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Google Launches Chrome Site Blocking Extension

Following up on action taken in January to bolster faith in its search results, Google is allowing users to block spam-filled domains.

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Dogged by recent complaints about Web spam polluting its search results and the proliferation of low-quality content from so-called "content farms," Google on Monday released a tool that allows Chrome users to filter undesirable Web sites from their search results.

Personal Blocklist adds a "Block" link to Google search results. Clicking on this link prevents the blocked domain from appearing in future searches, until the block is removed by the user.

The software is not merely sweeping spam under the rug on the client side of things. It's also reporting what users block back to Google, which means it may affect sites' actual Google Web ranking.

"If installed, the extension also sends blocked site information to Google, and we will study the resulting feedback and explore using it as a potential ranking signal for our search results," explains Matt Cutts, who runs Google's Web spam team, in a blog post.

In January, following a series of negative posts from prominent bloggers about the quality of the company's search results, Google altered its relevancy algorithm to strengthen penalties against low-quality content and said that it would consider additional measures to help curb Web spam.

On Sunday, the New York Times published an expose about how retailer J.C. Penny's Web site had gained a prominent place in Google search results through questionable search engine optimization tactics.

Search startups like Blekko have also made lack of Web spam a point of competitive differentiation.

By releasing Personal Blocklist, Google aims to demonstrate that it puts search quality above revenue quantity.

In fact, Google has been offering search result personalization since 2008. That's when it launched SearchWiki, "a way for you to customize search by re-ranking, deleting, adding, and commenting on search results," as Google put it at the time.

This socially-oriented service perhaps was deemed to be oriented too much toward personalization, and not enough toward punishment. Personal Blocklist promises something more punitive, a chance to stick it to the Web's polluters.

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