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Why has examine.com disappeared from search results? (examine.com)
750 points by cyrusshepard on Aug 12, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 353 comments

I was going to say that "examine.com is one of the best sites on the internet for information about supplements/nutrition". But it's not. It's the best site on the internet for that sort of thing. It's great that Google is attempting to fix the issue of bullshit nutrition sites ranking highly, but I sincerely hope someone at Google sees this and does something to help out Examine, which is a tremendous resource.

I don't think I've come across the site before, but at first glance it doesn't look reputable at all. --I realize that looks aren't everything, but I see the following that look like red flags to me:

1. They show logs for news sources such as The New York Times, BBC, etc., but they don't actually link to those sites, let alone to articles that actually mention this site.

2. I see click-bait titles like "The top 19 nutrition myths of 2019".

3. Reviews by "professionals" that I can't easily verify. "Mike Hart, MD" is an example. Who is he? How do I know he's a real person? If he is a real person and a real doctor, how do I know he actually recommended this site?

4. The attempts to get me to spend money feels slimy. --This is pretty subjective, I know, but that's how it comes off to me.

So I can understand how this site wouldn't rank high in a search engine. I would need to do a lot of research to decide whether or not to trust it, let alone whether or not they have information that's actually worth spending money on.

Yeah you did a very cursory, cosmetic look at the site and judged it by its subject matter and web design choices.

If you would've bothered to look under the hood, you would see that they reference tons of scientific sources and provide a level of transparency and knowledge-base to the sports supplement industry that is unrivaled.

To be clear, There is no other site nearly as good as Examine for this subject matter.

I checked out examine.com and it's not as bad as the previous comment had me expecting. But it still looks like a boilerplate front page that I would pretty much immediately back out of and keep looking.

I'm not a fan of "don't judge a book by its cover." The purpose of the cover (other than to keep garlic mayo off the pages) is to be judged.

It's at the peril of the website to have such good content diminished by poor window dressing.

I’ve never gone to examine.com directly. I always get there by a google search of whatever supplement or nutrient I am researching (vitamin D examine) and it’s one of the the only places that give peer reviewed and objective and honest info about them. Their “Human Effect Matrix” tables are invaluable.


IMO, their Human Effect Matrix is the worst part of the site and often misleading, although the list of studies it links to relating to a particular aspect is sometimes helpful. The long description with references is helpful. I often go to examine.com directly and search from there since they often seem to not rank all that high on DDG and most general search results are not worth looking at (sometimes general search engines can be helpful to locate info about a more specific topic).

The four resources I've used the most when researching supplements are Google Scholar (sorry to say in this context that they are the most helpful and the reason I can't fully quit Google, although Google seems to have finally stopped making me log in to use it), Ray Sahelian's site (I'd avoid his supplements and books but the site has some good info, mostly lists of studies and some first hand reports of negative effects, and he encourages lower doses of many things), Wikipedia (mostly to find references as actual text on the page is too often inaccurate although it varies and some pages are good quality), and Examine. For the few things that the Linus Pauling Institute[0] at the University of Oregon has pages on they seem to have the best quality general summary and some helful references. There is usually surprisingly little overlap of references between these different resources so checking them all for everything seems like the best plan.

[0] https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/nutrient-index

There is a (German) tool for evaluating the quality of websites regarding nutritional information.

The QWEB tool[1]. It might help in comparing the neutrality and quality of different sites. I stumbled upon it when my SO started to study again after so many years in a dreadful job.

[1] https://www.ernaehrungs-umschau.de/fileadmin/Ernaehrungs-Ums...

Yes, but let's compare Examine.com to let's say Forbes.com

When you read an article at Forbes, you are assaulted by scrolling ads, banners and other stuff from every direction. The appearance and experience is chaotic and clingy.

If we are going by appearances, why should Examine.com have worse search indexing than Forbes articles?

Here is an example from both: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nathanvardi/2019/07/25/a-billio...


Ublock Origin + uMatrix + Privacy Badger + Disconnect will make the Forbes page appear as it should be: a white page with almost nothing but the article visible.

I sometimes attempt to surf the web without those extensions just out of curiosity, and I promptly turn them back on in horror. As of today I couldn't imagine living without them; I would rather stay offline than experiencing the awful mess nearly all web pages turned into after the 2K era.

That doesn’t matter. If a cursory visit doesn’t inspire confidence, users will back out and that will look like low engagement/low value to Google’s ranking analysis.

It’s actually a more helpful analysis for this topic to do a cursory, cosmetic look.

Except that examine is an excellent site, and their cursory look was actually more of a "motivated reasoning look". If you land directly on an examine page for a supplement, it's quite clear the site is really well done.

I'm a designer as well, not just a developer, and it's layout is really well done: clean, straightforward, clearly presented, and the data is easy to find. They link to studies and always err on the side of caution in their descriptions.

They also recently went through a redesign and I think it's really clean. But yeah, idk about their homepage and stuff, but go on any of their pages for a specific supplement and every sentence is thoroughly cited. It's also a great resource for finding relevant studies if you wanna do your own research.

> They also recently went through a redesign

In my experience, this is often the cause of mysterious drops in search ranking. It's very easy to inadvertently introduce changes that negatively impact your ranking without even noticing.

At a quick glance, I noticed that many articles on examine.com link to hundreds of external references (e.g. more than half the page of https://examine.com/supplements/creatine/). In Internet Archive snapshots from before the redesign, these have the rel="nofollow" attribute, but on the current site, they do not. I'm not saying that's the cause, but it might be worth looking into exactly what changed in the redesign.

We removed rel=nofollow AFTER the rankings went down.

There are almost always drop offs when you redesign and Google reevaluates your content, sure add back in no follow if you like but Google is really clever. It sees every page on the site has changed to something else; if that is a recent change we’ll go with Occam’s razor here.

I guess I meant recent as in about 3 months ago. But hey maybe you should notify them of the issue

Ah a redesign - I wonder if they had some migration issues it is possible to tank your traffic if you don't know what your doing.

Nope - if anything traffic slightly went up after it went live.

except, how does one just magically land one of these specific pages? usually, that would be from a search result page, but that's the point of the post. after that, it's using their site's main landing page, and then browsing/searching/etc. so the main page still has to be usable, and not just the individual articles

With the big search box right on the homepage?

Not everyone is being hostile. I think you've been beat up on this thread, but I wasn't being aggressive to you. I quite clearly stated that you use the search page on the landing site to find stuff locally. The original post was specifically about not getting results in search engines, and that's what I was attempting to support.

For me, I've never even heard of the website in question. Why would I, as it's not a field of interest for me. However, if I were to search for it, it would be a search engine result, not a search field on some website I have never knew existed.

I mean he’s right. The home page is fine too it has a big clear search box. I think he’s just pointing out there’s really no “there” there. The examine site is legit, information packed, easy to navigate and parse, and it’s primary use case is landing via search results so it’s best pages are the ones you see most.

Sidebar: examine is one of two sites I regular use the google site filter for: “site:examine.com (supplement name)”. A good search engine would put it first for basically any supplement.

Except everyone is missing the point that you can't find it in a search engine. Has anyone RTFA? That's the entire point of the article. Using a website's local search ability is irrelevant to people that have never heard of the website to visit. The search engine is where people go to find something they don't know where to go for the information they seek. Hell, parental units still go to google first (as in browser default for new window/tab) and type in facebook.com in the search field rather than directly into the browser's location field.

Also, the main page has 2 search boxes if we want to get pedantic about it. Why? I'm assuming as a dev type mindset that they will do the same thing as one is always there while the landing page disappears with use.

The point then is if you search for creatine, you end up on that page not, not the homepage.

And so if you end up on https://examine.com/supplements/creatine/ it pretty much blows away all other pages on creatine.

So at the end of the day, you still end up on useful information.

So how you go by applying this reasoning to this very website where you are commenting?

Hacker News would never be, for me personally, on the top of the list of websites that inspire confidence by its looks, it's only when you delve into it and realise the content is actually great that you can appreciate it.

Such a shallow evaluation is quite strange coming from technical people who are used to mailing lists and all sorts of badly designed (or at least aesthetically unpleasing/neutral) pages...

I don’t know how Google evaluates link aggregators. My comment was based on how Google evaluates content sites right now. I’m not saying it’s fair to Examine.com’s researchers and writers, as most of the replies to my comment appear to assume. I should have made that more clear.

They actually have published guidelines, and we meet them 100%.

Indeed. I sincerely hope they improve the situation. A favorite site of mine, Metafilter, went through something similar a few years ago. Google cracked down on user-generated content too broadly, similar to here, and they have had a tough time recovering despite their care to follow the guidelines. It’s frustrating to see it happen again.

Yup! We even mentioned MF in our blog post.

I think HN follows the aesthetic, to a good extent, of a sparse text based doc page. Those kinds of sites rank high in my personal trustworthiness rubric.

The more something has been “designed”, the more the sight falls into the untrustworthy category, barring substantial evidence to the contrary.

> Hacker News would never be, for me personally, on the top of the list of websites that inspire confidence by its looks, it's only when you delve into it and realise the content is actually great that you can appreciate it.

Other than the whole unchangeable orange theme, I think it's fairly easy to intuit.

>unchangeable orange theme

“Topcolor” setting on your profile page

Ahhhh that's what that does lol

>. If a cursory visit doesn’t inspire confidence, users will back out and that will look like low engagement/low value to Google’s ranking analysis.

But that has no bearing on whether the site is actually presenting comprehensive or accurate information.

That's not the parents point though.

If users act as though it's a dodgy site, how is google supposed to know whether it isn't? You could argue that the wrong heuristics are being used, I'm not sure the technology is there to do it any other way though?

That's not the user acting as though it's a dodgy site, that's the user acting "learning is hard! let's go to youtube".

If you are actually doing research on some subject and are actually prepared to read and obtain new knowledge then yes, your cursory first look is going to be about the content and sources/references, and if you're still going to bounce on the looks then either you're not really trying or you are still just looking for a simpler bite sized easy answer (which pretty much do not exist in this field of science).

By that logic, Google could penalize every site that has in-depth knowledge about some subject.

And now that I think about it, these are EXACTLY the kinds of websites I've been missing from the Google search results in the past years. Most people first stop for "in-depth" knowledge would be Wikipedia (try defending THAT one, 6 years ago ...) and if you really want to, maybe that PDF of a publication is not behind a paywall. The web used to be full of pages that just were made by people crazy smart about a subject and they wrote about the thing they love ...

Just for illustration, I went through my old bookmarks, the original link was dead but the page still exists: http://gernot-katzers-spice-pages.com/engl/index.html Just browse a few pages and see what a quality site it is. It even has each page in both Germand and English.

This page used to pop up all the time when you searched for spices way back in the first half of the 2000s. Try googling "fenugreek" now and cry ...

And the majority of this quality content is not even ad supported at all. That is the worst part. So many people seriously argue that you need ads to support the internet. Well, THIS is the internet that I want, the good one, the promised internet. And look at that "fenugreek" search result page again, it's being fucking buried by this shitty ad supported internet of hollow articles about "fenugreek health benefits". THAT is the internet you get, you support by supporting ads. For every starving quality journalist at the news websites that argue they have to serve you megabytes of adtech with a two paragraph article, there are a thousand regurgitated content farm bullshit sites, easily consuming the vast majority of this internet advertising pie ... it's like cheering on mass murder because the obituaries make such nice haikus some times.

>> low engagement/low value to Google’s ranking analysis.

Measuring engagement is great for shallow content, if you even can call it that. We see that all across the net.

But high-value, in-depth knowledge, is very often relatively boring.

How do you know this is what Google uses to determine how accurate the information is? Assumptions here are worthless since all they do it lead towards uninformed theories.

Examine.com is a very trustworthy website with good research, unbiased information and very good citations that are summarized in a scientific way.

Regardless of the heuristics they use to determine misinformation, they definitely messed up here and it should be re-evaluated.

That is one of the guidelines for YMYL sites unfortunately if you work in "dodgy" areas like insurance.

A few years ago some of the mega UK insurance brands got into major trouble with google. I wont mention any names but directly afterwards they started using cute animals - obviously Sergi had being doing some naughty Black Hat SEO

If a cursory look dismisses a good site, the person looking doesnt have accurate skimming and scanning skills. Judging trustworthiness is probably one of the hardest skills on the web. It takes immense amounts of practice. Like many other skills, its probably one where people are over confident in their own abilities.

This xkcd provides a surprisingly effective metric:


>To be clear, There is no other site nearly as good as Examine for this subject matter.

To be clear, no one has presented any actual evidence to back that up yet.

Why not do some research yourself? What do you think are some other contenders for best websites to see compiled research on individual supplements (especially unusual supplements)?

And once you've done this research, will you still believe that Examine's pages rarely deserve to be in the top 10 results on relevant search queries?

It's easy to compare something to abstract perfection, and find it wanting. But if you compare things to actual real alternatives, it's often easier to get a more realistic perspective. (General life principle, in my experience.)

It's the claim of you and others here that this is "the" best site on the topic online. It's up to you to back that claim up, not for other people to run around to get evidence to disprove it.

Also, it would be good to get back to the main topic of the blog post. Even if Examine is normally only 10th best, they should be appearing on Google's first page of web results.

I do happen to think that Examine is the best (usually). But even if you disagreed, probably if you did a thorough bit of research comparing them to alternatives in this important search space, you would agree that they are better than most of what is ranking ahead of them.

Here's some evidence. Anyone who has spent enough time researching supplements, that they could even conceivably name a better supplement site has agreed examine is the best.

And the only people who disagree are people who never done any serious supplement research

If you have a bunch of hockey fans arguing Wayne Gretzky is the greatest hockey player of all time against a bunch of people who've never watched a game and can't name a single hockey player it's pretty obvious who's right.

Except, of course, people have actually heard of Wayne Gretzky, and many people not hockey fans even know what he looks like (or did during his career).

It's not like some random, sketchy Canadian guy shows up, saying he's not being treated as befits a great hockey player, and when people go, "Uh, are you a great hockey player? I've never heard of you,..", in response, a bunch of randos appear on cure to say, "What?! Prove any better hockey player exists than John Smith in the history of the game in any league!"

Or, put another way, a bunch of angry randos doesn't prove anything. You get those turning up for anything online, from raw food diets to hexagonal water.

The difference being hockey is a giant sport, and supplement research is a very niche hobby.

I'm not trying to convince you supplements aren't bogus or even that examine is a great resource.

Just that the claim "there exists a better supplement site than examine.com" is a false one. Let me start with why do you believe this claim to be true or at least more likely than the opposing claim.

"The difference being hockey is a giant sport..."

Your choice of metaphor. But you're clearly not getting the point; what you imagine is "obvious" about your rightness really isn't.

"Just that the claim 'there exists a better supplement site than examine.com'..."

This is not a point I've seen anyone here arguing. It's definitely not a point I'm arguing. However, it's clearly a point you and the otherthe boosters of this site want to argue against - that's what's called a strawmen argument.

It's you boosters of this site who have been making the claim - without offering a bit of evidence or support - that this is the single best supplement site, that it's great and useful, etc. Not even not-terribly-convincing evidence, not even flimsy evidence, no evidence at all. Just your curiously consistent demands that we prove you wrong

It doesn't work that way. If you make a claim, then you back it up. If you try to punt the burden of proof to the people questioning you, it's obvious what you're doing.

Hell, for all I know, no good supplement sites actually exist and every single one on the subject is a crap site that deserves search blacklisting. So, it would be a complete snipe hunt to try to find a "better" site than any random worthless site. This would not prove what you imagine it proves.

"Not even not-terribly-convincing evidence, not even flimsy evidence, no evidence at all."

I've listed quite a bit of things I would consider to be strong evidence in favor of Examine being a high-quality supplements site deserving of getting high ranks in Google supplement search results. So have numerous other commenters in this comments section. The Examine employee, AhmedF, has as well.

So I'm curious- what would qualify as "evidence" for you? And why do none of the other points mentioned qualify as "evidence"?

I'm pretty baffled at this point as to what it would take. You ask for evidence, I think remarkably strong evidence has been provided by me and numerous others, and then you just seem to ignore it?

BTW, I think our discussion got mentioned on the Nootropics subreddit comments thread about this topic. (Examine's blog post is one of the top 10 posts of all time on that subreddit. People with a big interest in supplements consider this to be a BIG deal).

Our discussion was referenced here- https://www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/cpg1ha/over_the...

"God those comments represent the worst of hacker news. There is a giant argument about whether examine.com is the best website on supplements. With anyone who's ever looked at a supplement site arguing it's examine.com and people who've never looked at a supplement site in their life arguing that surely a better one must exist."

"I've listed quite a bit of things I would consider to be strong evidence in favor of Examine"

Charitably, maybe you've done so somewhere else on the internet. Taking a second to look at every post by you on this thread, however, the only thing you've listed are other sites that come up higher on searches. All of your posts have been demanding that other people prove wrong your flat assertions that Examine is awesome.

And I'm not feeling charitable at this point. I don't believe you're communicating in good faith. That you can dig up other woo-pushers on reddit (of course there's a nootropics subreddit...) doesn't impress me one bit. You said you were dropping it before, but I'm telling you I'm done with you now.

>Charitably, maybe you've done so somewhere else on the internet."

No, I mentioned things in this thread. And of course, so have many other people.

To copy and paste the simplest excerpt, and ignore a few minor additional bits:

>that they cite massive amounts of scientific papers, that they've been cited by the NYTimes and other media news outlets, the fact the post got hundreds of upvotes is its own evidence, the fact they don't sell supplements or make money from advertising, etc."

Examine, to the best of my knowledge, has:

The most social proof

Cites the most scientific papers

Has been cited by a number of neutral and relatively authoritative media outlets

Has the best incentive structure (just making money from selling guides)

Every competitor links to fewer scientific papers for the user to do their own digging, and appears to be less neutral in what they cite.

Every other competitor is ad-funded and assaults the user with ads. Examine does not.

Many other competitors also sell their own supplements. Examine does not.

Most of the competitors are backed by powerful corporations with a history of bad behavior in multiple domains (pharma companies, etc). Examine doesn't have this issue.

I'm also amazed that you have so far discounted the personal experiences of other people, involving a great deal of research and personal experimentation. That is normally considered valuable in most domains, especially something as personal as health.

I also consider it to be valuable that the company (via its employee AhmedF at least) is willing to participate in discussions. There is some degree of visibility and accountability there. I am not aware of any other informational websites which do this.

And previously before he left Examine, the redditor silverhydra was very active and accountable (and transparent, as far as I could see), on numerous subreddits, participating in ways which often had nothing to do with his business.

Anyway :). Hopefully this discussion ends up serving you in the long run, one way or another.

And if you're done, then have a wonderful time in this magical chemical world, however that works for you ~~.

So what are you arguing if not that examine isn't the best supplement site?

You and others here have multiple replies from multiple people, including myself, explaining this in detail. I'm beyond even trying to think that you're posting in good faith.

I went through your responses and none that I saw made any argument besides that the "boosters" provided no evidence. When in fact the thread is littered with people mentioning the quality of the site. The cited sources, the strong background of the founding members, recommendations from scientists, the New York times relying on their expertise.

So I think you might be mistaken about making a clear argument against examine. Most of the arguments you've made have been about what the appropriate burden of proof in an internet argument. But I wasn't able to find where you shed light on what your counter argument is or engage with any of the arguments the "boosters" have made.

Some people in the thread have engaged with the evidence arguing they aren't an authoritative source but most have them had misconceptions that were corrected.

The quality is high by any standards but particularly stands out relative to other supplement which is littered with fraud and ignorance.

Why are skeptics like you usually so freaking lazy?

If Examine wasn't great, it should be quite easy for you to find literally just one source that was consistently and objectively better.

The task of the skeptic is quite a lot easier. For the the fan, it's a lot harder- a fan like me would have to literally track down EVERY single alternative and show it was not as good as the thing we admire.

All you have to do, as a skeptic, is find a single better source. Much easier to do.

But I'm willing to do some of your work for you.

Here is a list of the websites which usually rank above Examine:

WebMD (which openly partners with pharmaceutical companies)

Healthline (originally launched in 1999, it owns Drugs.com, Livestrong, Greatist, MedicalNewsToday)

VerywellHealth (partners with the Cleveland Clinic, started as an About.com company)

Hospital websites (such as UMMC, the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic, Sloan-Kettering, NYU, etc.)

Governmental institutions (NIH/Pubmed, CDC, ODS, FDA, etc.)

Other medical news sites (which are almost always owned by WebMD or Healthline)

Is any single one of those more credible and neutral than Examine, typically? Are their sources as comprehensive, and do they summarize things as cleanly and neutrally?

Does any one of them even have better moral incentives? Examine only makes money from selling informational guides, apparently. That sounds the best to me.

"Why are skeptics like you usually so freaking lazy?"

Because there are an endless number of fools, liars, and lunatics demanding that we do their work for them.

This is very simple, though. There appear to be two people competing claims here.

Me and other satisfied readers of a free website, claiming Examine is a great resource, and usually the best single resource.

And many of us have provided evidence- that they cite massive amounts of scientific papers, that they've been cited by the NYTimes and other media news outlets, the fact the post got hundreds of upvotes is its own evidence, the fact they don't sell supplements or make money from advertising, etc.

You (or other skeptics), saying it's not a great resource (while ignoring all evidence already provided).

And you are also providing zero evidence, despite the supporters of Examine providing a ton of evidence for why it is a high-quality and credible site.

By being skeptical, you are claiming something, right?

The claim you are making is much easier to back up. You literally just have to find ONE source which is usually better. We already did a lot of work, why can't you do some work?

And yet, you refuse to do that. You're being much more lazy than me. I've already tried things partly due to Examine's research, and I was satisfied with the results. And I paid nothing for those great benefits.

And then I shared my experience, for free, because I appreciate the help I was given.

All you have to do is find a single objectively superior source than Examine. (Or 10, if you want to actually address the original post).

I am not asking you to do "my work", which I have already done, I am asking you to do work to back up YOUR assertion.

Hell, I even provided you with some likely candidates to start your research, if you actually care to not be lazy.

"You (or other skeptics), saying it's not a great resource (while ignoring all evidence already provided)."

No, simply pointing out that it's your job in this discussion to present that evidence, not to try the frequently disingenuous tactics of "Oh, if you knew anything about this subject you'd know this is the greatest site EVAR" or "I'm saying this site is great. You have to do the legwork to dare to doubt me!".

I'm not claiming anything about the site that you're stanning for. I'm simply doubting the tales of rainbow unicorn farts and victimization by Google that people like you are pushing here.

But then, you are a very easy person to doubt. Your knee-jerk hostility to "skeptics" makes me think you push a lot of woo to anyone who has the misfortune to be stuck listening to you.

"No, simply pointing out that it's your job in this discussion to present that evidence"

I have provided evidence. (I've even included the unique evidence of personal experience. Hundreds of hours of research & experimentation- research on multiple websites- from someone with no vested financial interest, should count for something.)

I am also asserting that skeptics should also provide evidence. It's like in a courtroom- both the prosecution and the defense should provide evidence.

And again, the task for the skeptic is far easier- they only have to find a single superior resource, among thousands of possible contenders.

And if you want to be an effective skeptic, you should probably try to add some compelling evidence to your skepticism. It's in your interest to add evidence, if you are really such a big believer in your skepticism.

(I don't hate skepticism btw- normally I am a skeptic, that's why my nickname is "data_required"- I just dislike the lazy reflexive style of skepticism on display in this thread.)

And if I knew of other evidence to add besides what was in the comments section so far (having read all of the comments), I would add it.

The only other thing I can think of is that I know that the user "silverhydra" posts a lot on reddit, and is heavily involved with Examine. So I guess you can see a track record of how an employee of theirs behaves in an online forum.

"I'm simply doubting the tales of rainbow unicorn farts and victimization by Google that people like you are pushing here."

Why do you feel the need to exaggerate? How do you go from reading a claim of "great resource for information!" to "rainbow unicorn farts"?

Nobody has even asserted that Examine is the only site people should use, or that it is absolutely authoritative.

HN is filled with skeptics (compared to the general population), and Examine is clearly popular among skeptics. Maybe that should count for something?

It's not like anybody has claimed they used the site to figure out how to cure their own cancer. You know what I mean?

Also, nobody from Examine asserted that Google is trying to deliberately harm the company. (Nor am I asserting it.)

The blog post was a rather polite complaint, with evidence attached, that they had mystifyingly lost the prominence in search results which they once had.

And numerous people have documented that other search engines (Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.) have much more respect for Examine. It's a Google-specific complaint, and appears to be due to a generic update to their algorithm.

You're clearly not familiar with the "burden of proof" principle. Go ahead, google it, especially given that you mention legal cases. The person who makes a particular assertion has the onus of proving the same. Like one of the previous posters said, we are flooded with people making bullshit claims of how something like homeopathy "works" because they know it from personal experience, and we shouldn't have to be the ones to disprove nonsense like that.

> It's like in a courtroom- both the prosecution and the defense should provide evidence.

You're mistaken. In criminal cases, the burden is on the prosecution to establish their case beyond all reasonable doubt. The defence does not have to prove innocence; it merely has to establish there is insufficient evidence for a guilty verdict.

And actually, let's revisit the prosecution vs. defense analogy.

The skeptic is really more in the position of the prosecution. The fans are really more in the position of the defense.

The skeptic is basically saying the fans have committed a crime against truth. They are saying that the fans have something to DEFEND. (Hence, the fans are the defendants.)

And the skeptics claim is much easier to prove. It is far easier for the prosecution to prove that a crime has been committed (if it has been committed), than it is for the defense to prove that a crime wasn't committed (assuming no crime was committed).

The skeptics in this position SHOULD have the easier case to prove, which is why the burden should be on them.

Like I've repeated endlessly, and I even furnished the main competitors, if there are websites that are clearly better than Examine, that should be pretty easy to show.

Literally no human on the planet is capable of proving that Examine is better than every single competitor, though. There are thousands of other supplement websites.

You can't support the position that skeptics are allowed to show up everywhere, and voice skepticism of literally everything, and then suddenly that means that people who appreciate things must then be forced to prove things which in some cases are nearly impossible to prove. That is utterly ridiculous.

Skeptics should at least participate a little bit, if they actually give a shit.

You give skeptics a bad name. I am a skeptic yet I hold the belief that if you state the negation of a claim, then indeed you should support it with evidence. They did not do so.

I agree, allowing "skeptics" to make you prove everything is a waste of time.

I agree, examine.com is great because for everything I could find on it contained backed up statements on a single page. It is a great resource. I use it mostly for nutritional supplements.

"The person who makes a particular assertion has the onus of proving the same."

But both sides are making assertions. The appreciators of Examine and other resources, are not the only people making assertions.

And the assertion that Examine isn't the best- the skeptics position- should be far easier to prove.

For some reason, that one guy will go to great lengths to make the general case for skepticism, when the specific case for skepticism- that there are sufficient websites objectively better than Examine such that Examine shouldn't be ranked near the top- should in theory be much easier to establish.

But he avoids that at every turn.

"In criminal cases, the burden is on the prosecution to establish their case beyond all reasonable doubt. The defence does not have to prove innocence; it merely has to establish there is insufficient evidence for a guilty verdict."

Lol. As though the defense never provides evidence boosting their client. But thanks for telling me what anybody could ever tell you who has served on a jury, or had a class in basic civics.

Look, skeptics need to furnish evidence, too. The people who appreciate Examine have provided a ton of evidence. It is LAZY LAZY LAZY that every skeptic wants to avoid digging deep.

I've already DONE immense research on supplements and the websites providing information about them. So have many others.

None of the skeptics in this thread are people who claim to be familiar with this domain. They just want to act like they are superior know-it-alls because they can lazily tout the general merits of skepticism.

Just like the defense will eagerly provide any evidence of innocence that they can muster, it is in the interests of skeptics to furnish evidence that the skeptical position is warranted. But few skeptics in this thread seem to want to do that.

If they think there is something better, they should let the rest of us know. Or they should build it themselves.

The sceptic makes no assertion, he's asking you to prove your claim. No more, no less. Asking for proof doesn't mean asserting the opposite and even if you cannot prove your claim, it doesn't mean that your claim is incorrect. It just means you couldn't prove it. And sometimes one should just admit to be unable to prove a certain claim, even if it is correct, and change scope to something provable. Especially when the claim is unprovable to begin with, like "being the best" usually is.

Supplements aren't homeopathy. The research done on then and linked to on examine is scientific research. It's just not great scientific research, similar to the entire field of psychology.

Also "supplements work really well" is a very different argument than this is the best website on supplement research.

There is not a single person in this thread of 100's who can name a single source of better information on supplements.

How would you prove that a psychology text book was the best even if it was so obviously the case that anyone who had ever read multiple psychology textbooks agreed with you. And everyone who disagreed with you had never more than a skimmed one?

I'd say it's unprovable and that you should just accept that you cannot prove your claim. After all, you don't know every [X] and just this moment a new [X] could've been published, which is better than the one you claim to be the best.

Just change your scope to something provable if you want your claims to be believed by sceptics. For example "[X] is the best that I know." would work.

My use of the word prove shouldn't be read as the mathematical method for establishing proofs. But the conversational use of the word prove. As in what evidence would you like to convince you of a claim. Not the rigor of a mathematical proof but to the rigor of "convince me this is more likely than the alternative."

There are two competing claims "examine is the best supplement website online"(examiners) vs "there exists a better supplement supplement website online".(otherers) One of these is true and the other is false.

While lots of "examiners" have argued and provided evidence, but the only argument brought by the "otherers" is they they don't need to bring any evidence.

..which they don't. Burden of proof doesn't lie with them. They also never made any other claim, like you suggest. My takeaway from this whole discussion thread is that the site is sketchy. It might not be, but that's my impression as someone who hasn't heard of the site before. As I don't care for the topic the site covers either, I won't bother researching this myself and will leave it at that.

I can see that, but those of us interested in the topic have a lot of respect for examine. They tried very hard to make sure their incentivizes align with the readers (by selling subscriptions) when most supplement companies go for the far easier monetization strategy of selling or promoting supplements. They've worked with lots of great scientists and experts on nutrition. The quality of information on the website is high by any standard but especially high for the supplement industry which is filled with a toxic mix of fraud and ignorance.

Also, it's rude of you to keep downvoting my replies to you. If you apparently respect the discussion enough to continue it, you don't need to automatically downvote everything, especially when you refuse to put in any evidentiary work yourself.

Stop being so petty.

So that you know, in case you haunt this place in the future, posters here can't downvote direct responses to their posts.

That's other people doing that. When enough people downvote your posts, that's when they start turning lighter and lighter gray.

Also, to be honest, none of my comments shows as grey, but a couple of yours do. I don't get it. (I do have one comment showing as -1, previously -2).

Can't help you with that; every other post you've made is pretty faded to me.

"in case you haunt this place in the future"

I've "haunted" this place since the first day it existed (though with other nicknames), and will doubtless haunt it for years to come. I just normally lurk, not comment.

This was just a topic important enough to bring me out of the woodwork.

"posters here can't downvote direct responses to their posts."

I did not know this, thank you for explaining. Apparently someone is following our discussion and almost instantly downvoting me each time (I guess...)

I never experienced that before, so I thought it was you. My apologies, apparently you are not rude like I thought.

And I want to explain why I am so passionate about this.

Resources like Examine are amazing for lots of people. And the fact that they are free and credible, is incredible.

So I hate it when people like you are incredibly lazy, only doing cursory looks at things, and then pretend that those of us who have done hundreds of hours of research are the lazy ones.

Not only that, but people like you are probably scaring off lots of people who need help, from one of the few credible resources in the online space.

To me, you are not only lazy, your lazy skepticism is the sort of thing which will hurt lots of people. (Maybe you don't do so much damage by yourself, but people like you absolutely do damage sometimes. Sometimes your skepticism helps people. But sometimes your lazy skepticism hurts people, too.)

"So I hate it when people like you are incredibly lazy, only doing cursory looks at things, and then pretend that those of us who have done hundreds of hours of research are the lazy ones."

Then maybe look into how to present yourself as something other than a wide-eyed lunatic.

To me, if not mindlessly taking the word of an online hype squad sets them off, that's a big, red flag.

I think you need to allow people to be passionate about things which have helped them.

Hell, I'm not even as passionate as the typical sports fan.

And this is true, despite my not having to pay any money for information which has helped my sleep, concentration, athletic performance, social comfortability, empathy for others, etc.

Most people would pay tens of thousands of dollars for the benefits I've received. And I got those benefits with some free info, and a few hundred dollars worth of supplements.

So don't feel so shocked if someone has a positive opinion about the company which provided a lot of the "free information" part of that equation.

Anyway, thank you for the interesting discussion. One thing I've learned from supplement experimentation is that biochemistry heavily dictates the kinds of feelings and thoughts people are capable of. It's entirely possible we will be unable to persuade each other of much of anything, if our biochemistry doesn't make it salient to do so :).

Have a great day, wherever you are!!

Let me address these:

1. No one links to them. You are welcome to google. Eg here: https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-... - you'll see their entire supplement section is from our site

2. That is our one, and it's more of a play on 2019 and 19. If you read the article, you'll see it's no-nosense.

3. How exactly do I prove someone is real?

A quick google search shows this guy: https://twitter.com/drmikehart - you are welcome to tweet at him. Or at the others.

4. We analyze information and sell that for revenue. We are a business - alas, we have no tree that grows money in our backyard.

> 3. How exactly do I prove someone is real?

A link to his biography at his alma-mater, doctor profile at the hospital or clinic where he works, his personal web-site. There are a few things that would inspire confidence.

3. How exactly do I prove someone is real?

A quick google search shows this guy: https://twitter.com/drmikehart - you are welcome to tweet at him. Or at the others.

Why don't you just provide a link and save the user from having to google? I'd trust a link to a medical practice looking business website much more than to a twitter account.

Re 3. providing a bio and referencing their other work is a good start; as is linking to trusted sources, LinkedIn, the person's Uni or business resumé page, a "verified" Twitter account might work; if they're of note they may have a Wikipedia page ...

Good idea!

Here's Kamal's thorough bio page: https://examine.com/user/kamalpatel/

Here's Kamal verified on twitter: https://twitter.com/zenkamal

Here's him on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamal_Patel_(researcher)

Here's Examine.com on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Examine.com

Just FYI I was addressing the question. You're being a bit salty. You should have asked "what else other than x, y , z" if you already had a good answer.

Aside: the Creatine page links to https://examine.com/about/#researchers which is below where Kamal Patel appears on that page, so I scanned down the page and he wasn't mentioned (he's at the top, but I had to search to find him).

That page is long, and linking to generic prose about researchers from a named link made me think there was no information on that person.

That could be a one-off error, of course.

He's being salty elsewhere because HN commenters are being rude to him. Here, he's just directly addressing the parent comment, without providing any color at all.

Hahahaha, this is largely unrelated, but I can attest that mike is a real person — he and I taught tennis together 12 years ago. Small world.

1. There is no good reason not to link to them, there are only bad reasons not to link to them. You're not linking to them because they're not outright endorsements, and you know it.

2. The item below that is '4 science-based “superfoods” you should consider eating'. That's pretty much just as much click-bait as the other.

3. You link to the person providing the review, preferably to a page where they actually say that they're recommending your site. Why are you making it my - or anyone else's - job to figure out who is endorsing you and to verify that they really have?

4. Yes, you are a business, and you really make it clear on your main page. Like it or not, people don't put blind faith in companies trying to sell them stuff. That makes your job harder, sure, but that's life.

Look, at the end of the day you can ignore what I've written. I'm not claiming to be anyone or have any sort of following. I'm not a developer, I work in support, and I deal with customers, so I spend a lot of time trying to see things from their perspective.

You've lost a lot of potential business from Google de-emphasizing your site in their results. I don't claim to know why they've done this, I'm just giving my impressions when I look at things from the perspective of the average user (insomuch as there is an "average user", of course).

Looking deeper, I tried to checkout some backlinks to your site. From news sites, I see a couple of trends, some good, some not so good. The Washington Post article you link to is actually one of the better ones - it's not an actual endorsement from WaPo, but it is a 3rd party recommending your site. The article you link to from The New York Times, and another one from The Sydney Morning Herald, aren't really good links - they're quoting Kamal Patel as the director of Examine.com. The NYT at least does provide a few deep links, but still, I doubt it comes off as a real endorsement to the average reader.

I could go on, but I'm not an SEO expert, and your reply doesn't really make it seem like you're open to feedback.

You are literally trying to find things to complain about.

1. It's standard MO not to. We never even claimed outright endorsements...

2. Did you click on the link? We immediately say how superfoods do not exist.

As I said - just trying to fight it.

3. Anahand literally decided to quote the entire supplement section of his strength building guide (which was a section in the published newspaper) to us. If that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is.

Or you can go ahead and tweet at him.

There isn't a conspiracy around every corner.

4. Yes, and we appreciate that. We also note we do not sell supplements. We have no ads. We sell information.

Here's an example: https://a99d9b858c7df59c454c-96c6baa7fa2a34c80f17051de799bc8... - I wonder how you'll find ways to nitpick at that.

> open to feedback

This isn't feedback. This is you trying to find reasons to dismiss the website. There is no good faith here.

Sorry you're having to defend yourself so much. I just discovered the site from this post, and it's excellent.

Examines strengths is their pages on individual items. The rest I imagine if SEO fodder. They do try to sell their guide, but their website is one of the top references for a lot of nerds trying to research ingredients in nootropics, multivitamins, and preworkouts.

Take for example their page on Creatine[1]. Summarizes and links 746 references. Their chart goes over "What do people claim this does" "How much of an effect does it have on that thing" "How sure are we about that"

[1] https://examine.com/supplements/creatine/

As some one who has been dealing with a condition where I am very concerned about Creatine.

Shear numbers is not really a good metric a paper from a renal specialist like, say the main doctor I saw for years and set up the renal unit at Lister has say a different value to some other citations/

> renal doctor.

Our HEM specifically mentions kidney function and links to studies that looked at creatine and kidney function.

The NYTimes and other news site links and the detailed bios of the medical professionals are on the about page which is very prominent in the nav


Almost everything you listed is pretty standard landing page web design. Its only a problem if it was actually fake, which it's not. That type of thing aways requires effort on your part. At least read the about page.

They've decided to make a landing page that tries to be splashy rather than one that inspires confidence.

But here's the thing, I also did look at the About page, or part of it. The top of the page is a video (blocked by Privacy Badger), and then they're saying that they are funded by selling things.

The New York Times quoted someone from Examine.com, but that was at the very bottom of the article. They do link to a few pages, but I'd definitely not argue that this is a ringing endorsement. The Washington Post article is similar. They don't link to any BBC or The Guardian article, so I don't know how those sites come into play. I'm not familiar with Medpage Today, and Men's Health isn't a source I turn to for hard research. Let's not even go into Forbes.

At that point I gave up on the About page.

Now, more specific pages do a better job, and do cite actual studies. But even then there are confusing areas. Consider the "Human Effect Matrix" - something that should be making things clear as to what their meta analysis has found: I see the section "Magnitude of Effect", and I see values such as "Minor" with a blue arrow pointing up, or "Minor" with a red arrow pointing down. Now, yes, I can read the tool tip at the top of the section and infer that blue probably means increasing effect and red means decreasing effect, but for many people this isn't going to be clear at all. It's also not always clear if these are positive or negative effects without digging much deeper.

So when we get into parts of the site that are more detailed, they're not clear enough for the average person on the internet, and could easily cause confusion. --That's actually a very good reason for Google to not surface them. Which sucks, because I think people are right that they do have good information, they're just not presenting it well.

> 2. I see click-bait titles like "The top 19 nutrition myths of 2019".

It's 2019. EVERYONE does this to get attention from people.

> 3. Reviews by "professionals" that I can't easily verify. "Mike Hart, MD" is an example. Who is he? How do I know he's a real person? If he is a real person and a real doctor, how do I know he actually recommended this site?

They actually cite sources. You really need to look at particular topics on the website.

> 4. The attempts to get me to spend money feels slimy. --This is pretty subjective, I know, but that's how it comes off to me.

As you point out, this is really subjective. And I don't spend money on the website.

You are basically saying that they don't do SEO well, not actually critiquing their work. You would not need a lot of research to decide if their page on any supplement, e.g. [0], is reputable, cause they cite sources.

[0] https://examine.com/supplements/ashwagandha/

> > 2. I see click-bait titles like "The top 19 nutrition myths of 2019".

> It's 2019. EVERYONE does this to get attention from people.

Nobody that successfully gets my attention does that.

The front page of BBC is filled with clickbait headlines every day

Oddly enough, I rarely visit BBC's homepage, or listen. to their braodcasts any more, for very much this reason.

And no, this isn't a "gummint news bad" opinion. Commercial is frequently vastly worse, and the travails of the industry have long been evident. But overt pandering is a brand-killer.

For shame, they've really jumped head long in to being more 'tabloid' and less of a serious news source.

You're assuming that the BBC successfully gets his attention. Personally, I don't even visit the BBC anymore and haven't for over a decade.

Are you trying to say that you represent the majority of the population? What's the point of this comment?

OJFord is presumably implying that at least one person exists who gets their attention, so not EVERYONE does that, and furthermore that OJFord is people, so doing that is to some unspecified extent actually counterproductive to getting attention from people. The entirely absurd premise you suggest is in no wise necessary for making sense of their comment, since there exist far more plausible implied premises.

A much more explicit and uncut explanation is available at my comment below: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20680657

>> 2. I see click-bait titles like "The top 19 nutrition myths of 2019".

> It's 2019. EVERYONE does this to get attention from people

Even Google themselves https://www.blog.google/products/assistant/8-tips-stress-fre...

> It's 2019. EVERYONE does this to get attention from people.

I don't. Nobody I respect does. None of the scientific papers they cite do. Nobody in my friends list on Fecebutt does. Nobody I follow on Twitter does, to my knowledge. Slatestarcodex doesn't. HN doesn't. Wikipedia doesn't. Library Genesis doesn't. The Pirate Bay doesn't. JSTOR doesn't. Sam Zeloof doesn't. Ken Shirriff doesn't. The only sites I've visited in the last couple of days that pull that kind of bullshit are the Daily Beast, Vice, and Bloomberg, neither of which is to the trustworthiness standards of the sites and people listed above, and examine.com.

It seems that you have imprisoned yourself in a sort of filter bubble of dishonest hustlers. You might want to rethink your life decisions.

I am not on Twitter, I am not on Facebook. I am not on Instagram. And I am in academia. Thanks for your concern for me.

The filter bubble based on headlines is your own, where you might actually be missing out on useful content, just because they used a particular headline to grab eyeballs.

What was the title of your last paper? And the last paper you read?

I don't think I have sufficient reason to engage this line of questioning. Have a good day, Kragen.

Well, okay, maybe you haven't published anything yet. That's okay, we all have to start somewhere. But, when you do, here's a tip: your paper is overwhelmingly likely to get rejected if you title it something like “The top 19 myths of 2019 about efficient rank-order filtering.” :)

Context is essential in headline writing. You must consider your audience and the goal. Here, the title of paper plays a very different role to the title of a blog post.

The blog post example is designed to attract a specific audience. Clearly, you are not a member of that audience. However, that does not prevent them from writing articles which would be of interest to you. It also does not mean that the audience doesn't exist, however small you believe it to be.

It seems that you agree with me, and disagree with sachdevap, that not EVERYONE writes dishonest clickbait headlines in order to get attention. The truth of that proposition is not dependent on what audiences I may or may not be a member of.

I do think "everyone" was hyperbole, yes.

However, I'm unsure why clickbait has to be dishonest. In the example the headline was clearly written to attract people with (or susceptible to) a preconceived belief (which the article argues against). Those people are probably more susceptible to the clickbait.

Could you elaborate on the dishonesty?

What, you mean “The top 19 nutrition myths of 2019”? Well, declaring a belief a “myth” is a pretty nasty rhetorical move—it implicitly claims that those who believe it are merely ignorant pagans whose beliefs are absurd, a claim that is only rarely justifiable, and certainly not in this case. And in what sense are these myths “top”? Did they take a poll? Because I don't see any evidence of that in the article. It looks like they just took 19 popular beliefs and made a list. (Why 19? Because odd numbers tested better in A/B clickbait tests over the last several years.) They don't even seem to be in any kind of rank order, with the #1 and #19 items being relatively minor beliefs.

I say “beliefs” rather than “misconceptions” because in fact many of them are true under some circumstances, or still under active scientific debate.

Belief #1, that protein is bad for your kidneys and bones, is true of kidneys in people who are prone to certain kinds of kidney stones https://kidneystones.uchicago.edu/does-too-much-protein-incr... and the debate about bones seems to still be open. Also, excess protein is definitely very bad for you if you have kidney dysfunction, but the danger isn't always specifically to your kidneys in that case. Probably these should have been mentioned in the article, as similar caveats are in items #4 and #6.

Beliefs #2 and #3 are broadly false but an important caveat is that a diet that contains high levels of macronutrients necessarily contains a lot of calories, which are bad for you. There's still a scientific consensus that high-caloric-density foods—things like bread, mayonnaise, butter, and ice cream, as opposed to lean meat and cabbage, increase your risk of obesity and cardiovascular diseases. (Presumably this is because their lower sensation of satiety per calorie results in overeating, but such explanations are still not scientifically solid.)

Belief #6 is correct for people with salt-sensitive hypertension, as the article notes.

And so on. Most of the “myths” are more accurately “oversimplifications” or “overgeneralizations” or just “debatable”, although a few are really without foundation. But telling that truth in the headline wouldn't attract as many readers, so they packed two or three lies into a seven-word headline. They should get some kind of prize for data compression algorithms or something!

You should try reading the full article (the myths article links to an article that expounds on each myth) before accusing us of being oversimplified.

As for the myths themselves - we've received over 50,000 emails from our users over the past 8 years. I'm pretty confident we can state those as myths that remain persistent in the nutrition space.

As I think I said, the article body is fairly decent despite the occasional missed caveat; my thesis was merely that the headline is false, and intentionally so. I haven't read the whole article, but as you can see from my comment above, I did read a substantial fraction of it. That's how I know the falsehoods in the headline are not mere errors.

I did not accuse you of being oversimplified, and I'm sorry that wasn't clear. I said that beliefs like “salt is bad for you” are not so much myths as they are oversimplified, since indeed there is (for example) a very significant population with salt-sensitive hypertension. The thing that is oversimplified is the (broadly incorrect) belief held by many people, the belief you are arguing against. Since it contains an important element of truth, it is dishonest to simply call it a “myth”.

I have little doubt that these beliefs remain persistent. My thesis there is not that they aren't persistent; it is that they probably aren't the “top 19”, as the headline claims, presumably falsely.

I don't expect you to change your headline-writing practices, since clearly the dishonest strategy that produced that headline was chosen intentionally, but I do want to make sure that you don't misunderstand my critique. I think it's kind of a shame that you're throwing away credibility with dishonest headlines, intrusive interstitial newsletter ads, and so on, when the articles themselves are so valuable. But I'm fighting my own battles, not yours.

AhmedF has posted a truly remarkable response to this post, one I think is very relevant to assessing the integrity and trustworthiness of his web site, a response that has unfortunately been flagged into oblivion. It's quoted here in full for the benefit of those without showdead turned on:

Just wow.

> since clearly the dishonest strategy that produced that headline was chosen intentionally, but I do want to make sure that you don't misunderstand my critique.

It's people like you that put a bad name on engineers.

> The thing that is oversimplified is the (broadly incorrect) belief held by many people, the belief you are arguing against. Since it contains an important element of truth, it is dishonest to simply call it a “myth”.

It's a myth if it's preached when it does not apply to a majority.

Yikes. I wonder how fresh and clear the air is up there on your high horse.

I actually write zero of the content on Examine.com because I'm not qualified to do so. Which you would know if you actually looked at the site instead of arguing in bad-faith with a dash of superiority complex.

Unlike you, I try to separate my opinions from facts.

What's your role?

> Fecebutt

Seriously? This is worse than people still including $ in Microsoft.

I have no idea how you could think I intended that joke seriously. Do you work for Micro$oft or something?

I'd be interested in hearing your internal thought process on why you spelled it that way. I took it to be a private joke that you had forgotten about your "cloud-to-butt" plugin again. That is, an intentional aside to amuse yourself and some small subset of readers, but irrelevant to the public point you were making.

On the other hand, 'skinnymuch' is right that there are a lot of people who unconsciously subvert their own messages by using similar childish insults based creative spellings. You are obviously aware of this likely misreading, but chose to make the bad joke anyway. I quite likely would have done the same, but why did you do it this time?

@skinnymuch: Accept that it was a joke. You are right that it was indistinguishable from a non-joke, but this is part of the joke. It's hard to account for people's taste in humor.

I appreciate any opportunity to childishly make fun of Fecebutt. It improves the quality of any discourse! It didn't occur to me that someone might think I meant it seriously—that is, that I honestly think the company is called that by, for example, its employees. As I said the other day, there's a sort of Rule 34 of epistemological malpractice, too. It's not just for porn anymore!

It's true that there are people out there who aren't capable of understanding a serious point if it has jokes in it, but I'm not interested in taking responsibility for their cognitive limitations. I'm more interested in amusing other people who would like to childishly ridicule Fecebutt!

The truth of the (non-Fecebutt-related) point I was making is adequately clear to anyone who stops to think about it a moment. It's not some kind of abstruse theorem about linear-time sorting algorithms, or advocacy of some kind of controversial economic policy or something.

> that is, that I honestly think the company is called that by, for example, its employees.

> I'm not interested in taking responsibility for their cognitive limitations.

Great jokes!

I never said any of the second paragraph. I merely pointed out the spelling. Alongside the overly angry and judgemental tone of the comment especially the end.

But seeing the next reply. Continuously merging supposedly serious content with jokes in a format like digital text on a forum. There are numerous issues with that.

> that is, that I honestly think the company is called that by, for example, its employees

So this is a joke too? Or the bit of not being interested in people’s cognitive limitations?

I can't wait to see how you react when you find out where the name “Unix” comes from, or that this site runs on a language named after a speech impediment, or that most of its users use Apple computers (whose first product sold for $666) where the most common shell is the “Bourne-Again Shell”, or what the Google headquarters is called, or where Google’s IPO valuation came from.

You may be confused about what site you're on. This is “Hacker News”, not “Insecure Banker Desperate To Appear Respectable News”. Hacking is the playful application of ingenuity.

@skinnymuch: Sorry if I guessed wrongly at the reason for your question. I probably was substituting my own reasoning.

@kragen: I think there's an interesting parallel between "jokes" of this form and intentional errors in Nigerian spam. Both serve to focus on the small portion of the audience most likely to be receptive, at the cost of eliminating some larger percentage who would otherwise be receptive. Whether this is a win depends on your goals.

Are you trying to joke now about Microsoft to seem like you were joking? There’s no way your original comment makes it sound like you were not being serious. Your comment continues on naming unknown random people you follow and ends with:

> It seems that you have imprisoned yourself in a sort of filter bubble of dishonest hustlers. You might want to rethink your life decisions.

I’d think someone writing that to end their comment would be writing fecebutt [semi]-seriously. Especially when you don’t do that with any other site. And Facebook is a commonly uber hated company by certain people on the web.

Well, I never said it was a good sense of humor, Mongo.

Okay buddy. I guess it’s time for me to rethink my life decisions.

Always a solid plan, my friend.

"Meditations on Moloch" is pretty clickbaity.

It's “clickbaity” in the sense that calling that novel Independence Day was “clickbaity”—it doesn't tell you much about what is contained in the article, or the novel (especially if you’ve seen the movie). You could plausibly argue that it's somewhat misleading, since it isn't about the ancient Semitic god Moloch at all, but rather about the metaphorical Moloch of Allen Ginsberg's Howl.

It is, however, clearly not the same A/B-tested genre as This one weird trick will put an end to your perverse-incentive problems! and Top 7 myths of socialist politics, which are designed to offer a quick, tempting info-snack that you must click through to consume, or be consumed by. In fact, if we were arranging titles by literary quality, I think a more explicit title like How coordination problems result in profoundly suboptimal but very stable Nash equilibria would be closer to the revolting filth above than to the more lapidary title Meditations on Moloch.

Perhaps, though, there is the occasional archæologist specializing in Semitic prehistory who does click on that title and experience a profound disappointment.

>How coordination problems result in profoundly suboptimal but very stable Nash equilibria

That's a great title, actually.

Funny you mention Slatestarcodex as lots of people there are big fans of Examine.com

>3. Reviews by "professionals" that I can't easily verify. "Mike Hart, MD" is an example. Who is he? How do I know he's a real person? If he is a real person and a real doctor, how do I know he actually recommended this site?

One of the reviews by professionals is John Berardi of Precision Nutrition if you're into nutritional research and can't verify him. Then, in my opinion, this site is not for you. You'll need something simplier.

The question is twofold: 1) why should I trust him, and 2) assuming I trust him, how do I know he actually recommended this site?

Now, for the first one, why should I trust him? He apparently earned a PhD, but his research credits seem to be minimal, at least in terms of what he lists on his own website. Second, he seems to be a co-founder of Precision Nutrition, which suffers from a lot of the same problems as Examine.com. Seriously, let's look at the first entries in their "Free Articles" section:

"How do you rank as a health, fitness, and nutrition coach?"

"Opening October 2019: The Brand-New Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification"

"Opening October 2019: The Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certification Master Class. "

"FREE 5-day course: Fitness and Nutrition Coaching Breakthroughs"

"How to answer the most common nutrition questions like a boss."

Click-bait and attempts to sell things.

And then there's the second part of the question - how do I know John Berardi actually recommends this site? I don't without taking the site at their word.

PN just sold for roughly $250,000,000. Which they bootstrapped for the past 18 years.

JB used to do the nutrition for guys like GSP (the MMA fighter).

JB is an advisor to Nike, Apple, Equinox, and more.

It's literally the least of his problems that you don't know who he is.

This is a bit of a scatterbrained post I think but there are some valid points in there (sometimes repeatedly)

> Second, he seems to be a co-founder of Precision Nutrition, which suffers from a lot of the same problems as Examine.com. Seriously, let's look at the first entries in their "Free Articles" section:

Firstly, you don't do a lot of nutritional research, do you? Or research on fitness and health? There was a reason why I wrote what I did. This company is one of the major players in that sector. Hence why if you can't verify that he endorses this website you should be looking for an easier to digest source that comes from one of your favourite publishing houses.

When you do research on a website do you just look at that website? If so, I have bad news for you. You are doing a terrible job of researching. And most likely will result in getting yourself scammed by thinking you can spot a scam website when you can't.

Step 1. Google the site. - It's quite a comprehensive result page including multiple related searches. Step 2. Look at what other orgnisations trust this one. If you look at the courses they sell, you'll see they're accepted by multiple groups. (Again, if you want to be save you do separate research on them) Step 3. Look at their social media. Their social media seems to be rather good. Not every post is selling something. First 4 I seen, not a single "buy this" or anythig. Just standard fitness stuff I would expect.

> Click-bait and attempts to sell things.

Business tries to sell things. The fact you've stated this multiple times tells me you are far too into the tech culture of VCs paying for your toys. In the business world without VCs paying for growth these companies need to sell you stuff. The sales tactics are well sales tactics. But just because someone is trying to sell you something doesn't mean they don't know what they're talking about. Since every expert in any field is selling you stuff.

Now let's look at these clickbait things. Ok two of them aren't clickbait at all. They are very clear on what is going on. It's alerting you that the new round of courses that they do and have been doing for years are starting. In my experience, any company selling you a course that you can just sign up and start straight away is selling you a course not worth a penny. (Disclaimer I've done their PN1 course and let me say it's worth every penny). So firstly, we've got something to give me confidence about the course. It has a start date. This also tells me who they're targetting. They are targetting professional coaches. So that means stuff like how do you rank as a coach is something they're going to want to read and get an idea to see how they are.

Realistically, I find these hard to classify as clickbait since when you click on it. You get what you expect. Are they written with the intention to help sell you stuff? Yes. Just like nearly everything else you read on a company website. I just think you're just far too used to the tech approach that you think it should apply to everything else even though the customers are different.

> And then there's the second part of the question - how do I know John Berardi actually recommends this site? I don't without taking the site at their word.

You use Google. I instantly found the below post. So these two are friends who visit each others houses it seems. Friends giving friends quotes, pretty much how all quotes on these websites are created in my experience.


If you listen to the guys podcasts, etc. You'll all certainly hear him talking about them. If you're on his newsletter you'll read about them at some point.

Anytime you want to know if a quote is real, you're going to need to do research. But if you were into this subject you would probably hear 4-5 respected people telling you about how awesome examine is. Which comes back to my original point of if you can't verify that quote, it's not for you. The guy's reputation in the field is so high and he's repeatedly publically suggested their services.

Yeah that's really all there is to it. I'll admit it's a bit difficult with the UX at first, but there's a lot of info there.

It's really a hidden gem. They do such a great review of the molecularbiology. Here's a nice example: https://examine.com/supplements/branched-chain-amino-acids

Look at an Examine page for a specific supplement. It gives immensely useful information and links to plenty of studies.

Examine is definitely my favorite site to use when researching Nootropics.

I don't have an opinion on the authenticity of this particular site. But I would add that having a real doctor endorse something means essentially nothing. And having a "real" news company like NBC, CBS, fox whatever, means just about nothing as well.

Just look at all the products that Dr Oz has on his national show and how many times he and those like him get prime news coverage from these so called news sites.

I can't find the reddit comments now, but /u/AhmedF and /u/silverhydra have actually spoken about this before as a challenge they faced when starting examine.com. Nobody will accept strength training advice from a skinny dude, nobody will accept dietary advice that isn't endorsed by Doctor X, MD and Dietician, nobody will read your content if it is not phrased in terms of "The top 19 nutrition myths of 2019".

They have accepted that examine.com must have some of these "red flag" features, else it will never be able to do the good that it was created to do.

Maybe take a cursory look at any of the pages for any food/supplement? It quickly shows the breadth and depth of research that they've gathered. It's the only site I know with this kind of dedication to scientific evidence.

Written by: Anahad Connor, staff reporter for the NYTimes


>But for some people, there are certain supplements that can be worth taking, said Kamal Patel, a nutrition researcher and the director of Examine.com, a large and independent database of supplement research. Here are two of them.

>To learn more about which supplements you might be beneficial, take a look at the following resources from Examine.com.

Whey protein

Protein supplements


I've been following the guy that created this since before it was a site. He was on Reddit just doing the work to synthesize research and share it with everyone. It naturally grew in to this and from what I have seen over the past 8-ish years is that they have maintained their integrity while creating a sustainable business.

TLDR: it's legit

I could say the same ad infintum about reddit, which is tons popular and still be right.

To be fair, reddit is not a reputable source for much.

Agreed. There is nothing remotely close in terms of depth and quality on off-mainstream supplements.

I suspect Google is really coming down on anything that might be construed as "alternative" medicine. Somehow Examine.com gets clubbed with the "just take essential oils to cure cancer" crowd

> It's great that Google is attempting to fix the issue of bullshit nutrition sites ranking highly

When I search Google for "astaxanthin", I get a HuffPost article as the fifth result on the first page.

Personally, I've found how they aggregate research and list it a valuable resource for how I continue my own research on a particular supplement.

I find it much more valuable than the empty Mayo Clinic and WebMD articles that are so conservative in the information they provide that it's basically just reading common knowledge.

I think if you're using one site for your source of information for supplements, you're doing a disservice to yourself and potentially putting your body in harms way. So, with that said -- I also do not think Google should be removing this from their search results.

I wish the Life Extension Foundation listed higher as they have reputable advice.

Also take a look at selfhacked.com. It's a treasure.

Selfhacked doesn't vet or validate very well. Tons of information that makes you feel like everything under the sun is going to solve your issues, but without the extreme evidence required to prove it.

It's supposed to provide ideas to check yourself by reading the papers, googling for more and mindfully trying yourself (considering counterindications also listed) to find out if it works for you (get your own empirical evidence). This is valuable for specific kind of pracrically-scientifically-minded people. Those who prefer a ready solution meant to be fool-proof (although it rarely is) and off-load research, experimentation and responsibility to someone else should really stick with a doctor. Googling medical advices and expecting them to be correct (for you in particular) by default is a nonsensical approach, sadly many people seem practicing it.

I went in with high hopes of quality resources but I was met with one of those guide selling sites. I never knew exactly what it was trying to sell me either.

I don't care about the guides they sell (they have to sell something to those interested to make their living and I don't mind). I just type a substance name in the search field and get a list of good and bad things it may do with links to relevant papers. Or I type a condition name and get a list of substances which may have relevant effects.

The fact they are sincere as science makes me feel very sympathetic: they don't hesitate to mention nicotine (don't confuse it with cigarettes, it's about pure nicotine which may be delivered by many ways while cigarettes also load your lungs with tar and heavy metals) is great for weight loss and many other things. I don't really like the idea of using nicotine (because I mind physiological addiction) but I'm pleased they let me know and think for myself. They also don't hesitate to mention beneficial effect of some illegal substances.

Thank you!

Yeah their list of "researchers" doesn't exactly inspire confidence. There would appear to be a single degree in a related field amongst all of them.

At this moment the only thing we almost surely know about nutrition is we do not know one goddamn thing about it. For a popular version, see Ben Goldacre's Bad Pharma.

Do you buy their guides or use it to individually research compounds?

It doesn't appear to be much different than other health websites, except they sell guides, which may change the incentive structure away from marketing and towards research.

> It doesn't appear to be much different than other health websites

We go faaaaaaaaar more in-depth.

Eg collating human in-vivo research: https://examine.com/supplements/creatine/#effect-matrix

Summarizing body of research: https://examine.com/supplements/creatine/#scientific-researc...

We sell information because that keeps us on our mission - to analyze health research.

Our primary driver is a monthly subscription utilized by professionals that breaks down the latest nutrition research.

Here's a preview if you want to see how in-depth we go: https://a99d9b858c7df59c454c-96c6baa7fa2a34c80f17051de799bc8...

It's in a different class. It's a top notch resource. Carefully researched and thorough. Collates academic papers for each supplement and provides overviews of effectiveness for various medical purposes. It also contains extensive technical discussions of their mechanism of action. It is very easy to see that it's not a scam site.

Its a bit like wikipedia, it doesnt look like much initially but going in with purpose shows you just how much more in depth they are. Examine also updates their research regularly, that alone puts them above "any old health site"

The problem is who is examine?

Take this random page for exmaple.


It's written by some guy called "Wyatt Brown". Who is he? Is he a scientist? A doctor? A university professor.

Oh - I don't need to worry about that, because:

> Our evidence-based analysis features 42 unique references to scientific papers.

Right then. Quoting papers makes you a reliable expert and able to make claims about medicine and science and health.

No, I think I understand why Google has de-ranked this one.

This website is clearly a fraud - and looks like one too - that uses a form of sophistry to make claims as to it's own reliability, namely that by quoting "references" a non-person can make claims they ought not to be making. References help boost the credibility of an already credible publication or individual, that don't make something out of nothing.

Would you please not post in the flamewar style to HN? When people go into the internet warrior thing, it cheapens this place, regardless of how right your underlying points may be. It's also against the site guidelines, which ask for thoughtful, substantive comments, as well as several other things which your post here has broken.


The problem is, who is Google to decide who examine is?

This is the fears of a lot of people, that Google isn't using any particularly objective criteria, but just reflecting pretty much the same biases you can see on display in dozens of HN posts here.

Why should I trust examine on this matter? Well, why should I trust Google? Who is Google? Is Google staffed with doctors? Is Google a well-known expert in the field of medical practices? Did Google undertake a careful review? Or is there some contract employee whose knee-jerk 60 second reaction from the same bias set as a number of HN commenters here now being stamped with Google's imprimatur and now the simply the default answer?

Why would we expect Google's decision is based on... on anything in particular at all? Who can show me their criteria? Who can show me their particular analysis of their criteria for this particular site? This site at least references papers; where is Google's defense of their opinion of their site? Did they read the papers and decide they were being used deceptively? Why should I give Google even the slightest bit of credence on this or any other matter not related to their core competencies in the tech industry?

(An example of where their competencies would be relevant would be in determining who is spamming the system, creating circular sites to boost each other, gaming the SEO by presenting different pages to Google and not-Google, etc. But as they get farther and farther into deciding based on content the Pandora's box is opened ever wider.)

Repeat these questions for any number of sites on this matter, then repeat for any number of subject matters.

(What's the solution? Beats me. Right now I'm just on problem identification.)

> Right then. Quoting papers makes you a reliable expert and able to make claims about medicine and science and health.

Does being a researcher or doctor make you a reliable expert and able to make claims about medicine and science and health?

It is very good to doubt papers. In doing so you are doubting countless scientists [many of whom perform poor studies] though. There isn't any thing epistemologically sacred about doctors or scientists.

Not defending the site itself, but a person who does a study roundup of various claims made with citations has some value. You can't expect him to interpret the studies well, that's still up to you, but that's fine. Unlike a doctor, our internet rando doing the link roundup isn't presuming any authority. But he is giving a lot more information, with more citations that you can further examine, than a typical doctor.

> Does being a researcher or doctor make you a reliable expert and able to make claims about medicine and science and health?

Doubting people quoting papers, and doubting papers are two fundamentally different things.

They're not really doing much that isn't in the papers they're quoting. Their flaws, of which there are certainly many, stem from the flaws in those papers. That's a rather hard problem to fix, so I have trouble faulting them.

I have my own issues with how the site presents itself, but I don't think it's correct to claim that the site is "clearly a fraud".

Digging in, the studies they link to do seem to correlate with what they're saying, but I'm not skilled at performing a meta-analysis of scientific research, nor have I fully examined all of the sources for any of their articles, or looked for additional articles that might contradict what they're presenting.

So it's ok to suggest taking the site with a grain of salt, but claiming they're a fraud is definitely unsubstantiated.

That's overly critical, one of cofounders was a very knowledgeable supplement expert who was getting his PhD in the subject. It's definitely not a fraud, its had great quality science based content for a number of years, I've been checking back in every few months for various questions.

I think skeptics like you need to be asking a different question. That question is "what are the best informational websites?". And after that question is answered- "is Google ranking the best pages at the top of its search results?".

These are the important questions, right?

I do think there is some minor room for improvement with Examine.com, but what else out there is better? I think people who have spent a lot of time researching supplements consider Examine to be one of the best, if not the best, general website on this topic.

For individual pages, some will be better, some worse. But on average, Examine is quite excellent.

So, this is why many of us consider it tragic if Google makes it almost impossible for the public to find its pages on various supplements. If there were lots of other websites that were more credible, that would be one thing, but for the niches Examine specializes in, there's not much competition. Google is clearly failing here.

> Right then. Quoting papers makes you a reliable expert and able to make claims about medicine and science and health.

> No, I think I understand why Google has de-ranked this one.

So by this logic why is Wikipedia the top rank for like 90% of these kinds of searches. It's exactly the same isn't it, except anyone can come on and incorrectly change Wikipedia briefly until a moderator corrects it.

Perhaps you don't know who Examine.com is, but they are cited by the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, CBC, multiple Wikipedia pages all over the world, and over 12,000 other websites. I assume they did more homework than you.

> New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, CBC, multiple Wikipedia page

I would take one reputable medical journal over all of them.

I mean the MSM covers all sorts of trivial things all the time.

Why would a medical journal cite Examine? Examine just compiles and analyzes research, they don't generate it.

Has any medical journal ever cited any supplements website? What would there be to cite??

We could be cited in a letter, but very unlikely as they would reference the primary research itself.

I mean, we were straight-up plagiarized.

Which is linked in the article.

I enjoy how you ask questions but never click on anything because it must fraud.

You can click to the about page to see who he is. And who edits the work. And how the editorial process is. "Wyatt Brown" is clickable.

The 42 citations are done directly after each claim, and the study is linked. Most sites just have a bibliography at the end.

You are just cruising here to pick a fight.

> Fraud

Lordy, I'm afraid to even consider what you do professionally.

Hey, I understand how frustrating is to have people criticize your work unfairly, especially when they seem to be just picking a fight. Believe me, I get it. Still, it breaks HN's guidelines to cross into this sort of attack back, no matter how provocative another comment may be. We can't allow that because it leads into a predictable downward spiral that makes this place worse for everyone. (I'm a moderator here btw, in case this comment doesn't make sense otherwise.)

Would you mind taking a look at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and posting in the intended spirit? As a bonus, it will make your own comments stronger and get a more receptive hearing from the community here, the overwhelming majority of whom are fair-minded even when the comments are not.

Fair enough.

Wait, how did you jump to the conclusion that it's clearly a fraud site? What's fraudulent about the site?

Relaying scientific results by the best of your ability without being a doctor or scientist is not fraudulent by itself. All mainstream media sites does this on a regular basis.

Got curious and decided to go through their SEO.

- First off, according to Ahrefs, their dofollow / nofollow ratio is a staggering 10:1, which is a huge red flag right away. A more natural ratio would be in the neighborhood of 1:2 so we are talking 20x less. But hey, maybe it's the niche that naturally attracts a ton of dofollow links - let's move on

- Looking at another of the main spam indicators, anchor text, most of them are just single keywords, like "ashwagandha", which point to the page optimized to rank for that exact generic search. The entire website is targeting single-term searches, which are notoriously hard to rank for and attract a lot of spam websites. This falls into anchor text over-optimization. They have 210 referring pages linking to their curcumin page with the exact anchor text "curcumin", same with "catechins", "creatine", "caffeine", "vitamin d" and the list goes on for all the keywords they are trying to rank for. This is not just unusual, it's literally impossible for it to just happen naturally. This has the Penguin penalty written all over it. Moving on...

- Their backlinks are for sure interesting. Among their top backlinks, we have pages such as: https://www.herbalsupplementreview.com/retro-lean-forskolin/ - with a URL rating of 46 for a website with zero traffic. In SEO terms these are called “PBN links”. Not that unusual for the health niche, but definitely not white hat. Here’s another one with the same identical metrics as the previous one (this time, it’s a homepage link), also from a dubious website with zero traffic: https://best-testosteronebooster.com/.

All of these with exact match anchor texts leading to their corresponding Examine.com pages.

- Mind you, I’m not saying that they don’t have great editorial content, and I’m not sure who helped them with their SEO, but I’m not the least bit surprised that Google might have penalized them multiple times for several reasons. There's probably more stuff but this is what I was able to find with a quick analysis.

Let me be clear - we have never bought a single link.

We get direct links similar to what wikipedia does - aka direct to a supplement.

For example, creatine: https://examine.com/supplements/creatine/

You will not find a more in-depth page on creatine anywhere on the net.

https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-... - here's a simple example of direct links.

We're also considered the authoritative site, which is why so many sites (including spammers, sigh) link to us.

Disavow the bad backlinks via webmaster console, you'll notice a huge penalty for letting these bad sites link to you without disavowing them. It looks like (to Google) you're buying backlinks, and in this case ones on sites that are slammed by the latest updates. Try this on a few of the worst offenders and you'll see a noticable difference.

In your space you have the most aggressive blackhat seo actors (supplements) looking at you as the bad guy for exposing them, I wouldn't be surprised if you discover a ton of bad backlinks from domains that have a terrible reputation. Source: lost over 100,000 unique Google visits per day because of a malicious competitor putting unsolicited backlinks to our domain without our knowing and it took months before it came back.

Ugh - I did disavow for the first time ever.

> lost over 100,000

Sucks. You'd think G would be smart enough to ignore, not penalize.

Negative SEO shit has been going on for over a decade now...

They invented disavow for this exact reason. Backlink bombing was a thing.

Let me know the progress, I'm fairly certain this will help you out big time, unfortunately it's a bit of legwork and it takes time to recover.

Even if somebody inside Google wanted to fix your problem they're not able to respond on search ranking algorithms or exceptions. I heard from a Google search engineer that other than a curated blacklist (with many controls in place) they have removed the ability to influence the rankings (positively or negatively) with human intervention. This is due to "plausible deniability" over them playing god with search rankings.

Maybe someone with some authority will see this and review a penalty - albeit without responding to you - but usually this will come back in a few months if the underlying cause isn't resolved.

Best of luck.

I mean, as harsh as it sounds, manually rescuing a single website (even if you're 99.99% sure there's no black hat involved) is not worth leaving a trail showing a potential compromise of search quality. It is not nice but it kind of has to be this way - that they don't help individual websites.

> their dofollow / nofollow ratio is a staggering 10:1,

Wouldn't this simply be a result of them having tons of (presumably trustworthy) references?

> They have 210 referring pages linking to their curcumin page with the exact anchor text "curcumin"

What would a better anchor text be? It seems to me to be very informative ("what is curcumin? maybe I'll find out by clicking a link that says 'curcumin'...").

I'm no SEO-er, but these would seem to me to be normal for a "reference-style" website. I wonder how Wikipedia would score according to these metrics...

This completely misses the point of a search engine. The ability to game SEO has nothing to with relevance or content quality.

If a random supplement information website's most lucrative monetization path would be to game SEO instead of doing what they're nominally supposed to do (i.e. provide quality content), the problem doesn't lie with the the content owner but rather with the search engine and the incentives it promotes.

I think the point is that they apparently have spent a bunch of time on SEO, and it's backfiring.

You're arguing search engines should disincentivize gaming SEO? That seems to be exactly what Google has done here.

This post is a good example of why SEO is such a joke. Worse than a joke, actually, because it's actively harmful.

If your search algorithm is penalizing Examine.com, that's a bug in your algorithm. It's not up to websites to jump through Google's hoops. Authors only ought to be concerned with authoring good content.

> It's not up to websites to jump through Google's hoops.

It shouldn't be, but it definitely is

When creating bullshit backlink sites for whatever purposes, usually not for actual reading by users, it is a common tactic to link out to non-commercial sites to show authenticity and mask the true backlink/spam purposes of the site.

This has been theorized as being ond of the original reasons wikipedia received heavy backlinks.

It is not necessarily the fault of an SEO strategy of the linked site.

Disavowing is not a worthwhile practice ( at least in recent years)

Herbal supplement review is not a PBN as it is so heavily filled with affiliate links that the backlinks would have no value to any who purchase such things. So in this case, examine.com is being used as the attempt to seem authentic.

The single term.keywords is problematic and likely unavoidably proof that the backlink profile is very manipulated

I scanned in Moz and although I dont agree with the "why" ( nofollow links are uncommon in traditional small websites and blogs, most don't even know what they are, so your ratio is meaningless to me) the anchor keywords could never be accidental, this is very much intentional.

I don't know what previous designs looked like ..but basic opportunities in on page seo are ignored or automated, top level architecture is weak, the index conventions by letter is wasteful/missed opportunity.

Although not a ranking factor ... accessibility is abysmal

In short, there is so much wrong with the document structure, general architecture and even title conventions.. i dont even think looking into backlink profile is necessary yet.

The article mentions reviews by SEO's but doesn't mention whether they paid anyone to point out the obvious flaws.

Content seems strong to me, I dig into the Rogan and Ferris mentioned supplements regularly, this content is better cited than most I run into and certainly better than bb.com / roid world forums that fill this space. So, it's a shame.

Looks like a ton of poor architecture and document structure decisions to me.

If you can knock a site out of Google with bad backlinks, then you could do that to your competitors as a sort of anti-SEO.

It’s definitely a thing https://ahrefs.com/blog/negative-seo/

Thanks for that.

It does say "It’s believed that with Penguin 4.0 Google has transitioned back to devaluing (or ignoring) spammy links, rather than penalising for them"

My working model is Google is working hard to make search relevant, as that's their bread and butter. If you do a Google search and you get spammy sites, you stop using Google, and they lose money.

Black hats will always be one step ahead, and will find very technical ways to beat Google in the short to medium term, and sometimes forever.

However negative seo is going to be such a common attack vector, especially against unsophisticated webmasters (which ironically might be the people with the most useful information, the people who Google DO want to show). So Google is going to consider this a major bug if such sites are getting attacked like this.

Ignoring but not penalising spammy links is the best thing for Google to do.

For additional context, Google has "disappeared" 100s of alt-health sites - some bad, but some very good. The site Self Hacked was one, and detailed it here: https://selfhacked.com/blog/google-censorship-of-health-webs...

Some, like Mercola, peddle highly-controversial, near anti-vax content.

But on the other end of the spectrum, Examine.com should be the gold standard. Quality Raters should use it as an example of a site to emmulate. Much higher quality content and informative content than WebMD, IMO.

I’m very happy to hear about mercola being disappearing.

It always rank so highly for so many terms, with complete nutjob advice.

When I google for astaxanthin, the suggestion in the original post, Mercola ranks higher than Examine. Which is bloody tragic, as examine gives legit information.

Someone at Google doesn't like them.

Nah, it's not that someone at Google doesn't like them. Mercola is much more 'SEO'ed' than Examine.

IMHO the mere fact a page links to relevant (to its subject) papers in reputable scientific journals should be considered a positive factor in a page rank computation.

Based on this link I wouldn't trust the critical thinking of the content of this site.

> We also know about Google firing James Damore and their ideological echo chamber.

They are already displaying their own bias based regardless of what they think Goolge's bias is.

Damore was fired because he violated California labor law. But the post continues with lines like:

> Now, I’m not a conspiracy theorist


> But it seems like they decided that there’s no way to algorithmically penalize certain sites — so instead they do it manually, behind the scenes, without telling anyone.

Without any evidence of this what-so-ever.

It's one thing to say "Google are not doing a good job of filtering out mis-information/commercialization without penalizing high quality information from smaller sites/institutions" it's another to say that this is a conspiracy from the "echo chamber bias" of their employees to suppress the speech of people who don't agree with them.

> Damore was fired because he violated California labor law.

From Wikipedia[1] referring to a Guardian article:

> The company fired Damore for violation of the company's code of conduct.

Which is correct?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google%27s_Ideological_Echo_Ch...

Besides SelfHacked and Examine, what are some other good sites that have been censored?

Google health related results are straight garbage these days. I noticed the change that dropped examine in the rankings as I frequently search for supplements. At the same time l, Wikipedia also tanked in my queries which is one of the sites that I’m almost always going to have a look at if they have a page on the topic. This seems tied into google’s expansion of their built-in snippets. That would be ok if they linked to the source but it feels like that’s true for only 1 in 20 of these boxes.

I’m actually really frustrated with these changes and would like to start using an alternative. I like startpage but they use google search results so that’s not a viable alternative. Guess I’ll have to check out duck duck go’s Bing powered performance.

So... Google is openly editorialising their results?

They were already doing it with the carousel (google "american inventors") but if they are doing it with what seemingly is the list of organic results this is very, very troubling.

I mean, Google always was, even in the PageRank days. Even if you can perfectly recreate the numbers as to why so and so site is ranked higher in your system, its still your system choosing to rank so and so site higher.

I see your point, but in this case they are blacklisting domains by hand because of their content, which they don't agree with. And that is very bad. Maybe it was my mistake, thinking that their organic search was holy, which no longer is the case it seems.

I dont understand this point of view. Googles literal mission since inception was to rank results based on how good google thought they were. Their purpose is to editorialize results through the order they appear. Quality is defined buy googles subjectivity.

Where did the idea of google neutrality come from? Google would be useless if they didnt blacklist what they perceive to be spam.

> Where did the idea of google neutrality come from?

From Google. They've stated time and time again that it's a magic algorithm and they don't hand-pick winners and losers. And it's a good thing, too, otherwise you're just inviting corruption. Top spots are literally worth millions, and if there's an small army of people that decide who ranks where, they are an obvious target for bribes.

This doesn't look that hand picked, though, more like somebody didn't check what would happen if they rolled out some algo change and targeted way too broad.

they pick losers by identifying losers, or who SHOULD be a loser, and then modifying the algorithm to derank them and their tactics. believing they can target spam, without first identifying spam, doesnt make any sense.

in this case, some better sites resemble spam enough that they were also hit. a basic false positive, collateral damage.

That's different though. The algorithm applies to all sites, and if apple.com does the same thing a spam-site does, they will be punished by the algorithm as well. Hand picking is very different, in that similar things aren't treated similarly.

> in this case, some better sites resemble spam enough that they were also hit. a basic false positive, collateral damage.

I believe that as well, though not necessarily because of "spam", but because of the topic. I was just trying to explain how people might think that Google doesn't manually curate their results.

They have certainly peddled the idea that "the algorithm" is what drives page rank.

This is an extremely circular conversation. Google writes the algorithm that ranks pages.

They absolutely know, that if you search Disney, and Disney isnt the first result, they wrote it incorrectly. They also know their product has less value if it returns spam, which is why they fight SEO artists.

They do try to distance themselves from "choosing" the top result for "best construction store" or "best news site" by shouting the world algorithm, to distract the conversation. That doesnt mean they dont carefully craft the algorithm to return a relevant top result.

> That doesnt mean they dont carefully craft the algorithm to return a relevant top result.

I found https://medium.com/@mikewacker/googles-manual-interventions-... an interesting read on that topic. It's not just a crafted algorithm, but there are different algorithms and employees choose different algorithms for some queries if they/journalists dislike what the original algorithm considered most relevant.

I mean, that's how you'd train the main algorithm, right?

I'd fully expect to see these interventions fed back into the algorithm so Google can better predict "this search term is likely to be targeted by partisan or otherwise suspiciously motivated actors".

See, I don't think there's much difference between writing a deterministic mathematical algorithm to have X site on top, hand-curating a list to have X site on top or writing a magic spell that consults 4 neural nets, a space dragon from Jupiter and the Canadian Prime Minister for weightings that results in X site on top.

That's all implementation details, at the end of the day site X is on top and site Y is not, and Google decided that.

And as mentioned in the sibling thread, that's the value of Google Search. If you disagree that X should be on top, then find an alternative search engine that has some different ranking algorithm, but there's no such thing as an objective search engine.

My way of looking at it has always been there is no such thing as organic search results (other than that the organisation in question did not have a hand in choosing to put it there). The aim is, presumably, to return quality sites, which always involves a subjective judgement - there is no intrinsic or natural ordering of a set of sites (other people could choose to rank them differently). Whether it's writing an algorithm that results in those sites being at the top (which _must_ be rewritten if returns certain sites otherwise it will be gamed), a more direct choice, or a combination of the two, there doesn't seem to be much difference. The algorithm serves to scale Google's subjective opinion, and they will always boot out sites they don't think are of sufficient quality - it enables them to return sites that they may not have hand-judged, but I've always assumed it is trying to approximate what would be returned if they _did_ check every site.

> They were already doing it with the carousel (google "american inventors")


There's a chance you're seeing an unintentional side-effect of inclusion-oriented school projects getting hordes of people to Google stuff like "African American inventors".

Try googling "black inventors" and then "white inventors" it appears they are directly editorializing.

That potentially shows the same phenomenon - kids given a Black History Month assignment to write a paper on a black inventor - and it's fairly clear there's some sort of automated threshold at work.

As evidence, I really doubt this difference is editorial-based:

https://www.google.com/search?q=purple+musicians (shows the carousel)

https://www.google.com/search?q=purple+inventors (no carousel)

>(google "american inventors")

LOL, pretty funny results there.

Nice job though, Edison.

Many similar websites have suffered from a so-called "Medic" update. Some of them recovered (through fixing their website), some did not. The SEO community is full of such stories, for more than a year I think.

How is it news? :thinking:

"How is it news?"

Recently piqued interest in antitrust actions for companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

I've noticed that Google search results prioritize reputation above search matching. If you search for something, even if there's a blog out there with the exact thing your searching for, it won't show up, even in the top 100 search results, unless the site has a high enough page rank/ or some other generic metric google is looking for. This is unfortunate because there's a lot of great information out there that never sees the light of day due to this problem. Google still has a long way to go before they solve the search problem.

For technical queries it's gotten even worse in the past years. It flat out ignores string matches or decides that I wanted something else. What's even stranger is that there are sites that match these strings 1:1 and they are helpful but they don't show up. I discovered that while scrabbling through Stackoverflow answers and then trying to find a site I knew had all the specific keywords. It's also not robots.txt or something like that, most of these were just regular blogposts on either github oder blogger. They probably drank too much AI kool-aid.

At this point, I'm starting to use duckduckgo not for privacy concerns but because they literally work better for stuff like this

Unfortunately, it isn't reliable and DDG is much more willing than Google to say "I've got nothing". I default to DDG but often it is this type of situation (searching for error messages) where Google works when DDG didn't.


I used to run a very tiny phone number directory, where I provided big company’s actual phone numbers, unlike their websites that provided everything but.

For a while, I would rank on the first page, and provided clear and quick results.

Then around 2012, they really dropped, and your search result just became 10 different pages on the domain of the corporation.

Well it kind of makes sense. I would not trust some third party website with a phone number of my bank for example. You don’t want to call someone if that number is not listed on the official website

Then you end up in a no-man’s land where the official website makes it hard for you to find their support number too.

Though to your point, one Canadian ISP changed its support number. And my website even recommended people print it out in case their internet goes out and they can’t look up phone numbers...

Our reputation is pretty damn solid - that's what makes this even more perplexing.

High profile edge-case where Google is clearly getting it wrong? Just talked to the partners at the search firm I work for and assuming you'd let us make a case study out of it, we'd be willing to take a look and potentially offer our services gratis for the prestige and referral business alone that a recovery of this magnitude is likely to drum up for us. Let me know if you are interested.

How can you help? It sounds like this is something that needs Google’s direct attention.

I am just noticing that you own/manage this site and are getting a lot of grief about subjective design opinions from many random developer types that do not consume content in the same manner as your audience or live in reality, so can see the frustration.

The May to present drop in positioning is catastrophic.

The content is fantastic for your space and design aligns more with journal websites than health/nutrition space. That may not be beneficial to keeping users more accustomed to image heavy,popular health space.

Contrast/Accessibility is poor - What standards were you following in a redesign?

After the redesign and as your organic positioning started plummeting - did you identify any increase in 404's and/or do visitor recordings of the traffic you do have?

Most of the titles being identified as "clickbaity" should be your OG titles and it is true that there is a weakness in on page optimization decisions and general architecture across the site. The backlink profile IS problematic! but with on page and general architecture concerns that could be improved that would be the first order of business if I was trying to restore this to former glory.

Seeing the WEB Md and drugs.com / health.com that appear in positions that your site and content are much better qualified for is concerning. You are being screwed.

Just looking at your "white kidney bean extract" article from your profile and then seeing the Livestrong article and other crap that is better positioned points out the terrible weaknesses in the last 4-5 years of Google's improved positioning for bigger brands and move away from exact matching. Livestrong hides their references in a dropdown and sticks an adblock there.

I point that out because in the end - the white hat quality guidelines are garbage and propaganda and rarely reflect reality in the enterprise/brand space .

Make the site more accessible to the average reader and those who are first researching supplements and improve your social channel. Google is not reacting logically in your positioning in comparison to the structure,positioning and quality of your competitors. But the site could be much better composed and structured.

> image heavy

Yup - we eschew that.

> Contrast/Accessibility is poor

Not sure I follow - it's black text on white, 400px weight, 20px size.

> After the redesign

Our rankings actually spiked up 2 days after new design.

No 404s - it was a superficial change. Time on site went up. Delivery of content was faster (eg we moved to Cloudflare).

> clickbaity

I keep telling this to people - 90% of our traffic was to our supplement pages. They all had the same format that was very matter-of-fact. We only tried "emotional" title tags in the past year, and they didn't do anything.

> that there is a weakness in on page optimization decisions and general architecture across the site.

I'm honestly not sure I follow. Everything is under the /supplements/xxx or /nutrition/xxx format, and the index is fully available on both root folders. We interlink heavily, and we have our own internal wikicode (so eg creatine is linked as [creatine]) so the link is always accurate as is the tooltip quick summary.

> The backlink profile IS problematic!

We haven't bought a single link ever. We get random links all the time - eg Orlando Sentinel today: https://www.orlandosentinel.com/health/os-ne-health-fake-vit...

> Livestrong

King of crap :)

> But the site could be much better composed and structured.

I'm being honest here - I don't see how. We've asked our users, and the HEM is more popular and should be higher, but we've done tests on usabilityhub, we track user behaviour (eg crazyegg), we've hired UX and UI experts (and other SEO experts). Our customer retention is great. I feel like I'm missing something.

"We Eschew That"

Then you eschew the massive audience of lazy gym goers, bodybuilders, referrals from the latest Joe Rogan podcast, Tim Ferriss ..basically the entire casual health crowd that want's to pretend they do hardcore research but is jumping away from you due to the text heavy layout.

I read code,I like minimalism, I am not being personal here, your designing outside of a greater potential audience and leaning towards an academic/journal design. Any UX expert that has not pointed that out, is just a job title, Go back to them and demand an example or case study where their recommendations did anything .. the industry is wrought with fools

In years past, If you were to be searching anywhere in the nation for audits relating to whether your website was legally compliant under ADA guidelines (accessible) you would run into my team quickly. Stepped away from that angle, it's boring, but still necessary, You pointed out your body font color and it's relationship to the background, now examine all the other options - particularly link colors and your choices for fine print,citations and small text. There are plenty of easy scan tools that will show you deficiencies in contrast choices including your Chrome browser.

Neither of those comments relate to your loss in rankings though -- but are deficits in your previous partners decisions and whoever made final approvals and whatever "experts" you trusted. Fairly basic stuff there. Im on your side,impressive content, I would be a reader, I am just offering some fairly simple fixes.

"moved to cloudflare"

I use cloudflare. I use cloudflare on dozens of sites, I have never personally seen a correlation of a negative impact, or really see the bad neighborhood impact as being as significant as your drop was - but there are a lot of case studies and forum posts from people who swear by a cloudflare correlation to significant drops in positioning. It's worth testing what removing it will do.

I didnt call your titles "clickbaity" - im just referencing past comments and pointing out there is nothing wrong with them, but they should be page titles and OG titles, not meta titles.

If you dont know what I mean on document structure and on page optimization options - then I really have no idea what manner of SEO opinions you could have received, "we" all have different strategies and positions, but this certainly should have benn discussed with you.. as I kind of referenced, the printed "white hat" dont over-optimize crap is only good for selling enterpise seo consultations .. your superfoods article has 4 images named superfoods_*, you have wasted opportunities throughout the site. Anyone with a basic SEO background should be able to pick out page by page and show you missed opportunities (but would have nothing to do with the dramatic drop) The directory structure you are highlighting as good, is what I am highlighting as bad, it does not align with queries, it aligns with your own encyclopedic concept of data organization ala journal websites

A hint I would make is that you seem to drop the categories in your breadcrumbs/visible architecture from the page urls in favor of shorter urls. I never would have done that myself. /supplements/pyritinol/ should be in /cognitive-function/ or even better /cognitive-function-brain-health/

The backlink profile is problematic

I am not pointing fingers, just agreeing with a previous commenter, it is not an unusual backlink profile, it looks exactly like what my own would have looked like 8 years ago on hastily made affiliate sites that could generate 5 figures a month...in there first months (those days are gone), it just does not follow what the average "natural" site looks like.

As an authority site as you rightly pointed out, crap sites will link to you to mask their crapness, but why is the volume of off page anchors so perfectly matched to exactly what "you" would it need it to be> That would be a very sophisticated attack against you

I suspect your user testing was for an intelligent crowd or done by hacks, but usability is a legit platform - how big was the sample?

You will be moving up the ranks for "Adrafinil" shortly, for that term, Look at your search competition for the term, how do you stand out?

I cant believe i am saying this, but there is such a thing as too much interlinking and excess outbound links.

You just experienced the horror of google's nonsense. your site is far superior to the sites currently earning better positions - both in quality and traditional metrics we have all bee chatting about - you got hosed... so why do you seem to have such an organic focused strategy?

One post on Facebook a day? A cover image that is not optimized for mobile, little use of video content (you have tons of it in google's index)

You might not have purchased links ..would Sol? Lots of references to examine.com and it's rise to 7 figures in the entrepreneur/marketing/growth blogs - exactly the space full of people that do this type of quick and dirty link building.

Just wanted to try and answer your response, I realize this is a very stressful time and general jabs arent helpful, so was pecking out the most useful response I could on a phone ...and other than possibly the cloudflare option, nothing should be an immediate fix, but if your going to be digging into recovery

1. Open up new channels - minimize google reliance 2. Social space is perfect for supplements, get a social team 3. Find a middle ground between minimalism and "popular science" to make your site more attractive to a larger audience. 4. Try some actual optimization around queries instead of building around a sterile encyclopedia directory 5. Bribe a Googler 6. If all else fails, even the playing field and pay blackhatters to fill your crappy competition with unnatural backlink profiles, because if you didnt do it, someone did it to you, and they had money and a reason and Google is seemingly not following their own rules in how your being assessed 7. Look at the hubpages example - the site deserved it's destruction, but watch the desperation and poor decisions made trying to "fix" it for Google and the complete lack of feedback from Google they ever managed to get

Hopefully, Sullivans comment holds true and the algo gets tweaked just right to restore you to where you belong - and the tiny list of concerns I pecked out becomes meaningless for you.

I am Sol: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sol_Orwell (see previous name).

i think all of us should start promoting alternative search engines. Google has indeed become impenetrable , and gamed by seos , and with amp they are becoming outright evil. Does DDG offer website search box?

Yeah that seems to give rise to sites like Medium where folks post because they know they'll get seen. Even people who are fairly high profile for the given topic.

Considering the risk of that data getting locked away behind paywalls that doesn't seem good.

> Google still has a long way to go before they solve the search problem

For any search query, there's only two results: 1, what you're actually looking for 2, what Google wants you to see

Unfortunately Google has 'solved' the search problem by always optimising for 2, and most times it's never what you want to see. That's not just health results either, for most anything outside of 'pop culture' Google is garbage.

For any given query there are thousands of people giving that same query with slightly or largely different intent and a universe of results that suit different portions of the users better or worse.

Reducing this to a singular desired result and "what google wants you to see" is absurd. Google still provides pretty good results for most things for most people. Pretending otherwise is a waste of breath.

Statistical matching results in platforms helping con artists find victims and helping crazy people spread their poisonous crazy. If you try to avoid noxious end results you will be accused of interfering. If you don't you will be declared complicit.

Where does the appropriate middle ground lie?

Sounds like we need a new search engine, a better search engine. One that returns the things you're actually searching for.


I just checked duckduckgo and examine doesn't appear to be censored there. I then switched my default search engine.

I hope that this means duckduckgo is indeed not going to censoring. I'd like keep websites for adult who can judge for themselves alive.

Isn't that just a wrapper for the same search engines?

I believe duckduckgo uses bing for search results. (See https://help.duckduckgo.com/results/sources/?redir=1). If you compare searches on bing and duckduckgo, they are very similar.

The main advantage of duckduckgo is that they aren't tracking you and the ads they show are just based on the search keywords not based on a digital profile they have compiled like google and facebook.

Never mind the bad search results, consider the narrative-shaping power they wield.

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