What is Google Safe Search? How can it impact SEO?

Safe Search is designed to prevent users from having explicit, pornographic, violent, or gorey content shown to them on the search results page. The Safe Search filters provide users with the choice to enable features that filter explicit content from appearing in the search results. When eCommerce websites or web publishers have products that are interpreted as nefarious they may be penalized. This includes hosting ads or dynamic third party content that breaks Google’s guidelines for Violence, Nudity or Explicit Sex Content.

How to tell if SafeSearch has impacted your Website

The easiest well to check if SafeSearch is impacting search traffic to your domain is by enabling SafeSearch features and performing a search using a keyword that would normally lead to the website. If the search settings prevent it from showing up in the SERP, there is a good chance that it is being affected by the SafeSearch filtering. Here are a few tips to troubleshoot SafeSearch filters without spending too much time.

How SafeSearch Works

  • A specified reason is needed for personal data collection. Furthermore, this collection must be communicated with the legitimate reasons for the data collection.
  • Once collected, that personal data can only be used for reasons specified in the terms of service
  • Troubleshooting SafeSearch can be achieved using the following methods:
    • Enable SafeSearch on the home page or browser settings
      • Type site:[URL] [keyword or leave blank] into the URL bar
      • If your site does not show up for that [keyword], it is impacted by SafeSearch
      • If your site does not show up at all, it is impacted by SafeSearch
    • Check for metadata “content” tags to identify explicit content
    • Silo / Archive Pages that may contain explicit content apart from SafeSearch eligible content

Some important facts about SafeSearch

  • Check your website for hackers or compromised servers. Often when SafeSearch filters are being triggered on a site that normally would not be filtered it is because it has been compromised, injected with cloaked keywords, or manipulated using other nefarious techniques.
  • Sites that are filtered by SafeSearch are not eligible for many search features, such as Rich Snippets, Featured Snippets or Knowledge Graph.
  • Check for any types of nudity — even medical imagery, as the intent does not negate the explicit nature of the image content

It’s important to understand that even blurred images containing nudity that link to explicit content will still activate SafeSearch violations. Automated systems can be triggered when embedded videos cannot be fetched and Google believes they may contain explicit material or child abuse. When dealing with technical challenges such as SafeSearch, there is an opportunity to troubleshoot and meet compliance goals.

Hosting Impacts

  • Restrict opportunities for bad neighborhoods, CDNs, or other shared hosting options from including explicit content on the same servers as your website
  • In some cases, Google will take restrictive action on how content hosted on specific servers appears in search results

Creating an inventory of your potential explicit content publishing policies can save time and effort when SafeSearch compliance questions arise. The first step is to define exactly what type of content is considered explicit before you can begin the investigation. It is also important to know exactly where the organization is storing the data, what servers are being shared, whether or not it is backed up, how often, who has access, etc. This will help when troubleshooting questions arise!

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