|Sun Nov 28 2010 12:38:57|
Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews
By: Ina Steiner
The New York Times published a story on Friday exposing a quirk in Google's algorithm that actually rewards an online merchant for negative customer ratings and reviews by boosting its links to the top of Google results for product searches.
David Segal wrote about Decor My Eyes, an online site that has been accused by customers for years of poor business practices and failing to deliver items they ordered. Some customers have also accused the company's owner, Vitaly Borker, of making verbal and written threats against them. According to the reporter, Borker admitted to actually using his bad ratings as a search engine optimization strategy to get improved exposure in Google search results.
The alleged threats against his buyers is startling. One customer said Decor My Eyes overcharged her and failed to provide all of the items she had ordered, and said when she tried to resolve the issues, the merchant began threatening her on the phone, via email and on voice mail. She described her experience on ResellerRatings.com, writing in part:
"This guy has threatened me by rape, knows my home address and has taken the time to search for my private information. I can't even write on forums such as this one because when I do he forwards me my letter and threatens me. His latest is "I am watching you." This is criminal behavior and something needs to be done!!!"
What's interesting from the eBay point of view is that its own sellers have been complaining about the merchant to eBay for years - they say he uses eBay to source some of his products. PayPal appears to have investigated the merchant - here's a comment on The Purse Forum from Aug 2nd, 2008, 01:18 PM:
"Decormeyes is now being investigated by Paypal Fraud Dept. He is selling items on his sites that he does not have, buying them from ebay and getting the eBay sellers to drop ship them directly to his customers and then filed a INR dispute through paypal to those eBay sellers that will ship to these unconfirmed customers addresses.
I have been in contact with some of these sellers and he continues to be abusive.
Please, please stay away and do not buy from any of his sites.
He is operating on eBay under his mothers name and continually changes his eBay registration details to those of his customers from his site."
However, it appears it was only after the New York Times inquired about Borker that eBay took permanent action: "EBay has conducted its own review and decided to bar Mr. Borker permanently from the site, having found what it called violations of its policies for buyers as well as accounts that were linked to previously suspended accounts."
In his article, Segal points out a number of ways that legitimate companies, such as credit card companies, fail in helping consumers who encounter bad experiences with merchants. "With a few tweaks and added vigilance from an array of companies and public institutions that are supposed to monitor e-commerce thuggery, Mr. Borker's approach to retail might be impossible to sustain."
How and why does Google reward Decor My Eyes for bad ratings and reviews?
"The more links that a site has from big and well-regarded sites, the better its chances of turning up high in a search," Segal writes in the Times. So all those poor ratings and reviews on sites like RipOffReport, Get Satisfaction, ComplaintsBoard.com and ConsumerAffairs.com actually boost the website's rankings.
While a Google search for Decor My Eyes will bring back pages containing consumer complaints, a search for brand names - such as "coach eyeglasses" - brings back links that go directly to Decor My Eyes. (The New York Times article does not mention that Decor My Eyes is also a Google advertiser.)
Segal interviewed Danny Sullivan, an internet search expert and publisher of Search Engine Land, who suggested Google become better at incorporating consumer reviews on the main page of its search results as a way of solving such problems.
Ironically, the New York Times provided Decor My Eyes with a link in its article - a coveted award, since Google ranks the newspaper highly.