When Good Things Happen to Bad Websites

You can find many good deals by searching online. If you’re looking for new eye glasses however, you’d do well to avoid the likes of DecoreMyEyes.com (DME). According to a recent report in the New York Times, the site not only failed to deliver, but harassed and threatened customers who complained about its bad service. Hapless customers found this store by searching for product brand names of eyeglass frames such as “Lafont.”

DME left a trail of irate customers, who fulminated against it on shopping sites and discussion boards. This seems to have left DME undaunted. Bad service or outright fraud are not unfortunately news. What was news was that the volume of these unfavorable mentions may have helped it rise to the first page of search rankings.

This is a new wrinkle on the old saw – it doesn’t matter what they say about you as long as they get your name right. That, at least, is the expressed belief of DME and ironically encouraged its abusive behavior.

An accepted principal of SEO is that web links to a site are in a way like a vote for that site. A site with more inbound links is likely to rank higher in search engine results, so legitimate marketers strive to recruit incoming links. To avoid an implicit vote for a site you mention online, either don’t link, or as Google suggested, modify links to sites you are mention but do not approve of, by adding a nofollow attribute to the link.

For example, instead of writing

Watch out for <a href="http://www.example.com/">Fred's Fly By Night </a> discount pharmaceuticals site.


Watch out for <a href=" a href="http://www.example.com/" rel="nofollow">Fred's Fly By Night </a> discount pharmaceuticals site.

In the case of DME, Google explicitly denied the effectiveness of negative sentiment to boost rankings by DME in a blog post. Nevertheless, it has tweaked its secret page rank algorithm to foil DME’s practices.

Google now suggests that before shopping with an unknown merchant, consumers protect themselves by doing an extra search: the name of the business plus the word “scam.” What happens when customers do that with your business?