Then things changed.
Google introduced its infamous "Panda" and other algorithm changes and the article sites suffered terribly. Squidoo was one of those to get caught and its traffic went down - way down. It's been trying to recover ever since, mainly through the use of what it calls "filters" to curb (unpublish) content that it thinks Google won't like. But who really knows what Google likes and doesn't like? Your guess is as good as mine...
Long story short - those filters have created an amazing number of glitches, some of which have been completely incomprehensible to the lensmasters (Squidoo writers). People have spent a lot of time trying to guess what the filters are doing and how to get their content to pass them so that it can be seen by the world again. That's been hard to do without any feedback from the people who run the site. It doesn't help that the staff is small and probably doesn't have the time to deal with all the questions and requests for special consideration for a lens that seems okay but for some reason won't pass the filters. Oh and the bug reports. There have been so many bugs...
Because of all this nonsense I decided last year not to publish any more content on Squidoo, at least until things settled down. I removed every lens I had that wasn't making any money, with one exception - a story about dealing with a massive infestation of poison ivy at this house. I left that up mainly as a kind of public service, in case anyone else was in the same situation.
As of today I have 8 lenses published. They haven't been updated in a long time - more than a year, actually - because I'm afraid to touch them. I worry that some simple little thing I do will trip a filter somewhere. So they are old, and that's not good.
But now something else has happened that's worse. And because I hadn't been out to the site in a very long time I didn't find out about it until July came and went without a payment. I decided it was time to log in again.
And I discovered that Squidoo has now raised its payout threshold to $25. My monthly payments have never been much, and lately they've close to $5, for all 7 of my "paying" lenses. But now they're even lower; for the entire month of May - which was supposed to be paid in July - I made a grand total of $2.12. For June, which was just paid this week, I made $2.54. That's $4.66 I can't collect from them until I get to $25. And if I don't get to $25 within 12 months they will take that money and donate it to charity.
I understand that Squidoo is trying to make money; if they don't make it they can't share it with us. The reason they gave for the threshold increase was the cost of PayPal transactions; this increase will allow them to make fewer of those and they'll save money. That makes sense to me but I'm seeing a different picture. I think this is a sign that they are in trouble and are just trying to stay in business. But can they?
I've checked the two main Squidoo forums about this. Some people are getting out; others are just trying to ride out this "down phase." I'm not sure this is a phase.
Squidoo shares its ad revenue with its members based on how their lenses rank; the higher the rank the more the lens makes. But right now you need to have a really high-ranked lens to make anything even reasonably decent. My lenses aren't in that category, and since I'm afraid to update them I doubt they ever will be. That leaves affiliate sales - the other way to make money - as the only way to make anything decent. And with old (un-updated) lenses that's not very likely either.
By the time I found out about the new payout threshold it was so late in July that I decided to check my lens ranks on the 31st to at least estimate what they would make for September. I got those figures and now that I know the ad revenue for June I can estimate what those lenses would make for July. And it's the same as last month - $1.78. With estimated sales from last month my cumulative earnings at this point are still less than $10.
So, it looks like I might be able to collect that $25 in less than a year. But that's assuming Squidoo lasts that long. And I'm not sure they will. Two other article sites are now gone - the Yahoo Contributor Network and Helium, a site I never wrote for. I am really wondering now if article sites have had their "day in the sun" and the sun is now setting.
So, what to do? Wait many months until I can earn enough to collect that $25 and hope Squidoo is still around to pay me? Or pull the lenses now and let them disappear from the search engine pages so I can post them somewhere else later? Like maybe here?
I'm a Libra and not very good with decisions unless they are clear. This one isn't; those lenses are still making money, and right now it looks like I may reach the threshold before I lose the money. I think I need to find some other criteria to use to decide.
I'm working on it...