In a recent live stream, Google’s John Mueller told SEO experts that any amount of adult content on your site can get your site filtered from search results and may make you ineligible to appear in rich results. 

The topic popped up in a Google Search Central SEO office-hours stream on December 11.

Specifically, the question focused on whether any structured data markup is allowed on adult websites. However, this spun out into a wider conversation about how Google’s search engine algorithms handle adult content across a variety of types of sites.

Adult Sites Not Eligible For Rich Search Results

Unsurprisingly, Google does not serve rich results for adult websites. Not only would including these types of rich results potentially expose young or vulnerable individuals to inappropriate content, it would create significant moderation issues to ensure all content was vetted and legal across a huge range of laws addressing adult content worldwide. 

As Mueller explains:

“I think in our rich results guidelines we say none of [the rich result types] are useful for adult websites. But I haven’t checked recently.

I don’t know if anything has changed there but, at least as far as I know, the types of rich results that I’m aware of are explicitly not meant for adult content websites.”

He goes on to say that there are no penalties for using the rich snippet markup on your site, even if you have adult content:

“I don’t think there’s any kind of manual action or webspam action that takes place in something like that.

It’s more that our systems recognize: oh this is an adult website, and it wants to show these rich results types, but since it’s an adult website we just won’t show them. So it’s not like it will be demoted or anything.”

Of course, the line of what defines an “adult website” can sometimes be a little hard to determine. Some websites may be largely family friendly but have a specific section dedicated to adult topics. Others may have perfectly legitimate reasons to discuss adult topics or share content including adult themes or images without necessarily being an “adult website.”

How does Google handle these?

How Google Search Handles Sites With Adult Content

It makes perfect sense for Google to prevent explicitly adult websites from appearing in some search results or features like rich results. When things are less clear, Google ultimately defers to its SafeSearch filters.

As Mueller says, any content that doesn’t pass Google’s SafeSearch filters will be ineligible for rich snippets and face other limitations. If the majority of content on a site does not pass these filters, Google will then play it safe and block all content from that domain. 

“With a lot of the safe search filters we try to apply them to a broader URL pattern on a website. So if we see that a whole domain is adult content for the most part, and you have some small part that is not adult, then probably we would filter the whole domain. We want to stay on the safe side there.

If you have individual subdomains, where some are adult and some of them are not, that makes it a little bit easier. If you have separate domains then obviously that makes it a lot easier for us to understand that these are completely separate websites that should be treated differently.”

This also works inversely, with predominantly family friendly websites subject to being filtered for any adult content:

“It also happens the other way around where some sites might have classified sections which are for adults, and then if that section is embedded within the main website in a way that is hard to separate out, then we might say well we don’t know how much of this site should be filtered by safe search.

Maybe we’ll filter too much, maybe we won’t filter enough. On the other hand if you move that to a subdomain then it’s a lot easier to say oh this subdomain should be treated like this, and the other subdomain should be treated differently.”

Ultimately, the vast majority of business websites are safe from ever dealing with these limitations. However, if you have a section of your site dedicated to anything from alcohol to adult wellness, you may assess how this could be impacting your website – and your brand’s online presence – as a whole.

To hear Mueller’s full response, check out the video below:

A recent report from Microsoft predicts the future of online marketing throughout the next decade using a combination of data, surveys, and insights from some of the leading advertising experts at the company.

The report “2020 Vision: Trends to define the next decade” covers a wide range of issues, including the most important online marketing skills professionals will need in the 2020s, new approaches to search engine marketing and advertising, and increasing interactivity.

With how quickly online marketing changes, it can be hard to imagine where we will be in ten years, though Microsoft believes it may look a little like this:

Advertising Without Webpages

Online advertising has long been built on the structure where advertisers show ads on a site which lead to a specific landing page with more information when clicked. Gradually, that is changing as new platforms and apps are providing new opportunities for a more streamlined, interactive ad:

“Think of an interactive ad asking you to “Choose Your Own Adventure” then responding with additional interaction or next step based on your choice. In search, this type of interaction could begin to replace the practice of clicking through to a web page or content download.”

Streaming Brings Back TV Advertising With a Twist

The biggest flaw with traditional television advertising has been an inability to precisely target who the ad is being shown to, let alone exactly how many people will see the ad. The rise of digital streaming platforms will help solve this issue by delivering opportunities to deliver targeted ads to viewers:

“More relevant and targeted advertising will be possible on streaming TV because data on the backend will enable high-performing ads to be delivered to extremely targeted audiences. A mashup of search, audience-based buying and news content will fuel many of the evolving platforms to watch.”

Cameras Change How We Search

Visual search has existed in relatively primitive forms for a few years without ever truly catching on. This is largely because they have largely been unreliable for getting precise search results. Thanks to the power of machine-learning, Microsoft believes that will change in the 2020s:

“We’re addicted to screens and our eyeballs are looking for a new thrill factor — one that takes us beyond links and text, and is powered by images… How easy would it be if you take a picture of something you want rather than trying to search for it using words?“

SEO Remains an Essential Skill For Online Marketing

For the most part, the predictions in the report focus on large-scale shifts the company expects to see in the coming years. In one area, however, the experts see things remaining relatively consistent.

Based on a poll of more than 600 global senior marketer participants, SEO is going to remain the most important “hard skill” for marketers to have. The list is as follows:

Hard skills:

  • SEO
  • Data analysis
  • Copywriting
  • Behavioral analysis
  • Automation

Soft skills:

  • Creativity
  • Humility
  • Empathy
  • Adaptability
  • Transparency

The full report delves deeper into exactly why Microsoft’s experts expect to see the changes in the online marketing world in the coming decade. You can download it here.


Google is changing what business owners see when they view their own reviews in order to make it easier to encourage new reviews.

In the past, business owners or account managers would see a button which directed them to “write a review” from their business listing. Now, many are reporting seeing a new button which instead reads “get more reviews.”

"Get More Reviews" button

While the function has not changed, the new text makes it more clear exactly what Google is offering – a chance to share your review links across Facebook, Twitter, email, and more.

The meaning behind the text is also much more clear as leaving a review for your own business is strongly frowned upon and can get your listing penalized by the search engine.

When shared, the review link directs people to your Google Maps listing with a pop up to immediately write a review.

Bing has announced a new series of link penalties aimed at reducing the presence of spammy or manipulative sites across its search engine. Specifically, the latest link penalties target private blog networks (PBNs), as well as those using subdomain leasing or manipulative cross-site linking.

What Bing is Targeting

For the most part, Bing is looking to penalize sites who are misleading search engines by essentially bundling site level signals to increase the presence of unrelated subdomains. Lately, a number of larger sites have been leasing subdomains while promising high rankings through site-level signals.

Subdomains are regularly used for legitimate purposes to help separate areas of a site. For example, many sites may use a separate subdomain for areas of their site related to customer support, which would appear as In this case, it makes sense for the support areas of the site to still benefit from the site-level SEO signals present.

On the other-hand, you have leasing services such as WordPress which are used to host a wide-range of unrelated topics, brands, and philosophies. In this case, it would not make sense for each subdomain to receive the SEO boost from WordPress’s main domain.

While WordPress follows the best practices of search engines and properly insulates each subdomain, some bad actors have been misrepresenting their site structure to artificially inflate the presence of unrelated subdomains.

As the company explained in its announcement:

“…we heard concerns from the SEO community around the growing practice of hosting third-party content or letting a third party operate a designated subdomain or subfolder, generally in exchange for compensation.

…the practice equates to buying ranking signals, which is not much different from buying links.”

Private Blog Networks

In particular, Bing called out PBNs for misrepresenting their site structure to artificially inflate content:

“While not all link networks misrepresent website boundaries, there are many cases where a single website is artificially split across many different domains, all cross-linking to one another, for the obvious purpose of rank boosting. This is particularly true of PBNs (private blog networks).”

Cross-Site Linking

Another issue that Bing is putting in its crosshairs are sites that are essentially a single site but are broken into multiple interlinking sites to create false link signals.

The graphic below illustrates how this site structure may appear:

Notably, this practice has already been against Bing’s policies and subject to penalties, but the search engine says it will begin applying additional penalties.

The Takeaway

All of the types of activity being targeted by Bing’s latest link penalties are systematic misrepresentations of websites to artificially boost their presence in search engines. It is hard to imagine many cases where legitimate sites could be affected inadvertently – though it is always possible.

Customers who have left a review for your website on Google will now receive notifications via email when you respond, providing even greater incentives for businesses to promptly respond to any reviews they receive.

In the past, it was possible a reviewer may have never seen your response unless they deliberately checked on their post. This made it difficult to properly address complaints and provided little reason for businesses to respond to praise.

Now, the new email notifications will help ensure both happy and disgruntled customers will see when you’ve responded and help develop better customer interaction.

Google has always recommended replying to your reviews because it is simply good customer service and shows that you care, but the email notification system makes it more important than ever to keep an eye on your reviews and reply promptly.

In their announcement, Google also included a number of tips for responding to reviews, such as:

  1. Be nice and don’t get personal. This isn’t just a guideline—it’s also a good idea as a business owner. It’s difficult to win an argument with a frustrated customer, and you want to avoid burning bridges. Keep your responses useful, readable, and courteous. In addition, responses should comply with our local content policy.
  2. Keep it short and sweet. Users are looking for useful and genuine responses, but they can easily be overwhelmed by a long response.
  3. Thank your reviewers. Respond to happy reviewers when you have new or relevant information to share. You don’t need to thank every reviewer publicly, since each response reaches lots of customers.
  4. Be a friend, not a salesperson. Your reviewers are already customers, so there’s no need to offer incentives or advertisements. Tell reviewers something new about your business, or share something they might not have learned from their first visit.


Google recently made it even easier for businesses to maintain and edit their online listings by allowing businesses to directly edit their listing information shown in the knowledge graph without having to visit the Google My Business Dashboard. Google has confirmed a new Knowledge Panel interface allows users to directly edit local listings.


The new feature allows logged in users associated with a business to directly update business information without having to go through to Google My Business Dashboard, however the GMB Dashboard is still needed for updating menus or booking links.

The change was first rumored by Barry Schwartz at SEO Roundtable based on a comment by Gary Illyes at State of Search in mid-November. The first person to report seeing the feature put into action was Prya Chandra on G+.


While the feature is available in the Knowledge Panel and the Local Finder on both desktop and mobile, it is not available through Google Maps. It is likely the feature will eventually make its way into Google Maps in the near future, but there’s no word for now on when to expect that.

The biggest question in the wake of this change is what it means for the future of the Google My Business Dashboard. The dashboard still serves some purpose for business owners who need to update or correct menus and booking listings, but many are seeing this as a sign Google may be moving away from GMB.

It isn’t a reality quite yet, but image reading and object recognition are likely to change the search game in a big way before long. Razvan Gavrilas has spent the past few months researching the advancements Google is making in the fields of “reading” and indexing images and not only does it appear these types of systems and algorithms are closer than previously believed. There are steps you can take to be prepared right now. Find out more in Gavrilas’ article for Search Engine Journal here.

Responsive design is definitely the most talked about web design method right now, especially when discussing designing for mobile. It isn’t the only option though. There are three real options currently and each has its own pros and cons to them. Choosing the way you interact with mobile customers should reflect the type of business you are running and what you hope to accomplish.

Source: Flickr

Responsive Design – Though it is well covered, responsive websites are those that adapt to different sized screens across all platforms, from mobile to tablet to desktop. The idea is that you only build one website for everyone rather than different sites for all different devices. That time you would have spent designing sites for different platforms will have to be spent testing your one site on all of the devices. It also removes some of the ability to customize sites for certain devices.

Mobile Sites – A mobile site is optimized for that specific section of on-the-go customers. The sites are usually minimal, with large, finger-friendly buttons, and they load faster than responsive sites. This allows more direct control of how sites appear on different devices, but more importantly, the content selected to appear is tailored for the mobile demographic accessing it.

Native Mobile Apps – If you own a smartphone, you know what an app is. They are specific to their platforms so they have the benefit of being able to curate mobile content like websites do while further focusing on the differing needs of different platform users.

All three have their merits. Responsive websites create a sense of consistency and deliver the full experience of a desktop website in an accessible form for a specific device. Some hail it as a time saver, which isn’t quite true, but it does allow you to spend equal time on a site for all devices. Mobile sites and apps load faster and cater to specific audiences, while allowing them to act immediately.

Diksha Arora compares the three against each other at Vandelay Design. If you don’t know what is best for your business, she can help you identify your needs.

The debate between skeuomorphism and flat design has been covered thoroughly, but when I talked about it I found it hard to think of many examples of flat design. Possibly because I largely use Apple products or because flat design is a new-ish trend, I find myself interacting with skeuomorphic design interfaces much more often than flat design schemes.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of sites out there using the ideas behind flat design to create striking pages. For those unfamiliar, flat design is a style that drops all forms of imitation of depth or “realism” in favor of designing based on the flat screens we actually use. A great deal of new sites are using the style to create clean, minimal pages that emphasize simplicity and interaction, and Chris Spooner compiled a list of sites that have sprung up using flat design, complete with images for each website.

The actual debate between the two design methods is of course overblown. Some writers act as if the schism will decide the future look of the internet in the same way VHS and Laserdisk competed for how we watched movies at home. Unlike that type of competitive market, neither is “better” for the internet, though one may be more suited for your current project. These pages definitely make it clear that flat design can inspire creative and user-friendly interfaces just like skeuomorphism can.

Last week, Matt Cutts responded to a question he receives fairly regularly concerning the PageRank feature in the Google toolbar. Specifically, why haven’t they removed it? It is apparent that many believe that the PageRank feature is “widely used by link sellers as a link grading system.”

There is, of course, some truth to this. While spammers do take advantage of the PageRank system, Cutts says that it is still relevant to many others. “There are a lot of SEO’s and people in search who look at the PageRank toolbar, but there are a ton of regular users as well.” Apparently, many internet users see the PageRank feature as indicative of reputability  and Google doesn’t plan on forcing them to stop.

That doesn’t mean PageRank is here to stay forever. While Google plans to keep supporting it so long as it is relevant to their users, it is telling that Chrome does not have the PageRank feature built into Chrome. Now, IE 10 is disavowing add ons, meaning Google’s toolbar will no longer work with the browser.

Considering that Internet Explorer was the only browser supporting the Google toolbar, it is highly likely the PageRank feature, as well as the toolbar as a whole, will fade away before long. As Matt Cutts puts it, “the writing is on the wall” that the new iteration of IE could be the end of PageRank, but we will have to wait and see.