Last week, NaturalNews — a poisonous hub of conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and right-wing quackery — basically got removed from Google. Hundreds of thousands of pages were deindexed by the biggest search engine in the world overnight. I can only imagine how Mike Adams, the owner of the website and self-appointed ‘health ranger’ (whatever the hell that means), must have felt when he realized NaturalNews just lost millions of hits every month.
Initially, no explanation was publicly given by Google so Adams, who was privately informed of some misconduct for which NaturalNews was banned, just rolled with that to turn his organization into a victim of “mainstream oppression”. All in a familiar style from the same publication that previously told us that astrology is real, HIV is a hoax or vaccines cause autism (they love that). This is also the same organization that called for the deaths of journalists, publishers, and scientists who have worked on the topic of genetically modified organisms.
“Late last week, I received a direct threat that warned if I did not take steps to destroy Alex Jones and InfoWars, I would be targeted for destruction in a campaign of smears, censorship and defamation,” Adams wrote.
“Instead of giving in to the enemy, I refused to take the bait and went public with details of the threat, warning everyone in the new media that sinister forces were now being pursued to undermine and silence every anti-establishment (and pro-Trump) voice on the internet.”
“True to form, today the entire Natural News website has been blacklisted by Google, entirely without warning.”
Basically, Adams asserted his so-called investigative journalism website is a victim of anti-Trump globalists. What happened next was an all out attack against Google with Adams and collaborators publishing more than a dozen articles about how Google is evil and such, with some regular stories sprinkled in between, of course, such as “CONFIRMED: Cancer is entirely a man-made disease”.
Adams also started a petition which now has over 60,000 signatures “to Ban Google’s Blatant Suppression of Free Speech.”
“Google, which controls 67.5% of internet searches in the United States is attempting to silence any voice that doesn’t coincide with their political views. This incidentally targets some of the biggest voices in alternative media, such as NaturalNews.com and Infowars.com.”
Adams also made use of the opportunity to peddle some products from his store by calling readers to support NaturalNews in these dire times.
Suffice to say, NaturalNews wasn’t deindexed because it’s “anti-establishment” (or anti-commonsense). It wasn’t even banned because it’s fake news, something which Google said it would crack down on.
What NaturalNews did was against Google’s terms of service. Period.
What’s SEO and why Google was right to penalize Natural News
To rank search results, Google uses sophisticated algorithms that take into account more than 200 signals ranging from content quality to site speed to shares on facebook. Its strongest signal, however, is the number and quality of inbound links. A website with a large number of incoming links from reputable sources will have a high authority score and will thus rank higher on Google. Ironically, the hundreds of bloggers who have criticized or ridiculed Adams and his website have inadvertently helped him fuel an SEO empire by linking to his articles.
Knowing this, many webmasters try to game Google by artificially inflating their link profile. This is known as black-hat search engine optimization (SEO). The easiest technique is to buy links or create link farms, both frowned upon by Google which lists these against their terms of service.
“Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site,” Google states.
Now, it’s important to note that Google’s anti-spam team is constantly banning, deindexing or penalizing websites which violated their TOS. They also have a reputation for not offering much explanation when they penalize websites. However, if Google does enact manual spam penalties against a website — much more so if it calls for deindexing a whole domain — it will send a message to the webmaster informing him of his transgression.
Adams claimed he had not received any explanation from Google for why his website was effectively banned from the search engine. Having worked online for almost ten years, this struck me as odd. Google never does this and I actually thought for a second that Google may have made an abuse. But then I got to my sense because this is Mike Adams we’re talking about, a fraud who’s made a fortunate out of spreading lies to gullible people.
Because this story got so much attention, Google came out publically to explain why NaturalNews was banned. Again, they rarely do this (something Adams used to his advantage to create a smoke screen).
First, John Mueller, a Webmaster Trends Analysts at Google, stated that Adams was informed of the penalty. Adams initially said his website was banned without a word.
I'd recommend checking your Search Console account for information on what was found. https://t.co/NPZwEmBjV7 can help too.
— ? John ? (@JohnMu) February 23, 2017
Then, Mueller explained NaturalNews was penalized due to sneaky mobile redirects. For a more in-depth explanation for what NaturalNews did wrong, read this blogpost.
“Hi! I work with the Google Search team. We’re seeing a bit of confusion & incorrect stories circulating about what’s happening here, so just to be super clear — Natural News is using a sneaky mobile redirect, which is prohibited by our webmaster guidelines (there’s a bit about this kind of issue at https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2015/10/detect-and-get-rid-of-unwanted-sneaky.html ). These redirects aren’t always easy to reproduce, they’re sometimes in widgets or served by ad networks, and can target specific devices, browsers, or user locations. When we last checked, there was one on http://blogs. naturalnews. com/bentonite-clay-a-natural-medicine-cabinet-must-have/ . As soon as this is cleaned up, the site can submit a reconsideration request through Search Console, and once that’s reviewed things will return to normal. No action has been taken based on the editorial content of this site.”
Adams cleaned up his website, apparently, because his website is now back in Google’s index. But the quackery still didn’t stop.
“I continue to believe that Natural News was targeted by Google due to the content of our speech which supports President Trump… and that the “sneaky mobile redirects” issue was merely the justification used by Google to de-list the entire NaturalNews.com website. Google no doubt disagrees with this assessment and says it was just a technical issue, yet we are not aware of any other situation in which a minor technical issue on a subdomain resulted in Google blacklisting the entire ROOT domain of a major publisher, with 140,000+ pages of quality content. Natural News appears to be the only website of its size that has ever been subjected to this extreme censorship for such a minor technical issue on pages posted years ago by bloggers on a subdomain.”
Again, Adams is acting like a little innocent lamb when in fact he is a skilled SEO black-hatter. After selling Y2K scams back in 1999, Adams founded Arial Software which David Gorski says it used to be in the business of spamming and helping spammers. ThinkProgress reports Adams used over 80 websites to create a link farm that linked to NaturalNews to increase its link profile — that alone is worth a penalty.
Anyway, this article is getting too long. Honestly, NaturalNews doesn’t deserve the attention but given the size of Adams’ audience, the truth has to be spread out — even if it sometimes falls on deaf ears.