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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.