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Understanding Googles Adult Filter

Like most of the code surrounding Google search, Google’s adult filter (also known as SafeSearch) is an ever evolving algorithm. To learn how to get around it we need to first know how it works.

Too Strict?
In a test conducted by Harvard Law School, SafeSearch was found to exclude content content not in the adult niche such as the American Library Association. Is the filter too strict? We think so and recent tests have found that the filter definitely errs on the side of too aggressive. One reason that Google will exclude some sites from search results that are not even adult is because it calculates the niche of the site primarily from the link universe of that site.  The link universe is also a huge factor in the calculation of Pagerank or Google’s trust rating of a website. Basically, a website linking to you is a vote for your site and that vote can correspondingly affect rankings. In the adult industry, where links are bought and sold on a near constant basis and it is rare to find trustworthy quality content rich with target keywords and anchor text links, we are especially susceptible to Google thinking our site is something that it is not.

Suppose for example that you buy a link from a seemingly reputable link exchange. This link exchange participates heavily in the teen niche, and links out to a couple of sites that are banned from the Google search results due to legal complaints. Your site is then guilty by association without you even knowing that you did something wrong. Since the SafeSearch algorithm does not individually visit each and every site in full, it relies partially on the link universe to make decisions, and sometimes those decisions do not accurately reflect the content of your site.

Moral of the story
Don’t buy or swap links with another adult site without #1 looking at that sites link universe, and #2 thoroughly browsing through the site to make sure that there is not highly objectionable content that could result in legal trouble. You don’t want to be guilty by association when you have done nothing wrong yourself!

The Filter Settings
The Google Adult filter has three settings searchers can choose from when signed into Google Accounts:

No filtering has to be set by the user and displays all adult content both in regular search results and image search. If only all searchers chose this setting we would have an easier time at AdultSEOblog…

Moderate filtering is the setting that is chosen by default, so we can assume that the majority of Googles users are on this setting. This setting excludes adult images from appearing in Google Image search but does not filter your regular search results. While Google says that they do not filter the regular web search results, there is strong evidence to suggest that the moderate setting has a tendency in its algorithm to look for adult related search queries and group them into either adult or non-adult. This is important for SEO, as we are looking for the adult terms, so in your keyword research it makes more sense to only pick terms that will be overtly adult. You might be tempted to think that image optimization is not as important because most users are on the moderate setting. To the contrary, there is strong evidence to suggest that image names and alt tags, even when clearly adult industry terms, do play a significant role in code optimization and the regular search results. The filter is nowhere 100% accurate, and there are ways to get your images into moderate image search results that we will not go into here.

Strict Filtering is for searchers that do not like our industry and/or children. This needs to be manually set in a Google account. This filter is overly aggressive and will sometimes block legitimate non-adult content from the search results.


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