Google Abuserank – should you* be scared?

You may have heard that Google has changed its search algorithm and with that change, instilled the word Abuserank forever into the minds of SEO experts.

According to Google they were spurred into action by the story of Clarabelle Rodriguez and the shocking (and by shocking I mean truly abusive and in some cases illegal) treatment she received at the hands of one online retailer (Decormyeyes.) This retailer had discovered that even the most negative and vociferous online complaints from consumers actually improved his Google SEO ranking. The Google spiders were picking up the negative reviews on high profile consumer feedback sites and so the owner was deliberately abusing customers to farm bad reviews!

Now, according to the Google blog, the coders thought up numerous ways to combat this new and disturbing retailer scam and in the end opted for 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.” Sounds a bit like a black list to me and not as technical as some in the industry would have you believe.

There are initial industry fears that unscrupulous brands might use this new algorithm to try and seed fake complaints on forums and message boards to try and drop their competitors down the SERPs. However, I think Google are wise to this type of system gaming. Also, hasn’t the risk of fake complaints been around since the beginning of retail.

So in truth, if you* refers to you as a brand then online customer reviews are more important than ever and dealing with customer service issues in a timely manner is vital. If you* refers to you as a consumer, with a lot of Christmas shopping to do in the next few weeks, then this is probably something you’ll welcome. But, if you’re a social media agency, then this is just a reinforcement of what we’ve been saying to clients and prospects for years. Online monitoring of and involvement in consumer conversations is vital for maintaining brand position and competitive edge. Plus, we like a challenge!

p.s Oh and in case you were wondering, all the negative publicity (400 high profile articles in the last two days alone) Decormyeyes has received in the last few days hasn’t done its PageRank much good, standing as it is at 1 out of 10. Looks like the algorithm is working for one retailer at least.

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