Confused: Did Or Didn't Metafilter & Google Talk About Ranking Issues?

Jul 8, 2014 • 8:39 am | comments (10) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization
 

metafilterBack on June 12th, I published a story on Search Engine Land on how Google is working on a fix for Metafilter.

Back then, I was under the impression that Matt Cutts, Google's head of search spam, was in direct communication with Matt Haughey, the co-founder of Metafilter. When I published the story, Matt from Metafilter told me he never even spoke to him directly, only some vague emails about issues:

Here are some tweets:

So then when Matt Cutts announces his extended leave the other day, Matt Haughey wishes him a good time and thanks him for his help:

Then Matt Cutts says that he always enjoys talking to him:

I thought they only exchanged some vague cryptic emails?

I guess these conversations could have happened after my story? I am not sure. It is clear from Matt Cutts now that this is something Google is updating on the algorithm side, which will not just help Metafilter but other forum sites.

As I reported back then, this was an update from November 17, 2012 and seemed to have had a major impact on many forum-like web sites. Google wouldn't talk about it then, but now, they are talking.

I suspect any of you hit on that date, will want to follow to see when the MetaFilter update (naming it that) is released and see if you are also released from that unconfirmed update.

Google's Matt Cutts will not give us more details on that update.

Another side note: When Google does not confirm updates, it clearly doesn't mean there was no update. So I will keep reporting unconfirmed Google updates - just in case years later Google confirms them.

Anyway, here is Metafilter's Google visibility according to SearchMetrics, there seems to be an uptick:

click for full size

I tend to look into these things a bit too much, so I apologize.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

Update: A comment with more details has been added by Matt of Metafilter:

Man, Barry, you're really reading between the lines and trying to make a mountain out of a molehill here. I know SEO people have to read the tea leaves and go over anything Matt Cutts ever said, but this is kind of nuts to make a post about.

I worked with Matt Cutts in 2002 on a Google/Creative Commons project (I was the designer at Creative Commons when it launched and for three years after). I got to know him a bit then, I was still working with MetaFilter as a side-gig. We say hi to each other at technical (not SEO-related) conferences every couple years. That's what Cutts means by it is always nice to talk to you.

When all this stuff happened, I emailed him to ask for more details, and like I said already on Twitter it was very vague. We never discussed specifics, he never said anything about what I should do, nor did he ever say "that's a good idea" if I suggested a change on my part. It was a few vague emails.

I didn't get special treatment, I tried to point out publicly in my Medium post that perhaps my site was unfairly docked, and based on Cutts' comments at that SEO conference it sounds like my site and a few dozen others might have also been hit by something that might vaguely improve someday.

So I think you're reading too much into Matt Cutts being someone I say hi to at random occasional conferences outside of this industry.

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Comments:

Barry Adams

07/08/2014 12:42 pm

Seems like more evidence that if you have an inside track to Google, your site gets preferential treatment. It's definitely not a level playing field.

Michael Martinez

07/08/2014 12:54 pm

This time you keep looking into this. I think there are some people out there who would love to know what that update targeted and whether they can come back from it without a complete redesign or disavowing their entire backlink profile.

Barry Schwartz

07/08/2014 12:55 pm

So, I think you will see a nice number of forums report they are back when Google flips the switch. Of course, Google won’t confirm it, especially with Matt Cutts on leave.

Clint

07/08/2014 03:22 pm

It's just evidence that if something is interesting, someone will pay attention. Random website # 14,725,643? Probably not very interesting in the larger picture. That's just reality. Keep in mind it took 16 months for someone at Google to notice, and it'll still take some time before it's fully fixed.

StevenLockey

07/08/2014 03:45 pm

How did he have an inside track? If he did have an inside track, why did it take 16 months to even get looked at? As has already been said, its a generic issue they are looking at, most likely MC was just trying to gather information to try and differentiate the decent forums from the crap ones. Of course if a tiny site disappears its going to get less attention than if a site with a million times as many users disappears. Same as everything else in life.

Jamo

07/08/2014 04:17 pm

Yea, this is a joke. I mean it's good for MetaFilter, maybe now they will pay more attention to their business??? It's a joke that "certain" people can get help directly from Google. So the moral to the story is that if you are the 1%, you can get Matt Cutts to personally review your website. If you're part of the 99%, head over to the Webmaster Forums and list to the mods kibizt.

robjackson81

07/08/2014 08:07 pm

I can't help but defend Matt Cutts here. The guy goes out of his way to respond to every little e-mail from every webmaster on the planet- he responded to me when I was just a shmoe starting out and answered a couple of my e-mails when I figured he'd quickly press delete. I quickly became a fan of a lot of his work, from his webmaster videos to his 30-day challenges. I eventually built AndroidForums.com and Phandroid.com and our traffic boomed with the growth of Android. In November 2012 we got hit by the same algo atrocities that hit other forums. Last month we saw our first little rebound. Matt also exchanged a handful of e-mails with me (one or two per year). He mostly suggested the textbook stuff, told me Kontera and some other ads were annoying, told me to focus on user experience and page speed, and made other suggestions that anyone else doing a website audit or review would make. That's it. He didn't have to do it... he just did. Why? Probably because he's a hard worker, nice person, and loves his job. Then I saw him at Google IO 2014 and met him for the first time. I introduced myself and we chatted for a couple short minutes. He asked how the sites were doing and I told him the forums were still hurting a bit... and he suggested Google was investigating ways to help surface meaningful content on respected forums. That statement seemed to be more in passing- Google is constantly working on lots of ways to surface lots of great content. Now I'm wondering if there may be a bit more depth to that statement. Regardless, I think MetaFilter and Android Forums probably had similar experiences and I know other forum owners who would agree. The insinuation that Matt is somehow playing favorites or doing something sneaky as he temporarily departs is ludicrous. To attack his willingness to engage directly and honestly with webmasters is insane, especially given his position (he has better things to do) and the notoriously mediocre support offered across Google's other products. If he can't answer every single e-mail does that mean he shouldn't respond to any, ever? I guess being nice on the internet and complimenting someone on Twitter is where he really crossed the line? Give me a break guys... let's be happy for forum owners who have felt it difficult to keep pace in the land of memes, buzzfeed, social networks, and Google Knowledge Graph.

Matt Haughey

07/08/2014 08:14 pm

Man, Barry, you're really reading between the lines and trying to make a mountain out of a molehill here. I know SEO people have to read the tea leaves and go over anything Matt Cutts ever said, but this is kind of nuts to make a post about. I worked with Matt Cutts in 2002 on a Google/Creative Commons project (I was the designer at Creative Commons when it launched and for three years after). I got to know him a bit then, I was still working with MetaFilter as a side-gig. We say hi to each other at technical (not SEO-related) conferences every couple years. That's what Cutts means by it is always nice to talk to you. When all this stuff happened, I emailed him to ask for more details, and like I said already on Twitter it was very vague. We never discussed specifics, he never said anything about what I should do, nor did he ever say "that's a good idea" if I suggested a change on my part. It was a few vague emails. I didn't get special treatment, I tried to point out publicly in my Medium post that perhaps my site was unfairly docked, and based on Cutts' comments at that SEO conference it sounds like my site and a few dozen others might have also been hit by something that might vaguely improve someday. So I think you're reading too much into Matt Cutts being someone I say hi to at random occasional conferences outside of this industry.

Barry Schwartz

07/08/2014 08:24 pm

Adding this to the main story, thanks for commenting!

josh bachynski (SEO)

07/08/2014 09:32 pm

You keep reporting the major algo changes announced or unannounced brother.! :-) You are helping people out by doing so!

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