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.

Julian Grainger

Published 2 December, 2010 by Julian Grainger

Julian Grainger is an internet consultant and cotnributor to Econsultancy.

9 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (9)

Save or Cancel


Pretty much my thoughts exactly, I'm going go start slagging of all my competitors in forums using naughty words now and get them dropped from the SERP's.

over 7 years ago



Let's try it.. econsultancy.com are pants!

over 7 years ago

John Courtney

John Courtney, CEO and Executive Chairman at Pay on Results SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Digital PR, PPC & CRO from Strategy Digital

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

Hmm...think this needs thinking through....

over 7 years ago


Tom Huxtable, CRO at EngageSciences

If this is the case then it behoves brands to put in a social advocacy program.

over 7 years ago

Nick David

Nick David, Website Manager at Royal Pharmaceutical SocietySmall Business Multi-user

Interesting development. Having had potentially bad company feedback on the Review Centre in a past job I hope a high % of forums and review sites have decent measures in place to combat dodgy posts. Otherwise this could be bad for small businesses. Review Centre were extremely helpful and had such measures.

This is not a review of Review Centre BTW :)

over 7 years ago


David Phillips

Google is well versed in Latent Semantic Indexing and so it is not hard for them to be able to identify sentiment from a range of perspectives.

We use a similar technology.

over 7 years ago



Wonder if they pick up on 'pants' as a negative sentiment as anon wrote tongue in cheek. Seriously though, machine understanding of sentiment can leave a lot to be desired. It is art and science. Also, let's not kid ourselves, some companies (or their reps) talk smack about comps all the time to appear in front of human eyes so I don't think we would suddenly see an exponential increase in negative brand/product postings just to try and affect this recent theory for machine basis. I think if you were able to study what size of companies actually engaged in this tactic, you would not see large brands doing it. I think its something the smaller company does because they are misguided. What would be interesting is to see this type of effect on M&S as a large brand (not saying Magners isn't but domain age plays in here) and whether the cheapo Champagne backlash online had SERP effects in similar ways that the Magners study found. Anyone run the M&S SEO account here....?

over 7 years ago

Donal Langan

Donal Langan, SEO Director at Easyroommate Ltd

If this algorithm change was implemented badly then yes it would be ripe for black hat techniques, but it is such an obvious one to be abused that Google must have taken this into account.

over 7 years ago


seo sydney

The system Google use will make the implementation easy although its imperatively difficult to trace. however if the program is not well followed very few will get the positive result.

about 7 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.