Metafilter SEO May 22, 2014 8:28 AM   Subscribe

The Metafilter hardship has been caused mainly due to a lower ranking of the website in Google. I believe that there are a few small fixes that can significantly help.

Google penalizes Metafilter due to the fact that it contains a lot of duplicate content. To understand exactly what Google considers as duplicate content, you can read on Duplicate Content in a Post-Panda World.

There are over 4,000,000 pages indexed in Google, but only a fraction of that contain what Google defines as high quality content. Cutting down the amount of indexed pages will help boost the overall content quality that Google sees.

Here a few quick fixes that will make a huge impact.
* Block in robots.txt /tags/ , /favorites/ , /popular , /random, /daily.mefi, /activity/ and maybe /user/
* Block any irrelevant subdomains by putting a robots.txt each one of them, e.g. bestof.metafilter.com , login.metafilter.com
* Wildcard DNS entry should be removed

A bit more work but also important is adding an XML Sitemap
* XML Sitemap should be added
posted by Sharcho to MetaFilter-Related at 8:28 AM (172 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

A white background would look much more professional
* Professional white background
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:39 AM on May 22, 2014 [29 favorites]


Thanks for the suggestions. We're taking in a lot of suggestions about changes we might make right now. Will consider these.
posted by pb (staff) at 8:46 AM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Honestly, trying to guess what I am doing wrong to anger Google is really the closest thing we have to modern day cargo cults. Not to downplay the ideas, but half a dozen people have given me serious considered SEO advice and it's funny when everything people say is different and/or conflicting. No one outside (and few inside) of Google knows exactly what the algorithms are doing at any one point and time. I just try to do the very basics and make sure MeFi is being a good internet citizen and not doing anything bad in terms of search stuff.

I don't know if duplicate content is really the culprit, but we have lots of unimportant pages carrying a meta tag of NOINDEX on them so that Google ignores them, including things like all the archive indexes and user pages and favorite activity pages.

The subdomains are a catch-all, but any non-existent site gets redirected to www and every page has a canonical tag on it to tell Google what the actual URL of a thread should be.

I think the Best Of blog is relevant and gives pointers to the best stuff and wouldn't want to block it.

Sitemaps are something that has come up several times from different people, but we have about half a million threads. I know there are limits to sitemaps, so we'd have to generate tons of files to point to all the threads and it's no small task while we also know Google is indexing threads every few seconds and I'm not seeing the huge gain a sitemap gives us besides people saying that's what Google wants.

So yeah, these are all ok ideas to pursue, but as with most SEO stuff, I'd rather just make a good community with people pointing to cool stuff online and sharing helpful advice and hope that gets found by others instead of worrying about tweaking MeFi to appease the unknown Google gods.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:46 AM on May 22, 2014 [133 favorites]

Block in robots.txt /tags/ , /favorites/ , /popular , /random, /daily.mefi, /activity/ and maybe /user/
Yes, please! Any SEO benefits aside, those /tags pages always get in my way when I'm using any external search engine to look for stuff on MetaFilter.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:47 AM on May 22, 2014 [21 favorites]


but we have lots of unimportant pages carrying a meta tag of NOINDEX on them

It's true, I don't comment on the unimportant pages.
posted by LionIndex at 8:50 AM on May 22, 2014 [23 favorites]


Yeah, I'll have to look at what we do for the tag archives, we could probably block those entirely from Google since they muck up results a bit but I think we already do (just not at the robots.txt level).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:56 AM on May 22, 2014


I often get tags pages in search results and find them useful (and I also often manually search tags with a direct input URL, but I know I'm an outlier).
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:57 AM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I often get tags pages in search results and find them useful

Me too!
posted by rtha at 9:03 AM on May 22, 2014


I often get tags pages in search results and find them useful

Me three — quite often the tag pages turn out to be the single best search result for me. Like, if I'm looking for advice about llama adoption and care, I don't just want to see a random one of the questions tagged llama, I want to see them all in one place.
posted by RogerB at 9:09 AM on May 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Let's not forget Google's obscure process is at fault here, too. I'll post Danny Sullivan's helpful explainer at SearchEngineLand again:

On MetaFilter Being Penalized By Google: An Explainer
  • Google should disclose if a site has been hit by a particularly focused algorithmic penalty, with specific advice to consider for recovery
  • Google should disclose major algorithmic updates on a regular basis
  • Google should end the link walk of shame requirement and rely on either discounting links or the link disavow tool
...MetaFilter isn’t getting special attention because of its Google problem. Google is getting attention because of its MetaFilter problem — a problem that Google might be mistreating a well-known site that’s earned respect over time.

posted by mediareport at 9:09 AM on May 22, 2014 [39 favorites]


According to the Slate article, if none of this works, they definitely have more Google AdSense ads to sell. Maybe buying more Google Ads is the magic, unspoken quid pro quo.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:13 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


trying to guess what I am doing wrong to anger Google is really the closest thing we have to modern day cargo cults

It gladdens my heart to know that not only am I in the virtual company of other people to whom this is plain but that one of them is the site founder.

We can argue about the best way to curry the favour of the great bird, or we can spend that time working out how to arrange our affairs so that we're no longer reliant on parcels falling out of its shiny metal arse. I'm for (b).

Matt, how much detail are you willing to share about what it would actually cost to run this thing in a humane and sustainable fashion, and how those costs break down?
posted by flabdablet at 9:15 AM on May 22, 2014 [17 favorites]


Maybe we should give Matt a break from suggestions and questions for a while, as he obviously has had a lot of shit to do over the past three days.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:24 AM on May 22, 2014 [98 favorites]


As someone how "does SEO" for a living, I really do wonder why MetaFilter has been penalized. I also wonder why nothing has changed since 2012, when the problem was first identified.

The changes to Google's algorithm have been good. All of the spammy SEO type stuff that we hate has been penalized, from keyword stuffing to getting paid links to linking in comments.

In fact, the Google algorithm that penalized Metafilter in 2012 is a lot different than the algorithm that exists now.

While there are some technical fixes that can be implemented I guess (I have no idea, and Matt and cortex and pb are way more technically minded than I will ever be), I would guess that part of the challenge is the changing nature of the web itself, and how content is shared on the web.

When I joined MetaFilter in 2007, both Twitter and Facebook were just being launched. People regarded both with deep suspicion as a matter of fact.

Reddit didn't even exist (I don't think) and was certainly not owned by Conde Naste.

Now social media is how a lot of content is discovered and shared, and there is less need to go to "aggregator" sites like Metafilter.

As far as I know, most of MetaFilter's ad revenue is/was derived from AskMe. Now there are a variety of places to get questions answered by intelligent people.

So there is a lot more competition.

Still, Matt Coutts (the guy - a genius, really - who generally acts as spokesman for Google's Search product) has said that there are some legitimate sites like MetaFilter that have been hit as collateral damage by changes to the Google algo.

Matthowie and MetaFilter are well-known, and well-respected in the web world. Icons, to certain people. Surely Matt Coutts and his team have some ideas about how to tweak MetaFilter.

Or maybe the issue really is more competition means less traffic.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:26 AM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


but half a dozen people have given me serious considered SEO advice and it's funny when everything people say is different and/or conflicting

Seriously, reading our email is like watching an episode of Thirty Helens Agree where every single Helen ends up shouting something different.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:26 AM on May 22, 2014 [83 favorites]


It's really getting to the point where one can make a convincing argument that Google is now powerful enough that they act as a government-of-sorts on the web. And while the (actual) government AND Google both do a lot of good, it also seems that both have evolved into an overly complex system in their attempts to do good, which results in a lot of not-so-good.

With Google, some of it feels like "well if we do THIS maybe the abusive entity will stop abusing us". Metafilter (and plenty of others) is put in the position of having to try and guess what the rules are to appease the secretive algorithm. Just like THAT YA book that keeps being asked about. If we good too far down the path of Google appeasement we may just see the mods out in the street one day doing a complex dance to the changing streetlights.

If ever there was a good argument against over reliance on automation this is it. I mean really, by just about any non shitty metric the page ranking system of Google is throwing a lot of nonsense up in many many cases. Given the amount of influence and power Google wields in the arena they are literally acting like a censor, albeit a kind of clueless head-up-the-ass censor.
posted by edgeways at 9:27 AM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


You can submit multiple site maps and you can submit an rss feed as a site map, so that should be easy.

I have an SEO religion for my sites. I won't share it, since I think Matt's a member of my church, but basically it comes down to "Be good, try your best, do what makes sense, and hope google agrees." Unfortunately, you don't always stay in favor with the SEO gods.

Eh.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:41 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's really getting to the point where one can make a convincing argument that Google is now powerful enough that they act as a government-of-sorts on the web.

Sure, Google is (for the time being) king in terms of the volume of traffic, but volume does not necessary mean quality traffic, in terms of attracting and engaging relevant visitors, and motivating them to act.

Anyway, I think that one of the challenges of managing, maintaining, and optimizing MetaFilter is that the core userbase (ie, the people who pay a one-time fee of five bucks) dictates features, or which features have a priority. This is important because if you are prioritizing rolling out one feature, you don't have time to work on other things... like ensuring your site is optimized for Panda.

On the other hand, from what I gather, revenue depends on "non-subscribers" or non-members, people who do not have an account but who typically find AskMe etc via Search. Usually the user/visitor/customer who provides the core revenue stream gets preference.

On the other hand, MetaFilter relies almost entirely on user-generated content, in the form of AskMe questions and answers, and MetaFilter posts, etc, just to show up in Search at all.

It seems like quite a balancing act!
posted by KokuRyu at 9:41 AM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Any suggestions for places that we could be submitting links (in a non-spammy way) to individual AskMe posts or comments, to help boost incoming traffic and/or pagerank?

Relevant subreddits are the first thing that come to mind, but I remember there being several such sites back in my blogging days. (Is Technorati still a thing that people use?)

There are a lot of us who have more time than money and still want to help MetaFilter -- I'm confident that lots of us would be willing to spend 10-30 minutes a day submitting links if it would help.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:46 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Matt is it true you've been talking to Matt C from Google about this? I hope so. But I suspect his "We're talking about it" means he emailed you once.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:51 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


In the event my previous suggestions on this topic were lost in the previous behemoth of a thread, they can be found here: http://metatalk.metafilter.com/23245/State-of-MetaFilter#1148084

I really don't think that duplicate content or lack of sitemap is the issue here. And, obviously, my minor suggestions aren't a panacea but rather add some direction to the bots as to how you want the site to be perused. There is very clearly something in "the algorithm" that is equating Metafilter with other crappy content farms and hopefully the meeting of the Matts will resolve it.

One of the sites I work on was manually penalized by someone at Google for unknown reasons. Further, we received no knowledge of said penalty in Webmaster Tools. It took nearly a year to get resolved (by submitting appeal after appeal and hammering our rep) and we still don't know the reason. We only know that magically one day (with no public algorithm update and no communication) things were back closer to pre-penalty levels.
posted by Jacob G at 9:53 AM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


All I know is that a Google search of "Slarty Bartfast" used to give my MeFi profile page as the #1 result, now it's some site called "wikipedia" and I am OUTRAGED at the Google.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:54 AM on May 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


I once owned part of a business, and when it got into financial trouble, a lot of people had a lot of good suggestions. But the reality was that no one knew more about our circumstances than we owners did, and no one came up with anything we hadn't already thought through in a lot of detail. Not to say that they weren't good ideas and very well meant, but we'd been living with our business and its problems for years, and all the suggestions started to just make a hard time harder. Not that I was ever as gracious as Matt's managing to be, but I agree with the quidnunc kid that Matt and the mods could probably use a break from fielding suggestions.
posted by EllenC at 9:54 AM on May 22, 2014 [36 favorites]


Metafilter Prime includes the ability to give unwanted advice to any user or mod at any time Sign Up Now.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:56 AM on May 22, 2014 [20 favorites]


Any suggestions for places that we could be submitting links (in a non-spammy way) to individual AskMe posts or comments, to help boost incoming traffic and/or pagerank?

The Google Search algorithm has been continuously updated since 2012. Over the past year or so there is more and more of a focus not on links, but on "semantic search", which would seem to be a perfect fit for AskMe.

Links can hurt your site now. In fact, there is an entire sub-industry of SEO devoted to removing spammy links (PageRank isn't as important as something Moz calls Domain Authority, which is dictated in part by links).

Social signals matter. Who is talking about you on social media, and who is travelling to you via a link on social media? Blog comments now matter. "Bounce rate" is also a ranking factor - if people click the back button after visiting your page, that is a negative ranking factor. Google rewards you if people continue on through the rest of your site.

Links don't matter as much as measurable engagement.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:58 AM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


They'll pry my measurable engagement from my warm sweaty fingers.
posted by flabdablet at 10:08 AM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Google being what it is, I wonder if its "algorithms" aren't mostly a product of machine-learning and data-mining, consequently not reducible to simple general principles, and pretty much opaque to anyone's understanding, even at Google itself.

On another note, is there anything that we as users could do to help Mefi's search rankings? For example I pretty much never tweet anything on Mefi, it never occurs to me to do that. But since it seems that linking can now be actually harmful to a site, perhaps tweeting is also something to be avoided unless done in the right way, whatever that might be.
posted by philipy at 10:17 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Perhaps users could have an option to enable 'tweet favorites' in their profiles. Tweets would be generated whenever they favorited a FPP.
posted by popcassady at 10:23 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Heh, I get where you're coming from, popcassady, but that's just asking for online identity partitioning heartbreak.

But for sure there is no harm in, when you find yourself looking at something on Metafilter and thinking "this is neat", proceeding to your twitter or facebook account and posting a link and saying "hey, this is neat!" I take the volume of awesome stuff I come across on Metafilter a little bit for granted myself and should remember to actually tell people offsite about cool stuff more often.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:26 AM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


cortex: Seriously, reading our email is like watching an episode of Thirty Helens Agree where every single Helen ends up shouting something different.

Cortex, I think this comment would have been better if you had used 31 Ellens rather than "30 Helens". You might consider going back and editing your comment for effectiveness.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:27 AM on May 22, 2014 [12 favorites]


popcassady: you can already do that with IFTTT, the RSS channel and the tweet channel. Don't need to build it in with the site necessarily.

Here's the recipe
posted by deezil at 10:29 AM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Assuming that sending new visitors to the site is a goal (although I suspect having a chat with Matt Coutts at Google would do the trick, as well as continuously optimizing the site for Search), it would be nice to have more social share buttons, that's for sure, especially for Google Plus (which has a ton of global users actually), but also for the usual sites.

I use G+ as a de facto blog (basically to bookmark and share links) and I interact a fair amount with people from all over the place there.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:30 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


If metafilter does add share buttons, can their presence be behind a bit of javascript triggered by a "share" link? a) I don't like the visual clutter of having sharing icon links for every social network under the sun and b) having them on the page by default allows all those social networks to track you.
posted by pharm at 10:35 AM on May 22, 2014


Maybe we should give Matt a break from suggestions and questions for a while, as he obviously has had a lot of shit to do over the past three days.

He doesn't have to act on or even answer them right away.

Having threads where people can brain-dump their ideas about SEO, fundraising, etc. lets people post their ideas while they're still fresh (and also while our grief over the mod layoffs is still fresh and thus our motivation to help high) in a place that Matt can refer back to later whenever he finally has the time.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:37 AM on May 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


popcassady: "Perhaps users could have an option to enable 'tweet favorites' in their profiles. Tweets would be generated whenever they favorited a FPP."

Those of us who have favorited thousands of FPP's would need an opt-out to prevent annoying the hell out of our friends on Twitter.
posted by zarq at 10:44 AM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Maybe we should give Matt a break from suggestions and questions for a while, as he obviously has had a lot of shit to do over the past three days.

There's nothing like a potential solution for assuaging sadness and kicking anxiety in the butt. (Well an actual solution would be really welcome too but as all I can do is throw money and wring my hands, I'm delighted to see people on and off this site grappling with the problem.) And too, I'm sure this isn't the only site dealing with this issue. Discussions like these cement Metafilter's reputation as a respected resource.
posted by firstdrop at 10:50 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


pharm: "If metafilter does add share buttons"

You know we have them now, right?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:54 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Jacqueline: I've asked about starting a MetaTalk thread for fundraising ideas a couple of times (noticing that they were being posted on the behemoth threads but getting lost in them), but the mods have asked that I hold off for a bit while the dust settles.
posted by divabat at 11:04 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


To be honest, one reason I don't tweet is that the existing buttons are so unobtrusive that there's nothing to prompt me to consider doing it. I'm just not looking over at that part of the screen. I'm more likely to use the Twitter bookmarklet in my Firefox bar than those buttons.

I tweet blog posts more often because it's a natural part of the flow - get to the end of the reading the post, see some buttons and think: "Yeah, I'll tweet this one, my friends will be interested".
posted by philipy at 11:08 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know we have them now, right?

Last time I checked, there are no Google Plus share buttons, nor anything for Stumbleupon or Reddit. Or Pinterest.

As moronic as you might think these services are, it's a "best practice" to include the damn things on any other site.

Another thing that kind of irritates me about sharing Metafilter links is that the title tag and metadescription just pull from the H1 and the first 140 or so characters of body text. It's sort of crappy when trying to share on different social media networks.

However, I understand that there is no consensus so far about social shares etc.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:09 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ugh... The memories....

I used to work for a non-profit that had a rather large website. Like, utterly unwieldy. I was charged with trying to manage this wildly overgrown garden, while at the same time attempting to appease the stakeholders who had conflicting goals for the site.

Soooooo... we had a section called "news" -- filled entirely with our press releases. If you typed in the organization's name in Google, our press releases would show up on the Google News site. This made the press officers happy, as they liked to pretend that they were crusading environmental reporters spreading awareness, instead of, you know, flacks.

Then, suddenly, the Google News citations stopped. The press officers glowered. Well, Potsmokinghippieoverlord, what did you do to piss off Google? Can't you call them and tell them to put us back in the News section?

(Although, honestly, goddamn press releases ARE NOT NEWS. Sheesh.)

I did contact Google, and to my surprise (after about a week) I got a response, although it was a little like communicating with a Magic 8-Ball.

"Hey, Google, is there a problem with the way our URLs are formed?"

"Signs point to yes."

"So can we do it like XYZ? Will that help?"

"Cannot predict now."

Aargh. So frustrating. Especially since I was seen as incompetent for somehow not forcing Google to bend to my will.

Sorry. Just needed to vent.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:25 AM on May 22, 2014 [16 favorites]


Sometimes what I most want to share is a comment, not the whole post. Especially when the thread is long and convoluted.

I have no idea if this would help Metafilter's revenue, but if you ever allow sharing of comments I hope you make it so that the comments are shareable as individual items, like sharing a tweet, with a link back to the rest of the thread.

But this is a very big pony, and you are very busy and understaffed right now. I only mention it because Metafilter is the one thing I never share on Facebook or Twitter, even though it's the source of a lot of what I do share, and that's why.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:31 AM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


All I know is that a Google search of "Slarty Bartfast" used to give my MeFi profile page

Holy crap.

I just searched on madamjujujive which used to give me dozens of mefi pages. Guess how many now? Not.A.One.

There are four results from metatalk but not one from metafilter
one from metafilter projects via bingebrowser.com
one from mobilefilter via schmod.com
one from mefiwiki.com

There are comments from blog from 10 years ago, a youtube account I haven't visited since the G+ crap started, a long inactive typepad ... no mefi returns. That is very very spooky, creepy -- like I have no mefi footprint anymore, it is like metafilter is delisted.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:42 AM on May 22, 2014 [23 favorites]


Yeah that is pretty crazy. I just searched lemurrhea, which I made up to join MeFi, and since then it has become my normal handle. First page:
Twitter (fine), Steam (fine), Librarything (haven't used in a year but ok) flickr (ditto), Shapeways (wtf?), my home domain which I haven't updated in many years (just use it for email), kinja (looks like spam) and glitch which doesn't even exist!

Bing has my domain, twitter, and then (if I remove "lemuria" from the search, which fair enough) a bunch of mefi links.

Fucking hell, google.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:51 AM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


but half a dozen people have given me serious considered SEO advice and it's funny when everything people say is different and/or conflicting

Seriously, reading our email is like watching an episode of Thirty Helens Agree where every single Helen ends up shouting something different.


MetaFilter: Thirty Helens Disagree
posted by Going To Maine at 11:51 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just Googled RonPaul.metafilter.com, and all I got was this crappy shirt.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:09 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Apparently Rhaomi, zarq and other posters have been doing the username search thing in the State of Metafilter thread and found the same things: no mefi returns, but lots of returns for sites that scrape mefi, defunct accounts and other crap. No mefi. That is really really messed up.
posted by madamjujujive at 12:23 PM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I just Googled RonPaul.metafilter.com, and all I got was this crappy shirt.

I'm a bit surprised that no one has paid the five bucks for "I helped save MetaFilter and all I got was this crappy username"
posted by Going To Maine at 12:26 PM on May 22, 2014


After ponying up for a monthly prescription, I can no longer afford to grow my sock puppet army. THANKS GOOGLE, FOR KILLING MY DREAMS OF WORLD DUMBINATION!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:31 PM on May 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


So yeah, these are all ok ideas to pursue, but as with most SEO stuff, I'd rather just make a good community with people pointing to cool stuff online and sharing helpful advice and hope that gets found by others instead of worrying about tweaking MeFi to appease the unknown Google gods.

I'm pretty sure the reason metafilter is 'penalized' is because of the ad-revenue conditions that do lead to it not being "high quality content".

So basically, there is an inverse relationship between revenue generating advertising capability and being ranked higher on google.

Honestly, it's how it should be. But it also gives the website, the opportunity to determine where it's own priorities lay. For metafilter, it seems to be *right here*.

So maybe we need not start a meta on that which has already been determined and implemented.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:33 PM on May 22, 2014


I'm pretty sure the reason metafilter is 'penalized' is because of the ad-revenue conditions that do lead to it not being "high quality content".

No, has MetaFilter is exactly the kind of content Google wants to reward. A challenge may be that Adsense (where a website gets a cut of revenue generated by Google ads) is no longer profitable for anyone.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:36 PM on May 22, 2014


Last time I checked, there are no Google Plus share buttons, nor anything for Stumbleupon or Reddit. Or Pinterest.

Not only do I think those things are stupid, I think it's really stupid of google to prioritize them—someone on HN (I think) commented that it was an instance of Google deciding that they'd like to make the web tractable to their algorithms, not by improving their algorithms, but by dictating how the web should be. I would say something like: it's a sign that Google's given up; despite the supposed promise of clever algorithms, they actually don't work, and so they'll prioritize "social" and prestige domains because they actually have no way of figuring out what's really worthwhile, so just use these shortcuts and/or change the thing being surveyed.

Technocracy, ladies and gents!
posted by kenko at 12:37 PM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


anotherpanacea: "I have no idea if this would help Metafilter's revenue, but if you ever allow sharing of comments I hope you make it so that the comments are shareable as individual items, like sharing a tweet, with a link back to the rest of the thread."

Click the timestamp on the comment. That will give you a direct link to that comment but still within the context of the thread. Ideal for sharing, in my experience.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:40 PM on May 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Hunh. I searched on 'leahwrenn', and google listed my twitter account about halfway down the first page of results (which is weird since I don't use twitter at all). There's an irl.metafilter result second from the bottom of the first page of google results, from 2012. But nothing else from metafilter at all. (Five or so pages in, I get my pandora profile, of all things; a bunch of papers I've written and conferences I've attended... But nothing at all from metafilter.)

That's really, really strange.

I get two metafilter results (both to AskMe) from DuckDuckGo's first page.

On the other hand, Bing knows about neither me nor metafilter.
posted by leahwrenn at 1:01 PM on May 22, 2014


Not only do I think those things are stupid, I think it's really stupid of google to prioritize them—someone on HN (I think) commented that it was an instance of Google deciding that they'd like to make the web tractable to their algorithms, not by improving their algorithms, but by dictating how the web should be. I would say something like: it's a sign that Google's given up; despite the supposed promise of clever algorithms, they actually don't work, and so they'll prioritize "social" and prestige domains because they actually have no way of figuring out what's really worthwhile, so just use these shortcuts and/or change the thing being surveyed.

Well, no. I totally disagree. It's Google trying to determine how engaging a particular piece of content is. Web traffic/visitors originating from social shares is just one "ranking factor" or "signal" Google uses to determine Search ranking... or so it is said, because nobody outside of Google really knows how the algorithm works.

From the point of view of a marketer (and since we are talking about ad revenues, and how a decline in ad revenues has resulted in pay cuts, and then layoffs, and likely the future viability of the site, marketing is relevant), getting social shares is awesome. It means that people like your content and are talking about it and engaging.

While for our clients the amount of traffic originating from social is much lower than organic traffic (the traffic that has fallen off a cliff since 2012 for MetaFilter), social traffic is very highly engaged, and "converts." Visitors originating from social do what you hope they will do more often than visitors originating from organic search results. In the case of Metafilter or AskMe, that could mean clicking on the ads that pay for the site.

Like it or not, the social web is established. It's actually in the rear-view mirror now, really, as we move further into a mobile / multi-device / multi-screen environment.

2012 was a very long time ago and things are so very different now. We can't really talk about 2012. It's ancient history.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:22 PM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Click the timestamp on the comment. That will give you a direct link to that comment but still within the context of the thread. Ideal for sharing, in my experience.

And, gosh, whose idea was that?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:31 PM on May 22, 2014 [34 favorites]




whoa, weird. I just googled iamkimiam and the first mention related to MetaFilter was on page *four*, and even then, it was a link to my research website (I'm writing a dissertation about MetaFilter and my research website mentions MetaFilter practically every 10th word). But my five years defunct XBox Live login and various other social media sites which I don't use at all are right up there, filling up pages 1, 2 and 3! It's like MetaFilter and everything with it have been sucked into a black hole of bare existence.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:08 PM on May 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


Wow. Googling my username brings up a lot of sites that have been scraping Metafilter, but very, very few actual metafilter results.

Also, those other pogo_fuzzybutts on other sites aint me. I only use this name here and at monkeyfilter.

So, even results which should only return metafilter fail to.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:15 PM on May 22, 2014


Nice link, KokuRyu.

And iamkimiam, as I posted in the other thread, my username in quotes does not return a metafilter match in the first 4 pages, even though adding metafilter to the search returns many pages of relevant results. Something is *very* fishy, like almost manual blacklisting levels of fishy.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:16 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


The duplicate content issue is especially severe on ask.metafilter.com,
site:ask.metafilter.com returns about 88,000,000 results. I'm sure the Google deities aren't too happy about that.

To expand on recommendations: there are a few things that MetaFilter does that are against best practices, and against Google guidelines. Here's what Google says on duplicate content.

There are several unwanted side effects to duplicate content:
* It impedes crawling
* It thins out the PageRank of the content page, lowering the rank of the main content pages.
* The Google Panda update penalizes duplicate content, and it coincides with the drop in traffic.

Wildcard DNS is can is often associated with link farms, and while probably not the main SEO problem, it is considered harmful. And should be very easy to fix.

A sitemap is a nice-to-have, but not the source of the SEO issues at the moment, so it's not a priority at the moment.

Examples of duplicate content:
http://www.metafilter.com/index.cfm and http://www.metafilter.com/
http://exlibris.metafilter.com/
http://www.metafilter.com/home/recentposts
http://ask.metafilter.com/education , for example

Also it's possible better practice to have the same global exclusions in robots.txt for all the bots, instead of bot specific exclusions.

A quick way to check for duplicate content is to check the site:metafilter.com on Google. This usually returns the highest ranked results first, and at the moment almost none of it is actual content.
posted by Sharcho at 2:18 PM on May 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


Examples of duplicate content:
http://www.metafilter.com/index.cfm and http://www.metafilter.com/
http://exlibris.metafilter.com/
http://www.metafilter.com/home/recentposts
http://ask.metafilter.com/education , for example


Look, fix whatever else you want of that noise but exlibris ain't goin' nowheres.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:23 PM on May 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yeah, that one's not a duplicate of AskMe. It's cunningly camouflaged.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:26 PM on May 22, 2014


Going To Maine, exlibris doesn't have to go away, it just needs to be blocked in robots.txt (which exlibris doesn't have). exlibris.metafilter.com has a title of "Ask MetaFilter". Duplicate titles are often penalized. Cutting down on the amount of subdomains indexed will help the ranking.
posted by Sharcho at 2:37 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, exlibris doesn't need to be available in search engines. Added a robots.txt rule to disallow all. Thanks for the suggestions here.
posted by pb (staff) at 2:54 PM on May 22, 2014


A white background would look much more professional
* Professional white background


Matt, have you considered a professional black background?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:29 PM on May 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Maybe we should give Matt a break from suggestions and questions for a while, as he obviously has had a lot of shit to do over the past three days.

The quidnunc kid gets my vote. Matt, we're ready to help when you need us.
posted by arcticseal at 3:40 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


How much do you think the Google PageSpeed ratings for metafilter have to do with this? My understanding is that Google is heavily pushing responsive design (not necessarily a good thing, imho) since something like half of all search comes from mobile these days.
posted by OntologicalPuppy at 3:41 PM on May 22, 2014


So my username is not exclusive to Mefi, but I haven't used it in a while. Google searching brings me this IRL meetup in Sydney to cheer me up as the first result.

So I guess the way to get top ranking is to have other Mefites try to make you happy?

and then it's a bunch of my old profiles to things, and one person with a "diva bat" art piece on DeviantArt.
posted by divabat at 3:41 PM on May 22, 2014


I got Metafilter results when I Googled my username, but it's pretty distinctive.


I also inspired a Ladies Against Humanity card, apparently. Did not know that.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:00 PM on May 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Huh. I had some hits actually about my username (many that weren't).

I learned that Cory Doctorow wrote a BoingBoing post based on one of my posts from a while back. That was educational.
posted by hippybear at 5:10 PM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Although, reviewing the results, I see a lot of content that has been scraped up by sleazy horrible advertising sites for get-rich-quick schemes and knockoff sunglasses and , none of which have a single thing to do with me or Metafilter all of which bear the little green checkmark of approval.

What the Hell, Google, are you Chinatown or something?
posted by louche mustachio at 5:13 PM on May 22, 2014


Is anyone else laughing their ass off at the "Metafilter never evolved" narrative a bunch of folks who don't know Metafilter are weaving into their analysis?

This WaPo genius actually claims Quora is "more usable":

As much as Google is to blame for MetaFilter’s downfall, however, MetaFilter may be responsible, too: It simply hasn’t evolved to keep up with the rest of the Web. The site’s wonky, old-school navigation — not to mention its throwback interface — requires an FAQ section several dozen questions long. Metafilter’s most interesting core functions, like its discussion boards and Q&A feature, have since been cannibalized by more usable sites like Reddit and Quora.

Riiight. Fucking Quora is more usable than AskMe? Does anyone actually agree with that? I'd love to see your argument. And this guy at WebProNews, which I haven't thought about in years but now looks like the very model of a Modern Web Experience, quotes Matt Cutts in a video "talking about established sites not being able to rank forever without evolving."

I'm sure that must seem like a fine narrative for folks on the outside who find themselves suddenly in the position of being paid to have An Opinion about all of this, but none of it fits the actual data. I'm open to the idea that MeFi's lack of images, or the fact that it doesn't look like the rest of THE MODERN WEB [gag, if we're talking about the temporary top reign of clutter at HuffPo, Buzzfeed, etc] might be affecting traffic, but the evidence we have so far doesn't support that analysis. One would expect a gradual decline in memberships over the years as our oh-so-outdated web experience drove visitors away.

That's not what fucking happened.

New member growth was constant. Traffic was...well, look at the first graph in Matt's Medium.com piece. It was declining somewhat from a major spike in 2011, but was still far beyond anything we'd seen before. Then Google fucked us. Even after Google's bullshit categorization of the site as a spamfarm, it bounced back, but couldn't continue against The Algorithm's perfect wisdom.

Bottom line: This was not a site that had been driving people away because of its far-too-ancient design, and the narrative that says otherwise is almost certainly near-complete bullshit.

Google decided MeFi was a spamfarm, and Matt waited too long to address it with the userbase. That's pretty much all you need to know. The outpouring of support from members here so far is amazing, and if MeFi went to a subscription-required model that could bring Jessamyn back I'd be totally happy with that, because it would mean the site would *still* fucking be the best place for discussion on the Web for a decade to come, and the smarter folks at WaPo and WebProNews would find and love it. The folks who've never spent time here before this week but feel qualified to assert that because MeFi doesn't look like all the rest of the garbage sites they read online the design must be a major problem are nothing but laughable. It's grasping at straws to suggest site design was a major factor here (again, I'm willing to consider that it was a minor one).
posted by mediareport at 6:09 PM on May 22, 2014 [28 favorites]


Click the timestamp on the comment.

Except I don't want to link to the thread, I just want the comment.

For instance, if I linked to mediareport's excellent comment above mine right now someone would feel mightily confused as to why he's talking about that and I'm talking about new features that are not obviously related to Google deciding we're a spam farm.

There are enough comments that deserve to stand on their own that I think it might be valuable.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:40 PM on May 22, 2014


This might be (incredibly) stupid, but has anyone checked what was posted on MetaFilter on or before November 17th as a post or comment that might have tripped some sort of automatic or manual action? Not that I think it'd be a good use of Matt or the staff's time to go looking, but I know some of us are pretty good at looking for stuff.
posted by ODiV at 7:31 PM on May 22, 2014


ODiV, a single comment or post wouldn't cause this. It's much more likely it's due to a Google Algorithm Change
posted by Sharcho at 8:11 PM on May 22, 2014


I've been pretty much reading everything I can get my hands on about this and yes I agree that's what people who are a whole lot more knowledgeable about this are saying. I did hedge and say that it might be (incredibly) stupid, remember?

I'm a bit confused by your contrast of "wouldn't" which is quite definitive with "much more likely" which leaves all sorts of wiggle room.
posted by ODiV at 8:22 PM on May 22, 2014


AskMe posts for November 17, 2012 are:

http://ask.metafilter.com/229075-229121

Or if you want to see November all at once, there's the Archive:

http://ask.metafilter.com/archived.mefi/11/01/2012/


MeFi posts for November 17, 2012 are:

http://www.metafilter.com/121938-121964

Archive for November:

http://www.metafilter.com/archived.mefi/11/01/2012/
posted by Kevin Street at 9:42 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


I hope someone at Google is paying attention.

The fact that Google appears to rank Yahoo Answers higher than Ask Metafilter, should be causing people to worry about the problem Google is having, not Metafilter, because Ask has, straight out, higher quality content, which means Google searchers are missing out.
posted by Elysum at 9:44 PM on May 22, 2014 [17 favorites]


pb: Yeah, exlibris doesn't need to be available in search engines. Added a robots.txt rule to disallow all.

I'd recommend an exception for the Internet Archive/Wayback machine, rather than a flat block. It doesn't need to be searched, but it could stand to be remembered. Useragents are ia_archiver and archive.org_bot
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:27 PM on May 22, 2014 [8 favorites]


Googling my user name pulls up exactly zero Metafilter results on the first page.

It does, however, pull up a throwaway Photobucket account to which I uploaded a single image: a screenshot of the Social Security office locator page. (It, like any good government office, only operates between certain hours.)

Quality stuff, Google.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:47 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Panda 4.0: Why eBay Just Lost 80% of its Organic Rankings

I use ebay a fair amount, but the idea that they have any credibility when discussing SEO, search engine strategy or anything of the ilk is hilarious. Their listings are littered with spam, scams and god knows what else.

Ye olde car parts are normally what I'm after, and it's insane how bad their search is, to the point where if there is an actual part in the pile of spam, I'll never know, I'm not paging through 100 pages of crap to find out. Many of their "valued sellers" list every car ever made plus random common parts terms as keywords for plastic "end-cap" crap.

Ebay used to be an amazing source of rare, oddball stuff. It's been disappointing for years now how awful it is, but I still try, mostly out of habit. I just wonder where all the weirdos went, they have stuff I want to buy.
posted by maxwelton at 11:34 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Searching my username finds a whole one link to MeFi. There are a few to Sportsfilter, some to other sites where I or someone else has that username, and several links that look like scrapes done by sites that Google thinks are less spammy than MeFi. Most results are to variations on "dirigible man" or "dirigible, man". On the plus side, it turns out my post on the new moon globe made bestof, so that's nice. Also, there's a bestof.metafilter.com, also nice.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:53 PM on May 22, 2014


Matt mentioned above that user profiles are excluded from search via robots.txt. Could that be a reason username searches aren't turning up much? Sure any given username appears on a ton of metafilter pages, but how would Google determine which of those pages to surface?
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:21 AM on May 23, 2014


Google's duplicate content page really seems targeted at sites that have two pages with the same info. All the "duplicate content" for that AskMe search are tag pages: each page is actually unique, though questions are duplicated on many pages.

Further, the Google page stresses* that they only penalize if it's clear that a site is duplicating content for spammy reasons. A tag page on a legit blog seems a pretty clear case of "not spammy", yeah?

* not to say that I necessarily believe everything they say, but it's a place to start
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:31 AM on May 23, 2014


Weirdly, despite my username being non-original ("The Ends Of Invention" is a spaceship in an SF novel) and plenty of other people using the phrase in various formats, a mention of my username somewhere on MeFi is the 12th result on DuckDuckGo (an AskMe post) and the 16th result on Google (a MeTa post). That's a lot higher than I would have thought.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:02 AM on May 23, 2014


When I Googled my username, I discovered that sometime after I made it up, someone else or two also made it up because it is the name of a tuberculosis drug and some sort of music analysis language programmy thing. So no MeFi results there in the many pages I scanned.

At least on DuckDuckGo I do show up here.

I may be a lurker, but I have my pride, so maybe it is time for a new account. I don't have TB. Promise.
posted by monopas at 1:03 AM on May 23, 2014


But can you analyse music?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:04 AM on May 23, 2014


Not so much. I used to sing a bit until I got a cat who hates it with a fiery passion. So much for a relaxing Nina Simone tribute in the shower.
posted by monopas at 1:10 AM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


"So yeah, these are all ok ideas to pursue, but as with most SEO stuff, I'd rather just make a good community with people pointing to cool stuff online and sharing helpful advice and hope that gets found by others instead of worrying about tweaking MeFi to appease the unknown Google gods."

Thanks, Matt. All these suggestions for "how to fix Metafilter" really rub me the wrong way. Metafilter should keep on doing what it's doing because it is a GOOD WEBSITE. It has all the hallmarks of what makes a good place to be for useful, engaging, entertaining content.

Instead of trying to fix Metafilter by attempting to game the dark arts of Google, Google should be trying to fix itself because they are clearly not doing a good job of what they are supposedly* trying to do.

*I say supposedly because they were all about being the best search engine but it's pretty clear to me that their main goal is about making money and it's hard not to be cynical when this kind of shit happens.
posted by like_neon at 1:59 AM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: The ability to give unwanted advice to any user or mod or, especially, the owner at any time.

I second like_neon. Let's give it a rest. We love MetaFilter because it's a great website. We do not need to help Matt and the mods "fix" this place.

We have stepped up. We have showered Matt and the mods with supportive love and (to the extent possible) money. If you wanna help and haven't contributed yet, consider donating.

There's this thing that can happen when someone you love gets sick with something scary, something potentially deadly.

While your loved one is busy trying to take care of her/himself and stay alive, you may find yourself draining the ill person's energy in many not-so-helpful ways, including:

1. Emailing links to articles in obscure medical journals,
2. Upchucking well-meant success stories of someone's cousin who survived the same thing, and (in extreme but all-too-common cases)
3. Getting teary and sad in your friend's presence and, essentially, insisting that your ill friend comfort you for the sorrow, grief, and fear that you are feeling about his or her potential death.

Yes, it makes us feel better to keep offering suggestions. But these enormous threads are also a drain on the energy of Matt and the mods (she typed away happily, fully cognizant of contributing to the problem herself).

IMHO, enough already. Matt & crew have got lots of suggestions. If they want more, they can ask. If MeFites need to process our fear/grief/anger/confusion, can't we do it IRL or in a less resource-draining way?

(Also, am I the only one bummed that the comments about Google became so pointed and heated that a MeFite who works at Google felt forced to disable his account? Not that I am a fan of Google the conglomerate but the folks I know who work there, all two of them, are fabulous.)

Finally, a note to monopas. I stopped singing around the house for several years because of my kid. That was a bad idea. I'm singing again. Singing is magic. It is good for you. Don't martyr yourself to your cat. Put that kitty in its place and let your voice ring out again.

I will now take a 30-day break from commenting on anything related to MeFi business matters. Best of luck, Matt & company!
posted by Bella Donna at 4:06 AM on May 23, 2014 [10 favorites]


So, I don't like to brag or anything, but I happen to be particularly adept at search engine optimization. This is due not only to years of trial and error and an uncanny sense of which way the mighty G and its cohorts are going to shift at any given moment, but because I managed to buy the only copy of the Panda-algo access code book that has been known to ever see that light of day. It wasn't cheap, at all, but it's paying off. Slowly, maybe, but steadily.

And the error you guys are all making is so obvious it's kind of painful to have to even point it out but because I got feels for MeFi, I'm gonna spill the beans once and only once, right here:

You spin the chicken counter-clockwise.

Don't laugh. It matters. Second thing that's probably escaped the attention of a lot of people though it should be obvious is that if the chicken is alive its squaking goes a hell of a lot farther than if (god help you) bought just went and one at the grocery store.

So last time, because some people just won't listen, hand-raised hand-fed chickens dressed in velvet. Spun above your head, counter-clockwise. You don't have to stand on the tallest hill in the valley but the rest of this, for the love of all that is holy, is cannon.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:19 AM on May 23, 2014 [15 favorites]


The more unnatural things a site has to do to appease Google, the more likely it will be that the sites that do all the right things are going to be spam. Tag pages and favorites pages are useful to users. If Google can't figure out what they are and how to rank them without triggering some kind of duplicate content penalty, that really is their problem.
posted by Nothing at 5:48 AM on May 23, 2014 [11 favorites]


Matt mentioned above that user profiles are excluded from search via robots.txt. Could that be a reason username searches aren't turning up much? Sure any given username appears on a ton of metafilter pages, but how would Google determine which of those pages to surface?

I think most people are comparing this experience to when they used to google their username. I used to get a ton of MetaFilter results for my name, now the first one is on the second page, beat out by a bunch of stuff about lions, complaints about a Mac OS, and various other, much-less-used profiles of mine at other sites.
posted by LionIndex at 6:08 AM on May 23, 2014


Hmmm.... I have been trying to find a certain piece of information via Google for days with no luck. I was trying various search terms, verbatim search, filetype searches, looking through 10 pages of results, and all kinds of other advanced Google-fu.

Reading this thread and the other, similar, "Google is broken" threads that have cropped up in the wake of Metafilter's troubles finally dinged something in my stubborn, habit-ridden brain, and so I finally tried my search via Bing... where exactly what I was looking for was THE FIRST LINK.

What the Holy Hell?

Anyway, I just changed my default search engine to Bing. Never thought that would happen, even when I asked how to stop Google for overthinking for me way back in 2011. It's the end of an era.
posted by lesli212 at 7:53 AM on May 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


Matt mentioned above that user profiles are excluded from search via robots.txt. Could that be a reason username searches aren't turning up much? Sure any given username appears on a ton of metafilter pages, but how would Google determine which of those pages to surface?

I've made more than 500 posts - those are not blocked from search engines, and while not all of those showed up in my results before, many of them did. I don't expect profiles, comments, or even all posts to appear. But many posts used to appear - and now none do.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:30 AM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ctrl-f "goat." Nothing. Ctrl-f "sacrifice." Nothing.

Isn't it time to consider some "outside the box" solutions?
posted by yoink at 9:14 AM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


You're suggesting we altar the deal?
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:23 AM on May 23, 2014 [17 favorites]


I think this is part of a larger problem of Google not being as good as it used to be in directing searchers toward useful, high-quality content. I appreciate comments by mediareport and others above in helping me understand why that's the case because I don't know much about the Google algorithm or webpage indexing.

I personally think that AskMetafilter is the best place on the Internet to find answers to life's enduring questions, big and small. Yet, Yahoo Answers (where the Q's and A's all seem to be written by teenagers), WikiHow (decent, but bland and better for straightforward problems; I'd trust it more for "How do I fix my leaky faucet?" than "How do I mend my broken heart?") and Quora (seems like it has useful content, but user interface is so clunky and annoying) all seem to show up higher in Google's ranking for most searches.

To me, that's a problem not just for Metafilter, but for anyone who uses the Internet.
posted by Asparagus at 9:31 AM on May 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


In the information wars of the 21st Century, the known peaceniks on The Blue had to be deliberately shovelled under the cyberstream's turbulent ever churning surface. White water rafting was a dangerous sport and the webz were not the safe secure places the old geeks could go surf for a while before a tall cold one. Now, the words must be chosen for the SeeYouRankins, the cyber Great Game that the Blues deplored.
posted by infini at 9:42 AM on May 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think of Metafilter more like a forum or community, rather than a blog or publication ("content"). It's great that the donation/subscription thing is happening-- that seems a really suitable funding source for Metafilter (if enough comes in to make it worthwhile). Metafilter's greatest value is to its regular users (who anyway won't see the ads or are ignoring them), not to random people finding it via google who might then click on ads to help find what they're looking for. I didn't wander in to Metafilter via search, it was recommended to me by a friend (probably advil?) directly or via shared links. My guess is that a lot of us came here that way.
posted by thefool at 9:51 AM on May 23, 2014


I worked at a company that was down ranked by Google for something we did or didn't do. We spent two years (while I was still there) trying to do everything right, all the cannonicalization, fixing duplicate content, etc... All the best practices Google and white hat see resources recommended. We didn't budge. Or we did, but only on a small number of long tail searches. The rest remained low in search results.

I'm really not sure there is much you can do. From Bklyn is about as correct as anyone can be.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:18 AM on May 23, 2014


There are a fair proportion of AskMe's that have lots of brief answers with one or more links each, so a very high links-to-text ratio, and a large number of links overall. I'm thinking that would be very hard for an algorithm to differentiate from a spam infestation.

Not sure how you could go about testing that hypothesis, but maybe someone can figure out a way.
posted by philipy at 10:58 AM on May 23, 2014


You're suggesting we altar the deal?
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:23 on May 23


Just pray we do not altar it further.
posted by pjern at 12:43 PM on May 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


How about that Google Glass, folks? Is that the most awesome new tech gadget ever? I can't wait for the day all Metafilter members are using Google Glass.

And remember that time many of us were saying harsh things about Google ending Reader? I know, it's hard to believe we were so short-sighted. That was obviously a brilliant move by the great minds at Google. It probably freed up resources so they could work on game-changing products like Google Glass.

I just can't believe how awesome Google is.
posted by perhapses at 4:25 PM on May 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


If you're really astonished about Google Glass are you google-eyed?
posted by solarion at 11:47 PM on May 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


You'll be able to save bandwidth and resources by using the robots.txt method. When using just the noindex meta tags, the crawlers still need to retrieve each page, and may have to do so on a periodic basis. Also it negatively impacts the Google "crawl budget" which can affect the freshness and thoroughness of the crawl.
posted by Sharcho at 2:48 AM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


So, are we coming around to the consensus that Google somehow feels threatened by MetaFilter? Or else why the apparent blacklisting?
posted by chavenet at 4:52 AM on May 24, 2014


Seriously, reading our email is like watching an episode of Thirty Helens Agree where every single Helen ends up shouting something different.

Rashomon collides with Groundhogs Day?
posted by Pudhoho at 5:32 AM on May 24, 2014


I used DuckDuckGo a while back, but the lack of autocomplete annoyed me. TIL that DuckDuckGo now has autocomplete on their homepage. Yay! A few test question focused around the Ruby on Rails questions that are my most frequent queries yield good, helpful results. Double yay!
posted by double block and bleed at 8:34 AM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Interesting discussion thread on WebmasterWorld discussed many forum type sites having had similar traffic drops on exact same date.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:55 AM on May 24, 2014 [17 favorites]


Hey I made Metafilter social media improved. MeMail me for my consulting fee.
posted by ardgedee at 11:43 AM on May 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


Hey I made Metafilter social media improved. MeMail me for my consulting fee.

Looks like the medals on a pentagon general.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:51 AM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


ardgedee: "Hey I made Metafilter social media improved."

Is that was the user sees after dismissing multiple modal window ads?
posted by double block and bleed at 12:05 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Very funny, but also indicates the gulf that separates engineers, who like to build things, and marketers, who have to sell the things that pay for the engineers' salaries.

Although I know this image wasn't aimed at me, at the same time I wasn't suggesting that social buttons would solve MetaFilter's problems.

Indeed, taking a look back at 2012 is kind of futile anyway, because things have changed so very much since then.

The big question is, does Metafilter need revenue? If Metafilter needs revenue, how will it get revenue? Does increasing traffic to the site help with revenue, or will subscriptions and pledge drives alone make the site sustainable? If subscriptions and pledge drives are not a path to sustainability, what is?

I question the assumption that increasing organic traffic will somehow lead to an increase in ad revenues. It's not that it is unlikely, but there isn't any data to support it.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:05 PM on May 24, 2014


That's a fascinating link, madamjujujive. It suggests that many sites containing user generated content (like forums) suffered the same 40% drop in traffic around Nov 17, 2012, and many have never recovered. One person describes the new level as a "glass ceiling."
posted by Kevin Street at 12:07 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Reading the webmaster talk thread has got me wondering if Google is downgrading forum/discussions on purpose. For some reason or other. Whether it be in attempt to boost Google+ or just a feeling forum pages aren't quality pages, I couldn't begin to guess. But Google got rid of its discussion search filter in Jan 2014. The timeline don't match up, unless they've been working to head that way for a while. Maybe they're trying to keep people out of "closed" communities.

I know I used the discussion filter a lot (and it can be accessed through a specific url). I also search a lot limiting to ask me using site:ask.metafilter.com.

Interesting.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:10 PM on May 24, 2014


Interesting link. Thanks, madamjujujive.
posted by homunculus at 12:11 PM on May 24, 2014


> Although I know this image wasn't aimed at me, at the same time I wasn't suggesting that social buttons would solve MetaFilter's problems.

I hadn't read any of your comments until after I'd completed the image and posted it to Mlkshk. I had no idea what your profession is or what you may have been suggesting.
posted by ardgedee at 12:14 PM on May 24, 2014


...I'd rather just make a good community with people pointing to cool stuff online and sharing helpful advice and hope that gets found by others instead of worrying about tweaking MeFi to appease the unknown Google gods.

That's a perfectly understandable and OK approach to adopt. Except that the lion's share of your income and that of your staff literally hinges on appeasing the Google gods, so it is in your best interest to at least do some of the basics. It used to be that being good was good enough, but that was a few internets ago and the game has changed dramatically. For better or worse, now you have to do more than just be good.

There are a million small things that you can do to improve your Google rankings, and that's why all of the messages you are receiving on the topic seem to vary so wildly and contradict each other. Each of them tells just a part of the larger overall story. I'm not going to add to the noise, except to say that most if not all of the SEO suggestions that have been posted here are valid. And many of them are very easy to do. And while you will never be able to do them all and there will always be room for improvement, with just a little effort by someone who knows what they're doing SEO-wise, I believe your traffic will bounce right back up to where it used to be, if not even higher.

I fully understand the distaste that many of us have for anything SEO related. There are too many scummy and scammy people out there selling snake oil. I'm not at all suggesting that you take that route. But Google themselves publish pretty detailed guidelines about how to make your site "Google friendly," and the reality is that it works. Are they punishing sites who don't follow their recommendations? Or are they rewarding those who do? I don't know, and I don't think it matters. But MetaFilter matters, and I think all of us would like to see the site thrive as much as possible. If you don't want to personally learn the ins and outs of how to appease the Google gods, that's OK. It is pretty dry stuff to be sure, and can be incredibly frustrating. But I do urge you to find someone that you trust who already knows how to do it and let them at least do the basics for you. I really think you'll be surprised how quickly your traffic picks back up.
posted by spilon at 12:14 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


As I mentioned in one of the other posts, I really wish Matt had come to us sooner about this. There are members here who know how to help with this problem and are happy to share what they know. (Along with members who don't know how to help and are also happy to share what they think they know.) If Matt can separate the wheat from the chaff in the suggestions that he's getting, maybe he can fix some of the problems that we're having. There are probably some tweaks behind the scenes that can be made without engaging in black hat SEO bullshit.

I personally think that not having all of Metafilter's financial eggs in the AdSense basket going forward would be a good thing. Depending on a huge, faceless multinational corporation that is having a very hard time deciding whether it wants to be evil or not can't possibly be a tenable position. I don't know if our contributions will be enough to keep the site solvent but I am glad that I finally have a way to pay Metafilter back for all of the enjoyment I've received.
posted by double block and bleed at 12:28 PM on May 24, 2014


(On non-preview, some of what spilon wrote.)
posted by double block and bleed at 12:31 PM on May 24, 2014


If you haven't followed the Webmaster World link madamjujujive provided, the Google Product thread it links to is even more fascinating. It is pretty much google saying "you need to conform to us now."
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:33 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


[insert clever name here]: "If you haven't followed the Webmaster World link madamjujujive provided, the Google Product thread it links to is even more fascinating. It is pretty much google saying "you need to conform to us now.""

One ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.
posted by double block and bleed at 12:38 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Squash G+ competition now?

All the monopolies seem to be kicking butt this week, what with Amazon acting up and all
posted by infini at 12:45 PM on May 24, 2014


I kind of agree with spilon. Like mathowie I hate the SEO crap you apparently have to wade through but I'd rather not cut off our noses to spite our faces. If a little SEO stuff can help the revenue pick back up a bit I think it's worth looking at. Surely there are some Metafilter people who do this sort of thing who would be willing to help.
posted by Justinian at 1:22 PM on May 24, 2014


infini: "Squash G+ competition now?

All the monopolies seem to be kicking butt this week, what with Amazon acting up and all
"

Giants behaving badly
posted by gingerbeer at 1:27 PM on May 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wait...what? They plucked headlines offa my brain now?
posted by infini at 1:49 PM on May 24, 2014


minority reporting?
posted by infini at 1:50 PM on May 24, 2014


As I mentioned in one of the other posts, I really wish Matt had come to us sooner about this. There are members here who know how to help with this problem and are happy to share what they know.

Not calling you out specifically, but as a representative comment of the sort of "here's how to fix your SEO problem" that I find really frustrating to read, since it seems like people are saying "here's how to fix..." without acknowledging that one day, there was no problem and BOOM, the next day there was, and matt had not done one gorram thing differently from one day to the next. So reading what sounds like a lot of "well OBVIOUSLY you should've just..." is annoying as hell when it doesn't take into account the black-box nature of The Change that google made that created this very real situation all of a sudden.
posted by rtha at 1:52 PM on May 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


rtha: "As I mentioned in one of the other posts, I really wish Matt had come to us sooner about this. There are members here who know how to help with this problem and are happy to share what they know.

Not calling you out specifically, but as a representative comment of the sort of "here's how to fix your SEO problem" that I find really frustrating to read, since it seems like people are saying "here's how to fix..." without acknowledging that one day, there was no problem and BOOM, the next day there was, and matt had not done one gorram thing differently from one day to the next. So reading what sounds like a lot of "well OBVIOUSLY you should've just..." is annoying as hell when it doesn't take into account the black-box nature of The Change that google made that created this very real situation all of a sudden.
"

I did not provide any technical solutions, because I don't have any. I am a web developer, but I don't know enough about SEO to offer anything new or helpful, so I'm staying silent on that point. I think that there are some here who have good ideas that Matt may not have considered. Google is a black box, yes, but there are people who make a living predicting the behavior of that black box. Some of them read Metafilter and are willing to help. At least one small change has already been made as a result of this post.

I'm not suggesting that Matt sat on his hands doing nothing. I think that he underestimated the willingness and ability of this community to provide him with financial as well as technical help. I think Matt could have availed himself of that help quite a while ago and I'm disappointed that he didn't.

I'm trying to offer this in the spirit of a friend trying to help a friend in need, wishing I had known sooner so that I could have helped more. I'm probably not doing a very good job of conveying that.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:58 PM on May 24, 2014


Or, failing that, let's say "fuck Google" and pay for this thing ourselves, if we can.
posted by double block and bleed at 3:14 PM on May 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


It sounds like pb is more willing to take up site SEO suggestions (see the second comment). Maybe converse with pb about it and let the other mods do other things?
posted by divabat at 4:00 PM on May 24, 2014


Matt has been chatting with several SEO experts behind the scenes and we've been listening to all of the advice here. We have already made some changes based on all of these recommendations and we're still gathering more information. As you can imagine, much of the advice is conflicting and we don't want to make things even worse.

I feel like we're making some smart changes now that could help. But it's one of those things that you can't get instant feedback on. So any SEO changes are going to take time to see if they're effective. There won't be a gratifying moment where we say, "We did x, y, and z and now everything is fixed." But we are making some changes that we hope will help.
posted by pb (staff) at 7:31 PM on May 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


After reading a few of the links above, it seems pretty straightforward among the advice given that Google is penalizing sites that have user generated content that looks like user generated content, and if that includes misspellings, it probably includes any crude language. Another negative feature, apparently, was duplicated content through simple quoting, which we do every other paragraph here. Combined with linking a few low quality or unrelated sites in the plethora of linking here, and having no branding in the search queries, it all adds up to a downgrade for quality indicators. There are human quality testers in Google's employ, but the chances of them disliking us are also a strong possibility.
posted by Brian B. at 10:01 PM on May 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


This has been an exceptional, revelatory week for MeFi, not the least for our hard-working and dedicated mods and boffins.
I'd just like to express thanks to pb, who's pony-providing and steady-handed technical guidance has helped to keep us all afloat thus far. Many of us don't understand exactly how you do what you do and what the challenges are but we're glad that you're on the job, pb.
posted by islander at 10:36 PM on May 24, 2014 [29 favorites]


Wow.
posted by cavalier at 4:19 AM on May 25, 2014


Thanks for the kind words islander—I appreciate that.
posted by pb (staff) at 7:22 AM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


So reading what sounds like a lot of "well OBVIOUSLY you should've just..." is annoying as hell when it doesn't take into account the black-box nature of The Change that google made that created this very real situation all of a sudden.

Obviously
what should have been done is that matt should have mixed the blood of a spotless black bull with the ground bones of a dragon, anointed himself therewith, and recited the following from the Book of the Dead at the dark of each moon:

"May I have my mouth that I may speak therewith like the followers of Horus, may I come forth to heaven, may I descend to earth, may I never be shut out upon the road, may there never be done unto me that which my soul abhorreth, let not my soul be imprisoned, but may I be among the venerable and favoured ones, may I plough my lands in the Field of Aaru, may I arrive at the Field of Peace, may one come out to me with vessels of ale and cakes and bread of the lords of eternity, may I receive meat from the altars of the great."

Also we should change the colors on the website at each season's turn to hues chosen after praying at Saint Winefride's Well just to cover our bases.

It would be exactly as efficacious as all the other authoritative-seeming advice that has been pouring in without any regard for the facts of what happened.
posted by winna at 7:48 AM on May 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have been thinking about the implications of madamjujujive discovery. If true that user generated content is now being ranked lower, that is going to disrupt so much of the current information ecosystem. One big way much content on the internet has been generated for years is that people write and create other content a forum, it reaches critical mass, and then someone blogs about it. That in turn is reblogged, maybe as part of a collection, which heads over to social media.

Down ranking forum traffic seems a lot like Google is actively taking a stance against content created that way. I don't know how good or bad that it, but it is curious. It *is* as if they're trying to get rid of a previous generation of communication. Only, as many others have pointed out, it wasn't really dying, Google kneecapped it.

And that means less content will be generated there over time.

On that note, I've seen a huge uptick in facebook groups. The last couple years I've been added to many facebook groups which are active and growing, but really don't have the core membership feeling that UGC forums do. I wonder if that was an unintended consequence of this. I'm sure they hoped everyone would go to g+, but facebook still champions in that area.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:05 PM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


But isn't Yahoo Answers "user generated content"?
posted by Flunkie at 12:20 PM on May 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Down ranking forum traffic seems a lot like Google is actively taking a stance against content created that way. I don't know how good or bad that it, but it is curious. It *is* as if they're trying to get rid of a previous generation of communication. Only, as many others have pointed out, it wasn't really dying, Google kneecapped it.

It's quite similar to the idiocy of shuttering Google Reader. It didn't have the userbase of Twitter or Instagram -- "only" a few million -- but the people who used it were the bloggers, journalists, curators, and infovores who digested scads of content from diverse sources and funneled the worthiest items into social content distribution channels that spread them out to the wider web. "Filtered" it, if you will.

Google had a unique and penetrating insight into this key conduit of the information economy, but they stubbornly threw it away, ruining years of goodwill in the process, all for their stagnating Facebook clone. Now that whole crowd is fragmented and weakened, some of them gone out of the loop altogether.

Applying an arbitrary 40% gouge to community forums is more of the same, only worse -- now they're targeting an entire ecosystem of independent websites, rather than a homegrown one built around a single proprietary tool.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:23 AM on May 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Amusingly, if you search for Yahoo answers on google, after Google's helpful "here's the site you might want" box at the top, all the actual search results are "WTF?! Yahoo answers" pages of one sort or another.
posted by pharm at 4:19 AM on May 26, 2014


I think nangar's comment in the thread on the blue is interesting:
I tried searching for "MeFite" and "beanplating" on Google. Both these terms are pretty specific to MetaFilter. Both searches return a list of MetaTalk posts on the first page, but no results from MeFi or AskMe in the first five pages. This does suggest that MeFi and AskMe are effectively blacklisted by Google, but the other MeFi subsites are not.

Doing some similar searches (the ones that nangar tried plus some unique usernames), I got the same results. The google searches usually returned nothing from the blue or the green, though they did sometimes return reults from the grey (or other subsites, such as IRL). Bing searches, on the other hand, did include results from the blue and the green as expected.

This really is looking like some sort of blacklisting on Google's part.
posted by klausness at 7:34 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's really fundamentally creepy, when you think of it.
Google provided a service (and then revenue - Alta Vista never kicked out any dough) that was enough better than most that most everyone started using it.
And their whole 'Don't be Evil' shtick was there to keep everyone from freaking out that they were -the- search engine. I'll confess that off the bat I didn't get how they could be evil. And in retrospect, I don't know that once I figured out how they could be evil that they would ever turn out to be so fantastically … inhuman/corporate/focused on the bottom line/evil.
Yet, frogs in a pot that we tend to be, they now have a monopoly and every time they shift their weighty buttocks to get a little more comfortable, the rest of us suffer.
It's impressively horrible.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:24 AM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I find all of this fascinating and frustrating, though ultimately the takeaway is that Google cannot be relied upon at all, across all angles, that's really it...from the user to the site admin depending on their search and AdSense revenue...and they're basically broad-brushing user-generated content in general, drawing a line in the sand, rather than looking at the obviously non-spammy sites like MetaFilter to use as a model for what a non-spammy link-heavy user-driven site should be like. If they're using some badass machine learning algorithms well here's your corpus of data. If it's too weird to look at the entire site as a whole, maybe pay some people to tune your algorithms a little and hand-rank and hand-split pages, like treating MetaFilter and AskMetaFilter as two sites. I dunno, ultimately it just sounds like they're either doing the "we can't control it!" thing or the "it's too complex, if we alter it for you it all breaks!" thing when I suspect it's more of a "this is the direction we want to push the web, and we no longer depend on smaller-potatoes sites for revenue so much as we prefer to crush them to please our overlords" thing.

I find it dubious that they can't bump MetaFilter up at their own discretion (could they expect lawsuits if they don't follow suit for other similarly impacts sites?), which means they are beholden to stockholders to hold some sort of line, or at least they are so impenetrable and arcane that it seems like it.
posted by aydeejones at 2:03 AM on May 27, 2014


I wonder how much of this has to do with the the auto-complete / Google Guess or whatever they used to call it. To me that's where social media and "buzz" becomes relevant. If you're trying to guess what I'm thinking about right now, sure, you can weigh a bunch of tweets 'n shit. But once I type something and click "search," please don't use information connected to twitter to decide how relevant something is. Please god no.
posted by aydeejones at 2:06 AM on May 27, 2014


(Meanwhile buckets full of virtual cash incestuously flow between SV behemoths to the tune of "Oh god yes!")
posted by aydeejones at 2:07 AM on May 27, 2014


This really is looking like some sort of blacklisting on Google's part.

Has this ever been in question? Given the instantaneous drop in traffic, posted in mathowie's medium article, this could be nothing less than the site being dropped from Google searches. Assuming that Pandas flagged Ask MetaFilter as a problem, it's hardly inconceivable that it would block MetaFilter as a whole. I'm not sure how this requires any extra evil on Google's part beyond screwing up panda.

It seems like there's a general trend in this thread of MeFites searching for their username, getting nil results from Google, and making comments about how they can't find MetaFilter through Google. It's interesting as confirmation of something we've known from the start of the affair, but it doesn't seem like it's anything new. We should avoid the trap of treating each additional missing user as increasing evidence of some additional evil by a shadowy Google cabal.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:19 AM on May 27, 2014


We should avoid the trap of treating each additional missing user as increasing evidence of some additional evil by a shadowy Google cabal.

We don't have to posit a conspiracy; we can instead notice that the results are global and ask why Google is failing to give us what we are looking for.

I did the same test and was pretty angry when Metafilter didn't come up. I want Google to find my username on Metafilter because Metafilter is one of the primary places where the monicker "anotherpanacea" has any relevance. My bon mots are being shoved down the memory-hole, and that sucks.

If it continues to fail to find what I want it to find, then it continues to fail to be an adequate search for that term. Continual failure doesn't have to be evil: but continual failure at search when that is what you do for a living is incompetence at least, and incompetence at your core competence is not exactly praiseworthy.

Incompetence that costs nice people their jobs (while making you a hundred-billionaire) is something that ought properly to generate some bad feelings, for instance: blame.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:14 AM on May 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've done some searches on Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo on what I consider to be unique Ask Metafilter content: for instance, someone looking for an address in 1930s Vienna, Austria. (This observation may have come up before in recent threads but I can't recall, nor did I find it through a search on comments across the sites here.)

Search phrase: find 1930s address vienna [search formulated this way because people generally never remember the exact phrase they are looking for]

Google: 0 AskMe results (I stopped looking at page 35)
Bing: AskMe result is 4th result on page 4
DuckDuckGo: AskMe result is 12th result on page 1

But: if I change the search phrase to: tracking 1930s address vienna, Google returns the AskMe as result 10 on page 1.

The Google search results prior to result 10 are from:
Austrian government, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Google Books, Amazon, TripAdvisor, LastFM, ebay, and Amazon UK.

Just one search, I know, but the comparison results are interesting, and I hope to repeat this with additional unique AskMe questions/responses.
posted by apartment dweller at 8:07 AM on May 27, 2014


I want Google to find my username on Metafilter because Metafilter is one of the primary places where the monicker "anotherpanacea" has any relevance. My bon mots are being shoved down the memory-hole, and that sucks.

I just searched anotherpanacea on Google and got a Metafilter site at the top of page 2. When I put anotherpanacea in quotation marks (to make it clearer to Google that I wasn't accidentally smooshing two words together) a got two Metafilter hits on page one. If they're shoving you down the memory hole they're not shoving very hard.
posted by yoink at 9:35 AM on May 27, 2014


I just did the same; anotherpanacea on mefi appears twice on page two of the google search - one is from an IRL thread, and one from a thread on the blue in which someone uses their name. In a duckduckgo search, the name appears three times in relation to mefi in the first dozen returns.
posted by rtha at 9:40 AM on May 27, 2014


Could it be that for such an unusual query as "anotherpanacea", said user searching for, digging through umpteen pages and clicking on the first MeFi result has automagically boosted the ranking of MeFi results for that particular query? Is Google dynamically responsive enough for that to be possible?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:57 AM on May 27, 2014


The problem with searching for anything from your own computer is that your search is calibrated to your past searches. When I look for something on a 'strange' computer the results are always different.
Which is also interesting in various ways.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:23 AM on May 27, 2014


This is interesting:

Je suis tres, tres fier pulls up the MeFi post from today as the first result, and doesn't seem to include the Al Jazeera article that the FPP is quoting.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:32 AM on May 27, 2014


From Bklyn, you can always just use a private/incognito/InPrivate window to bypass any cookies or logins that would personalize your search.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:45 AM on May 27, 2014


That is interesting.

The quote was buried in the text of the linked article and really has nothing to do with its general content. Maybe that's why? A page title should be weighed more, no?
posted by zarq at 10:56 AM on May 27, 2014


I did a search for all of you people, and you were the first result returned - by my heart.

So - could you just get out of my heart now? I usually use it to pump oxygenated blood throughout my body, not to search for random MeFi users. Get back on google where you belong, for chrissakes.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:02 AM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Could it be that for such an unusual query as "anotherpanacea", said user searching for, digging through umpteen pages and clicking on the first MeFi result has automagically boosted the ranking of MeFi results for that particular query? Is Google dynamically responsive enough for that to be possible?

This is in fact what's happening, because now Metafilter shows up on the first page of my searches.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:30 AM on May 27, 2014


re: incognito etc searches, is this what people are doing when they search? That wasn't clear to me.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:44 PM on May 27, 2014


I've been assuming that "Private Window" on Firefox is the same as "Incognito Window" on "Chrome. But can someone here smarter than me verify that?
posted by marsha56 at 3:41 PM on May 27, 2014


Yes, "Private Window" and "Incognito Window" are essentially the same feature, and will both work for getting non-personalized search results. And the Internet Explorer equivalent is called "InPrivate."
posted by mbrubeck at 4:21 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thanks mbrubeck!
posted by marsha56 at 6:08 PM on May 27, 2014


Another disturbing direction in search? Burying the URL
posted by madamjujujive at 4:44 AM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Another thing to add to our reading

On MetaFilter Being Penalized By Google: An Explainer
posted by tilde at 8:37 AM on May 28, 2014


tilde, that was already linked from the tenth comment in this very thread.
posted by flabdablet at 9:47 AM on May 29, 2014


Maybe tilde should've googled for that link---oh wait....
posted by softlord at 10:05 AM on May 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, yeah, yeah I flagged as a duplicate. :P
posted by tilde at 12:14 PM on May 29, 2014




Some recent-ish news: Matt Cutts went on the record in some detail regarding Metafilter at the June 11th SMX Seattle conference. There isn't video of the full talk I can find, but here's coverage of his remarks from various places:

Google’s Matt Cutts: MetaFilter Hit By Previously Undisclosed Algorithm Filter
Last night, at SMX Advanced, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search quality, confirmed MetaFilter was indeed hit by a previously undisclosed algorithm filter or “update,” as they are often called. Such filters aim to prevent a wide range of sites from ranking well on Google. [...]

Cutts said that Google is working on its side for a solution that will help MetaFilter and other false-positives caught by this algorithm. Google has not been working with MetaFilter directly on this but rather doing the work on its own, in reaction to the issue MetaFilter’s situation raises.

Cutts also said in a tweet that a solution might come in the coming “weeks or months” and stressed that MetaFilter received no “special advice.”
You&A With Matt Cutts at SMX Advanced 2014
Matt unequivocally stated that MetaFilter was not hit by Panda. Matt said that MetaFilter is a typical high quality site, though he did notate that it was a typical high quality site with an outdated design/UI.

He then reiterated that not only was MetaFilter not affected by Panda, but that it was also not affected by Penguin. He added “there’s a lot of different algorithms we launch”. He mentioned that when MetaFilter did their post about their traffic loss, one of the things they suspected was that Google may have viewed them as spam as a result of an email they received where Google had supposedly cited a link from them to a webmaster as an example of a “bad link”.

Matt said they “checked their records” and that in fact, they’d never cited MetaFilter as a spam link to anyone – someone had taken the Google template and inserted the MetaFilter link on their own.

Matt seemed to imply that MetaFilter was not getting any manual help with their traffic hit but that instead Google was looking at what went wrong that they hit a quality site in the first place and instead planned to fix that algorithmically.
Matt Cutts You & A at SMX Advanced LIVE Google+ "Blog"
Danny: What happened to metafilter (like Digg before Digg)? Looked like he got hit by Panda, but Google said there was none at the time.

Matt: Was not Panda. I have a ton of respect for Matt (the owner). Affected by an algorithmic update, but not Panda or Penguin. Owner's report was good feedback for their engineers. They've been in touch with him. Haven't yet found signals that could help, but they're working on it. Owner was concerned about all the link removal requests he was getting. Cutts said that was not the problem. Google had not told anyone that the MetaFilter site was a problem for their links.
SMX Liveblog: You & A with Matt Cutts
Danny: What happened to the MetaFilter site? Was it Panda?

Matt: It wasn’t Panda. What happened is that it was affected by an algo update that wasn’t Panda or Penguin. Even though the site is slightly out of date, it’s a good quality site. Google is working to figure out how to improve the algo based on this incident. Google does not think that MetaFilter is spammy or has spammy links. Google had never sent a notification saying that MetaFilter was spammy.
Danny Sullivan’s Questions for Matt Cutts
Q1: Meta Filter – What really happened?

Cutts: It wasn’t Panda, nor was it Penguin. In fact, it was a different algorithm that undeservedly punished Meta Filter. We’re always on the lookout to improve our algorithms, and this is on our radar. It’s not due to link disavow requests.
[sorry for the cross-posts, but there are a lot of relevant threads]
posted by Rhaomi at 7:32 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Commenting in one of them and linking from the others would have sufficed, surely?
posted by flabdablet at 9:30 AM on June 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


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