Google’s Solution to Businesses “Being Bad” to Get More Backlinks


Most people would never think of conducting bad business to produce poor online reviews and chatter to generate more backlinks. I never have, but I guess if you weren’t worried about sacrificing your personal integrity as well as your business’, the plan might have been effective. Until now…

It is the natural tendency of most people to take the time to place a formal complaint about a business when they have been mistreated. Sure, they might verbally express their satisfaction with a business’ exceptional service, but they usually don’t go the extra mile and publish these thoughts.

A New York Times story describing a woman who was terribly mistreated by a company that sells discount designer sunglasses, sheds light on businesses that use negative online publicity to improve their organic search engine rankings. This company consistently treated customers so poorly that the police even became involved, but the negative online chatter surrounding the company skyrocketed their site to the first page on Google.

After reading the story, Google immediately gathered a team to address this type of link building strategy. They brainstormed a multitude of potential solutions including:

• Blocking offenders
• Using sentiment analysis to turn negative comments about a company into negative “votes”
• Improving the sentiment analysis system to account for the negative comments
• Listing negative comments for merchants next to their results in Google

However, the first solution would not solve the problem for every offender using this type of strategy; the second solution could not properly attribute negative “votes” from large publications like The New York Times that simply mention the business; the third solution might relegate controversial topics in the results because of seemingly negative sentiment; and the fourth solution would not inhibit the ability of a company to use this negative strategy to increase their organic search engine ranking.

Google ultimately settled on a solution that changed the algorithm to detect poor merchants in various content types and reflect this negativity in their search engine ranking. Due to the fact that people are trying to manipulate the algorithm in their favor each and every day, Google did not reveal the specifics of the changes. However, with this algorithmic modification Google makes it clear that being bad to customers is bad for your business both offline and online.

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