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Could Your Online Reputation Hurt Your Google Rankings?

The New York Times recently published a shocking story that detailed the way in which one online merchant used negative feedback and reviews to rocket his site to the top of the search engine food chain - even outranking other sites that used responsible Internet marketing strategies. The owner of the online eyewear store found a loophole in Google's ranking algorithms which allowed him to gain top search engine rankings as a result of links to his site from online consumer complaint sites and social media sites. The website owner realized this phenomena a couple years prior and began to strategically abuse his clients to stimulate more negative feedback and additional mentions. He took his new role as strategic harasser quite seriously, going so far as to not only threaten, but pretend to stalk his victims so that his website would receive negative comments.

This story stimulated a wave of reactions which included a serious response by Google. After investigating into the matter, Google recognized a problem and took the initiative to develop an algorithm solution which is capable of detecting this online merchant as well as others who provide poor user experiences. Google stated in their blog that this is an initial solution to the problem, so perhaps there will be additional measures to follow. Google wanted to make it clear that negative feedback should be just that-negative. Google does not believe that this sort of negative-feedback approach should result in online merchants receiving high rankings like the ones achieved by trusted merchants who utilize ethical SEO strategies and provide positive experiences. Though a shocking and certainly interesting story, many merchants may wonder what effect this will have on them. What if you don't use strategies such as this in lieu of search engine optimization? Could this change in the way Google ranks sites really have an impact on your business? The answer is YES!

With Google's new algorithm solution in place, online merchants with negative mentions may face higher scrutiny and may find it more difficult to achieve good rankings. The problem is that less ethically conscious merchants may use this to their advantage. Most online merchants are already aware that their online reputation is an important part of generating new leads and increasing sales. They are beginning to take an interest in tracking the way in which they are reviewed on consumer sites, third-party review sites and even social media sites. This comes as no surprise as online merchants with positive reviews tend to be viewed as trustworthy to online consumers while those with negative reviews may lose potential clients as a result. Though the concept of falsifying negative reviews about competitor sites is not a foreign or new idea, it is becoming a bigger threat in regards to SEO. With more dire consequences emerging for sites with poor feedback comes more motivation to remove online competition by generating fake feedback that will be picked up by Google's newest algorithm.

What can merchants do to protect themselves?

The first step any online merchant should take in improving or protecting their online reputation is to look into a reputable company that offers reputation management. Companies such as offer services that track merchant feedback and work to fix negative reviews ethically. MSI Marketing watches for both negative feedback as well as negative posts. With millions of users logging in to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook or visiting some of the hundreds of consumer review sites, it would be hard for any merchant to monitor all posts about their website. Your online reputation is everything when it comes to drawing in new and ongoing consumers. Don't allow someone to take advantage of the system and ruin the reputation you have worked to achieve.

There could be negative posts online right now about your site that you aren't aware of and they may not even be legitimate. Why remain in the dark? Reputation management is the key to safeguarding your online reputation and the way in which Google and other search engines view your site. So remember to include a reputation management plan in your New Year's resolutions.

Find out more information about Reputation Management.

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