User Feedback: The Next Google Ranking Signal?

    February 16, 2011
    Chris Crum

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: 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.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.