Updated 6/12/2014 – Googles Matt Cutts says at SMX yesterday that Metafilter was hit with an algo update and not a Panda or Penguin penalty.
For the past couple of days everyone and their grandmother has been talking about Metafilter and how a mainstream site that did nothing wrong was unfairly hit by the Google Panda update and caused their rankings to go down.
When I first heard of it I laughed and said to myself “Oh another company that had time to adjust after Panda 1.0 came out and did nothing.” Then I went to the site and alarm bells went off. Actually if I had just visited the site for the first time I would have clicked off it and went somewhere else. The 1990's design with white text on a brown background was very hard to read.
I then clicked on to another page and the site had a blue background with the same white text. I didn't even read the 50 lines of text that looked like gibberish to me to see why they would have a problem.
Besides the usability of the site there is pages and pages of thin user generated content like this. I ask you if you owned a search engine would you have pages that looked like this in it for your users?
That article was the top one on the page that I clicked on from their homepage. A homepage full of articles where a Hashtag is the only word in the title. I'm sorry but if they didn't see this coming shame on them.
I wish them luck, I am sure they will clean it up a bit and maybe update the look of the site or something. What gets me though is their bounce rate had to be going up over the years. I spent a total of 8 seconds on the site the first time before I clicked off it because it hurt my eyes.
While Google doesn't say aesthetics isn't a ranking factor you can bet in this case the bounce rate going up consistently played a factor.
The article below sums it up in this paragraph.
Engagement and Usability Matter
While analyzing the fresh hits, it was hard to overlook the serious engagement issues I was coming across. For example, stimulus overload on the pages that were receiving a lot of Google organic traffic prior to the hit. There were ads that expanded into or over the content, double-serving of video ads, stacked “recommended articles” on the page, lack of white space, a long and confusing navigation, etc. All of this led to me wanting to bounce off the page faster than a superball on concrete. And again, high bounce rates and low dwell times can get you killed by Panda. Avoid that like the plague.”
Read further in the article below