Founded in 2009 and led by former Facebook executive Adam D'Angelo, Quora has seen what happens to content sites that count on Google's search engine for traffic. All too often, a sudden tweak to Google's algorithm can drop a site's search ranking and leave the webmaster scrambling to fix the problem.
A primary source of Quora's traffic is organic, meaning people are coming directly to Quora.com to ask questions and provide answers to those posed by others, said Marc Bodnick, who runs business, marketing and community at Mountain View, California-based Quora. Beyond that, the site attracts users from a variety of places, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft Bing and LinkedIn.
"You don't get loyalty from an algorithm," Bodnick said in an interview. "When you're totally dependent on a single channel, it means people don't really like your product."
Google's algorithms, designed to lift the presence of sites deemed high quality, have outsized influence over the flow of Internet traffic, because the company, also based in Mountain View, controls over two-thirds of the U.S. search market.
CNBC.com has reported on small businesses that have seen their traffic and revenue slashed overnight after a Google update, with almost no ability to recover. Content sites that Google has viewed, fairly or not, as spammy, like those from Demand Media, Mahalo and HubPages, have been particularly hard hit by past algorithm changes.