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Recently, Google has stepped up its effort to improve the quality of its SERPs. But despite its effort, which seems as concerted as it is genuine, one thing is clear: there's only so much that can be done.

Google can't uncover every paid link, and even after cracking down on content farms, there are those who think it hasn't done enough.

So Google has decided to give users more power. Yesterday, some logged in users started seeing a "Block all something.com results" link next to websites in Google's SERPs.

As the wording suggests, these links enable users to personalize their search results by removing an entire domain's pages from Google. Don't like eHow, for instance? Just click "Block all ehow.com results" and you'll never have to see another link to eHow on Google again.

In offering up blocking functionality, Google seems to be taking a page from Blekko, the search upstart that has gained attention, if not adoption, by trying to go further in weeding out spam and low-quality content from search.

One of the ways it does this is by allowing its users to "curate" and flag sites that are spammy. Most recently, Blekko removed a significant number of domains, including several high-profile content farms, from its index completely.

This, of course, is easy for Blekko to do because it doesn't have nearly as many users as Google to satisfy.

Google has a much finer line to walk. If it gets too aggressive, it risks angering and alienating just about everyone. But allowing users to personalize search by eliminating from results domains that they know they don't like is a low-risk proposition for Google, and perhaps one that's overdue.

Needless to say, this move is bound to scare some publishers. After all, it adds another personalization factor that complicates SEO efforts.

A poorly designed landing page, for instance, could cost a publisher future visits if it disgusts a user who then blocks its domain. In this scenario, a top ranking means little if a good number of potentially valuable potential customers click "Block...

There's also the obvious possibility that Google could use blocking data as a ranking signal. For the time being, publishers don't have to worry about blocking affecting their rankings, but that could change.

According to Google, "while we’re not currently using the domains people block as a signal in ranking, we’ll look at the data and see whether it would be useful as we continue to evaluate and improve our search results in the future." That seems like a not-so-subtle head's up that the search engine is interested in this.

The good news is that this new blocking feature is little more than another reminder to publishers that quality matters.

Whether you're selling ads or selling products, quality is more likely to produce conversions. Conversions are carrots. Google's new blocking mechanism simply adds a stick to the equation.

Patricio Robles

Published 11 March, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2379 more posts from this author

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Michael Auty

I've read about this a few times today. It seems to me that this block update is only active in the US on google.com

When trying to replicate this on google.co.uk it didn't work.

Mabye the UK will get this along with the panda/content farm update?

over 5 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

Even though it isn't currently affecting rankings, there is the very real potential that it could. I can see that being abused by black hat SEO practitioners as a way to attack competitors. If enough people block a site, even a quality site that deserves its spot, will it fall out of the SERP for everyone else?

over 5 years ago

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Nick Armstead, SEO + PPC Consultant at Orantec

Its just another option given now to satisfy a trend and may well dissappear when people stop going on so much about content farms and on to something else. sure about 5 gazzillion web guru's are trotting off as we speak to block ehow, the average joe - think they will even notice this option? I doubt it.

over 5 years ago

David Ernst

David Ernst, Director of Sales and Marketing at Summit Computer Systems, Inc.

My concern is that if someone finds out that their landing page/site is getting blocked by people through google, and then go fix/correct/redesign, that there is no way for them to have a 2nd chance with the people who blocked them. This could be very bad for some businesses. Is everyone on the web really going to be given just 1 chance?

over 5 years ago

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David Seo, SEO at Online Marketing

The worst part of this facility is that it will get frequently exploited by competitors.

over 5 years ago

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The Admired

My biggest concern is that Google will use the personalizations or at least take them into account when building strategy for their search engine. What if Google starts eliminating or pushing down results just because someone does not like a website or its content?

over 5 years ago

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William King

I haven't seen it yet on my Google page, may this service is only available in US. According to Matt Cuts he and his team have the target to make the search totally spam free for their users and this is something which they need to do to keep their place stable in the market after the launching of blekko. Their is one which still annoys me why ehow pages are still on the top ranks against every keyword which starts with 'how to'. You are not fair Google

over 5 years ago

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Giorgio Burlini, Director at Oxford Learning Lab

Didn't they have the most amazing algorithm ever created? Over 200 parameters tested every day by the brainest people stock options could retain?
Sounds we have to do the job of taking out the weed one by one from the digital greenfield.

Are we going back to man Made directories? Seems that SEO efforts will be just to create great content. But Mr. Alghorithm looks the worst person to judge it. A great day for artificial intelligence.

over 5 years ago

Michael Harris

Michael Harris, Freelance consultant at Private company

@David Seo: As the article notes, it's not being used for the purposes of improving the search engine rankings of content beyond that actual user - so your point is currently moot.

@The Admired: Agreed, but one would hope that any use of the information beyond the individual took place down the road, there would have appropriate checks and balances to prevent abuse of the system to gain advantage against a competitor/competition. They would already have enough data from the weblogs to determine if the user is friend or foe in this regard, and use appropriate technology to disregard or limit the impacts of their views.

over 5 years ago

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unlock iphone 4

This is going to be an absolute shocker to SEO agents. What about article directories how would they handle this change?! Most of them will start to accept articles manually now and probably go through every line of each article.

over 5 years ago

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Best Bingo Sites

How does this help me? You can see that some of my competitors are link building, they have what appears to be some very underhand link farm techniques but they continue to appear highly in the search engines.

However, give them their dues they have quality sites.... So people are likely to be pretty happy to be there and not use this facility...

over 5 years ago

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Ugo Smith, Client Services Manager at Mediarun Search

I agree with @Michael Harris. Lets not forget that at the moment this is for logged users only.

It will play a part in blocking content for a specific users SERPS but its rash or premature to state that this can be exploited by competitors and that your rankings would be affected directly.

They are clearly trying to remove the sites that tend to rank for a term which the site is completely unrelated to.

Also it is no different to what is already there, they have added an extra function to block all urls of that domain. Big deal!

Besides how many tool or updates does Google rollout that are unsuccesful or dont stick?

lets see what happens with this one.

over 5 years ago

Dawn McKeag

Dawn McKeag, Director, Digital Marketing at Live Events Management, Inc.

I would be curious to see if they put the data into Google Analytics. Would be helpful to see how often this happens as an advertiser.

And in the future for Google to allow users to select a rationale for why they are blocking. Similar to opt-out surveys.

Then we would truly be able to optimize efforts as marketers who are trying to always provide relevant content.

over 5 years ago

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Klinger

Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets I could add
to my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.
I've been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this. Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

about 4 years ago

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Quezada

I'm overjoyed to see a new update, I was going through withdrawals! I really enjoy reading your blog, I can't get enough of it!

about 4 years ago

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Bettis

I have a wooden inside the house chair. Is it painted with latex to oil?

about 4 years ago

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Burdick

Hmm is anyone else having problems with the images on this blog loading?
I'm trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it's
the blog. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

almost 4 years ago

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