Search Spam Fight – Mahalo: 1; Squidoo: 0

Matt, His Cat & LOLbanning

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 human lensmasters.
  • 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. Not so, 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?).

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Search Engines: Answer Search Engines | Search Engines: Mahalo | Search Engines: Social Search Engines | SEO: Spamming


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • PaulReilly

    My lenses still rank, but my blog which was linked from my squidoo profile is back to the same position it was in before the link was powering it. I’ve posted details at my blog.

    Long story short.. it seems that Google have set Domain_Flow_PageRank=Null. ;)

  • delrond

    I always thought that Squidoo would fail eventually. It’s time to move on to pastures new… Hub Pages lets see how long this one lasts!

  • Seth Finkelstein

    “Maybe it’s not a dark back alley as he accused Squidoo of being.”

    Of course not. It’s “in your face” :-)
    (or at least that’s the goal …)

  • crimsongirl

    No to sound cynical, but…

    when Squidoo started, it seemed obvious to me that it would be a breeding ground for spam. Early content was heavily weighted toward what is thought to be high CPC topics. The site was running AdSense and contributors got a share of the money from their “lenses”, right? How could it NOT turn into a spam center?

  • Fionn

    Cute Cat I wonder if Matt feeds his cat spam you know the Monry Python version. So what is next my vote is for “Linked In” its far too useful for getting your name high in Google results for Google to not slap it.

  • Fionn

    Cute Cat I wonder if Matt feeds his cat spam you know the Monty Python version. So what is next my vote is for “Linked In” its far too useful for getting your name high in Google results for Google to not slap it.

  • Aaron Wall

    How can anyone syndicate Jason Calacanis’s public relations spin, with Jason appointing himself as a spam czar, when he was the guy behind selling links to “VoIP & Microgaming Casino” and “Scuba Underwater Blackjack”?

    See for more comical spammy text links he was selling to make Weblogs, Inc. marginably profitable.

    If historical background is important this character should be painted as a hypocrite every time he pulls one of these anti-spam PR stunts.

  • oggy22

    The problem with Mahalo other than scalability is that its editors are not very bright. I submitted my tshirt web site there, and found that they had placed my link in the makeup page’s top submitted links. Here it is at the time of this writing:

    I got a screen shot just in case.

    What does my site have to do with makeup??? nothing. The word doesn’t even appear once on my site. With Squidoo at least I could control where my website should be, and since I know what my website is about, the results made sense. Plus Squidoo has a scalable business model.

    In the end I had to report to Mahalo that my own website was in the wrong category. oh and I got 0 referrers from that link, so where’s the traffic Jason?

  • searchingDOT

    There have been tons of theories on what is going on with Squidoo & Google . . .

    I had the opportunity to interview Seth Godin on the “Squidoo Slap”

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