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:
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.
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.
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.