I’ve seen all sorts of SEO tricks over the last decade or so, but none quite like what this man engaged in – which has resulted in a lengthy jail sentence.
I’ve worked with people that mistakenly believe “all publicity is good publicity” before, but this was taking it to an incredibly evil level.
You may remember the story about the operator of an eyewear website who encouraged bad reviews.
In case you didn’t hear about it, I’m serious. It seems he figured out that as long as folks were talking about his site online, it didn’t matter what they said – it was helping his rankings.
Perhaps working on the premise that most folks are quick to complain and slow to praise and it’s easier to provide poor service, this is where he focused his SEO efforts.
However, he also cranked things up a bazillion notches by threatening some complainants with death and other violent and degrading facts if actions they took would result in him losing money, such as chargebacks. There are certainly better (and legal) ways of preventing and challenging chargebacks.
I don’t even want to mention this person’s name or web site; but you can learn more about his tactics in this article published a couple of years ago by the New York Times; it’s a fascinating if somewhat frightening read.
The law caught up with him and he was recently sentenced to 4 years prison, plus ordered to pay $100,000 in fines.
It’s tragic the lengths some folks will go to for a no.1 ranking. I wonder if this guy will be so loose with threats among his new comrades.
I think the situation also lit a fire under Google to tweak its ranking algorithm to discern positive from negative feedback in relation to a site – part of its semantic indexing evolution.
But that too is fraught with challenges; i.e. it wouldn’t be inconceivable that a competitor could pay peanuts to have thousands of negative reviews about a business posted around the web, secure in the knowledge that the investment would be well spent as it would dampen the rankings of whoever he or she was targeting – a form of negative SEO, another topic that has attracted a lot of attention lately.