Adult Sites Google Ranking Problems

July 27, 2011 // Search Engines

I’m yet to work on an adult site client in my day to day business role however a personal project I’ve been working on for the last year has brought up some pretty interesting results and a possible flaw in Google’s ability to detect and categorise content.

I built a site targeting the keywords “Tinto Brass Films” – Tinto Brass is an Italian film Director who makes adult movies (not porn) – think 70’s style arty films. I’ve got a number of other movie affiliate sites and have a particular model that I know works for affiliate sales and Google Adsense – that’s why I chose the keyword/theme.

Progress was made as expected whereby I was in the top 3 in Google for my target keyword, however one day, out of the blue the homepage dropped from Google. I tried everything to get the homepage re-ranking but had little success, I even put the question out to the Twitter community. The website was in a strange position whereby it would randomly rank (at #3) for a day or two every month or so and then bury itself into the depths of Google the rest of the time.

The behaviour of the site had all the tale tale signs of a penalty but I’d done nothing wrong, in fact I’d checked just about everything twice to make sure. You can see in the image below the visits over about 1 year (click to enlarge):

The green line would have been roughly the expected traffic level from the rankings of the site, the red line is the actual average performance.

Then about a month ago the website was back in Google ranking very strongly and delivering the kind of levels of visitors I would expect. One thing I noticed which was different on the site was that Google Adsense was no longer showing on the site. I first thought I’d changed the code by mistake during one of my many on-site tweaks, however after installing the code a number of times across the whole site it just wasn’t showing. I looked for advice from Google as to why my Adsense ads were not showing up and realised it was because of the content I had could be considered as “porn” therefore it wouldn’t work.

There is no adult content on the site although “technically” I am selling adult movies which could constitute as breaching Google Adsense’s acceptance.

Anyway it looks to me that for the 9 months where Adsense WAS showing on the site but it WASN’T ranking for the target keyword Google obviously hadn’t categorised the site properly – or at least didn’t know what to do with it. There must be a filter that Google uses which detects through content whether or not a site has “adult” content, nothing new there – however it seems clear to me that on this instance Google had trouble trying to figure it out.

If anyone has had a similar experience I’d love to hear it!

Matt Ridout

About the author

My name is Matt Ridout, I've been working in digital marketing for 9 years; worked for agencies and currently Head of SEO at fashion startup called Farfetch. Try to test my own theories.

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