Google abandons experiment after huge risqué images appear above search results

Google mobile search
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Google's search results can look a little bland at times, so the company recently started experimenting with bold header images based on users' search queries. However, the trial didn't go quite according to plan, and the company had to pull the plug on its tests after less than 24 hours.

The redesigned search results were first discovered by SEO adviser Ivo Schaap, and successfully replicated by SEO Roundtable.

For each query, the search engine would select an image that would serve as a background for the whole area between the top of the page and the start of the actual results. Google informed SEO Roundtable that the images were licensed, and it seems like they were generally good quality and tasteful.

Unfortunately, that wasn't always the case, and searches for certain topics led to header images of a more, shall we say, adult nature.


When this was pointed out, Google's engineers acted swiftly to cut the experiment short and revert back to plain backgrounds for the time being.

"We don't intend for any headers to be triggering for suggestive topics," explained Google's public search liaison Danny Sullivan. "But given that some were, we're pausing the experiment to investigate. Also, headers shouldn't be explicit or have nudity. We'll check on that, too."

It sounds like we might see the header images reinstated in future (possibly drawing on a carefully curated bank of family-friendly images), but for now the short-lived but colorful trial is over.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of TechRadar's sister site Advnture. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better)