This past weekend the New York Times wrote a rather scathing report about an online retailer who has resorted to bad customer service in order to reach the top ranks of Google search results. How bad is bad? We’re talking harassment, threatening phone calls, and selling merchandise that is of questionable authenticity. The more negative reviews the retailer got, the higher they ranked. In the merchant’s own words:
“Hello, My name is Stanley with DecorMyEyes.com. I just wanted to let you guys know that the more replies you people post, the more business and the more hits and sales I get. My goal is NEGATIVE advertisement. I never had the amount of traffic I have now since my 1st complaint. I am in heaven.”
But how is it possible that Google would reward such deplorable service with a high ranking? Is it possible that Google can’t tell the difference between positive buzz and negative reviews? Search Engine Land‘s Danny Sullivan was interviewed in the NYT story and also wrote an in depth follow up piece. A quote from his post:
However, the more immediate concern remains why Google would have rewarded a merchant like this, right now, with its existing systems. The answer is that Google’s ranking systems are far from perfect. You get a few good matches, and that satisfies many people. But some poor quality sites still get rewarded. This isn’t about pulling spam, because a bad merchant doesn’t necessarily equal a merchant that’s spamming Google. This is about Google actually doing what Google is supposed to do. Ensure that only the best things show up in the top of its results.
They’re both lengthy, but well worth the read.
This is yet another example of how search engines are failing us, and how SEO can be gamed to affect site rankings.
In the spirit of our renewed focus on search results, we’ve improved the way Wajam search results look, and made them even more functional.
Now it’s easier to find any relevant links that you’ve saved or shared, sort results by friends, and see how many results you have for related search terms.
Let’s say you’re looking for a link that you tweeted or saved on Delicious. When you click on your name, which is always listed first, you can see just the relevant results that you’ve saved or shared.
Or to see a list of your friends that have shared links that are relevant to your search term, you can click on + 144 more friends to view the full list. From there you can sort by name or number of results. It’s an easy to way to see which of your friends are in the know about the topic you’re searching – at a glance.
And if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, you can try checking out the results you get for related search terms. Here are the results for just “pitch”.
The rivalry between Google and Facebook is quickly heating up.
Last week, in a move widely regarded as an attack on Facebook, Google updated their Terms of Service to the effect that any service accessing Google’s Contacts API would have to reciprocate. What this means is that any service that asks users to import their Google contact list (including email addresses) would have to also allow their users to export this same information to other services. Something that Facebook doesn’t do. While they’ve recently allowed users to export their content, this doesn’t include the email addresses of their Facebook friends, which is not so useful when users are trying to connect with these same friends on new services.
Facebook retaliated by exploiting a Google feature that allows users to download their contact data and making it accessible directly from Facebook.
Google soon responded with a not-so-subtle message that users saw when they tried to download and import their Google contacts via Facebook.
That brings us to today. We’ll have to wait and see how Facebook responds.