New Google Toolbar Lets Users Rate Pages

Sung to the tune of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” with apologies to Bobby McFerrin:

Here’s a little page I found
I sure hope it won’t let you down
If it does, push Unhappy

If you see a page that’s good
You can make your thoughts understood
Push Happy, push Happy

A new version of the Google toolbar now in beta testing sports a new look — happy and sad faces that let toolbar users rate web pages.

Google unveiled the new version at last month’s Search Engine Strategies conference in Dallas. The company hopes that the happy or sad votes it received will help it better understand which pages are satisfying Google users and which may not.

If you see a page you like, push the happy button on the toolbar. Google will register that you are pleased with the URL you are viewing. Found a spam page, or just a low quality page that somehow ranked well in Google’s results? Then push the unhappy face. You can even use this if you get an entire list of results at Google you think are bad. Just leave the results page up in your browser and push the unhappy face.

Google says that excessive clicks are watched for. Google also assures that it has mechanisms in place to ensure good sites don’t get penalized by competitors voting against them.

“We do have a lot of safeguards in place to make sure someone can’t hurt someone else unfairly,” said Matt Cutts, the software engineer overseeing the new feature.

Google predictably didn’t go into specifics about how this would be done, but the key reassurance to take away for the moment is that the voting data is not automatically being used to alter rankings. Instead, it is currently used as a flagging mechanism, to help Google understand which pages should be subjected to human review.

“It won’t be used in the production system until a human has validated it or until we fully trust the methodology,” Cutts said.

Google Toolbar With Voting Feature

If you have the Google toolbar already installed, then uninstall it to use the new version. Click on the Google logo that appears to the left of the search box, then select Uninstall from the drop-down options. When you are told the toolbar has been removed, close ALL Internet Explorer windows you may have open.

Next (and also do this if you never had the Google toolbar), use the URL above, then the new beta version with happy and sad faces allowing you to vote will load. You won’t see the faces immediately. Instead, you’ll need to click on the Google logo, then select “Toolbar Options” from the drop down list. When the options page loads in your browser, check the “Voting Buttons” choice.

Also be sure to read the “Privacy Implications” link that appears at the bottom of the page. Basically, this warns you that information about sites you view with the toolbar is automatically transmitted to Google, if you use the “PageRank” or “Category Buttons” option. However, the privacy policy further explains that if you explicitly use an option that communicates with Google, such as the highlighting option or the new voting option, then information about what URL you are viewing is sent each time you use that option.

I trust Google and so am not worried about this — if you aren’t so trusting, then read the privacy policy carefully, to see if it settles your concerns.

Google may let surfers rank search results, Nov. 27, 2001

A look at Google’s efforts, with lots of quotes from experts about how it may fare against search engine spammers. Remember — the data is not currently being used in an automatic form and even if it does go live, it would be only one part of many things in Google’s ranking algorithm. Also, a minor but important clarification. Direct Hit is actually the first company that had a large scale system to let web surfers determine the popularity of how sites should rank in search results. However, this measurement is done passively, by measuring clicks. Google is the first major search engine to debut an active user rating system.

An “X-Ray” Toolbar for Web Surfers
SearchDay, Nov. 19, 2001

Alexa’s been letting users rate web sites for literally years. Discover how this is just one of the many useful things that the Alexa Toolbar aggregates about web sites and makes available with a simple click of a link.

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