• http://www.ericgoldman.org Eric Goldman

    It seems like the entire problem goes away if the consumer review websites nofollow their links. To me, they are the real weak link in this story. Eric.

  • http://www.blindfiveyearold.com ajkohn

    The problem around using reviews as a major part of the search algorithm revolve around reputation and relevance.

    Can you identify real reviews from fake reviews? Anyone in eCommerce can tell you how easy it can be to boost your star rating on any number of shopping comparison portals. This type of manipulation isn’t talked about much (a lot like buying iinks) but it happens.

    Even when they are real reviews, are bad reviews always valid? Reviews are subjective, but at some point you have to discount ones that are clearly not useful. They might have bought it thinking it would do something it actually doesn’t do.

    Or maybe they had unrealistic expectations. Or maybe they were just in a bad mood when they wrote the review. Conversely, maybe the review is overly good. They always give perfect reviews because you get back when you send into the world (or some other pollyanna type mentality.)

    How many reviews has this person ever submitted? Do they have any sort of track record to indicate that their review should hold more weight?

    Bill Slawski (search patent watch dog) recently blogged about how Google may be trying to tackle this issue.

    http://www.seobythesea.com/?p=4550

    From that article, other conversations and the rise of social identities, I believe Google (and Facebook) are looking at ways to rank reviews based on the reviewers reputation. But until that time, it seems like using reviews (without the aide of a review partner) as a major signal would be too easy to manipulate.

  • JezC

    While this makes for an interesting story, I don’t think it’s a major strategy for businesses to adopt, and I don’t think it represents a large slice of internet business activity. The real primary message here is that anything that gets the customers’ attention is good; but I suspect that anything that favourably impresses a client is better. Businesses that don’t interact with their clients, will fare worse than those that do.

    Much more worrying, to me, is that there are so many sites high in search results that have clearly been designed to draw in users so they will click on AdSense. While it may be true that Google doesn’t rank an advertiser based on their advertising, Google does appear to give full credibility to the utmost rubbish – and effectively sponsors the creation of drivel, by rewarding the site owner with cold hard cash. AdWords arbitrage? No – but SEO arbitrage? Maybe.

    These MFA sites earn money for their owners and for Google, by pushing users towards display advertisers who may have the real answer. I don’t know whether that is a conscious strategy at Google, but I don’t believe that it makes for a good user experience, and it isn’t great for Brand experience to have your display advertising shown on some page of total inanity.

    I do agree that Google’s handling of reputation can be appallingly callous. If you’d like another nasty example, how about a company that hosts a discussion forum on which there are negative comments about competitors – such that a search for a minor brand name can show the damaging comments from the forum on the first page of results? Google won’t do a thing about that.

    Are Google really wanting to encourage companies to set up negative and controllable communication about competitors? Seems so. That’s more worrying to me than this case, too. The only way to handle this for an attacked business, without recourse to law, is to wash the results off the front page, by getting other content on other sites. Not content focused on the user, simply any content on a high enough ranking site that it might push the negative commentary off the page. It adds costs to a small business, to clean its’ reputation, which is only damaged because Google is so naive and uninterested in the financial interests of competitor’s messaging.

    I think you should take a look at Product Search and user ratings again. I can see a pattern, I think, suggesting that reviews are believed and used in ranking. Look at the results that you showed – Amazon’s count of reviews and rating are highest, and the listings decline in volume and rating down the page, with DecorMyEyes below some unrated sites… Surely there’s a pattern there? :)

  • http://wefollow.com/hardaway francine hardaway

    Algorithms aren’t applicable here. This is a case of human factors. I’m no expert on search, but I am one on publicity, and it’s crap that any publicity is good publicity. Eventually, DecorMyEyes would go out of business, if it hasn’t already. The Times article will do it in, even if Google does not. The guy running it has a case of advanced hubris, and while that always makes for good drama, it doesn’t make for good business.

  • http://daggle.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Eric, I added a postscript. Many do use nofollow.

    ajkohn, agreed, using reviews is tricky. But then again, Google already displays them in shopping search and in regular search for local businesses.

  • http://www.techwang.com Dan Rogers

    @francine, unless Google manually edit DecorMyEyes out of the SERPS (which they will likely do) coverage in the NYT is SEO gold dust and is only likely to help the site even more….

  • http://www.twitter.com/GregBogdan Greg Bogdan

    Danny,

    Nice post, thanks. I hope that Google is reading and looking for smart ways to address.

    Seems like any algorithmic approach to fix the problem also introduces SEO black hat opportunities. Must be some very interesting conversations going on in Google search algorithm gait keeper land. I would personally like “trusted” site reviews to matter but then trusted sites use nofollow links so they can’t matter and if they did matter then trusted sites might get spammed by people that figure out that they do matter.

    I guess this is where my personal social network could matter more, as it already does. One answer to “plug the leak” might be to evaluate any inbound link looking for negative words associated with it, and then at least “discount” the inbound link in ranking. That does not address the opportunity to use trusted reviews to influence rank but it does help to neutralize potential offences. A game of cat and mouse for sure.

  • http://www.aqute.com Aqute Intelligence

    duckduckgo explain why their results didn’t include decormyeyes:

    http://twitter.com/duckduckgo/status/9284042486714368

  • http://upwardtrend.wordpress.com/ Philip Segal

    This article is perhaps a very valid look at why comparison shopping sites – especially one like http://www.bizrate.com that specifically exist to rank merchants along with comparison shopping – are still much more relevant than Google for online shopping.

  • http://brohanistan.com/ Brendan Rohan

    This appears to the update to that old adage ‘The Only Bad Publicity is No Publicity.’

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

    He seems to have a lot of shopping site links that are NOT nofollowed. Seems much ado about nothing to me, asking how he ranked so well.

  • http://answerguy.com Jeff Yablon

    Danny, I wrote about te (point of) this phenomenon a few weeks ago :

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/41714293/Google%E2%80%99s-Secret-Sauce-Revealed-The-Death-and-Life-of-Search-Engine-Optimization

    The point is that the SINGLE most important factor in SEO efficacy is now (probably has always been, but as it all matures this becomes more and more meaningful) the quality and age of your links.

    PERIOD.

    And . . . so what?

  • SSteve

    @Jeff Yablon

    I think the REAL point here is that what Google is delivering is a big steaming pile of $%# to its users. I have solely focused on optimizing sites in ONE industry for months now and it is not until you actually focus in on what’s going in one industry segment, in one geographical area that you see the utter futility of delivering “QUALITY” to the folks over at Google.
    The Google crew are talking the talk BUT they sure as heck aren’t walking the walk: Each and every day you see the same garbage listings cluttering up the same SERPS day in and day out. You likely have a whole slew of good solid sites that are sitting in oblivion thanks to the wonder that is the aging delay (Think about it: The Web is about immediacy and the folks over at Google have literally replaced a Ferrari with a wagon pulled by a mule.). Should any of us actually be surprised that the subject of this story has actually succeeded when he should have failed? I’m not: Google is a complete and utter joke when it comes to delivering “quality results” – here’s an example: Optimize a business for a geographical area – say Santa Monica. Your competition? The dumbasses at Google will deliver a result from Mars if that guy happened to have a street address that read 123 Santa Monica Blvd somewhere on their website.
    This story once again points out that the Google crew have hoodwinked the lot of us into thinking that if we labor away day after day in a dark room somewhere pumping out “quality content” that it will somehow pay off in the end. It hasn’t and it won’t. Google is a joke.

  • applehot

    Let’s face it, the Google model is broken and you continue to perpetuate SEO/SEM as viable given this silly notion of Google being the gatekeeper to the Web’s information.

  • http://www.edeninteractive.com searchengineman

    Wow when Danny Yells, Google Jumps then the Feds.

    A) I think it is good news, that there will always be a need for human editorials and human intervention. Even the Great Google (OZ) ..still needs the little man behind the curtain, to spot this kind of stuff.

    B) Another annoying bully of a human being is going to jail for being a jerk

    C) This will give pause to other psychotic business owners that being a jerk really
    does come back to haunt you. In this case we see 2 years of bad Karma in a Google Instant! You would think that most people would know being a jerk will ultimately cost you money in the end. I’m glad Google has introduced this Algo change.

    Like grandma says “What goes around, comes around” or the older Russian proverb “As the call, so is the echo.”

    Searchengineman

  • avo

    The site ranks #1 now on google for the sunglasses term in the article (won’t include link, to keep from exacerbating the problem). Google apparently hasn’t removed this guy… Apparently ANY publicity is good publicity!