One of the hardest things about conducting online research is sifting through so much noise to get to the good stuff. I think a large part of Google and Bing’s never-ending effort to improve search results is to remove a lot of that noise and to offer searchers quality sites with quality content about the topic they are searching for.
If you think about it, that’s a tall order. Two people searching for something as mundane as “wicked witch of the west” could each have a distinctly different intent behind the searches. One person may be seeking out a literary analysis of the character from the Wizard of Oz novel, while another person may be seeking a Halloween costume.
In my case, the issue becomes even more complicated. I do a lot of research in fringe areas like paranormal research, historical controversy and conspiracy theories. My personal intent when I search for things like “CIA mind control research” is to reach about verified historical accounts where U.S. intelligence actually conducted documented research on mind control.
My intent is not to trudge through conspiracy theory forums overrun with wingnut theories about secret alien bases on the moon or people that claim they served in an elite psychic special forces unit in Vietnam – sans evidence. So how do you research such controversial topics that run the entire gamut when it comes to good and bad research out there?
The secret weapon is a Chrome add-in called Personal Blocklist.
Blocking Junk Sites You Don’t Want
The point here is that it’s nearly impossible for any search engine to guess your tastes and interests, and to perfectly understand the motives behind your search. The only effective way to tailor search results in a way that completely removes those websites or domains for which you have zero respect for, is to the domain blocklist tool called Personal Blocklist.
This is a tool offered by Google for this very purpose. I can tell you without a doubt that this one tool has dramatically reduced the amount of time that I perform preliminary online research on any story that I’m digging into. Once you install the add-on, it appears as a convenient icon right next to your URL field in the browser.
There are a few ways that you can use this tool. The first is just to use Google and browse as you normally would. The way I used this add-on when I first downloaded it is that during my research, I’ll literally work down the results page and just identify all of the sites that I thought offered well-thought out articles on the topic, with skillful critical thinking, good sources, and overall intelligent research. Those sites are identified below with red arrows (yes, a shameless plug is tucked away in there as well).
However, whenever I spot those websites that toss around wild, unsubstantiated claims with flippant comments like “there’s plenty of evidence that proves there’s a secret moon base on the dark side of the moon” – I mark that domain for deletion from my search results.
There’s two ways to delete that site. The first is to actually click on the link to visit the page, and then click on the Personal Blocklist icon in your toolbar. Then, click on “Block current host:” – and that will seal the deal. That domain will no longer show up in any of your Google search results in the future. Pretty cool, huh?
After adding that domain to my personal blocklist, check out what happened – it’s completely absent from my Google search results with this browser, even when I’m not logged into my Google account at all. Remember, this is browser-based, not account based.
An easier method that requires far fewer clicks is just clicking on the “Block…” link underneath the search listing. I love this one, because I can just fly through the search results when I’m researching, and just click on the “Block” link once, when I spot those sites that I know never have anything useful or valuable to offer.
Within a very, very short period, you’ll soon realize that your Google search results are becoming much more valuable – with the domains and websites that you consider to be highly valuable, while removing all of those that constantly get in your way.
That means that your research time gets cut down significantly, because you aren’t trying to sort the wheat from the chaff. The proof for me is that now I can search for things like “alien ships“, and the first page of Google turns up awesome, informative, well-written articles from sites like the Huffington Post, National Geographic, and Discovery News. Sweet!
You can manage your personal blocklist at any time by just clicking on the icon in your toolbar. This will pop-up your current list of blocked hosts.
This is great for blocking entire sites that start with that domain name, but this won’t block sites where there are subdomains within that site. For example, blocking mysite.com won’t block forums.mysite.com. However, this tool gives you the ability to edit domains so that you can be more specific in that way.
This is add-on works well, and it really does wonders to remove those ever-present spam sites (and really low-quality sites in general) that for some reason the Google algorithm hasn’t quite figured out how to remove from the top of the listings. No need to wait for the algorithm to improve – just create your own algorithm with Personal Blocklist.
This add-on has been available for well over a year now, so if you haven’t started using it yet, I highly suggest you give it a shot. It’ll dramatically reduce the time you waste searching for things online. Even better, many sites like LifeHacker reported that Google actually accepts these blocklists from users as part of its analysis to determine what sites should be ranked higher or lower in Google Search results.
That means that if you use Personal Blocklist, you may be offering your own personal input about which sites Google should rank more highly, and which ones it should consider junk. Your individual opinions may not make that change, but if enough people believe like you do, who knows?
Do you use Google’s Personal Blocklist? Are you considering using it? Share your thoughts about this service in the comments section below.
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