Website Blocking and how it affects your SEO (Part 10)
It wasn’t until 2011 when website blocking went main stream and other search engines followed suit. It seems like blocking is already successfully taking out some websites out of the search engines, but will this pave the way to a future of better web experience?
First introduced to the world by Blekko which has blocked over 1 million websites, CEO Rich Skrenta said this move has successfully cleaned up their search results of any spam. Then, Google announces that users have the ability to actively block websites.
Like it or not, users who are signed in to Google now have the ability to block your website from appearing on their search results. In a statement made by Google, they mentioned that this feature gives users the control over the results provided by the search engines. The level of personalization makes for an even more enjoyable experience on Google.
There has always been a number of signals used by Google when it comes to determine which website are most relevant for any given search result. Some of these signals are present on the content of the pages themselves and some are from outbound links from other websites. We also cannot neglect that fact that Google also examines data of user behavior, such as how long it take for a page to load based on the toolbar data. Now that users have the ability to block websites, it makes for even more interesting way to rank sites.
How blocking works
When you click through on a search result and then “bounce” out of it (click Back to return to the search engine results), you will get an option to block the website.
After you have clicked to block, you will be presented with you options:
You can choose to either undo it, or manage all the other sites you’ve blocked before.
While Google mentioned that they may (read: may) not use domains blocked by users are signals in ranking, they will base their data and see if it would be viable to continue to assess and enhance their search results in the future. It is pretty clear that Google does use this data to confirm that their change in algorithm was on the right track. In a test, they found that there was an 84% overlap in websites that were hit by the Panda update and websites that users have blocked.
It makes sense. If a website is already raising red flags all over the place, Google may as well use user blocking as a confirmation that that particular website needs to leave the search result listings.
How does this affect you?
The word “blocking” itself is already pretty self explanatory. It is really to block you from appearing in user’s search results. Contrary to +1, once you are blocked, you are hidden away from their search results.
The blocking feature was used in conjunction with the Panda update that aims to eliminate low quality websites from the Internet. As long as you are providing users with quality content you should not need to worry about being blocked.
Tips to avoid getting blocked
Like I said, be honest. As long as you are legit, you would be fine. But should this happen to you or should you want to avoid being blocked, here are some questions you should be asking yourself.
- Can users easily navigate around your website? Poor user experience is one reason to be blocked. No one likes a website that is poorly built with no interlinking pages. If users want to search for information in your website, it should be obvious. I’ve also seen some blogs where users have to look around the website for several minutes to find the button to read previous blog entries. Your blog should be there to provide information to people. Visitors should not need to squint their eyes looking for that hidden button.
- Are your pages clearly displaying what they are about? If users have to guess what kind of topic the pages are about when reading your content, you are in very big trouble. Again, it all comes down to user experience. If users are unsure what your content is about (and users are usually very impatient), they can click “back” and look at the other 9 results in page one. Just hope they don’t hit on the “block” button.
- Is your content original? The worst thing any users can experience is read the first few lines of your article and then they remember they had just read it three minutes ago on another website. This is bad first impression and they probably would want to stay away from your website in the future. Not only is this bad for users, duplicate content on your website can affect your search engine rankings.
- Is your website infested with ads? It is okay to monetize your website with ads, but it doesn’t make for a good user experience. Websites filled up with ads usually create a bad impression in the minds of users and they will start to think that the website is shady and suspicious. Have ads, but don’t have 20 flashing banners promoting some muscle building workout.
- Does your website have ads to mislead or distract users? Flashing banners is one, but having your ads masquerade as an internal link in your website in efforts of increasing click through rate is not a very good practice either. Personally, I myself hate clicking on ads and when I see websites with ads on the sidebar pretending to be part of the pages in the website, I start thinking less of the website. I bet you feel the same way too.
- Are you business or user orientated? There is a reason why people do not go to business websites to look for information and that is because business orientated websites usually do not contain any useful information and they just focus on making sales. You want information, you need to buy them. Users like people and websites with their needs in mind. If you can meet the needs of users, they will keep coming back to you. The more helpful your content is, the more loyal visitors you will get. You will probably get blocked less often too.
You are probably thinking that it is okay to get blocked by one person. It’s just one person, so what? There are billions of other internet users in the world. One person does not make a difference. Well, you may be right, but you are wrong.
With Google and the originator of blocking, Blekko, collecting data about blocking activities to reaffirm which websites aren’t worth their precious page one spots, one person blocking you may lead to more and more blocking you. Before you know it, you are out of the search engine game. You want to stay on top, try thinking about being user-friend for once, and not just about dollar signs.