Google Confirms: “Natural News” Removed For Using “Sneaky Mobile Redirects”


“Natural News” is one of the largest websites in the world who push quackery and pseudoscience with several millions of unique visitors every single month. It has push HIV/AIDS denialism, germ theory denial, vitriolic attacks on medical doctors, conspiracy theories about the Zika virus or that Sandy Hook school shooting was a false flag operation. They even think vaccines and GMOs are incredibly dangerous.

Basically, if you can come up with a pseudoscience related to some medical condition or medical treatment, chances are that they have written nonsense about it. They also sell a wide range of fake treatments for a variety of medical conditions. Their standard method is to fearmonger about some real treatment to a medical condition and then sell unsuspecting people their own fake treatments to profit from the fear. Ironically, these fake treatments include substances they themselves claim are dangerous and harmful for humans.

“Natural News” was removed from Google search results…

It became apparent that “Natural News” had been removed from Google search results on February 22. The website did not come up from searching for the website title, articles titles or even specialized searches on the domain itself. It was just gone. Mike Adams, the owner of the website, had a tantrum and wrote a conspiracy-filled narrative about how the globalists were silencing Trump supporters. Debunking Denialism was among the first to report on this in “Natural News” Mysteriously Disappears From Google Search Results. In the post, a few different hypotheses were proposed: Google might have removed them for not meeting the quality guidelines, that their Google Webmasters account had been compromised, that Adams did it himself to be able to play the victim card for sympathy and money or that Adams had engaged in deceptive blackhat SEO techniques that attempt to game the Google search engine to give it a higher ranking than it should have.

…and now we know why!

Now, Google Webmaster Tends Analyst John Mueller has directly addressed this issue and revealed why Google removed Natural News from its index (originally found by Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable). He wrote brief post about this at the Webmaster Central Help Forum where he provided much-needed details on this crucial issue (http part of the Natural News link removed to avoid hyperlinking):

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 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.

So Google is explicitly telling us that “Natural News” is using “sneaky mobile redirects” and that is the reason for why they were removed and not editorial content (i.e. all the quackery and nonsense). What are those?

According to the Google Blog link, a mobile redirect occurs when a website shows different content to someone using a mobile device than what is shown to a desktop user. This is sometimes useful and completely acceptable, such as showing an optimized version for mobile users where images are not out of whack or were navigation is better. Some mobile redirects, are unacceptable to Google. These “sneaky” redirects occur when a mobile user is redirected to an entirely different website. Webmasters sometimes implement these on purpose and Google can take action and manually remove those websites from their search results. However, it can also happen without the website owner being aware, such as when it happens due to ads or compromised by a malicious attacker.

Mueller replied to Mike Adams on Twitter with some helpful tips:

Natural News Twitter

(The link goes to the Google Webmaster Help Forum)

The bad news is that Mike Adams can isolate and remove whatever it is that are causing these sneaky mobile redirects and submit a request to be re-added to the Google search engine.

So what now?

If these redirects were intentionally put in by Adams or his colleagues, they will likely decide to remove it and resubmit their website to Google in a matter of days. Although they gain some attention from playing the victim, more and more will become aware that the removal was due to sneaky mobile redirects, and this narrative might be weakened. Mike Adams is also probably interested in getting “Natural News” back onto Google search results due to the ad revenue and product sales that they get from their visitors. Every day not on Google might be a tremendous loss for him.

If the redirects are due to the effects of Adams or his staff carelessly using ad services or other third-party scripts, this might take a few days to be identified and removed. They will then resubmit to Google and wait to be approved again.

So what will Mike Adams say now that it is clear that “Natural News” committed a Google Webmasters terms of service violation? Will he admit that his conspiracy-mongering about alleged “globalists” want to enslave human populations? Will he retract and apologize for his rant? Or maybe Adams knew perfectly well what was going on because he had checked his Google Webmasters account and found the notification and just decided to take advantage of the situation while fixing the sneaky mobile redirect issue? Could he be that calculating just to boost attention for his websites? At this point, we do not know, but maybe we should not always default to malice over human ignorance, but it is a non-negligible possibility.

In sum, we can probably expect “Natural News” to return to the Google search results in a while. However, every day that it is not included in Google search result is a a day where many vulnerable people with serious medical conditions will not be pulled in by his quackery, a day where some of them do not buy his alleged treatments instead of accepting mainstream treatments that work and a day where he does not get as much from ad impressions. This is probably not the last we have seen of “Natural News” in Google search results, but we can take comfort in every day it stays out.

In the end, it is pretty ironic that Mike Adams blamed it all on some elaborate “globalist” conspiracy when it was because they themselves violated Google Webmasters terms of service by using shady mobile redirects.

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Debunker of pseudoscience.

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