New Google website block feature: end-user advantage or an assault on SEO?

March 11th, 2011 by Leigh Aucoin

Yesterday, Google (ever heard of ‘em?) announced that they’ll allow users to start blocking whole websites that they don’t want to see in their search results. The internet’s long been a place where the individual user can define a personalized geography of websites and online communities where irrelevant content effectively does not exist unless brought in by some outsider. Google’s implementation of individualized domain blocking is in line with the largely tailored nature of the internet.

Paired with its earlier announcement that they’ve changed their search algorithm in the name of “helping people find ever higher quality in [Google's] results,” it seems that Google’s pushing hard to make the user’s web surfing experience totally bitchin’ by essentially cleaning out the trash from the potentially gnarly waves of the internet. (Sorry. “Surfin’ the ‘net” as a marketing phrase is hilarious to me.) Making the internet easier to use is a noble effort, for sure, but Google establishing itself as the judge for what should be the most important puts out some grody vibes to this surfer, man.

Contrasting the top-down filtering of search results straight from Google, the new announcement affords more freedom and power to the end user to decide what they actually want to see amid their results. This, of course, necessitates more vigilance on the user’s part to clean up the trash themselves so that their “waves,” or search results (I promise, I’m about to break out of this terrible analogy), are exactly what they want for the most tubular ride.

While this decision by Google doesn’t directly affect SEO significantly, what some bloggers have been buzzing about is this one sentence, pictured below next to a blurry picture of my cat:

As depicted above, they mention that they’ll look at the data of blocked sites and consider it for use in the future. What does this specific announcement mean for SEO? Not necessarily anything. The user has to voluntarily block sites that they don’t want to appear in their search results. I’m not going to pull out any semi-relevant statistics on web-based participation, but the fact alone that users have to be logged into their Google accounts to block sites means that the participation is only limited to a slim segment of the internet’s population. Will such a minimal amount of input really have an impact on a site’s traffic? Maybe, but it’s doubtful that this would carry any more weight than just clicking on one site over another competitor.

Good on Google for doing this, I suppose. Being able to decide which sites I want to view beats having someone else decide which sites I want to view, though the latter’s going on regardless of my input. Personally, there have been exactly zero times where I’ve wanted to block an entire domain for giving bad results, but know that I’m a proponent of imperfection and trash in general. So worry not, SEO friends, until we can find specific data that correlates a number of users’ personally “blocked” sites with a decrease in traffic, it cannot be attributed to anything else whatsoever.