announced it's made a change to its search algorithm to better account for negative online reviews. The action is a result of a story in Sunday's edition of The New York Times that told the story of one woman's experience with an online vendor.Google has
According to the article, the company in question had managed to get to the front page of a Google search in part by cultivating terrible reviews: "Online chatter about DecorMyEyes, even furious online chatter, pushed the site higher in Google search results, which led to greater sales. [The company owner] closed with a sardonic expression of gratitude: 'I never had the amount of traffic I have now since my 1st complaint. I am in heaven.'"
Some of the article was simply wrong. Links from GetSatisfaction, for example, all are "no follow," and many other sites with complaints about the company didn't actually contain links, as Search Engine Land has pointed out.
Nevertheless, Google has responded by taking a number of steps to address this particular sort of "gaming of the system," including a tweak to its algorithm. It lists a number of the options it could have taken - simply blocking the offender in question or including sentiment analysis in search engine rankings. But as Google notes, it's not possible to give too much weight to sentiment analysis, as it would be easy to bury "important but controversial concepts."
Instead, says Google, merchant reviews will now be taken into account in search rankings, as the company has "developed an algorithmic solution which detects the merchant from the Times article along with hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide an extremely poor user experience."
Google admits this will not solve the problem entirely, but it "can say with reasonable confidence that being bad to customers is bad for business on Google."