The Ugly Side of SEO
It’s kind of an SEO practitioner’s nightmare story. Somebody manages to exploit Google in such a way as to discredit the integrity of search engine optimisation as a service agencies provide their clients. The exploitation in this case is from a website called DecorMyEyes and you can read the full story here: “A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web”. I recommend you read the entire thing. (The reporter David Segal deserves credit for not linking directly to DecorMyEyes and consequently providing that website the link juice it so fervently seeks.)
What’s remarkable about the story is the implications. This Mr. Brooker, who runs DecorMyEyes, has basically made a killing out of being a pernicious human being. Every time somebody complains about his store on websites like Get Satisfaction and provides a link to his site, it adds to DecorMyEyes’ page rank. Mr. Brooker’s engagement with negative advertising has been so successful that Google searches for the sunglasses brands he sells yields him a top ranking result above the official website of that brand.
At the moment, Google provides no safeguards against this type of negative advertising. The argument seems to go that if they included a “sentiment analysis” into their search algorithm, they run the risk of severely penalising websites like WhiteHouse.gov based purely on negative sentiment towards current and future administrations. However, as pointed out in the article, there are ways around this — namely, to apply customer reviews to online stores/services on top of the reviews we see for the brick and mortar variety.
Thankfully, engaging in negative advertising is a rare approach, primarily because it’s so cripplingly time consuming to deal with so many complaints at once. But at the end of the day, if Google’s end game is to provide a valuable service to their end users, the best approach for any SEO practitioner will always be to support that objective — because, practically by definition, it’s future-proof.