Buyer Beware – How Negative Reviews Led to Positive Google Rankings

December 2nd, 2010 by Search Influence Alumni

I remembered the saying “any press is good press” as I read this amazing and cautionary article from The New York Times, A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web.  It’s a long article, but it’s definitely worth reading. In short, it tells the story of how one woman unfortunately found out the hard way that Google rankings do not incorporate “sentiment analysis” for how it crawls the Internet to produce its search rankings. What this equates to is that search engine results that appear in the coveted top of the search results might appear in this spot due to negative feedback, like customer complaints, posted on review sites.

More precisely, the takeaway point of this article is summed up in this paragraph, referring to how Google ranks pages:

“A crucial factor in Google search results, the spokesman explained, is the number of links from respected and substantial websites. The more links that a site has from big and well-regarded sites, the better its chances of turning up high in a search.”

Wow! So this means that companies that seek out negative press, like DecorMyEyes (the company in question in the article), are just as likely to be ranked number 1 as law-abiding, hard-working and honest companies who legitimately deserve this ranking?

What the what?

And that is exactly what the almighty Google thought too. According to TechCrunch, in response to The New York Times article, Google has changed its algorithm to prevent any negative feedback helping a company’s search ranking.

And all is well in the world again.

But this brings me to my point, and please indulge me as I digress for a moment. As I read this story, I began to think of college. All through college a variety of my professors lectured to me the same golden rule: research is king.  And who says you don’t remember anything from college?

Why would this article bring back memories of distant professors? Well, apparently they were right. Whether it was a history professor saying that there are two sides to every historical event or one of my public relations professors saying that without research you are just blindly throwing darts at the wall, the message was the same – do your research!

Even though Google has changed the way it ranks to incorporate “sentiment analysis,” companies will always try to increase their rankings, and some might even find seemingly sordid ways to drive traffic to their site. While Google rankings can go a long way in your website visibility and client traffic, continue to do your research before opening your wallet.