – and that is not in our hands.

Comments are open right now – feedback and questions are welcome, but please, try and refrain from any “snarkiness” – it’s not productive at all.

edit to add:  Squidoo HQ just posted the recording of the conference call here.

 Second edit:  Giant Squids were invited to ask questions and they were not answered during the conference call, BUT they are now answered here: 10 Questions from our Giant Squids (please take a moment to read it…it offers more insight)

 

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