Last week, the New York Times pointed out a big issue in Google’s search algorithm – bad comments can be good for search results. The NYT article, entitled A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web chronicles the organic SEO strategy of an online eyeglass merchant that allegedly abused customers. By getting irate customers to post angry reviews and negative experiences, the company dramatically improved its site’s rankings in Google. In fact, its ranking for many designer eyeglass brands were listed above those of the manufacturers’ own websites.
NYT reports today that, based in part on their reporting, Google has now changed their algorithms to prevent negative comments from improving a website’s placement on the world’s most popular search engine.
Google denies that the negative reviews were the cause of this particular website’s strong ranking but rather a set of unsavory and deceptive practices to trick search engines, often referred to as “black hat” practices. In a post on Google’s official blog, they argue that allowing negative comments to reduce search engine rankings would open another loophole, allowing those with nefarious intentions to cast sites into obscurity (Think, for example, of attacks on a political candidate making it more difficult to find that candidate’s website and the behavior that would encourage).
Still, Google indicates that it has made changes which will thwart the particular strategies employed by the site in this particular NYT article.
So what does this mean to you and me?
- Stick with “approved” SEO strategies to avoid low rankings when these issues emerge.
- Track your SEO placement as the algorithms change regularly.
- Check for negative reviews when buying from online vendors that you’re not familiar with.