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On MetaFilter Being Penalized By Google

timothy posted about a month ago | from the filtration-nation dept.

Businesses 108

Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "MetaFilter recently announced layoffs due to a decline in ad revenue that started with a mysterious 40% drop in traffic from Google on November 17, 2012, and which never recovered. Danny Sullivan at SearchEngineLand explores in detail how MetaFilter 'serves as a poster child of problems with Google's penalty process, despite all the advances Google has made over the years.' Caitlin Dewey at the Washington Post puts it more bluntly: 'That may be the most striking, prescient takeaway from the whole MetaFilter episode: the extent to which the modern Web does not incentivize quality.'"

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108 comments

You're Doing It Wrong (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47079885)

If you depend that heavily on ad revenue from Google then you really need to re-think your business model

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (5, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | about a month ago | (#47079947)

It's worse actually. They're dependent on Google not only for ad revenue, but for simple exposure.

Honestly I never knew what metafilter was for. I've been on the Internet since 1994 (god, 20 years!) and metafilter never really caught my eye as knowing what they were for. If their goal was to be a front-door for the Internet, an aggregator of cool stuff, I have plenty of other sites to do that through that each seem to do a good job. If their job was to be a question-and-answer forum, I've got several forums for specific topics that I can visit and get better answers, and where if I give answers, they're both appreciated and discussed at length (sometimes ad-nauseum) so that they stay relevant.

If metafilter broke their somewhat parasitic arrangement with an entity that isn't forced to send them traffic, then I don't really know what to say to them.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47080061)

I certainly agree. I have also been on the internet for a VERY long time, and have never heard of them or used them.

It seems the real problem for their declining revenue is that they simply are failing to provide anything innovative or interesting to a large amount of people.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47080135)

I heard of them in about 1998 or so. They had a neat feature where you could spy on other people's search requests and go to their results. It introduced me to some new things, porn included. They also have a reddit-like forum (in fact, reddit is kind of a mashup of Metafilter, Digg, and 4chan) that I used around 2001-02. Otherwise, I've found Metafilter completely irrelevant.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 months ago | (#47080975)

It introduced me to some new things, porn included.

Kids these days. Why, when I was young, we were introduced to porn by the Sears and Roebuck catalog or our parish priest.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (1, Informative)

davester666 (731373) | about 2 months ago | (#47081413)

that wasn't porn your priest was getting you to perform...that was sex...

now the pictures he took of the events...that's porn...

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (4, Insightful)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 2 months ago | (#47080199)

Agreed.

I'm also one of those oldies, and never heard of that particular site. However I'm on Slashdot from not too long after the beginning (many years of just reading - not commenting) - my friends told me about this site over a beer in the students' club. Good old days.

To come back to Slashdot and Google: I'm using Google quite extensively to search for all kinds of topics, including tech related ones. I don't recall having ever seen a link to a Slashdot article appear in Google, not even a link to a comment (which is of course where the real interesting bits can be found), probably as Slashdot doesn't produce any new content, they just aggregate what they find elsewhere. If Metafilter is indeed also just an aggregator, good that Google skips their links and instead provides the links to the actual content instead.

I agree (3, Informative)

justthinkit (954982) | about 2 months ago | (#47080397)

I agree. I also research extensively with Google and have never seen Slashdot articles. But I disagree with Google's choice on this.

Maybe it is more a matter of Google drowning in information and have no practical way of filtering it all out.

To that end, Google seems to love Expert Exchange. I don't understand that. Seems like they make choices, and stick to them, at least for a while.

Search is a truly large space. I doubt I could manage it any better. I never tire of hitting enter and having a page of results before I have time to reach for the mouse. I'll cut them some slack on this one.

Re:I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47081679)

This page is ~10 for Google search "Metafilter", and second for "metafilter penalized by google", "apple imessage" puts /. article on the glitch on second page.

Slashdot is there, it's just not considered too relevant by Google, together with other aggregators.

Re:I agree (1)

justthinkit (954982) | about 2 months ago | (#47082419)

Good to know. Maybe I am tending to grab from the first 5 responses, much like the average searchers.

Also, maybe this reflects that Google is actually doing a perfect job. The Slashdot results are there, but don't happen to be the most relevant for the searches in question.

I realize you can ask Google to search a particular web site, but it might be nice to be able to add a list of "preferred sites". Google would preferentially bubble up results from those sites, possibly formatted a little differently (like the ads are now).

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47080537)

That takes me back! I first heard of slashdot in the glory hole at an Illinois truck stop. The man who clued me in knew Rob Malda personally, so it's like Rob and I were in the same twink's mouth together (our penises, that is). This wasn't back in the chips and dips days but it was early on, back when it was a real community, before Dice, before VA Linux, before Andover.net.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47080225)

It's like Slashdot, but instead of targeting the male nerd audience, it caters to unstable females.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47080815)

It's like Slashdot, but instead of targeting the male nerd audience, it caters to unstable females.

How ironic, that really sounds like something slashdotters would want to know about. Stealth website! No wonder we didn't hear about it, the denizens didn't want us to.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (5, Interesting)

twilight30 (84644) | about 2 months ago | (#47080287)

That's interesting. The case could be made that MetaFilter is to liberal/progressive politics what Slashdot is to tech -- it fosters lively, informed discussions on any number of topics. I tend to lurk on both sites these days, but I will say that the active moderation over there has generally made a _much_ more civilised site than anything Slashdot could claim nowadays.

Note: I am specifically not really talking about MeTa's cash cow, the Ask MeFi section, but rather the main site itself.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47082199)

It's "civilized" because all dissenting viewpoints are expunged.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47080351)

Now I dont feel so bad. I thought I had missed something, being on the 'net' since 92. The way this article made it sound that I missed a huge part of the internet somehow.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47080409)

I read Metafilter for a while, joined, posted a link to an interesting site, was told it wasn't what they did, gave up posting, then gave up reading,

Google monopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47080925)

Google should be eradicated for it's monopoly status and determining entire company's futures. There should be many search engines again. Remember that time?

Why is Google allowed to exist as a monopoly? Because they are a direct arm of the NSA and CIA, an invaluable asset to them.

Re:Google monopoly (3, Interesting)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 2 months ago | (#47081221)

Ah yes, the "good old days" when we had a thousand crappy search engines. Now all we have is a thousand crappy search engines, a few half-decent ones and a good one. Maybe you should write the second good search engine and give Google some competition.

Re:Google monopoly (1)

koreanbabykilla (305807) | about 2 months ago | (#47081391)

I remember the time. There were 100000 search engines and they all sucked. Then google came and put them all out of business cause they were better. I would love too see a google killer just cause i always like to use better shit than im using if it exists.

Re:Google monopoly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47081493)

I miss AltaVista, a SE which ranks sites based on the number of keywords in the page ;)

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (2)

Wikipedia (928774) | about 2 months ago | (#47081287)

It's a great site. I miss seeing it in the search results. It's like Yahoo Answers except the people are much more intelligent, the creme de la creme of the web. I wish Google had a way of "voting up" websites such as metafilter in my personalized results.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about 2 months ago | (#47081931)

It's pretty obvious what it is. It's a message board with more of a blog format. It did have a lot of shit but it was also useful which means it was no different from any other internet community.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47080241)

This reminds me of all those letsplayers on youtube. Totalbiscuit in particular who started bitching and moaning about how his livelihood was threatened by changed in Youtube policy.

That was when I stopped watching the pretentious fuckwit. When you use a free service to make a name for yourself and even manage to profit in the millions on it, you only have yourself to blame if you are vulnerable to changes in their policy. They don't owe you shit.

The entitlement some people and some companies feel when they've been doing something for a time, never really considering where the money came from, is astounding.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47080391)

You can bet that for every penny a letsplayer makes, Youtube makes a dollar from people watching ads that they wouldn't be watching if it weren't for the letsplayer's video. As far as payouts go, Youtube is pretty much the worst publisher there is, so I think the complaints aren't entirely unjustified.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47080721)

The videomakers are free to establish their own service. They choose to publish on Youtube and I don't think it is unreasonable to subject them to whichever whims Youtube might have.

The issue isn't the proportion of payouts but the entitlement issues some people get. Youtube is not a publicly funded service. You have no rights there. The fact that you can make money there at ALL is an incentive they use to get you to produce videos. This is the fundamental misunderstanding Totalbiscuit had.That is why any complaint he has is entirely unjustified.

If he makes his own video distribution site, he can run it as he pleases. Until then he can abide by Youtube's policies and like it unless he wants to come off as the spoiled crybaby he is. It's him and his kind with their distribution networks and *constant* dmca drama and general bitching about everything under the sun that he doesn't like that has made Youtube in general and letsplay communities in particular into the toxic mess they are in today. Fame creates followings and these people run their own personal armies of fans who are in constant pissing matches with other players. It gets so old when all you want to do is watch a good game and hear some nice commentary from someone who isn't guarding his every word because he is afraid of losing subscribers and that sweet ad revenue he has become addicted to.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47080801)

No one is holding a gun to Youtube's head and demanding that they change their policies. No one is saying they're entitled to control the entire website, either.

You see, there is this thing called "criticize." People usually criticize others that do things they don't like in an effort to get them to stop doing those things. Whether the people listen to the criticism is usually up to them, and criticizing something doesn't mean you think you're entitled to control it.

Seriously, what's with the dumbasses who kneejerk in response to any criticism and tell others to go start their own business/make their own website? Yeah, asshole, everyone knows that if you owned the website you could do as you please with it; no need to state the obvious.

Re:You're Doing It Wrong (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47082463)

Factory workers are free to establish there own businesses. They chose to work in factories and I don't think it is unreasonable to subject them to whichever whims the factory owners may have.

The issue isn't the wages but the entitlement issues some people get. Factories aren't a publicly funded service. You have no rights there. The fact that you get paid there at ALL is an incentive they use to get you to work the assembly line. This is the fundamental misunderstanding the protesting workers had. That is why any complaint they have is entirely unjustified.

If they build their own factory, they can run it as they please. Until then, they can abide by the factory owner's policies and like it unless they want to come off as the spoiled crybabies they are. It's them and their kind with their unions and *constant* labor rights drama and general bitching about everything under the sun that they don't like that has made factories in general and the working class in particular into the toxic mess they are today.

Google is breaking the internet. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47079901)

TFA is right.

Wow. Not sure that money was ever really yours. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47080039)

So 40% of your ad revenue was people that found you via Google searches presumably for the first time. That is a very high noob:repeat customer ratio.

I had my own problems with Google (4, Interesting)

HangingChad (677530) | about a month ago | (#47080059)

We lost our ad account when Google accused us of hosting porn. The "porn" they pointed out were links to fairly vanilla pictures posted by some of our long-time forum members. We weren't even hosting it. I appealed, they pointed out two more links like that one. Links.

I refused to remove content that really wasn't that offensive, posted by members and complied with our forum rules. It did open my eyes to how Google could be a giant, inflexible jackass.

Re:I had my own problems with Google (4, Interesting)

MTO_B. (814477) | about a month ago | (#47080119)

This happened to me for articles about breast cancer. Removed them all and never again talk about breast cancer prevention as I don't want to lose my ad account.

Re:I had my own problems with Google (1, Insightful)

_merlin (160982) | about 2 months ago | (#47081897)

Sorry to have to break this to you, but you're a total sell-out. You'd rather remove serious content and treat a topic as taboo than lose your Google ads? Shame on you!

Re:I had my own problems with Google (4, Insightful)

MTO_B. (814477) | about 2 months ago | (#47082321)

I cant live without money, I live with what I earn from AdSense. Yes, I'm too dependent on Google, but it's how it is.

Re:I had my own problems with Google (1)

_merlin (160982) | about 2 months ago | (#47082785)

Well I'm really glad I actually get paid to produce stuff, and don't have to rely on advertising revenue.

Re:I had my own problems with Google (1)

jfengel (409917) | about 2 months ago | (#47083239)

He *is* producing stuff. It's just stuff that people want to read, rather than physical stuff. Advertising is how he gets paid to produce it, simply because it's awkward to charge $.0001 directly to the reader for a page-view. The advertising, in turn, is intended to draw people to other things that they might want to buy, usually stuff that comes in bigger units and so is easier to pay for with money.

Very little of it is necessary. The bare necessities were a problem solved long ago, and require the efforts of a tiny fraction of the population. The rest is various forms of luxury. I'm actually pretty happy about that. If the mechanism by which producers are linked to consumers is awkward and ungainly, I'm content to live with that until a better system comes along. I strongly suspect the GP would be happier getting paid directly, but most consumers would rather pay in the form of a microscopic portion of attention.

Re:I had my own problems with Google (1)

N1AK (864906) | about 2 months ago | (#47084371)

Do you produce stuff that you think you should completely regardless of whether the person who pays you wants you to or not? If not, you're just as much of a sell out as he is; you just have the dubious distinction of being a hypocrite as well.

Re:I had my own problems with Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47084059)

Then you're a bad fucking person and you should feel bad. People like you don't contribute anything and just take. And you want US to feel sorry for you? Fuck off and die, literally.

Re:I had my own problems with Google (5, Insightful)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 2 months ago | (#47080231)

That's pretty hypocritical considering how much hardcore porn is indexed by Google image search.

Re:I had my own problems with Google (2, Informative)

mechtech256 (2617089) | about 2 months ago | (#47080377)

This is regarding ad accounts, not search results or indexing.

And Google has to do it to keep the advertisers (3, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 2 months ago | (#47080863)

For various (often stupid) reasons most brands don't want to be associated with "porn" even in a very passing way. So advertisers will pull their ads if you have what they deem to be porn.

Fark had this problem. They used to run stories now and again with a "boobies" or "wieners" tag to denote photos/videos of either women or men respectively that others might find attractive and want to look at. They were always clearly marked, and flagged NSFW if that was an issue. It wasn't a large part of the content

However advertisers kept complaining and pulling ads, and so Fark spun that content off in to a separate site. It was that, or watch ad revenue dry up.

This sort of thing is also why ads on places like the Pirate Bay and such tend to be so scummy: Most brands aren't willing to associate with those sites so they have to take whatever they can get.

Re:And Google has to do it to keep the advertisers (1)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | about 2 months ago | (#47081279)

For various (often stupid) reasons most brands don't want to be associated with "porn" even in a very passing way. So advertisers will pull their ads if you have what they deem to be porn.

Excellent point. So don't just blame Google when it fails you. Blame your crappy business model that puts too many eggs in too few baskets, and the advertisers that account for Google's revenue. Google can be an incredible resource and a traffic and revenue generator for you, but you can't just do whatever you want, refuse to adapt, and expect to cash in forever.

Re:And Google has to do it to keep the advertisers (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 months ago | (#47081687)

For various (often stupid) reasons most brands don't want to be associated with "porn" even in a very passing way. So advertisers will pull their ads if you have what they deem to be porn.

Excellent point. So don't just blame Google when it fails you. Blame your crappy business model that puts too many eggs in too few baskets, and the advertisers that account for Google's revenue. Google can be an incredible resource and a traffic and revenue generator for you, but you can't just do whatever you want, refuse to adapt, and expect to cash in forever.

You do realize Google basically has a monopoly in the ad market, right? They own the vast majority of ad networks, serve the vast majority of ads, and make the vast majority of the ad money out there. They have like 98% marketshare.

Basically if you don't want to charge users money, you have, Google. And that's about it. The remaining ad networks are for th elikes of The Pirate Bay and the like - basically full of scams.

Perhaps the problem is Google is too big to fail.

Re:I had my own problems with Google (2)

sjames (1099) | about 2 months ago | (#47080869)

Sure, but it is odd for Google to happily show results for porn (with ads) but get bent out of shape if a site (other than google's search) has links to porn.

Re:I had my own problems with Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47081583)

I think the porn objection is for people not looking for porn. Not trying to defend google in general, but I don't think it is unreasonable for them to make sure search results have the content people expect.

Re:I had my own problems with Google (1)

sjames (1099) | about 2 months ago | (#47081853)

It was an ad account that was pulled, not a search result.

Re:I had my own problems with Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47080931)

It's more the companies that pay Google don't want their ads displayed next to / associated with porn.

Re:I had my own problems with Google (1)

ayesnymous (3665205) | about 2 months ago | (#47081803)

On Youtube, I have found many clips of Janet Jackson having her top ripped off during that Super Bowl halftime show. Her breast is not censored in these clips. Some of these clips even show ads. Why haven't they been removed from Youtube, and, in some cases, Google is even paying the uploader ad revenue? I'm curious about this because there's a video I'd like to upload that contains a tiny bit of nudity, but then I don't want to risk my account. Confusing, since you can see videos showing nudity and Google isn't removing them, but then you hear stories like yours.

Re:I had my own problems with Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47082689)

TVTropes had this problem too. They eventually had to pretty much delete all articles (yes, we're talking about text) about topics that could be interpreted as being about a topic related to sexuality.
I also remember a discussion on Wikipedia about whether to start to use advertising (rather than relying on the fundraisers) and the site management, including Jimmy Wales, basically wiped that idea of the table, saying that it would give advertisers editorial control. This position was widely derided by users at the time, but you can see from the TVTropes case that Wikipedia's management was right.
Still, a site like TVTropes is just too small to run on anything else but advertising. But TVTropes hardly stands alone, there are many sites like that. I think new legislation should be created that says that advertisers have to be agnostic about the page content for the purposes of setting rates and deciding whether or not allow ads on the page.

Re: I had my own problems with Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47082829)

sheesh. american corporations, and their weird hangups about porn...

isn't that when G+ came out? (1, Interesting)

alen (225700) | about a month ago | (#47080077)

no need for Q&A sites on the internet once google starts one up

Re:isn't that when G+ came out? (1)

jfengel (409917) | about 2 months ago | (#47083247)

G+ isn't a Q&A site, and it's a really poor substitute for one since its whole point is just to link you up with your social circle. Q&A sites are designed to attract people by interest without having to become socially acquainted (even virtually).

Google did have a Q&A site, Google Answers, but it never really got going. It's too bad, since they were nearly unique in trying to actually pay for good answers. I'm not sure why it didn't work out, though of course trying to monetize anything has always been a pain in the butt so I assume it's just that kind of thing. They canned it (as Google is wont to when things aren't working out as well as they'd hoped.)

good quality (0)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47080079)

'That may be the most striking, prescient takeaway from the whole MetaFilter episode: the extent to which the modern Web does not incentivize quality.'

Hey, pick your comeback!

1) This actually shows how ugly web design loses popularity! [metafilter.com] .
2) It shows you shouldn't depend on Google for exposure!
3) If you want quality, check out Google scholar [google.com] or a library. The internet is for......entertainment.
4) People don't incentivize quality. Google merely delivers.

Or something like that.

Re:good quality (1)

ustolemyname (1301665) | about 2 months ago | (#47080637)

1) This actually shows how ugly web design loses popularity! [metafilter.com] .

For people who are two lazy to follow the above link: the thought, "Beta isn't so bad." crossed my mind when I saw their page.

Re:good quality (2)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 months ago | (#47081377)

Still beats me why reddit is getting a single pageview.

Re:good quality (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 months ago | (#47083717)

Let me know when you figure it out

The root problem is... (4, Insightful)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about a month ago | (#47080095)

... that google appears to be the main generator of traffic for some websites. The way to solve the root problem is not to change how google does or does not work, but to bring other traffic generators on board.

.
A company that relies upon one customer for a great majority of its sales will always be beholden to that customer. That is why companies diversify their customer base.

Websites should diversify their traffic generators instead of just relying on good ole google to generate traffic for them.

Re:The root problem is... (1)

alen (225700) | about a month ago | (#47080139)

so who uses Bing?

Re:The root problem is... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47080305)

I have a technical website serving a niche, with 100% content and no adverts. So far this month I have had 10 referrals from Bing, 130 from the most relevant Wikipedia page and 2200 from Google.

It's not so much the worldwide web these days as the Googleverse.

Namgge

Re:The root problem is... (2)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 2 months ago | (#47080545)

I have a technical website serving a niche, with 100% content and no adverts. So far this month I have had 10 referrals from Bing, 130 from the most relevant Wikipedia page and 2200 from Google.

It's not so much the worldwide web these days as the Googleverse.

---sigh---

I see similar numbers for my website also, however, you are seeing much more bing activity than I see.

Re:The root problem is... (3, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | about 2 months ago | (#47080669)

That's irrelevant. ANY business that relies solely on another unaffiliated business is doomed to fail, eventually. That's Business 101 and has been true across every industry, since the birth of capitalism.

Re:The root problem is... (1)

Alef (605149) | about 2 months ago | (#47082439)

Isn't the problem that smaller or medium sized web sites don't really have any option? Google is the "start menu" of the Internet for a whole lot of people, so any site that isn't the scale of Facebook or Twitter will be affected by how Google decides to rank them, whether they like it or not.

Re:The root problem is... (2)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 months ago | (#47080773)

I actually do. Due to what I assume is some carrier NAT issues, Google detects my entire ISP as possible bots. Every Google search I do requires a CAPTCHA.

So I use Bing for my searching. I've not really noticed any difference in quality between it and Google.

Re:The root problem is... (1)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | about 2 months ago | (#47081303)

so who uses Bing?

Old and uneducated people who think Internet Explorer *is* the internet and have always had it set as their default search engine since they bought their current computer and don't realize that there is any alternative. That's it, no one really uses it by choice. I hear it works well for funny cat videos and finding out what time the local pharmacy opens.

Re:The root problem is... (1)

thsths (31372) | about 2 months ago | (#47081785)

Actually Bing is not bad. For many general queries it is just as good as Google. Just with those very specific ones it seems to struggle a bit more than Google.

The main reason I do not use Bing is that it is just one step away from that ghastly portal called MSN. I neither need reactionary news nor the latest celebrity gossip...

Re:The root problem is... (1)

Anrego (830717) | about 2 months ago | (#47080667)

Or try to actually build a community / base of regular customers.

It sounds like they relied on people regularly stumbling onto their site by accident while searching for other things, most of whom probably closed the page and went about their business.

When I look at sites I frequent: slashdot, cracked, newegg... I don't remember the last time any of these showed up in a google search. At some point I stumbled into them or was told about them by someone else, and keep coming back on my own volition.

The root problem is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47081601)

That just not realistic, companies that rely on those search results do not have any control over which search engine customers use.

Re:The root problem is... (1)

Tom (822) | about 2 months ago | (#47081899)

Websites should diversify their traffic generators instead of just relying on good ole google to generate traffic for them.

For many sites, they don't intentionally create or seek out traffic generators, it just happens that Google is the 900lb gorilla and most of your traffic comes through them.

Boo hoo hoo (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about 2 months ago | (#47080213)

If your business relies largely or entirely on another business completely out of your control in order to stay afloat, then it's your fault for not diversifying your business.

Adapt, or get left behind.

Re:Boo hoo hoo (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 months ago | (#47081069)

So how should, say, Netflix diversify if it relies largely on Comcast and other huge home broadband ISPs to keep it afloat?

Re:Boo hoo hoo (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 2 months ago | (#47081247)

Your comparison makes no sense. Netflix depends on their customers having "a" Internet connection, they do not rely on any single company like Metafilter was with Google.

Comcast is the monopoly in a large part of USA (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 months ago | (#47081269)

When Comcast is the only home broadband provider that doesn't have a 10 GB per month cap in a large part of Netflix's market, "a" Internet connection means Comcast. And MetaFilter relies on "a" general web search engine.

Re:Comcast is the monopoly in a large part of USA (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 2 months ago | (#47081903)

If Comcast blocked Netflix, the first thing to happen would be consumer outrage. The second would be that Netflix would take a noticeable hit, but continue to survive from the rest of their subscribers from other ISPs/countries. I highly doubt Comcast users make up the same presentage of Netflix subscribers as Google users make up Metafilter visitors.

Re:Comcast is the monopoly in a large part of USA (1)

PRMan (959735) | about 2 months ago | (#47083515)

Until they merge with Time Warner. Then we can get carrier disputes like they have done with CBS and the new Lakers and Dodgers Channels.

Re:Boo hoo hoo (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 2 months ago | (#47081337)

If your business relies largely or entirely on another business completely out of your control in order to stay afloat, then it's your fault for not diversifying your business.

Adapt, or get left behind.

Isn't this why Firefox decided they were going to start showing ads in new tabs?

just desserts? ill take cannolli btw.. (1)

Connie_Lingus (317691) | about 2 months ago | (#47080219)

i guess meta-filter got....meta-filtered.

Lets Look At This For A Second (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47080349)

$haw$hank
#truvadawhore
"Everyone On Wall Street Is A Dick."
Hello My Sweaty Pink Parts
Ronald McDonald gets reincarnated
You are disgusting.

I've never had a particularly strong desire to browse metafilter and my visit today has confirmed that no mistakes were made. These are actually just a few of the titles listed today, but probably some of the better ones for demonstration purposes. It just strikes me that the tone that is set with these types of choices just doesn't represent the articles. In particular, the shawshank piece was a very light fluffy piece of writing with no real substance. However, I was expecting something a bit more impressive or even just a biased opinion piece. These types of choices coupled with a site design that makes slashdot look damn near futurisitic don't feel like a winnin combination. My first thought was, "Wow, someone was actually get paid to work on this?"

I can definiately see their depdendence on google as a huge factor. I don't want to go back!

Yet more evidence that Google has broken the web (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47080447)

Google broke the web a long time ago. This is just one of the more obvious cracks to show up recently.

buh-bye (0, Troll)

bluelip (123578) | about 2 months ago | (#47080491)

Good riddance. They never had content. SEO has always been a SCAM.

Google is just giving people what they want (1)

Tony Isaac (1301187) | about 2 months ago | (#47080955)

Personally, when I search Google for something, I get what I want on the first page of listings, Usually, what I want is the first or second item in the list. Google has gotten really, really good at figuring out what people want.

And it's not MetaFilter.

In this case, I think MetaFilter's problems are more related to their own inability to stay relevant, than anything Google did.

Re:Google is just giving people what they want (1)

PRMan (959735) | about 2 months ago | (#47083525)

Really? Lately I find Google extremely lacking. I look for stuff that I absolutely know exists and can't find it at all. In fact, I was looking for a MAME ROM where I had the EXACT spelling and Google kept misspelling it and giving me other stuff with no way to get the actual item at all.

I had to go to Duck Duck Go to get it at all. They're slipping if you ask me.

Re:Google is just giving people what they want (1)

Sanians (2738917) | about 2 months ago | (#47083733)

I was looking for a MAME ROM where I had the EXACT spelling and Google kept misspelling it and giving me other stuff with no way to get the actual item at all.

Google is a complete pain in the ass sometimes. I don't recall exactly what I was searching for, but I was once searching for something about decibels, in which I knew that the content I was looking for would never mention the full word, but only the abbreviation "dB" instead. Google assumed that the "db" in my search query was an abbreviation for "database" and I never could figure out how to get it to stop giving me nothing but results about databases.

I have seen this ... (3, Informative)

kbahey (102895) | about 2 months ago | (#47081039)

I have seen this in a few sites I run. One is a business site, another is a special interest with specific demographics, and the third is a blog.

It all started with Google shuffling their algorithms, with Panda [wikipedia.org] then Pengiun [wikipedia.org] .

I saw traffic drop on all three sites. Some coninciding with Panda, and the other coninciding with Pengiun.

One site was the top site for certain search terms for many long years. Not anymore. That site saw a 7.5X drop in pageviews per month traffic. Another site saw 3.5X drop, and the third was 2.5X.

What is weird is that Google de-indexed one site because of "un-natural links". When I contacted them, I asked what the links are, so I can remove them. They never came back with any definitive information, and sent the same template email saying site de-indexed because of un-natural links. It took 3 or 4 tries, and then they reinstated the site back in the index. They never told me what the links are, and never explained why they de-listed the site nor why they reinstated it.

Another thing of note: some sites no longer show up in Google searches. For example, here in Canada we have a restaurant review site called Restaurantica. It used to show up in the first few searches for restaurants in the area (Southern Ontario). Now, I don't see it at all on the front page. Seems Google decided that Trip Advisor and Urban Spoon are the authoratitive ones for restaurant, and Restaurantica is third class or something.

I also noticed that the search quality for Google has gone downhill starting in 2011. Really stupid matching of terms, some partial strings even. I've never seen Google's search that bad before.

They are for sure dumbing things down, a general trend in the industry in the name of "user experience" and such. You see this in Firefox with the dumbed down Australis, which requires Classic Theme Restorer to undo some of the damage.

Sigh ...

Re:I have seen this ... (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 months ago | (#47081387)

Seems more like they're applying internet cafe browser caching to search results. Your search terms sort of resemble a block of 10% or more of searches for terms more or less like what you entered, so here are the most popular results based on what other people were looking for.

Re:I have seen this ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47082897)

For example, here in Canada we have a restaurant review site called Restaurantica. It used to show up in the first few searches for restaurants in the area (Southern Ontario). Now, I don't see it at all on the front page.

For what it's worth, I did a search for "restaurant reviews southern ontario" and restaurantica.com is the second result.

Re:I have seen this ... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 months ago | (#47083695)

I also noticed that the search quality for Google has gone downhill starting in 2011. Really stupid matching of terms, some partial strings even. I've never seen Google's search that bad before.

The decline of Google has directly correlated with the rise of SEO 'experts,' and the spamming of the internet. For a while (I think around 2010) it seemed almost impossible to find something that wasn't on Wikipedia.......

Just like government aid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47081355)

once you get dependent on it, you suffer when it is taken away. Go do something innovative that does not depend on something as fickle as search results from one search engine.

Re:Just like government aid (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 months ago | (#47081397)

Yeah, there is only one search engine. That's why it got verbed.

Re:Just like government aid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47081653)

once you get dependent on it, you suffer when it is taken away. Go do something innovative that does not depend on something as fickle as search results from one search engine.

I'm failing to see the innovative part of metafilter.

Google is very open about things, they give priority to primary sources as opposed to secondary sources. So starwars.com is higher in search results for Star Wars, than the wookiepedia, starwars.wikia.com/

Its not a fucking secret and it sucks to be you what you expect people to link to was weaseled from somebody else's website, and your original content is nothing but discussion forums.

Be sure you read the responses to the WaPo article (1)

jthill (303417) | about 2 months ago | (#47081443)

The tl;dr on those is, metafilter's users spontaneously decided to start donating, before or after someone ran across an old paypal link, and before metafilter had even asked, 10% of their users had donated. One commenter implies those donations are set up as recurring, i.e. not just voluntary but spontaneous subscription.

Gift vs. Exchange for funding "free" communities (2)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 2 months ago | (#47083579)

Thanks for pointing this out (article submitter here). People make points in other comments about MetaFilter's business strategy, varied content, or grousing about the moderation. Your comment instead emphasizes the positive about how how MetaFIlter is one of the longest running online communities and it is trying to sustain itself. One comment I saw on MetaFilter compared these donations to the end of the movie "It's a Wonderful Life".
http://metatalk.metafilter.com... [metafilter.com]

I've never been a MetaFilter member. Nor have I paid much attention to it anytime recently other than seeing stories on it now and then found by whatever random process. But a couple months ago I added it to my list of interesting news sites. Every day it has some interesting and generally pleasant (non-trollish) discussions linked to on the main page as the best of the discussions. I can see the value in that and the work that goes into it. As I wrote to someone just before hearing this news, Slashdot is like the discussions I had in college around the computer center and the engineering buildings; MetaFilter is like the more randomly varied discussions I had in the dorm hallways, dining halls, and maybe the social science buildings.

Having recently "discovered" this jewel that reminds me of the better part of what the internet was in the late 1990s, it is sad to see it struggling. Slashdot is a community I have long enjoyed and participated in, and itself may itself be facing some of the same general issues. It's a bit surprising to me to see in some of the comment here a lack of acknowledgement of the parallels. Why do they think "Beta" is being pushed? People may say MetaFilter is not "original" content like a news articles. Nonetheless, I feel discussions about new articles are themselves important content. I read Slashdot not so much for the articles but for the discussions which often point out how the articles are wrong or misleading, or add lots of details to the articles, or put the articles into a broader context. Discussion has its own value, both for participants and for lurkers. I don't know if it is true, but I did find interesting the speculative comment by someone that the fall in traffic could reflect that maybe Google does not want competition with its own Google+?

Another story has a link to a video where Matt Haughey, the founder of Metafilter, explains the size of the site and the moderation infrastructure and its history:
http://newstorystudio.com/why-... [newstorystudio.com]
http://vimeo.com/21043675 [vimeo.com]

Matt sounds like someone who really cares about his community, sort of like a town mayor (and a founder who never "sold off" from the early internet days, unlike Slashdot getting sold off to various new owners). Guestimating from their staff size and their revenue loss and member base (on the order of 10,000 active members), it must be take at least US$20K - US$40K a month to keep that community humming along for staffing costs (mostly for moderation I would think)? Or guessing on the order of about US$2 to US$5 per active member per month? Computers and bandwidth for hosting used to cost something significant, but nowadays for a text-mostly site I would not think those matter much?

It seems to me that the financing of all this has been for the past few years mostly that people not in the community (non-posters) drive by via Google and generate ad revenue, and that revenue then supports the community. The people who actively participate in the community must be a much smaller percentage of views. It looks like with MetaFilter, the people who funded the community were not the people who actually inhabited the social process of it.

That reminds me a bit of where I live in the Adirondack Park. Much of the money coming into the community is from summer tourists or summer residents when the population swells 5X or so during the summer. But these tourists and summer residents are not usually people who make up the volunteer firefighters, the emergency ambulance squad, the boards of various non-profits, or the store owners and most of the other workers. These are all groups the summer visitors rely on though. My local community would be a financial basket case fairly soon if, like with MetaFilter, the "summer people" stopped coming. And yet there are various social distinctions and resentments all around related to social class, rich/poor divides, political views, and so on. The two groups eye each other warily because they have different interests and outlooks. (The local social dynamics are even more complex than that, including retirees sometimes moving full-time to the area after being summer residents, so this is a simplification.)

People can say that MetaFilter is just another discussion site, but that misses the point. MetaFilter is another community of people, the same way that small towns that dot the US landscape are communities. There is a lot of value to the people in the community that the community exists for them and that it persists. The community relationships and history are in that sense unique to the people involved. But like my physical community, MetaFilter is in trouble if the "summer people" stop coming -- unless it can figure out a different strategy for funding itself, or getting the basic moderation tasks done by volunteers, or if it scales back services painfully (which it just did, hopefully not to the point where people move to the big cities of Facebook or Google+ though). I've seen several internet communities fade away during the past decade. It generally has been a painful experience for many. Slashdot itself has has struggles with this, and the new controversial push to "Beta" to increase ad revenues is part of that struggle.

Slashdot has a very different model of moderation and "free speech" than MetaFilter, which has its pros and cons. I'd expect it might be cheaper to operate Slashdot than MetaFilter in that sense? To work from the "Five Interwoven Economies: Subsistence, Gift, Exhanged, Planned, Theft" perspective I've written about, it seems that MetaFilter's moderators (paid staff) work in the "exchange" economy, whereas Slashdot's moderators (site members) mostly work in the "gift" economy. That is a big difference in scalability. There are certainly many moderated mailing lists out there, so volunteer moderation is nothing new. But Slashdot came up with a workable system for the web (including meta-moderation) and more importantly got the community to actually use it well. It is not clear if some new community could succeed the same way because Slashdot got its critical mass of people by being in the right place in the right time in the early years of the web.

Still, any large community of humans like a small town tends to have things like taxes (for a "planned" economy enforced ultimately at the Sherrif's gunpoint), elected or affirmed governance who spends those taxes on democratically planned projects, and some paid staff to do routine-but-essential work like road repair & garbage collection & animal control & so on (and for some towns, policing if not done by the county or state). Slashdot has a budget no doubt (not sure what it is or what it goes towards). Both MetaFilter and Slashdot are small towns in that sense (thousands of participants). They are both small towns that have survived for over a decade across big shifts in the internet, which means they are something special as far as being healthy communities (even with problems). It is not unreasonable for such small towns to need to fund themselves somehow. But the question is how? Or, will they just be replaced by something else as no longer being economically viable?

And if so, what will replace such communities? Paul Jones has his #noemail campaign to move to social media. But if not email, as I pointed out to him early on, so many other social media options people actually chose seem to entail moving to big providers like Facebook or Google and a loss of local control and local archives. I suggested we need a decentralized social semantic desktop if we were to move beyond email. His blog on "noemail":
http://ibiblio.org/pjones/blog... [ibiblio.org]

But in any case, communities are not software, nor are they the artifacts of communities (like archived discussion posts). Clay Shirky writes about how hard it is to write software for communities here:
http://www.shirky.com/writings... [shirky.com]
"Writing social software is hard. And, as I said, the act of writing social software is more like the work of an economist or a political scientist. And the act of hosting social software, the relationship of someone who hosts it is more like a relationship of landlords to tenants than owners to boxes in a warehouse."

My wife has worked towards some other FOSS social software (Rakontu), and I have my ideas about a FOSS "Pointrel/Twirlip Social Semantic Desktop & Public Intelligence Platform". So, I've been thinking about what it takes nowadays to make an economic success of such ventures. Discussion about MetaFilter and the web has been illuminating in that regard. I'm glad to see the MetaFilter community trying to sustain itself somehow. I can hope the Slashdot community could do the same if it had to.

Because what is the alternative to essentially voluntary communities with some degree of self-determination with control over their own software and content? There was a time in the USA when there were lots of small corner stores like cafes and bookstores and barber shops and five-and-dime stores which acted as community centers as well as what they sold. Then came shopping malls (Facebook and Google+?) and these small stores mostly went under or at least lost so much traffic their community value diminished. But the big malls full of national chains (or now Walmart everywhere) do not fulfill the same extra social functions the small stores did (including just running into neighbors going into or out of local stores and chatting with them).

And further, the big stores, being large zones of private property, became protest-free areas, because being surrounded by big parking lots they were very different than small stores with public sidewalks in front of them. Several comments to this article are by people who are afraid to put various content on their web sites for fear of losing Adsense accounts and related revenue or who felt they had to take down such content in response to email from Google. What would they do if the complaints from Google Adsense became about political content on their site or links to political sites? If we want a "free" web, paradoxically do we have to pay for it (either in money or volunteer time or perhaps even in taxes)?

One common scenario leading to delisting... (4, Interesting)

tlambert (566799) | about 2 months ago | (#47081461)

One common scenario leading to delisting is that you hire an SEO, or an SEO decides to "gift" you their "service", or one of your competitors decides to "gift" you an SEO's "service". It's very hard, as an ordinary business, to know that this is the cause of your problem.

Complicating this is that the #1 "Wordpress" exploit, for the longest time, was to present the ordinary site *unless* the request was coming from the IP address of a search engine bot. If it was coming from a search engine bot, then you present the regular content of the site, interspersed with link farm data. The Wordpress site doesn't know that it's being link-farmed, since they come in from non-bot IP addresses.

One of the things Google does internally is make all web traffic from employees desktops originate from the bot IP address; that way if there is variant content based on it recognizing the bot IP, you end up getting the link-farm version of the page, if you, as an employee, visit the site. One of my coworkers discovered that his daughter's school site had been compromised and turned into this type of link farm when he went on from his desk in order to give permission for a field trip, and ended up with a bizarro version of the site in his browser.

So if you see a sudden drop in traffic, you should probably compare your current site contents to the site contents that are supposed to be there according to your CMS (and if you don't have a CMS - get one so you can make this kind of comparison).

Another fairly recent phenomenon is that these "stealth" link farms are now being provided as forum postings. If you look at the forum posting link yourself, it's going to show up as whatever content is supposed to be there, but, again, if the bot goes there, it's going to see a link-farm. So if your site has a lot of links to link-farm sites, you're going to appear to be part of the problem (a fair assessment, since you *are* in fact a part of the problem).

For secondary drive-by stealth link-farm postings, there's really no way to check that the link that you're publishing is a stealth link-farm link. The problem with exposing this information is that an exposed site recruited to this purpose is no longer valuable to the link-farmer, but an unexposed one remains valuable input to the filtering algorithm. So exposing just means that the link-farmer is going to sell the site on the open market to someone else, who will then use the same exploit that the link-farmer used to get it to be a stealth link-farm, only they are going to do other nasty stuff with it, from hosting malware, to actively recruiting the site for a botnet.

So in reality, it turns out to be a net benefit to everyone for Google to say nothing, particularly if there's no way to understand what exploit was used to establish the stealth link-farm in the first place. Clearly, the site administrator at that site was not competent enough to not be p0wned in the first place, so they're unlikely to be competent enough to fix the problem. If they're using Wordpress in the first place, they probably don't understand the software well enough to understand the exploit in any case. So no programatic verification by Google that a given link might cause you to lose ranking because it links to a link-farm, since link-farmers would just use the service themselves to get the list of their link-farms they need to "recycle" by selling to other people.

It's a pain in the ass all around, but eventually people will have to start taking their site security a bit more seriously, or find themselves swept into the corner.

Google Search just doesn't work very well (2)

reve_etrange (2377702) | about 2 months ago | (#47081505)

The bottom line is that Google Search doesn't work very well - at least, not anymore. While it previously supported search expansions which could be taken advantage of by skilled searchers, it's since been focused on quick, lowest-common-denominator responses to the most common questions. As a result, searching for slightly abstract notions is virtually impossible, and some searches which should be straightforward also fail.

One example of a simple failure: "fireworks today" or "fireworks today san francisco" returned nothing after I chanced to see fireworks the other night. Using the date ("fireworks san francisco may 21 2014"), the only relevant result was a set of Coast Guard and DHS documents describing safety precautions for the event (Giants game). Of course, fireworks games are well publicized outside of interntal government safety documents.

A more abstract example: try to design a search for articles about names which are or have become insults, such as "Dick."

Re:Google Search just doesn't work very well (2)

tlambert (566799) | about 2 months ago | (#47081831)

The bottom line is that Google Search doesn't work very well - at least, not anymore. While it previously supported search expansions which could be taken advantage of by skilled searchers, it's since been focused on quick, lowest-common-denominator responses to the most common questions. As a result, searching for slightly abstract notions is virtually impossible, and some searches which should be straightforward also fail.

One example of a simple failure: "fireworks today" or "fireworks today san francisco" returned nothing after I chanced to see fireworks the other night. Using the date ("fireworks san francisco may 21 2014"), the only relevant result was a set of Coast Guard and DHS documents describing safety precautions for the event (Giants game). Of course, fireworks games are well publicized outside of interntal government safety documents.

Your inability to find the event with your search is because you are going at it lexically backwards from the encapsulating event at which the fireworks were being displayed. The primary key is the event. Historical Google doesn't do well at this, and neither does Bing or any other search engine, which are based on you knowing approximately what you are looking for in the first place.

If instead you were to look at the people who were likely to be the most upset at an unscheduled pyrotechnic display, you'd lookf for something like "DHS san francisco scheduled fireworks"

A more abstract example: try to design a search for articles about names which are or have become insults, such as "Dick."

Yeah, this one is easy: "terrible first names"

BTW, just because they took away Altavista style search parentheticals and punctuation, like "+", nominally to make it easier for people with mobile devices and no ability to think lexically to use, doesn't mean you can't force the issue still, using ordered search terms and conjunctions like AND and OR (and note that "-" still works to omit irrelevant data). See also: https://support.google.com/web... [google.com]

MetaFilter: Been There Done That (2)

TechnoGrl (322690) | about 2 months ago | (#47081541)

It's interesting (and not coincidental) to note that perhaps the very best of the best of the moderators is stepping down and several of the younger newer and frankly less ... ummm ... rock solid of the moderators are remaining.

I tried MeFi some years back and grew disaffected with the environment. I was initially attracted because of the very heavy attention to keeping things on topic and keeping the crazies away but soon grew disenchanted when it became apparent that the uber-heavy moderation was not applied uniformly. Friends of the site were granted far more leniency than others and the sheer amount of what I am forced to label as misplaced political correctness from the younger staff (staff who are staying on) was outright annoying.

Google did not kill MetaFilter. Metafilter did that to themselves by allowing disparity in their moderation and substituting hipsteresque faux-concern for alleged dubious subject matter to prevail over true conversation. I have dropped in from time to time to watch the membership decline and have seen the conversation stagnate.

Buy-bye Mefi (and Boing-Boing) - you were great when you were great but now .... not so much.
The world moves on.

Not original content (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47081573)

Of course Google is penalizing you.

You aren't creating the content yourself, your aggregating other people's content.

Sounds like a bunch of whiny bitches to me.

I might care... (2)

ebcdic (39948) | about 2 months ago | (#47082117)

... if I'd ever heard of MetaFilter.

Re:I might care... (1)

_Ludwig (86077) | about 2 months ago | (#47084363)

You mean you might care enough to post a comment telling us all about how little you care?

Just don't make bussiness with Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47082245)

... and you're fine. Really, why do so many companies bet all their fortune on one horse, be that Rotten Apple, Scroogle, FuckBook, or Microshit, and later whine about how they got screwed over? It lacks common business sense!

incentivize quality (1)

l3v1 (787564) | about 2 months ago | (#47082569)

"the modern Web does not incentivize quality"

No, people do. And it shows. Enough said.
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