You may have seen the nytimes.com article about a certain online retailer who treats his customers like crap, threatens them and boasts about his quasi-business because Google continues to rank him high in the SERPS.
The article is an interesting read for me, but not for the obvious reason. There’s SEO at play here.
Here’s the breakdown of the business plan of the online sunglass hut:
Customer places an order for sunglasses.
Quasi-store finds a shifty supplier where authentic brands are “iffy.”
Quasi-store buys the product.
Customer supplies the money and the product is sent.
You’d think that it would be safer by being less of a middle-man, but by placing the responsibility of the purchases on himself he taps into a vein of purpose that leads him to no-holds-barred rage. More is on the line, so he has more of a dog in the fight than the supplier. If someone tries to cancel or return, the threats begin fueled by his stake in the transaction. As expected the negative reviews pour in based on the horrible customer experiences.
Here’s where the story takes a different bent. It would be expected that the negative reviews would decrease his position, but it actually doesn’t. Here is a breakdown of SERP results.
People are blaming Google saying they need to change their algorithm. To me, this is ridiculous. Everyone is forgetting one important fact in this whole subject and it’s the customer. From Google’s perspective it would seem a no-brainer: “Don’t buy from someone with negetive reviews,” this also suggests that we should do our own research before throwing our money at something online.
There are hints that “buzz” from social media and trending topics help in the algorithm, but it’s all in speculation. The real tragedy is that people don’t do their research when purchasing. Point-of-Purchase aisles before checkout counters are there for a statistical reason. A sleek, user-friendly website combined with a “great deal” and a “need to be filled” results in a conversion.
The big seasoning to the mix is that people will most likely complain than compliment on the Internet.
So this is what we have:
1. Several people wanting a product in an irresistible situation
2. A search algorithm that ranks based on buzz and reviews (among other things, of course)
3. A search engine company that bets that the negative reviews will decrease business
4. A company that thrives on the apparent success of negative reviews
Is this sustainable?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is involves a potential algorithm change of bringing national reviews to the SERPS along with proposed methods of setting up several websites and not giving a darn about what people think about you. Keep in mind a specific niche’ might be slow to catch on as evidenced by the continual clientele of the site.
Though this might be viewed as a hole in the algorithm, it’s more of a hole in user responsibility.