December 2nd, 2010

Is It Good To Be Bad In SEO?

There’s an old saying that all publicity, even bad publicity, is good publicity. In a recent article from The New York Times, Search Engine Optimization through search juggernaut Google proves that the old saying may be the current truth in ecommerce.

The story details a consumer who purchased a pair of Lafont sunglasses from DecorMyEyes.com, a website ranked at the top of Google’s search results. While she believed that the high Google ranking and the look of the site brought assurances, she had no idea of the nightmare to follow.

Within a few weeks, she received the glasses in the mail, but, a loyal follower to the brand, she immediately spotted them as counterfeit. In investigating the purchase, she discovered that she was also overcharged by 125 dollars. When she called the website support to inquire about the purchase and ask for a refund, she was berated by the owner of the site, who called her a bitch and threatened her with graphic sexual violence. He also told her he knew where she lived and sent her a picture of her front door.

The consumer immediately called her credit card company but unfortunately, they also gave her trouble in investigating the matter and getting a refund.  Her requests for refunds landed her more harassment from the owner of the site, including calls at three in the morning and e-mail threats against her.

How then did this website get such high status from Google? The answer, according to the article, is simple. Many times consumers expect a smooth transaction and when they receive it, they don’t leave feedback. But when they get a horrible transaction, they need a place to vent their frustrations and the jilted consumer will go a review based website to describe their experience, throw caution to other consumers and link to the website to show where to consumers must avoid. The problem: This actually helps them.

DecorMyEyes saw that while consumers left feedback and provided links to their site on reputable sites on Google’s augustness scale, their Google ranking would increase… and so their sales would follow. They realized that bad publicity is not only good publicity, it’s also free publicity.

Since the Google algorithm may not be able to discern sentimentality, the search engine looks at the added content on a reputable as a benefit and gives DecorMyEyes a greater ranking. The website, seeing the potential, has taken the SEO philosophy and run with it, spurring on more comments by frustrating reviewers on websites into even more action. According to the article, their goal is “NEGATIVE advertisement” and that goal is garnering SEO great dividends.

A Google ranking leading to productivity of the site, even with bad reviews and now a scathing New York Times article about it, reaffirms the great power that SEO has on ecommerce business. Getting a high Google ranking, DecorMyEyes has built an ecommerce site that the owner claims to be “fantastically profitable.” Yet his completely unethical and terrifying business practices show that, in the wrong hands, SEO could be a powerful tool for unlawful sites intending on trapping consumers.

As of Tuesday night, Google was yet to comment on the article but many replies commented on how the search engine algorithm should be altered to punish sites receiving bad reviews, protecting consumers from sites that use SEO to prey on them. Google have now responded on their official blog, announcing that they have developed an algorithmic solution in an initial response to this problem, but they can’t guarantee that people won’t find further loopholes in the algorithm.

The outcry over the site has spread significantly throughout the week and one may wonder if the owner of DecorMyEyes is already relishing the profits of getting his website in the very prominent online version of The New York Times.

Read the full article at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/business/28borker.html

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