I’ve just picked up the latest improvement to Google’s algorithm and thought ‘oh dear!’. Online reputation monitoring just took centre stage in SEO once again.

I’ve just picked up the latest improvement to Google’s algorithm and thought ‘Oh dear!’.

AbuseRank is an effort by Google to penalise websites that have customer complaints in online forums. It seems a knee jerk reaction to a NY Times article. This investigated a website making its way up the rankings through gaining links in online customer complaints forums.

Google’s article also catches them in a contradiction. They claim they are not using sentiment as a ranking factor as they do with news and blog search. They also point out links in forums are likely to be nofollow (they don’t pass PageRank). So where is the contradiction?

Either they are using sentiment or they have, as some suspect, been following nofollow links from online communities.Otherwise how would they improve rank? I suspect the latter.

Theories on how Google uses their TrustRank and Network Node Analysis patents to rank sites, surround their use of online chatter about brands. Plus as I said a few months ago, they use social graph factors to rank websites.

In this case they say of the newly implemented algorithm …

“Instead, in the last few days we developed an algorithmic solution which detects the merchant from the Times article along with hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide a extremely poor user experience.”

So Google now ranks by opinion now? (That will be of great interest to the Euro market abuse investigation). Rubbish! The web is too big for opinion based search engines. That is Yahoo pre-2000 theory. I will bet they are using a form of sentiment analysis, where negativity in the words describing the brand in online forums, help form an ‘opinion’.

It also gives pause for thought. Google finishes with …

“We can’t say for sure that no one will ever find a loophole in our ranking algorithms in the future”.

Well I’ve got a new loophole for you. People posting fake complaints about competitors. This plays right into black hat hands.

Online reputation monitoring just took centre stage in SEO once again.