On Google, all publicity is no longer good publicity

TechCrunch reports on Google’s decision to tweak its algorithm in response to an online shop which found its Google ranking was boosted when dozens of people complained about it.

The owner of the shop – DecorMyEyes.com – had boasted on consumer complaint forum GetSatisfaction that:

“The more replies you people post, the more business and the more hits and sales I get. My goal is NEGATIVE advertisement.”

A lengthy New York Times article piece on the issue continues:

“It’s 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.

“… Not only has this heap of grievances failed to deter DecorMyEyes, but as [one consumer’s] all-too-cursory Google search demonstrated, the company can show up in the most coveted place on the Internet’s most powerful site.”

The NYT spoke to the owner, Vitaly Borker, who openly admits “I’ve exploited this opportunity because it works.”

“No matter where they post their negative comments, it helps my return on investment. So I decided, why not use that negativity to my advantage?”

Later in the article, after the reporter has doorstepped Borker, he says he ‘stumbled upon the upside of rudeness by accident':

“”I stopped caring,” he says, and for that he blames customers. They lied and changed their minds in ways that cost him money, he says, and at some point he started telling them off in the bluntest of terms. To his amazement, this seemed to better his standing in certain Google searches, which brought in more sales.

“Before this discovery, he’d hired a search optimization company to burnish his site’s reputation by writing positive things about DecorMyEyes online. Odious behavior, he realized, worked much better, and it didn’t cost him a penny.”

In their blog post on the change Google says:

“We developed an algorithmic solution which detects the merchant … along with hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide an extremely poor user experience.”

For obvious reasons they don’t give details of the solution.

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