June 3, 2019, Google implemented a broad “core update”1 that in one fell swoop eliminated most Mercola.com pages from its search results. Virtually overnight, Google traffic to my site dropped by approximately 99.9%.
Considering Mercola.com has been the most visited natural health site for the last 16 years, it’s no great surprise that we were listed as one of the biggest losers in Google’s June algorithm update.2
I wrote about the ramifications of Google’s core update in two articles at the end of June 2019. In Part 1, I discussed the effects that the new search algorithm and updated quality rater guidelines is having on traffic to this site.
As mentioned in that article, Google’s “quality raters” are manually lowering the ranking of what they arbitrarily decide is undesirable content and burying even expert views if they think they’re “harmful” to the public.
In Part 2, I revealed how Wikipedia censors information and crafts narratives to benefit certain groups, and how Google raters use Wikipedia’s skewed and biased articles to ascertain the expertise and trustworthiness of any given author or website.
Today’s videos and article will show you just how clearly and deliberately Google has eliminated my articles from its search results.
After more than 15 years of being considered a highly relevant source of content, Google has removed all those high-ranked results, and replaced them with health information from advertising companies that promote junk food and drugs instead. Below, I’ll provide clear examples of how this works.
For many years now, I’ve been warning about how Google’s monopoly presents a clear danger to the free-flow of information, and health information in particular, seeing how holistic health is a direct threat to the drug industry. The fact that Google would eventually grow big enough to dictate what people see and don’t see was predictable, and we’ve now entered the era of blatant internet censorship.
How Google Censors High-Ranked Health Content
A major reason for my success as a physician running my own practice was the ability to resolve extremely challenging cases of arthritis. One of my articles describing my arthritis treatment protocol generated over 1 million views, and was consistently a top search result when doing a Google search for arthritis.
Today, even if you use my name in a search for arthritis, you will not find that highest-ranked article. What you find instead is an article copied from my website — without permission — by a Croatian website operated by Zdravko Mauko, followed by a few articles about arthritis from my pet site, followed by a short piece about arthritis that I contributed to Creations Magazine.
The top search result for “Mercola arthritis” is a tiny, insignificant site that in no way, shape or form could possibly compete with Mercola.com. When you compare the ranking of our sites on Alexa, you find my site (as of October 8, 2019) ranks 9,002 in global internet engagement over the past 90 days.3
And that’s despite having been buried by Google since early June, as two years ago our overall Alexa ranking was 3,708. Compare this to our-arthritis.com, which has a ranking of 9,401,920.4 The first screen shot below is Alexa’s ranking for Mercola.com on October 8, 2019. The second screen shot is Alexa’s ranking for our-arthritis.com on that same day.
Another signal of trust and popularity is based on the number of sites linking in, or the number of sites that reference your own site. There are more than 11,000 sites linking to Mercola.com, and only 2 linking to our-arthritis.com. This is another example of Google’s purposeful censorship.
Despite the fact that our-arthritis.com plagiarized my entire article without permission, and have no credibility in terms of website engagement or ranking, it “owns” the search terms “Mercola arthritis” — above my own site!
Censorship Strategy No. 2 — Content Mix-Up
Giving precedence to a site with a relevance ranking that is 1,000 times lower than my own would be bad enough, but it doesn’t end there. Even if you try to use a restricted search, which allows you to search for results within a specific website, Google has you barking up the wrong tree.
When doing a restricted search for “Mercola.com arthritis,” or “site: Mercola.com arthritis,” which theoretically should provide you with links to the most popular articles about arthritis within my site only, Google provides the top search results for arthritis on our veterinary website!
The entire first page of search results; 10 of 12 of the search results on Page 2; and 6 of 10 results on Page 3 direct you to our Healthy Pets website. How is that for relevance? Google has really outdone itself in “helping” users find relevant information, hasn’t it?
Google-Owned YouTube Uses Similar Obfuscation Tactics
The same misdirection and obfuscation is happening on YouTube, which is owned by Google. If you do a YouTube search for “Mercola arthritis,” links to my many arthritis videos are blatantly pushed aside by irrelevant search results as evidenced in the screen shot below.
In short, it’s not a suspicion but a blatantly obvious fact that Google is doing everything it can to erase my online presence and hide the many tens of thousands of free articles and videos I’ve generated over the last 22 years.
Who Now Dominates Online Health Searches?
Who are the Google-trusted health websites that now dominate health searches? WebMD and Healthline. But are they really the most trustworthy sources on the web? Their track records certainly suggest otherwise.
WebMD is owned by the global investment firm KKR & Co.,5 which also owned RJR Nabisco at a time when it sold junk food and tobacco products. As described in my 2018 article, “Google and WebMD Partner To Be Your Virtual Doctor,” KKR also owns Medscape and MedincineNet.com and, according to Fast Company,6 “is trying to corner the market on internet-based health information dissemination …”
WebMD, as you may recall, was in 2010 caught providing users with a fake depression screening test. The test — in which 100% of quiz-takers ended up having a “high likelihood of major depression” and were directed to talk to their doctor about treatment7,8 — was sponsored by drug giant Eli Lilly, the maker of Cymbalta.
The quiz was in fact direct-to-consumer advertising masquerading as a valid health screen, and this is perhaps the most hazardous kind of drug advertising there is.
Then, in 2017, Google partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, launching a depression self-assessment quiz which, like WebMD before it, funneled querents toward antidepressant drugs.9,10 There simply is no doubt that Google is a proponent for and promoter of pharmaceuticals.
Likewise, WebMD — which pockets millions to promote drugs — is far from an independent source of health information. A quick search of WebMD articles on antidepressants and depression, for example, reveals a clear pattern: They contain ads for antidepressant drugs furnished by Google ad services and doubleclick — both of which are owned by Google.
Google-Sanctioned Health Sites Promote Ill Health
Healthline, meanwhile, is owned by Red Ventures,11 a self-described advertising agency, and promotes things like McDonald’s home delivery services with its health articles. Isn’t that great? You can get junk food without ever leaving your couch, courtesy of one of Google’s most trusted health websites!
In short, WebMD and Healthline — two “health” sites that promote some very unhealthy choices — are prioritized in search results because they both use Google ad services. When traffic is shuttled to these sites, Google makes more money from advertising revenue.
“The information collected by such tracking technologies may be combined with other information that our partners have access to, including your name, email address and physical address, so that we can send you materials, either electronically or by direct mail, that may be of interest to you.
WebMD may further tailor the advertising on the WebMD Sites and these other third party websites based on additional information to the extent known by WebMD or these third parties.
Google Violates Its Own Policy by Promoting WebMD
As mentioned earlier, Google’s updated quality rater guidelines instructs quality raters to manually bury content deemed “harmful,” regardless of the expertise of the author.
But the guidelines13 also tell quality raters how to identify deceptive pages, which should be rated “lowest, regardless of intent,” and based on these guidelines, neither WebMD nor Healthline would pass the criteria. Here’s a screen shot of section “7.6.1 Deceptive Page Purpose” from Google’s Page Quality Rating Guideline dated September 5, 2019:14
According to Google, “articles to manipulate users in order to benefit a … business … or other organization … monetarily, or otherwise” is a deceptive page and should be given the lowest possible quality rating.
According to Google, any website that “claims to offer an independent review or share other information about a product, but is in fact created to make money for the owner of the website without attempting to help users” should be given the lowest possible quality rating. Do WebMD and Healthline profess to offer “independent” health information that in reality makes money for the owners and don’t really help users?
Likewise, “a webpage with a … title that has nothing to do with the content of the page” should be given the lowest rating, yet these websites provide “articles” that are in fact advertising, without telling readers that what they’re looking at is an ad, or that the test they’re taking is in fact a PR ploy designed to get them to inquire about a drug.
In short, Google’s quality rating guideline says one thing, but in reality, websites that should be dismissed are pushed to the top, and vice versa — simply because that’s what benefits Google and its advertising partners.
Google — The Antithesis to a Free Internet
Now more than ever we must work together to share health information with others by word-of-mouth, by text and email. We have built in simple sharing tools at the top of each article so you can easily email or text interesting articles to your friends and family.
My information is here because all of you support and share it, and we can do this without Big Tech’s support. It’s time to boycott and share! Here are a few other suggestions:
Become a subscriber to my newsletter and encourage your friends and family to do the same. This is the easiest and safest way to make sure you’ll stay up to date on important health and environmental issues.
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Consider dumping any Android phone the next time you get a phone. Android is a Google operating system and will seek to gather as much data as they can about you for their benefit.
Use the internal Mercola.com search engine when searching for articles on my site.
Boycott Google by avoiding any and all Google products:
• Uninstall Google Chrome and use Brave or Opera browser instead, available for all computers and mobile devices.17 From a security perspective, Opera is far superior to Chrome and offers a free VPN service (virtual private network) to further preserve your privacy
• If you have a Gmail account, try a non-Google email service such as ProtonMail,18 an encrypted email service based in Switzerland
• Stop using Google docs. Digital Trends has published an article suggesting a number of alternatives19
• If you’re a high school student, do not convert the Google accounts you created as a student into personal accounts
Sign the “Don’t be evil” petition created by Citizens Against Monopoly