Digital/Online Marketing Communications Strategy

Can Bad Word Of Mouth Boost Your SEO?

By on November 29, 2010 in search engine optimization with 1 Comment

Pitcher of lemonade with lemonsDo complaints registered online against your company actually boost your business’ search engine rank?

One retailer, who goes out of his way to rankle customers, swears this is true.

Business owner provokes customer complaints, on purpose

An article in the New York Times, penned by David Segal and titled “A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web,” reports that the owner of an online designer eyeglass purveyor is using the unconventional tactic of inciting bad word of mouth to increase his search engine rank.

This merchant is downright gleeful when disgruntled customers complain about his company on the web. He even gloated about it online, where he boldly proclaimed, “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.”

Exploiting a SEO loophole

I’ll refrain from printing the name of the business owner, or the company — why play into his hand? The guy practically encourages customers to kvetch about his shoddy service on consumer advocacy and consumer review sites. He told the Times reporter, “I’ve exploited this opportunity because it works. No matter where they post their negative comments, it helps my return on investment. So I decided, why not use that negativity to my advantage?”

One factor that’s known to affect search engine rank is how many times your name is mentioned and linked to on the web. More mentions and more links, especially from sites that a search engine views as reputable, means you get more points in the SEO-meter. The bigger a reputable site is, all the better. Plenty of mentions about your business on a busy well-regarded consumer site garner lots of referral points from a search engine.

It does not seem to matter if the mentions are positive or negative.

Does Google factor in sentiment analysis?

Thumbs  Up and Thumbs DownThe Times reporter contacted the 800-pound search engine gorilla — Google — to ask if negative sentiment adversely affects its ranking system. Google doesn’t like to give away too many clues about how its algorithm works, and this instance proved no exception.

The reporter then contacted Danny Sullivan, who oversees the most excellent web site, Search Engine Land. Sullivan said he doesn’t think Google employs sentiment analysis, and he reckons that’s a good thing. Even so, Sullivan said he believes Google can do a better job of integrating consumer reviews of e-commerce sites, much like it already does with local business search results.

Until that happens this mischievous retailer benefits from angry customers venting their frustrations online.

Page one or bust

The notion of using negative sentiment to your advantage isn’t new. We’ve got that old saw: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Celebrities are often accused of doing bad things just to get their name in the press. The tactic may not always work as planned, but many times their stars do rise.

The art and science of search engines being able to serve up the most relevant results in the optimum order is improving, but in the scheme of things, it’s still got a ways to go. When researching topics, many is the time I wind up finding the most pertinent link on the second and third page results.

The vast majority of searchers don’t go beyond page one. If you can game the search engines your search rank rises, even if your lofty position is based on consumer complaints.

The situation may be outrageous, but apparently not egregious enough to get a business penalized by Goggle’s algorithm. FYI, Google does claim to punish your site if it catches you engaging in certain unscrupulous black-hat search engine tactics.

Turning lemons into lemonade

Meantime, that Times’ article that hardly paints a positive picture of the eyeglass enterprise? Well, the story mentions the owner’s name and that of his company numerous times. It includes lots of relevant keywords. That means more links and mentions from a leading reputable news source.

Talk about squeezing out search engine juice.

– Deni Kasrel

Should search engines factor in negative sentiment? Is this guy just playing by the rules? What do YOU think?

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About the Author

About the Author: Deni Kasrel is seasoned (slightly spicy) specialist in digital/online communications. .

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  1. Disheartening, actually. I like to think that despite SEO customers are wise enough to do their homework (yay online reviews) and that, eventually, delivering value and meeting customer satisfaction will outweigh your google search ranking.

    Exposure and awareness matters, but consistently delivering on a promise is going to keep you in business the long haul. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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