Since the dawn of Google one of the main aims has been to make search results more personalised and relevant to the individual user. Over the years Google have tried to achieve this aim with additions such as Stars in Search results, Search Wiki and of course the addition of location settings and Google Places.
However, even with all these additions, Google is still trying to make search results more personalised and so this week has introduced a new blocking feature on Google.com which will allow individual users to block whole domains from their search results.
Basically the new process will work like this; when you search for something, i.e. “how to fix a TV”, your usual search results will come up and there will be nothing different about the results. However, if you click on a site and then go straight back to your search results (because the site wasn’t what you were after) you will then see an option to block the website from your search results, located next to the “Cached” button.
So say there is a particular How To or Content site you always see in your results but don’t like, you will be able to block the domain and stop any of their pages from ever appearing in any of your search results.
This new option is linked to Google Accounts and so to keep the block permanent you will need to do it whilst logged in. And don’t worry if you change your mind later there will be an option to undo all of your blocks.
Ramifications for SEO
On the service this is simply a new tool to make search more personalised for individual users and in that sense has very little impact for SEO. However, although they are not doing so yet, Google have mentioned the possibility of using this new feature as a signal in ranking, stating that “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”.
In a very simple sense, the way this would work is, the more times a site has been blocked the more damaging to its rankings. So if a sites blocked by 100,000 people it will likely move lower than a similar site blocked by just 100 people.
If this idea were to be used as a new ranking criteria in Google there could be huge ramifications for SEO. With the addition of a block button, businesses could target rivals with negative SEO, setting up hundreds of fake Google accounts through Mechanical Turk and blocking a competitor site over and over.
So how can Google prevent this negative SEO? Well if they were to use this as criteria for rankings they would surely have to use just a select group of user’s activity to determine rankings. Basically, they would have to just look at users who have been around for a long time, have a well built up profile and are blocking domains very selectively.
Is this likely to affect rankings?
In theory this sounds like a great new way for Google to evaluate rankings, but with the huge possibility for negative SEO and the labour in finding a very select group of users doing it properly, it seems unlikely that it will come into practice anytime soon as the logistics are just too large.
However, although we may not see this impacting SEO anytime soon, the new blocking option is another step towards the ultimate personalised results that Google so desire! The new feature has gone live on Google.com this week and will be making its way to Google.co.uk very soon, so look out for it and start thinking of some sites you are sick of seeing in your results.