I read a very well written post on ProBlogger the other day that was an imaginary discussion between two people on whether Google should introduce a -1 button to combat spam.
It produced some interesting arguments, both for and against. But I have to say, I came out against, and here’s why: it would be too easy to wrongly penalise good pages.
When Google introduced the +1 button I was dubious, because I figured that a lot of people would either not realise what it was for or wouldn’t bother clicking it.
I don’t know the actual results, but on the sites I visit and that have +1 buttons showing the number of votes, I’ve not been proved wrong: the +1 votes are either non-existent or a fraction of the Facebook Likes or Tweets.
Another of my worries was that large employers would get all their employees to +1 the corporate website, which would distort the results, pushing a potentially bland corporate site up the rankings.
None-the-less, installing a +1 button was one of those things that could potentially be quite powerful if people understood it and used it as it was intended. So I installed one.
However, a -1 button is a different story altogether.
Sites that use reader-voting to float articles up or down their rankings, like Digg and Reddit, often don’t do justice to well-written, well-researched and detailed articles.
This is because people hire others from Fiverr, and similar sites, to vote articles up or down, thereby manipulating the results – even though the articles that are voted down on those sites are not spam.
How would it work on Google?
The Google context is different.
People go to Google to search for information and it’s up to Google to present a set of results that are relevant to the search query.
But if they produced an irrelevant result people may be inclined to -1 it, not because it was spam but simply because it wasn’t what they were looking for.
The problem is, though, the responsible party in this case was Google, not the page author. Yet it will be the author’s page that would be penalised because Google’s indexing was wrong.
And that’s before we even start on competitors furiously -1’ing your pages in order to benefit theirs.
While I do understand the frustration of finding a whole bunch of spam pages in your search results I don’t believe a -1 button would be a good way of combating it.
What about you? For or against?