This week the Internet giant took customization a bit further by allowing consumers to block sites from their search results. Meanwhile, new organizational features were added to Gmail and Latitude got a very Foursquare-like enhancement. 

Google Blocks Unwanted Results 

This week saw the announcement of a site-blocking search tool which removes unwanted websites from your results. Let's say you search for something, click on a resulting link and are lead to an unsatisfactory webpage. You go back to the list of Google results. Now, next to the link you originally chose to check out, there will be an option to block it from future searches. 

Should you change your mind about blocking a site, you can always edit your preferences by hitting up Search Settings, or by clicking on the “Manage blocked sites” link that appears when you block a domain.  (Think of it like removing a friend from your Facebook feed-- they're still there, you just can't see them.) Further, anytime a site is omitted from a search because of your blocking, Google will display a small message to remind you that something has been removed and you'll have the option to unmask it. 

If you're a Google fankid, this probably sounds familiar. The Internet giant released a similar tool last month in the form of a Chrome extension, which does the same job on a browser level. This also means more familiar bad news for content farms, as some of the first sites we expect to see blocked on a heavyweight level include eHow, Demand Media and the like.

"It’s impossible to speculate how these or any changes made by Google impact any online business in the long term – but at this point in time, we haven’t seen a material net impact on our Content & Media business," said Larry Fitzgibbon, Demand Media's EVP of Media and Operations, when the browser extension was released back in February. But this new feature puts blocking in the hands of consumers in a much more familiar way. Will Fitzgibbon change his tune? Let us know what you think. 

Gmail Smart Labels 

Google's made yet another effort to keep your inbox healthy and organized. Smart Labels works as a complementary feature to Priority Inbox by automatically sorting incoming messages into three different categories.

The 'Bulk' label goes on any type of mass mailing -- think: newsletters and promotional emails -- and filters the messages out of your inbox by default. 'Notifications' is for messages sent to you directly, such as account statements, and 'Forums' labels e-mail from group mailing lists:


"On the Filters tab under Settings, you'll find that these filters can be edited just like any others,"explains Stanley Chen, Software Engineer, in Google's official post. "From there, you can also edit your existing filters to avoid having them Smart Labeled or change whether mail in a Smart Label skips your inbox (which you can also do by just clicking on the label, then selecting or unselecting the checkbox in the top right corner)." 

Latitude Check-ins Mimic Foursquare

Google's Latitude application now offers incentives such as free coffee and ice cream for users who check in to more than 60 businesses in Austin, Texas during this year's SXSW  Interactive show. 
According to the official Google blog:

You’ll be able to see both available and locked check-in offers. And once you gain status and unlock a check-in offer, just tap “redeem” and show your phone to use it. Learn more at

The Internet giant actually launched check-ins for Latitude in early February, but the SXSW push is sure to get a healthy amount of attention. 
“We’re doing a small experiment and we’re doing it here in Austin because of SXSW,” said Marissa Mayer, VP of consumer products of Google. ”This is Google entering the check-in space and really giving our users a way of reaping the rewards of checking in.