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An online retailer harasses customers, doesn't fulfill orders, and goes out of his way to practically ask for negative reviews on popular (and powerful) web sites ... then claims this has been great for business. And let's face it: That kind of behavior can (and does) attract inbound links, online discussion, social activity, and other forms of attention/popularity -- all of which can increase visibility in Google's search results. Put yourself in Google's shoes for our "Discussion of the Week" and tell us ... what should Google do (if anything) about situations where negative actions and activity is good for SEO?
Comments23 Comments  

Comments

Avatar Administrator
from MattMcGee 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 0

To me, there clearly needs to be some kind of sentiment analysis going on when links and activity lead to pages/sites/businesses that are harmful to consumers.

Several iterations ago of the local search algorithm, it didn't matter if you had good reviews or bad reviews -- it just mattered that you had reviews. One local car dealership in my area consistently outranked the competition and the primary difference is that it had several negative reviews while the others had none. I've seen and written about similar situations in other industries, too. But the local folks seem to have managed to change that, or tweak things so that it's not just quantity of reviews. If you look in Google Places, you'll see sentiment analysis in place. They display the overall sentiments condensed from multiple reviews. Maybe something similar can be applied to traditional search results so that not all links and attention are good.



Avatar
from demib 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 1

This has been an issue for ages - and it has been abused for just as long. The fact that both negative and positive links count as "votes of confident" is one the main reasons link baits and blogs works so great for SEO. Strong opinions will make some hate you and some love you - but they all link when they talk about you and all those links count.Personally I found that strong negative postings about Linux or Open Source - or praising MS, works especially well :)



Avatar
from demib 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Sentiment analysis are not going to solve this - it will just open up huge option for serious abuse! It will be (too) great for negative SEO



Avatar Moderator
from toddmintz 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Sentiment analysis might be open to abuse, but ultimately, it's still a necessary tool.  The earliest iterations of it will likely be gamed by some of the smarter folks but ultimately one would have to think Google will get this (mostly) right.

They might adapt something similar to a malware warning that they could append to the SERPS of questionable merchants...they would have to be very careful how such a concept might be implemented though.



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from demib 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I think the solution is in all the related information Google already have rather than sentiment analysis of links.



Avatar Administrator
from Michelle 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 4

I'm going to play devil's advocate here (just for fun) and say that Google should be agnostic. The underlying premise here seems to be that Google should only show 'the good guys' and should somehow be able to algorithmically sort out who that is.  If the results for "Tom Ford Sunglasses" returns a business that sells them, isn't it my job as the consumer to investigate that business. If I do my job as a consumer, I'll see those bad reviews (that helped that business to rank), and will pass on giving them my business.


I never assume that a top ranked site at Google is any kind of endorsement for that site/business by Google.  I'd hate to see Google become the next branch of the nanny state - especially at the behest of this community.


As long as the results returned are relevant to my search, Google has done its job.





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from egabbert 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Michelle, I kind of agree -- Domino's ranks #1 for "pizza" but I don't assume that means they have the best available pizza ...



Avatar Administrator
from Michelle 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Too late - http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/12/being-bad-to-your-customers-is-bad-for.html - seems they think they've sorted it out and will now tell us where we should shop.



Avatar Administrator
from Michelle 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 2

@egabbert really. i think this is incredibly interesting. if i do a search for "fuel efficient car dealerships" should I expect that Google will return the best dealership to me? No. It's my job to sort out the good from the bad when it comes to a business. It's Google's job to present me with the most relevant information from which to make my decisions. So if they return a list of local dealers in my area that sell fuel efficient cars - that's where their job ends in my opinion. Should they rank dealership B higher than dealership A because A got more negative reviews? I think that's a slippery slope. A very slippery slope. People need to watch what they wish for. [watches as the negative vs. positive (and real vs. fake) reviews for clients and competitors arms race escalates in SEO]



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from egabbert 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Agreed on the slippery slope -- it's crossing into "we know what you want" territory. Google is supposed to rank websites, not service quality.



Avatar Administrator
from MattMcGee 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 1

"I never assume that a top ranked site at Google is any kind of endorsement for that site/business by Google."

But a great many "average" people do.

"Google is supposed to rank websites, not service quality."

They're supposed to return the most relevant results for a query. If you're looking for XYZ Sunglasses and Google includes a link to a company that doesn't actually sell them, and instead sends fraudulent merchandise (if it even bothers to fulfill the order at all), that's not a relevant result.

The suggestion isn't that Google should rate service quality -- plenty of sites are already doing that, as Michelle said. The info is out there. The suggestion is that Google might want to include some of that in its determination of what's relevant and what's not. It already does for local results -- you can see how many and/or how well a local company is rated in Yelp, Citysearch, Google Places, etc.

Then again, I haven't read Google's blog post yet, so....



Avatar Administrator
from Michelle 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@MattMcGee I disagree. Google's mission is to "organize the world's information" it is not to validate or endorse the information.  This actually gets to a much deeper problem - and thus the slippery slope - with saying or assuming that they should.


And pointing to or including those review services in their algo - do we then hold them responsible for the validity of those reviews and services? Because we know those reviews (positive and negative) are not necessarily based on real consumers really reviewing a given business. (and Hello Yelp shakedown!)


The larger issue is really how their heavy emphasis on external links - period - is falling apart at the seams when it comes to relevancy and legitimacy in the SERPs.  I want them to sort that out - I don't want them presuming to vet businesses.




Avatar Moderator
from Jill 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 2

I couldn't agree more with Michelle in this thread. I alluded to this in our other thread at Sphinn on the original topic where I said that the scumbag is doing illlegal things which the law should be taking care of...not Google.

Anyone who assumes that a #1 ranking on Google is an endorsement is not being very smart, imo.  It's the same with the SEO industry and all the bad apples we have. Don't complain if you use a crappy SEO company just cuz they were on Google or in some fake review directory. DO YOUR HOMEWORK for any service or product you're going to buy.

As I was reading Danny's summary of the NYT article, as well as some of the thoughts in this thread, I kept thinking "what about all those fake negative reviews that we all complain about."  Do we really want the Rip Off Report bullshit to count towards our Google rankings? Because that's what you're saying by sentiment analysis, imo.



Avatar Moderator
from graywolf 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 4

Of course google's sentiment analysis is sophisticated to pick up on sarcasm from a sentence like "I'd like to say thank you and give a big hug to the TSA for making my airport wait longer" or "I love my cable company like a brother ... the way Cain loved Able".

IMHO it's smoke and mirrors to appease the press and control any stock market fluctuations. If a story comes out saying they can be gamed in the NY times they have to react. Go thru pick up a few by hand throw a new routine in that spits out a list of very questionable stuff for hand review, but that's it, and the press moves on.




Avatar
from elysiabrooker 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I totally agree with Michelle! I believe Google should remain agnostic.


Removing activity influencers from the algorithim will inevitably punish the majority of business owners who are doing the right thing in order to momentarily halt the few that aren't.


By adjusting the algorithim to punish the bad and promote the good you would be asking Google to effectively endorse certain businesses - dangerous territory for a search medium.


And what would this negative activity radar be based on? Reviews? Blog posts? 10 or more bad blog comments? I can't see how they could possibly moderate such activity and determine what gets more weight in the SERPs. Not to mention that it could be seriously exploited by competing companies - which I'm sure is already a tactic in place today.


I want Google to show me the most relevant results to my search irrespective of their opinion of the company. Imagine the uproar if Google started allocating all the top SERPs to brands and companies they endorsed (and potentially even partnered with). That concept is a whole lot worse than the odd bad shopping experience.




Avatar Moderator
from graywolf 1235 Days ago #
Votes: 2

I'd also like to ask if Google took care of the sentiment problem why did they nofollow only the link to the NY times article ...



Avatar
from demib 1234 Days ago #
Votes: 2

This new Google "bad merchant" algo update is a hoax designed to silence the press. Thats it. Nothing has changed since yesterday - negative links are still a vote of confidence. The amazing thing is if the press wlll eat this hoax ... but once again, they'll probably do.



Avatar Administrator
from MattMcGee 1234 Days ago #
Votes: 2

I'm not making my point clearly enough, perhaps. I'm not suggesting Google approve or vet companies. I'm saying Google has access to information about companies that it's choosing not to use in ranking sites. (So much for organizing the world's information, I guess.) Or maybe the blog post today means that it is using those signals. I'm saying Google should be able to give searchers as much useful information as it has about the web pages it lists. Surely more information for searchers is a good thing, no?

And yes, Michelle, the far bigger issue is about the over-reliance on links. Google has created its own monster here.

I would also suggest we throw Google's stated mission under the rug and agree that its real mission is to make money.



Avatar Moderator
from graywolf 1234 Days ago #
Votes: 1

After doing a bit of research I found another eyeglass website run by the same person, with negative reviews, that still ranks for commercial terms. So I call BS on google's press release. of course the fascinating part is many of the complaint sites also associate the two sites.



Avatar
from leemonte 1234 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I fully aggree with Matt, Google is into money making business instead of the quality of sites that they rank. Over-reliance on links do more than good to those sites which rely on SEO as a prime commodity in money making business.



Avatar Moderator
from Sebastian 1234 Days ago #
Votes: 0

A link is a link is a link. And a hand job is just that, even if actually applied to 100 sites.



Avatar Moderator
from Sebastian 1234 Days ago #
Votes: 2

There are only so many not-totally-weak signals out there, and Google's not to blame for heavily relying on one of the better ones: links. I don't believe they'll lower the importance of links anytime soon, at least not significantly. And why should they? I surely don't want that. And I doubt it makes much sense, plus I doubt that Google can do that.

As for the meaning of links, well, I just hope that Google doesn't try to guess intentions out of plain A elements and their context. That's a must-fail project. I've developed some faith in the sanity and smartness of Google's engineers over the years. I hope they won't disappoint me now.

Of course one can express a link's intention in a machine-readable way. For example with a microformat like VoteLinks. Unfortunately, nobody cares enough to actually make use of it.

Google's very own misconception, er, microformat rel-nofollow, is even less reliable. Imagine a dead tired and overworked algo in the cellar of building 43 trying to figure out whether a particular link's rel="nofollow" was set

  • to mark a paid link
  • because the SEO next door said PageRank® hoarding is cool
  • because at the webmaster's preferred hangout nofollow'ing links was the topic of week 53/2005
  • because the webmaster bought Google's FUD and castrates all links except those leading to google.com just in case Google could penalize him for a badass one
  • to express that the link's destination is a 404 page, so that the "PageRank™ leak", er, link isn't worth any link juice
  • because the author thankfully links back to a leading Web resource in his industry that linked to him as a honest recommendation, but is afraid of a reciprocal link penalty
  • because the author agrees with the linked page's message, but doesn't like the foul language used over there
  • because the author disagrees with the discussed, and therefore linked, destination page
  • just because some crappy CMS condomizes every 3rd link automatically for reasons not known to man
  • ...

Well, not even all Googlers like it. In fact, some teams decided to ignore it because of its weakness and widespread abuse.

The above said is only valid for links embedded in markup that allows machine-readable tagging of links. Even if such tags would be reliable, they don't cover all references, aka hyperlinks, on the Web. Think of PDF, Flash, client sided scripting, ...

Also, nobody links out anymore. We paste URIs into tiny textareas limited to 140 characters that don't have room for meta data at all. And since Google uses links in tweets for ranking purposes (Web search and news), how the f*ck could even a smartass algo decide whether a tweet's link points to crap or gold? Go figure.

Besides geeky thoughts, I do not want Google to decide where I buy my stuff. I'm totally happy with SERPs ranked by link popularity, because Google cannot and never will create anything better than my build-in BS-detector.

#thatisall



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