User Feedback: The Next Google Ranking Signal?

Chrome Extension Provides Search Quality Signals, Blocks Content Farms

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Google’s Matt Cutts has indicated in recent weeks that Google is working on projects that will deal with some of the search engine’s quality issues with regards to content farms. It looks like one of those projects is now here.  Google has launched a Chrome extension that lets users block sites from search results.

Will you use the Chrome extension to send signals to Google about search quality? Let us know

If you’re a Chrome user, you can now block any content farm you want, on a personalized basis. And while it may be personalized, there’s more…

"We’ve been exploring different algorithms to detect content farms, which are sites with shallow or low-quality content," says Cutts. "One of the signals we’re exploring is explicit feedback from users."

"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," says Cutts. (emphasis added)  

New Chrome extension to block sites in Google: http://goo.gl/nETVU Tell Google which sites you don’t want. Please RT!less than a minute ago via web

Now that’s interesting. 

However, we can only assume that a pretty small percentage will actually take advantage of this tool, so how much weight will such a signal actually carry? Only a certain percentage of Google users use Chrome in the first place, and I’m guessing only a small percentage of Chrome users will go to the lengths of actually installing this extension, and that’s of the ones that actually know about it. Then, how many of those that find out about it, and install it, will actually use it on an ongoing basis, looking to send Google search quality signals throughout their daily lives. I’m guessing not a lot. 

Chrome Blocklist Extension

Is this the grand solution to the content farm/search quality problem? Probably not. But it’s a start. At the very least, those concerned about the quality of their search results have a new way to filter their own personal Google experience. One issue is that some of the content farms actually do have some quality content. I’d hate to miss out on the good stuff, just because I don’t want the majority.  

Of course, that’s the approach Blekko has taken. DuckDuckGo also has an interesting strategy, which founder Gabriel Weinberg shared with us. He says it’s easier for a StartUp like his to take action on content farms than it is for Google.  "From Google’s perspective it’s a lot harder because they can get in trouble…they’re under government scrutiny, and all sorts of things," he told WebProNews. "They can get in trouble for censorship…it’s much easier for a startup to do it (like us) than it is for Google."

Does it have to be all or nothing with content farms? I guess time will tell. Cutts has said they want to solve the problem algorithmically, as opposed to using human editing. 

I wonder which sites will be blocked by users the most. That would be an interesting list to see. I wonder if it will be similar to Blekko’s banned list.

The extension is called the Personal Blocklist Extension.  

Do you think this is the right direction for Google to take to increase search quality? Share your thoughts.

User Feedback: The Next Google Ranking Signal?
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  • Hawaii SEO

    When are they ever going to create the world’s most obvious Google Chrome extensions? Google Toolbar? Google Bookmarks? Ad-words? Ad-Sense? Google Analytics? Etc…

  • Jes

    Google Chrome? Who uses that? I uninstalled Chrome a long time ago and installed “Iron” which is Chrome without the privacy issues: http://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron.php

    That’s a bad move from Google if they are looking for Chrome love. Expect a lot of Chrome Adsense blocking extensions to pop up soon. If I understand this correctly, you can’t let users influence search results! That’s like Craigslist’s flagging problem. It has made life on Craigslist a pain to the point people are quitting using it. You can’t list a product for sale on some cities anymore without your ads being flagged by competitors.

    • Chris Crum

      Chrome was doing pretty well the last time I checked, but I don’t think it’s doing well enough to make this extension the best indication of results the majority of people don’t want. If the extension was also available for IE and Firefox, it would help more.

  • http://www.dunndata.com/ Steve

    This is censorship by a third party and a bad idea.

  • Valerie

    Sometimes taking any action is better than taking none.

    I personally don’t use Chrome on my Mac. But I’d be flagging all the dang SuperPages, Yellow Book, and other directories from the search engines as content farms, among the typical aggregated garbage sites.

  • http://www.articlesandsuccess.com Dave Cleinman

    I enjoyed this post. I think Chris did a fine job of covering the issues related to this tool, and I agree that its usage will not likely be widespread enough for significant data, especially since searchers tend to have little trouble finding what they are seeking.

    As for knocking out content farms, I was under the impression that Google had sophisticated bots that already seek and defame duplicate content, which is the entire existence of a content farm.

    Perhaps the best use of this tool is to gather data over time that helps Google improve their ranking algorithms and improve the bot system. I think, however, that by the time this happens, content farms will be mutating to a form that avoids that problem. Especially since Google cannot keep this secret long enough to get a head start on them.

    Given the complexity of the internet and it’s trillions of urls, and infinite amount of text, it may not be a battle that can be won except by educating consumers on what to avoid: Bad product, don’t buy. Bad site, don’t visit. Maybe that is where Google should focus their efforts.

  • http://dreamdesignstudios.net Jesse

    As Jes pointed out above in the Craigslist analogy, this idea seems flawed. By allowing users to influence the search results by “excluding” certain results from their own browsers, it seems like Google is opening the door for some serious search result manipulation.

    For example, what happens when a site owner decides to go through and remove all of their competitors from the results? Will that improve their own rankings?

    Even worse, what if that site owner is really unscrupulous, and starts hiring hundreds or thousands of people to also “remove” competitors from their own results. Will the unscrupulous site owner then get a boost in his own results?

    The idea of taking user feedback into account for search rankings seems interesting. However, it also seems to open the door to black hat search result manipulation.

    • http://www.greyolltwit.co.uk/ Grey Olltwit

      I absolutely agree with you Jesse. I can see armies of thousands of workers in the far east and other parts of the cheap labour world, that are so exploited by spammers, blocking all the competition websites. They already do it to have unbelievable and totally untrue Alexa rankings.

  • Rob

    I think this is going to be great! Love this idea. I’m looking into how i can block my biggest competition and try to knock them down a few spots . I see a new business popping up. Block your competition sites that will block websites for you for a fee. Anyone know a site like this? (I’m being sarcastic) It will happen for sure. How much do you think a service like this would cost? Like Jes said about Craigslist’s flagging problem, the same thing will happen with G. most people will not use this option in Chrome, the people that will are spammers.

    Can you imagine a call center in India calling unsuspecting small business owners and pitching them on knocking their competition off the first page? I can hear their script already, “if you don’t hire us we will call your competition and they will, If you don’t want to be kicked off Google then pay us”.

    Even if it doesn’t work this way it will cause more problems than it will solve.

  • http://www.acorus.eu acorus

    All people that are scary of this extension IMHO are the content farms owners. I’m not surprised that You panic. First it is specially designed for clearance of personal search results. If it is going to be used to modify SERP, the information from users will be analysed by algorithms and be only one of many factors used. We can just point what we do not like or accept. I love this extension and great thanks to Google.

  • http://www.sitebyjames.com James

    Yeah, I guess either way you look at it, it could be used for ill purposes. It makes me wonder if Chrome is less susceptible to fraud, proxies, and double clicks.

    There isn’t anything these guys can do wrong, I am blown away this time.

    With any luck it will be start of something good. I mean if Google makes the decision to block any spam websites (which are obviously spam), then they take the heat, but if their users cast a vote, it seems more democratic, and less fascist.

    Maybe it will bring on a better web?

  • Guest

    Great… Mob censorship… What an idea. The general public or some subset thereof in the business of dictating what we can and can’t find. Here we go re-erecting content barriers. Google has been a moderating influence on the “editorial elite”, allowing anyone limited publication with minimal filtering. I would be fine if the censorship was limited to a personal search choice, but using personal choices of a majority or even a minority to dictate what is and isn’t ranked is just plain wrong. Rank should be based on the best match.

    • Guest

      There’s always Bing and Blekko!

  • Frank

    More ridiculous censorship caused by groups of evil doers for the almighty of evildoers, Google. If think this won’t be used in evil ways, i got some land and a bridge i’ll sell you, wake up and smell the coffee, i may be your last chance.


  • Guest

    This just shows me that Google is grasping at straws. If you think their search results are crappy now, and they are, you ain’t seen nothing yet. I think this is a nail in Google’s coffin. If users’ activities have an impact on Google’s already trashy results then people will resort to other engines for more TRUE results and big G will lose even more market share.

    Google already lost a share to Bing, which could partly be the result from people using Bing more and Google less. People are getting sick of G’s BS and are slowly but surely turning to other engines. Bing’s results are better anyway.

  • Not Convinced

    If this is supposed to be the solution to the the content farm/search quality question, what would keep the competition from “blocking” their competitors in order to effect ranking/search results?

    Honestly, when are people going to stop depending on/worrying about Google… you don’t need them, they need you.

  • Guest

    I wish Google were the same search engine as it was 7 years ago. I really do. More stable search results, no Twitter, no facebook, no adwords at the top of the listings. Now they are so afraid of Bing and blackhatters to the point they are acting desperate and whinny (mommy mommy, Billy is copying my homework..). Their search results are a joke and millions of businesses, sites are affected negatively everyday due to their sudden and stupid algo. changes trying to eliminate a few blackhatters. Google used to be the hot chick in town and I had never read so man serious complaining about them as I have in the last couple years. M.C. needs to get fired and somebody more serious and less boastful to get hired to get some stability back on that engine. That man is going to get G. in trouble with that big mouth of his and stupid knee jerk reactions (J.C. Penny). The ice cream man is out so that’s a good thing. He destroyed G. with that mouth of his too. Bunch of arrogant pricks.

  • http://www.york-united-kingdom.co.uk York Hotels

    Look at the scenario. Here we have a browser trying its best to take the public by storm. Bless them.

    Hello? Welcome to the real world. You do what you do best and you get a name for it. You try to do what others do best. Thus trying to promote your own brand through something less than open source and it will not be so easy. Welcome to the world you are trying to promote Google. That being the world of large corporates, with lots of cash to spare in very hard economic times.

    Dudes, get your act together. I used to use you for search. Now when I search all I get is 10 adds and supposed local businesses (parts of large corporations) that I scroll down through to get to the real results you used to be known for.

    Yahoo, Bing, even Altavista seem to be producing something better today. 6 Ads and the rest REAL orgasmic … oops sorry to many beers … organic results.

    You think that some have lost their way on the net and you penalise them. So, what would you do with a big corporate that gives its customers a screen full of ads instead of what they want? That being a real choice. Good, real, free, organic results and fewer ads to have to scroll through.

    Sorry, not to positive an outlook but here am I. Struggling to make a living with my whittled down workforce. Who is going to make the world a better place? You and your results full of corporates? Or me and my chosen few. select representatives? I had to in 2001 tell the world York England / York UK was not what you perceived it as eg New York.

    Wow all this was hard work. Just thoughts, but there we have it. I think I am going to come out in Uganda next week. It would be less stress, as all they would do is kill me.

  • http://www.discountvacationrentalsonline.com Orlando Florida

    Unless G would come up with a Feedback’r rating first before adding ANY value to the feedback score at all.
    I agree with most above: they have other things to fix before even thinking of adding another parameter to the algorithm chart.
    The article by Rouven Balci about organized spam in Google search results is a great example of how sick the G algorithm is right now.

  • http://www.22bestdeals.com/ Arun Sharma

    Really Nice article..after read this post i installed Chrome Extension and blocked few websites on Google Search result.Its really works..Thanks to share this story…..

  • http://realonlinejobs4u.com downtownjed

    I write alot of my own content and pay freelancers to do the rest. That is the way it’s supposed to work. Spread the wealth! There are many things that the ultra rich know that we don’t. One is you get what you give. Give crappy content, get crappy results. Spread some wealth around, an abundance of wealth returns to you.

  • John Stampfl

    I have installed Blocklist and so far I really like it.

    I think using the results for modifying searches for others is questionable.

    For example, I block “wikipedia.org”, not because it isn’t useful (I access daily), but because I know to go there, maybe before searching. This helps cut down my results, but I don’t think a novice should be cutoff from “wikipedia”.

    On the otherhand, I also block sites which have useless, to me, content.

    I would like to extend the blocklist feature to searchin news.


  • http://www.hedgehogdigital.co.uk/ SEO Bedford

    I must confess I was expecting a much better solution from Google, I know this is not their final action against content farms and I do like the idea of using user feedback to tackle the problem.
    But if you install PBE you can block just about any site and if it is a ranking signal I can see competitors blocking each other sites just to try an lower their rankings.

    What SEs needs is to improve the quality of their algorithms & crawlers and make them as close to humans as possible, so when they land on content from content farms know straight away just like we do. I know it sounds to sci-fi but it is an idea.

  • http://www.electric-reviews.org Mark Demers

    The first thing i thought about when i read your post is that it would be a way of censoring your competitors site and keep them from the results page.
    I cannot see that happening just because of 1 person bans the site , perhaps if a thousand blocked the site Google could be justified in lowering it`s rank down 20 pages or so and if it would affect results — that would be fine with me and my site.
    I use Chrome because of the speed , maybe i`ll download the extension and see what it`s all about.
    Google`s last change helped my site – as i see it anyway. They got rid of or re-ranked of a lot of junk sites that were positioned ahead of mine in the results.
    Maybe this will help more – only time will tell.

    Nice post – thanks for the link to the extension .
    Thanks to the person who left the link to Iron too. I will try that too.

    Have a Great Day.

  • http://www.electric-reviews.org Mark Demers

    The first thing i thought about when i read your post is that it would be a way of censoring your competitors site and keep them from the results page.
    I cannot see that happening just because of 1 person bans the site , perhaps if a thousand blocked the site Google could be justified in lowering it`s rank down 20 pages or so and if it would affect results — that would be fine with me and my site.
    I use Chrome because of the speed , maybe i`ll download the extension and see what it`s all about.
    Google`s last change helped my site – as i see it anyway. They got rid of or re-ranked of a lot of junk sites that were positioned ahead of mine in the results.
    Maybe this will help more – only time will tell.

    Nice post – thanks for the link to the extension .
    Thanks to the person who left the link to Iron too. I will try that too.

    Have a Great Day.

  • http://africatopforum.com Africa

    This is like using a problem trying to solve a problem.

  • David

    I think that it would be far more effective to be able to block websites or at the least report them for farming in Google’s search engine results. How many times have you searched something, landed on a link farm and clicked back? How great would it be if there was a link maybe down where the cached and similar links show up that would allow you to report link farms. I would figure this could be far more effective if they are serious about filtering these websites out when more people search with Google than will probably ever use Chrome.

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