It’s a typical day: You boot up your search engine of choice, enter a query you’re curious about, then click on a link that looks promising. Actually, it’s not that useful, so you click the back button to check out more search results. Except, the back button does nothing. You try again: nothing. This website has you trapped, inexplicably forcing you to stay on the page or close the tab entirely. However, you aren’t really trapped — escape is within your grasp.
While the internet isn’t the wild west it used to be, there are still plenty of shady websites out there that use scummy tactics to keep you engaged on their content. “Trapping” you is one of the more aggressive strategies you’ll encounter, a practice that Google calls “history manipulation”: The website in question will spam your search history with links redirecting back to their page, which makes the back button useless. To you, your last visited site should be your search results for, say, Google or Ecosia. However, because of history manipulation, your web browser thinks it should head back to the page you’re already on.
While the natural instinct here is to simply close the browser tab or window, it’s annoying. You shouldn’t be forced to open a brand new window and enter the same search as before, all because some vulture wants to keep you on their site for a second longer than you normally would. Luckily, you don’t have to do that at all: Rather than click the back button in vain, you should simply hold down the button instead.
Whether you use Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, on your smartphone or computer, holding down the back button reveals that tab or window’s particular search history. You can select any link on the list to jump back to that site, even if it wasn’t the last visited site in that window. If you find yourself on a site implementing history manipulation, you might see some scary-looking links here, or you might see the website in question listed over and over again.
Kindly look or scroll past these options until you find the search results page, or any page you’d rather visit, select it, and you’ll escape your internet captor instantly. Make a mental note to never visit their site again, and feel free to warn others not to visit this waste of digital space.
Supposedly, Google has been working on fixing this issue for some time now, but, obviously, the problem still exists. That said, if you’re using Chrome on desktop, you need never be trapped by any of these scummy websites. Instead of using the browser as-is, you should enable its hidden search panel, which lets you view your search results without ever leaving the original search page. Check out our full guide to learn more.