Google has been utilizing its shadow ban feature for news websites since 2018. They gave it a test run back in January of 2018 that resulted in a glitch where hundreds of websites no longer had their news showing up in GNews, but after addressing the bug they primed another version of the shadow ban feature that managed to effectively knock a lot of smaller and mid-tier sites out of GNews with nary a peep from anyone. Blockmanity.com, a cryptocurrency news site, is one of the most recent victims of that measure, with their content either rarely appearing or not appearing at all in the GNews feeds.
The owner of Blockmanity explained to One Angry Gamer their situation, writing…
“We are on GNews but our content has stopped appearing, for “blockmanity” just some couple of old articles appear and rest some random articles, which are totally unrelated to the query”
This is true. It turns out that after April 10th, 209 Blockmanity’s content began being filtered out of GNews. However, the owner states that they noticed the drop in hits after the first week of June in 2019.
If you head to the search and type in “Blockmanity” into the search the last article that Google will show will be from April 10th, 2019 titled “PewDiePie to now Exclusively live stream on Blockchain platform Dlive”.
If you attempt to search for the various keywords in that headline within GNews, various other websites will pop-up but not Blockmanity. Even doing an incognito search returns results that exclude Blockmanity.
Now you might be thinking that the site just hasn’t produced any new content between April 10th and June 12th, 2019. However, you would be mistaken for thinking so.
If you go to the GNews search section, type in “Blockmanity” and then click on “Tools” and arrange the search results by date, you’ll note that they’ve been producing content all the way up to June 11th, 2019, as evidenced by the archive.
Basically, it’s a shadow ban.
It means that while Blockmanity’s content is still accepted into Google News and hasn’t violated any of the policies, but the content isn’t showing up when you search up even direct headlines, like the story about CryptoCompare partnering with NASDAQ. If you search it up in GNews, Blockmanity is no where to be seen. Even arranging the results by date, Blockmanity doesn’t show up, as evident in the archives.
Basically the only way to see content from Blockmanity is by searching up the site name and then arranging the content by date. If you search up any of the headlines or news stories they produce, the site doesn’t show up in GNews.
This has been a common occurrence for a lot of websites on Google, it’s just not something that many other websites report on.
Last year in August of 2018 we did a breakdown on how to test if your website was shadow banned on GNews. We also reached out to Google tech support for help back in 2018 on how to get a website off the shadow ban list, but the only thing that Google expert Stevie Web mentioned was that there’s a ranking system, and the lower you rank the less likely your content will appear in GNews, writing…
“Is possible that some articles will be extracted In addition the pendulum of Accountability, Transparency etc could swing the other way and your site will suddenly rank extremely well for every article published.
“Think of scoring News sites as a possible perfect score of 100 and you must score 70 to be approved for GN, 60 to maintain your approval (in other words some quality slippage can occur), 75 for your articles to rank and 80 for your articles rank well.
“The 60/slippage issue is why applying sites can’t compare themselves to currently approved sites because 60 isn’t good enough to be approved.
“Just doing 70, approval, isn’t enough to rank. And definitely not good enough to rank well.
“And all the stuff I mentioned is worth 20 points.
“You don’t need “everything” but you need something. […]”
The problem is that there’s no way to know what that “something” is. For instance, another Turkish news site was shadow banned last year in March of 2018. The website owner posted a comment in the Google webmaster forums later that year on October 24th, 2018 noting that his real estate site was also shadow banned. Luckily for him the site was removed from the shadow ban list and you can now very readily find content indexed into GNews from Emlakpencerem.com.
Others weren’t so lucky.
Another cryptocurrency site, CCN, was also stricken with a shadow ban but they were unable to recover due to the massive effect it had on their site.
Over on CCN.com they have a post explaining that daily revenue has dropped by 90% and that their stories are no longer visible on Google’s search engine, writing…
“Google’s June 2019 Core Update rolled out on June 3th 2019 and CCN’s traffic from Google searches dropped more than 71% on mobile overnight”
In the post, site owner Jonas Borchgrevink states that they also attempted to receive guidance and ask about the drop in traffic on the webmaster forums, but they didn’t receive useful information regarding the shadow ban from the Google techies.
Cointelegraph.com corroborated the story, noting that lots of major crypto sites were affected, but even more than that a lot of non-crypto sites were affected as well. Borchgrevink spotted a post on the Google webmaster forum from the Daily Mail’s SEO director Jesus Mendez, who wrote on June 3rd, 2019…
“The day after the broad core algorithm update (June 3rd) we saw a massive drop in Search traffic from Google (lost 50% of daily traffic). This was a drop over the course of 24-hours and we have not made any changes to the site. Further, we saw our Discover traffic drop by 90% and has not improved. This is across all verticals, devices, AMP and Non-AMP.
“My site is: dailymail.co.uk
“What’s bizarre is that we have a much more pronounced decline in the UK vs. the US. This is weird b/c the UK is our home region and historical drops have always been much more prominent in the US. […]”
To their benefit, the Daily Mail did not receive any massive penalties from the GNews search. If you go to GNews and search up “Daily Mail” you’ll get returns from content published within the minute without having to modify any of the search tool features. So Google’s penalties may be severe for the Daily Mail, but they don’t canvas every facet of the search engine.
Daily Mail wasn’t the only one affected, though.
Plenty of other sites saw a drop in visibility as well, including Vimeo, Nintendolife.com, NFL.com, Prevention.com, and Humblebundle.com.
Now the thing to keep in mind is that just because a site is shadow banned doesn’t mean that it disappears from the search altogether. Oftentimes this means reduced visibility rather than invisibility.
This is what happened to One Angry Gamer between August, 2018 and March, 2019, where we lost 15% of our search engine traffic from Google. We also saw a steady decline over the included articles within Google’s search index, dropping almost by half.
Google is essentially utilizing different kinds of methods to restrict user access to certain kinds of websites and certain kinds of content.
Back in April of 2019 we reported on the leaked memo that was sent to the Daily Caller, revealing that there were “problematic” websites that Google aggressively shadow banned. Unlike the more subtle drops in visibility suffered from some of the sites on the list above, the more active shadow bans are similar to what CCN or Blockmanity has encountered.
Soft shadow bans is where your content still regularly appears in GNews, but your content won’t appear in the news carousal nor in the top news feed curated by the Google News Initiative.
Hard shadow bans mean that your content is basically de-indexed from a lot of the general searches and rarely or almost never shows up in the GNews feeds.
In this case, it looks like Google is cranking up their efforts to act more like a publisher than a platform. According to the owner of Blockmanity, they’re planning on focusing their efforts on building up a DuckDuckGo profile, saying…
“I think its better to shift to [DuckDuckGo] now, imagine how much of our information is being shadow banned by Google just because it isn’t politically correct”
It seems like a bold move from Google to focus on shadow banning content in such an aggressive manner, especially while they’re being investigated for antitrust violations, as reported by Fortunte.
This is just added evidence to what most people already know: Google is suppressing content as a publisher instead of trying to maintain neutrality as a search engine.