Google Dec. 1 said it has altered its search algorithm to prohibit Website proprietors from boosting search rankings by mistreating customers.
The search engine tweaked its search after The New York Times ran a profile of Vitaly Borker, the owner of DecorMyEyes who taunted, insulted and denigrated customers who complained about his business.
Borker found that by mistreating customers, he could garner enough negative attention, which led to more links to his Website. This in turn pushed DecorMyEyes high atop search results for certain searches on eyeglasses.
Not anymore, according to Google Fellow Amit Singhal, who presided over Google's real-time search technology and other efforts. Singhal said his team developed an initial algorithmic solution, implemented it, and the solution is already live.
Indeed, the Times noted in a follow-up piece Dec. 1 that why the DecorMyEyes Website once showed up on the first page of a search of "Christian Audigier" and "eyeglasses" it was not in the first 20 search result pages.
eWEEK Dec. 2 tried searches for "Ray Ban" and "Prada Sunglasses," two designer brands DecorMyEyes offers, and found no results for DecorMyEyes. Thanks to Google's changes, Borker's business appears to be persona non grata on Google.com.
Singhal also provided some interesting commentary on Google's options for thwarting DecorMyEyes.
He said Google could block Borker, but that it wouldn't solve the larger issue of people trying to game search results through negative attention. Google could also post negative reviews and ratings near search results for DecorMyEyes, but that would still point users to the offending Website.
Still, as noted above, the search algorithm change has certainly effectively blocked the Website from surfacing early in search results. While Google may not have technically blocked DecorMyEyes, the effect is the same. Singhal said Google has done this for hundreds of other merchants that provide an extremely poor user experience.
Singhal also addressed the idea of using sentiment analysis to thwart Borker after some pundits suggested Google could implement a system of checks and balances for misbehaving Websites by gauging what people say about them.
But, he noted, many links that helped boost DecorMyEyes on Google came from popular news Websites such as the The New York Times and Bloomberg. Because the language writers used in their stories about D??Â«corMyEyes was largely neutral, sentiment analysis would not have worked.
"If we demoted Web pages that have negative comments against them, you might not be able to find information about many elected officials, not to mention a lot of important but controversial concepts," Singhal explained. "So far we have not found an effective way to significantly improve search using sentiment analysis."
What this points to is an area of opportunity for search startups, as well as Google and Microsoft Bing.
Those who can create a smart sentiment analysis system that can wisely choose when to tamp down search results from bad actors could greatly help the consumer experience.