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Google: It’s OK if Site Ranks for Adult Queries

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller discussing negative SEO and rankings

Google’s John Mueller affirmed that it’s not a ranking problem if negative SEO succeeds in making a site rank for adult content.

In an Office Hours Hangout, Mueller affirmed that if negative SEO succeeded, ranking for adult content didn’t exclude the site from ranking for other queries.

The publisher asking the question said that the negative SEO succeeded in making a site rank for adult content.

But it should be noted that nothing was said as to whether the publisher’s rankings for normal queries were affected.

This is the question:

“I have anchor text and backlinks from adult content sites and some of my pages rank for as high as position one for clearly adult content queries, as evidence by the search results.

Is disavowing the adult content sites the best thing to do?

I don’t have any manual actions.”

That’s an unusual question. Many report receiving negative links, but it’s not ordinarily stated that the links caused the sites to rank for adult queries.

Google’s Mueller didn’t seem surprised by this question.

But I think many publishers and search marketers would be surprised. Negative SEO is not supposed to affect the sites that are being attacked.

Mueller encouraged the publisher to disavow the links:

“You can definitely disavow these links if you want.”

Next Mueller affirmed that a site that is ranking for adult queries can still rank for normal queries.

“In general, just because you have links from adult sites and just because you might be ranking for some of those queries doesn’t mean that you would not be ranking for the normal queries on your website.

This is something where people often feel that this is kind of like negative SEO because like I rank for these queries I don’t want to rank for.

But at the same time, this wouldn’t be negatively affecting the queries that you do want to rank for, which probably aren’t these kinds of queries.”

It’s true, a site can rank for multiple search queries.

But it also seems that it should not be possible for a normal site with zero adult content to rank for adult phrases solely based on adult anchor text.

Google bombing depended on the power of anchor text to drive a site to the top of the search results for irrelevant search queries. It’s been years since Google dampened the power of anchor texts for that purpose.

Yet here we are, a non-adult site is said to rank for adult phrases based solely on anchor text. Seems like a bug in Google search.

Mueller doesn’t address whether that’s a search bug.

He next reiterated the advice to use the disavow tool:

“So from that point of view that’s something disavowing them probably probably makes sense. Makes it kind of reducing the possibility that your site would rank for those queries.

But just because it’s ranking for one set of queries doesn’t mean that it won’t rank for other kinds of queries.

It’s not that we suddenly assume that your website is an adult website.”

Takeaway:  Are We Sure About This?

If a page ranks for Personal Injury [City Name], it’s because Google assumes the page is about Personal Injury [City Name].

So if Google ranks a page for adult queries, isn’t Google saying that this page is about adult queries?

Does anchor text override neural matching, RankBrain, BERT, and natural language processing? All of that technology gets swept aside as the anchor text signal pushes a page to the top of Google’s search results?

What do you think?

Watch the Google Office Hours Hangout here:

Category News SEO
SEJ STAFF Roger Montti Owner - at

I have 25 years hands-on experience in SEO and have kept on  top of the evolution of search every step ...

Google: It’s OK if Site Ranks for Adult Queries

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