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Google Algorithm Discriminates Against Bad Reviews

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the this-algorithm-sucks dept.

Google 175

j_col writes "According to the official Google blog, Google has altered their PageRank algorithm to not give back linking points to bad reviews of websites belonging to online retailers, following the publication of a recent article in the New York Times describing one woman's experiences in being harassed by an online retailer she found via Google. The specific changes to the algorithm are of course a guarded secret. So considering that these changes are already live, how do we know how the algorithm determines a bad review from a good one, and whether or not innocent online retailers will be wrongly punished by having their rankings downgraded?"

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If they told you ... (1)

lpaul55 (137990) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420526)

then it wouldn't work. (No, they wouldn't have to kill you.)

Almost by definition, they have to keep the details secret. It sounds as though they verified the results empirically and didn't find false positives, but that's all we've got to go on.

Re:If they told you ... (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420576)

Because it's not like anyone has been able to find out how to game Google before, right? Right? Someone will spend plenty of time learning how this works and will use it to destroy people's page rank. This is guaranteed.

Re:If they told you ... (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420622)

Yes, but doing that takes longer than if they're provided with a list of criteria along with a scoring guide. It's not ideal, but it gives more time between adjustments and having to make a new adjustment because somebody has it figured out.

Re:If they told you ... (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420716)

Yes, and in the article they acknowledge people are always trying to game their system. It's very clear that keeping it secret is done to delay gaming the system and to give them time to keep refining it.

Yes, someone will game it. Their response has been very reasonable.

Re:If they told you ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34420884)

No, information wants to be free. People shouldn't be able to have secrets; especially corporations. Wikileaks should publish their algorithms.

Reification (2)

Lilith's Heart-shape (1224784) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421072)

You are guilty of reification. Information does not want to be free. Information does not want anything, because information is not a conscious entity capable of thought, desire, or volition. Treating abstract concepts as though they had thoughts, needs, or desires is faulty logic.

Re:Reification (0)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421486)

It doesn't matter how they spin this. People should be able to trust Google to provide accurate information, good or bad, when doing a search on an entity. The fact that they filter out the 'bad' for paying customers is egregious, and damages their reputation. The search should be unbiased. No exceptions.

Re:Reification (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421638)

The search should be unbiased. No exceptions.

A Google search has never been un-biased, and never would have worked if it were.

The whole point about the way Google ranks pages is to try to ascertain which pages people actually find useful ... so, initially when it came out, it was finding useful hits when Yahoo had become pretty much a degenerate case of a search engine retrieving everything but what you want. Every bloody search returned crap because the SEO wankers had polluted the indices with junk -- you used to hit a page with 400K of keywords in the meta tag, and absolutely nothing to do with what you searched for.

Google has always tried to find the best sites to retrieve, not the crap. By that very definition, Google was never un-biased. And, after a decade of using them as my search engine, I want them to keep up the good work and continue to filter out the crap. Weeding out shady marketers are something that I applaud them for doing.

Re:Reification (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421738)

I didn't specify 'useful', but rather 'unbiased'. if someone is searching on the reliability of a vendor, then they will want to see all results (good or bad), while getting actual results about vendors. The two are not mutually exclusive. If, however, Google gets results back that are exactly what the user is looking for, but only presents results that are favorable to the vendor, than that is biased data.

Do not confuse unbiased with 'useful'.

Re:Reification (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421842)

If, however, Google gets results back that are exactly what the user is looking for, but only presents results that are favorable to the vendor, than that is biased data.

Which, is exactly the opposite of what they're doing.

They're not giving page-rank boosts to companies getting getting crappy reviews.

I'm pretty sure they're not selling the ability to move up the ranking to shitty vendors. They're making sure the users only see "good" data.

Biased towards being useful. Much better than completely unbiased, or biased towards crap.

Re:Reification (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422056)

If a user searches for the reliability of an example company called 'widget company' and the 'widget company' happens to be a google customer, and along comes joe user searching for data on widget company, and if Google has a search result for widget company (both good and bad ratings by customers), that it's not being unbiased if they present only the good customer reviews?

I don't think you understand the meaning of the word unbiased.

This isn't' about return 'valid' search result, but about Google removing unflattering search results for it's customers who pay for advertising. In the case reference in TFA, it was about a company that found that even if it gave horrible customer support, they found it generated hits for their website. In that case, it's up to the consumer to evaluate what they search for, rather than seeing a name on the first hit result, and then never reading it.

Instead, 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. The algorithm we incorporated into our search rankings represents an initial solution to this issue, and Google users are now getting a better experience as a result.

They are in effect censoring the returned results based on a 'blacklist' of 'bad' vendors.

Re:Reification (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421934)

That would work just fine if Google didn't also have a ranking system. As anyone can plainly see now, an "unbiased" system can and does reward bad merchants unfairly. A completely unbiased and unfiltered system would really leave things wide open for all kinds of gaming the system. Google will put useful over unbiased every time as that is what the majority of their customers actually want.

Re:Reification (2)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422280)

You are guilty of reification. Information does not want to be free. Information does not want anything, because information is not a conscious entity capable of thought, desire, or volition. Treating abstract concepts as though they had thoughts, needs, or desires is faulty logic.

Heat wants to flow from hot to cold. Gasses and fluids want to flow from high pressure to low pressure. Electrons want to go away from negative charges and towards positive charges. Systems want to go to their minimum energy state. Information wants to be free.

These are all expressions that treat very abstract concepts as if they had desires. This is a mental trick that allows human brains to use its hardware-accelerated social simulation circuits rather than the general-purpose abstract thought circuits to predict how a system will behave.

Personification is simply a way of getting the most out of your brains. It's no more illogical than using any other optimization tricks. Of course it has pitfalls and you need to remember that concepts are not really thinking entities, but it often works amazingly well.

Re:If they told you ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421566)

No, information wants to be free.

Information doesn't like it when you anthropomorphize it.

People shouldn't be able to have secrets

Oh, the hilarity of posting this as an AC.

What moronic principal makes you arrive at the conclusion that people shouldn't have secrets? Maybe you should post your bank account and PIN if you believe that.

Re:If they told you ... (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420920)

Most of Google's major algorithms are patented, and thus documented. This is not.

Re:If they told you ... (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420880)

I think it's time we had a rating agency for search engines. Something like what Moody's does (or at least is supposed to do) for bonds and what the BBB does for business in general. I'm not sure exactly how one would go about doing that, or what criteria would be selected to govern rankings, but with the number of search engines out there who don't publish their method of ranking things there has to be a way to determine who's system is the most accurate.

Re:If they told you ... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421084)

I think it's time we had a rating agency for search engines. Something like what Moody's does (or at least is supposed to do) ...

Yeah, like that's worked out really well [nwsource.com] .

Re:If they told you ... (2)

Posting=!Working (197779) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421164)

There is. It's called the market, and they are rated #1. If their results start to suck, then people will switch to a different search engine, as has already happened once.

Re:If they told you ... (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421554)

Markets can only work with information. What I'm thinking about is a way to provide meaningful information to consumers of search engines.

Re:If they told you ... (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421768)

Markets can only work with information. What I'm thinking about is a way to provide meaningful information to consumers of search engines.

What information would people be lacking, exactly?

They put a search term in Google and either find what they expected or they do not. Repeat the test with another engine and compare.

This doesn't seem all that difficult to me.

Re:If they told you ... (1)

sleeping143 (1523137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421898)

Coca-Cola and Pepsi also both rely on trade secrets to keep their products unique and marketable. Would you have them publish their recipes in the favor of "market transparency"?

Re:If they told you ... (1)

xmundt (415364) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420938)

Greetings and Salutations....
          This has been going on for some time. I think it was late last year that I noticed that when I would
do searches for reviews of items (software, hardware, businesses, etc), I would find a LOT of positive
reviews but nothing negative. Since, up to that time, my experience with the Net was that the
only people that really posted serious reviews were the ones who had a bad experience with the
thing.
          I cannot say enough about how annoying I find this sort of censorship. It ranks up with the
fact that google has, for years, limited one's search results to the first 1000 or so hits. As I emailed
to them at the time that they implemented this policy, it is not in the commonly traveled paths that
I find the real treasures, but, in the dusty and ignored corners.

visit my blog at http://blog.beemandave.com/ [beemandave.com]

Re:If they told you ... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421528)

It's a real shame for you then, that Google employs all those mercenary strike teams to seek out and destroy other people attempting to create indexes of the internets.

Or not really.

DecorMyEyes is the 4th result on the 2nd page (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420586)

...of google search results for 'discount designer sunglasses'

So is it really 'buried?'

Re:DecorMyEyes is the 4th result on the 2nd page (5, Insightful)

mjperson (160131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420628)

That's pretty buried. If I don't see what I'm looking for on the first page of results, I adjust my search terms, I don't click through to the second (of countless) page of results.

Re:DecorMyEyes is the 4th result on the 2nd page (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420684)

Re:DecorMyEyes is the 4th result on the 2nd page (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421152)

You linked to a comment one comment down?

Thanks

Re:DecorMyEyes is the 4th result on the 2nd page (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421746)

NP mate.

Re:DecorMyEyes is the 4th result on the 2nd page (3, Informative)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420638)

It may as well be.

http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2008/04/iprospect-blended-search-study.html [marketingpilgrim.com]

There are studies that says that beyond the first page the majority of people don't bother continuing to search and use more words or different search engines.

Re:DecorMyEyes is the 4th result on the 2nd page (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420984)

The fact that results now stream into Google as you scroll down the page makes this finding obsolete.

There is no notion of "page" anymore.

Re:DecorMyEyes is the 4th result on the 2nd page (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421148)

You must be thinking of DuckDuckGo. Google still has pagination, even with the "live" searching thing.

Re:DecorMyEyes is the 4th result on the 2nd page (1)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421466)

Have you tried image search recently? There's no pagination there anymore.

Re:DecorMyEyes is the 4th result on the 2nd page (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421542)

True, but pagination is alive and well in the normal Web search.

Re:DecorMyEyes is the 4th result on the 2nd page (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420644)

At this time, DecorMyEyes doesn't appear ont he first 4 pages for me. I stopped looking after that.

What we don't know is whether or not it evaluates the bad reviews to good reviews. If I ahve 2000 reviews on line, how big of an impact is 1 bad review? 50? 500?

Re:DecorMyEyes is the 4th result on the 2nd page (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420784)

Try it again

Re:DecorMyEyes is the 4th result on the 2nd page (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34420862)

I see decormyeyes.com on the 2nd page if I copy and paste your exact search terms, with or without the quotes. If I had to guess, I'd say you're logged into your Google account and previously had Googled that site during the recent controversy, causing them to be rated higher in your search results. So I'd suggest that you try it again, but log out first.

Re:DecorMyEyes is the 4th result on the 2nd page (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421284)

I can't remember that far back, but I don't think I searched for it before.

Re:DecorMyEyes is the 4th result on the 2nd page (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421492)

Googling for reviews is a nearly worthless endeavor anyway. 90% of the time I just find worthless pages at price aggregators and then countless more worthless reviews that are little more than cut-n-paste of product spec sheets.

Poor summary... (5, Informative)

msauve (701917) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420614)

"Google has altered their PageRank algorithm to not give back linking points to bad reviews of websites belonging to online retailers"

Uh, no. Google changed it so that websites of poorly reviewed retailers lose points, not the reviews themselves.

Re:Poor summary... (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420694)

Thanks, I was pretty confused there for a while after re-reading the sentence three times. :-S

Re:Poor summary... (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420878)

Yeah. The chosen link anchor didn't help, either. It might make you think that kdawson was logged into CmdrTaco's account.

Poor Title: discrimination against badly reviewed (5, Insightful)

rsborg (111459) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420624)

... not "bad reviews", which would be very anti-consumer.

Instead, the poorly reviewed products and services are going to lose index.

This kind of selective pressure will reward those companies whose services and products garner better reviews.

I just wonder if this will lead to more astroturfed reviews and payola for review-sites like Yelp.

Re:Poor Title: discrimination against badly review (2)

Desler (1608317) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420714)

This kind of selective pressure will reward those companies who can afford to pay people to destroy the page ranking of their competitors.

FTFY.

Re:Poor Title: discrimination against badly review (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420828)

Your point would have been better accepted (to me anyways) if you hadn't used the "Fixed that For ya" meme -

But yes, I fear this won't encourage more positive reviews but only more negative reviews between competitors.

Perhaps it will eventually reach a point where competitors will push each other into the dirt with bad reviews and a completely unreviewed product will be the one with the highest rank.

Re:Poor Title: discrimination against badly review (1)

zeroshade (1801584) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422080)

Except as the google blog post stated, negative reviews don't harm the company's site, they just don't get positive boosts and credit from it.

Essentially before, both positive and negative reviews helped and counted, now only positive reviews help and count. This doesn't allow other companies to destroy other's page rank.

Re:Poor Title: discrimination against badly review (3, Insightful)

rsborg (111459) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420900)

This kind of selective pressure will reward those companies who can afford to pay people to destroy the page ranking of their competitors.

FTFY.

I thought about that but the article states that

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

.. I presume this means that the weighting would not be linear, but more like an exponential dropoff when reviews are numerous, time-disjoint, and all negative. I'm sure Google has done at least a sample analysis using their mountain of data. I think the biggest point made here is that (as a vendor) services to monitor your product/service will become increasingly important so you can reply to negative reviews and actively manage any trolls... whether this leads to more engagement or simply more astroturfing is yet to be seen.

Re:Poor Title: discrimination against badly review (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420762)

I just wonder if this will lead to more astroturfed reviews and payola for review-sites like Yelp.

Safe bet ... as they say in the article, people are trying to game Google rankings constantly ... if there's money to be had, someone will keep trying.

Re:Poor Title: discrimination against badly review (1)

RandCraw (1047302) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421122)

If Google's change does what's intended, downrank URLs of merchants who invite furious web opinion as a marketing ploy to game search engines, only the losers, like bile-thriving DecorMyEyes' Vitaly Borker will seek alternative means of self promotion. Frankly, I suspect that's a pretty small contingent of potential astroturfers -- 'hundreds' according to the Google blog.

I suspect that Google has indeed applied Sentiment Analysis, but done so narrowly, targeting only (1)merchants described with (2)domain-specific epithets and phrases from (3)buyers who are unhappy.

BTW, here's the link to today's NYT article [nytimes.com] . It and Sunday's original article are an worthwhile read.

Makes sense mathematically (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34420640)

Bad reviews are 9:1 good reviews as far as effect on corporate/product image. (As much as marketting research numbers can be believed.)

Reading comprehension FTL (2)

gblues (90260) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420650)

The blog does not say what the contributor says it does. The closest it comes is noting that the links from the negative reviews never counted in the first place because the sites hosting the reviews used the "rel=nofollow" attribute on the links. What it does say is that they have altered the algorithm to punish bad businesses more effectively in response to the NYT article that suggested that being bad could be good for business.

Move along, nothing to see here!

Simple (5, Funny)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420664)

They look for phrases like

  • ...burst into flames...
  • ...still sobbing for her pet rabbit...
  • ...sucked into the trans-dimensional vortex...
  • ...shouldn't even have been any radioactive material IN a children's book...
  • ...and that's how little Tiffany learned about death and accidental dismemberment...
  • ...came to my home and set it on fire and then kicked my dog...
  • ...never knew I was capable of that sort of pain...
  • ...ordered the complete Beethoven Symphonies and the discs had nothing buy Justin Bieber on them...
  • ..contained a live bobcat... (obligatory)
  • ... would not buy again...

Re:Simple (1)

mikaelwbergene (1944966) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420948)

Personally I'd love to read any review that combined two or more of those points. ...still sobbing for her pet rabbit... ...burst into flames... ...and that's how little Tiffany learned about death and accidental dismemberment... ... would not buy again...

Re:Simple (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421678)

Discussion burst into flames when Ubuntu decided to switch its interface from Gnome to Unity. As a former windows user I went to right click everything in Gnome but none of the features were there. I never knew I was capable of that sort of pain, and one day I was some upset that I came home and kicked my dog. I tried to go online to buy the complete Beethoven Symphonies but in the Gnome copy of my browser it doesn't line up right so I misclicked and ended up with a mashup of music by Justin Bieber set to pictures of Tiffany, still sobbing for her pet rabbit, being contaminated ... there shouldn't even have been any radioactive material IN a children's video.

To console myself I turned on the news whereupon the lead story was how Julian Assange was locked in a cage with a live bobcat and being sucked into the trans dimensional vortex of multinational politics.

Ecuador Likes Julian Assange.

Re:Simple (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421070)

Great, Slashdot's PageRank just dropped like a rock thanks to you...

Re:Simple (1)

Chapter80 (926879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421320)

I am no algorithm expert, but if I were in charge, I would start with that last phrase that you listed ("would not buy again") along with other similar phrases ("is a scam", "feel completely ripped off", etc). Then I would scan the massive Google database to see if I could find other phrases that are frequently located "near" to those key phrases, and see what I come up with.

I bet I'd come up with a pretty good list of phrases that have negative sentiment. I'd eyeball those, and get rid of the obvious bad ones, and then use the good list(of negative sentiment phrases) to run through the algorithm again. Then eyeball those, and you probably have a good list.

Then I'd use those phrases as my "negative indicators" and implement the same logic as the "rel=nofollow" logic (i.e. you get no google points for those links).

Google, wanna hire me?
Oh wait, we did this already. You liked me for a while.... I aced your goofy interview test. Then what happened?

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34422158)

No, Google simply instructed GLaDOS to read through reviews for search results and rank higher any pages that she would personally consider purchasing from.

(When you see results featuring unmanned armed vehicles to start being ranked abnormally high, then you should start to really worry.)

hmm... you may got something there... (1)

excelsior_gr (969383) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422320)

About 11,700,000 results * burst into flames
2 results (all Slashdot) * still sobbing for her pet rabbit
3 results (two Slashdot) * sucked into the trans-dimensional vortex
2 results (all Slashdot) * shouldn't even have been any radioactive material IN a children's book
2 results (all Slashdot) * and that's how little Tiffany learned about death and accidental dismemberment
3 results (all Slashdot) * came to my home and set it on fire and then kicked my dog
2 results (all Slashdot) * never knew I was capable of that sort of pain... This was disappointing...
2 results (all Slashdot) * ordered the complete Beethoven Symphonies and the discs had nothing buy Justin Bieber on them
6 results (one Slashdot) * contained a live bobcat... c'mon only 6?
About 3,780,000 results * would not buy again

Am I the only one... (3, Insightful)

nog_lorp (896553) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420674)

... who feels like Google results have gotten really, really bad? I know it can come in waves as the SEO arms race progresses, but srsly. I feel like Google's user base has shifted from technical people to the average populace, and so have the results.

Re:Am I the only one... (5, Funny)

inputdev (1252080) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420770)

have you tried Bing? ;)

Re:Am I the only one... (5, Funny)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420982)

Actually, I've switched the majority of my searching to Bing over the last few months. I've found their results tend to be much more accurate than Google's for the things I search for.

Granted, not everyone out there is searching for transvestite-dwarf wrestling match information, but the way Bing services that niche is impressive.

Re:Am I the only one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421748)

Informative? Uh? Are people slow on the uptake when it comes to humour?

Re:Am I the only one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421120)

Im not a masochist, so no.

Re:Am I the only one... (2)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420788)

The "technical people" population hasn't driven Google's user base since about 6 months after their inception.

I still normally find what I need on the first page of results in any case, so without knowing what you're looking for... I couldn't say you're doing anything more than typical nerdbitching because they're popular.

Re:Am I the only one... (1)

More_Cowbell (957742) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421092)

+1. Seriously, I've never even heard ^anyone^ (in person, this excludes places like /.) complain about the quality of results returned by Google (and I live in Silicon Valley, the conversation in the bar turns to tech all the time).

I'm a huge fan, but only because it is the best I've seen. Hell, I used to be a huge fan of hotmail - at one time (way, way long time ago) it was the best free email available...

Re:Am I the only one... (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421610)

I'll complain about them. Finding useful review of something on google is a pain... search for a game...

IGN ... your "ULTIMATE SOURCE FOR news and media"... half the time its a place holder page; I just roll my eyes every time I see that in the search results.

or you get Nextag or Dealtime or any of a dozen other price / review aggregators with a place holder page populated with generated content that was scraped from somewhere else, and then barfed on.

And its the same content on all of them, because they're all scraping off each other.

And then I see amazon.com page, along with the amazon.ca page, and the amazon.co.uk page... one of them is useful... the other copies... not so much.

Re:Am I the only one... (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420794)

I have definitely observed greater difficulty in googling for pages that I am familiar with containing technical info but whose URL I cannot find at the moment, even when putting the site name into the search terms (With or without site:). On the other hand, I can pretty much ALWAYS find ANYTHING on my OWN site by putting its name (just the name, not even the .org) and a term or two into the google query, which I find interesting. Much of what I can't find is forum or mailing list archives, but of course, some of those come up very well and with high representation (e.g. Ubuntu Forums.)

Of course, Pagerank has to be a secret for it to work, and as long as it's secret I have only very limited interest in trying to figure out how it works. I have discovered that my pages come up pretty often in web searches for related terms, often in the first ten results, and I achieved that by developing content that people want to view, by making my site google-friendly (for example redirecting all aliases to a single URL, google gets upset by duplicate content) and by making lots of links in my content to pages I found useful, which will tend to be pages which also have decent pagerank. Or in other words, I have good pagerank (apparently) simply by being a good internet citizen.

New search engine time? (0)

CaptainNerdCave (982411) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420868)

Will you be the first to start a new search engine for the technical? www.1337-$34R(|-|.com?

Re:Am I the only one... (1)

tenchikaibyaku (1847212) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421054)

I think it's trying to be a bit too smart lately, constantly being "helpful" by searching for what it thinks I want to search for instead of what I actually wanted to search for.

Many times it actually corrects a real spelling mistake of course, the difference might be that when I make a spelling mistake I can only blame myself, but when google corrects something it shouldn't I can blame google..

Re:Am I the only one... (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421158)

I think it's trying to be a bit too smart lately, constantly being "helpful" by searching for what it thinks I want to search for instead of what I actually wanted to search for.

Bingo. 'Smart' search engines suck, particularly for technical information, because you can never really tell what it's going to search for... the 'smarter' Google searches get, the less useful they become.

Of course it doesn't help when people pick names for their projects or products which are the same as or very close to some other word that's in common usage.

Google autocorrect can be disabled (1)

achurch (201270) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421602)

Append "&nfpr=1" to the search URL. If you use keyworded bookmarks in Mozilla: http://www.google.com/search?q=%s&nfpr=1

False reviews (2)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420686)

One hopes the guys at Google took into account the business that sets up a fake review site for the purpose of posting negative reviews of competitors to get Google to falsely downgrade them. My bet's on a manual filter to remove such sites, probably based on a discrepancy between those sites and every other review site.

Re:False reviews (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420802)

Wouldn't that be similar to (and perhaps offset by) people already doing them same with favorable reviews for themselves? It doesn't seem like a new problem, anyway.

Re:False reviews (1)

The End Of Days (1243248) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420882)

Google can't really solve the problem of shifty retailers or stupid customers. Both are as old as commerce, and both will persist until we all live in utopia.

Haha (0)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420722)

Cue Vitaly Borker doing his Darth Vader impersonation; "Noooooooooooooo!"

Oh yeah watch this: (3, Funny)

kwabbles (259554) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420736)

Google is the worst company ever. They sold out and went evil. I give their company a poor review and personal rating.

.
.
.

good great wonderful cheese love flowers butterflies excited appealing chocolate yay amazing cool googlicious

"I'm a technical boy." (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420850)

You have to wonder if Mr. Borker is familiar with that phrase.

I have used (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420934)

bad reviews return to make decisions about company..namely not to use them.

As per the NY times article (1)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420978)

How do we know that all of the "Barack Obama sucks" websites out there won't make it harder to search for the White House? Just one example of where semantic inclusion may not work.

Re:As per the NY times article (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421118)

That would be sentiment analysis, which TFA specifically mentions they don't use because of exactly the problem you describe.

Re:As per the NY times article (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422116)

However, if they are not careful they might get an antitrust law suite from Microsoft because Microsoft products don't show up any more ;-)

Crappy Summary (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 3 years ago | (#34420992)

Article submitter sounds like a SEO moron suffering from a case of sour grapes.

Re:Crappy Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421246)

So you don't mind Google deciding what you see in search results, based on what it decides is a "good" or "bad" website based on a set of secret arbitrary rules? Sound a bit big brother-ish to you?

Re:Crappy Summary (1)

InfiniteWisdom (530090) | more than 3 years ago | (#34422270)

How is that different than what they do now? Would you prefer if they showed you all million pages that contained a set of keywords in random order?

Secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421020)

The specific changes to the algorithm are of course a guarded secret.

Then...

how do we know how the algorithm determines a bad review from a good one, and whether or not innocent online retailers will be wrongly punished by having their rankings downgraded?

Er, you don't. That's on account of their being a closely guarded secret.

Google is a private company, not some utopian public service. Sheesh!

XKCD: Constructive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421032)

http://xkcd.com/810/

Left out my line (2)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421108)

I tried to post this earlier (guess I was too slow). But, considering that Google specifically said they would be looking into this later, that means: In the (paraphrased) words of Coots and Gillespie: They are making a list, And checking it twice; gonna find out who's naughty and nice"

I wonder how well that works with sarcasm. (1)

JRHelgeson (576325) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421124)

I wonder how well that algorithm works with sarcasm.

Re:I wonder how well that works with sarcasm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421256)

Signal to noise ratio.

Terrible summary (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421196)

TFA specifically indicates that they don't do something as straightforward as is described (which would be sentiment analysis). Instead, they implemented some algorithm that lowers the ranking of some merchant websites that, according to them, provide a poor user experience. No further details on how their algorithm behaves are given. It doesn't even indicate that people giving poor reviews of the merchant or website factor in to the ranking change at all. (The only part where this comes in to play is their mention that many websites hosting reviews use rel=nofollow to avoid promoting any linked-to websites, which is preexisting behavior.)

I feel so terribly guilty now... (3, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421240)

I wrote my favorite escort a glowing review, all about how much and how hard she sucks, and now google is going to downrank her and it will be all my fault! This is terrible...

On a more serious note, correctly assigning "positive" or "negative" to a given adjective or phrase, across a wide range of subject areas, must actually be something that would give the computational linguists a bit of trouble(or 10,000 interns a very boring time of it)... Simply parsing star ratings or "out of 10" is easy enough; but is a vacuum cleaner that sucks good or bad?

Re:I feel so terribly guilty now... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421598)

It doesn't have to be perfect to be better than what they were doing yesterday (especially when their metric doesn't necessarily include being entirely fair to all internet stores, they only care about keeping search traffic up).

Automatically generated review bots. (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421260)

Battling algorithms This will be fun to watch.

Badly written negative reviews are useful. (1)

azdio (185000) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421266)

I hope it does not also cause anyone to miss those negative reviews that have horrible writing errors and flawed arguments. Those can sometimes help the product maker.

Google can do what they want. (1)

Posting=!Working (197779) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421546)

Why is everyone acting like page ranking should be anything but whatever Google wants them to be? They are free to use whatever they wish to determine the search results. If they decide to never show Hotmail when you search for email, there is absolutely nothing wrong, ethically or legally, with this. They are free to shun a competitor. They are free to put you last on every search if they just simply don't like you. They can put whatever they want into the search results, in whatever order they wish, with whatever advertisements they want, and it is legally and morally fine.

If their results start to suck, then people will switch to a different search engine, as has already happened once. There are dozens of competitors, any one of which will gladly take Google's place as the top search engine. The market will decide. The only possible result of these "investigations" is the government stepping in and telling a website not only what it must link to, but the order it must link them in, and that's just not a sane proposition. Every site that isn't first of second in the results would jump on that bandwagon. Search engines would become nearly useless, returning crappy sites who were the last to sue before the ones we'd want to see.

Has everyone forgotten that Yahoo used to be number 1, with more market share than Google has now? That they lost the #1 spot because Google's results were better? That all of this was a result of word of mouth? Why is there a sudden assumption that this couldn't happen again?

Search results should, and really must, be whatever the company provides them wishes them to be. The consequences of anything else lead to an internet you would not want to be on.

Google and its gullible users are still a problem (1)

soonerthanuthink (1947602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421576)

Google and its gullible users are still a problem. [areyoutargeted.com]

And what's to prevent retailers from burying competitors by posting smack about them, or paying SEO companies to post smack about them, now that Google makes a (naive) attempt to evaluate semantics?

and will this affect the reviews? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34421628)

how do we know reviewers won't start giving positive reviews so that the reviews themselves get better rankings?

Why "crowdsourcing" doesn't work (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421692)

This is the fundamental problem with "crowdsourcing" reviews. Where the number of reviewers is large compared to the number of items being reviewed, as with movies, it works fine. Where the ratio is small, it doesn't. It's far too easy to game the system. There are automated tools for that. [wikipedia.org]

This problem has become worse since the October 27th change to Google, when Google Places/Maps results were merged into web search. This made "local" results much more prominent. Look at the first screen of Google search results for a local product or service. Most of what you see are Google Places results, maps, or ads. The organic results are so far down they don't matter.

As a result, the "black hat" SEO companies are now aggressively targeting Google's places and maps system. "Convert Offline" is quite open about this, with their article Dominating Google Maps- The Most Effective Spam Ever And What You Can Learn From It" [convertoffline.com] In some ways, Google Places is more vulnerable to attack than organic search. The number of web mentions of a local business tends to be small, so the amount of phony material that has to be generated to make a business look good is also small. Each mention carries a lot of weight.

Google might lose this battle. Craigslist did. Back in 2008, Cory Doctorow wrote about "Spammers discuss breaking Craigslist verification system" [boingboing.net] . It's become much worse [techdirt.com] since then. Personals were the first to go, and are now over 90% spam. Then Computer Services and Self Employment fell to the spammers. Jobs and Real Estate are under attack. Along the way, Gmail became a spam haven [google.com] , especially after Jiffy Gmail Email Creator [cnet.com] became widely used.

The fundamental design assumption of Google is that important stuff has lots of links to it. That's not a valid assumption in local search.

Re:Why "crowdsourcing" doesn't work (1)

soonerthanuthink (1947602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421796)

The fundamental design assumption of Google is that important stuff has lots of links to it.

Very good point... this has worked against retailers, will work against location-based search, and is also working against victims of CIA experimentation [areyoutargeted.com] - the worst, looniest sites are at the top of the search results because people find them easy targets of ridicule or satire.

Could the solution be.... (1)

pokerdan (1696708) | more than 3 years ago | (#34421814)

Perhaps they found a way of linking with Better Business Bureau search results?

'Decor My Eyes', the company in question from the article, has a BBB rating of F with nearly 300 complaints. The blog specifically states they are not using Sentiment Analysis. Seems like the best alternative, in my opinion.

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