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05.09.2023 Search Engine Land

How SEOs can deal with unwanted adult-intent traffic

Discover why unwanted adult-intent traffic is a concern for non-adult websites and ways to identify and control it before it impacts your SEO. The post How SEOs can deal with unwanted adult-intent traffic appeared first on Search Engine Land. - SEO for adult sites is a fiercely competitive space – yet pervasive and unwanted adult-intent traffic remains a big challenge for enterprises, ecommerce sites and marketplaces.  Here is why this is a problem and what can be done about it. When non-adult sites rank for adult searches It’s important to understand that “adult-intent traffic” and “adult content” differ.  Any amount of mature content can cause Google to label a website as “adult” and limit its exposure for most queries.  It’s a good practice to label any adult content as such using <meta name="rating" content="adult"> tag that will signal to Google that this content should be filtered from SafeSearch. Whenever practical, mature content should be separated from the main site by moving it to a subdomain. Adult-intent traffic, on the other hand, describes the intent behind the search query, regardless of the content of the page it lands on. How SafeSearch influences Google’s results If SafeSearch is on, most explicit and adult content will be filtered out from the results, which effectively means a ban on sexually exploitative or sexually suggestive content and nudity.  Websites that Google explicitly labels as being pornographic only show up for certain queries. Google prevents adult-themed content from triggering rich snippets or appearing in Discover. Ironically, this means that safe websites and platforms that monitor and remove explicit content (for example, mainstream news sites or educational platforms) are more likely to appear for adult-oriented search queries in Google when SafeSearch is on. General information For many queries with adult intent, Google might return results that offer more general information about the topic or non-explicit references.  For instance, a search for an adult film star might return a Wikipedia page or a news article about them rather than their explicit content. Vague queries Many search queries can be interpreted in multiple ways, both innocent and adult. With SafeSearch on, Google is likely to favor a non-explicit interpretation.  For example, searching for “breast” might prioritize results about breast cancer, chicken breast recipes, or anatomy over more adult-themed results. While we don’t know what percentage of all Google searches is adult in intent, we know that many authoritative, established sites and global marketplaces capture much of this traffic, even if no matching adult content is found on the site. It is not uncommon for adult-intent searches to make up to 20-40% of all SEO visits. This number can be even higher for some geos. Isn’t all traffic good traffic? Unpacking the adult-intent dilemma For publisher sites that can monetize pageviews through programmatic advertising, a click is a click, and the intent of the traffic might not be the key determining factor for CPM.  For ad arbitrage sites, capturing adult intent visits may even be desirable. However, this can be problematic for online businesses, platforms, or marketplaces that are conversion-oriented and non-adult. Analytical noise When organic search visits are going up, it’s tempting to deem SEO strategy a success. But what if a big portion of these visits are non-converting adult clicks?  An uptick in visits could be because a key competitor or another large website has scaled their adult-traffic blocking efforts.  Not having the right level of insight or ability to isolate valuable visitor segments from noise can lead to: Analytical mistakes. Misplaced investment of time and resources. Failure to tie SEO performance to business outcomes. It’s expensive What is the ROI of adult-intent traffic for a non-adult site?  If non-converting adult queries make up a lion’s share of all visits, it may be time to examine the costs associated with serving this traffic and start scaling back. Quantifying adult-intent queries: Navigating your traffic data Adult-intent traffic is easy to spot but difficult to quantify.  Sadly, no magic tool will provide all the SEO keyword data and determine what portion is adult in intent. The bigger the site, the higher the risk.  Established sites that do not restrict indexing of search results pages or marketplaces that leverage user-generated content (UGC) run the risk of amassing an enormous amount of long-tail traffic through low-quality URLs that rank for the most obscure adult terms. Google Search Console GSC is a great place to start looking. While it does not provide complete keyword data, it offers enough insights to gauge the magnitude of the problem by examining a relatively small sample of top keywords. Google Analytics GA (and most other web analytics tools) can help get more granular by analyzing URLs of top organic landing pages for adult terms or phrases that could be interpreted as adult in meaning.  This is especially relevant for marketplaces, sites that index internal search results, or leverage UGC for SEO.  As a bonus, GA makes it easier to understand the business impact of adult traffic by cross-referencing it with available engagement and conversion data. Ahrefs Ahrefs is a fantastic tool that can analyze massive lists of keywords and their ranking fluctuations.  With a bit of regex magic or AI help, it’s possible to determine which keywords have adult intent and estimate the overall share of traffic they represent.  The best part? Competitive intelligence.  Ahrefs makes it easy to analyze competitor standing with respect to adult traffic and glimpse additional insights behind their SEO reach and performance. It’s well worth segmenting traffic data for further detail. Do some geographies, days of week, times of day, or device types stand out more than others?  Understanding behavioral and usage patterns can make isolating and addressing unwanted traffic easier. Get the daily newsletter search marketers rely on. “> “> “> Processing…Please wait. SUBSCRIBE See terms. function getCookie(cname) { let name = cname + "="; let decodedCookie = decodeURIComponent(document.cookie); let ca = decodedCookie.split(';'); for(let i = 0; i

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