MetaFilter is one of the first ever community blogs, created in 1999 and helping users with Q&A style answers from before the times of the typical social networks. It is a quality site - no one would argue with that.
MetaFilter's founder Matt Haughey posted a long blog post named On the Future of MetaFilter: Peak ads, MetaFilter’s Google Problems, and the need to scale back. The post documented how overnight, something happened with their Google traffic and their traffic dropped like a rock.
The date Danny Sullivan figured out with his post named On MetaFilter Being Penalized By Google: An Explainer was on November 17, 2012. It was one of those dates that Google would not confirm an update but one that I felt was an update, Google actually went as far as denying any update on November 16th or 17th.
But clearly many sites, including MetaFilter were hit. Here are charts from MetaFilter's Google Analytics and a SearchMetrics chart:
Yes, there was a Panda refresh on November 21st but that was after this site lost it's traffic overnight on November 16th/17th. So it was not Panda.
When Google's Matt Cutts was questioned about MetaFilter, he chimed in on Twitter:
@ElliotJH MattH and I have been discussing it over the last week or so.— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) May 21, 2014
Yes, Matt wrote, "MattH and I have been discussing it over the last week or so." MattH is the founder of Meta Filter.
What exactly happened? Why did Google drop their traffic so suddenly? As Danny said, he "don’t know" and I don't know. If I had to guess, Google did push something out on November 16th, maybe a bug, and didn't know about it and we are were we are now.
Now that this mega site is on Google's radar, maybe they will look back and see what really happened on that date in 2012.
It could be links, it could be ads, it could be Panda, it could be negative SEO, or it could be a bug with Google or the site. I am putting my money on it was a weird bug with Google that they never fixed.
I'd be surprised if we didn't see MetaFilter's traffic return at some level in the very near future.
It is just a shame MetaFiler waited so long to come out about this.
Forum discussion at Twitter.