Last week, Jason Calacanis of Mahalo renewed his campaign from earlier this year against Squidoo as a source of search spam. This time, he appears to have gotten a result. Despite Squidoo’s belated plea that it would clean things up, Google seems to have penalized Squidoo. Below, a timeline for those keeping score along with snarky post-game analysis and an explanation of that weird cat photo above.
- February 2007: Calacanis does a post called "Is
Squidoo becoming a massive, dirty SEO back alley?" Squidoo takes a PR hit,
but no search impact on the site is reported.
- May 2007: Calacanis launches his own human-powered service Mahalo
(see Mahalo Launches
With Human-Crafted Search Results) that competes with Squidoo and its
- June 13, 2007: Mahalo lets more people be involved with Mahalo (see
Mahalo Greenhouse: Get
Paid For Writing Search Results), making it seem even more like Squidoo.
objects Jason: "You can only get into the Greenhouse if you are accepted
and a real person. Squidoo lets anyone create a lens and as a result the site
is filled with spam."
- July 5, 2007: Squidoo
blogs that it is working on the spam issue.
- July 6, 2007: Despite Squidoo’s post, Calacanis starts
calls foul on it the day after: "Frankly, I think Seth has fallen to the
dark side and has become a Sith Lord of SEO, deceptive affiliate links, and
page view gaming." Later that day, he
mentions discovering Squidoo’s post of July 5, writing: "I’m going to give
them the benefit of the doubt for now and check back on this in August."
- July 8, 2007: GigaOm picks up on the
chatter about Jason’s complaints, writing
The Squidoo Spam Problem,
but focusing really on the issue of blog comment spamming.
- July 9, 2007: Squidoo blogs
again that they’re working
further on fixing the spam issue.
- July 9, 2007:
Squidoo Slap!! covers what I think is an email from Squidoo to lensmasters
saying that Squidoo has lost rankings in Google. For the record, I
see plenty of
pages still listed, and
PageRank there for
the home page is still a healthy PR6. Of course, that doesn’t mean a penalty
hasn’t been applied in a non-visible means.
- July 12, 2007: What’s next for Squidoo? from Squidoo founder Seth Godin says the spam fighting tools promised are now supposed to be all in place.
Now for the analysis!
Apologies to Seth, but I never cared that much about Squidoo. I didn’t see it as some new massive wonderful advancement in search. But if you want to know more about it, check out Chris Sherman’s recent interview here with Seth, Q&A With Seth Godin, Founder & CEO Of Social Search Service Squidoo.
I joked during Monday’s Daily SearchCast that now that Mahalo seems to have lost the initial attention it had (Surprise, Mahalo Still Blows covers how talking cats seem more popular that his Mahalo search engine), going after Squidoo seemed a nice way to drum-up new attention for his site.
Indeed — that master of baiting has done it again. Here I, along with lots of other people, are mentioning Mahalo. Jason even does some bragging in comments on his Squidoo feud at Valleywag: "Five mentions in your first 48 hours Owen!!! This is a real turnaround since Nick stopped covering Mahalo."
Of course, Jason also said as part of the current campaign that he’d go after spam anywhere:
For the record, everyone knows I attacking anything that has to do with deceiving users or the pollution of the "infovironment." My feeling is we have to expose anything bad on the internet including malware, spyware, bad SEO, PayPerPost, FederatedMedia’s high-class version of PayPerPost, Squidoo, VibrantMedia, etc. If Squidoo were spam, porn, and SEO free–heck if it were SEO, porn, spam-light–I wouldn’t even bring this up!
Sure — there’s spam at Squidoo, but frankly, I haven’t seen much of it at Google. As I said on the Daily SearchCast show, it’s one thing to point a ton of junk there, but that doesn’t mean it’s showing up in the top search results.
But it was ranking and lost those ranks! Ranking for what? Ranking for things doesn’t mean people are actually searching for them nor even clicking on you.
So to some degree, who cares if Squidoo is spam ridden? If Google’s been keeping it from showing up in top results (as seems to be the case in my experience; I never see it as a perennial search results page favorite like Wikipedia or Technorati), then the campaign really hasn’t solved anything other than maybe cutting off an entirely different problem: blog spam out of Squidoo. Oh, and getting Mahalo more attention, of course.
Jason’s heading toward his own issue with Google. Earlier this year, Google warned that it didn’t want to be indexing search results from other people. But so far, Mahalo has yet to prevent its search result from showing up. I asked Jason about this a few weeks ago, and his response was to smile and say that so far, Google doesn’t seem to be acting on that warning — so why should Mahalo block it? And that’s true — and if he does what he intends with Mahalo — Google might decide he’s got quality stuff that should show up.
But let’s be clear. Despite all of Jason’s slams against SEO (see From My Inbox: More Defense Of SEO and Why The SEO Folks Were Mad At You, Jason), Mahalo itself is a massive SEO play, hoping to draw major traffic from the search engines. Maybe it’s not a dark back alley as he accused Squidoo of being. But if not, he’s only going to prove that SEO does not equal bad junk, as he often has argued.
Finally, that picture up there is Google spam fighter Matt Cutts with one of his cats, as originally pictured here. So far, Matt’s not officially weighed in on whether Squidoo was actually penalized or not. Neither has his cat Emmy. As for the cat talking, well — I always wanted to do a LOLcat (explained more here; build your own at LolCat Builder; laugh at them at I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?).