With Google, There’s No Such Thing As Bad Publicity (Or Is There?)

December 2nd, 2010 by Patrick Hare

A recent article in the New York Times has done a lot to show the value of external website links when it comes to search engine rankings. In brief, a seller of eyeglass frames valued the negative comments he got on consumer websites because he attributed his success to hyperlinked postings on sites where people gave him bad reviews. Put more simply, every negative review was a link building opportunity, since Google does not care why people are linking to your site, but gives you credit for the links you’re getting. Google quickly came out with a rebuttal and pointed out that many of these sites don’t pass link value, but there were a couple of places (like Bloomberg) which linked to the abusive seller’s site, and those links did indeed pass authority.

At Web.com Search Agency, we would never recommend customer abuse as a way to get links to your website. There are plenty of legal, ethical, white-hat ways to improve your own publicity and drive up your rankings. For example, making sure that your website is a prominent part of your public relations campaign can go a long way. Every time your business participates in an event, gives to a charity, or has an announcement, the website should be referenced. PR people should be sure that the site gets a link on other sites that acknowledge (or report on) work done by your business. Even without the link popularity benefits, you still want to make it easy for people to visit your website and learn more about what you have to offer.

As search engines become more sophisticated, they will indeed be factoring in consumer sentiment relative to a website and its value. In the case of the seller in the New York Times article, Google indicated that they have applied a fix related to “low quality” websites, and indicated that they have “sentiment analysis” algorithms which might be applicable to this situation. Things like consumer reviews on Google Places, Yelp, and other consumer advocacy sites are getting displayed among search results, so now a high ranking may not be worthwhile without a positive customer rating. In the big picture, changes like this are sure to help enhance the reputation of Google as an e-commerce portal, and merchants will need to keep a closer eye on their customer satisfaction rates to ensure that a good search engine position translates into a click.


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