By now you’ve likely heard the sordid tale of an unethical merchant exploiting Google’s algorithm to boost his website’s ranking through negative reviews. If not you can check out the New York Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/business/28borker.html.
While consumers and SEOs around the globe were (rightfully) outraged by this latest attempt to game the search engine, perhaps none were more outraged than Google itself.
Google has always prided itself on providing the most relevant and credible results for any given search query. There’s a reason they hold 66.3% of the search engine market share and are approximately 50 points ahead of any other search engine (comScore, 2010)—they’re good at what they do.
In addressing this most recent breach of trust, Google revealed how it tries to deal with problems like these to prevent them from happening in the future; they didn’t just look for a quick fix, but good fix. And they did it by adapting their algorithm (it’s nice to know Google doesn’t just put a bandage on an issue and hope for the best).
Some things we can learn from this are that backlinks have substantial weight in the search engines and social media/user reviews also play a significant role in how the search engines rank sites. Is this information new? No. But it reinforces the fact that you need quality backlinks to your site from relevant sources. And you need to be aware of consumer experience now, perhaps, more than ever.
As a business, you simply cannot ignore what people are saying about you online. You need to actively manage your online reputation. Create an engaging social media presence and provide consumers with the best experience possible. It seems that this will not only go a long way in establishing a loyal customer base, but enhancing your SEO efforts as reviews and other user generated content appear to be important ranking factors.
While it is unfortunate that a company could scam its way to the top of Google by encouraging negative reviews, the experience has enabled Google to refine its algorithm to provide even better search results to consumers. That’s something we can all be excited about!