Google Lets Users Block Content Farms

No longer will eHow appease the search gods.
So far, Google has been reluctant to directly block or demote content farms such as AOL's Yahoo's Associated Content and Demand Media's eHow, which push out cheaply-produced articles intended mainly to appease Google's search algorithms. But now it's giving the banhammer to users with a Chrome extension.

Personal Blocklist lets you block entire web domains from Google searches. You're not technically limited to content farms, either; the option to block a domain appears next to every search result.

Google isn't hiding the fact that this is crowdsourced research. If you use the extension and block a site, Google collects that information, and "will study the resulting feedback and explore using it as a potential ranking signal for our search results." In other words, if enough people block Associated Content or eHow, Google may lower the PageRanks of those domains.

Associated Content is like the Associated Press except with more spam.
This is a big step for Google, a company that is usually quite secretive about how it treats individual websites. Essentially, the company is asking power users to help figure out which sites should be demoted in PageRank. It strikes me as oddly democratic, but it does give the search giant a layer of impartiality when determining how to deal with individual sites.

This is also a publicity move. Although Google insists that its search results are generally less spammy than they used to be, the company has taken some heat lately over the rise of content farms. Google has been quite vocal in defending its search quality (and questioning the integrity of rival Bing), and releasing the extension is another way to show that it's being proactive. Google certainly doesn't want the perception among tech enthusiasts that search is broken, because that could only lead to more competition and disruption.

But perhaps it's already too late, and that's why we're seeing such an unusual and desperate measure.

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