Google Acts to Demote Distasteful Web Sellers

Strategy Director Byrne Hobart is quoted by the New York Times

Google announced on Wednesday that it had changed the way it ranks search results so that unscrupulous merchants would find it harder to appear prominently in searches.

The change was prompted by an article in The New York Times on Sunday about Vitaly Borker, a Brooklyn-based online seller of eyeglasses. Mr. Borker claimed that he purposely shouted at and frightened some of the customers at DecorMyEyes.com because the online complaints actually worked in his favor in Google search results.

In essence, he claimed, Google’s search engine is unable to tell the difference between positive posts and withering online critiques. Therefore, the more complaints posted about Mr. Borker’s site, the more likely customers would be to find his store ranked high on a Google search, which yielded him more revenue.

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At the blog Search Engine Land, Byrne Hobart also wrote in a recent posting that the review-generating strategy was not the driver of Mr. Borker’s success. His analysis found that Mr. Borker benefited chiefly from various “black-hat tricks” to improve his site’s standing, including links from what he called auto-generated spam pages. He also found that the store was frequently linked to by mainstream media sites — The Times included — when references were made to high-end eyeglasses.

Read the full article on the New York Times

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