Google announced a new search feature today -- the ability to block sites you don't want to see in your results. You can now tell Google not to add those sites into any search query they answer for you.
"Over the years we've experimented with a number of ways to help you personalize the results you find on Google, from SearchWiki to stars in search to location settings. Now there's yet another way to find more of what you want on Google by blocking the sites you don't want to see."
They state in the post that at this time they are not using the information in their algorithm, but "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."
So reporting spam is no longer a matter of sending info to Google via a spam report or an e-mail -- you can now just remove the sites you don't like and they will not appear in any future SERPs for you.
The new option will be placed in line with the "Cached" and "Similar" links that appear in a search engine result listing. In typical Google style, you will receive a confirmation of what you did and a few seconds of time to undo your action, if you mis-clicked.
These sites will be prevented from being displayed in your search results only when you're logged into your Google account. When sites are blocked in a search result, you will see an indication from Google. This message will appear either at the top or the bottom of the results page, based on the relevance of the pages on the sites that are blocked.
One hopes this stays to the individual and not a method for Google to later use to filter spam because what one person sees as sites they do not want, others with perhaps lesser knowledge or coming from a different perspective will find those sites useful.
Like the mindset when searching for Apple, someone may want the fruit while others might want the computer -- both could react by dropping the sites they think are not appropriate but the lack of deeper perspective by Google should no start crazy site drops.
"We're adding this feature because we believe giving you control over the results you find will provide an even more personalized and enjoyable experience on Google," the site explains. But really are they just letting us start making our own results using them as the list and our own perspective as the filter.
Google loves throwing a lot of things out in to cyberspace at the same time -- figuring we will be too busy reacting to it all to concentrate on one area of contention.
I saw an article recently comparing Google changes to the smoking ban in restaurants and bars -- people bitched but got used to it. Is that really how this should be done?
Google knows they are the dominant player and that marketers and businesses need them -- so they ride out the complaints and know these people can't go anywhere else right now. Sooner or later this approach may get the deeper attention from the government they want to avoid.
Today's move follows Google's recent addition of a Chrome extension to block sites.
The Google block feature is rolling out today and tomorrow on Google.com for English language results. It is limited to users of Chrome 9 and up, Internet Explorer 8 and up and FireFox 3.5 and up. Additional browsers, languages, and countries will be added "soon."
While the block site feature is for individual personalized results pages, it will be interesting to see if and how Google uses the clickstream data from its usage.
What are your thoughts?
Thom Craver also contributed to this post.