As the Internet grows, and Search Engines continue to index the Internet, it will continue to get both smarter and faster. Recently a story hit the news about how a company tried to use negative reviews and news stories to raise exposure to the company and increase traffic to the website. This was an interesting case; one story suggested that backlinks were coming in from spammy sites and high level, high quality sites like the New York Times. The high quality links were coming in from news stories related to how this company was using negative reviews and stories to boost company exposure.
The story isn’t new, for year’s people and companies have gained exposure through bad press. The platform has changed, and now it has been proven that you can go out and get a ton of negative reviews and press and it can lead to a temporary boost in your SearchRankings. In this particular case pure vanity and pride once again became the downfall of this company. Once the story of how bad service and negative reviews were what the company was using to gain rankings, not only did Google remove them from the index, but certain members of the company were arrested and charged with fraud.
What strikes me as interesting more than the age old “any press is good press” story, is why anyone would buy from a company based on so many negative search results? If the negative press from the company’s actions were so prevalent online, you would think that a negative review would show up more often than a normal result for this company. My assumption is that if you dig deeper you may find that this company experienced an increase in traffic, but not necessarily in sales. Online reviews and searches about products are becoming so prevalent that people often search for a product first and then review the company after they have found a suitable product.
I’m sure Google is grateful for the discovery of how negative reviews can affect the Google Algorithm. The changes Google made to somewhat detect and isolate companies that are attempting to manipulate rankings by using negative news and reviews are primitive, and manual at this point. Google will learn from it and change accordingly. Negative news and reviews are an interesting case study to determine how quickly Google will change the way it scores sites, what’s more important to note is how critical content is to the Google system. If this latest story says anything, it should be noted that to date, Google doesn’t have a system capable of determining the quality of the content, only one to credit your site with having new content and links relevant to your business.