Google has launched one of its first experiments aimed at fighting back against content farms, asking the public to help identify the worst offenders.
Chrome users can now download an extension from Google called Personal Blocklist that will allow users to block certain domains from appearing in a personalized list of search results. Google will also track the domains that users flag "and explore using it as a potential ranking signal for our search results," wrote Matt Cutts, principal engineer at Google and a prominent anti-spam spokesman for the company, in a blog post.
For several weeks Cutts and Google have been acknowledging frustration over the proliferation of content farms in Google's search results, or sites that write content for really no other reason than to appear within search results and draw traffic from Google. Most often that content is poorly written and sometimes nonsensical, as site editors try to understand what people are searching for on Google and commission low-cost posts with enough keywords to show up on the first page of results.
The product may not be pretty but it can be lucrative, as sites like Associated Content and Demand Media look attractive to content companies like Yahoo and investors. Last month Cutts vowed that Google planned to take action in 2011 against such sites, previewing the user-generated blocklist concept as a similar idea to a user-generated spam-labeling extension available for Chrome.
Google took great pains to label Personal Blocklist "an early test" and "experimental," but it's now available in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. It can be found here. Cutts did not say in the post how long it might take Google to amass enough data to change how blocklisted sites appear in regular Google search results.