They are considered so rude as to be unswipeable and off-limits to Android users in a rush, yet some of them are so mundane that it is bizarre to find them there. The 1,400 or so words on Google’s forbidden list could make life confusing enough for individual users, but what do they mean for marketers?
Some of the words on the list would surprise no one, and it is no surprise that Google wants the Android’s basic set-up to protect people from being inadvertently exposed to swearing or racial insults.
Others might interrupt discussion of health matters – words such as condom and morphine, and numerous body parts. Other words seem to have been added because of their cultural context; however, iftar – the Arabic term for a meal shared with family, friends and neighbors – is still a very strange inclusion. Stranger still is the inclusion of terms such as geek.
It is possible to disable the censorship feature in the keyboard settings, so theoretically anyone can have access to any vocabulary they want; however, it is well known that many people never alter the settings on any device they purchase. This should be a worry for businesses selling products that might be impacted by the built-in restrictions. A lingerie retailer, for instance, might be surprised to hear that panty is banned, and then annoyed upon realizing that this might impact a search for related products. It is well known that mobile users have short attention spans when it comes to search, so when a search is interrupted like this they may well abandon it altogether or switch to different search terms that could lead to an otherwise well-placed retailer missing out.
Although it may be possible to obtain a copy of the full list and simply drop the keywords listed on it, doing so could, of course, impact search negatively in other contexts. It is also an unreliable strategy, as indications are that the list is subject to updates and in some industries, such as gynecological medicine, there may simply not be many words that are allowed. What is more, the probability is that other search systems have their own secret lists of banned words.
What this highlights is that there is no one-size-fits-all internet marketing solution that can be applied across all industries. Just as some devices have a user demographic that suits certain products and services better than others, some have features such as this. The result is that affected businesses need to concentrate on alternative routes to success.