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SafeSearch: A Stumbling Block to Website SEO?

SafeSearch is a feature implemented by Google to filter out explicit or adult content and protect users from potential harm. Although it has many safety benefits, SafeSearch also has risks and disadvantages for website owners.

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of SafeSearch and provide tips on optimizing your website for this filter.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of SafeSearch

SafeSearch can keep you safer online, but people pay for the service by giving up their privacy. The SafeSearch setting allows Google to harvest in-depth information about people’s browsing habits, interests, downloads, and more. In a nutshell, while Google keeps your data safe from hackers, they use the data themselves.

However, Google users who object to such privacy invasion do indeed run some risks by disabling SafeSearch. They may come across explicit content and lose protection against explicit websites containing malware and viruses.

It’s a conundrum. Most people who opt-in for the service do so to stay safer without realizing they’re limiting search results.

The Impact on Search Results

SafeSearch causes a problem for website owners. While Google aims to protect its users from explicit content, the algorithm that identifies problematic content is not perfect. It is improving every day at classifying web content, but it still makes mistakes.

Additionally, Google’s definitions of harmful or explicit content vary as the algorithm gets smarter. The SafeSearch tool might flag something today, but allow it next week without you having made any changes to the site.

If something innocuous raises a red flag, you may not even realize your site has been flagged. You may only notice the changes when you check your website traffic statistics.

Websites Are at Risk of Unintended Harm

Nothing illustrates this inconsistency and the potential for harm to innocuous websites better than Google itself. On a few occasions, Google’s SafeSearch tool labeled its own site as “partially dangerous,” stating that “google.com may contain deceptive content.”

At the time, commentators speculated that site visitors may have posted dangerous content or that someone may have used one of Google’s services to host malware. Whatever the reason, the SafeSearch tool flagged the whole Google domain.

Tips to Prevent Unwarranted SafeSearch Flagging

Filtering applies to all elements of your website. SafeSearch filters keywords, videos, links, and images to determine explicit content. If something triggers the filter, traffic could decrease to varying degrees. When working on your website, keep the following aspects in mind:

  • Structure your site correctly. Group possibly contentious content together. Keep it in separate website sections, stored in specific folders. Label the section as Adult to isolate it from the rest of your non-explicit website. If Google can distinguish between your site’s explicit and non-explicit parts, it should only flag specific sections. This will prevent your website from disappearing from rankings completely.
  • Metadata is key. Metadata is crucial to help Google decide what it should leave out and keep. It’s your best defense against “unfair” SafeSearch filters. Add metadata to clarify the nature of the content to help Google understand its context better.
  • Allow unrestricted Googlebot Crawling. Removing unnecessary restrictions during the crawling process will improve Google’s accuracy.
  • Allow Google to fetch video content. It will help the algorithm to understand both your video content and its context.
  • Use descriptive content labels. Label and categorize your content, especially ANY materials that SafeSearch algorithms could misconstrue.
  • Regularly check SafeSearch compliance. Diarise a periodic review and update your website’s settings to align with any modifications in the algorithm.
  • Monitor user feedback. Respond to user reports about inaccurate age restrictions or content categorizations. It showcases your commitment to providing a safe and accurate online experience.
  • Monitor algorithm updates. Stay informed about significant search engine algorithm updates. Sudden changes in rankings may align with these updates.
  • Monitor competitors. If their rankings remain stable while yours drop significantly, it could indicate an issue with your website’s performance, SafeSearch status, or SEO.
  • Monitor backlinks. If you have backlinks from sites that have been caught up in SafeSearch limitations, it may impact your site, too.

A Few Final Words

People often accept SafeSearch assistance without realizing its pros and cons. It may protect them from potentially harmful content, but it can also filter out valuable content. Marketers can identify potential issues and prevent unwarranted SafeSearch flags by monitoring certain critical indicators. Be proactive. Regularly check your SafeSearch parameters to mitigate the risk of getting flagged without valid cause.

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