DecorMyEyes Merchant Vitaly Borker Arrested After NYT Piece On Google Rankings

Just over a week ago, the New York Times introduced the world to Vitaly Borker, who boasted of being abusive to customers and claimed, inaccurately, that such behavior had a side benefit of producing good rankings in Google. Now another side benefit: Borker’s arrest.

Arrest On Federal Charges

From an CNBC article on the arrest:

Vitaly Borker, an alleged cyber-bully and fraudster, cheated his customers, and when they complained, tried to intimidate them with obscenity and threats of serious violence,” said Manhattan US Attorney Pheet Bharara in a press release. “Especially during this holiday shopping season, today’s arrest should send a message that we will protect online consumers and that victims of people like Borker are not alone.”

There’s also a short video of him being taken from a federal courthouse (the screenshot above is from that video):

The full press release hasn’t yet been posted on Bharara’s web site — it may appear here later. CNBC says he was arrested on charges of cyber-stalking, making interstate threats, mail and wire fraud.

NOTE: We’ve now been provided with a copy of the full press release, which you’ll find on Scribd here. We’ve also been given a full copy of the complaint against him, which is embedded below:

Borker’s eyeglasses site, Decor My Eyes, and his tactics, were given a huge spread in the New York Times business section two Sundays ago.

Google’s Ranking Arrest: Mostly Successful Against One Site…

In reaction to the piece, Google quickly introduced a change so that merchants with bad reputations would lose rankings in its system. It also debunked the notion that bad reviews somehow managed to help him gain prominence in its search engine. A similar piece from us did the same.

Despite Google’s change, I can still find Borker’s site ranking for one model of sunglasses:

I pointed out that the site was ranking for this search back when Google announced that it had a fix to prevent this type of thing. Five days later, the site is still there. It doesn’t appear for a variety of other terms, however. Before the change, I could find it ranking for a variety of specific terms. Now, its visibility seems greatly reduced.

But Other Sites Still Visible

However, Borker appears to run or be closely associated with at least two other sites — eyeweartown.com and eyewearus.com. Both of those sites often seem to appear in test queries that I run, such as here:

Here’s another example:

Background & More Information

The articles below from us have more background on the case:

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    It will be interesting to see if they use Section 113 of the Violence Against Women Act, signed into law by President Bush in 2006, which amends 47 U.S.C. 223 (the Communications Act of 1934) to include cyberstalking as a felony offense punishable by up to 2 years in prison (per offense, I think).

    Unfortunately, the other charges — including mail and wire fraud — have longer histories before the bench and may be easier to win prison time for.

    This guy may spend the next 15-20 years in prison.

  • http://www.search-usability.com/ Shari Thurow

    I have never supported the search engines using user reviews as a component of their “algorithm” until the gaming thing is under more reasonable control.

    If you look in help wanted sections, search engine firms hire people to write bogus reviews. So one guy gets caught. I don’t even want to guess at how many bogus reviews are already on websites.

  • http://jamesfranciswhite.com jfwhite

    Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!

  • http://www.andykuiper.com Andy Kuiper – SEO Analyst Vancouver

    Karma is a bi%^ch – perhaps he will write a book “Internet Marketing For Dummies”

  • Brandon-B

    Google is trying to have it both ways, and appears rather disingenuous with this story:
    1) Google de-bunks the notion that bad reviews lead to high rankings
    2) Google introduces a change to ensure this type of situation isn’t repeated

    So which is it, Google? If # 1 was true, # 2 wouldn’t be necessary. If # 2 was necessary, # 1 wouldn’t be true.

    Perhaps this is some sort of “we have to look like we’re doing something” boondoggle.

  • http://daggle.com/ Danny Sullivan

    To clarify, this guy thought that any type of review, good or bad, gave him credit in Google because the reviews often contained links to his site — and that all Google saw was a link, giving credit.

    That’s true. Google did see links. However, many of the review sites used a “nofollow” label on those links, which tells Google not to give the site they are linking to any credit. So it seems unlikely that any of these reviews really helped him in the way he claimed.

    Google, however, was not taking into account the reputation of the merchant as you might be able to determine from those reviews independently of the link. Now, it appears to be doing that. Bad reviews can mean a decrease in ranking ability — though Google won’t explain if that’s exactly what’s going on.

  • http://www.michael-martinez.com/ Michael Martinez

    Bill Slawski has published some interesting research on Google patents that may provide some insight to methods they have available to use. For example, they have developed a way to use PageRank-like citation analysis to estimate the quality of reviewers.

    Citation Analysis is flawed but it generally works better at the beginning of its application when most people haven’t figured out how to game it (or, as happens in scientific literature — where they got the idea — before a new theory turns 25 years’ of scientific thought upside down).

    I suspect that review quality or perhaps reviewer persona quality is being taken into consideration.

  • http://www.meckwebs.com Mark Hansen

    Well, if Google feels the need to police the web, does this mean that AT&T is next to be bunked in our search and result efforts? After all, consumer reports just published an article ranking them the worst us carrier by more than 58,000 people!

    Link: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9200279/_i_Consumer_Reports_i_ranks_AT_T_as_worst_U.S._carrier?taxonomyId=12

    Consumer reports is a pretty big force as well… Surely, Google would treat this large company the same as a small company right?

  • shivraj

    Agree with Shari above. Reviews should not get undue weight in website ranking. Users searching for eyeglasses are not necessarily looking for reviews. If they need opinion of others they can always type in “eyeglasses review” (or be specific negative reviews).

    So this not about suppressing negative reviews as Google claims in its blog post while explaining the action, but about matching correctly user’s intent to the search results.

    Also did anyone notice their claim of blocking “hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide an extremely poor user experience”. How did that happen overnight!!

    Did Google knew of the “poor” user experiences but was sitting over the info, waiting for…?

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