Google alters algorithm to block bad business publicity

Google alters algorithm to block bad business publicity

Summary: When bad business behavior is linked to the way search results are delivered, Google steps in to change the way that its algorithm calculates Web populairty.

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TOPICS: Browser, Google
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If you're a thief who breaks into homes by picking locks, the last thing you want to do is to go around bragging about the lock-picking technique you use. The next thing you know, the lock manufacturers will start making locks that can't be picked using your methods.

That's kind of what happened to a business owner in Brooklyn whose business practices generated so many complaints and negative reviews that it increased the links back to his site, all the while making his site more prominent in search engines like Google. It's a bizarre story that the New York Times tells about this guy, quoting his blatant admission that bad business behavior has been good for business.

I won't offer this particular business any more name- or link-dropping for this very reason, even though it's available in the NYT piece, which, by the way, is a pretty good read.

When the NYT story reached Google, the company decided that it needed to take some action and began to weigh its options, which included blocking the offender, displaying user reviews and ratings alongside search results or identifying negative comments and counting them against the site's prominence.

While those are all good ideas, they're flawed because they either create bigger problems - what do you do with all of the negative, albeit legitimate, things written on the Internet about a politician? - or they never really get at the heart of the bigger problem. Google chose instead to go straight to the algorithm, tweaking it enough to keep the offender - and others like him - from getting top billing. From Google's post:

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 an extremely poor user experience... We can't say for sure that no one will ever find a loophole in our ranking algorithms in the future. We know that people will keep trying: attempts to game Google’s ranking, like the ones mentioned in the article, go on 24 hours a day, every single day. That’s why we cannot reveal the details of our solution—the underlying signals, data sources, and how we combined them to improve our rankings—beyond what we’ve already said.

More importantly, the company called this fix "an initial solution," implying that it will continue to work on ways to keep these sort of abuses of the technology from occurring again.

Topics: Browser, Google

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25 comments
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  • Can't Reveal

    I guess not everything is better when the source is open.
    dunraven
    • RE: Google alters algorithm to block bad business publicity

      @dunraven
      Google champions open source but their search algorithms are most definitely state secrets.
      murry.shohat@...
  • "in our opinion"

    So now Google is basing rankings/news coverage on their "opinion"?

    I guess that's good news for any politician Google decides to back.
    John Zern
    • RE: Google alters algorithm to block bad business publicity

      @John Zern No, the opinion of the bloggers.
      William_P
    • RE: Google alters algorithm to block bad business publicity

      @John Zern
      That's a little bit of a misquote, Google don't go around one by one and say 'we like this guy, we don't like that guy' they have made an algorithm, a piece of computer code which "in our opinion" (as in Google's) filters out the bad tradesmen from the good.

      Notice that the entire premise is NOT to include politicians in the filtering at all but rather organisations or people that offer a service or 'user experience', if it's bad they drop down the list and if it's good I assume the opposite.

      To paraphrase, it's all automatic, Google or its employees opinions have no bearing on what is raised and what is lowered, their algorithm does it all automatically and their opinion is that their algorithm works well.
      deadly_dodo@...
  • RE: Google alters algorithm to block bad business publicity

    Who in their right mind would blindly (no pun intended) purchase something from a website without at least doing a cursory background check of that site?
    Hallowed are the Ori
    • RE: Google alters algorithm to block bad business publicity

      @Hallowed are the Ori
      Think about how dumb the average person is, and then remember that half the half is dumber than that person.

      It happens...
      Fark
      • RE: Google alters algorithm to block bad business publicity

        @Fark

        LOL. Wow.... that's scary isn't it?
        Hallowed are the Ori
      • Isn't it interesting that the people tossing out

        statements about how stupid people are always assume they are on the smart end of the scale.
        frgough
      • frgough: I was thinking the same; Fark sounds like an "average" person.

        But, he could also be in the "half of the half" category.

        ;)
        adornoe
    • RE: Google alters algorithm to block bad business publicity

      @Hallowed are the Ori
      a surprising number of online shoppers. just because YOU know a safer way to do online business doesn't in any way mean that any majority of people do.
      zachg@...
  • RE: Google alters algorithm to block bad business publicity

    Other Google algorithms produce bizarre or wholly inappropriate results. For example, one of the 'net's most flagrant confessed plagiarizers is ranked #11 top author at Google Knol. Another top ranked author is "anonymous" and has no published work at Knol to evaluate. Many other algorithmic inconsistencies and embarrassments can be found in the four ranking formulas that Google employs at Knol.
    murry.shohat@...
    • RE: Google alters algorithm to block bad business publicity

      @murry.shohat@...

      I backup Murry and agree by 100%...

      Have a nice day, best regards and help authors coming out of those nightmares about what they see from non-professional algorithm-blues ;-)
      gust.mees@...
  • RE: Google alters algorithm to block bad business publicity

    So I guess all I need to do is start bad mouthing my competition and Google's algorithms will take care of the rest. Seems ripe for abuse.
    shunterdawg
  • RE: Google alters algorithm to block bad business publicity

    So, I guess the Church of Scientology gets its top billing back, since the top rank link in a search for Scientology revealed more negative (yet truthful) information.
    William_P
  • Block The Bad Guys From Exploiting The System

    What is still clear even after this change is that there is a lot of negative posts out there - some deserved and some not.

    People still need to be vigilant concerning what is said about them online before they run into a Disastrous Internet Identity.

    It's MUCH easier to prevent it than fix it... but then again, I guess that's true about a heart attack or stroke.

    Charlie Seymour Jr
    http://RepairYourOwnLegendNow.com
    CharlieSeymourJr
  • This is a good article

    because it shows people that Google does not put out quality products. If you look past the hype and smoke screen you'll see that Google Search just doen't work.
    iPad-awan
    • RE: Google alters algorithm to block bad business publicity

      @iPad-awan
      Hmm, funny - I use google all the time to find information - and guess what - I usually find it. If "Google Search just doen't work" (misspelling in original) - then it's news to me.

      That kind of comment shows a common logic flaw - some corner cases aren't covered perfectly - so you throw out the whole solution. There is no way to progress with that kind of thinking. Evolution works by making numerous small changes and evaluating the results - not trying to come up a "perfect" solution off the bat.
      Turntwo
      • RE: Google alters algorithm to block bad business publicity

        @Turntwo
        bingo
        hoaxoner
  • Hmmm... wonder if Google will use their new algorithm to block their own

    bad business publicity.
    adornoe