Liz Gannes

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Q&A: Seth Godin Says the Profitable Squidoo Has Grown 50 Percent in the Last Six Months

Pinterest is not the only social content site popular among women that’s growing like a weed, says Squidoo founder Seth Godin.

Squidoo now gets 75 million page views per month, up from 50 million six months ago, according to internal Google Analytics. That’s 50 percent growth on top of a significant base.

While Godin is a well-known marketing author, he doesn’t often market Squidoo. Godin told AllThingsD that Squidoo has been profitable for two years, with a small, distributed staff of 12 and no sales force or biz dev deals. He said revenue is growing as fast as traffic, but didn’t specify how much money that is.

Where Pinterest is all about curation, Squidoo is more oriented towards content creation, though its users cover similar homemaking and how-to topics. A closer Squidoo competitor might be HubPages, which is also a network of content pages that gives authors tools and rewards.

Browsing Squidoo doesn’t make me do cartwheels over all the compelling content, but it seemed worth talking to Godin to get a better sense of why the site is growing so fast.

Here’s more from our phone conversation this morning:

Liz Gannes: How has Squidoo changed since you started?

Seth Godin: We’ve been doing this for six years, and it’s mostly a function of a slow build. I wish I could tell you one brilliant fell-swoop thing that we did worked, but I think more of it is building the trust of a growing community of people who keep coming back and using the platform more and more. We’re not near the scale, but it’s similar to the way Twitter grew, where the first couple years it was there, but then people started telling other people about it.

And Squidoo has the same kind of thing as Twitter, where users are the attraction and they build their own audiences?

We committed at the very beginning to do no outbound marketing at all. It’s all been about people bringing other people. About a year ago we launched a game layer that give people trophies and badges and things and that’s had a significant impact.

If you have a community, do you consider Squidoo a social network?

It’s probably a stretch to call us or Pinterest a social network, the way that you can call the original version of Facebook a social network — but Facebook itself is becoming a place where people post more and more content, so the definitions keep merging. We’ve built in all sorts of things where where users can like each other’s pages and rank each other’s pages and work their way up to becoming “angels” and “rangers” and things like that, so it all contributes to feeling like a place they can spend their day.

Is your audience similar to Pinterest?

Yeah, we have a lot of moms, but I think we’re probably not quite as midwestern as they are. We get tons of traffic from places like Australia and the U.K.. We’re significantly more female than typical popular sites — we don’t really have a big Apple fanboy tech following, but we have lots and lots of pages about wedding cakes and vegetarian meatloaf.

What do you offer that other sites don’t offer?

The structure of the site is that we pay a royalty to charity. If users want to, they can change that setting and keep the money, so some of our users are making thousands of dollars a month doing this, but almost none of them do it for the money.

How do you offer money for content without becoming overrun with spammers and scammers?

We continually downplay the money, because we don’t want to attract those people. Every once in a while casinos or pharmaceuticals will come in and and we shut those pages down immediately. You can’t do things with Squidoo that would be obvious moneymakers.

What was the impact of the Google Panda update [which lowered search rankings for scraping and content farming sites] on Squidoo?

It really didn’t have an effect. We’d like to say it was clean living, but we don’t show all our pages to the search engines. Only a small fraction of them do we expose to robots, and the rest of them you have to know how to find them. So the quality of our site that we present to search is really high. We say to our users, “If you make your page better, your ranking in our system will go up, and we’ll open it to search.”

How would you describe the quality of your content?

The long tail means half of it is above average, and half of it isn’t, and we’ve got more than three million pages. I certainly believe, and I blogged this a few weeks ago, that the most important page on the Web to people is the page they built themselves. The seduction of Facebook is you get to see the page you built and how people react to it everyday. And what people want is help and guidance on how to make their page better. Our best pages, I’d put against anyone on the Web. Our page on vegetarian meatloaf is first or second on Google for good reason.

How do you measure Squidoo’s success?

We believe everyone is entitled to their passion and we try very hard not to tell someone that their passion is boring or isn’t worthy. I think that’s a huge step forward for people who’ve been taught that all they’re allowed to do is follow. … This is a structural shift in the media landscape. This is proof that long-tail content is bit by bit overcoming professionally made spoon-fed media content.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus