Much has been said about Googles hundreds of ranking factors, but they just came out and said, not surprisingly, that “pornyness” is one of them.
You can read more about this over on the full post at Search Engine Roundtable.
While the idea behind this isn’t anything new, it’s interesting to see Google put a name on it. During Gary Illyes recent Reddit AMA, someone asked about Google’s search factors. In particular, when Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified in front of congress, he said that Google uses 200 ranking signals, but only mentioned three of them — relevance, freshness and popularity. The user asked Gary Illyes what some of the others might be.
Gary answered with “Country the site is local to, rankbrain, pagerank/links, language, pornyness, etc”.
He was sort of being funny about it, but it’s something you need to consider. Google keeps “safe search” on for users by default, so if Google somehow thinks your site is inappropriate for younger viewers, that could be devastating to your rankings and traffic.
That said, defining “pornyness” is a tricky thing to do. Traditionally, algorithms have had a very difficult time determining the type of skin showing in an image, so things were based entirely on text. Google is getting much better about that; using tools like Google Lens on Android shows just how smart Google is at understanding images. That said, text is still the overwhelming factor in determining the content of a site.
I don’t suspect many sites would run afoul of this on accident, but be mindful of the language you use. If you use terms on your site that are also used on adult sites, Google may mistakenly put you in that category.
We had an example somewhat like this, where an attorney we worked with had a page about pharmaceutical fraud and it frequently was flagged as being hacked by security plugins. Google never had a problem with it, but perhaps that was more luck than anything.
In any case, pay attention to the language you use. While “pornyness” is a funny term, it’s indeed a huge factor for how Google sorts out sites, and you want to make sure you stay on the right side of that algorithm.