No doubt you may have read about how some jerk used his bad reputation to rank better in Google and rip people off.  Today Google announced that they have tweaked their algorithm to demote businesses that have bad reputations.  And I quote:

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.

It used to be that site owners were worried about their competitors pointing spammy links at their site in an attempt to get Google to penalize them. Now instead of linking it looks like all you have to do is go on a few sites and say your competitor’s service sucks.

According to Google:

We can’t say for sure that no one will ever find a loophole in our ranking algorithms in the future.

Now I am no fan of chopping the competition down to build myself up, but I am thinking that if GOOG can demote because of bad customer service signals, it may also be able to promote businesses that have good customer service signals.

Gentlemen, start your signaling.

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17 Response Comments

  • Cyndi Fink  December 1, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    I’ve asked around but so far I’m the only one that has gotten a personal email for Google, you know the place where there is never a human being to talk to, and it gave really specific ideas for changing our Google Local Places information.

    How specific? Creepy specific. We’re updating our listing as I’m writing. They are watching. We weren’t doing anything wrong but the timing of this says to me that Big Brother is paying attention.

    They even gave us a deadline. Have you heard of anyone else getting this from them? And it’s real, not Memorex! (You’re probably too young to remember that ad.)

  • Martha  December 2, 2010 at 7:31 am

    I may be reading it wrong, but the post on the official Google blog doesn’t sound like it’s saying they actually dealt with this problem in any kind of systemic (or truly algorithmic way). In fact, the post seems to be a defense of why they *can’t* deal with this kind of problem algorithmically, and then a description of how they are more or less manually identifying vendors who “in [Google’s] opinion, provide an extremely poor user experience.”

  • Andrew Shotland  December 2, 2010 at 9:38 pm


    Can you provide us with details of what they recommended?

  • Cyndi Fink  December 2, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Here are the particulars. In August the site had 1500 impressions. Now with Google Instant, it dropped to 237 this month. “But it’s not going to change anything.” Wrong!

    No fax number? My husband is an employment lawyer, not a labor relations lawyer. It’s a big difference and requires a completely different set of skills. Where did they get that hint from? (From where did they get that hint?)

    If any of you know how to get us back where we were, please, please let me know.

    Google Place Team, you are not welcome! (See the end of the note.”


    For this listing:
    Mesirow & Fink, San Jose Employment Lawyers
    160 W. Santa Clara Street
    Suite 1180
    San Jose CA 95113
    United States

    Edit Name
    You provided: Mesirow & Fink, San Jose Employment Lawyers
    Suggested change: The Law Offices of Mesirow & Fink

    Remove Fax Number
    You provided: (408) 288-9409
    Suggested change: remove this fax number

    Remove Mobile Phone Number
    You provided: (408) 613-9889
    Suggested change: remove this mobile phone number

    Edit Address
    You provided: 160 W. Santa Clara Street, Suite 1180, San Jose CA 95113, United States
    Suggested change: 160 W Santa Clara St, San Jose CA 95113, United States

    Edit Categories
    You provided: Employment Attorney, Law Firm, Criminal Attorney
    Suggested change: Employment Attorney, Labor Relations Attorney, Attorney, Criminal Lawyer, DWI / DUI Lawyer

    Please log in to your Places account to approve or reject these changes.

    Thank you,
    The Google Places Team

    © 2010 Google Inc. 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043
    Email Preferences: You have received this mandatory email service announcement to update you about important changes to your Google Places product or account.

  • Andrew Shotland  December 2, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Interesting. So they basically told you you were using a spammy business name, your fax and mobile numbers were screwing things up, your suite # was screwing things up and you weren’t properly categorized.

  • Cyndi Fink  December 3, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Dear Andrew,
    I suppose that’s one way to look at it.

  • Chris  December 4, 2010 at 12:02 pm


    I run a PI practice in Atlanta and the workers comp lawyer i share space with got a similar email. Agree with andrew. You had some red flags. the problem is that once you take the spammy “employment lawyers” bit out of your biz name on places, you will plummet. Until google stops weighting the name, it will continue to pay to cheat. That is frustrating but I think in the log run, going into compliance will boost you over the competition.

  • Cyndi Fink  December 6, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Here’s an odd thing. We put all the changes in place and went from #7 to #1. I’m not complaining. I am going to put the fax number back in, that seems to me to be a very strange request.

  • Andrew Shotland  December 6, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Nice. I’d leave the fax # out Cyndi, or else try to put it in the description or some other spot where it doesn’t appear as a structured piece of data – meaning it looks more like words than a phone number.

  • Cyndi Fink  December 6, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Good suggestion Andrew! Thanks.

  • Andrew Shotland  December 6, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I should note that this might set off a flag to, so you’ll want to test this in isolation.

  • Norman Blumenthal, Esq.  December 13, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    When is google boost suppose to come out for all cities? Seems like someone here will know.

  • roma  December 27, 2010 at 3:35 am

    Nice information!! They even gave us a deadline. Have you heard of anyone else getting this from them? And it’s real, not Memorex!


  • Cyndi Fink  December 28, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Roma, do you remember the ad? It makes me feel a bit younger although at this stage of life, it’s all downhill, but I’m not going to let Google get in my way. This year, it’s getting to the top of Local Places or bust!

  • Randy Kirk  January 1, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    My top ten wish list for Google Places in 2011 includes giving credit to those who are really trying to figure out their constant changes and buggy systems. It drives me crazy that they are nitpicking those who claim listings while giving first place to many who haven’t even claimed.

    I agree that total white hat eventually wins the day. But the roller coaster ride getting there is hard on the heart.

  • Javier Rios  December 13, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    I agree that white hat is the way to go. And when I look for an SEO team, I ask if they are all white hat. The problem is that I can’t tell if they are white hat or not. I am an attorney, not an SEO person. I will try my best to only go with white hat though.