Ranting: Google & Online Reputation Management

Ranting: Google & Online Reputation Management


There have been undercurrents in the search industry for years that place Google in the wrong with their hypocritical “do no evil” claims.  For many folks (including myself) their goal of “organizing the world’s information” is bullshit. 

Pure bullshit.

Google is hurting what they once were. Small businesses and startups alike are being penalized every day because Google cares more about profits than they do relevancy.  More about impressions than they do accuracy. And more about stock shares and than they do their legacy.

Google is exactly what they attacked one decade ago with a quality idea – a search engine that gathered the world’s information and presented it to users based on a query.  Simple stuff really, but they have strayed from their original passion.  And that complicates the issue.

All the Money in the World Can’t Buy Happiness
Umm, wrong. Just ask GOOG shareholders. They have forced the company to forget about quality and focus on profits. It’s not a bad idea, but Googlers are still out there touting their “holier than thou” approach to life.  Newsflash Google, you are not who you thought you were.

So now Google has become the search industry’s Microsoft of the 00’s, but worse.  Their grip on the search and online advertising industry is easily comparable to Microsoft’s hold on the PC market – except for one problem – there’s no competitors left to stand in their way.  I mean, the Yahoo! AdWords agreement is like Sarah Palin sleeping with Barack Obama for some minority votes. It’s just… wrong.

And now the Department of Justice is poised to attack.  About time.

Why it Pisses Me Off
As more client emails come across my desktop asking me to evaluate their needs for online reputation management.  I can’t help but think of how weird the world we live in is. There are hundreds of thousands of businesses out there who want to do right for their clients.  They still have their passion to serve clients. They still understand that morals can be more valuable than coin. Yet, they continue suffer at the hands of Google daily.

And Google turns away seeming to ignore the issue.

Just as Wikipedia dominates general SERPs, RipOffReport, ComplaintsBoard, PissedConsumer and the like continue to litter branded search results for unsuspecting companies.  And half the time the “reviews” posted are unfactual claims and speculated rubbish.

I’ve recently been involved in few studies that have proven negative commentary and reviews to be false.  In other words, Google is out there promoting inaccurate information distributed with nothing more than commercial or biased intentions.

In one case an ex-employee tried to get payback on his employer, so he played every card he could to attack them.  In another case a competitor hired social media personalities to negatively influence rating and review sites before uleashing them on the above mentioned “consumer advocacy sites”.

What About Google’s Reputation?
So I’m curious Google… When are you going to begin to watch your own back?  If the Department of Justice lays the hurt down on you, I’d applaud them.  And then I’d keep an eye on you like a massive train wreck being played out in slow motion in beautiful high definition right before my eyes.

I don’t want to see you hurt.  I just want to see your brand damaged.  Tarnished a bit.  I want to see your $425 per share stock drop into the $300’s.  I want to see people get uncomfortable, uneasy and scared.  I want all of this because I believe it is time for you to react.

I love what you’ve done for the search industry. I also love the impact you’ve had on my life both personally and professionally.  There are times though when your levels of hypocrisy and inaccuracies ruin it all for me. You’re the hot girl at the high school dance that you somehow score a dance with – only to have her reek like tequila and vomit once up close.

While you’ve been successful, you’re all grown up.  It’s time to take some responsibility, don’t you think?  An engine that is now more than 10 years old cannot be out there making so many assumptions about the materials you index and provide to unsuspecting or ignorant users.

You’re in a position where you are being trusted to provide *factual* results and information to your users based on their search behaviors.  And lately, all you care about is making that click and earning that ad revenue.  I find myself going back to read: Google’s riches rely on ads, algorithms, and worldwide confusion; ‘Please ignore the cash machine behind the curtain’ By Cade Metz who quoted my good friend Adam:

“You’re kind of at the mercy of Google,” says Adam Audette, founder of AudetteMedia, a boutique search marketing shop out of Bend, Oregon. “They make everything as intuitive and as easy as possible right out of the gate – and that’s a nice bonus for people who don’t know have a lot of experience with Adwords. But on the flip side, hiding the complexities of AdWords makes Google the most money. There’s at least the potential for a conflict of interest.”

I can’t fault you for making money. I can however ask you to take a step back and look at yourself in the mirror for a change. At what point do you cross the line, create an indelible conflict of interest and eventually implode under the pressures of the investigative eye?

You’re on shaky ground, Google. Billions of dollars won’t change that.

It’s All About the Response
What would happen if we all posted our negative experiences Google on the leading sites for consumers?  Well, it seems like people already have done that – and they’re not getting any response from Google.

Not exactly surprising, but in a world where your reputation change change in an instant online, you’d think that the folks who took the time to post the above problems would at least get a response from Google.  Even if they’re simply ignorant to the advertising systems and TOS.

But really… Who am I kidding? Most Googlers are just filling out more deposit slips and sell orders, right?

[Hat nod to Dr. Pete from usereffect for typo notification after post went live.]

40 thoughts on “Ranting: Google & Online Reputation Management

  1. Eric, I agree with a lot of what you are saying here. A couple of salient points:

    1) On Adwords, Adam is DEAD on. A brilliant guy, to be sure, so that doesn’t surprise me. I recently took on a small business e-commerce site purely for their PPC account (something I almost never do). This business did the “easy” Adwords setup and was spending $400 a month with Google on keywords they never should have been advertising on. We’re now spending $60 a month on extreme long tail keywords and sales have tripled. I’ve paid for my fee already in 2.5 months.

    2) Search suggest is a game-changer. Goodbye long tail keywords, hello higher CPC’s on more competitive keywords. Unfortunately, this also means “goodbye potential for small businesses to get organic traffic” too :(

    Sergey and Larry aren’t dumb; they are definitely thinking about their wallets. Or at least their executives are.

  2. Nicely put, and it’s not just the reputation of the little guys that take hits, look at what they did with United Airlines yesterday… 75% drop in share price because Google News pushed an article as new, despite it being 4 years old… That may end up being a lawsuit for those that lost a lot of money yesterday.

  3. You hit on some good points here, undoubtedly; but it seems as though you are forgetting one thing: Google is a business. They are not a religion or a political party or government representative. They are a business. And – like most businesses – they rely on revenue to stay on top.

    I dislike a lot of the stuff Google does, but it works for them, it keeps them going strong and, until it stops working for them, they will continue to head in the direction they have been going.

  4. Eric…
    let me preface this with.. everything i say i say with respect and my comments are not personal.. but they are from my person.. not trying to attack you.. but you will see my stance AND my motivation in the comments below..

    “Just as Wikipedia dominates general SERPs, RipOffReport, ComplaintsBoard, PissedConsumer and the like continue to litter branded search results for unsuspecting companies. And half the time the “reviews” posted are unfactual claims and speculated rubbish.”

    then blame those assclowns for letting people post bullshit.. not google.. if it want’ for google i wouldn’t be able to find the bullshit people say about my clients, thank God they pay me to do SEO to get them above and negative SEO to push those “unfactual claims and speculated rubbish” down in the SERPs

    and damn dude.. you will cost me LOTS of money.. if you wish comes true…

    if i would have known sergey and larry were warren buffet followers then i would have sold my google stock at $700 instead of hoping for a split.. (warren buffet doesn’t believe in splitting stock.. that f***er!!!) so… while i do my covered calls around $500 (*NO!! i don’t want to do them at $400/share!!!), i like that a company i put most (ALL) of my life savings in at $85/share is making money.. i LIKE that they have HUGE amounts of data… i LOVE the fact that as people allow google to monitor their personal searches and gather MORE data… i like/love that they make TONS of money off PPC.. (when i know it doesn’t work for s*** since i can pull 1st in organics at will and watch that converting traffic)

    i’m not worried about “big brother” – in case you haven’t figured it out.. carnivore WAS big brother and now, after the patriot act passed i can find out any info i want on your internet activities with a court order (yes i used to be involved with criminal justice, and yes i ran an ISP for 8 years beginning in 1995, so i know EXACTLY what kind of information you are totally oblivious about… (maybe not you.. but the general population)

    i’m guessing after reading this a bunch of lightbulbs went off in your head.. and now more of our twitter conversatinos make sense.

  5. second question..

    do you have an iPhone?

    i want one but i WONT, ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT USE AT & T.

    so if you really dislike google..

    equating that logic, can’t you just use MSN or Yahoo! for your own search engine and promote those search engines to get your point across?

  6. @Tanner – I agree, Google’s a business and they’re all about making money. I would be too. I just won’t accept their publicly taken stance of being a squeaky clean; we’re here to help approach. They’re fueled by profits.

    @paisley – I agree that RoR, CB, PC and other “consumer support” sites are to blame. The fact that some of them go so far as to blackmail companies into paying for the removal of (potentially bogus) reviews is incredibly asinine. But true.

    It is still Google’s responsibility to provide accurate, relevant and informative search results to users. The above referenced sites are none of those things in many cases, but still earn hundreds of thousands of visitors and dollars in AdSense revenue.
    I won’t go so far as to say “Think there could be a connection there?” but trust me, I’m thinking it.

    I understand your position as an investor. I also understand more of our private conversations as well as other discussions on Twitter. And, I appreciate you mentioning your professional background on this to help shed some light on things a bit more.

    But I still hate Google.

    And in response to your second comment, I will say this. Yes, I can and will use Yahoo, LiveSearch and others for my search purposes. But I’d point to the following entry, in addition to the knowledge that I’m a search marketer…

    “I’ve recently been involved in few studies that have proven negative commentary and reviews to be false. In other words, Google is out there promoting inaccurate information distributed with nothing more than commercial or biased intentions.”

    — Google, their business practices and their competitive balances are all necessary evils for me. I accept that, I just like to rant and vent my frustrations from time to time. My hope is that someone at the Googleplex may hear my tiny mouse voice screaming and think twice before stomping on me like a little, tiny bug.

  7. don’t you just love it when we can actually have a civil conversation..

    thanks Eric.. you have brightened my day!!!

    another concept..
    how many seo’s or just people in general actually use google webmaster tools to remove the bulshit from the SERPs?

    i usually use it when i see them in the same results as my clients… but when i need to find something quickly? prolly not..

    another idea.. devote a section of your blog to exposing the “false prophets” (RipOffReport, ComplaintsBoard, PissedConsumer and the like )

    i’d be willing to donate 10mins of my day to negative SEO on their websites and “we” (people who are combined for better results in google), could all send a signal to google.

    or we could find some attys who will make these websites put disclaimers to show “unsubstantiated claims” on each one of those posts.. which would effectively destroy those websites in the long run? no?

    =)

  8. If you really want to get sites like pissedconsumer.com out of serps, report them for black hat seo tactics. From what i can tell they have created a link farm of 50-100 blogs that all seem to have the same template and format, and they all exist solely to link to each other and back to their main site pissedconsumer.com. The link farm starts with 2 links from their homepage “Friends” section to the following:

    AnotherReview.com
    WriteComplaint.com

    From there they link to more and more of the same crap blogs that all have links pointed back to pissedconsumer. I don’t know about you, but I’m sure Google would love to hear about this little link farm trick. ;-)

  9. Eric,

    I did a little more research last night… =)

    Here are some more examples of pissedconsumer.com’s “link farm”. Notice everyone one of these sites has the same IP address (69.72.137.86)

    The list goes on and on… all of these sites link back to pissedconsumer using subdomains of the pissedconsumer.com domain … that may be how they are getting around being caught/noticed by Google. I would be very interested to know if Google allows this type of link farming… Seems like spam to me.

    upsetclient.com
    upsetshopper.com
    pleasedconsumer.com
    reviews-by-company.blogspot.com
    bankerreviews.com
    writecomplaint.com
    a380reviews.com
    anotherreview.com
    clientstory.com
    customer-story.com
    corpreviews.com
    financingreviews.com
    shopperstory.com
    healthrunner.com
    hithealth.com

    The funny part is they actually start the link ring out from their own homepage… (See their “Our Friends” section.

  10. Sorry for my late response to this topic which is soo near and dear to my heart.

    Instead of my usual paragraph long rant, I will just say this, “Money and Power has Corrupted Google (GOOG)!”

    just like it does to everyone else, so at least there are still humans there. but keep on the lookout for a complete “skynet” type transition soon, lol

  11. @sockmoney – I know, I thought about applying a nofollow on the links to the consumer advocay sites – but I couldn’t bring myself to break my values. Besides, those links are to anti-Google documents, so for this purpose I wouldn’t be terribly offended if they ranked. Google owes those people some feedback.

    @red – No, that’s not Bill Belichick. :)

    @Marc – I hear you, loud and clear!

  12. Eric – Ah no worries. I was just giving you a hard time. ;-)

    I got a little motivated after doing some more research on how these sites rank so well. It annoys me to no end to see sites like these (ie – PissedConsumer.com) gaming the system to outrank legitimate content.

    I submitted the results of my background check of these sites to Sphinn… hopefully we can call these guys out… =)

    http://sphinn.com/story/71776

  13. that’s all good and well…you can be angry at Google all you want, but what exactly do you suggest they do–investigate? censor? lol. this just sounds like another rant about the big guys. like one guy said, it’s not the engine (or the forum, eg ROR) but the people who post that are the problem, and frankly, i don’t see why it’s the forum’s issue to deal with it (and btw, ROR never removes reports, no matter what you offer to pay or what threats you make). the internet is free, thank goodness, and with that freedom for the “good guys” comes freedom for the “bad guys”, too. besides, who gets to decide which is which? Just exactly how do you filter “truth” from “fiction”? should a search engine be responsible for that? talk about big brother…

    as to pissed consumer, they’re just a low-budget knockoff of ripoff report. doesn’t surprise me about the link farms…though I see plenty of my SEO colleagues doing the same…

  14. @b2b2 I’m not saying that Google should find a method of sorting out truth from fiction. Then again, I also didn’t ask them to scan my email so they could serve me up with targeted contextual advertising. But, they did.

    An underlying current to this is the whole social rewards they provide. Wikipedia, being an open forum for UGC, is touted as a powerhouse. So too are these sites but on a smaller scale of branded search terms of companies.

    I appreciate your comment as well as some of the challenges to my proposed thoughts. I’m not expected Google to make any changes – their profits speak for themselves.

    It may simply be nice for them to think a bit more about what got them into this position.

  15. I normally don’t read Google ‘bashing’ posts but this one has a credibility that most others don’t have.

    You make some good points and although I agree that it is the responsibility of the consumer sites to verify the integrity of the comments they host, Google does have a responsibility to provide quality in their results. It’s tough for them, though, ’cause how will they ever be able to know?!

    You have raised the question in my mind about how Google can possibly provide quality results to searchers with such a big conflict of interest as AdSense. They are after all, as you so rightly state, a commercial organisation operating for the purpose of making a profit.

  16. Your post is good. I actually been referring this post from last week to some of our clients who been having same issues!

    Every coin has two sides, so if these sites are coming in SERP for brand names, their is Reputation Management Service which is starting to gain some momentum. It seems like early days of SEO, when someone will outrank you for your brand name or another keyword and an SEO company you hire will do onsite and offsite work to get you in top. Google did nothing then and I don’t see them doing anything now. I don’t blame them for this unless they launch knolOffReport, knolBoard, knolConsumer :)

  17. Phillip John brings up a good point. AT&T had to break up the Bell flagship, separate companies for Local and another for long distance. I would think since Google provides SERPs and yet sells placement ads in the SERPSs that some type of oversight is required.

    Eric great post and thanks for the twitter inclusion. Will be watching your twit/blog from now on.

  18. Hey Eric, it seems like most of this post is about sites like RipoffReport, ComplaintsBoard, and PissedConsumer. I’ve looked into at least one of these companies before and concluded that there wasn’t enough basis to remove the site according to our quality/webspam guidelines.

    You have strong feelings on this, but there are also people who feel very strongly the other direction that Google shouldn’t be acting as some sort of “truth police” to remove protest sites. I’ve talked about at least one of these sites multiple times with colleagues here at Google and with plenty of people outside Google, but so far our policy is that instead of Google taking an active position against something such as RipoffReport, if there is fraudulent/deceptive/libelous material out there on the web, the correct answer is to go to the website that makes those claims and resolve the situation directly (either by talking it through or via the courts if necessary). I think anytime there is a he-said/she-said dispute, that’s the best way we know of so far to settle a dispute, rather than asking Google to judge the merits of a particular case.

    I said that I’d looked into one of those sites personally and didn’t find enough basis to take action against the site. However, I did ask a colleague to dig into one of the other sites you mentioned. They’ve been doing an in-depth webspam investigation of what actions to take on that other site.

  19. Fact is Ripoffreport.com’s owner extorts money from the companies that he allows his users to trash on his site with no regard to the truth. He will “Manage your reputation” on ripoff report for $15K what a scumbag and shame on Google for helping him along the way with great SERPS.

    This guy is canibalizing the entire industry and doing billions of dollars in brand and reputation damage.

  20. In Google’s defense: The moment that they start getting rid of sites based on bad content and scams, they will get themselves into an even deeper mess than spam control. SURE, they SHOULD just get rid of sites which their judgement leaves no doubt are scamming users, and then shut up about it or fine a different reason for banning them.
    If Google starts openly doing it, the scam reports will outdo the spam reports and aside from possible legal issues, they will have not much time to deal with anything else.

  21. Google’s old motto – Do No Evil
    Google’s new motto – Do as I say, not as I do

    Sorry Matt, but that just doesn’t cut it. The United Airlines mess that was because of GoogleBot and the way your algo sorts caused a MAJOR FUBAR for their stock. Your system was gamed, purposely or not, and I have yet to hear your take. Events like that, and the odd top placement of fraudulent, or just plain wrong information will slowly erode your company’s relevance. I find Google becoming more and more about who paid for #1 sponsorship and those that game then what is truly relevant. I would say if I was looking for a Snicker bar that Mars would be the number one spot as that is what is the most relevant, but with the allowance of what Eric describes, I would instead get a complaint about a stale Snicker bar. Come on, fix the algo, or admit there are flaws, and not keep the cloak over our eyes.

  22. I am sure that Google could drop all sorts of sites out of the SERPs based on the “truthfulness” of the information they contain.

    There’s one very big problem with that. Once their idea of “truth” differs from your idea of “truth”, it has another name: “censorship”.

    Heads they win. Tails you lose.

    If third-party sites out there use deceptive practices, and are spreading false information, then the best course of action is to make it widely known what they are up to.

    How much effort would it take to make it widely known that “most of the content on site X consists of fake reviews”? There are plenty of places to make that point of view widely read.

  23. Ripoffreport has hurt one of the guys I work for. The claims are false and he’s lost 3 real estate deals from it this past month.

    This issue never came up for him before August 2008 so maybe that tells me the ROR is coming up higher in the search results and causing him the problems.

    Good post about this issue though I don’t believe Google should be censoring the internet.

    Now for the real question…how to get ROR to remove things (without being extorted financially)? And how to prove to potential clients they’re false and discard them?

  24. Hey Eric!

    Thought you might like a follow-up regarding my post “outing” the black hat tactics of PissedConsumer.com.

    Apparently they did not take too lightly to my review of their tactics, they sent me a threatening message claiming they were going to post “paid links” to my blog (sockmoney.com) from all the blogs in their link farm. (the same link farm I outed in my comments above in this thread)

    It is a pretty lame attempt to discredit my blog.

    Funny thing is they are kind of incriminating themselves as site(s) that sell links. So their “threat” to get me back for outing them seems to backfire… ;-)

    Hope you get a kick out of this. I know I did. =)

  25. You make some good points and although I agree that it is the responsibility of the consumer sites to verify the integrity of the comments they host, Google does have a responsibility to provide quality in their results. It’s tough for them, though, ’cause how will they ever be able to know?!

  26. Thanks for an intelligent discussion on the topic of Gluugle..
    One thing I still don’t get is the “ethics” of paid links (advertising masquerading as search results)..How does this help any kind of honesty in search results? It’s like going to the library card catalog (remember those?) and looking up books on dog food, but in the appropriate drawer finding the first dozen index cards to be big, shiny Chrome-plated ones placed by Alpo and Purina…

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