This Holiday Shopping Season, Searching Google For “Pearl Necklace” Leads To NSFW Surprise

google-new-logo-tinyThose using Google to find the perfect pearl necklace for their significant other this holiday season may be in for a rude surprise. If you search for “pearl necklace,” one of the top results is a definition from Urban Dictionary, which is completely not safe for work.

A reader sent us an email about the shock she felt when she saw this search result appearing at the top of Google Canada results (on Google.com, we see it in position two). Here is a screen shot of the result, with the snippet blocked out.

pearlnecklace-google-ca

This does not come up on the first page when searching on Bing for [pearl necklace].

Last year, Google introduced a change so that adult content wouldn’t appear even if its SafeSearch wasn’t switched on, unless people were clearly explicitly seeking such content by using more specific terms. This, in fact, prevented an Urban Dictionary page from showing before. Our stories below have more about this:

So is this algorithm broken?

We have reached out to Google for a comment on this and will update the story as soon as we hear back.

Postscript on December 12th at 9am EDT: Google has still not responded to our request for a comment but it appears that sometime yesterday afternoon, Google has dropped urbandictionary.com’s search result from this set.

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Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Google: Web Search | Search & Society: General | Top News

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • http://goettemoeller.com Drew Goettemoeller

    If the adult content is more popular than the intended query is it wrong? How exactly, do you differentiate between these 2 exact match queries with different intent? The SERP is showing a blended result with the most popular destination at the top. Why not just put this urbandictionary result in the safesearch filter and let it be.

  • Durant Imboden

    When I searched Google just now, the first “pearl necklace” result was for jewelry. The Urban Dictionary result was in second place. Sounds like a win-win: She gets her pearl necklace, and he gets his. As they used to say on the Big John & Sparky radio show, “You go to your church and I’ll go to mine, and we’ll all walk along together.”

  • Durant Imboden

    When I searched Google just now, the first “pearl necklace” result was for jewelry. The Urban Dictionary result was in second place. Sounds like a win-win: She gets her pearl necklace, and he gets his. As they used to say on the Big John & Sparky radio show, “You go to your church and I’ll go to mine, and we’ll all walk along together.”

  • Adam Heaton

    Hahahahaha, brilliant. If people are actually upset by this listing then they really need to give themselves a good look at in the mirror.

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/107418054739711167675 Randy (Brown) Wilson

    When I searched, The Urban Dictionary result came up first, right after 3 ads.. Might have something to do with my search/browsing profile :)

  • http://www.rustybrick.com/barry Barry Schwartz

    you are correct, I’ve updated the story.

  • http://www.rustybrick.com/barry Barry Schwartz

    I went incognito

  • Keith Fraley

    Probably a good thing that the image results are not similar.

  • RyanMJones

    Yup. this is just search mirroring the common vernacular. It’s not Google’s fault our society consists of a bunch of perverts. Also, no ZZ Top Video? Booo

  • http://www.kyleeggleston.com/ Kyle Eggleston

    I’m shocked that people are even shocked that this showed up in the results.

  • Rob Bonham

    “Blocked out” haha! You can still read the snippet fairly easily.

  • http://www.minnellium.com Dave Haygarth

    Yes – I too was similarly shocked when I needed something to clear the dust from my collection of model cars on the top shelf of my display cabinet. Imagine my horror when I Googled ‘Top Shelf Dirty Models” …
    etc. etc..

  • James McManus

    Interesting, I didn’t realize they actually made necklaces out of pearls. Now the phrase makes sense!

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    It’s wrong because Google says it’s wrong. In particular, as the story notes, Google made a change last year so that people wouldn’t encounter adult content unless they added enough terms to make it clear they really wanted it. Google’s change isn’t working in this case.

  • Durant Imboden

    If only Google would protect me from encountering e-commerce content unless I added enough terms (“prices,” “dealers,” “stores”, or whatever) to make it clear that I really wanted it. :-)

  • Jeff Ferguson

    Meanwhile, in other news… “tea bag,” “tossed salad,” and “beaver” are being scrubbed from the index…

  • Jeff Ferguson

    Meanwhile, in other news… “tea bag,” “tossed salad,” and “beaver” are being scrubbed from the index…

  • http://www.photoproseo.com/ PhotoProSEO.com

    LMAO If he’d asked a Scotsman first we could have warned him about that one – the first time I heard the term mentioned was on an old episode of the Scottish TV sitcom “Para Handy” and that was about 30 years ago.

  • Durant Imboden

    I wonder if Vermeer was sharing an inside joke when he painted “Girl With A Pearl Earring”?

  • http://www.clippingpathindia.com/clipping-path-service.html Bijutoha

    I am also confused about SERP from Google .I think some times it’s hacked by others . Because this past day, I was seeing SERP is going to change his result repeatedly in a moment. I don’t know, that was a country (Bangladesh) problem or not ? because,in the meantime, there wasn’t any changing in UK, Australia. This post may be reads my mind & hope anyone could explain something on my anxiety.

  • Jatin Chhabra

    Well in Google Indian- Its showing relevant results for pearl necklace

  • Roman M

    Hypocrites…at the end of the day it is a dictionary, – a sometimes funny – but useful site!

  • steve

    if google is removing all these educational references then what is a good search engine if one DID want to know alternative meanings for “pearl necklace:?

  • Gwyneth

    Why does Google always assume everyone is shopping? Pearl necklace is not the best example of this, but someone could have been looking for a ZZtop song.

  • Jill Sampey

    hey all, I was the one who shared this with SEL. To be clear, I was shocked to see it at the top because it wasn’t supposed to be there. Google had made a change to ensure it wasn’t a while ago. In the holiday season in particular, searches are way more geared towards ecommerce than other intents. Even if Google hadn’t made the change so it wasn’t supposed to appear, it still shouldn’t be ranking at the top of the first page for the exact match term right now in US/CA. Also, it’s hard to believe that most of the 33,100 people searching for “pearl necklace” in the US and 2,900 in CA are looking for information on a sexual term rather than a product.

  • Jill Sampey

    I believe what was supposed to be occurring is that when someone searches for phrases clearly indicating an intent to find a definition e.g. “what is a Pearl Necklace” then the result will appear

  • ANNA SEACAT

    Google is clearly listening. That listing no longer exist on the first SERP.

  • http://www.tylerherrick.com Tyler Herrick

    Definitely not hacked. Results are different for every single searcher on the entire planet because of Personalization.

  • http://goettemoeller.com Drew Goettemoeller

    Hey Danny, thanks for the reply. I get what you’re saying. Do you think google’s new demographic focus & hummingbird tweaks might help to tease out sentiment for these types of dual meaning keywords?

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