Bad Service = Good SEO?

November 30, 2010

One of the more fascinating stories to emerge this week in the world of SEO centered on an unscrupulous merchant who realized that bad reviews of his customer service were driving up traffic and sales for his website. A full interview by the New York times can be read here.

This merchant’s shady practices irritated customers so much that they took their voices to the internet to complain loudly. And in doing so, the review sites designed for cries of “caveat emptor” instead provided valuable links to his site. As a result, casual searchers who did not dig too deeply to see what was being said about the merchant would become unsuspecting customers.

As of this writing, a quick Google search of related keywords finds the merchant on page 1, result 5 of the natural search. The site itself probably wouldn’t win any web design awards, but looks fairly legitimate. It’s easy to see how people could find themselves buying from it.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, changes Google makes to try to adjust search rankings for businesses like this one. Obviously it is not in their interest to award a high ranking to someone who has swindled and harassed customers. Customer review sites serve a valuable purpose and probably should be given some consideration by the search algorithm, but a case like this shows there is obviously something amiss with how they are currently being handled.

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