Google’s Matt Cutts: MetaFilter Hit By Previously Undisclosed Algorithm Filter

MetaFilterLast month, MetaFilter, a news and discussion site from back in the old days, told us they got hit by a Google penalty years ago that had a major impact on their business. We posted our theories and details on this penalty in our post named On MetaFilter Being Penalized By Google: An Explainer.

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.

For example, the Panda update goes after sites deemed to have “thin” content while the Penguin update goes after spam.

What filter hit MetaFilter? Google wouldn’t disclose that, only saying that it wasn’t Panda or one of the other known, named filters.

So despite the fact that I reported about an algorithmic update on November 17th and Google wouldn’t confirm or deny it, Google is now confirming it. Over a year and a half later, the update we saw on November 17, 2012 is confirmed by Google.

What algorithm was it? Google’s Matt Cutts wouldn’t say. I do know that many webmasters complained about the update but those who were hit on November 17, 2012, will have no idea what changes they need to make to their sites to reverse course.

With Panda, Penguin, PayDay, Top Ad Heavy and other algorithms, webmasters have somewhere to turn for advice. When Google runs an algorithm, doesn’t confirm it, then webmasters who are hit by it have no idea if they should focus on link issues, page quality issues, too many ads or something else. They have no where to turn.

For more on this MetaFilter issue, see our post named On MetaFilter Being Penalized By Google: An Explainer.

NOTE: A previous version of this article wrote that Cutts had said Google is working with MetaFilter to get released from the filter that caught it. That’s incorrect. 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.” Our apologies for this error.