Google Helps the Good Guys
Search engine marketing happened to make front-page news recently as the New York Times ran an expose detailing the illegal practices of online proprietor Vitaly Borker and his gaming of Google's search algorithm. If you're not familiar with the story, Mr. Borker claims to have used loopholes in Google's search engine, as well as MasterCard and Visa's charge-back system, to garner more business through negative responses from customers. Over the past few weeks, the Web has been aflame with discussions over how this could have happened in the first place, as well as how it can be rectified. To Google's credit, as explained by Amit Singhal in a recent blog post in the immediate aftermath, the search giant has gone to immediate measures to shore up its vaunted search algorithm to more precisely pinpoint and demote those sites which use large volumes of negative postings to raise their search ranking. There seemed to be plenty of blame to go around (i.e. eBay, consumer complaint sites, etc.), and many saw it as an opportunity for some particular Google shaedenfraude, but the problem goes deeper than the search engine itself.
Borker himself theorized that the vast quantity of negative reviews on a variety of online consumer review sites, many highly respected, was what raised his ranking higher. In the original article, one online response to his bilked customers was almost gleefully brazen in his explanation, ?I never had the amount of traffic I have now since my 1st complaint. I am in heaven.? Though there are loopholes that he obviously navigated with success for several months, Google casts some doubt on his simple explanation by countering that even before their revision to their own algorithm, to prevent just such a thing from happening, consumer complaint sites typically included special coding so that bad and/or fraudulent companies would not get higher rankings. It might be reasonable to assume that many times, unfortunately, people are more passionate and willing to post reviews online (especially for something rather innocuous like glasses) when they are livid over having been taken advantage of. What does not seem to be reported as much as the search engine optimization part of this controversy, is that much of Borker's success, at least according to searchengineland.com's Byrne Hobart, came from auto-generated spam pages and the fact that DecorMyEyes was frequently linked to by mainstream media sites. Among them? The New York Times.
Less than 20 years after its conception, web commerce can still seem like the wild west, especially after stories such as these. But when shopping for any service or product online, consumers should continue to proceed with caution. As stated above, Less than 20 years after its conception, web commerce can still seem like the wild west, especially after stories such as these. But when shopping for any service or product online, consumers should continue to proceed with caution. As stated above, Google's response has been laudable, and their consumer rankings of local businesses based on the particular searchers zip code now needs to be extended to online commerce - just for these reasons. As all search engines are becoming more aware of the less-savory uses of link building and search engine optimization, this will thankfully make respected, transparent SEM companies like RSO Consulting and the like more prominent. But, as Mr. Singhal himself said, it probably won't be long before another dastardly business attempts to skirt ethical boundaries and risk imprisonment and loss-of-reputation for a few extra bucks.