This man recounts how a Google mistake completely destroyed his business

There is a saying that whatever lord giveth lord taketh away. In the online world what Google gives, only it can take away. This was found the hard way by Matt Haughey whose fledging website was taken down by a wrong penalty by Google search.

Startup founder Haughey had created a community blog called MetaFilter in the late 90s which was going great guns when the Google penalty hit it hard and it was unable to survive the same in 2012.

Now, four years after the incident, Haughey says that it is important to diversify in order to avoid such unwanted incidents in online life. He recounted his brush with Google penalty and how it destroyed his business in recent interview with IndieVC.

Haughey’s story

This is what happened with Haughey’s successfully running website. In 2011,  MetaFilter’s question and answer section was getting tonnes of visitors and Haughey was minting good money from Adsense. But suddenly, in 2012, Ask MetaFilter’s traffic plunged. The site lost half its ad revenue overnight.

Google had made an update to its search rankings that affected MetaFilter’s ranking in search. Loss of rankings meant that Haughey’s website visitors trickled down to next to nothing. Haughey didn’t know what the issue with MetaFilter was that caused it to be punished. So, Haughey contacted Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team, who told him that Metafilter was flagged in the update, but that Google would reindex the site in a month or two which would solve the problem.

However, for Haughey and Metafilter, things were never the same. “I kept waiting. For a year and a half, I waited,” Haughey told IndieVC. “It got to the point where we couldn’t pay our bills. That’s when I reached out again to Matt Cutts, ‘Things never got better.’ He was like, ‘What, really? I’m sorry.’ He looked into it and was like, ‘Oh yeah, it never reversed. It should have. You were accidentally put in the bad pile.'”

Haughey has learned the Internet lesson the hard way. Everything online depends on Google and to beat it you can only diversify.

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