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Google's Chrome site blocking experiment

© February 2011 Anthony Lawrence

Google has announced a a Chrome extension ( Personal Blocklist extension) that removes designated sites from google Search results. That's nice, but why? Why a Chrome extension and not just a change to Google Search?

All this does is add a "block" choice below search results. If you see a site you hate, you click "block" and it won't show up in any future searches. It's a great idea - I immediately blocked Experts-Exchange.com because I can't stand the way they imbed "Join Now!" into the results page and hide the actual answers way down at the bottom. Bye, bye Experts Exchange: I won't be seeing you later!

But that didn't need a Chrome extension. They could have updated Google itself.

Maybe they just want a smaller experiment to see how it goes? That's possible.

Their purpose isn't about me blocking sites I hate, anyway. They have something more important in mind:

We've been exploring different algorithms to detect
content farms, which are sites with shallow or low-quality
content. One of the signals we're exploring is explicit
feedback from users. To that end, today we’re launching
an early, experimental Chrome extension so people can block
sites from their web search results. If installed, the
extension also sends blocked site information to Google,
and we will study the resulting feedback and explore using
it as a potential ranking signal for our search results.

Why does Google care? Because low quality results tick people off and might send them to use some other search engine. Google desperately needs to know what low quality is and that's very, very hard to do with an algorithm. But if a few million people block a site, that site probably should be dropped down for other searchers. That's the goal here.

It's just a new way of voting. The old votes were links pointing to a page. Dishonest people immediately started taking advantage of that by creating fake links. No, I don't mean they put a link on Facebook or Twitter as you or I might do. No, they do a bit more:

Once the hub is published, here comes the hard
part - promotion. Frankly, I don't bother with the usual
forum favorites like shetoldme and other stuff of that
kind. The money they promise are illusive and elusive and
they require the amount of time per single backlink I can
not afford. I use several free and paid services to do
the job, and if I decide to promote a hub, backlinks are
measured in hundreds if not thousands.

That's from an interview with someone who earns good money from fooling Google into putting his web pages at the top of search results. The page itself may not be low quality, but the places where he has put the links to it are, which gives him an artificial boost in search results position. That is the other side of Google's problem - they don't like artificial boosts.

Will this work? I suppose it will help, but it won't be enough. Google is facing a very, very difficult problem and solving it is critical to their business.

I saw at How-To-Geek that I'm not the only one to block Experts-Exchange. I found that amusing, but I wonder if Google will take note. The purpose of this is to help identify content farms, not annoying crap results that try to sell me something, but it would be great if it helped kill off these too.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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-> Google offers site block plugin for Chrome - but why?

Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

Take Control of Apple Mail, Third Edition

Take Control of the Mac Command Line with Terminal, Second Edition

Take control of Apple TV, Second Edition

Are Your Bits Flipped?

Take Control of Pages

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