Fear As a Search Marketing Tactic? Google Doesn’t Think So

Perhaps the type of behavior that’s vaulted Google ahead of second-placer Yahoo! over the years has been this ability to integrate human behavior into the artificial intelligence powering its search marketing beast. Let’s backtrack a little. Yesterday, Outspoken Media’s Lisa Barone reported about an entrepreneur who was abusing his client base in order to generate high volumes of negative feedback. His justification? Bad attention is better than no attention at all. Such a high volume of negative feedback was driving his company’s presence on Google’s search results higher and higher. Said entrepreneur’s biggest mistake was assuming that Google, in a year when the average American citizen saw his most banal actions become common knowledge across the web, wouldn’t pick up on his trolling. Google has sounded off on the story and their improved methodology to weed out entrepreneurs who plan to abuse search results in order to raise their companies’ profiles.

In a blog post titled, “Being bad to your customers is bad for business”, Google Fellow Amit Singhal lays out a set of rules that give people hoping to work the search marketing circuit honestly reassurance. After the original story broke–perpetuating the idea that being malicious online could mean great business–the Google team acted speedily. Singhal writes:

We immediately convened a team that looked carefully at the issue. That team developed an initial algorithmic solution, implemented it, and the solution is already live. I am here to tell you that being bad is, and hopefully will always be, bad for business in Google’s search results.

For those thinking that it might be just the case of a business owner engaging in a little playground bullying, the New York Times investigated the story and an account from a customer who had attempted to buy a pair of eyeglasses from Brooklyn-based DecorMyEyes and ended up not only getting overcharged for counterfeits, but also fielding threats of litigation and threats on her life.

In Singhal’s post, the most remarkable part about Google’s new search methodology is employing “sentiment analysis”:

Use sentiment analysis to identify negative remarks and turn negative comments into negative votes.

Singhal identifies several other measures wherein Google’s search algorithms are attempting to integrate articles like the Times piece into user reviews–which would then go onto weighting merchant-related search results accordingly.

Ultimately, what remains the most fascinating part of an otherwise horrifying user-merchant experience is how even in a mechanical world like internet marketing, sentience and human emotion have a tremendous impact on profit margins.