Google Updates Rankings to Penalize Negative Reviews

by Helen M. Overland December 1st, 2010 

To explain why Google is making this algorithm change, first you need to know the story that unfolded this week:

A couple of days ago, the New York Times ran a story about a company who claims to be generating business by getting NEGATIVE reviews online.

In the story, a company called DecorMyEyes allegedly gave poor service to a lady named Clarabelle Rodriguez. From her telling of the story, the treatment she received was so horrendous, she and her fianc filed a police report about the company.

Complaints and negative reviews about DecorMyEyes have been piling up on GetSatisfaction.com.

How bad are the reviews, you ask? Bad enough that I don't feel comfortable repeating them. Here's an overview of their page:

Negative Reviews

Here's the problem

DecorMyEyes doesn't seem to care about how many bad reviews they get online, or how many customers are complaining about their service. Here's what they had to say about all their negative reviews:

"I just wanted to let you guys know that the more replies you people post, the more business and the more hits and sales I get. My goal is NEGATIVE advertisement."

WHY you ask would a company want to have negative reviews? Why would this be profitable for them? Well, according to Stanley with DecorMyEyes in the Times article:

"Its all part of a sales strategy, he said. Online chatter about DecorMyEyes, even furious online chatter, pushed the site higher in Google search results, which led to greater sales. He closed with a sardonic expression of gratitude: I never had the amount of traffic I have now since my 1st complaint. I am in heaven."

The story in the NYT caused GetSatisfaction to respond on their blog about the problems. In the post, GetSatisfaction claims that they approached the company back in 2008 to get DecorMyEyes involved in responding to his reviews, and he responded by sending them a clipart picture giving them his middle finger.

Lovely.

What Google is Doing

About an hour ago, Google responded directly to the New York Times article, saying they were "horrified to read about Ms. Rodriguezs dreadful experience".

In response to this situation, Google put a team together and decided to develop an "algorithmic solution" – in true Google form – and the change is already live.

According to Amit Singhal, Google Fellow, the change affects DecorMyEyes, but also affects "hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide a extremely poor user experience".

What this Means to Businesses

Be good to your customers! Don't rip them off! Don't give bad service! This is really basic business 101 stuff.

If you have negative reviews, respond to them and resolve the situation so the person doesn't leave you a second negative review elsewhere.

We also encourage you to ask your happy customers to leave you positive reviews.

Don't spam review sites either, because if detecting review spam isn't already part of the algorithm adjustment, it likely will be soon.

But most of all – be good to your customers! In a social media world, every business lives in a fishbowl.

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Helen Overland

Vice President at Search Engine People, helping clients with Conversion Optimization, Analytics, and On-Page SEO. Online Marketer since June 2000, Internet geek since 1994. Follow me on twitter at @semlady to see what I'm reading now.

http://www.searchenginepeople.com/

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6 Responses to “Google Updates Rankings to Penalize Negative Reviews”

  1. Jon Wade says:

    They used to say that "there is no such thing as bad publicity". Well, it seems that Google has managed to tip that old trick on its head.

    A guess the real moral of the story is, if you find a little trick to drive more traffic to your site, don't boast about it.

  2. Nail Yener says:

    I can't believe how the owner of DecorMyEyes think about the issue. "The more negative buzz about your business will lead you to upper rankings in search engine results." But he does not realize that the more negative feedback he gets the sooner he will have to shut down his business.

  3. Leo says:

    Read the NY Times article a couple of days ago and then I saw many SEO's responses in my Twitter timeline, I clearly didn't understand the long term view on the site owner, nor – as jon said – his short-sightedness in boasting about it. These are the kind of "ticks" that you discuss in private forums far far away from Google's prying eyes (or robots).

    Glas to see it only took them a few days to come up with an algo solution to the problem.
    .-= Leo recently posted: Web Design for Hair Salon =-.

  4. Thos003 says:

    I think it's appropriate to do so, unfortunately how are they going to prevent Google bowling.
    .-= Thos003 recently posted: Going Green-er this Holiday Season =-.