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New Chrome Add-on Blocks Sites From Search Results

Blocking a domain with Google's new Chrome add-on

Google has released a new add-on for its Chrome web browser that allows you to block domains and subdomains from search results. The new extension is aimed at so-called “content farms,” which often rank high in Google search results, but feature low quality content.

If you’d like to blacklist some domains from your search results, and you’re using the Google Chrome web browser (or Chromium), you can download the new add-on from the Chrome Web Store. Once the add-on is installed, you’ll see a new option to “block this domain” beneath each search result. To edit your list of blocked sites, just click the red hand icon in the toolbar.

The add-on is part of Google’s plan to cut down on content farm spam. Google defines content farms as “sites with shallow or low-quality content.” Often the content is written for no other reason than to show up in Google’s search results and pull in traffic. However, because content farms often have some pages of valuable content, classifying them as outright spam might not be accurate either. And of course what constitutes a “content farm” is open to debate.

In a thread about the new add-on over at Hacker News, Google’s principal engineer, Matt Cutts writes “people feel comfortable with Google removing blatant spam: hidden text, cloaking, sneaky JavaScript redirects, etc. People tend to feel less comfortable if they feel like Google is making an editorial decision.”

The new Chrome add-on turns that editorial decision over to you. Don’t want to ever see another eHow or Yahoo Answers link in your search results? Just block the domains and you’re done.

That said, the add-on is far from ideal. It only works in Chrome (or Chromium) and instead of truly removing the results, it merely hides them. That means that if the first page of results for your search contain only one result from a domain that isn’t in your blocklist, you’ll only see one result on the initial page. There is no reflowing of results. To get more than that one result, you’ll have to click through to the next page.

Ultimately the ability to block sites from Google’s search results is useful enough that it seems destined to end up on the server side — perhaps as a Google Labs experiment. Cutts says that Google started with the add-on because it was quick, but the company is working toward a server-side solution.

Cutts also says that Google is collecting the sites you block and may use them to influence search results in the future. As it stands, there’s nothing to stop a company from blocking its competitors’ sites, which is obviously a problem. Cutts makes it clear that Google is only looking at the sites people block, not actually using that information to re-rank sites.

Still, if there are sites you’d love to block from your Google search results, there’s now a way to do it — provided you use Google Chrome.

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