Tagging Adult-ish Pictures

For the most part, when I come across an issue on a site, I just search for the solution and someone has previously identified the solution. Last week I came across a problem that I didn’t know how to deal with and neither did anyone else.

Issue: In optimizing a client’s website, I came across some images that might seem unsuitable for children. Not vulgar or crude, and were there in a health care sense, but were still not suitable for children.

I wanted to find a tag that I could place in the image or on the page that would let the search engines, especially the adult filters of the images side, that the images were not suitable from the get go. The client had noted it on their site as well, but on the entry page, not on every page that the images appeared.

Short version: There were no tags that I could find, and no one knew the answer. So I emailed a friend of mine … Matt Cutts (no, I am NOT giving anyone his email address). See Matt, for those of you that don’t know, is one of the minds behind SafeSearch and is now the Head of the Web Spam team at Google. Who better to ask right?

Turns out there are meta tags that can be affixed to the page with ratings that are much like movie ratings. These ratings work with browser filters to ensure that kids do not see specific content on the web. Reading between the lines, I am thinking that this might also be a way to signal to the SEs that there are things on that page that should be behind the SafeSearch wall.

How to Tag Adult Content

The best resource for adult rating that Matt pointed me to had examples of how to use all the rating systems. Major downside: this means 4 additional meta tags on my page. This area of the world has not been condensed, so there are many way to rate pages. For my client, I added them all. Better safe than sorry in my opinion.

I won’t go over every one, but basically for most of them you place specific codes within the meta tag that let bots and browsers know exactly what type of content is on that page that might not be suitable. In my client’s instance, it was partial nudity on a woman that was health care based.

It might have taken some time and a little more work, but I know that parents and search engines will like that my client is trying to help protect children on the web. I just hope that the various organizations can come together on ONE rating system someday, but that might be as possible as all of the browsers rendering the same way (stupid IE …).

UPDATE: I had a question (PRO Membership Required) the other day in the SEOmoz Q&A that gave me another thought about how to use the adult content tagging. If your images have ever been placed behind the SafeSearch filter, and you think it isn’t warranted, you might TRY (read: hasn’t been tested) placing these meta tags on the page where the image is hosted, and use the tags for safe for children. Don’t use this to get around the filters, I don’t think that will work. If hand checked, and the images are in fact NOT kosher, you might get removed/banned. No bueno here people. Karma, remember karma. If you don’t want your kids, your nieces/nephews, or godchildren looking at those images, then other kids shouldn’t either.


  1. Thanks for taking the time to write this post Kate. Although I have not yet dealt with this scenario I can see how it may come up at some point with some of our clients.

  2. Thanks you for this post. It was our intent to routinely add the appropriate tags to sites we built, but now I wonder if this is a dead end.

    First of all, some of Matt’s resources have already become obsolete: RSAC folded into ICRA, and now ICRA has stopped their rating system.

    SafeSurf and Safe For Kids haven’t announced that they are closed, but on each site the last press release or update seems to be 2007.

    I haven’t finished researching this and wondered if you had. So far as I can tell, the only strategy for Google SafeSearch is to put any possibly risky images into a separate directory so they can be filtered out. There’s a lot of discussion here:


  3. Hi Kate,
    I am a newbie in SEO arena.
    Basically i am a developer. But, I was allotted a small job of adding ‘Meta Tags’ to our company web-site through which i am aware of this SEO stuff.

    I am very much interested to Learn it.
    As of now the best content i have is reference from ‘SEOmoz’ blog.

    Can you please help me by sharing some good SEO materials/links. Also, I am keen to know the
    algorithms of search engines.

    Anticipating a positive response.

    Azhar Rizvi,INDIA.

  4. There are a number of resources including SEOmoz, Raven Tools, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Roundtable. Welcome to SEO, just keep reading!

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