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Sun Nov 28 2010 12:38:57

Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews

By: Ina Steiner

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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.




Comments (12) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews   Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews

by: Rupert Pupkin
Web Site

Sun Nov 28 13:30:54 2010

If complaints and bad publicity raises an business's standing in a Google query, eBain should be in the # 1 slot in a helluva lot of searches.

Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews   Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Sun Nov 28 15:49:03 2010

Sounds like a glitch to me.  I doubt Google would actually do that - what would be the reason for it?  Like the previous poster said - that being true Ebay would be at the top of the heap.

Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews   Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews

by: StareClips.com
Web Site

Sun Nov 28 16:27:15 2010

This is the fault of the websites which link. It is fairly well known that there is a simple tag (the NOFOLLOW tag) which can be added to out-bound links which means you wish to link to the site, but aren't intending to add credibility to the site.

Any websites which link to another website that they are complaining about and don't want to add credibility to the site, but that don't properly use the NOFOLLOW tag in their links, is just contributing to the problem.

Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews   Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews

by: Judy
Web Site

Sun Nov 28 17:59:38 2010

I'm pleased to see that you didn't give the guy a link, Ina. But then, with a link from the NYT, he's still laughing all the way to the top of the search engine.

Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews   Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews

by: Ben

Sun Nov 28 21:09:26 2010

Wow, every story leads back to eBay with you people. Amazing.

Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews   Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews

This user has validated their user name. by: Ina

Sun Nov 28 22:21:05 2010

"eBay hasn't seemed to have done much policing, in contrast to Amazon, where the merchant says he's forced to behave "like a boy scout."

Quote from Danny Sullivan, whom the New York Times consulted, on his blog post about the article:

http://searchengineland.com/googles-gold-standard-resu
lts-take-hit-new-york-times-57081

(you'll
have to cut and paste the URL)

Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews   Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews

by: nadine

Mon Nov 29 00:46:19 2010

"eBay hasn't seemed to have done much policing, in contrast to Amazon, where the merchant says he's forced to behave "like a boy scout."

Of course not, Ina, Borker is an eBay BUYER. Borker is the logical conclusion of the eBay policy that the buyer is always right, no matter what.

Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews   Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews

by: Rich

Mon Nov 29 01:43:56 2010

Google's making mistakes and Ebay's a joke. Amazon is king and doesn't make excuses about "glitches"; they just power ahead and steal buyer after buyer.  Oh, by the way; their stock has risen from $40 to $180 the past 5 years.  

Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews   Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews

by: Sandy Saar
Web Site

Mon Nov 29 11:04:53 2010

Refused an order 09/2010, from ebags, emailed them numerous times to credit my credit card, here it is 11/2010..Credit Card is still not credited...NO RESPONSE EVER....

Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews   Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews

by: Troglodyte

Mon Nov 29 14:16:46 2010

SEO blunders like this and ebay's intentional and affirmative complicity in fraud are deservedly giving the internet the reputation of being a dangerous place to buy.

I believe the internet is far more risky today for buyers (and, on ebay, even more so for sellers) than it was ten years ago.

We can expect individual criminal sellers and buyers.

What average buyers don't expect is a criminal corporation such as ebay and a negligent corporation like Google to actually help criminals.

Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews   Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews

by: Rupert Pupkin
Web Site

Mon Nov 29 19:01:06 2010

@Ben:

"Wow, every story leads back to eBay with you people. Amazing."

I would have thought that all you ePal eProctophiles would have been so busy leaving shilled + feedbacks for Toys"R" Us you wouldn't have had the time to troll the off premise discussion boards.

Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews   Google Rewards Online Merchant for Bad Ratings and Reviews

by: Red Ink Diary This user has validated their user name.

Tue Nov 30 16:45:47 2010

@Ben

Do tell,how could anyone have a credible e-commerce site and never mention eBay?

Like them or loathe them, eBay, PayPal and their management policies are a very large elephant in the e-commerce world and sellers with more than two functioning brain cells ignore them at great risk.



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