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Google: Evil practices by businesses won’t be rewarded

December 1, 2010 |  4:21 pm

Google Don't be evil, indeed: Google wants business owners to know that it won’t reward bad behavior.

The company fixed a glitch in its search engine that made websites with complaints and negative reviews even more visible to searchers.

The new “algorithmic solution” has already discovered hundreds of merchants with abysmal ratings from users and will work to keep those sites from being ranked highly in search results.

The impetus was a story in the New York Times last week, detailing a tale of consumer horror in which a Brooklyn eyewear merchant bullied and tormented customers into leaving furious tirades about the company on a slew of review websites.

The more angry comments, the higher the company’s site seemed to climb in the Google rankings, boosting its prominence and its sales, according to the owner.

Hearing about the case left Google “horrified,” wrote Google Fellow Amit Singhal in a post on the company blog.

"Being bad is, and hopefully will always be, bad for business in Google's search results," he wrote.

Google decided against blocking certain offenders; it would be too narrow a solution. The company also realized that using sentiment analysis to identify negative comments wouldn’t work -- the sources of some of the most reputable links to the bad retail apples are stories from news organizations.

Details on the final algorithmic fix were left purposefully sparse out of the concern that releasing the underlying signals, data sources and combinations of the two would provoke more abuses of the system.

“We can’t say for sure that no one will ever find a loophole in our ranking algorithms in the future,” Singhal wrote. “We know that people will keep trying: attempts to game Google’s ranking … go on 24 hours a day, every single day.”

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-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Virginia Mayo / Associated Press

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