NPR logo Google Changes Search Results After Story About Misleading Retailer Rankings

Economy

Google Changes Search Results After Story About Misleading Retailer Rankings

Google has adjusted its search algorithm in response to story about a merchant who said negative consumer reviews boosted his business by raising his visibility in search results.

The NYT story, which we previously took note of, told the surprising story of customer Clarabelle Rodriguez's shocking experience with Vitaly Borker and his online store DecorMyEyes.

In a post to The Official Google Blog titled "Being bad to your customers is bad for business," the company said:

We were horrified to read about Ms. Rodriguez’s dreadful experience. Even though our initial analysis pointed to this being an edge case and not a widespread problem in our search results, we immediately convened a team that looked carefully at the issue. That team developed an initial algorithmic solution, implemented it, and the solution is already live. I am here to tell you that being bad is, and hopefully will always be, bad for business in Google’s search results.

The post went on to say that Google had looked at a range of solutions, from blocking offenders to adding customer reviews to results to adding sentiment analysis technics to its search algorithm.

Google rejected each of those approaches for a variety of reasons, the best of which was its argument against sentiment analysis that included the point that "you might not be able to find information about many elected officials" if they vetted links for negative sentiments.

The solution that did implement? That's a secret:

We can't say for sure that no one will ever find a loophole in our ranking algorithms in the future. We know that people will keep trying: attempts to game Google’s ranking, like the ones mentioned in the article, go on 24 hours a day, every single day. That’s why we cannot reveal the details of our solution—the underlying signals, data sources, and how we combined them to improve our rankings—beyond what we’ve already said. We can say with reasonable confidence that being bad to customers is bad for business on Google. And we will continue to work hard towards a better search.

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.