TLDR #27 - How Google is Killing the Best Site On the Internet

internet, media, pop_culture, storytelling, life, technology, google,

Monday, June 02, 2014 - 07:25 PM

(Moominsean/flickr)

A couple weeks ago, Matt Haughey, the founder of TLDR's favorite website, Metafilter, announced that his website is dying. And he says it's because Google algorithmically stopped directing traffic to the site over a year ago. Alex tries to figure out what you do when Google's algorithm decides it no longer likes you.

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Comments [4]

Peter Falconi from Brooklyn

Hey Allie

Do you work for Google?

Jun. 04 2014 09:59 AM
DManzaluni from USA

Fantastic piece and I disagree strongly with Allie. Google has clearly too much power and uses it in an incredibly autocratic way. But one thing intrigues me at the moment.

Over the past years, I have found google's results less and less relevant. It used to, at first, give millions of responses to searches. You could judge relevance for yourselves. Then it started to give only sales results (to general search questions, not searches for things to buy) in the first pages. Then it started loading its results with completely useless page after page of almost identical references to two sites, bizrate and pricegrabber. Amazingly, even if you were looking to buy something, I never figured out how bizrate or pricegrabber would help?? They just led to layer after layer of more form filling.

Then someone told it's algorithm that it didnt need to put all these sales results to non-sales questions in the results pages themselves because google made more money by loading them into the ads on the pages.

At that stage, google seems to have lost its way a bit because as a search engine it really stinks and if it cant give sales results to research questions, it really isn't sure how to respond to non-sales (ordinary research) questions.

So now google seems to have entered a post-search algorithm in which searches don't return millions of results, and don't return pages of sales offers. Now you get about a page of results in which half way down the page you can see google struggling desperately with simple relevance! By the time you get to the bottom of the first page, the results start to become really off-the-wall. Not sure whether no longer giving millions of irrelevant results makes google more or less useful. What is for sure is how they load your life with google-hype about how fantastically amazingly tremendous the company is, with the IMPLICATION that if the company is that great, the search engine which forms its basis must be as well. It is all a bit like the old days when companies like Symantec and Adobe decided to discontinue technical support: The replaced it with hype about how fantastically amazingly tremendous their award-winning tech support was. You werent supposed to notice how they had discontinued support in favour of all those awards they awarded themselves.

I think no one is supposed to notice how bad google's search algorithm actually is at producing useful results.

One thing I would really like to know while Danny Sullivan may be watching this space: WHAT BETTER SEARCH ENGINES ARE THERE OUT THERE AT THE MOMENT? Allied to another question which this piece didn't really answer: Is Metafilter the answer?

Right now, I am reduced to opening virtual machines and running the same google search on Windows, Mac and Linux in the hope of trebling the paltry number of results google gives. (No, the results seem to be platform-dependent: Usually they are emphatically not the same!)

Jun. 04 2014 09:48 AM
Amy

Another fabulous episode. I thought Alex really summed up the story concisely. MetaFilter is also my "Internet home" and I would be really sad to see it shrink.

In response to Allie's comment, I don't think it's a "personal eulogy" at all. MeFi *is* objectively a site with great content and an intelligent, supportive community (seriously Allie, have you taken a peek?). The front page has consistently interesting stories and dialogue, and Ask Metafiler has some really interesting questions with informative and surprising answers. I have learned so much from being a part of MeFi.

Further, I think that the issues that MetaFilter is facing are part of a larger picture. It's about what Google considers "good" content, about the changing business strategies in this new media landscape, about the power of Google and "The Algorithm." MeFi is certainly not the only site facing this problem.

Jun. 03 2014 01:13 PM
Allie

I was pretty disappointed with this piece. The title is incredibly hyperbolic and the reporting was grasping at straws to try to make a story out of a personal eulogy.

This is a business that has steadfastly refused to change in a changing world. Google isn't blocking Metafilter - other sites have grown to take its place. If anything, it surprises me that a site with only 12,000 active users is getting third or fourth page results. The lack of a smoking gun isn't because Google turned down your request for comment, it's because this isn't a compelling case.

More interesting and honest things are happening in the world than this. Keep up the good work.

Jun. 03 2014 11:06 AM

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