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Bing Search Results Update - Cleaning Up Their Act? Google Now NSFW?

Posted by Web Team on Oct 25, 2012
Summary: As a follow-up to our recent post on Bing displaying product images in search results that weren't appropriate for all ages, we decided to give credit where it's due - Bing seems to have cleaned things up a bit, but now Google seems to be stumbling a bit in this area as well. Today we examine additional examples of search engines displaying adult oriented search result for all audiences, regardless of filter settings. Earlier this month I couldn't help ribbing Bing a bit over some adult targeted shopping items find their way into non-adult product specific searches. Essentially Bing was showing "sexy" women's Halloween costume shopping results embedded within organic results for the innocent search "halloween". The fact that they were somewhat mixed in with toddler and baby costumes didn't make it any better. Anyway, it was a lighthearted critique but I thought I'd check back in on the world's #2 search engine and see if anything had changed in the past couple of weeks, and surprisingly they have! First, in case you missed it, here's the screenshot with "adult "Halloween costume shopping results I took of the results for "halloween" earlier this month (click to enlarge): Bing Search - Halloween Now, let's compare that with what we're seeing today: Halloween Bing Much milder, wouldn't you say? You're welcome America! What's that, you don't think I can take credit for it? Well, I just did. Deal with it. Seriously though, whether someone at Bing actually saw my original post or not, they clearly spotted and corrected the problem. And should you think this is just a fluke, and that the 5 shopping results they happen to be showing right now are more universally age appropriate, I clicked through to the full shopping results: Bing Halloween Shopping Results Okay, so there are a few inappropriate products still sneaking their way in there (circled in image above), but you can click through several pages of shopping results and find that they are few and far between. It's not perfect, and obviously no one wants their children see "the flasher" costume, but there's no question they've made an effort to clean it up. Of course, this change won't offer any comfort to Molly Wood, the other victim of Bing's adult search result issues we talked about in the original post. While Bing seems to be straightening things out with these Halloween searches, Google appears to be headed in the opposite direction to some extent. Granted, Google isn't pulling "sexy" costumes into organic results for the word "halloween", but they are showing one (and it's the only costume they're showing) in results for "halloween costumes": Google Halloween Costumes That's right, Google is featuring one shopping result on the standard organic results page and it's for a "Sexy Banana Costume" from lingerie and sexy costume retailer Yandy.com. If instead of selecting that individual costume you click through to additional shopping results, you can see that it's a bit of a mixed bag. Google Halloween Costumes Shopping Results There aren't any "sexy" costumes on the first pages of shopping results, but there's a "sassy" and a "flirty", and I wouldn't say that plug/outlet couples costume is rated G by any stretch of the imagination. Digging through several pages of search results it doesn't appear they're filtered in any way and actually seem to be mixing together more "sexy" costumes with childrens and other more tame costumes than even Bing. Take a look at the variance in just page 10 and 11: Google Halloween Costumes Shopping Results 10 Google Halloween Costumes Shopping Results 11 Page 10 shopping results are clearly costumes are clearly adult "sizes" but they aren't "adult" oriented, whereas almost every costume on page 11 has "sexy" in the name. By the way, there is one commonality among all 3 of these examples, and oddly enough it's most present on sexy page 11 - "Plus Size" costumes. Yeesh, maybe we should be more concerned about that? With all we hear about childhood obesity these days, this is like a double whammy for the kids - images that aren't age appropriate but at the same time essentially normalize being overweight. I'm of course joking about this "plus size" costume critique (mostly), but I think we can agree it's a little odd. Before I wrap this post up, I want to point out another example of adult/general search results being mixed on Google. It's only fair after I let them off pretty easy in the earlier post because they did a great job of handling the Molly Wood situation. After recognizing that the "sexy banana" costume came from a lingerie shop, I couldn't help but wonder how Google might deal with search intent on the word "teddy" which is obviously open to many interpretations (bears, Presidents of the U.S., lingerie): Google Teddy Results As you can see, Google is giving us a variety of options because search intent isn't clear. Logically, this makes complete sense so I don't mean to quibble with Google over the relevancy of their search results, but I'll go back to the central point - parents wouldn't want their kids seeing women in lingerie on such a non-adult oriented search. And before anyone asks if SafeSearch filters were turned off, they weren't - I was using the default "Moderate" setting. I even performed the same search after changing the setting to "strict" filtering and got the same results: Google Teddy SafeSearch Strict   It looks like Google is only filtering out pornographic images or things that it has otherwise somehow deemed inappropriate, but it seems odd that they haven't decided lingerie fits in to that category, which is even more odd than "sexy" costumes because you can at least understand how those get lumped in on a generic "halloween costumes" search. In the end I think this boils down to search engine technology just not being as smart as we sometimes assume it is. Google and the other engines really do an amazing job and most of us can't even begin to comprehend how they do it, so clearly I'm being a bit of a nitpicker here, but it's always worth noting that machines aren't infallible. That's just one of many lessons I learned from the Will Smith blockbuster I, Robot.

Topics: Google, Optimization