Google’s Safe Search Filters

How to stay out of em

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Over the past few months, some webmasters have complained that images on their sites were wrongly nabbed by Google Images’ safe search feature. This means, of course, a significant reduction in audience size.

We’ll assume the plaintiffs in this WebmasterWorld thread know the difference between art and pornography and have enough judgment to understand what’s PG-13 and what’s R. That’s a smart-aleck way of saying we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that their images are suitable for sensitive eyes and that Google Images is, actually, in the wrong.

Google Images is set to moderate by default, but users can be more Nazarene about it if they like or can let it all hang out by removing the filters altogether. If you’re a parent—or even just not all that pervy—then you know filters are good sometimes, just like on Camels.

The filters aren’t perfect. Sometimes they block legitimate images for a search query. The BBC’s recent linkbait headline, for example, informs the uncultured that great tits aren’t always what you think they are. Sometimes they’re birds, but don’t ask Google to show you. Safe search omits that one word entirely and unfiltered search brings back, well, what everybody would guess it brings back. To see the birds, you may have to go through Wikipedia.

There may be no hope of a nest of great tits (the birds, dammit) getting into Google’s image index at all. But for others who have misunderstandings with Google, there are things you can try.

SearchEngineRoundtable’s Barry Schwartz summarized the advice in the WebmasterWorld thread, which includes making separate folders, editing your text so that there are no naughty or could-be-construed as naughty words, checking the neighborhoods of outbound links, and other guilt-by-association aspects.  



Google’s Safe Search Filters
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