MetaFilter - making the best of the web by nature of being on MetaFilter? May 28, 2011 5:27 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone noticed just how shit-high MetaFilter seems to be on Google's radar? On more than one occasion I've noticed seemingly innocuous phrases in a MeFi comment or thread end up as #1 on Google, even after their first index of the post. For example, I will stunt post two keywords inside the bump.

Let's say -- box bix box. That has something absurd like fifteen million hits on Google.

And how about -- the arsonist has oddly shaped feet. This is a quote from the film Anchorman, which as something like 148,000 hits explicitly using those phrases.

I mean, **I** think MetaFilter is the center of my internet travels, so maybe Google is just biasing the world in my favor, but I'm really impressed by how important Google seems to be treating MF.
posted by cavalier to MetaFilter-Related at 5:27 PM (94 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Google has gotten good at the "filter bubble." Maybe that is what you're seeing?
posted by piratebowling at 5:31 PM on May 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


I don't know why we don't start using this power for actual good. I mean, Santorum is taken care of, but I'm sure we could really eff up the search results for Newt, Sarah, and Mitt without breaking a sweat.
posted by crunchland at 5:38 PM on May 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


cavalier: “Let's say -- box bix box. That has something absurd like fifteen million hits on Google.”

No, it has about 1,580. Granted, this thread seems to be the fifth result right now.

Even box bix box without quotes (which doesn't make any sense as a search term, really, since I'm pretty sure "bix" drops out so you're really just searching for the word "box") only has about 1,530,000. It's interesting to note, however, that this thread is nowhere near the top of that search.
posted by koeselitz at 5:38 PM on May 28, 2011


cavalier: “And how about -- the arsonist has oddly shaped feet. This is a quote from the film Anchorman, which as something like 148,000 hits explicitly using those phrases.”

Again, no, it doesn't. What google are you using, exactly? I don't get it. (Also, this thread appears in neither of the top results there.)
posted by koeselitz at 5:41 PM on May 28, 2011


When I google it, koeselitz, I get 114,000 claimed hits, and this thread is on the eighth page.
posted by hattifattener at 5:45 PM on May 28, 2011


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think cavalier is testing for this post to be among the top results for those phrases after some time, not right away.

BTW, cavalier, are you sure you don't have some google services turned on that affect your search results based on your browsing habits?
posted by vidur at 5:46 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, though, I'm surprised the results are varying among us. For the record, I was not doing it for quotes. I thought of this after for the third or fourth time looking at something interesting in a post, searching for a term, and getting the mefi post first even though the term was fairly generic. Confirmation bias, maybe.

Pretty nervous about that -- services, vidur -- I will dig into my Google fu now to see if they have my results altered in some way.
posted by cavalier at 5:52 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Err, IN quotes. Not for quotes.
posted by cavalier at 5:52 PM on May 28, 2011


Over ten years of a super-high signal-to-noise ratio? Yeah, Google notices that.
posted by carsonb at 5:53 PM on May 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


Oh, and the best results have the keywords in the title of the post. If this thread had 'box bix box' in the title, I'm positive it would have been much higher in the results nearly right off the bat.
posted by carsonb at 5:57 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I took one for the team and used Bing. This thread is the #1 result for "box bix box"
posted by desjardins at 5:58 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, and I never use Bing and I'm not signed into any MSN services, so I don't think there's a preferences/filter issue there.
posted by desjardins at 5:59 PM on May 28, 2011


Shit! Wow. Thanks for taking one for the team, des!
posted by cavalier at 6:03 PM on May 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


desjardins, this thread is #2 result for me over here in Oz. The #2 result is this.
posted by vidur at 6:05 PM on May 28, 2011


Eh, clumsy fingers. That should be #1 in the second place.
posted by vidur at 6:06 PM on May 28, 2011


Yeah I think especially if you have Google's web history turned on it will alter your search results.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:09 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]




Does this mean Matt can start charging more and we can rag on the $10 noobs?

I think carsonb has it, long established site with a good record of relevant information.
posted by arcticseal at 6:27 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


This post is the first result no matter which search engine I put the title of it into.

You know who else was shit-high?
posted by gman at 6:28 PM on May 28, 2011


metafilter - shit-high on google's radar
posted by pyramid termite at 6:36 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know why we don't start using this power for actual good.

Part of the reason MeFi rates so high is that it isn't being used wilfully to fox Google. If we "start using this power for actual good" we'll lose it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:36 PM on May 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


Google's algorithm "likes" frequently updated/changed pages. Every time someone posts a comment on a MetaFilter page, that counts as an update to that page. So every hyperactive flamewar, run of puns, etc. gets Google's algorithm very, very excited because the page is being updated every few seconds.

Example: I first discovered this phenomenon when a 2-line post (something like "Lord of the Ring: Return of the King tickets go on sale tomorrow at noon! I'm so excited!") on my brand-new, silly little personal blog suddenly became the #1 hit on Google for "return of the king tickets" and stayed in that position for ~2 weeks in late November / early December 2003.

What happened was that my fanboy friends started chatting back-and-forth about the movie and other stuff in the thread, and as described above, every time someone posted another comment that counted as an update for Google's algorithm. Then once I got onto the first page or two of search results, I started getting hits from people looking for a place to buy tickets to the movie. And then some of THOSE people started posting even MORE comments asking me/anyone to direct them to where to buy tickets.

This perfect storm of comment frenzy rapidly drove my stupid little blog post to the #1 position on Google for a very timely search phrase. The traffic was ridiculous.

I felt bad about Google accidentally steering all these people in my direction when I was so very NOT what they were looking for so I finally just looked up a bunch of online movie ticket sales sites and edited the original post to prominently feature them in bold at the very top of the post. Alas, I was so overwhelmed by the ridiculous unexpectedness of it all that I did not have the presence of mind to sign up as an affiliate first. :)
posted by Jacqueline at 6:58 PM on May 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


Inexplicably we are not the #1 result for "NPR butt creme massage".

I am disappoint.
posted by elizardbits at 7:25 PM on May 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


I can tell you that when someone posts a question to askme and I go to google to try and look up the answer, the question I'm trying to help answer is invariably #1 or #2 in the search results.
posted by crunchland at 7:31 PM on May 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


We are the fourth return for shit-high on Google's. Shirley, we can do better.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:31 PM on May 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey we make the bottom of the front page for "head asplode!"
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:41 PM on May 28, 2011


I can tell you that when someone posts a question to askme and I go to google to try and look up the answer, the question I'm trying to help answer is invariably #1 or #2 in the search results.

I tried that last week on a question, within 5 minutes of it being posted. It was already #1 on Google. It's almost kind of creepy.
posted by COD at 7:43 PM on May 28, 2011


Google knows when you are sleeping, Google knows when you're awake. Google knows if you've been bad or good so be good for goodness sake!
posted by Jacqueline at 7:52 PM on May 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I tried that last week on a question, within 5 minutes of it being posted. It was already #1 on Google. It's almost kind of creepy.

See! That is EXACTLY what I am talking about! And I logged out of Google Search Thing History and Deleted My Cookies Just In Case -- still powerful. Man.

No wonder SEO'ers wanna ball on this site. Foo!
posted by cavalier at 7:54 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Google seems to have a creepy love-thing going on with Ask even more than the other subsites. There are few searches that I have made that haven't had a question on Ask as a result.
posted by wierdo at 7:57 PM on May 28, 2011


You guys better shut up. If google sees this thread, we're in trouble.

Never talk about google. It knows all.
posted by chairface at 8:02 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oddly enough, searcing for 'Metafilter' keeps turning up dilbert.com.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:17 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Google seems to have a creepy love-thing going on with Ask even more than the other subsites."

A lot of people type natural language queries into Google instead of using more sophisticated search strategies. So the syntax of their queries are a close match to the syntax used in AskMe questions, whereas posts on MetaFilter's subsites tend to have titles that are more title-y and content that is phrased as declarative sentences instead of as questions.

Another reason AskMe does so well on Google is that Google also keeps track of which link people ultimately click on once they get their search results. Not everyone just clicks the top hit -- many will at least skim the top 10 and then click the link that seems to be the closest match to what they are looking for. So, when people see that someone else has asked almost the same question as theirs before, they tend to want to click on it and see what answers that other person got. This favors AskMe over Yahoo! Answers despite the latter's higher traffic and volume because even the newbishiest of internet newbs quickly learn that Yahoo! Answers is unlikely to have the answers they are looking for. Thus they stop clicking on links that lead there, which teaches Google's algorithm that all else equal, searchers prefer links to AskMe over links to Yahoo! Answers so it learns to rank AskMe links higher.

(Although, upon further reflection on my second point in light of my first makes me wonder if part of the reason y'all keep searching your way back to AskMe is that you're using proper spelling and grammar. Perhaps if you rewrote your search query in the style of a teenager's text message you'd find yourself disproportionately directed to Yahoo! Answers instead?)
posted by Jacqueline at 9:01 PM on May 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


High quality results rank high in Google search results. It's almost like they're trying to do that.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:13 PM on May 28, 2011


We have the #1 google rank for how can I dispose of a corpse?

Wait up, somebody's knocking on the door...
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:34 PM on May 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Google's algorithm "likes" frequently updated/changed pages. Every time someone posts a comment on a MetaFilter page, that counts as an update to that page.

That's
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:51 PM on May 28, 2011


really
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:51 PM on May 28, 2011


quite
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:51 PM on May 28, 2011


interesting.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:51 PM on May 28, 2011


This will led to clicking minkies
posted by clavdivs at 11:05 PM on May 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


minkies?
posted by Ardiril at 11:19 PM on May 28, 2011


Okay seriously, clav - what is a clicking minky (ie?)?
posted by tzikeh at 11:48 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do you think he meant clinking mickies?
posted by Ardiril at 11:58 PM on May 28, 2011


clavdivs does not 'mean' so much as he 'be'
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:21 AM on May 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Clavdivs, I seriously love you. Your comments in threads are the internet equivalent of receiving surprise miniature hits of ecstasy, Xanax, and LSD all rolled into one.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:27 AM on May 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Since December 2009, Google's default has been Personalized Search, where the results are ranked differently according to your history. You can't expect to see the same ranks as everyone else anymore.

Try switching on your browser's Stealth/Private mode, and comparing the results to a normal personalized search. The results are often quite different. For instance, if I search for "stoic", my normal personalized search returns a forum I use as the fourth result on the first page. In stealth mode, it only turns up on the sixth page of results.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:29 AM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why do dogs bark at the Batman?
posted by Mikey-San at 1:32 AM on May 29, 2011


In Stealth/Private mode, AskMe is still #1 for "how can I dispose of a corpse?"

Come to think of it, that makes even more sense.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:43 AM on May 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


A few years ago my profile page used to be the number one search result for "loquacious". It beat all the dictionary sites for the word "loquacious". Then Matt (or Google, I can't remember) changed the way internal links were handled, because honestly that's not how it's supposed to work. Every time "loquacious" was linked under one of my comments it added to the score. But after the changes I wasn't the top result for "loquacious" anymore.
posted by loquacious at 3:01 AM on May 29, 2011


Since shit, idiomatically, rolls downwards, wouldn't 'shit-high' mean 'not that high at all'?
posted by tigrefacile at 3:58 AM on May 29, 2011


Shit is colloquially very bipolar: "It's shit" vs. "It's the shit."

I assumed that "shit-high" was just a rearrangement of being "high as shit" (i.e., very high).
posted by Jacqueline at 4:14 AM on May 29, 2011


Indeed.
posted by cavalier at 5:08 AM on May 29, 2011


this power can be used to create new things...
posted by ennui.bz at 5:57 AM on May 29, 2011


loquacious loquacious cheap airline deals now loquacious
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:36 AM on May 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


crunchland: I don't know why we don't start using this power for actual good. I mean, Santorum is taken care of...

I often wonder what the scale of the collateral damage is with that one. I know Santorum's not a particularly common surname in the USA, but still.
posted by nowonmai at 8:37 AM on May 29, 2011


elizardbits: "Inexplicably we are not the #1 result for "NPR butt creme massage".

I am disappoint
"

fixed

(here and now, for my browser, it is the only search result for that phrase)
posted by idiopath at 8:39 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know why we don't start using this power for actual good.

"If this power could be used for good, it wouldn’t be this power." -- Teresa Nielsen-Hayden
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:50 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter - making the best of the web by nature of being on ...
59 posts - 38 authors - Last post: 15 hours ago
Inexplicably we are not the #1 result for "NPR butt creme massage".
posted by nangar at 9:04 AM on May 29, 2011


omg i am drunk with power
posted by elizardbits at 9:23 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


We see.

time for lust, time for lies.
posted by cashman at 9:31 AM on May 29, 2011


So this is the thread where we have the power to make metafilter the #1 google result for random phrases?

...

Glenn Beck gobbles goat balls.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:06 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


TheophileEscargot writes "Try switching on your browser's Stealth/Private mode, and comparing the results to a normal personalized search. The results are often quite different. For instance, if I search for 'stoic', my normal personalized search returns a forum I use as the fourth result on the first page. In stealth mode, it only turns up on the sixth page of results."

I wish google would clue in that when I'm searching for Mitheral I'm not searching for Mithril.
posted by Mitheral at 10:55 AM on May 29, 2011


Most of my friends made vague noises when I told them where I was now working. A few weeks later, I got an email saying "So I was just googling something obscure and Ask Metafilter had the exact answer to my question. Congrats on the job!"

Of course it was a "Can I eat this?" question.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:15 AM on May 29, 2011 [19 favorites]


> minkies?

Doesn't anybody remember Clouseau anymore?
posted by languagehat at 12:38 PM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Google bumped this one up to #1 based on the the title of the question, which I found impressive.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:54 PM on May 29, 2011


Of course it was a "Can I eat this?" question.
Could have been much, much much worse ;-)
posted by dg at 8:16 PM on May 29, 2011


Might look into changing your Google Web History setttings or clearing your cookies, if you're searching when logged out of your Gmail.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:29 PM on May 29, 2011


Why, yes, I have. Although 'shit-high' was not actually the adjective that sprang to mind at the time.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:55 PM on May 29, 2011


T.D. Strange: "So this is the thread where we have the power to make metafilter the #1 google result for random phrases?

...

Glenn Beck gobbles goat balls.
"

It's #1, but Google wants to know: Did you mean: Glenn Beck goebbels goat balls
posted by deborah at 11:15 PM on May 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Hell, we literally fill the entire page with this Google search.
posted by WCityMike at 7:31 AM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I logged out of every Google thing I could think of, deleted all my cookies, set my browsers to disable cookies, set phasers on stun, etc, etc, and Google still ranked MeFi pretty high in what I had been seeing. Maybe not #1 in some cases, but now it was #2. So definitely an effect, but Googles still likes them some MetaFilter. Calloo, callay, as they say.
posted by cavalier at 11:03 AM on May 30, 2011


I think it's important to remember that Google keeps track of what you search. If you are a person who goes to Metafilter often it will give those links much more weight to you than to an average person.

I would postulate that the rankings are probably biased towards Metafilter for Metafilter regulars.

I do realize that a few minutes of work could confirm or deny this posit but I'm not that interested.
posted by Bonzai at 11:08 AM on May 30, 2011


Bonzai: "I think it's important to remember"

I haven't seen a single comment in this thread that made me think anyone here wasn't aware of that fact. But then again sometimes I don't read all the comments, or my reading comprehension is sometimes a bit spotty.
posted by idiopath at 11:55 AM on May 30, 2011


I haven't seen a single comment in this thread that made me think anyone here wasn't aware of that fact.

I thought rather, that if there is even ONE person reading this who isn't aware of how google ranks things based on your history then it would be worth pointing out.
posted by Bonzai at 1:47 PM on May 30, 2011


Metafilter has had really high page rank even before google did any kind of personalized search thing. And if you use stealth mode, or whatever, metafilter still shows up a lot
posted by delmoi at 2:01 PM on May 30, 2011


Popular website listed high in Google rankings; film at 11.
posted by wierdo at 2:18 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I logged out of every Google thing I could think of, deleted all my cookies, set my browsers to disable cookies, set phasers on stun, etc, etc, and Google still ranked MeFi pretty high in what I had been seeing. Maybe not #1 in some cases, but now it was #2. So definitely an effect, but Googles still likes them some MetaFilter. Calloo, callay, as they say.

Remember that Google is doing search result shaping even for people who don't have a Google account at all, so there is really no way to see what a neutral Google search looks like unless you have a freshly installed computer system logging in on an IP address which has never contacted Google before.
posted by hippybear at 3:07 PM on May 30, 2011


There is really no way to see what a neutral Google search looks like unless you have a freshly installed computer system logging in on an IP address which has never contacted Google before.

And even then, you only get one shot at it. What pressure!
posted by Comic Sans-Culotte at 3:53 PM on May 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


hippybear: "Remember that Google is doing search result shaping even for people who don't have a Google account at all, so there is really no way to see what a neutral Google search looks like unless you have a freshly installed computer system logging in on an IP address which has never contacted Google before."

Even then, Google biases the search results to whatever it thinks your physical location is. So not only does it have to be an IP that's never contacted Google before, but it has to be an IP that they can't geolocate, which is probably very near impossible unless you are an ISP and immediately attempt this upon receiving a delegation from an RIR. And even then they can nail down your continent based on which /8 the address is in.

As an end user, I did once see Google fail to geolocate when I got a U-Verse account a couple of days after it became available. Within a week or two their database was updated, even though at&t hadn't bothered to get reverse DNS going in the block yet.
posted by wierdo at 5:03 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: should be #1 in the second place
posted by owtytrof at 7:15 AM on May 31, 2011


Glenn Beck gobbles goat balls.

Quoted to ensure we remain on top. If we lose this one I'd be devastated.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:51 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Glenn Beck googles goat balls.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:09 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Glenn Beck's goggles' goat balls.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:06 AM on May 31, 2011


Glenn Beck ogles boat galls.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:50 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Glenn Beck toggles moat falls.
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:28 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gleen Beck boggles throat halls.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:05 AM on June 3, 2011


Boss Hoggle swaggers bat hollers
Hot Toddys swindle bog moggles
mug thruggles buggle duggle dee doo

posted by not_on_display at 1:11 PM on June 3, 2011


I get MetaFilter high up even on public library computers. I once asked metafilter what to do with 10 lbs of peaches I bought on a whim at a farmer's market, and then I went to the library to look for good canning and dessert cookbooks to use up the peaches. I go on a computer to search for cookbooks, and I figure I'll also google what's good to do with peaches.

My question was right at the top. On a public computer probably used to mainly search for where the large print Glenn Beck (noted goat ball connoisseur) books are.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:22 PM on June 3, 2011


Just to keep it on top of the page rank: I hear Glenn Beck is bringing out a new line of gourmet goat balls, they're served in a briny jar of his tears.
posted by arcticseal at 6:57 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


MetaTalk: Glenn Beck Goat Balls
posted by not_on_display at 9:36 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Google "glenn goat balls" without the quotes.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 1:01 PM on June 13, 2011


We need to try harder, Glenn and his goat balls only rank #3 on Bing.
posted by arcticseal at 11:01 PM on June 13, 2011


Who cares? Nobody uses bing. It's fucking bing for christ's sake.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:31 PM on June 13, 2011


Glenn Beck bings goat things.
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:52 PM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


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