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Image traffic dropped significantly; images filtered by SafeSearch

 4:32 am on Dec 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

My image traffic has dropped significantly and turning on Google's image filter for "filter explicit results" removes at least half of the images from search.

The site has absolutely nothing risque about it, nor do any of the images. 99.5% of the images don't even contain a human in them much less anything illegal or even questionable.

If you take a stroll through your neighborhood you will see the items depicted in the images and there are literally a million other similar images that don't get filtered for these items.

What happened and what can I do about it?



 4:07 pm on Dec 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

For sexually explicit content, our filter mainly relies on algorithms that look at many factors, including keywords, links, and images.


If, as you say, the images themselves are not sexually explicit take a look at the captions, surrounding text, backlinks (anchor text, surrounding copy, site niche, etc.), and hotlinking sites.


 4:34 pm on Dec 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'd let my child look at my site, it has no foul or derogatory language either, at all. The pages hotlinking my images however tend to be rather raunchy but I have nothing to do with those sites. Trust me my site would be suitable for a first grader.

How do you get google to re-evaluate their safesearch image filter for your site? My searches all lead to results that are about people wanting to see more adult content that is being blocked.


 6:17 pm on Dec 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

You are extremely unlikely to be able to get Google to do a manual override on an algo determination.

You mention that 'raunchy' sites are hotlinking your images. First: why do you permit hotlinking at all?
Second, as this may (note may) be a cause of the problem I'd cut those sites hotlinking off to see what effect that has.

If it does remove the safesearch filter effect then you face the business decision of which traffic is better: those sites or Google search.


 6:48 pm on Dec 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't permit hotlinking, it's blocked in htaccess. The sites that hotlink, presumably by scraping the search engines, don't display my images but they do have the url to my image on their pages. This is apparently enough, if this is the cause of my images being filtered.

I've been over my site many times, including fetch by googlebot, and there isn't anything even remotely worthy of a filter on my site.


 7:57 pm on Dec 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

My image traffic has dropped significantly and turning on Google's image filter for "filter explicit results" removes at least half of the images from search.
Only for .com atm, although other countries may do it. Personally, I think it is wrong for Google to try and block images.

 8:13 pm on Dec 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'd let my child look at my site, it has no foul or derogatory language either, at all.

It might still contain character strings that fall foul of G. Simple references to place names such as Essex can cause a site to be interpreted as "adult". And don't even think about the towns of S#*$!horpe or Penistone


 9:11 pm on Dec 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

At the end of November, Google changed their SafeSearch handling. They went from three levels (SafeSearch could be "Off", "Moderate" or "On") to just "On" or "Off." Sounds like you were caught up in this change - from what I hear a lot of people who care about image search were. No more moderate filtering.

I agree very much about the problems that can come from other sites hotlinking - so it's good that you've got it blocked. If you think back over their history, it took Google Image Search a long time to get things even close in this area. The hotlinking sites were often given top ranking rather than the originating site when "Moderate" filtering was the default.

Now, there is no more "Moderate" and I think hotlinking might be a real problem generating false positives in SafeSearch "On" filtering.

It might be worth checking your logs to see if anyone is still hotlinking even though you've got it blocked with .htaccess. I'm not sure what steps you could take if you find that happening, but I can see how such hotlinking might confuse Google - they don't see your .htaccess file, after all.

[edited by: tedster at 9:26 pm (utc) on Dec 16, 2012]


 9:22 pm on Dec 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Now, there is no more "Moderate"
For .com

 5:47 pm on Dec 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hi Sgt_Kickaxe,

agree with everythings that ist told here - hotlinking may be a problem. But: in my experience in most cases the text is the problem - even if you think everything is fine. There is something like a hurdle - if you are under no problem. But if you have one word too much the hole site falls in the seafesearch filter.
So I would recommend to search on your domain for topics like "sexy", "hot", "adult", "explicite", "sweet little", "lipps" and so on... Change all these words to harmless synonyms. Using the site-command could be helpfull:
"site:yourdomain.com sexy" and so on ...

If you are sure that everything is Ok, go straight to the Webmasterhelp-forum and tell them that they fail: -> [productforums.google.com...]

Good luck, Martin


 5:53 pm on Dec 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

For .com we see Moderate(Recommended)


 12:59 am on Dec 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

mssfldt I don't think telling a search engine they suck will work but thanks for the suggestion :)

I did find what I think I'm looking for on Google however, from an early 2011 thread in which someone else had the same issue.

image safesearch reconsideration form.

I have no idea if this is an outdated url or if they will review the safesearch filter on my site but I submitted a re-evaluation request and I'll let you know how it goes.


 10:04 am on Dec 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

Sgt_Kickaxe of course they want to know. I recommend to use the thread that I linked. You can also use the form but it took much longer (what I heard about it - I allways use the forum thread - not sure how long it takes now since Susan Moskwa passed from Google).


 8:41 am on Dec 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

i have also noticed impact on image search traffic for website of my client after the recent change of safe content filter at Google.


 10:23 am on Dec 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hey mssfldt can you relink us to the webmasters help thread it seems to be bad url. Thanks.


 1:27 pm on Dec 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

GeorgeClooney : here it is but maybe they closed the thread:

http://productforums.google.com/d/msg/webmasters/g1q22o4e5pI/sc4WIYr8dUgJ [productforums.google.com]

Good luck, Martin

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 8:18 pm (utc) on Dec 20, 2012]
[edit reason] fixed link [/edit]

Robert Charlton

 8:30 pm on Dec 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

I fixed the link in mssfldt's post above, but here's the whole post, because Google's forums often have issues....

Susan Moskwa - 6/20/11

Good news, folks: you can now contact the Image Search team directly if you believe your site is being incorrectly filtered by SafeSearch. You no longer have to use me as a middleman.

You can request that your site be reviewed for removal from the SafeSearch filter here:
http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/request.py?contact_type=safe_search [google.com]

If you wish to keep adult content on your site but to have the non-adult content unfiltered, please put the adult content in a separate directory or subdomain and tell us where it is in the "Tell us about this issue" field.


The review form is the same one Sgt_Kickaxe suggests above.

Note that if you do go to the forum discussion, Susan Moskwa's thread is being imported from its original location of another discussion a year ago, and the script accomplishing this can take so long to load it that it will freeze up some browsers.

And a PS: To get a workable link for a Google forum post, you need to click on the down arrow in the upper right of the specific post and click on "More message actions" and then select "Link" and copy it. These Ajax workarounds are driving everybody crazy.


 6:52 am on Dec 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Update: Five days after filing a report using that form I have had no response or movement, yet, my images are still under the safesearch block. I know that five weekdays is not a long time but it's longer than the 2-4 days I have seen re-inclusion requests be processed so I figured I'd update.


 6:41 am on Dec 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

Update to Sgt Kickaxe - I am in the exact same position except my results are no where to be found with or without safesearch.

I lost all image traffic when safesearch was released.

A good example is a scraper has my exact image published around 6 months after me ranking in my spot. my image is no where to be found. I got around 2k views per day from this one image.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 7:34 am (utc) on Jan 10, 2013]
[edit reason] removed specifics [/edit]


 6:42 am on Dec 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

Forgot to note i filed a report on the 20th of December no response.


 8:47 pm on Dec 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

10 days later I don't have a response either, and the images are still stuck behind the safesearch filter. I have no way of knowing if Google is maintaining the image review link posted above which isn't easy to find.

Since Google made a major change to the way they handle image safesearch you would think they should have been ready to fix any mistakes it caused. Your Google forum post hasn't really been answered George, as of today anyway.


 9:30 pm on Dec 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

GeorgeClooney, find out who is hosting the site and raise a DMCA with them.


 11:03 pm on Dec 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

Sgt Kickaxe - Do you think you have any algorithmic penalty on your site? E.g panda or penguin?

lame_wolf - That is the next step unfortunately. Im not sure how much luck i will have as i havent heard response from emails sent to the website owners. And one is obviously a scraper so i doubt a one DMCA is going to get anything done.

Im just so dissapointed/worn out. I created "awesome" content for totally white hat sites. Now I have to waste energy contacting and DCMA's to protect my content. All Google have to do is understand i published my content first.


 12:51 am on Dec 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

lame_wolf - That is the next step unfortunately. Im not sure how much luck i will have as i havent heard response from emails sent to the website owners.

Website owners are one thing, hosting companies are different, even the ones outside the USA.

And one is obviously a scraper so i doubt a one DMCA is going to get anything done.
I have known hosting companies to remove a site completely, even though they only had one page on their site that violated my copyrights. Some will either remove the page/site, or get the owner to contact you, or in rare cases, the hosting company fails to respond (a problem I am presently having with a company right now)

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 8:06 am (utc) on Jan 10, 2013]
[edit reason] removed specific [/edit]


 9:55 am on Jan 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Sgt Kickaxe - Do you think you have any algorithmic penalty on your site? E.g panda or penguin?

I can 100% guarantee that I do not have a penalty on the site due to Panda, Penguin or a manual penalty.

I filed both a reconsideration request and an image reconsideration request at the same time and the web reconsideration request (in GWT) came back with "no manual actions found". Nov 17th wasn't a Panda or Penguin update date either.

Nothing's changed, many of my images remain blocked by safesearch despite being as explicit as a toy car.


 5:12 pm on Jan 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Memo to self - recheck my own image searches on all settings.

As I said before, I have known G be quite "good" and misinterpreting perfectly harmless expressions in the past and flagging the images on those pages as "adult", even though the standard search is quite capable of recognising the innocent usage.


 8:08 pm on Jan 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

I got my response to the reconsideration request - no penalties found.

That means, to me, that image search is not looked into by the spam team since it would have taken two seconds to know that this item belongs in a schoolyard and not on an explicit setting.

I still have not received a response, or the typical acknowledgment Google gives, while using the image reconsideration form linked above. I believe it's an outdated feature since Google doesn't really link to that page from anywhere and the webmaster forum post I found it in is quite old.

I'm out of luck on images it looks like.

Perhaps I should round up a series of extremely mundane, ordinary images that Google images has listed as explicit and make a parody post about Google, the company who wants glasses to see the world on everyone when even a potato peeler is too explicit in their eyes :)


 1:37 am on Jan 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

You don't say how many of the raunchy sites link to you, but why not try disavowing them? I know that's not really the intended purpose of the tool, but if Google knows that you don't endorse the links you're getting from the sites, maybe it'll help?

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