Part of my job of keeping up on the latest SEO news and tactics is to venture where I think no self-respecting webmaster should go… the black hat SEO news world. Fortunately, these occasional glimpses of the dark side are very interesting. For example, one of the more popular websites in the black hat industry, SEO Black Hat, recently noted that in a single weekend Google had managed to clear out much of the offensive adult content found in top 10 organic results; searches had to be conducted using a single adult word (use your imagination). The result? You and I may like this impressive cleanup but the adult webmaster forums were abuzz with dropped rankings across the Google board and supposition ran wild.

What does this mean to you and me, the webmasters that care nothing about the adult marketplace? Well here is the data that I found most interesting. According to the research conducted at SEO Black Hat, many of the adult websites that were dropped from single phrase searches actually lost little or no traffic. In fact, some of them increased traffic!

How Can This Happen?
Before answering this question I want you to know I am basing my answer on statistics I have not formally reviewed. I am taking for granted the stats that SEO Black Hat noted are for real and that after the Google shakeup, in some cases (the ones shown), traffic actually stayed the same or increased. The results do actually make sense to me so I felt they merited this posting on the StepForth SEO Blog. That said, now without further adieu…

How Could Traffic Increase?
Many of the sites that had managed to get a top ranking under a general adult term were obviously very effective marketers because gaining a ranking for a single keyword is extremely difficult. Taking this fact to the next step, many of these same adult websites were also targeting two-keyword phrases and had fantastic results under them as well. Now consider how the average searcher will react when they do not find what they are looking for after typing in any single word search; they will refine the query to get a finer result. This appears to be exactly what happened for the adult market after the Google clean-up; searchers decided to refine their search (again use your imagination – if you wish) and their refined results were rife with the adult material they were looking for. After all, Google has only ‘cleaned’ the top 10 results for single adult keyword searches and left alone the results for 2-keyword searches.

What Does this Mean for Google?
Who knows just how much of this was planned by Google but this is what was accomplished:

  • By cleaning the top 10 organic results of xxx sites for single adult keyword searches Google has gotten some serious brownie points – at least from me. After all, to be relevant the resulting content is still adult related but at least it isn’t rife with a myriad of questionable words and stomach-churning calls to ‘action’.
  • Google did not filter the Adwords results for the top 10 so now adult sites that want to be found on the first page will have no choice but to pay for the ranking… interesting tactic by Google but not an admirable one in my book.
  • Google has successfully implemented a clever algorithm improvement that appears to specifically filter only the top 10 results; very interesting indeed. I wonder how this will be applied elsewhere?

What Does this Mean For You?
I believe this information provides some extra weight against focusing on attaining rankings for single keywords. The fact of the matter is that a single keyword search may be shown to have a lot of searches but it is far too general and is not likely to be as effective as a top ranking for a phrase; since users are more likely to refine their search with an additional keyword.

My Question To You
Have you noticed this filter affect your non-adult rankings? In my opinion, it is highly likely that this filter may have been applied across the board on Google (even past the top 10); the adult market has just been the worst hit. I would love your opinions on this, please post a comment. Thanks!

A Note to Google
If you did indeed target the top 10 organic rankings (for single word adult searches) in order to clean out the most offensive sites then I find it questionable that you left the pay-per-click sites unfiltered on the first page. Of course I see the financial benefit to you by forcing adult sites to advertise to get first page exposure but this pushes the limits of your “don’t be evil” motto. My recommendation would be to make the Adwords results start on the second page so that misguided searchers do not come across offensive advertisements on the first page.

by Ross Dunn, CEO, StepForth Search Engine Placement Inc.
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