After a recent article by the New York Times
in which a business explained that the more bad reviews they received the better their website ranked on Google, there have been some changes to the way Google ranks websites. It takes a lot for Google to make changes to their algorithm, the formula it uses which calculates more than 200 different factors when choosing which websites to display in it's results pages, but the New York Times article was enough to make Google rethink the importance of reviews.
The article described an online retailer who abused it's customers after discovering that the more complaints, bad reviews, and publicity it received the higher it's website ranked on Google. The New York Times told a story of one customer that was threatened, harassed, and even stalked by the retailer when she disputed her charges with the credit card company. Come to find out, hundreds of customers had similar stories about this same retailer, yet Google ranked this site high on its organic results--which kept sending the retailer more online business.
Before this article printed, the more reviews your business would have, good or bad, the higher your website would rank. Also the more links from other reputable sites back to your website the better. But what if those links are from consumer reporting sites in which people are warning others not to visit that retailer or posting reports of fraud? Sould websites be rewarded for that?
Now, upset by what the New York Times story uncovered, Google has released in it's latest blog post
that they have changed their algorithm to discredit the poor reviews so that bad businesses will be penalized. This means that businesses need to stay on top of their customer service because poor reviews will now hurt their rankings.
How can you control what other people write about you on the Internet?
You can't. But Google did change it's Places reviews to allow business owners to respond to customer reviews so that people can see both sides of the story. The only way to get rid of bad reviews is to bury them with good reviews by encouraging your satisfied customers to write about their experience on your Google Places page. This is difficult because usually when someone is motivated enough to go online and write a review about a business it's to complain about bad service or a poor experience they had.
We've heard stories of people posting fake reviews to discredit their competitors or to rave about their own business. It's hard to tell. Soon enough, consumers will realize that you can't trust all the reviews written online because they could be written with ulterior motives, say for a higher Google ranking or to lower their competitors Google ranking. One thing is for sure, if you treat your customers poorly, Google will penalize your website.